Saturday, October 5, 2013

It's pretty obnoxious of Derrick Rose to make a "basketball is everything" commercial

This ad just started airing regularly in the last few days:

Really Derrick?  Really?  Basketball is everything?  That's a fairly bold statement coming from a guy who sat on the bench last spring while his teammates gave their all in the playoffs without him, two months after he was medically cleared to come back.

But I guess I could be being a little unfair.  I mean he doesn't exactly say that playing basketball is everything, maybe he just really enjoys watching it.  You know, like a huge fan.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ten years ago I witnessed the most intense sports moment of my life

Monday, October 6th, 2003.  Boston vs Oakland, ALDS Game 5.

For starters you have to keep in mind that this was the pre-2004 Red Sox, going on 85 years without winning the World Series.  The A's had taken the first two games of the series at home, but Boston battled back at Fenway.  They pulled out Game 3 in 11 innings, then rallied with two runs in the bottom of the 8th to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 victory in Game 4.  Back in Oakland for the finale, the Sox staked Pedro Martinez to a 4-1 lead in the 6th inning, but heading to the bottom of the 9th it had been trimmed to just 4-3.  Scott Williamson promptly began the inning by walking the first two batter he faced.  Enter Derek Lowe.

Just two days earlier Lowe had started Game 3, and gone 7 innings without giving up an earned run.  The first batter Lowe faced bunted the runners along, leaving men on 2nd and 3rd with only one out.  A single hit would send the Red Sox home for another long, cold, winter.

I watched this 9th inning in the back of the Wharf Pub in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard.  I couldn't sit down.  I couldn't stand still.  I put my head down on the bar in gut-wrenching agony between pitches.  In the Cowbow Up! video Lowe and Jason Varitek say he was throwing a "front door sinker, in," something he'd done a thousand times before.  But I swear to this day that Lowe invented a new pitch that night.  He struck out Adam Melhuse looking on something that seemed like it was going to hit him in the letters, but then dropped right over the middle of the plate.  Two outs.  Chris Singleton walked to load the bases, and up to the plate stepped Terrence Long.  With the count at 1-2 Lowe recreated the same magical pitch he used to get Melhuse, Long watched it fall into Varitek's glove, and the Red Sox were headed to New York to face the Yankees in the ALCS.  

I don't remember ever watching a baseball game go on for so long where each team's fate hung in the balance with every pitch.  In my lifetime I've never seen anything else in sports quite like it.

Lowe's heroics come at the 3:00 mark of this clip:

Now if that doesn't get you pumped for the Red Sox ALDS Game 1 tonight, I don't know what does.

Sidenote: I got the idea for this blog in June of 2011.  After watching series after series of nerve wracking playoff hockey, I had a feeling that Game 7 of the Bruins vs Canucks Stanley Cup Final might top my list for intense sports moments.  Coincidentally I was again at the Wharf Pub, but the B's took away all the drama by winning 4-0. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I hate the fact that the Red Sox have to play the (Devil) Rays

In mid-summer Boston and Tampa were locked in a dead heat atop the AL East.  But over the next six weeks the Sox ran away with the division title, building a 9.5 game lead half way through September.  Throughout that time I taunted the Rays mercilessly on twitter, in response to their trash talk about taking over first place back on July 29th.  Two months of vastly superior baseball down the stretch should have been enough to put Tampa in the rear view mirror for good.

But now after winning consecutive one game playoffs the Rays are back, and the Sox will have to deal with them in a best 3 of 5 ALDS series.  I don't care that Boston beat them 12 times in 19 tries this year.  Tampa has great pitching, and they scare me, especially in such a small sample size.  Not to mention the fact that somehow despite playing 3 straight desperation games they've still managed to line up their top two starters (Matt Moore and David Price) for Friday and Saturday.

It's not supposed to be this way (and actually under the old Wild Card system it couldn't have, teams in the same division never met until the league championship series; and while I'm on this grumpy old man tangent the Rays wouldn't even have qualified for the postseason either).  We shouldn't have to worry about those guys anymore, in my mind they've already been defeated.  I might have been able to stomach the idea of losing to Cleveland or Texas, but after the way the end of the season unfolded it just doesn't seem right that the Rays will get a chance to send Boston home for the winter.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I bet there are people alive today who aren't aware they have tracking chips inside them

Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys
We've all read a book or seen a movie or TV show based in some abstract future time when humans have tracking devices installed inside them involuntarily (usually the hero/protagonist figures out how to remove it about 3/4 of the way through in order to escape/defeat the bad guys).  I don't think that's the future; in fact I'd be willing to bet my life savings that it already exists.  I've had this theory for a while now, and before you call me crazy, hear me out.  I'm not paranoid about a ridiculous government-based spy conspiracy going on, and I don't believe there are some sort of high-tech military assassin people born in laboratories either.  Here's why I'm sure it's been done:

Somewhere in Mexico or the Middle East there is an insanely wealthy drug lord or prince who had a baby, and feared greatly for the safety of their newborn.  What better way to to assuage all your worries of kidnapping than to put a tracking chip in your child?  It you've got unlimited funds, access to the technology, and doctors of questionable ethics available, what's to stop you?  Reading back that last sentence, I'm wondering what the odds are it hasn't even happened here?

If you're confused about the photo, in the film 12 Monkeys Bruce Willis' character cut out his own teeth because he thought that's how "the scientists" were keeping tabs on him.  It's a great movie that really makes you think, however this particular scene led to one hysterical line (PG-13 language):


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The oddities of baseball and the one-game playoff

The Pittsburgh Pirates just swept three games from the Reds over the weekend in Cincinnati to close out the regular season.  Before that series even began, it'd already been determined that the Pirates and Reds would be playing each other in the National League Wild Card game.  Pittsburgh's only reward for knocking off Cincy three straight to end the season (and finishing with the better record of the two) is that they get to host the single game playoff in their ballpark.  But it's all for naught if they don't win that one game tonight.  While it was a funny scheduling coincidence that led to this, it's somewhat ridiculous that the two clubs played each other in three consecutive largely meaningless contests, only to follow that up with one all-or-nothing winner-take-all game.

Admittedly this format is extremely entertaining, and as a Red Sox fan I am greatly enjoying sitting back and waiting for the winner of first Tampa vs Texas (who finished tied for the 2nd Wild Card spot) and now Tampa vs Cleveland.  However, for the teams that lose, it's heatbreakingly (I realize I just made up that word) unfair to have all the hard work of a 162 game schedule dashed aside by just one lone playoff defeat.  In relation to the length of the season, a single playoff game in baseball is the proportional equivalent of an NFL playoff game lasting a total of only 5 minutes and 56 seconds.

Here's what I wrote on this subject two and a half years ago before it actually came to be.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A brief explanation...

I signed up to participate in a network of NBA team preview articles spread out over a variety of different blogs/websites.  Everybody was asked to write something on their team (I chose the Celtics obviously) in the same format answering the same 4 questions (with a 5th one of your own choice).  The post below from earlier this morning is my contribution to that.  I know it's long and different from what I usually write, but it's still fits into what I like to do, and will hopefully bring some extra traffic to

Boston Celtics 2013-2014 Season Preview

Boston Celtics
Last Year's Record: 41-40
Key Losses: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Head Coach Doc Rivers
Key Additions: Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kelly Olynyk, Head Coach Brad Stevens

1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?

Probably no team in the NBA made such drastic moves this summer as Boston did.  They traded away two future Hall of Famers. team captain and 15 year Celtic Paul Pierce, as well as Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn for a package of players and draft picks.  The move signified the beginning of a rebuilding process for the C's, with the future picks being the key ingredient in the deal.  Not wanting to be a part of the rebuild, Head Coach Doc Rivers left to join the Clippers in LA.  Boston replaced Rivers with 36 year old Brad Stevens, a stats guy (think "Moneyball" of the NBA) who had a lot of success making the most out of minimal talent at Butler University.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?

Without a doubt the Celtics best player is point guard Rajon Rondo.  Beyond that Boston's greatest strengths appear to be the way they are positioning themselves for the future.  Jared Sullinger showed great promise as a rookie last season, and this year's top draft pick Kelly Olynyk (#13 overall) was one of the shining stars of the summer leagues.  The trade with the Nets and the deal allowing Rivers to go to LA have also left the Celts with an extra first round draft selection in 4 of the next 5 years (2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018).

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

The enormous array of weaknesses is why the focus is clearly on the future for Boston.  Rondo is returning from ACL surgery and likely won't be ready to go for the start of the season.  The Celtics only back up point guard is an undrafted rookie (Phil Pressey).  The C's are extremely thin at the center position as well, with Brazilian import Vitor Faverani (who's not expected to have much of an impact) being the lone traditional "five" on the roster.  They have a glut at both power forward (Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries, Sullinger, and Olynyk) and shooting guard (Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, MarShon Brooks, and Keith Bogans), but no real stars in the bunch.  Their best scoring option is small forward Jeff Green, who looks great on the days he puts it all together, but is also wildly inconsistent.

4. What are the goals for this team?

The common perception is that the goal in Boston is to "tank" the season and attempt to secure the best possible pick in a very deep 2014 draft.  Allowing Rondo to take all the time he needs and more (a lot more) to come back would be one step in this direction.  So would giving the younger and unproven guys like Olynyk, Pressey, Brooks, and Faverani a chance to develop through extended playing time.  As a rookie head coach in the league, Stevens could gain valuable on the job experience while experimenting with a variety of lineups and styles of play; this might also help determine who and what fits best into the Celtics long term plans.  On the other hand, there is another option...

5. Can (and should) the Celtics make the playoffs in 2014?

Yes, they can.  It definitely hinges on whether or not Rondo returns fully healthy and within a reasonable amount of time, so for the sake of argument lets say he does.  For the first time in his career Rondo will be the clear cut "top dog."  My feeling is he will be highly motivated to prove all his doubters wrong, and may flourish in this role.  His backcourt mate Avery Bradley can go also go back to being the defensive terror he used to be before assuming the ball handling duties in Rondo's absence.  A "running lineup" featuring Rondo, Bradley, Green and any two of the aforementioned power forwards could prove to be surprisingly effective at scoring easy baskets.

It's also possible to win a lot of games in the NBA simply by working hard and playing good defense night in and night out, and I think Stevens will demand that.  I don't see Stevens as the type of guy who'll be satisfied with just playing the youngsters and not trying his hardest to win every night.  For example I wouldn't be surprised to see Kris Humphries earn a bigger role on this team than most people expect; he's been a great rebounder throughout his career on a per minute basis, and since he's in the final season of a $12 million a year deal and only 28 years old, he'll be looking to earn another big contract.

So that's how Boston can make the playoffs next year, now here's why they should: Losing sucks.  Celtics fans have been spoiled for the last 6 seasons with quality teams and high expectations.  Many have forgotten what it's like to watch a club that fails to compete on a nightly basis.  Not only that, but playoff basketball is fun and exciting, regardless of the final results.  If you don't believe me go back and re-watch Boston's first round defeat at the hands of the Knicks last spring.  And who knows, grabbing one of the final seeds in the East could land the Celts a first round matchup with Pierce and Garnett's Brooklyn squad.

There's also significant historical data that shows "tanking" is not the best path to winning future championships.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Awesome Old Song of the Week: "No Diggity" by Blackstreet

One of my greatest talents (at least in my mind) is identifying random old pop songs within the first couple seconds of hearing them.  Last night the cover band in the bar I was at played exactly two notes, and I said "I think this is No Diggity."  It turned out to be a slowed down acoustic version of Blackstreet's (with Dr. Dre) 1996 hit, exactly the kind of stuff you love to hear post-wedding.

On the wikipedia page for No Diggity one of the first things mentioned is that the song ended the 14 week reign atop the Billboard singles chart of Los del Rio's Macarena.  Wow, three and a half months is a crazy long time for a song to stay #1.  Reading that motivated me to look up the all-time record, which is apparently 16 weeks, held by Mariah Carey's One Sweet Day (featuring Boyz II Men) the year before in 1995.

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