Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Kevin Forgot to Title His Post

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Kevin. Kevin revisits his pre-season predictions, looks ahead to the all star team, and links to a Jim Rome post that I can't find anymore.

After a brief retirement stint, and getting suspended a month for writing stupid articles, if you are reading this it means I'm back in business with Is It Sports. Baseball, being my favorite sport, is always on my mind, probably more than it should be. It's time to share with you my random and genius thoughts to sum up the first half of the baseball season.

1. Is It Sports Baseball Preview
Probably the first thing that caught my eye as I scanned over the now almost three month old preview, was Steve's NL Manager of the Year prediction: Dave Miley. Of all 15 NL managers Steve could have picked, he went with the first one to get fired this season! I'm not sure if Steve remembers that, but he will now. Although my pick of Bob Melvin hasn't exactly come to form yet, I can still get a chuckle out of Steve's pick. Steve, you and Harold Reynolds gave the big red machine a little too much credit.

The next thing I noticed was how bad some of my picks were. The Giants? The Mariners? Bonds as MVP? I'm still sticking to my original World Series prediction of Arizona vs. Seattle, because as we saw with the Astros last year, anything can happen in the second half. I'm glad I picked the White Sox to win the division, and I'm sure Steve is even happier with his pick where the Sox take the division and the Twins win the wild card. Ryan, on the other hand, was listening too much to Reynolds and his roommate Kellen, when he picked the Sox to finish fourth. Although I am sure Ryan will contend the Sox will still finish fourth, I don't see it happening.

Finally, I've got to give myself a little props picking the Nats to finish 3rd. In that crazy division, they very well may finish in 5th, but I'm liking the credit I gave them at seasons start. With that said, enough about the preview, because we still have 3 more months to go.

2. The All Star Game
This years All Star game is to be player in the beautiful city of Detroit, at wonderful Comerica Park (sorry Steve, but I'm being sarcastic about the beauty). That's the last time I'm going to mention the games host, because the talk will be more about the players. With two days left in the balloting, things are coming back down to earth. St. Louis Cardinals Eckstein and Grudzielanek aren't leading their positions anymore. Larry Walker, Reggie Sanders, and Yadier Molina aren't close to contention. However, some things still disturb me when it comes to fan voting. Tino Martinez? No way should he be leading the AL at first base. Michael Teixeira obviously deserves to start, with even Konerko being a better vote than Tino. Stupid Yankees fans. The rest of the AL looks right to me, with possibly the exception that I'd rather have Damon starting instead of Manny. Now to the NL: injury prone Scott Rolen should not be starting. LoDuca before Piazza. Finally, 12 year old Miguel Cabrera deserves a start over Carlos Beltran, no matter how much money he makes. Here's my all star starters, who ironically and hypocritical enough, isn't quite who I voted for:

C- Jason Varitek
1B-Mark Teixeira
2B-Brian Roberts
3B-Alex Rodriguez
OF-Ichiro Suzuki
OF-Vlad Guerrero
OF-Johnny Damon
DH-Papi Ortiz
SP-Roy Halliday

C- Paul LoDuca
1B-Albert Pujols
2B-Jeff Kent
3B-Troy Glaus
OF-Miguel Cabrera
OF-Bobby Abreu
OF-Pat Burrell
DH-Derek Lee
SP-Dontrelle Willis

3. Juicers
Does anyone else notice the comparison between Brian Roberts and Brady Anderson? Both leadoff hitters. Both on the Orioles. Both have ridiculous home run seasons where they well exceed their career average of 4 a season. I seriously call shenanigans. Speaking of steroids, how about notorious slow starter Derek Lee. Living in Wrigleyville, I have to deal with these Cubs fans. When Sosa was on their team, nobody could call him a juicer, yet they would point fingers at Bonds, Giambi, etc. Now that Sosa's off the team, they admit he's a juicer. What about Derek Lee? "He's obviously playing like a mad man because of pure talent, not performance enhancing drugs." Ask them what they think about a player like Brian Roberts or Adrian Beltre? Juicer, they say. I may be wrong, but if we are going to lump all these overachievers in the steroids category, Derek Lee deserves to be there too.

4. Jim Rome
To end things, this may be the funniest thing I've ever seen: "Jim Rome is Burning". Scroll to the bottom and read an article about the King of Smack himself. "Ridiculous. I am out."

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Nobody Likes College Baseball

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Steve. I still agree with all of the points I made today. There have been some good college players that have gone pro, but the vast majority are still straight to professional ball players. Ironically, I now live in a place where people sorta care about college baseball (Arizona State).

The more college baseball I see on TV, the angrier I get.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball. I even went to a Shreveport Sports Independent League game when I worked down there one summer. My memory is short on how much college baseball has been on the air in past years compared to this year, but I’m praying that the NHL lockout is to blame for this fiasco. It's gone beyond the realm of just being shown on TV, its even discussed with other fun to watch sports on sports talk shows. ESPN constantly shoving college baseball down our throats is making me sick for the simple fact that it’s a totally worthless sport. Don’t believe me? I have plenty of reasons…and here they are:

Reason #1: All of the best young talent is already pro
I had to do some stat checking on this, but I was even more astounded when I found this out. Baseball has never been a high interest college sport (especially compared to football and basketball) mostly because players were allowed to go pro right out of high school and get paid for playing in the minors against similar competition that they would see in college. This differs from football and basketball because in football, most 18 year old boys' bodies aren't developed enough to play with the pros, and basketball existed as a prestigious college sport long before the NBA ever existed. Baseball on the other hand, was a pro sport before it even existed in college, so going pro early is a long standing tradition.

Since the best of the best are getting drafted right out of high school or coming from another country to play in the minors (a point I'll hit later), ESPN has no good argument with "come watch the future stars" play in college. Sure back in the 1980s, plenty of great players went to college: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, Mark McGwire, etc. but much less of today's big stars went to college. Here are some stats to back it up using the colleges of the top 10 MLB leaders in a few categories as of today, June 13.

Batting Average: Derek Lee-none; Brian Roberts-South Carolina; Rob Mackowiak-JC; Johnny Damon-none; Miguel Cabrera-none; Nick Johnson-none; Clint Barmes-Indiana State; Pat Burrell-Miami; Albert Pujols-CC; Carlos Delgado-none. Total: 3 out of 10 went to big schools, 2 to community or junior, 5 not at all

Home Runs: Alex Rodriguez-none; Derek Lee-none; Miguel Tejada-none; Bobby Abreu-none; David Ortiz-none; Carlos Lee-none; Adam Dunn-none; Mark Teixeira-Georgia Tech; Cliff Floyd-none; Andruw Jones-none; Paul Konerko-none; Alfonso Soriano-none; Albert Pujols-CC. Total: 1 out of 13 went to big schools, 1 to community college, 11 not at all

RBI: Alex Rodriguez-none; Carlos Lee-none; Pat Burrell-Miami; Derek Lee-none; Miguel Tejada-none; Jeff Kent-California; David Ortiz-none; Richie Sexson-none; Albert Pujols-CC; Garret Anderson-none; Mark Teixeira-Georgia Tech. 2 out of 10 went to big schools, 1 to community, 7 not at all.

Wins (8 or more): Jon Garland, Dontrelle Willis, Livan Hernandez, Roy Halladay, Adam Eaton, Kenny Rogers, Bartolo Colon, Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis-all none; Jon Leiber-South Alabama; Doug Davis-JC. 0 out of 11 went to big schools, 1 to a small school, 1 to junior, 9 not at all.

ERA: Roger Clemens-Texas; Kenny Rogers, Dontrelle Willis, Brett Myers, Roy Halladay, Pedro Martinez, Glendon Rusch, Jake Peavy, Victor Santos-all none; Mark Redman-Oklahoma. 2 out of 10 went to big schools, 8 not at all.

Have I made my point here yet? When you look at all the top stars in the majors right now, only about 10-20% went to a college large enough to be shown all day and all night long on ESPN. A large (almost all in the NFL) portion of stars in the NFL and NBA went to large colleges that are televised frequently. In fact, I have a lot of fun in both of those leagues identifying with pros from their college guys (something like, "oh yeah, that guy was awesome at Florida State") which you can't get in baseball.

Reason #2: Basketball and Football don't have minor leagues
Baseball has an entire system where they sign players at young ages and develop their skills in rookie league, A, AA, and AAA, all while being paid and playing against players of their own caliber until they make it to the big leagues. The NFL has NFL Europe and the NBA has the NBDL, but those are much different because the teams are mostly composed of castoffs from pro teams that couldn't keep a roster spot. A recently drafted player in the NFL and NBA can come in and make a huge impact immediately to the pro team, and if they don't, they wind up on the bench or get cut. In baseball, drafted players go into the minor leagues, probably AA at the highest if the kid is a phenom. They usually spend at least 2 or 3 years in minor league obscurity, which further kills any college to pro identification among the fans. Face it, when was the last time you knew a lot about a rookie on your favorite baseball team?

Reason #3: Foreign Born players
Baseball is filled with players from all over the world, but there are a large amount of Caribbean-born players that come from impoverished backgrounds. If they work hard as kids to become excellent baseball players, they can be signed as young as age 15 by a major league team and developed in an American minor league system while making money to help their families back at home. So are they going to turn this down and stick it out for 3 years to get a college scholarship? Of course not, and can you blame them? This happens in the NBA as well with players that come out early or go straight from high school to the draft. Many of these foreign-born players become huge stars in the majors; just look at the list of guys I typed above and think of any other player not listed that isn't from America.

Reason #4: The aluminum bat
Now let's switch to the actual college game itself. The Aluminum bat does for college baseball exactly what it does for drunken community softball games, produce a lot of runs. Also the speed that the ball travels at after it makes contact with the bat is very dangerous for pitchers, another reason why many opt for the minors over college. The offensive numbers that result from these bats make college players look much better than they actually are. For example, I remember how impressive Joe Borchard looked during his days at Stanford, and I was excited about the Sox drafting him, but now he is pretty much stuck on the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox AAA team, because he's just not good enough to be in the majors.

Reason #5: Lack of strong programs
I happened to notice that every year it seems like the same teams are in the college world series. Basically, southern schools have good teams, northern schools do not. Therefore, there is basically zero interest in the north, which still controls the power and money and this country. I remember going to a game at Purdue one time, and the seating at the "stadium" probably reaches capacity around 300 people. Keep in mind this is a Big Ten school. Our football team has a stadium that sits 65,000 and our basketball stadium probably holds around 10,000. Purdue isn't the only school like this of course, since most northern schools won't shell out the cash for the players to train extensively indoors in cold weather that southern schools don't have to worry about. These leads to a huge edge for the south, and alienates half of the nation.

Reason #6: Lack of interest even at schools with strong programs
The North doesn't have good what? At least the South can get excited about watching this crap on TV, right? WRONG. You would think with the success that southern schools have in baseball, there would be a lot more excitement around it and it would be almost equal to basketball and football at those schools in level of interest among the students and alumni. Through my jobs I have met tons of students from southern schools, and they definitely hold football (especially) and basketball in much higher regard than any other sport at their school. They are proud of their baseball team but they are nothing more than casual supporters of them, similar in the way that I was proud of the Chicago Fire when they won the MLS title, but I couldn't care less about watching the team or any of its players play.

So the moral of the story here is please, please NHL come to your senses and get back on the ice so America doesn't have to suffer through crappy college baseball for another year. If ESPN would like to show sub-par baseball talent in place of hockey they might as well show AAA minor league baseball, because that's where the future stars are. - Steve

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Game Log #3 Twins at Diamondbacks 6/8

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Ryan. Ryan really wanted to do a game log where the Twins actually won, and this was his chance.

8:52 I’m taking advantage of a few things all coming together. A)High speed internet for easy uploading and B) the Twins are on TV. They are playing The Arizona Diamondbacks on ESPN2 and Johan Santana is on the hill. Should be a good game.
8:58 Once again, the Rockies and White Sox can’t score more than 10 runs combined. I’m speechless.
9:00 The ESPN baseball song is the best sports intro out there.
9:02 Jeff Brantley, keeping the mullet alive.
9:08 Dan Shulman (who? Was Rachel Nichols unavailable?) is helping Brantley dig himself a hole. Brantley thinks Johan Santana shouldn’t have won the Cy Young and Shulman lets him know that he makes no sense.

Top 1st
9:14 Luis Rodriguez batting, we get the obligatory “Twins have such a good farm system” rant.
9:15 Shulman with the Augie Ojeda reference. Nice.
9:17 I don’t think I’ve ever seen Luis Gonzalez in the field before. Interesting.

Bottom 1st
9:20 First bad news of the night. I’m out of Pepsi!
9:20 Royce Clayton wins the award for worst hair. Anywhere.
9:23 Justin Morneau is back in the lineup sporting a goatee even less fetching than mine.
9:24 Two first inning strikeouts. I’m pleased.

Top 2nd
9:27 Once again, everyone thinks Torii Hunter is the best hitter on the Twins. Lately, yes, always, absolutely not. He follows Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jacque Jones, Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford. Sad truth, friends, but a fantastic glove doesn’t always translate to the bat.
9:29 Naturally, Hunter hits a gapper.
9:34 While Brantley is ripping Claudio Vargas, the starting pitcher for AZ, Jones drills about the 15th pitch over the left field wall. The Twins with a lead while I’m writing the log. I don’t know what to say. I’m beside myself.
9:37 After Cuddyer strikes out, Brantley says “If you can throw a breaking ball like that and don’t, you are either hard headed or don’t know what you’re doing.” Brantley doesn’t pull any punches. But really, “hard headed and doesn’t know what he’s doing.” That’s how I would describe…. Jeff Brantley.

Bottom 2nd
9:43 Brantley won’t let it go about Santana. It’s like he’s upset he’s there. Meanwhile, Santana strikes out his third.
9:45 Another easy inning for Santana. Shulman summarizes Brantley’s arguments for why Schilling should have won the Cy Young
a) More wins
b) More pressure in Boston
c) More games against the Yankees
d) Brantley still wears a mullet, he’s clearly been hit in the head a few too many times.

Top 3rd
9:48 Santana bleeds a single through the infield! He does it all!
9:49 Game update. Indians lead the Padres on an Aaron Boone homer. That’s a good sign you aren’t going to win when Boone homers.
9:52 Luis Rodriguez with the bunt single. The single least exciting play in baseball. The bases are juiced!
9:55 Mauer singles, Santana and Stewart score. This is so strange. I can’t be cynical because things are going to well!
9:57 Fielders choice, Twins up 5-0. This game has been magical.
9:59 Jones grounds into a double play. It isn’t a Twins game without a GIDP

Bottom 3rd
10:04 Vargas with an ugly bunt. Brantley never misses an opportunity to rip on the pitchers in this game. He’s just bitter he has a mullet and doesn’t pitch anymore.

Top 4th
10:07 A-rod is the youngest player to 400 career homeruns. Congrats, I guess, despite your team’s terrible record.
10:12 While the Twins were batting, the commentators interviewed Jeff Moorad. I decided to leave to get ice cream. I don’t think I missed much

Bottom 4th
10:13 Alas, I was correct.
10:18 Santana is still cruising despite the second hit.
10:19 Brantley shares his opinion on interleague play. I ignore him.

Top 5th
10:22 Torii Hunter with the MLB commercial on ESPN2. Nice.
10:23 Santana has a virtually invisible at bat, but then the leadoff hitter Stewart goes yard. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that he is tied for the team lead in homers.
10:26 Luis Rodriguez who weighs a little more than Lindsay Lohan, hits a rocket double to center. I love this game!
10:28 Wild pitch. Vargas is still in, down by 6. The announcers are almost ready to lose interest.
10:30 Hunter grounds out, ending another rough inning for the ‘Backs. I have my fingers crossed that we get to see the vaunted Arizona bullpen soon!

Bottom 5th
10:33 I like these game updates. Reds beat the D-Rays on a walk off homer by Wily Mo Pena. Wily Mo will be touring with Murphy Lee this winter.
10:36 Juan Castro is absolutely brilliant in the field, but he just bobbled that one.
10:39 I just had to look up something about Tommy Tutone. No, I don’t want to talk about it.

Top 6th
10:42 Mike Koplove in to give up about three runs.
10:42 Jones almost kills Tony Clark at first. Wicked shot.
10:45 Morneau hits, Cuddyer with an infield hit. The commentators have begun talking about offseason illnesses. We are on the slippery slope.
10:47 Another RBI, but Santana grounds into a double play. That guy is lucky he can pitch.

Bottom 6th
10:50 Every time Brantley opens his mouth, I want to throat punch him.
10:51 I can’t get over Royce Clayton’s hair.
10:52 Luis Gonzalez is Santana’s 8th strikeout victim. His look says it all.

Top 7th
10:55 I don’t want to think about John Madden selling Tinactin. He can’t have attractive feet.
10:56 Uh oh, Shulman and Brantley are talking about the pool at BOB. Interest is gone.
10:59 Koplove is… erratic.
11:01 Lew Ford gets beaned by Koplove. Things are not going well out there.
11:03 Sac fly Jones. This is ugly, friends.

Bottom 7th
11:05 This game is going on forever. (Channeling Sandlot) Forever. Foooreeeeeevvvver.
11:10 Da Vinci would call this outing a work of art.
11:12 Morneau very nimbly dives for a groundball. He’s definitely no Doug Mientkiewicz.

Top 8th
11:16 They keep going back to that pool. Surely a sign that nobody cares.
11:17 Castro doubles, Cuddyer scores bringing Santana up with a 9-0 lead.
11:20 Michael Ryan in for Stewart. The Twins are now on cruise control.
11:21 Sac fly. Twins break double digits. These game logs are more fun when the Twins win.
11:22 Brantly and Shulman are waxing philosophic about the draft. Nostalgia is kicking in.

Bottom 8th
11:27 Dead air, followed by Brantley repeating something he said a long while ago.
11:29 15 hits to 3. Wow.

Top 9th
11:35 I have no idea what happened, and I’m pretty sure the announcers don’t either.

Bottom 9th
11:36 Don’t worry Brantley, it’s almost over and you can get away from these useless pitchers and groom your finely sculpted mullet.
11:39 Twins have a great farm system, etc. Would these conversations happen if the Twins aren’t up 10?
11:42 Twins win! Incredible.

I don’t think this was a condemnation of the D’backs, as they were pitching a terrible pitcher who was making a spot start against the reigning Cy Young winner. I’ll take the win. Oh, and screw you Jeff Brantley- Ryan

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Notes on the Conference Finals

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by our NBA expert, AJ. AJ is a diehard Pistons fan, and gives his thoughts on the coming finals with the Spurs.

Spurs – Suns
- Joe Johnson in a mask makes Rip in his mask look like Fabio.

- Phoenix is two solid bench players, including a point guard and a big body to play in the middle, away from a title. They need to be able to come in and change the pace of the game for a few minutes while Nash and Stoudemire rest.

This one is played out just as I suspected, the Spurs know how to play defense and the Suns do not. That is the bottom line here. I have never seen a player who can make an entire team bad on defense like Nash can. About every fourth or fifth series he decides to play defense but most of the time he lets his man go by without even bothering to slow him down. The whole team has to then collapse Nash’s man giving everyone open shots. The defense he does play is good only because of the total shock that Nash is providing some resistance. This series spotlights the difference of what a great defensive player does to a team versus what a great offensive player who does not play defensive does. Bruce Bowen is playing complete shut down defense on Shawn Marion, taking a perennial all-star out of the series, making everyone on his team better. Nash on the other hand, is making everyone on his team worse, by forcing his team to cover for him on defense. It also causes his big men like Stoudemire to pick up unnecessary fouls while trying to keep Parker and Ginobili out of the paint.

Heat – Pistons
- I know this has been said a thousand times but Stan Van Gundy is Ron Jeremy.

- I’m not sure I have seen worse refs then in game 4. Anytime there was any contact they would call a foul, it got to the point where it was just comic relief. At first the Pistons were getting upset, then they learned what was happening. I saw Prince, Rip and Hunter all take dives in the second half and get calls out of it. Price even got a tech called on Haslem on a dive. At the end it became a game of who could adjust to the officiating better. Detroit won by attacking Shaq and Zoe with their guards getting them into foul trouble. In general the refs just had way too much of an impact on the series.

-I’m sick of the Wade-Jordan references, but Wade was getting Jordan like calls. If he drove to the basket and didn’t make his shot there must be a foul right?

This is an epic battle of team basketball versus star basketball, and to tell you the truth there is no right answer. Star basketball wins when the stars have unbelievable games, but if stars are hurt or have a bad night the team will win. Good teams can win despite of injuries. Wade had a heroic performance in game 7, but in the end no one else stepped up.

NBA Finals
I was looking on about the series and I noticed a fan poll, the basic results were as follows
54% Thought the Pistons had a better backcourt
60% Thought the Pistons had a better frontcourt
63% Thought that Larry Brown was a better coach
51% Thought that the Spurs would win

Does that make sense to anyone? Do that many people think that the Spurs bench is so much better that it will lead them the win the series? The Pistons aren’t as good of a match up problem for the Spurs as Suns were.

Parker – Billups – Billups easily wins this one, he is a better on both ends of the court, and is there anyone in the NBA right now that you would rather have controlling the ball in the fourth quarter of a big game than Billups?
Ginobili – Prince – Prince needs to do a better job covering Ginobili than he did with Wade. Prince’s problem with Wade was his quickness, he should have as much of a problem with Ginobili. If Prince can hold Ginobili to less then 20 points a night, Detroit will win.
Bowen – Hamilton – This is the match-up that will determine the series, if Bowen can cover Hamilton coming off of a screen, this series will be over in five games. The one advantage Detroit has here is that Hamilton can help on Duncan and Ginobili while he is covering Bowen.
Duncan – R. Wallace – Another great match up, Duncan is obviously a lot better player but it will be interesting to see how well Wallace can hold him. Wallace needs to try and take Duncan to the basket to draw some early defensive fouls, while avoiding foul trouble himself.
Nesterovic – B. Wallace – The whole key to his match up is for Nesterovic to establish himself as enough of an offensive presence so that Ben can not cheat over and provide help defense on Duncan.

I’m sticking by my prediction of Detroit in 7 Games. This series could easily go either way, and both teams have the potential to win in 5 games. This is what NBA basketball is all about, two fundamental sound teams playing great basketball. I can’t wait to watch. - AJ

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Junk #1

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Ryan. After winning his own contest to name the random thought posts, he discusses the NHL, IRL, CSI, MLB, and all sorts of other acronyms

Alas, I have come up with my own name for my ranting, useless posts, calling them “The Junk” as we seem to refer to “the junk” more than is reasonable. Seeing as neither of us have done anything for the past three weeks, and there really isn’t a topic that needs a lot of time spent on it, I’ve decided to create the first installment of the “The Junk” (And yes, I did win the contest).

- I seriously believe that this is the year that the AL Central gets a Wild Card team, be it the Twins or the White Sox. It would be great if there could be another rivalry in the ALCS, this time with the most heated interdivisional rivalry nobody is aware of. I just want the Sox to berate the Twins by saying they just aren’t that good like they have been for the past few years. I’m sure every rivalry has some pretty ridiculous stuff said in it, but I just hear more from this one. And when you are on the winning end for three straight years, the talk always sounds a little more ridiculous.

- The NHL can learn a lot from the Indy 500. No, I’m not telling them to start putting smoking hot women in pads (although I wouldn’t mind body checking Danica Patrick, if you know what I mean), I’m saying when hockey eventually comes back, don’t tinker with the game, like many are planning to, advertise the drama of the game, promote the side stories. As a good friend of mine once said, “Hockey players are pretty.” There is no shame in bringing women to the game if it means better ratings and more money. Basically, advertise better.

On that same token, Indy Car has it’s fair share of problems as well. International, heated competition is the best in the world. I love the World Cup for this reason, and that’s why it gets better ratings than MLS. They need to reduce it back to one racing league and try to thrive on International ratings. Indianapolis has nothing going for it aside from the Indy 500, and it would be a shame to see it turn into a farce like the Stanley Cup has become.

To recap, The NHL and Indy Car need to get fans invested in the players/racers through aggressive marketing, they need to solve their problems which are fundamentally ridiculous since all they are doing is hurting their respective sports. Get fans to the game if you are hockey, and get more races on TV if you are Indy Car. Hockey games are more exciting than any other sporting contest anywhere, but only if you are sitting at the game. Following your team comes naturally after going to a couple games. As for open wheel racing, the races are tighter, the aerodynamics make strategy tantamount to success, and the best way to see that is on TV, not in the back page of the Sports section. Additionally, the advantage Indy Car has over NASCAR these days is that sponsors tend to last or a long time, lending itself to being easier to follow your favorite driver.

Most important, however, is let your history carry you. The Stanley Cup is a more historic, culturally significant trophy than the Lombardi in North America, and people cared about the Indianapolis 500 long before they did about the Daytona.

- Friends are sick of me telling them about It’s a Twins fan’s blog, but it’s so well written and funny that fans of any team can appreciate it.

- As a CSI fan, I must say that CBS has gone too far with LA, but I’ll get to that. The original is phenomenal because it has developed excellent characters, which liberates better plot lines and allows episodes to have high suspense even with less than shocking crimes. It feels the most like it could be a real Crime Scene Unit.

CSI Miami sucks. David Caruso is the worst actor to ever get a show into the third season, and no, I am not forgetting Tony Danza. This show tries entirely too hard to create drama without letting the show steer itself, like the original. They tried to sex this show up way too much, with David Caruso on the cast, no less, and eliminated the best members of the cast, like Tim Speedle early in the season. This show needs to be entirely reworked and David Caruso needs to get back to selling used cars.

CSI New York did itself a favor by hiring exemplary actors. Gary Sinise may be the best movie actor on television and it translates well. They don’t need to go out of their way to create stories, because crazy stuff happens in New York all the time. It’s believable and it follows the crime without having to force anything.

All this said, I have very low expectations of CSI LA. Aside from the every other spin-off sucks pattern, look at what makes Miami so terrible, a glitzy backdrop, working to make the crimes ostentatious (No, if anything gets nuked, it will not first be Miami) and bad actors. That defines Los Angeles. The edge, too that Las Vegas and New York have will be virtually nonexistent in the newest CSI manifestation. They should have stopped at the 3 and been happy with it.

- I’m not an NBA fan, but I do give it mad props, for without it, SportsCenter would be fifteen minutes and we would get more asinine college sports that nobody cares about like softball and baseball. Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball, but I don’t give a flying f*** about college baseball. I don’t even care about my own college’s team, let alone any in the country. Without the NHL, ESPN is turning into a sports wasteland. Wake up ESPN! Put pro sports on ESPN, like MLS or at least one MLB game a day. It isn’t hard.

- On the same token, where did Rachel Nichols come from? Has she always been there? Why is she in virtually every story they have on SportsCenter? For those of you who don’t know who I’m talking about, she’s the reporter who looks like she’s been carved out of white chocolate. And no, that does not mean I think she looks “sweet” or even that good looking. I’m not physically attracted to Hershey Hugs, and I can’t say that I am to Rachel Nichols either.

- Irrelevant to anyone else’s life, I have received some paperwork about a job on the local news in Columbia, SC. I don’t see myself lasting in a market where I would have to frequently refer to the Gamecocks.

- Interleague play is still a good idea. I think they have the best format, though they should do away with the rivalry thing. What they should do is what the NFL does, make the schedule performance based on the previous season. Have divisions compete against each other like they have on a rotating basis, but then instead of the rivalry, pit 1st place teams against 1st place teams. For example, instead of the Brewers twice, the Twins would play the Braves and the Cardinals. More difficult yes, but better baseball. For the record, and lack of anything better to do, here are all the match-ups instead of rivalry series for this year, focusing only on the AL, keeping in mind its AL Central vs. NL West, AL East vs. NL Central and AL West vs. NL East this year.

I like the idea, personally. There are a lot of good matchups in there, especially given what Baltimore, Florida and San Diego have done this year. And Minnesota plays all three teams they have played in the world series this season under this format. And nobody would miss Milwaukee in interleague play. They would play a series against Arizona and Pittsburgh during the interim in this scenario.

-That’s it for now. Steve and I are trying to figure out ways to keep things up to date while I’m working with crappy dial-up. In the meantime, Spurs in 7, hopefully fewer. - Ryan

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Detroit Sports 101

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Steve. I'm am so glad that I don't live in Detroit any more.

There are many reasons why this site had no new posts for almost a month. First, Ryan and I both graduated college, and we followed that up by spending the next few weeks at our homes in Minnesota and Chicago respectively. It’s not easy to update the site when we’re away from school because apparently Ryan uses a computer stolen from a Ukrainian submarine built in 1958 in his house, and I use my crappy old laptop that used to have FrontPage until the hard drive completely died on it….several times. I actually finally found the FrontPage installation disk for it while I was packing my stuff to move…which flows nicely into this post. The good old job market lured me east so now Is It Sports? is back up and running again from my new command center here just outside Detroit. Sadly, the biggest impact of this move for me is getting to know Detroit’s 4 major sports teams. So I figured I’d break it down here.

Baseball: Detroit Tigers
Founded: 1901
Home Field: Comerica Park
Division: AL Central
Division Titles: 3 (1972, 1984, 1987) (All of these were when they were in the AL East)
AL Pennants: 9 (1907, 1908, 1909, 1934, 1935, 1940, 1945, 1968, 1984)
Championships: 4 (1935, 1945, 1968, 1984)

As you can see above, when it comes to recent success, the Tigers don't have much, ok none. They have not had a winning season since 1993, had the 2nd worst season in MLB history in 2003 by finishing 43-119, and have the 4th longest playoff drought (1987) in baseball, only behind the juggernaut Expos/Nationals (1981), Brewers (1982), and Royals (1985). However this team still has the same amount of World Series titles as the White Sox and Cubs combined. Hey, they even won a World Series in my lifetime, in 1984, but at the same time, my friend that's a Royals fan likes to brag that his team won a World Series in his lifetime 1985...when he was 2....I'm sure he has fond memories.

When baseball split into divisions in 1969, the White Sox went West and the Tigers went East, and the 1994 realignment also kept the Tigers in the East while placing the White Sox in the Central. However, the addition of the Devil Rays in 1998 landed Tampa in the East and moved Detroit to the Central while bumping Milwaukee to the National League. Fueled by Bears-Lions, Bulls-Pistons, and Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalries, the White Sox and Tigers (and their fans) soon hated each other just as much, eventually erupting in one of the biggest brawls baseball has seen in April of 2000. That fight meant a lot for the teams; Everyone in Detroit hated the Sox, and everyone in Chicago hated the Tigers, but that fight was also seen as the moment that the White Sox became a team, launching their run to the AL Central title.

So where are they now? Well the Tigers' expectations were a little too high coming into this year mostly because of the talking heads on TV expecting too much from the allegedly-roid-free Ivan Rodriguez, oft-injured Troy Percival, and still-injured Magglio Ordonez. Dmitri Young made a bold prediction early in the season that it was going to be a real tough fight between the Tigers and Indians this season, and he was definitely right. They are only separated by 1 game right now, 11 and 12 games behind the White Sox.

I think I still have a strong possibility of getting behind the Tigers, but they will NEVER become my favorite team. I've been to 5 games at Comerica and its a great place to see a game, and 12 years of solid losing makes for plenty of close seats. I'm looking forward to being here to see the Tigers finally turn things around, just as long as they are still always worse than the White Sox.

Football: Detroit Lions
Founded: 1930 (as Portsmouth Spartans, became Detroit Lions in 1934)
Home Field: Ford Field
Division: NFC North
Division Titles: 8 (1935, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1983, 1991, 1993)
Conference Titles: 5 (1935, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957)
Championships: 4 (1935, 1952, 1953, 1957)

The Lions resume above looks a lot more impressive than it actually is. They won their last championship 9 years before the beginning of the Super Bowl era, and the closest they've gotten since then is a loss in the 1991 NFC Championship game. I think their other 3 championships were won when leather helmets and sweaters were popular football gear, and their last playoff appearance came in 1999. Things are starting to look up for the Lions now though, especially in their own division. They have a decent coach in Steve Mariucci, a serviceable backup in Jeff Garcia for when Joey Harrington proves himself ineffective yet again, and 3 top WR prospects with Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams. They have a chance of finally making the playoffs this year with a Moss-less and Tice lead Vikings team, an aging and decimated Packers team, and a usually crappy Bears team in their division.

So how do I feel about this team? Well I'm not sure if I mentioned before, but I grew up a 49ers fan and respecting my dad's Raiders, and I never enjoyed being surrounded by Bears fans every day living in Chicago. I also still dislike the Packers because first, they're from Wisconsin, and second, they ended too many 49ers playoff runs in recent years. So I used to love watching Barry Sanders cutting through the Bears or Packers defenses while I was cutting through my turkey each Thanksgiving. I can see myself definitely getting behind this team, especially in NFC Central games, but they'll always be a distant 3rd behind the Niners and Raiders to me.

Basketball: Detroit Pistons
Founded: 1949 (as Fort Wayne Pistons, moved to Detroit in 1958)
Home Court: Palace of Auburn Hills
Division: Eastern Central
Division Titles: 8 (1955, 1956, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2002, 2003, 2005)
Conference Titles: 7 (1955, 1956, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2004, 2005)
Championships: 3 (1989, 1990, 2004)

DEEE-TROIT BASKET-BALL! is synonymous with both of my moves to Detroit, last year as an intern, and this year for my full time job. Easily the talk of the town the past couple of years, especially considering the dismal decades of the two teams I listed above and the NHL lockout still keeping the Red Wings home. The excitement in the town about this team is fun to see and it reminds me of the excitement in Chicago about the Bulls in their heyday. I went for a haircut today and I saw 2 kids, maybe 8 and 10, wearing their Ben Wallace jerseys proudly, and I thought to myself....that was me about 13 years ago, but with my Jordan jersey. Last night they ousted the tough Miami Heat (who I was pulling for because of my fellow H.L. Richards High alum, Dwyane Wade) to advance to their 2nd consecutive NBA Finals, 5th in the past 17 years, and 7th overall. In just 2 weeks, I might have to update the fact list above and change that Championship number to 4, but they're going to have a very tough San Antonio Spurs team to contend with. So who do I root for in this one?

Well in my impressionable days as a sports fan in the late 80s and early 90s, the Pistons were by far the most hated team in Chicago. The "Bad Boys" beat the Bulls in the playoffs 3 years in a row and went on to advance to the finals each year, winning 2. The Bulls finally broke through in 1991 by sweeping them in the Eastern Finals and going on to win their first of 6 titles. These guys nowadays are different though. They are a hard-working team with no superstars that go out every night and get the job done, and I have a lot of respect for them for that. Throughout my life in basketball and hockey, I haven't been a diehard fan of either the Bulls or the Blackhawks, which is much different than my support for the White Sox and 49ers, but I've always considered them to be my favorite teams. This is mostly because I'm not as big of a fan of either sport as I am with baseball and football, so I tend to pull for the Chicago teams, but I'm not that intense of a fan so I can actually appreciate other teams. I pulled for the Celtics when they had Bird, the Magic with Shaq and Penny, the Hawks with Mutombo, the Spurs with Robinson and Duncan, and the Heat with Shaq and Wade all while still backing the Bulls, so there's no reason why I can't get behind the Pistons, because like the teams I mentioned before, they have a lot of talent that's fun to watch play together. So as long as any rioting stays away from my doorstep, I'll be pulling for the Pistons to take another title home.

Hockey: Detroit Red Wings
Founded: 1926
Home Ice: Joe Louis Arena
Division: Western Central
Division Titles: 24 (1934, 1936, 1937, 1943, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1965, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
Conference Titles: 21 (1934, 1937, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002)
Stanley Cup Titles: 10 (1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1997, 1998, 2002)

Clearly Detroit's most successful franchise, and it shows. Just look at that list of titles above! I had to stretch the logo to make it fit next to all of them. Hopefully it shows up ok on your computer. This town is completely crazy for hockey, and they have a good reason to be. There are almost too many reasons to count, but I'll name as many as I can:
1. An Original 6 team
2. 10 Stanley Cup titles
3. 3 Stanley Cup titles in the past 8 years
4. The richest team in the league, so they can get any player (a result of being the most obsessed over team in America)
5. It's cold here
6. Detroit people like high speed violence
7. Joe Louis Arena is located right next to a river....what's on the other side? Let's see....oh I think it might be CANADA!

I don't really know what Red Wings excitement is like here, because last summer they were already eliminated when I moved here, and this year...well you know why...but I imagine it might even be more intense than the Pistons because this has got to be the furthest south city where hockey is still discussed on a daily basis. I swear that I heard 19 year old girls talking about the Wings' 3rd line while I was at the store the other day. I wonder what it would be like here if both teams were in the finals at the same time, since the 2 teams successful times don't seem to intersect often. I remember back in 1992 when both the Bulls and Blackhawks made the finals. I was 9 at the time, but I don't even know if I was aware of what the Blackhawks were doing with all of the Bulls repeat talk. The Bulls went on to beat the Blazers while the Hawks were swept by the Penguins so I guess all the attention for the Bulls was for the better.

Can I get behind the Wings? I think not. Even though I've been angry with the Blackhawks since they traded away my all-time favorite player, Jeremy Roenick, about 8 years ago, they still brainwashed me into hating the Detroit Red Wings. I remember going to a Red Wings-Blackhawks game at the United Center a few years ago that was loaded with fans that drove all the way from Detroit for the game (because good teams have tickets that are hard to get). I think the only time more electricity has been in the air at a game I attended was White Sox-Cubs in 2001 and Pistons-Pacers in game 3 of the Eastern Finals last year. Throughout the entire game, the scoreboard kept attacking the Detroit fans, showing pictures of decay and buildings collapsing in Detroit, while showing beautiful pictures of downtown Chicago. Between periods, they decided to honor the visiting fans by playing Motown, all the while showing brutal hits delivered by Blackhawk players to unsuspecting Red Wings. To top things off, for 3 periods straight, chants continued throughout the stadium. A "Lets-Go-Red-Wings!" coming from the upper deck, followed by a "De-troit-Sucks!" chant from the lower. Those kind of memories last a while. Plus, it's not like I'll ever get tickets to see the Wings anyways.

So that's my recap on Detroit sports. Don't be surprised if these teams get mentioned more often in my posts. I've already starting watching the Tigers on TV almost every night, mostly because I can only stand so many episodes of Battle of the Gridiron Stars or the most useless sport to televise on the planet, women's college softball that ESPN forces on us all. Or I always guess I can turn the TV off and actually post something on this site more often than once a month. - Steve

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Monday, June 06, 2005

The First Post on Golf

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Ryan. I think this might be the last post on golf too...

Here’s an interesting little statistic. We’ve been operating this site since January, a sports site, and this sentence is the first mention of Tiger Woods. Really. Use the search engine and see for yourself. But I didn’t want to use the Tiger just for the sake of saying Tiger. After the first round of golf of the year, played with my father, whom we shall call “Dad” and my brother, whom we shall call “Kyle”, I am unduly impressed that someone could make a career out of a ridiculous game such as this, much less consistently dominate. My round, which ended up in the low 140s, was a testament to the game’s absurd popularity.

Every time I take a practice swing, more knowledgeable persons, such as Dad or other members of a well-versed foursome comment on my excellent form. Then I promptly do one of the following things: a) hit the ball of the heel of my club, into the woods b) Find the nearest pond and put it in there c) top the ball and roll it to the women’s tees, or d) launch it about 200 yards landing in the middle of the fairway. On the adjacent (probably to the right) hole. It got to the point where I preferred hitting out of the rough, because when I was in the fairway, I just didn’t know what to do with myself. The grass was just too darn short.

The other particularly frustrating thing, aside from looking good but playing bad (think Anna Kournikova playing tennis), was the short game. It was always an adventure when I pulled out the pitching wedge. Would I launch it over the green? Would I bump it a mere two feet forward, and not yet to the green? Or would I mercifully hit it on the green and have it roll across to the fringe where I could take out the putter, finally? To say my chipping skills are inadequate is a wild, dangerous understatement.

Now, I have a history of being quite the geographer, having been to two state Geography Bees in middle school, and being well known as the walking atlas of St. Hubert’s School in Chanhassen, Minnesota. This made it more painful when my exemplary spatial skills still would not allow me to successfully read a green’s topography. The phrase of the day was “Ryan four-putted.”

Making matters worse was the weather. It was cold. It was raining. It had clearly been raining for some time, as mud permeated everything. Also, we went on a day where they were aerating the greens and topping them with sand, so while the wet greens suggested a slow roll, they were actually moving quite quickly and accumulating an inch of wet sand every putt. And keep in mind, there were four every hole for me. If I had decided to only putt for the day, I would have shot an even par, but instead I decided to play the whole course.

So why do we play this game? Why do we pay people to play this game? These soggy hills in Belle Plaine could have just as easily been used to grow wheat and feed another Nicaraguan village, and I would have stayed warm, clean and mostly unaggravated. I think it has something to do with the human ego. The margin for error in golf is very small. We play the game because any shot could be the shot of our life, any hole can be the hole of our life, and every round has the potential to be some of the best four hours of our lives. We pay people to play the game because we want to see someone succeed at the game, and a small part of us wants to see the professional do something we could do at Deer Run Country Club.

Make no mistake about it, there is something to be said for the game, even for me. I only go when I’m with Dad and Kyle, and it’s a chance to gauge how grown up we’ve become, or how childish we remain. It’s something I can usually say I’m better than Kyle at, on most days, and something Dad still has over us. It’s a chance to spend some time outdoors, though today was one I would have rather spent indoors. It’s something we can always get better at.

I’m beginning to think though, that Tiger has it all figured out. Even though he’s the best golfer in the world, he’s not a perfect golfer. The answer Tiger Woods has given me? Well, I’m now in the market for a Swedish supermodel. - Ryan

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