Wednesday, May 31, 2006 

Beer and Loathing at the Indy 500


During our college years, the Noob Sports family and friends occasionally visited a delightful, dimly lit bar named Fricano's. Aside from having deliciously greasy pizza, Fricano's also featured the cheapest drinks in town; if memory serves correctly, a 7 and 7 would run you $2.50. For that reason, Fricano's was the perfect first stop of a night out downtown. On one such evening, we ended up chatting with two older, hillbilly couples at the table next to us. As the conversation moved along and the townies downed their Busch Light cans, we ended up talking a little sports. It turns out that they weren't much interested in the Pistons or basketball, and they explained why thusly: "It ain't a sport if it ain't got wheels."

Personally, I've always wondered why a perfectly reasonable human being would ever willingly follow or watch auto racing. I just don't get it. The cars go around the same track hundreds of times, only making left turns, and it would seem that the engine matters more than the driver. Not to mention, the fans are a bit of a turn-off, as you are fifty times more likely to see a Rebel flag t-shirt in the crowd of a race than at any other type of sporting event.

Of course, I've noticed that motor sports are clearly becoming more and more popular across our great nation. These days, I can't drive to my local grocery store without seeing a Tony Stewart or a #3 sticker (race in peace, Dale) on a pickup truck. I can't watch Sportscenter without seeing some little dude throw his giant helmet at another little dude who ran him off the road. I can't pick up my Sports Weekly (formerly Baseball Weekly) from the mailbox without reading about Jeff Gordon (this has been responsible for a mini-fit every week since they started covering NASCAR). And I've never understood any of it. In fact, I absolutely hate it.

It wasn't until this past weekend that I finally decided to see for myself what the world of motor sports has to offer. On Sunday, I found myself situated in the infield along Turn 3 at the Indianapolis 500 in Speedway, Indiana. I was one of over 300,000 people at the race, making it easily the largest sporting event I had ever attended. Tickets for the infield were only $20 and fans are allowed to carry in coolers full of their favorite beer. Let me repeat that: fans are allowed to bring in as much beer as they can fit into a 14" x 14" x 14" cooler (easily enough for a case). This is a far cry from the $7 beers sold at Comerica and Wrigley. So far, so good.

After an extensive hike (not much fun in the already hot and humid day while carrying 24 beers, ice, and water), we reached Turn 3 around 8:30 AM, giving us 4 and a half hours of pre-game drinking. I couldn't believe how many people had already set up on the infield, playing bean bags and grilling. Soon after, the beer bongs were out in force and going around the horn more than a few times. Immediately, I realized that the beautiful Danica Patrick was the crowd favorite. As soon as the first beer cans were empty, our group began placing them in the chain link fence, spelling out "Danica 16." Soon after that, it was time to break the seal.

It was in the bathroom that I reached my first epiphany about racing. In the graffitti above the trough, there was scrawled several anti-NASCAR rants, most not fit to print. I asked my buddy Brandon, who was my gracious host for the trip, what the deal was. Apparently, IRL fans look down upon NASCAR fans in much the same way that a Metallica fan might look down upon a Nickelback fan. Knowing that I was not alone in my disdain for all things NASCAR was encouraging. My guilt for attending an auto racing event was dissipating.

Back on the infield, a procession of marching bands was followed by celebrities (Ludacris, Johnny Drama, 'Melo, etc.) and beauty queens riding around the track, waving to fans who were too busy consuming to take much notice. The temperature rose quickly; this would be the hottest Indy 500 in the past 35 years, with a track temp. of well over 100 degrees. Through the sweat now running into my eyes, Lance Armstrong emerged in the Corvette Z06 pace car. Looking around, I noticed that almost every fan had a shit-eating grin on their face in anticipation. I was told that the start of the race would be the most exciting part... and it was.

The crowd was so loud that we couldn't hear the traditional start of "Lady and gentlemen, start your engines!" but by the buzz we knew that the cars would soon be headed our way. Since the actual race begins at full speed, the cars make 3 "warm-up" laps to build up speed. With Livestrong Lance leading the way, the Indy cars zipped past for the first time, turning slightly to warm up their tires. On the third warm-up lap, the cars were near their top speed of about 220 mph and were situated in 11 rows of 3. To see 33 cars in formation at 200+ mph is very fucking impressive.

On the first lap of the actual race, the whole crowd went nuts and beer was being sprayed everywhere you looked. The experience of the race is difficult to explain: everything was more exaggerated than I had imagined. The sound of the engines was incredibly loud, you could hear the cars before you could see them and you could only talk in quick spurts before the next racer came roaring past. The speed is equally hard to describe; there is just no way to put into words how quickly the cars are in and out of view.

Interestingly, unlike other sporting events, the results really don't matter to the fans at all. For most of the race, I would guess that most of the crowd didn't know and didn't care who was out in front. The early leader was Englishman, proud wearer of the Euro-Hawk, and 2005 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon. He was just flying. While the crowd hollered every time Danica made a pass, no one was too disappointed that she was never really a threat to actually win. As Marco Andretti held off Sam Hornish Jr. around Turn 3 on the final lap, we figured the race was over. It wasn't until Hornish's victory lap that we had any idea he had been able to pass around the back stretch, in the second closest finish ever at Indy.

So, have I been converted to motor sports? Not exactly, although I was pretty impressed. Do I hate myself for attending a car race? Well, you won't find me in any IRL fantasy leagues any time soon, but you will find me back on the infield next Memorial Day weekend. The best comparison I can make is to a Jimmy Buffet concert: not many people I know actually listen to Jimmy on a consistent basis, but almost anyone I know would jump at the chance to see him in concert because its an absolute party.

And so, thanks are in order to the guys at Fricano's (and Logansport, Indiana), but I must draw the line at the IRL. If I attend a NASCAR event, I have little doubt that the sports gods will send a rogue tire flying my way to strike me down in my hypocrisy.

- NJV

Friday, May 26, 2006 

Sports Media Culture Crisis


Those of you who follow our writing realize that most of the time we try to see the lighter side of things, write in a funny way, and generally have a good time with what we're doing. Occasionally we have to get serious, and this is one of those times. Psyche up, it's time for SEL to go on a rant...

As is my usual custom, I came home tonight and started reading almost every article on ESPN.com. Call me a loser, that's just how I roll.

I clicked on an article in the "voices" section of ESPN.com about the Duke Lacrosse team. Not surprisingly, I'm greated with the title "Lacrosse Culture Crisis: Play Hard, Party Hard."

Immediately, I'm upset. I realize that most readers of this article are already coming into it with a negative attitude towards the Duke Lacrosse team, and most likely the sport of Lacrosse in general. The title of the article is already reinforcing existing negative stereotypes.

The author, Greg Garber, is obviously trying to lure readers into his article by giving it a risque title, which leads the reader to think there will be some controversial material lying within. There are two things that REALLY piss me off here, and I'm going to address both of them. The first is the Lacrosse article itself, the second is Johnny Blowhards like Greg Garber and others of his ilk who are destroying the way we view sports.

Regarding the article: The author immediately puts the team in a negative light by saying that they "play hard, party hard." Can somebody please explain to me what the problem with this is? Why is it okay for a 30 year old to say they "work hard, party hard", but it's unnacceptable for a college athlete to "play hard, party hard"?

According to the article, Duke President Richard Brodhead (obviously packin heat) appointed Law Professor James Coleman to look into the history of the Lacrosse teams behavior. The President summarized the report thusly:
"The Coleman committee's report tells of a close-knit team that did well academically and excelled athletically but that was irresponsible in its repeated abuse of alcohol."
That sounds like a pretty accurate description of every single male varsity athletic team at the collegiate level in the country, guvna.

I can relate to this on a more personal level. I was a member of my schools soccer team for 4 years, and that description describes us very well. We were a very close-knit team that enjoyed great success on the field and off of it. We won numerous academic awards as a team, and carried a cumulative GPA over 3.3 for the entire 4 years I was in school. We were always one of the top teams in the country, and we busted our asses to get there. Most of us were also involved in a number of different extra-curricular activities.

When Saturday evening rolled around, it was time to let loose. We spent the entire week going to class, going to practice, doing homework, taking tests, training, playing matches, and maintaining personal relationships with our friends and significant others off the field. A lot of pressure builds up during all of this, and our way of coping with said stress was to party like fucking rockstars.

Admittedly, there were times when we became 'irresponsible with our repeated abuse of alcohol', but that usually ended with 5 AM public readings of Harry Potter novels and a trip to the 7-11 for a quick stoney treat. However, we all looked out for one another, and did our best to keep from doing too many stupid things that would get any of us, or our team in trouble (this could also be attributed to the differences between a DIII team at a small Christian school and a bigtime team at a prominent D1 University... who knows).

I'm sure there are hundreds of other athletic teams just like us at colleges all over America. This is not a culture crisis, this is the culture of Collegiate Athletics in America. These athletes aren't getting paid (with the obvious exception of athletes at THE Ohio State University), and most of them are busting their ass to receive a quality education that will further their careers. The gross majority of collegiate athletes aren't going on to play professional ball, so they take their time spent in college seriously.

I also realize that I have probably pissed off a number of readers. There will always be naysayers who believe that College Athletes cause too much trouble, and take away from the academic experience, and even those who feel school and sport should be mutually exclusive. I understand and respect this opinion.

However, I also recognize that there is something to be said about the type of college athlete described here. As an employer, would you rather hire somebody who excelled in the classroom, excelled on the athletic field, had extra-curricular activities, liked to tie on the occasional buzz, got in a little trouble, and managed to escape college in one piece... OR somebody who had an outstanding GPA but spent their free time studying and staying out of trouble? My guess is, unless you're an accountant or write computer code for a living, you would go with the former.


And why not? This potential employee shows that he can perform well under pressure in multiple facets of his life. It shows that he can multi-task, and budget his time wisely. It shows that he can set goals and bust his ass to achieve those goals. It shows the ability to play within a team setting, and work with your teammates towards achieving excellence (Note: this isn't gender specific. To save time, I referred to the athlete as "he", but it could just as easily have been a "she". Title IX baby!).

The people that criticize the lifestyle of the "college athlete" are the same people (usually broads) who spent their entire college life inside their dorm room, reading and studying and checking out their myspace page. These are the same people who, when the weekend would come around, would feel depressed because they realize the highlight of their weekend was trying to find a partner to play board games with. These are the same people who are now in their late 20's/early 30's who live in the suburbs and realize that up to this point they have lived a meaningless existance, and the prospect of turning things around doesn't look to great. These are the same kind of people who spend their time sitting around eating bon-bons and watching Oprah, lamenting the fact that the "College Athlete" they despised so much during college is now living a much better, much more successful life. These are the kind of people who get pissed off at those thoughts, and are starving for attention, so they try to get back at the current collegiate athletes by saying that there is a "culture crisis" and start crying for immediate and harsh reform and punishment. I hate these people. Fuck these people.

Deep breath. Okay, I'm better now.

I'd like to take this time to point out that I'm not defending the Duke Lacrosse team here. I don't know what happened at the party, I wasn't there. If any rape or racism occurred, I don't support that at all. It is reprehensible, and it is my sincere wish that the violators be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, this is America, and we're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. So, until this whole situation is resolved, I'm going to wait to pass my judgment. I want to reiterate that I do not condone any violent action towards women, or any type of racism whatsoever towards any minorities (For the record, racism towards anglos are fine. Kill all the white man!).

Moving on.

I think we're dealing with a much larger problem here than college athletes and people who hate them. The bigger problem is the Sports Media Culture we find ourselves surrounded by these days.

I was talking to my buddy Loomis tonight, and we were both commenting on the shocking decline of "Sportscenter" over recent years. I've been entertaining many thoughts on this subject for a long time, and I know I'm not alone in this.

It's tough for me to hate on Sportscenter. After all, I was raised on this show. I used to wake up every morning before school, turn on sportscenter, go huddle inside my super-huge sleepshirt over the heating vent in the floor (because my house was always balls cold in the morning), and just soak in the sports. This was back in the good ole days, back when Sportscenter consisted of highlights from many different games, many different sports, good statistics, funny commentary, and occasional good insight.

Now? I turn on Sportscenter and find myself not caring about Barroids latest 0-4 game in his pursuit to pass The Babe. I see a show trying to create entertainment by bringing in "experts" to debate issues where there aren't issues to debate at all. I find myself getting dumber as I listen to A.J. Pierzynski blather on about God knows what on the "Budweiser Hot Seat." I get pissed off when that fat-ass Chris Berman, who obviously doesn't care anymore, goes through the highlights screwing up scores, stats, and peoples names... only to humor himself by giving another athlete another worthless nickname. I watch in horror as Barry Melrose and his mullet are getting less and less air time, because people apparently don't care about hockey anymore, and they would rather tell us about the NFL draft 3 weeks before it starts. By the time the "Coors Light Cold Hard Facts" rolls around, I'm rocking back and forth with a shiv in my hand muttering something about shanking Burt 'Be Home" Blyleven.

Don't get me wrong, there is still some hope for Sportscenter. Scott Van Pelt, Neil Everett (Bartender... Jack... Solo!), and even John Anderson provide good coverage, speak eloquently, and don't try to make themselves the center of attention for every highlight. These guys are the future of the show, I only wish "the show" had a future as bright as the anchors.

Sportscenter isn't the worst of it either, it's just the beginning.

We live in a time now where many Americans get their sports news from watching talking heads on Around The Horn and reading crazy, controversy sparking articles written by Johnny Blowhards like Greg Garber and Jay Marriotti. These shows and articles are much less about sport, and much more about entertainment. They try to create a controversy, try to make a story out of nothing, and they try to make everybody on there have a strong, over-the-top and ludacris opinion on the 'hot topics' in sport (these opinions easily swing from one end of the spectrum to the other from day to day, and of course there is no accountability for anything said on the shows). I understand why the networks and the authors of these articles do it: it generates ratings, the more people that watch/read it the more interested advertisers are in advertising, the more interested advertisers are the more money is generated. In the words of Wu Tang Financial: "Nowadays we all know that money is everything. Green, get the money, dolla dolla bill y'all."

(For the record, I love Around The Horn. I just don't let it shape my opinions about the sports world, and I make a conscious effort to dig a little deeper and examine the sports and stories that I'm personally interested in).

These shows and these articles have started to change sports culture... in my opinion for the worse. Now, if the Mavericks lose game 1 at home, all of a sudden everybody is talking about "Can the Suns sweep?" "Are the Mavericks overrated?" "Do the Mavericks have an answer for Steve Nash?" "Are the Suns the greatest team of all time?"

Our sports world has digressed into coming up with a top 10 list for every occasion (apologies if I'm being too Simmons-ish here). We are force-fed bullshit questions like "is this the greatest NBA playoffs of all-time?" We have to sit there and take the newest "Here is the list of the 10 best buzzer beaters of all-time." As soon as a game ends, all the analysts and experts inevetably get into shouting matches over whether this was the greatest of all-time, or worst of all-time, or biggest choke job of all-time, or if this team was overrated, or if that team is playing the worst they've played all season.

Quite frankly, I'm sick of a lot of it. I don't want my sports delivered to me in 'extremes'. I don't want to waste my time watching two men argue about who was the greatest home run hitter of all time. I would love it if I could get my sports scores, with some highlights, with some stats, with a little analysis and a dash of commentator wit. I'd love to read more articles where the author goes in depth and uncovers some great truths about the sports and the athletes, and doesn't try to spark controversy, jump to immediate and life-changing conclusions, and get people all excited over nothing.

For some reason, I don't think I'm alone when I say any of this...

Thursday, May 25, 2006 

Back on the Horse


The weather here in the 'burbs of Chicago today is gloomy, wet, and sticky. The humidity is just enough to make you think about turning on the air conditioning before you remember the clouds and the rain showers. Basically, it's the kind of weather I hate. And yet it is still shaping up to be a beautiful day. So, you ask, what could cheer up such a depressing day?

I'm back in the game.

I've reloaded my account at my online sports book and I couldn't be happier. This afternoon, while at work, I will fire up ESPN's GameCast and follow wagers on the early baseball games. Tonight, I will have a rooting interest in the 'Stons-Heat game although I'm a through and through Laker fan. This weekend, while at the Indy 500 in, uh, Indy, I will be cheering for Danica Patrick at 10-1 odds. Gambling can make any sporting event more intense than a leg pressing contest with Pat Robertson.

Now, you might have noticed that I said "reloaded." That's right, my first go 'round with online sports gambling ended somewhat badly. Of course, things started off extremely well. During the first week, I rode the Lakers and the Bulls in regular season NBA action and doubled my money. Soon after, I started experimenting with parlays and teasers and well, things quickly went south. There is a reason that bookies offer these bets: the odds heavily favor the house. The temptation of tripling or quadrupling your initial bet on a 3 team parlay or of adding 6 points to your wager is much harder to resist than the non-gambler might realize. It seems like easy money. However, if you make even just a few of these bets it can catch up with you quickly. After a few weeks, Vince Young finished off my dwindling stack at the Rose Bowl.

So why is making a comeback to sports gambling NOT a terrible decision?

1. We aren't talking high stakes here. Think slightly north of the usual amount wagered between Mortimer and Randolph Duke in "Trading Places."

2. The money wagered is a small price to pay to jack up the intensity of the games I'm going to watch any way. For example, I know literally nothing about car racing but am attending the Indy 500 to enjoy the spectacle and the boozing (more on this after the weekend). Regardless, I'll probably throw a ten spot on a car just so I have someone for whom to cheer. This is money well spent, in my book.

3. No more parlays and teasers under any conditions. I'll be much better off sticking with several individual bets than going all or nothing on those same games.

4. My bookie is not Rick Tocchet.

5. I respect the Noob Sports jinx and will not tempt the gods by making public predictions against the spread.

6. It's fucking fun.

-NJV

 

Go Buckeyes!

Have we mentioned how much we love THE Ohio State University? I could have sworn this was my buddy Wampies, but I don't think he'd be caught dead in an OSU sweatshirt... but maybe it's part of the disguise. (Thanks to Deadspin and Every Day Should Be Saturday)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 

But I'm Le Tired


Jinx or no jinx, this has to be written about. The Pistons have been sucking some serious goat balls recently.

I flat out don't understand it. After playing like they can in games 1 and 2 of the Cleveland series, they have gone into an offensive shell, and don't look like they're coming out anytime soon.

Last night, they were given the HUGE gift of both D-Wade and Shaq getting into foul trouble. Wade didn't play most of the second or third quarters because of fouls, and only played 27 minutes total. Shaq also saw limited time as he racked up early fouls.

The Pistons that I'm used to seeing, that I've lived and died with for the last 3 years, would have smelled the blood in the water and gone for the jugular. When Wade picked up his 4th foul early in the third, I thought it was over. I expected a big run out of the Stones, scoring almost every trip down the floor, and completely clamping down on the defensive end.

What happened? They got lit up by Gary Payton. Ugh.

I can't quite place my finger on it, but something is definitely wrong. It's not a lack of effort or intensity, as they have plenty of both. It's not a lack of motivation, because they lost in game 7 last year, and Sheed definitely wants his WWF Championship belt back (he's sick of only having the Intercontinental belt). It's not poor defense, because they seem to be hustling and helping out pretty well.

There are three things I have noticed that I think are problems:

1) Almost a complete lack of a sense of urgency. By this, I mean that the Pistons seem complacent to walk the ball up the floor EVERY FUCKING TIME. When Detroit runs, they're tough. When they force a bad shot from the other team, grab the rebound, and push it, they can usually make a couple swing passes and find somebody wide open. For some reason, 6 games ago they stopped doing this. They don't get into the transition offense at all, and their half court offense has been pretty weak.

2) Call timeouts at appropriate times. My goodness, I've seen shades of Larry Brown in this series. I still remember last year in the NBA Finals against the Spurs, there were two seperate games (I'm positive one was game 7, I think the other was game 5... although I could be wrong) where you could feel the momentum shifting from the Pistons to the Spurs. They had hit a couple of shots, we were giving away dumb turnovers or making bad shots, and the crowd was getting into it. I was sitting at home, calmly saying (interpret: screaming as loud as I can) "Call a timeout!". Well, hotshot LB refused to call a timeout, and both times the Spurs went on a 10-0 or 12-0 run. Both games were decided by less than that.

Last night, I could feel the same thing happening. The Pistons were up 5, and they gave up an easy hoop to the Heat. It was in the third quarter, and The Diesel and Dwyane were both on the bench. The Pistons had been playing lazy, and seemed uninterested. I said, "please Flip, call a timeout, and remind your players that they should be CRUSHING the heat right now."

What happens? The Pistons take a poor shot, the Heat gain possession and find Antoine Walker (who used to be a woman) who drains an open 3. Next possession, we give the ball to Lindsay Hunter (abort!), who promptly turns it over, and the Heat push it again, this time to James Posey, who hits a 3. A 5 point lead quickly turns to a 3 point deficit, and the Heat never looked back.

I'm sitting in Boulder, Colorado, over 1,300 miles away from The Palace in Auburn Hills, and I could tell things were about to go badly. Why can't Flip, or any of his players for that matter, sense the same thing? Just call a timeout, gather the Throops, remind them to play smart offense and good defense, and none of that happens.

3) Can somebody please explain to me why we don't run Richard Hamilton a curl route of a double-screen for a 10-18 foot jumper? I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this play works 100% of the time... and the Pistons have completely stopped doing this.

Rip is the best medium range jump shooter in the history of the game. You all know the play that I'm talking about... he starts in one corner, comes off two screens set by Ben and Boogeyman Wallace, catches the ball, and shoots. Cash. Or, he can pump fake and drive. Or, he can elevate and screen and roll with either of them.

This play is SO effective, and the Pistons used to do it so well. I haven't seen it done in the playoffs once this year. Is there a reason we stopped doing this? Can somebody please explain it to me?

I might just be a sour Pistons fan, mad because we lost game 1 on our home court. But it seems so easy to fix some of the small stuff, and so easy to get the Pistons back on track like they know how to play. When they play smart on both ends of the floor, and play with a sense of urgency, they're UNSTOPPABLE. I just wish Flip and Co. would find a way to get them to play like that again.

(And if the Jinx God's are still reading our website, I'd like to officially say "Go Heat! Dwyane Wade is unstoppable and won't get hurt! Gary Payton will continue to play like he's 25 years old! Nobody can stop Shaq! The Heat should kill Detroit in game 2! Go Heat!!!)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 

Noob of the Week (5/23)


Noobs of the Week:
Apparently, we are surrounded by idiots. Yesterday, ESPN's Sports Nation asked its readers who they would consider the true home run champion if Albert Pujols hit 62 homers this season. The choices were Pujols, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds. While one could argue for the inclusion of Babe Ruth as an option since he played shorter seasons, the answer is clearly Barry Lamar Bonds. 73 is the home run record, no matter how much steroids get your panties in a bunch. There is a very, very high likelihood that Bonds did use steroids during the 2001 season, but until the allegations are proven his record stands. The same is true for McGwire's numbers. However, almost half of the Sports Nation voted for the Great Pujols. Shocking.

It is amazing to us how the steroids scandal has become such an important issue to so many people. We fans barely think twice about the dozens of athletes who beat their girlfriends and get DUIs every year, but we just can not get over the cream or the clear. My own father gets upset at me when I tell him that I'm sick of hearing about what Bonds allegedly put in his body. The scandal has inspired lawyers, authors, and politicians to raise their voices against steroids in baseball as they attempt to benefit from the public outcry.

The reason for this outcry, at least we hope, is that steroid use affects on-field play and therefore it could potentially affect the integrity of the game. Nevermind that pitchers have been doctoring the ball since the game began, or that more pitchers have tested positive for steroids than hitters, or that homers are up in this "steroid-free" season (it's amazing how many pitchers seem to have lost 3-4 mph in velocity the last couple years). There are admitted spitballers in the Hall of Fame (Don Sutton, Don Drysdale, Jim Bunning, and Gaylord Perry) and in our Congress (Bunning, an outspoken critic of steroids in baseball).

Logically, if the stats of Bonds and McGwire are to be ignored or if they are to be kept out of the Hall of Fame, its only fair that the same happens to pitchers who cheat. Spitballs and stolen signs are performance enhancers too. If you don't take away Norm Cash's 1961 stats for admittedly using a corked bat, how can you remove Barry Bonds from the record book when he's never been proven to have done anything wrong? How about some consistency?

Now, we don't like Barry Bonds and we are not giving him a free pass. Bonds might die in 10 years from abusing his body, but we are just sick of people, on TV and in our daily lives, getting all hot and bothered about record books and asterisks. Why are so many fans personally offended by someone breaking a record? Is it any surprise that a 40 year old allegedly tried to get a competitive edge in a league where more than half of the players allegedly were doing the same exact thing? Did the country not unite and follow the Home Run Race of 2000, starring Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and brought to you by Balco? There is not an excuse for performance enhancing drug use, but didn't we all enjoy its fruits? Do we hate Barry because we're feeling a bit guilty as well? (I can't wait to hear the comments on this one.) All of this just makes it seem like things have gotten away from us, we've lost perspective. As we beat this issue into the ground, it has become a bit of a witch hunt. Honestly, the witch hunt doesn't bother us as much as the constant discussion.

Anyway, the only type of "scandal" that baseball takes seriously is gambling and/or throwing games, just ask Pete Rose. So let's agree to stop talking about steroids until the case is closed. It's hard to imagine that the stats of anyone from the steroid era will be officially struck from the record books, and that's really all anyone cares about: not about people or due process, but record books. Hopefully, this is the last you will hear about steroids from Noob Sports for a very long time, noobs.

-NJV

Monday, May 22, 2006 

Double Standards, Kidnapping, and Broads On Ice!


I was thinking about this during halftime of the Pistons/Cavaliers game 7, and I'm glad The Daily Dime mentioned it: there is a total double standard for Kobe and LeBron, and the way the announcers/media talk about the two of them.

Much was made about Kobe's game 7 second half performance... the announcers during the game were wondering why he wasn't showing up, why he wasn't carrying his team. For the next 2 days, all the talking heads on ESPN (Rome, ATH, PTI) were saying that Kobe choked, that he didn't have the killer instinct, that he can't lead his team to victory like Jordan.

Then LeBron has his chance. Game 7, down by 2 at halftime against the mighty Pistons, the chance to begin writing his legacy... and what does he do? Total choke job. King James was destroying the Pistons in the first half by taking the ball to the hoop, and dishing when it wasn't available. In the second half, he went 1-9 from the floor, and 7 of those shots were jumpers. In my eyes, a total bed-shitting.

Were the announcers putting the screws to LeBron? Were they saying he's not as good as Jordan? Were they saying he was the reason for his teams collapse? Will the talking heads on ESPN be talking about the chicken bone caught in his throat for the final 24 minutes of the game? No. The announcers continued to smoke Lebron's pole, showing highlights of him during this series, talking about everything great he has done for this Cleveland team, and how special it was that they took the Pistons to 7 games. That's crap.

That's all I'm going to say on this subject... I'm sure the Kobe Apologist (Nate) is already firing up his waaahmbulance in Chicago and will have much stronger opinions about this than me. Let me reiterate - I am NOT a Kobe fan. I think Kobe Bryant is a two-faced, back-stabbing Douchebag Rapist who should be putting up triple-doubles in a California Penal League while giving his fresh fruit to the Squirrelmaster and taking it up the Hershey Highway from Bogs and the Sisters.

Having said that, I think there is a double standard when the media compares Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Moving On.

Here's some more cheerful news: A CFL Kicker has Vanished on the way to his new team!

Duncan O'Mahoney (actual name), a 29 year old kicker who was on his way to Winnipeg to join his new team, The Blue Bombers, has straight up dissapeared.

Since he didn't fly through the Bermuda triangle, there are only 2 reasonable explanations - (1) Alien abduction, (2) Kidnap.

As far as Alien Abduction goes, I'll let Dave Chappelle explain: "Aliens are real, we've known about them for years. [They're] responsible for most of the significant technological advances in the last few decades. That's right; cell phones, Playstation 1 & 2, all of it. Some may have mistaken the accomplishments for the work of the Japanese, but it was definitely [Aliens]." It is very likely that O'Mahoney was abducted by Aliens, and that sucks for him.

However, there is also a chance he was kidnapped. Kidnapping goes on all the time, especially in Central and South America; in fact it's one of their proudest traditions! This has recently transferred over into the Sports World, with many family members of Soccer players, and more recently, Baseball players being kidnapped. It's a fool proof plan. Kidnap the family, hold out for a ransom, get paid. Simple.

Professional athletes know all about this. My boy 'Sheed, when talking about teammate Carlos Delfino - "Carlos ain't no punk, they kidnap people where he's from."

So, Duncan O'Mahoney might have been kidnapped by some crazy Canadian terrorists... it makes sense. A kicker is a great target. They aren't very strong, won't put up much of a fight, but they still get paid at the same time. I'm not sure about CFL kickers, but NFL kickers would be a great target... and, quite frankly, I'm not sure why Mike VanDerJagt hasn't been kidnapped yet.

Anyway, when we find out more about the dissapearance of Duncan O'Mahoney, we'll keep you updated.

Moving on...

Thank you to The Mighty MJD for this video - this just confirms my suspicions: Nobody slings lip like Hockey players, Nobody.



Friday, May 19, 2006 

Go Cavs!


I don't believe in curses... but I am a very superstitious person. I'm not OCD superstitious, but I do a lot of little stupid things to make sure things happen properly in my life.

Back when I played soccer in college, I wouldn't shave the day before or of the game, I would always wear the same boxer-briefs and socks for every game, being careful to put my right sock on, then my left, my right shoe on, then the left, tying my right shoe, then the left. I would then put my shinguards on and tape my socks, being very careful to do the right before the left. I wore the same nasty shoestring to keep the hair out of my eyes every game.

Some of these quirks apply to my real life as well. When I wake up, all the numbers need to add up to "10" (for instance, I can wake up at 7:03 or 7:12, but not 7:37 or 7:51). I still put my right shoe on before my left foot, and when I sleep, the open end of my pillowcase needs to be on the right. I have done these little things my entire life, and so far I would have to say my life has been pretty great, so I'm going to continue to do these little 'superstitious' quirks to make sure things keep falling my way. Maybe a little strange, but that's just how I roll.

So when Nate mentioned to me that we have a "Noob Sports Jinx," my first reaction wasn't to laugh it off as a funny idea for an article, rather something that should be looked into. And you know what? The fucking guy is right. I don't want to get into it any further (for fear of reversing the jinx), but just take a look at our track record, both historically and recently... it's uncanny.

Having said that, I'd like to let you all know that we both personally feel the Cleveland Cavaliers will win the series against the Detroit Pistons, in either 6 or 7 games.

Bron Bron is just too good. We are all witnesses, and we will probably see him have career games tonight, and (if need be) Sunday night. The guy is just too money, and there is nobody on Detroit that can stop him. The Sports Guy alluded to it today, and I have to agree with him... LeBron is going to have an epic night.

Another thing - The Cavs defense is just too much. They have held Detroit below 90 points the last 3 games. I'm positive this will happen again, and they will continue to keep the Pistons shooting at about 30%.

Those are facts people. The Cavs are the best team in the NBA, maybe even in the whole town. Add to the mix that superstars like Anderson Varejao, Eric Snow, and Ira Newble (Nooble?) are prominently involved, and it's a recipe for both immediate, and long-term success.

The Pistons don't have a chance. The Cavaliers will certainly win tonight, but if for some wild reason they don't, they will DEFINITELY win on Sunday afternoon at the Palace. I guarantee it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 

The League of Extraordinary Champions


Today's the day that the world (not necessarily America) has been waiting for: The Champions League Final between Spanish side Barcelona, and English side Arsenal.

For those of you who aren't familiar with what the "Champions League" is, here is my feeble attempt at descrbing it from a month ago: - If you're not into the UEFA Champions League yet, now is the time to be converted. For those of you who don't know (which is probably most of you), the Champions League takes the top 4 or 5 teams from about 12 of the top European soccer countries, and they play a World Cup-ish style league to determine who the Champions of Europe are.
Imagine there were 11 countries in the World that had leagues as good as the NBA. At the end of every season, the top 4 NBA teams would enter into groups of 4 teams... with the top 4 teams from these other leagues that are as good as the NBA. In the group stage, all 4 teams play one another twice, home and away. After that is done, the top 2 teams from those groups advance to a March Madness style bracket. At this point, it's not single elimination (until the finals), rather both teams play one another twice (home and away), and which ever team does better advance.
Well, today is the finals. There are no home and away legs, no games decided by away goals, just one game in the Stade De France in Paris to decide who the Champions of Europe are.

The game is being shown on ESPN2 at 2:30 PM EST (12:30 for those of us that live in the mountains). I encourage all of you to watch it.

The FA Cup final (which was AWESOME) played last Saturday, was an epic game, a 3-3 draw that went through two overtimes until the result was decided on PK's. Liverpool's hero Steven Gerrard scored 2 goals during the game (plus a PK in the shootout) including this cracker:

(I love watching that clip by the way, because the announcers just go "OOOOOOH!" when it goes in, then, like good Englishman, go on to call him 'son' in consecutive sentences. Abslutely Top Drawer!)

That match was full of excitement, near-misses, posts hit, and the fans going nuts. Todays game should be 5X as exciting.

You've got two of the top clubs in the world, who play two of the most attractive styles of soccer in the world. This should definitely be a "beautiful game". Both teams move the ball around the field so niecly, so fluidly, that even the most ardent soccer haters have to admit that it's fun to watch.

Add to the mix the fact that the worlds most potent offensive duo (Barcelona's Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o) will be going against an Arsenal side who have just set a Champions League record of 10 consecutive clean sheats (shutouts to you Nascar-loving Americans), and something has got to give... most likely in exciting fashion.

Both teams boast ridiculous star power all over the field. Up front for Barcelona you have inarguably the greatest player in world (Ronaldinho), while Arsenal have arguably the most exciting foward and best finisher in Thierry Henry (pronounced on-REE). In the midfield Arsenal has the clever playmaker of Fabregas, while Barcelona have "the next Maradona" in Leo Messi. Both teams have rock solid defenses and world-class keepers. This is one of the best Champions League matchups of all-time.

Also, single tickets are supposedly selling for $2,500, and they're in high enough demand that two masked robbers held a Paris City Council meeting hostage (insert requisite 'French-not-able-to-defend-themselves' joke here) to get tickets, but couldn't get any.

Anyway, enjoy the game, it should be a classic. If any of you are in the Boulder/Denver area, feel free to join me and a number of people at Rocky Mountain Soccer in Boulder (28th and Iris) to cristen their new 40" plasma TV.

Cheers!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 

The Noob Sports Jinx


Noobies, we have a problem: lately, it seems we can't write about any of our favorite teams or players without jinxing the shit out of them.

Rasheed Wallace, our latest victim, didn't just fail to make good on his "Guaran-Sheed," he also sprained his ankle early in the game and finished with just 7 points on just 3-13 shooting. Of course, it could have been a lot worse. Wallace returned to the game ("I'm all right. Don't send me to the glue factory yet.") and unleashed another hilarious round of disrespect after the loss to the Cavs, saying "even the sun shines on a dog's ass." Ra went on to say "I ain't worried about these cats. There ain't no way in hell they beat us in a series." His postgame comments mark the first time I've ever smiled while watching ESPN News. Plus, he tried to kiss Chauncey Billups during a timeout appearance on the "Kiss Cam" at Gund Arena (fuck Quicken Loans). Classic 'Sheed.

Only Ra could fail to make good on a promise and still come out ahead in our book. Most haven't been so lucky. Others afflicted with the Noob Sports curse include Bode Miller, Chris "Sheletor" Shelton, the Los Angeles Lakers, the US Men's National Soccer Team, the Detroit Red Wings, Tommy Amaker, and Team Korea.

With that track record in mind, we would like to tell you how much we love the Chicago White Sox.

Our love for the Pale Hose starts at the top with GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. These guys are true gentlemen. The way they've treated former franchise player types like Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez really speaks volumes about how classy Ozzie and Kenny are. Once on top, the Noob Sports family definitely supports bashing the guys who carried your team through leaner years. I plan on doing that to SEL if we ever start making bank. Ruining the reputations and spreading concern about the injuries of the players that you will someday want in your team Hall of Fame is just solid management.

Of course, it is their talent that we truly admire. Every decision these guys make turns out golden...well, at least since Kenny brought Todd Ritchie to the Southside. Ozzie goes through closers faster than Kenny hands out long term deals to starting pitchers, and there is no way either strategy could ever backfire.

On the field, the Sox are just as appealing. A.J. Pierzynski really symbolizes this team and we just can't get enough of him chirping at the opposition from the dugout. Although his brash and disrespectful attitude wore thin in both San Francisco and Minnesota, we're certain that he's a changed man. Plus, guys who make appearances on TNA Wrestling always earn bonus points with us. In no way do we wish serious injury upon him or the ridiculously hot Jim "Sock It" Thome.

On the mound, Jon Garland is a much better pitcher than his stats indicate. He easily could have won 20 games last year and this year's 6.75 ERA is deceptive. Throw out the 4 times he's given up 5 runs or more in a start this year and you have 3 pretty darn good starts. He'll be worth every penny of his new 3 year, $29 million deal.

Every good White Sox fan knows that the most entertaining part of every game is listening to Hawk Harrelson do the call. Appropriately, Hawk ignores large portions of the action so that he can instead tell stories about his playing days. Why talk about the game being played when Hawk can tell you who had the best pickoff move in 1965 or about the size of Carl Yastrzemski's nipples? His cheerleading for the "good guys" is especially entertaining. Man, this guy just never gets old.

For all these reasons, the Noob Sports family would like to make a guarantee of our own: the Chicago White Sox are going to repeat as World Champions this year.

-NJV

Sunday, May 14, 2006 

GuaranSheed


Have I ever told you that Rasheed Wallace is my favorite player in the league?

Well, he is (he would be second if Fred Hoiberg was still around... may The Mayors heart make a full recovery). I love the way he plays, I love the white spot in his hair, I love the way he jokes around on the court, I love that picture of him with the flat-top, I love that he had a WWF-style belt made when the Pistons won the championship, and I especially love the way he talks shit.

"I know we're going to win it," Wallace said sitting on the scorer's table following Sunday practice at Quicken Loans Arena. "We're going to bust their ass. Tomorrow night is the last game here in this building for this year."

Ra!!!

Haha! When the boogeyman talks, y'all better listen. There aren't any other players in the league who consistently guarantees winning games like Rasheed. It's a joy everytime.

Don't believe me? Witness this: everytime 'Sheed has gone public and predicted a playoff victory, the Pistons have responded with one.

"You have to go out there and play even harder and get a win for him." Richard Hamilton said. "We have to have his back, do what we do, and get a win."

Hopefully the 'Stones do what they do and get a win on Monday night.

"Y'all can quote me, put it back page, front page, whatever," Wallace said. "They can send whoever they want to send. I know the crew I think they're going to send. But it don't matter. I know we can do it, and they know we can do it. We know what we've got to do."

How funny is it that Rasheed says he "knows the crew he thinks they're going to send"? Uh, I also think I know the crew they're going to send, 'Sheed. I'm pretty sure it's going to be the same "crew" as last time.

How can you not love Rasheed? He has the goofiest grin/grill in all of sports, does a pretty good job of backing up his bold claims, and he can play. He went from being a me-first type player, only worrying about his stats, to taking a back seat, more team-oriented roll with the Pistons. He may not be putting up the stats he used to, but his team is much better because of him.

With that being said, let me direct you to one of my favorite website: The Elevatorman's Unofficial Rasheed Wallace Home Page. That's just pure gold. Highlights:

- Tried to psych up his teammates by yelling, "Let's go out and play like we're Chicago on NBA Jam."

- In his first few weeks as a freshman at UNC, he walked up to a student in the Granville cafeteria and asking that student if he would please fill up his glass of Coke. It should be noted that Ra was within a few steps of the Coca-Cola machine when he asked the question.

- At Duke game in Chapel Hill during his first NBA season, as freshman Vince Carter, struggling to get playing time, was just trying to concentrate on the game as he walked to the scorer's table, Rasheed yelled to him, "VINCE! VINCE! I know you hear me! You better look over here or I'm gonna slap you upside the head!"

So thank you, Rasheed, for another guarantee. To be honest, it's been too long since your last one. Everybody loves it everytime, regardless if you're right or wrong. But now, it's time for the Pistons to go back to work and win game 4 of the series. Remember... Ball Don't Lie!

Friday, May 12, 2006 

Meltdowns!

Honestly, there aren't too many things we can think of that are much funnier than a quality meltdown. The best man getting bombed at a wedding and giving a slurred speech, the Badger getting a DUI at 2 in the afternoon with a .34 BAC, Courtney Love at any awards show, and recently Rick Sutcliffe during Wednesday nights San Diego Padres game:



There is so much genius in this video, I don't even know where to begin. First of all, there are Budweiser advertisements behind home plate, plus the Padres are playing against a team called the Brewers.

Some great personality sightings, including the immortal Matt Vasgersian, who you may remember from XFL fame, and being the voice of MLB 2006. It's great how Sut keeps asking Vasgersian what the hell he's still doing in San Diego, and Vasgersian keeps trying to steer the conversation in a different direction.

Probably my favorite part of this is the Bill Murray references. I can just see Bill Murray in the back of the booth, equally drunk, trying to pull Sut away from the announcers so they can have another drink. Can't you just imagine Rick Sutcliffe taking a big bong rip, and Murray standing right there with a bottle of liquor, handing it to Sut going "Cannonball coming!"?

When asked about his daughter going to Harvard medical school, Sutcliffe responds: "Come on man, why's that surprise you.... man, look at me, all the conversations we've had..." Pure genius.

- In other meltodwn news, one of Noob Sports favorite people, Probable Steroid User Aaron Rowand thought it would be a good idea to superman into the outfield wall face first. Here's the result:



Broken nose! Gotta love the effort, though.

Rumor has it that Rowand had complained before the season that the outfield wall didn't have enough padding, and apparently the Phillies are planning on adding extra padding... next week. Oh, the irony!

I'm interested to see if Rowand's broken nose heals faster than other broken noses, which will obviously be an indication as to whether or not he's still on the juice.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 

The State of the Chicago Scrubs


Things are getting a little heated on the North Side of Chicago these days, and I'm not talking about Vito Spatafore visiting the Man Hole. Before beating the Giants 8-1 last night, the Cubs had dropped 8 games in a row and are now in fifth place in the NL Central, 6.5 back from the Cincinnati Reds. Wrigleyville is getting a bit restless, and rightfully so.

Their offense has been pathetic, scoring just 52 runs in 19 games since Derrek Lee's injury, a measly 2.73 per game. Their team ERA is a mediocre 4.52 and control issues are plaguing their pitchers. Led by Carlos Zambrano's 33, Cubs pitchers have given up 142 walks in 289 innings. After some quick research on MLB.com, I found that number to be the second highest in the league, trailing only the Florida Marlins, who probably would be more at home in the International League rather than the NL.

There is plenty of blame to go around on the North Side, but after attending games at Wriggles and speaking with friends who bleed Cubby blue I've found that most of their spite is being directed at manager Dusty Baker. The most popular criticism is that he's too much of a player's manager and doesn't get after his players to perform better. The truth is that Dusty Baker is a very good manager, but his team has been HAMMERED by injuries. My only question about Dusty is how he keeps from swallowing his toothpick in the dugout. He has an array of tricks and moves with that toothpick that seem borderline dangerous. Anyway, he should be re-signed to a 2 year deal regardless of how the Cubs finish the season.

Everyone knows that his 3 best players are on the DL in Lee, Mark Prior, and Kerry Wood. Free agent signee Wade Miller is also rehabbing, so the Cubs could have 3 fresh, although questionably sound, arms become available over the next 2 months. Obviously, the Cubs desperately need Lee back in the middle of the lineup, but he will be lucky to be back by July. So, with their most valuable player out until after mid-season, where do the Cubs go from here?

There are almost 130 games remaining on the schedule, but if the team stands pat then the return of their injured stars will be too little, too late. Wood and Prior can not be counted on to make it through even a half season and I have a bad feeling that Lee will be out until August. Aramis Ramirez is their only threat to eclipse 30 homers and Maddux isn't as good as his 5-0 start. In order to win their division, the Cubs would need to pass defending NL Champion Houston Astros, the Great Pujols, the up-and-coming Brew Crew, and the upstart Reds. This would be tough enough to do with their 3 best players in the lineup for a full year.

If the Cubs still hope to contend this season, they need to make a major move. Roger Clemens, the most obvious star player available, won't happen. He's expensive, won't be pitching until June at the earliest, and the 'Stros would never let him go elsewhere in the division. Barry Zito's name continues to surface in trade rumors, but the Mets are the front runners for him. Billy Beane is in no rush to trade Zito and will probably wait it out until Rich Harden returns or the Mets offer up Lastings Milledge. Names that have been connected to the Cubs of late include Kevin Millar, Mike Sweeney, and Doug Mientkiewicz. None of these guys figures to make much of a difference. If there were any way to convince Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin to trade within the division, Carlos Lee (contract year) might be a good fit. A trade of Matt Murton and Rich Hill might work and Lee would look great in the middle of the lineup. Unfortunately, Melvin is not inclined to deal with the Cubs and "El Caballo" won't be saving the Cubs offense this year.

Since the prospects of adding an impact player don't look good, perhaps the Cubs should go the opposite route and deal a player or two from the group of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Todd Walker, or Juan Pierre. The Cubs would target major league ready talent and perhaps would find their second baseman of the future or a premier young starter. This idea probably doesn't appeal to GM Jim Hendry, but if his team is 10 games below .500 in June or July, it will be his best option.

Of course, Hendry could have saved himself from this mess by investing more money in player salary this offseason. The Cubs actually lowered their payroll this offseason, even after adding more bleacher seats to Wrigley Field. The Tribune Company makes tens of millions of dollars in profit on the franchise every year and their payroll should be in the top 5 in MLB. There is no excuse for this, and Cubs fans have every right to be upset. While a lot of this mess has been caused by injury, an extra $10 million would have gone a long way towards strengthening the team. Perhaps the team could have signed or traded for a better outfielder than Pierre or Jacque Jones (Torii Hunter or Johnny Damon?) and the offense wouldn't be so lost without Derrek Lee. Instead, the Cubs might once again be waiting 'til next year.

-NJV

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 

Noob of the Week [5/9]


This weeks Noob of the Week award goes to a group of people, rather than an indivual. Team Dow High West brings home the award for their uber-noobish display Saturday morning.

Members of Team Dow High West include myself (SEL), Gruberville, El Corro, Volk Face, pseudo-member Carlton, plus two members making the trek out from Michigan, Titty-bar and Daddy.

Friday night started off great, with a nice Gov's Park dinner, a Rockies game, and plenty of drinks. The Rockies game was especially fun, considering the fact that we were giving Preston Wilson a VERY hard time in left-field for the Astros. Between the incessant "Wilson!.... Wilson!!!..." chants, there were such gems thrown out such as "take out the corn cob, you'll be able to walk easier" and "probable steroid user Preston Wilson!". Preston was a good sport about it, acknowledging us a couple of times, so a fun time was had by all. It was made even better by the fact that the Rockies won, a ridiculous 9th inning where Brad "I'm a total dog" Lidge walked home the final two batters, including the winning run with the bases loaded. This of course led to a string of very uncomfortable double high-fives with everybody around us. Afterwards, we went out and celebrated cinco de Mayo in Denver....

Now here's the thing about drinking: if you drink too much in one evening, you wake up the next day with what's called a "hangover". Well, Team Dow High West certainly did plenty of the former, and the inevetable latter caught up with us as soon as we woke up. Let's just say we were in the major hurtbox.

That Saturday was Boulder Kinetics, an event put on by KBCO which is basically the party of the year. It's held at the Boulder Reservoir, and is an absurd event where people make these machines that race across water, then across land... but is basically an excuse for people to hang outside all day getting drunk and/or stoney. Plus the John Butler Trio was playing there, and they put on a sick show.

We had FREE TICKETS to the event, and were pretty pumped up for it. Needless to say, we had a slow start to the morning, struggling to put down breakfast, and risking death until we got some Jamba Juice, which saved our lives. We make the half hour or so drive from Denver to Boulder, only to find out when we get here that tickets say "Gates close at Noon". We didn't believe it, but sure enough, our roommate when over there and called us and said "gates are closed, you can't get in."

The award is given to this group of Noobs because we couldn't get our acts together before noon on a GORGEOUS Saturday. To put matters in perspective, that evening we grilled out at my place, making some killer burgers. Titty-bar, who I have never, ever, under any circumstance, seen turn down a meal, opted out of dinner because he was still feeling poor from the night before. We tried making up for it with another solid Saturday night performance on Pearl St., but the fact remains that we were total Noobs.

Honorable Mention:

- David Blaine! I got suckered into watching this nonsense for about 2 hours last night, full of David Blaine's self-promoting magic tricks, including one where he takes a girls teeth out of her mouth with his fingers, puts them in his mouth, then spits them back into her mouth, where they're apparently stable. He was trying to break the World Record for holding his breath underwater (8:58), but came up about 2 minutes short.

Wah. If you're going to make me sit through that much garbage television, with Stu Scott announcing, at least break a world record. If it wasn't for Team Dow High West, David Blaine would totally be Noob of the Week.

(And for the Record: No, I do NOT feel bad about actively rooting for a man to drown voilently on national television.)

-SEL

Friday, May 05, 2006 

Suddenly, I'm a Huge Nascar Fan


To be fair, I've never liked Nascar. I don't consider it a sport, and I think it pales in comparison to other racing leagues (like F-1, Indy Car, and even go-kart racing). On the "SEL scale of things he will be found watching on TV", a Nascar race sits right above those crazy uber-conservative Christian Televangelist shows where they release the devil from certain "random" members in the crowd, and right below a preseason WNBA exhibition game. Let's just say the chances of me even discussing Rusty Wallce or Jeff Gordon on any given weekend are minute.

Nascar is a stupid sport for stupid people, of which 95% of fans reside well below the Mason-Dixon line. Hell, both my parents are from Texas and speak with serious southern accents, but even they realize that Nascar sucks.

And yet... I think I may be slowly becoming a fan. Check this out:

According to ESPN.com, "one lucky fan is going to have his or her name on the Nextel Cup Series race at the Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va."

AWESOME

First of all, thank you to Crown Royal for having this competition. They are the current sponsor, and I think this is an ingenius idea. For now, the race is tentatively called "The Your Name Here 400 presented by Crown Royal" until the Daytona 500, when a grand prize winner will be chosen from a pool of 10 finalists. How sweet would it be to see the "Steve Lepper 400 presented by Crowl Royal" on Sportscenter? Personally, I think that keeping it "The Your Name Here 400" would be hilarious.

I'm interested to see how much creative control Crown Royal will give the winner of this competition. If I were them, I would let the winner be 100% flexible, and let them include any nicknames, or slogans, or whatever they wanted. The funnier the better.

Here are some ideas I have come up with:

Mike Piazza - "The Brokeback 400"

Randy Moss - "The Straight Cash Homey 400"

Nate VanHeest - "The Tripod 400"

Chris Kaman - "The Man-Bag 400"

Either Baumbach - "The Shithead 400"

Michael Vick - "The Ron Mexico 400"

Dick Cheney - "The Satan 400 presented by Halliburton"

Dave Chappelle - "The Tyrone Biggums 400"

Raja Bell - "The My Parents Didn't Huge Me Enough As A Child 400"

This Broad - "The Bat-shit insane 400" (please watch this video... "we've had many nutty people on this show over the years, you are as mean, and as sick, and as cruel, as anybody we've ever had on this program." Outstanding)

Fred Hoiberg - "The Mayor 400"

Nicole Richie - "The Pull The Trigger 400"

Marcus Vick - "The Pull The Trigger 400"

Barry Lamar Bonds - "The Clear 400"

Sean Paul - "The Yeah-Yeah 400"

Edgar Stiles - "The Edga Thtyles 400"

Tommy Amaker - "The Amateur 400"

Vito Spatafore - "The Johnny Cakes 400"

Chris Berman - "You're with me, Leather 400"

John Daly and Charles Barkley - "The Put Your Money on the #3 car, Trust Me 400"

The possibilities are endless. I think this is a great marketing idea for Crown Royal. Who doesn't love this idea? And why don't other sports copy this with names for their playoffs, or even stadium names? Please, Crown Royal, give the winner full creative control, you have nothing to lose.

Any readers out there who would like to add their own ideas in the comments section please do so.

Thursday, May 04, 2006 

This Is How a Heart Breaks


- The NBA is back. The first round of the playoffs has exceeded expectations in almost every way imaginable, unless you are a Carmelo Anthony fan. The Clippers finally won a playoff series, LeBron James is hitting clutch shots, Kobe Bryant is playing unselfishly, and Raja Bell is putting together a tryout tape for the WWE. It's too early to tell, but the NBA has the right mix of Hall of Fame caliber talent (Kobe, LBJ, Dirk Nowitzki, Elton Brand), elite teams (Pistons and Spurs), upstart teams (Lakers and Bulls), interesting characters (Ron Artest, Kobe again), mediocre players raising their games (Andres Nocioni, Bonzi Wells, Kwame Brown), physical play, and close finishes to start bringing back the fans in significant numbers.

The league has always promoted its star players, but fans are responding to the intensity that has been present in every game. Perhaps this is because the star players all have something to prove: Dirk and Steve Nash have to prove they can win in the playoffs, Kobe has to prove he can win without Shaq, Shaq has to prove he can win without Kobe, LBJ is doing it for the first time, and Chris Kaman is just trying to keep his man-bag in one piece. And of course, all of them know that in order to secure a legacy in the NBA, you need to win in the playoffs (just ask Patrick Ewing). It is leading to some riveting basketball as this has been called the greatest first round ever.

Hopefully, the first round has softened the resolve of those sports fans who believe the NBA isn't worth watching since Jordan retired. At any rate, here is what to look for during tonight's games as 3 teams face elimination:

- Raja Bell deserved to be suspended for Game 6, as my understanding of the league rules is that any intential contact above the neck is an automatic suspension. However, as a Laker fan, I have to agree with Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant who hoped that Bell would play in Game 6. The Laker fans would have shown no mercy towards Bell and his battle with Kobe would have been must-see TV. Instead, we are left with a fairly entertaining war of words. Bell has called Kobe pompous and arrogant while Kobe has stated that he has "bigger fish to fry than Raja Bell" and speculated that perhaps Raja didn't get enough love as a child. Advantage, Mamba.

Despite being up in the series 3-2, tonight's Game 6 is a must win for the Lakers and they know it. Kwame Brown, who is under investigation for sexual assault (by the way, he has not even been interviewed by the police, does that make any sense?), put it this way: "We don't want to go back to Phoenix." Brown played well in Game 5 but could not provide Phil Jackson with enough minutes because of foul trouble. He has to continue to set aside the distractions, stay out of foul trouble, and provide an inside presence tonight. If he can, the Lakers will advance and play the Clippers in the "Hallway Series" at the Staples Center.

- I am still waiting for Vince Carter to tea-bag Scot Pollard; I hate that guy. Even if he doesn't posterize Pollard, he can win the first playoff series of his career tonight in Indy, as the Nets lead the series 3 games to 2. It has to be pretty disappointing to Pacer fans that Peja Stojakovic has been hampered by a knee injury while Jermaine O'Neal is hampered by the flu. It also must make them sick to know that Ron Artest could be absolutely shutting down either Vin-sanity or Richard Jefferson. I picked the Pacers initially, but now it really doesn't appear that they have any gas left in the tank. The worst news for Pacer fans? Larry Bird is probably going to trade Jermaine O'Neal this summer.

- The Bulls have played better than expected and have a chance to even the series against the Heat tonight in Chicago. Andres Nocioni, who has always been a fan favorite here in Chi-Town, has played magnificently and is averaging 22.8 ppg and 9.6 rpg in the series. He has been their catalyst. The Bulls will also need Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich to combine for 50 points or so, which they are certainly capable of doing. If the Bulls are lucky, Dwyane Wade's hip will have tightened up since Game 5. Of course, Wade just proved that there IS truth in advertising as he recovered from that nasty spill to carry the Heat to victory ("Fall down 7 times, get up 8"). This is the front end of TNT's double header tonight and it may be every bit as entertaining as the Suns-Lakers nightcap. Let's root for a Game 7.

-NJV

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 

US World Cup Roster Thoughts

Yesterday, Das Bruce went on Sportscenter and announced the 23 players that will be representing the 4th ranked soccer team in the world at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Here's our roster:

Goalkeepers

Hahnemann, Marcus Reading (England)
Howard, Tim Manchester United (England)
Keller, Kasey Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany)

Defenders

Bocanegra, Carlos Fulham (England)
Cherundolo. Steve Hannover 96 (Germany)
Conrad, Jimmy Kansas City Wizards (USA)
Gibbs, Cory ADO Den Haag (Holland)
Hejduk, Frankie Columbus Crew (USA)
Onyewu, Oguchi Standard Liege (Belgium)
Pope, Eddie Real Salt Lake (USA)

Midfielders

Beasley, DaMarcus PSV Eindhoven (Holland)
Convey, Bobby Reading (England)
Dempsey, Clint New England Revolution (USA)
Donovan, Landon Los Angeles Galaxy (USA)
Lewis, Eddie Leeds United (England)
Mastroeni, Pablo Colorado Rapids (USA)
O'Brien, John Chivas USA (USA)
Olsen, Ben DC United (USA)
Reyna, Claudio Manchester City (England)

Forwards

Ching, Brian Houston Dynamo (USA)
Johnson, Eddie Kansas City Wizards (USA)
McBride, Brian Fulham (England)
Wolff, Josh Kansas City Wizards (USA)

Eleven of these players apply their trade in the MLS, while 12 players are based in Europe. Not a bad mix, and it speaks very highly of the 10 year old soccer league in the United States. While it hasn't gotten a ton of publicity, and isn't near the forefront of the minds of the American sports fan, the MLS has more than done its job of helping to deepen the National Team Pool. It's not a top tier league like the Engligh Premier League, the German Bundesliga (Nate's favorite word in the world), or the Italian Serie A, but the MLS has served it's purpose well for American Soccer, and continues to grow and be profitable every year.

Looking at this roster there are some surprising additions, and some notable players left off. It's relatively shocking to see Brian "cha" Ching on the roster, as most experts (myself included) didn't give him much of a chance of making the team. Ching is a big body who eats up space up front, and although his MLS season has started off strong, he is very unproven on the international stage. Almost everybody predicted that Taylor Twellman would get the nod over him (more on that later).

Another surprising addition is Jimmy Conrad. He was named MLS defender of the year last year, but has looked very unsteady wearing the National Team jersey, capped off by his shocker against Germany. I like Conrad, and he writes for ESPN.com, so I'm fine with the pick.

A lot of people were surprised to see that Greg Berhalter wasn't on the 23 man squad, but not this guy. Berhalter sucks. Badly. He does have experience, he plays in Germany and is captain of his team... but if you've ever seen him play, you will know that he has no place being on any World Cup roster.

I was really surprised to see Taylor Twellman left off the team. Twellman was the best player in MLS last year, and plays with passion. Although I wouldn't see him starting, he is exactly the kind of guy I want coming off the bench if we're down a goal and desperately need to score in the last 15 minutes. Looking at the roster, is there any player who can provide that to us? Josh Wolff? Let's get serious. I think this is a glaring omission by Bruce, but I trust his judgment anyway.

Other thoughts:

- It's always dissapointing to see Eddie Pope named to the U.S. squad. I'm convinced that I'm a better defender than he is right now, and anybody that has seen either of us play in the last 2 years will agree with me.

- Outstanding to see my man Johnny O'Brien on the team. Yeah he's only played 8 games in the last 3 years because of injury, and yeah he's injured again... but he's the most talented and most creative player with an American passport. If JOB is healthy, he should be starting and controlling the midfield for us.

- I've heard that Das Bruce is thinking about using a 4-5-1 formation for the World Cup. That sounds like a total disaster, remember when we tried using the 3-6-1 in the '98 World Cup? That turned out well.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006 

Noobie, Noobie, Noob (5/2)



Noob of the Week:
Just when you thought an athlete couldn't possibly handle his money worse than Darren McCarty, John Daly comes clean. In the final chapter of John Daly: My Life In and Out of the Rough, Daly confesses that he has gambled away $50-60 million. Sixty million dollars!!!! Setting aside the surprising fact that Daly has actually made that much money in his golfing career, it's still hard to fathom that anyone could be that much of a noob. We might go easier on the guy if he was losing his shirt gambling at the roulette wheel, the craps table, or with Wayne Gretzky's wife. We can understand how the excitement of those games might be addicting, especially craps; in fact, the Noob Sports family once paid for an entire weekend in Windsor after a HOT hand at the dice game. Big John, however, lost his millions sitting next to your grandma at the slots. Believe me, awarding "Noob of the Week" honors to a man with the nickname "Long Shaft" is hard (pun intended) but we have no choice. This is the biggest mishandling of $50+ million since Dave Chapelle split the country.

Noob Sports Domination of the Week:
The Minnesota Twins came to Comerica Park last Friday and had a worse weekend than Matt Leinart. The Tigers outscored the Twinkies by a combined score of 33-1 over the three game series (9-0 , 18-1, and 6-0) and were outhit 47-15. If there is any solace for Ron Gardenhire, it is that the Twins, like the Tigers, have two great pitching prospects on their major league staff. As you already know, the Tigers have probable multiple Cy Young Winner Justin Verlander in the rotation and flamethrower Joel Zumaya in the 'pen but the Twins can answer with the slightly inferior tandem of Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker. Unfortunately for Minny, their prospects might not be as advanced. On Saturday, Verlander tossed 7 innings of one run ball as Liriano came out of the 'pen to give up 5 runs and 8 hits in 3 innings. OK, so maybe there isn't much solace for Gardenhire after all, at least in 2006.

Noob Sports Best Draft Pick of the Week:
Tough call on this one. I have a man-crush on Jimmy Williams and think he could be a shut-down corner for the Falcons. The Patriots schooled the league again by adding Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson. The Eagles snatched up Winston Justice a pick before the Lions in Round 2. However, LenDale White might have been the steal of the draft for the Titans. White is going to have a chip on his shoulder after sliding into the second round, meaning that motivation and work ethic will not be a problem. Surprisingly, I also was impressed with LenDale during the interviews he gave to the ESPN crew before and after his selection. He had a sense of humor and didn't seem too rattled by the day's events. And let's not forget that LenDale once went in on a practical joke with USC head coach Pete Carroll that culminated with a dummy wearing his #21 jersey "jumping" off a building to the horror of his teammates. Plus, he's tight with Snoop Dogg. Needless to say, we'll be rooting for him.

Noob Sports Worst Draft Pick of the Week:
The Bills selected Donte Whitner at #8 overall and it wasn't their worst choice of the weekend. Later in the first round, Buffalo traded up to land NC State DT John McCargo, a player projected to go in Round 3 or so. So to sum it up, the Bills passed on the two best DTs in the draft to reach for a safety, then gave up additional picks to get a DT who might have been available for them later in the draft if they had stood pat. Interesting strategy...

-NJV

Monday, May 01, 2006 

I'm the Juggernaut, Bitch!

I know it's getting a little "YouTube-y" around here lately, but this is too much to pass up. Noob Sports reader Ben from NYC passed this our way, and it's too good NOT to show immediately.

If you ever watched the X-Men cartoons growing up, this makes for splendid entertainment. Even if you didn't, this is still out of this world funny. Enjoy, this should make your Monday easier to get through.

*** Warning: Graphic content and gratuitous use of profanity... watch at your own risk****

Google
Web NOOBSPORTS

Links