Wednesday, June 28, 2006 

The Lumberyard

This edition of "The Lumberyard" comes courtesy of Mitch in Sacramento, the greatest fantasy commissioner of his era. An architect by day, Mitch has survived two international benders with NJV, a deer attack while ordering at Quiznos, an assault by an enraged Little League administrator, and several swipes from a pen-wielding co-worker (and future in-law). However, Mitch is perhaps best known for posting a career record of 43-34 in the famed, but now defunct, RCPH bball league.

The Cubs and the Noob: A Free Lesson for Jim Hendry
The lights are on and the sirens are blaring. Pull over Jim Hendry, you've been cited for being a part of the biggest fuckshow since 1997 on the North Side. Moves must be made, and they must be made right now. There are teams that will pay a premium on patches for their contending teams. The earlier you give them away, the easier it is to tell the fans we need to start over.

You start by trading your most coveted pieces, such as Aramis Ramirez, Jacque Jones, and Greg Maddux. Ramirez is an absolute dog, but a dog with 35 homer power. Teams have been scouting Jacque Jones for his .295 fluke average (check out his percentage of balls hit in play vs. hits, its way skewed). The Dodgers, among many, covet the service of a no. 4 starter like Maddux. The Dodgers and Ned Colleti still have ties to Maddux from his first Cub go around, and might be willing to part with two pieces from their prize-winning prospect collection. The Yankees need an outfielder, and may not want to give up three premium prospects to net Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano, and thus may take a gamble with Jones. Ramirez would have many suitors, as a power bat like his would command much in return, even if you have to offer some salary relief.

You then must decide whether or not you want to trade two of your best pitching pieces, Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry. Ryan Dempster has a no-trade clause, so he's staying, but whats the use of having premium relievers when you're rebuilding? You can demand some blue chippers from contending teams with struggling pens like the White Sox or maybe the Tigers, who might tire of Rod Beck 2.0 in the 9th and could use Howry as a closer. You then complete the dump by giving up any of the following for anything you can get, even if you have to eat the cash. Juan Pierre might be a nice luxury pinch runner for someone, likewise with Phil Nevin as a pinch hitter. Neifi Perez, Glendon Rusch, Kerry Wood: if anyone wants them they can have them, otherwise bite the bullet and cut them.

All of this, of course, is predicated on the fact that Dustbag Baker is long gone. He's is inthe last year of his deal, so no money will be lost. Dusty indeed has a fine track record, but only when managing tiresome steroidal sluggers in a less than Earl Weaver sort of way, that is by doing absolutely nothing but being the manager every player loves: the one who lets their players get away with everything under the sun. I'm one of many tired of his crackpot theories and brainless history lessons. This guy blows, and his excuses suck worse. Bring in minor league managers Pat Listach or Jody Davis to finish the season, and let them take over the youth movement if impressive. Otherwise Lou Pinella is still sitting there for the taking.

Now you have a regime change and a team full of promise who is there to stay. Carlos Marmol and other top prospects take over in the bullpen. And your infield and outfield are now full of youngsters trying to get a job for next year, setting up a competitive environment like the Marlins have done in Florida. This is not to say the cupboard will be bare. Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior still make a nice one-two punch (Prior will be fine, anyone who saw him hitting 95 mph Saturday knows that his stuff is still there) and Michael Barrett, Ronny Cedeno, and Derrek Lee still will lead a young offense. Henry Blanco, the wonderful handler of pitchers, still stays as a backup. The wonderful thing about this strategy is that you'll have a variety of prospects to fill holes, and about 50 million dollars open for next year to attack the free agent market.

During the winter, you reload the pen and make a strong run at either Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt, and fill the lineup with a new 3b and corner outfielder, maybe a Carlos Lee. You put two of your young starters in the no. 4 and no. 5 spots and sign Zambrano long term. With Zambrano, Zito/Schimdt, and several young guys, Prior becomes worth the risk. Dempster is still the closer, and this year's Howry and Eyre will be available if the prospects aren't ready.

The Cubs need to go young for the rest of this year, to compete for the next ten. Its only one season, and the fans will understand the tear down project at hand. This division is winnable next year, but not with the sad bunch of mopes they have out there this season. Stop insulting our intelligence Jimbo, and treat this like a GM who has some vision beyond the Dunkin Donuts ahead on the left.

Sunday, June 25, 2006 

Entertainment Tonight


Apparently I've been writing about too much soccer lately... sorry. I thought I'd take the time now to provide you Noobs with an entertainment report. Here is what you should be watching, reading, and listening to:

TELEVISION:

Entourage - Unequivocally the best show on Television, Entourage has started off it's third season with a bang. The five main characters are absolutely world class (Vince, E, Drama, Turtle, and Ari), and this is one of the funniest shows of all-time. I highly suggest that if you have HBO, you start watching it (Sundays at 10 PM EST), and if you don't have HBO, it's worth getting if only for Entourage. Yes the show is that good, I feel it's the best show of all-time.

Here's some love for those Ari Gold fans out there:


*** Spoiler Alert ***
I'm kind of upset with the newest episode and the introduction of the character "Dom." This piece of shit New Yorker friend of theres from their child hood just got out of prison and has come to ride the coattails of Vince's success. Everybody wants him out, except Vince, who ended the last episode by saying he was making Dom the head of security. I am furious over Vince's decision, and want Dom off the show as quickly as possible. As my roommate Laura said "Dom is ruining my Sunday nights, I feel like he's intruding on my family."

Lucky Louie - HBO's newest comedy is Lucky Louie, and it airs right after Entourage. It stars actor Louis C.K., and is taped in front of a live studio audience. I didn't have high expectations for this show, but it's actually really funny. Plus, in the last episode, there were two instances of frontal male nudity... which is a total bonus. Without ruining anything else, I suggest that you give the show a chance; you won't be disappointed.

Dog Bites Man - Another show that didn't look too appealing at first is Comedy Central's "Dog Bites Man." It's a show about a 4 person news team, and it's absolutely hysterical. New episodes air Wednesday nights at 10:30 on Comedy Central, and they're definitely worth checking out. The character Marty is over the top funny, and he gets funnier every time I watch an episode.

MOVIES

Waking Life - Essentially an intro to philosophy class, this movie is really, really good. Waking Life follows the main character through a number of dreams meeting different people and discussing everything from the purpose of the universe, to relationships, to the meaning of life. I highly suggest getting a little stoney and letting the trippy animation and deep intellectual conversations wisk you off to your own little place where you can learn more about life. Not that I've done that or anything...

BOOKS
A Short History Of Nearly Everything - Written by Bill Bryson, this is an excellent book. Basically, the title explains what the book is about... a history of nearly everything. From the creation of the cosmos, to a discussion of how old the world is, to Volcanoes and everything in between, this book takes what you've read in science books and puts it into a very readable and entertaining novel. I'm about 3/4's of the way through the book, and it's outstanding. Read it.

MUSIC

RX Bandits - The RX Bandits released a new CD a couple days ago... and it sounds like it will be fantastic. You're probably not familiar with the RX Bandits, but trust me, they're awesome. If you like Sublime you'll like the Rx Bandits.

Anyway, check out their website (www.rxbandits.com). They have a handful of songs on the left in their "Music Player" so that you can familiarize yourself with their music. Their new songs "Crushing Destroyer" and "Only For The Night" sound awesome, and I'm sure the rest of the CD will as well. They have CDs available only on their website, and they're $14 including shipping and handling.

While we're here...

Noob Sports Offensive Text Message Of The Week - goes to David Daniel Gutierrez, a long time friend of the Noob Sports family and protector of our freedoms. He sent me this shocker after the USA lost to Ghana.
"Too bad we're not Arab... we could have started a Jihad over that (penalty) call. Pity, as I have many guns."
(SEL tugging at shirt collar)

Noob Sports Quote Of The Week - goes to my roommate Tom. Well known for his quick wit and angry remarks, he delivered this gem while watching the France vs. Switzerland soccer game. A Frenchman was on the ground writhing in pain, and trainers were attending to him.
"Awwwwww, waaaaaaah! Why don't you just pour some wine on him, and he'll be fine.... FUCKING PUSSY!"

Friday, June 23, 2006 

Gearing up for the NBA Draft


The NBA draft is less than a week away, and I'm going to do my best to get you noobs excited about it. While the NFL draft receives more hype for a longer period of time, the NBA's version is certainly fascinating as well. There is comedy everywhere you look--prospects and posses showing up uninvited and sitting in the cheap seats, Stuart Scott interviewing befuddled international players, and making its debut this year, JJ Redick making a U-turn on his way to the podium.

Here are a few players I really like who will be selected June 28.

Brandon Roy, G
University of Washington
6'5" 195 lbs.


The rumor mill is churning at top speed around Roy, and it's looking more and more like he will be a top 3 pick. He might go as high as #2 to the Chicago Bulls, who are trying to decide between Roy and Tyrus Thomas of LSU. Rumor also has it that Michael Jordan himself is targetting the Husky at #3 and that the Lakers have toyed with the idea of trading Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, and the #26 pick to the Bulls for the #2 and Tyson Chandler.

So why all the fuss over Brandon Roy? It doesn't hurt that he scored 20.2 ppg on 51% shooting for Washington last year, but NBA teams are drooling over him because he doesn't have any real flaws. He can pass (4.1 apg), rebound (5.6 rpg), defend (1.4 steals and .8 blocks per game), and shoot from outside (.402 from 3 point land) and might be the most NBA-ready player in this year's draft.

Guillermo Diaz, G
The U.
6'2" 190 lbs.


Aside from sharing a name with the actor who played Scarface in "Half Baked," Diaz has plenty else going for him. As you can see in the picture at right, he has more some serious hops (41+" vertical) and his offensive game has been compared to Steve Francis and Leandro Barbosa. If you caught a couple of his games at Miami, you were probably immediately struck by his speed and aggressiveness. On the other hand, some reports claim that he is too reckless with the ball and may be a shooting guard in a point guard's body.

I became a Diaz fan while watching him for the first time (against Michigan in November), as he stroked threes and drew contact after struggling in the first half. He was an impact player, and I see no reason to believe that he can't succeed in a Barbosa-esque role at the next level. As a through and through Laker fan, I would love for him to fall to them at #26 but despite Chad Ford's predictions, it doesn't look likely. If the Puerto Rican starts calling his teammates "B" and buys a dog named Killer, Diaz will quickly become one of Noob Sports favorite players.

Marcus Vinicius Vieira de Souza, PF
Brazil
6'10" 230 lbs


I love that the big time Brazilian athletes are given one-word names (Ronaldo, Ronaldihno, Nene, and Fred) and the power forward is no exception. He has been dubbed Marquinos and averaged 19.5 ppg in the Brazilian league. As he works to add muscle, scouts rave about his offensive skills. If only we could combine that offense with...

Mouhamed Saer Sene
Senegal
7'0" 235 lbs.


The 20 year old Saer Sene is a project who will not be ready to play in the NBA right away. Because of his size and shot blocking presence, he reminds me of Francisco Elson and D'Sagana Diop. Both he and Marquinos will most likely end up on quality teams that will try to develop them without giving them many NBA minutes, either by letting them remain overseas or by designating them to the NBDL. My personal belief is that Saer Sene and Marquinos are the international players to watch at the bottom half of this draft.

-NJV

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 

Hodgepodge


- Fuck the Heat. I hate the Heat. I hate Antoine Walker, and his increasingly large breasts. I wanted to see Dirk and Cuban beat them. Oh well. Great NBA Playoffs.

- Apparently the Stanley Cup Finals were awesome. I didn't catch more than 20 minutes of the finals though, because, like Uncle Junior is to Tony Soprano, the NHL is dead to me. I just can't get into it anymore (unless the Wings are involved), and unfortunately I'm not the only one. Out of all my friends who are hockey fans (of which there used to be many), the only one that acted like they cared a little bit was crazy Jay. Other than that, not a peep from anybody.

- Go USA. Holy shit, go USA. Go Italy too. If anybody wants to join Team Noob Sports West, we will be viewing the game in Denver at the Celtic Tavern in LoDo. I will be the guy wearing the Oguchi Onyewu "22" jersey and waiving the Team USA scarf over my head. I will also be drunk (starting to drink at approximately 6:30 AM) and will most likely have the look of somebody who is just about to lose complete control. Please do say hello.

- Just in case the Noob Sports Jinx is still ruling the universe, I want to take this time to say Go Ghana, and Go Czech Republic! Ghana has the United States beat in every aspect of this game. They have better players, they have a stronger defense, better forwards, and are overall bigger, faster, and stronger. They will most certainly handle the United States, and the game won't even be close.

By the same token, Italy isn't even in the same league as the Czech Republic. This game won't be close, I don't even know why they're playing it... If the Czech Republic doesn't mercy Italy in this game, I will be shocked.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 

Pride


In the words of Lee Greenwood: "I'm proud to be an American."

This is the first time that I've honestly been able to say that in a very, very long time. From the dufus that's running our country (try googling the word "failure"... pretty funny), to our foreign policy being a complete shitshow, to the way that we're hated across the globe; these aren't very 'proud' times to be an American.

These aren't great times to be a fan of any of the teams that represent our country, either. Our basketball team has been sucking serious jaggon in the olympics, our baseball team famously flopped in the WBC, and our hockey team hasn't had a sniff of gold in any of their recent tournaments. The only sport that we seem to be excelling in is American Football, probably because we're the only country on earth that plays it.

I, like many others of my ilk, had visions of grandeur for this World Cup. This was to be the coming out party for the United States. This was going to be the straw that broke the camels back; the point where Americans finally caught on to soccer, and soccer supplanted hockey as the 4th "major" sport in the country. Improbable? Yes. But impossible? Not really.

After our opening game loss to the Czech Republic, you heard the team described as "uninspiring", "unflattering", "lethargic", and "dissapointing."

After we tied Italy (a tie!), you heard the team described as "heroic", "fighters", "valiant", and "proud."

Proud.

Proud like Lee Greenwood wants us to be.


In all seriousness, that game on Saturday was such a roller coaster of emotions for me. I went from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows... sometimes those emotions came within minutes of one another, sometimes within seconds.

Over the course of one game, I managed to hug complete strangers, lose my voice from cheering, threaten to assassinate Pablo Mastroeni when he gets back to Colorado, and spill a handful of drinks by slamming my fist into the table after the second red card.

I went from das uber-depressed (Italy's first goal), to gleeful (Italy's second goal... which they scored for us), to ecstatic (Italy's red car for the elbow) in a matter of minutes.

I'm fairly sure I suffered a heart attack when Eddie Pope got his second yellow card (especially after telling everybody at the bar, and friends on the phone, that if Bruce kept Pope in the game, that he would get his second yellow... my prophecy came true 1 minute into the 2nd half) and we had to play the rest of the game with 9 men.

I was absolutely elated when Beasley scored a goal to give the US an improbable 2-1 lead over Italy, only to have my world turned to confusion, then catostrophy when I realized the offside flag was up.

The last 15 minutes might have been the most nervous and turturous minutes of my life... wildly cheering our boys to hold onto the draw, to keep any hope we had alive.

When the final whistle blew and we left the bar, I was completely exhausted. Emotionally, physically, and psychologically exhausted. I hissed like a vampire when I walked outside into the sun, struggling to stand up and drag myself home.

For a while I couldn't figure out how I felt about the game. So many emotions, so many huge swings, such euphoria, such disappointment... my world was a total maelstrom.

However, after all the dust had settled, I had one underlying emotion: pride.

I was fucking proud of the men that put on the Red, White, and Blue jerseys on Saturday. I was proud, once again, to be an American.

And the best part? I'm not alone.

The other day on ESPN's Sportsnation, they held a poll that asked "Which is the most interesting event?" and gave you the options of "USA in World Cup", "NBA Finals", and "U.S. Open."

My vote was obvious, but I was SHOCKED to see how the rest of the country voted:


Out of over 180,000 people that voted, 46% of them said that our United States Men's National team in the World Cup was the most interesting event to them. You know what that is?

Pride.

(By the way, I think the distribution of these votes is hysterical. If you asked me "Steve, what places would you absolutely hate to live?" My answers would definitely include: West Virginia, Idaho, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. It would also be interesting / humorous to compare this map with a map of how these states voted in the 2004 presidential election / education levels. My guess is that it would be a pretty high correlation. I digress...)

Thursday is one of the most important days in U.S. soccer history. With a result against Ghana and a little help from Italy (it sucks to have to cheer for those greasy douchebags, by the way), we will advance out of the group of death.

Saturday's game was the most watched soccer game in United States history. At the end of the game, it gave me chills all over my body when I heard "U-S-A! U-S-A!" chanted throughout the stadium.

Hopefully Thursday will be more of the same. Hopefully our boys will go out there and play their hearts out, and leave everything on the pitch. Hopefully the results favor us.

Regardless of the result, there is one thing we all certainly will be: proud.

Proud to be Americans supporting our national team.

(While we're here, did anybody see the Korea vs. France game? Our love of Korea and it's rabid fans is well documented, but that was an unbelievable display of pride from the Korean teams. The noise in that stadium was deafening, and it sure as shit wasn't coming from the French. Dae Han Min Guk, son, Dae Han Min Guk.)

Monday, June 19, 2006 

Eat 'Em Up Tigers


Saturday wasn't the first time I've ever been embarrassed at a Tigers game, but it was the first time I've been embarrased for the other team. It didn't take long either, as the first chants of "LET'S GO TIGERS!!!!" began in Wrigley Field after Curtis Granderson tripled to start the game. When Carlos Guillen smoked a 2 run homer later in the first inning, the Detroit faithful in attendance roared in delight, easily drowning out the boos of Cubs' fans. Fortunate enough to be seated in the season ticket holder section, I was shocked at how many peeps in Tiger hats and jerseys spotted my shirt and offered me high fives after big plays. Meanwhile, the Cub contigent could only groan as Jaque Jones five-hopped a throw to the cutoff man (hilarious, by the way) and Dusty Baker trotted in one ineffective reliever after another. It was sad really, as the Cubs were out-played, out-hustled, and out-managed by a Tiger club that just destroys lesser competition (33-10 against sub-.500 teams).

As the Tigers continue to hold off the White Sox, there have been a few developments this week in Tigertown...

1. Curtis Granderson is becoming "jersey-worthy."
He began all three of this weekend's games with a base hit and seemingly just keeps getting better with every game. Granderson plays the game hard, but gracefully and with intelligence. Able to hit for average or power, he's patient and will make adjustments. I'll stop short of saying that I want to have his children, but Granderson is everything that Juan Encarnacion wasn't. This isn't a feeling that often strikes me, so I don't say that this lightly, but I'm strongly considering purchasing his jersey. It would be a bold step for me as a fan to become a jersey wearer after so many years of staunch resistance. Putting someone else's name on your back is a big commitment: you have to be sure that 1. the player will be good for an extended period of time (think Rick Ankiel or Bobby Higginson), 2. the player will remain on your favorite team for years (think about all those now useless Johnny Damon jerseys in Boston), and 3. that the player won't turn out to be a jackass (think Eagle fans purchasing TO's #81). Granderson seems to meet the criteria.

2. Tis the season to be trading.
One of the biggest perks for fans of a winning team is the drama of the trading season. Figure on the Tigers making a move or two before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, with the primary target being an affordable left handed bat. Dave Dombrowski will also consider adding another arm for the bullpen, but will first have to decide if he is willing to give up some of his prized pitching prospects for a true impact player. The dream acquisition is Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, a young left handed hitter who can provide the Detroit lineup with the thing it lacks most: speed. Crawford is hitting .315 with 10 homers and 22 steals and rumors of his availability will not go away. Is there any real chance that DD brings CC to Motown?

A package for Hot Carl would start with Humberto Sanchez, who was recently promoted to Toledo after posting a 1.72 ERA with 86 K's in 71.2 innings in Double A. He has emerged as an elite prospect and would probably step immediately into Tampa Bay's rotation. Jordan Tata could sweeten the deal, but given their recent history, the Devil Rays will ask for more. One player who would make a lot of sense for the manager Joe Maddon is Omar Infante, although Jim Leyland would not be happy to give him up. Infante is still young and inexpensive, plays 3 infield positions (as well as OF in a pinch) and has a lot of pop for a little man. However, if the Tigers included him along with Sanchez, Tata, and a lesser prospect (Jack Hannahan?) the Devil Rays might not receive a better offer.

According to ESPN's Jason Stark, the Tigers have already made inquiries but the favorites to land Crawford are the Los Angeles Angels with a probable package of Ervin Santana and Brandon Wood. I put the chances of a serious Tiger run at Hot Carl, who is under club control until 2010, at around 10%. It's much more likely that DD hangs onto Sanchez and adds a player like Jeromy Burnitz or even Aubrey Huff. Still, isn't it an exciting change to be a buyer in July?

3. Tiger Stadium is being torn down.
The announcement made by the city of Detroit isn't a surprise, but we'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. While the actual field is being preserved, here's hoping that the project will revitalize that area of the city.

-NJV

Friday, June 16, 2006 

If I was Bruce...


Ever since the United States got the absolute dog shit beaten out of them by the Czech Republic on Monday, a lot of people have asked me (SEL) what the United States needs to do differently against Italy on Saturday in order to win and stay alive in World Cup. Apparently people think I know something about soccer.

Coach Bruce Arena has managed to find himself in a pretty bad place. I've always been a fan of Das Bruce, but I don't envy his position right now. His team came into the tournament way overhyped, and he spoke with such bravado and confidence that we expected them to dominate their group and make a serious run in the World Cup. After they got their asses handed to them on Monday, people started immediately questioning Bruce's motivational skills and roster selection.

What changes should he make so the United States doesn't make an early exit like in '98? More importantly for Bruce, what changes should he make so he doesn't (almost certainly) lose his job? Well, If I was Bruce...

(by the way, I often like to PRETEND that my name is Bruce. Whenever I order a meal and they ask me for my name I tell them "Bruce." If I start talking to somebody and can tell within the first five seconds that I never want to see them again, I tell them my name is "Bruce." I often fill out surveys or sign up for useless shit using the full name "Bruce Braswell." When I put on my ass-less chaps and head down to the Manhole, I tell people I meet there.... nevermind.)

If I was Bruce, I would play in a 3-5-2. For an example of that formation, I would look to the Hope College Flying Dutchmen teams of the early to mid 2000's, who pounded teams using that system. Opponents of that theory point to the fact that there are only 3 defenders. At this point, the United States has no choice other than to attack, because a loss or a draw and we're (pretty much) done. Might as well make it an attacking-minded formation.

If I was Bruce, I would bench Eddie Pope and play with Oguchi Onyewu as the only center back.

If I was Bruce, I keep Eddie Lewis at left-back. Despite his less-than-stellar performance against the Czech Republic, he is very good at attacking out of the back. We need all the attacking help we can get.

If I was Bruce, I would contemplate subbing out Steve Cherundolo and replacing him with last years MLS Defender of the year and Noob Sports reader Jimmy Conrad. Even though he is more comfortable at center back, I think it would be nice to have him out there trying to stop Luca Toni and company. However, I would most likely keep Stevie C. back there.

If I was Bruce, I would bench DeMarcus Beasley and keep Bobby Convey on at left midfield. Convey has that great left-foot, and is one of our best free-kick takers. I would also think about bringing Beasley on as a sub for Convey, to add that extra boost of energy and speed when Italy is tiring towards the end of the game.

If I was Bruce, I would put Clint Dempsey on at right midfield. He has pace, he's fearless, he has great ball skills, and he is probably our most compeitive player. I would love to see Deuce cutting people up down the right side all day.

If I was Bruce, I would put our best three players (and playmakers) together in the center of midfield, and let them try to take over the game. These players, of course, are Landon Donovan, John O'Brien, and Claudio Reyna. Let their creativity feed off one another, let them play the beautiful game together, and let's see what happens.

If I was Bruce, I would run Brian McBride and Eddie Johnson together up front. McBride is without a doubt our best forward, and always has the ability to score off a header or a scrum in the box. Johnson is the perfect compliment to a player who is big, holds the ball well, and dominates in the air (like McBride). He has blazing speed, good ball skills, high energy, and has the ability to score goals. Goals, obviously, are important to the U.S. getting a result on Saturday.

If I was Bruce, my lineup would look like this:

If I was Bruce, that's exactly what I would do. And damnit, I think we would win.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 

Noobie, Noobie, Noob (6/15)

Noob of the Week:
If there is anything we've learned this week, it's that there is no shortage of noobs in the wide world of sports. In fact, there have been so many noobs in the news recently that we've decided to split this award up by sport.

Baseball-
The raid on Jason Grimsley's house has sparked an HGH firestorm in MLB and Grimsley further noobed it up by cooperating with authorities and providing names of several players involved with performance enhancing drugs. Shortly thereafter, Grimsley refused to continue his cooperation, pissing off the feds who then leaked his story to the press. Grimsley has been attacked by the media for his HGH use and also by some of his fellow players for being a rat. It's only a matter of time before the FBI places an agent under cover in an MLB clubhouse as a coach or bat boy--in fact, that might be a great idea for Keanu Reeves' next movie, perhaps as a sequel to the unforgettable "Point Break."

Basketball-
The JJ Redick DUI story is just about perfect: the popped collar in his mugshot and the panicked U-turn have sports fans all over the country revelling in the smug Dukie's legal troubles. As Redick prepares for the NBA draft, the Portland Jail Blazer jokes practically write themselves. I hate Redick as much as the next guy, but he has to be a fucking great beer pong player, right?

Football-
Chris Henry is an absolute douchebag. The Bengals wide receiver was arrested for the FOURTH time since December on charges of providing alcohol to minors. According to police, the 23 year old Henry was drinking with 3 girls (ages 18, 16, and 15) in his car. In the morning, the 18 year old girl alleged that Henry had raped her, although police believe that her allegations to be fictional. Either way, the NFL's version of R. Kelly figures to be out of a job soon.

Street Racing-
Big Ben Roethlisberger is the big winner for crashing his crotch rocket in Pittsburgh. There is no truth to the rumor that the accident was caused when he was hit with a burrito thrown from a passing vehicle ("this burrito is good but it is filling"). Meanwhile, Esteban Loaiza was given a DUI after being pulled over at 120 mph early Wednesday. His 3 year, $21 million deal raised eyebrows when Billy Beane announced the move this winter and looks even more questionable today. In NBA news, perennial NOTW candidate Zach Randolph was also pulled over for "street racing" this week. When the po-po searced the car, they found 2 loaded handguns and a thick cloud of ganja. Amazingly, Zeebo avoided any charges stemming from the incident and the Trail Blazers have said they will not punish their $80 million dollar man.

Noob Sports Commercial of the Week:
The narrator/spiritual adviser looks like an older, bloated Colin Farrell but the "Joga Bonito" commercials by Nike are definitely on point. If you haven't seen all of the spots yet, here is a compilation for your viewing pleasure.




Noob Sports Feel Good Story of the Week:
In a week where even squeaky clean guys like Roethlisberger and Redick are getting in trouble, it's a bit hard to feel cheery about our athletes. With all the news about performance enhancing drug use and violence by athletes, the WWE shines as a beacon of hope: Degeneration X has reunited. Triple H and Shawn Michaels have once again teamed up and will fight in a 5 on 2 handicap match against the Spirit Squad, a group of 5 wrestlers whose shtick is that they are, you guessed it, male cheerleaders. DX is famous for the positive and uplifting messages they try to share with their fans. Said Triple H: “We’re going to send a message to Vince McMahon and everyone else in the WWE. It’s a simple message – it’s just two words – suck it.” Hunter Hearst Helmsley then compared being a member of DX to being in the Beatles and said that they are going to wrestle like they have nothing to lose "because we’re rich biatch, and we don’t care." If more kids would aspire to be pro wrestlers instead of those cheating, 'roid raging baseball players, America would have a much brighter future.

Noob Sports Quip of the Week:
Todd Jones reminds no one of Mariano Rivera, but at least he has a sense of humor. After entering last Friday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays and not recording an out, Jones was asked how much blowing the save bothered him. Jones said "I slept like a baby- woke up crying every two hours." The roller coaster ride continues as Jones took the loss in extra innings Wednesday night, leaving the Tiger faithful with the same feeling Cubs fans had when the always nerve-wracking Rod Beck racked up 51 saves in 1998 (tribute to Mitch in Sacramento).

-NJV

Monday, June 12, 2006 

What a Nightmare


Dear Steve,
Please don't kill yourself.
-Todd.

That's a text message I received from my good friend Neckers after the US lost 3-0 to the Czech Republic in their opening World Cup game today. The sad thing is, he's not the only one that contacted me to make sure I was okay after the game.

Let's just say I'm a fan of US Soccer, and I take the World Cup pretty seriously. People knew that my mood would be, depending on the result, either euphoric or homicidal. I haven't killed anybody yet, but it's certainly not out of the question.

I'm going to do my best attempt to answer 3 questions about the game today - What the hell happened? What needs to change? Is there any reason for hope?

(For the record, I am not emotionally prepared to write about the game I just witnessed, but I feel I must. Apologies in advance if this isn't humorous or entertaining)

So... what the hell happened?

- We were not ready to play. The USA came out flat, and gave up a goal 5 minutes into the match. I don't think they were overwhelmed, I don't think they were overconfident, they were just flat out not ready to play. They weren't there emotionally, they weren't there psychologically. In the biggest sporting event in the history of the world, this is completely unnacceptable.

- Eddie Pope is terrible. I've been saying it for the last 3 years, Eddie Pope is a liability on the United States backline, and he proved me oh so right today. Jan Koller is 6'8"... how can you let him be alone within 6 yards of the goal for a free header? From the beginning, Eddie Pope was never in the game, not for a second. He was completely outclassed, and needs to be replaced (a Jimmy Conrad sighting, possibly?)

- "We got nothing out of Beasley on the night." That's a comment from Bruce Arena during the postgame press conference. I believe Bruce is right on there. We got ABSOLUTELY nothing out of DMB tonight. He's one of our top players, a world class midfielder, and he didn't show up at all today. He played scared, and seemed completely disinterested in the game.

- It's well documented that I have a man-crush on Oguchi Onyewu... but he did not have his finest game today. I think what hurt him was that he received a yellow card (unneccessarily) 4 minutes in, and was forced to play tentatively for the rest of the game. Missing Cory Gibbs is obviously hurting our back line.

- The turning point of the game came when Claudio Reyna hit the post. The United States were carrying the play, moving the ball from side to side, being diverse with their offense, and it resulted in a shot that rattled the inside of the post. An inch to the right and that shot goes in, and all of a sudden the score is 1-1 and we have a great game on our hands.

What Needs To Change?

- John O'Brien needs to start. He's the most creative and dangerous midfielder in the history of American soccer. I understand the reasoning behind starting Pablo Mastroeni over him (a solid midfield defender, a good ball winner, a great guy to stop the other team), but now it's lose and go home. We need attack, we need a player who can make things happen out of nothing, and that man is John O'Brien. If he doesn't start against Italy, you can expect a string of profanities out of my mouth the likes of which have never been seen.

- If Demarcus Beasley is in the game, he must be on the left side of the field. 90% of the touches he takes are with his left foot. Why have him out on the right? Convey looked better than Beasley today, and I wouldn't be surprised if only one of them was in the starting lineup on Saturday. Regardless, Beasley has to play on the left to be effective.

- Get our forwards the ball at their feet. The United States is at their best when they keep the ball on the ground, attack with a sense of urgency, and occasionally serve a high ball in the box to McBride. Today it seemed like once we went down 2 goals, we just started pumping balls into the box in the air. That is not the answer, and will certainly not be the answer against Italy.

- Personally, I'm going to change 3 things: (1) I've been growing out my beard for about 2 weeks, saying that I wasn't going to shave it until the US lost. Well, the first thing I did when I got home from watching the game was lose the beard. (2) Change viewing locations. I watched this game at Fado in Denver (more on that later), I will not watch one there again. (3) Wear my US Men's National Team scarf to the game. I made a mistake today of not going all out, you can be very sure that the scarf will be draped around my shoulders on Saturday.

- Play with pride. Play with heart. Play with fire. Play for your country. Play with determination. Play with a chip on your shoulder. Play as hard as you can. Play with desire. Play like if you lose, your World Cup dreams are over. Which they will be with a loss.

We're in a bad place, no doubt. Things actually couldn't have gone worse. We now have to go against Italy on Saturday... a team that is known as being the best defensive team in the world. Since they just beat Ghana 2-0, they have no reason to play for a win. They're going to sit back and play for a tie, because if they tie, they're almost guaranteed to go through. The US has never won a World Cup game in Europe, and now we have to go into Italy's backyard and try to beat them there. So...

Is There Any Reason for Hope?


Absolutely.

The Czech Republic are the 2nd ranked team in the world for a reason. They're awesome. If the team can put this game behind them, and come out ready to play on Saturday, we have a chance.

We certainly have the firepower to beat Italy... I think now it's up to our team to find the intestinal fortitude necessary to go out there and prove we belong.

It's definitely an uphill battle, but a battle that is certainly winnable. Italy didn't look that great today against Ghana, and Ghana had many scoring chances. Americans are known for being hard-working, for busting their ass to get their reward, and not hanging their heads when the chips are down. Now is that time for our national team... hopefully they respond.

One final note - I'm very impressed with the overall change in attitude shown by Americans towards the World Cup this year, especially when compared to 4 years ago.

I was in Cincinatti this weekend for a friends wedding (congratulations Nick). On the way home, I was wearing my USA jersey in the airport, and about 5 people came up and talked to me about the team. People are fired up.

I got home last night, and was so excited that I couldn't get to sleep. I slept a total of about 8 hours this last weekend (it was an AWESOME weekend), and I didn't feel like sleeping last night at all. This morning I went down to Fado in Denver to watch the game... and it was packed. There were USA jerseys everywhere, people were cheering, there were flags, scarves, drinking... you could have convinced me that this was a bar in England, not in the United States.

I love the progess we have made as a soccer country... but our National Team needs to reward our fans by showing up and playing their best on Saturday. I'm confident that they will.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 

Time to Cinch It Up and Hunker Down


I'm pretty sure that it's safe to write about the Detroit Tigers again. The Yankees and Sox of all colors have cooled off the Tigers to such an extent that the Noob Sports Jinx is merely an afterthought.

In their last 8 games, the Tigers have managed just 2 victories against the AL's top 3 teams. Tonight's series opener was an absolute heartbreaker: the Tigs led the entire way, squandered a few chances, and dodged bullets until Alex Cintron hit his first home run, a 3 run job, as a member of the Pale Hose. Hawk Harrelson promptly blew his load all over Darrin Jackson and could barely get out his patented home run call of "You can put it on the booooard...YES!!!" DJ and I both promptly threw up in our mouths.

(By the way, if you get the title of this column and you aren't a Sox fan, you can sympathize with how truly brutal it is to listen to Hawk as a fan of what he calls "the bad guys.")

You loyal noobs out there know that I've believed in this Tiger team from the get-go, and I still do. It's too early to start worrying about the standings and definitely too early to start printing playoff tickets, but through 58 games we definitely have an idea about this team's strengths and weaknesses. Observations, in no particular order...

1. The Tigers miss Dmitri Young. This team needs a left handed bat like Jason Grimsley needs a lawyer, and that's pretty badly. Nothing against Alexis Gomez, but was he seriously batting sixth on Tuesday night?

2. Marcus Thames is a legit major leaguer. With Craig Monroe struggling, Thames is a key member of this ballclub. He has a shit ton of power, has produced when given the opportunity, and seems to be a genuinely nice guy. Alan Trammell really never gave Thames a chance in 2005, despite posting monster numbers in the minors. Speaking of which...

3. You couldn't ask for a better manager than Jim Leyland. He keeps his reserves fresh, manages his starting pitchers flawlessly, and commands respect from his players. Since he's already receiving a ton of credit from the mainstream media, let's just keep rolling along.

4. The Tigers got very lucky in Tuesday's amateur draft.
Due to signability issues, Andrew Miller, the consensus top player in the draft, slid all the way to Detroit who took him with the sixth overall pick. The Tarheel is 6'6, left handed, can reach 97 mph on the gun, and has a sweeping breaking ball. Many experts believe he can reach the majors as soon as 2007, after he polishes his change up a bit. I'll take it.

5. Only the Lord saves more than Todd Jones, so why is it so hard to have faith in him? Jones is second in the AL in saves with 16, but the 1-2-3 inning has always been much more elusive for him. His ERA hovers near 6. If Todd falters as closer, Fernando Rodney is capable (despite giving up the dinger to Cintron) but the bullpen is much stronger with him in a set-up role. This might be an area that Dave Dombrowski looks to strengthen before the trade deadline.

6. This is Mike Ilitch's chance to win back the fans. If Ilitch gives Dombrowski the green light and the green to add an impact player, it would be a sign to both the players and the fans that management is dedicated to winning this year. The deal wouldn't have to be a blockbuster, but the Tigers do have ammunition to make a deal without touching their core group of players. Roman Colon, Wil Ledezma, and Omar Infante are all young, talented, and most importantly, inexpensive but are not necessarily in the Tigers' long term plans. Since the Tigers could use a left fielder, starting pitcher, or reliever, there should be no shortage of rumors in the coming weeks.

-NJV

 

SEL's Ramblings


Greetings noobies, it's been a while. I recently came back from an extended-weekend trip up to Bozeman, Montana with my buddy Walt. If you've never been there, you definitely need to go. The landscape is beautiful, there were a surprising amount of very attractive women, and the people there are super-nice. I described the people to my mother (a serious Texan) as: "Very warm and genuinely friendly, like your typical Texan... minus the accent, the hick tendancies, and the uber-conservativeness."

Anyway, it's always nice to just get away every now and then. I don't live a very stressful life, in fact my stress level usually hovers between 1 and 2 on a scale of 1-10.... but it's still nice to just change things up a bit, get out of your routine, and go take it easy somewhere else. I highly suggest Bozeman if you're looking for a cool place. In the words of the immortal Aaron Karo, here are some things I've been ruminating about lately:

- The NBA playoffs have been so good this year. Back when they started, Nate and I argued for about an hour about whether the NBA playoffs or College Basketball's March Madness was more fun to watch (In fact, Nate wrote about it here). I still think that March Madness is more exciting and a better time watching, but my Lord, how good have these NBA Playoffs been? So many close games, so many stars rising to the occasion, so many ridiculous shots... it's been awesome. The only thing that hasn't been great is the officiating, which seems to have reached an all-time low. In many games, the refs are so one-sided, or make so many UNBELIEVABLY bad calls, that it's painful to watch. At this point, I think there is better refereeing in the WWF.

- Speaking of which, the Pistons post-season turned out to be a dissapointment. I have since calmed won from my homicidal rage, but wow was that a stinker. It's upsetting to see Rasheed go from wearing the WWF Championship belt a couple years ago, to the Intercontinental belt this year, to now not having anything. Hopefully this makes the Pistons hungry for next year, at least to get Ra some gold to wear around his waste.

While we're on the subject, this is not Flip Saunders' fault. Chauncey Billups said it before one of the Heat games when asked about it. Something along the lines of "It's not Flip's fault, he's done everything right, it's the players. We're the ones out there not producing. We're the ones that have to hold ourselves accountable and go out there and perform." Well, they didn't. It was embarassing how badly they didn't perform. I just want to let you know that I don't think it was Flips fault.

- Also, fuck Antoine Walker. I've always hated 'toine, and I hate him even more now. That jiggly piece of shit was dancing around when he hit a 3 in garbage time of game 6 of the Pistons series and it made me want to rip his throat out. Have some class. With those big titties of his, 'Toine would be better suited dancing around at Diamond Cabaret and having rich Japanese businessmen stuffing dollar bills down his G-string than on the basketball floor of the NBA Finals. Antoine Walker used to be a woman. No, I'm not bitter at all.

- Michelle Wie... is anybody else as non-excited about her as I am? Yes, she can ball. Sure, she's a sweet golfer. Of course I'm impressed that she's 16 and can hit the shit out of the ball... but this huge media frenzy that follows her everywhere as she tries to make the US Open is ridiculous. I would like to see her first do something on the LPGA, then come talk to me about playing men's golf. She couldn't even carry Annika Sorenstam's jock... uh, if she had one.

- The injury to Albert Pujols sucks. In this age where every slugger gets criticized for being on steroids or being a total douchebag (in Lamar's case he's both), Prince Albert is such a welcome star. He can absolutely mash the ball, plus he's an all-around nice guy. He has done so much work with Downs Syndrome, and contributed so much money to charity, that everybody loves the guy. What an unfortunate time for him to get injured, because, I think I'm speaking for everybody here, we would have loved to have seen him set the all-time single season home run mark.

- The World Cup starts Friday... hory cow. Such exciting times, and so many stories going on, I don't even know where to begin. My "Onyewu 22" jersey arrived this weekend with my USA Soccer scarf, and you can bet I'll be watching every game that I am physically able to. More on this in the upcoming days.

- An update on Noobsports2.0 - It's been a frustrating process. The freelancer we hired to do the work for us started doing a wonderful job, but disappeared off the face of the earth. Last we heard from him, he had to leave the country (not sure which country), and one of his family members died. This was over a month ago. Anyway, progress has stopped, so we're trying to find another freelancer to work with us. It sucks, and we had all these visions of grandeur, but they have to be put on the backburner for a while.

Monday, June 05, 2006 

Welcome to the Machine: Pro Lax Debuts in Chicago


The Chicago Machine-- one of four Major League Lacrosse expansion teams debuting this season, along with the Denver Outlaws, the Los Angeles Riptide, and the San Francisco Dragons-- made their home opener Saturday afternoon at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL. The game itself wasn't exactly a barn burner, the Machine fell to San Francisco 21-9, but while in attendance, the question that kept coming to my mind was: what are the long term chances of success for the MLL?

Reasons for optimism:
- The pro game is faster and higher scoring than the college game. The MLL rule book differs significantly than that of the NCAA: there is a 60 second shot clock, a two-point line (15 yards from the goal), a limit of 3 long stick defensemen, and limited substitutions. As a result, the pace of the game is quicker and fast breaks are much more frequent.

- The game is extremely physical. Nothing gets the crowd buzzing like a big hit and there were several on Saturday, most of which were violent enough to make Ronnie Lott proud. The hitting is a mixture of the checking, slashing, and hooking found in hockey and the open-field, full speed body blocks found in football.

- The players are world class. This was evident in more than one way during Saturday's game in Chicago. Unlike the indoor National Lacrosse League (which is not a direct competitor), the MLL features the cream of the NCAA D-1 crop. Two rookies who played in Memorial Day's championship game, Sean Morris of UMass and Michael Culver of Virginia, made their debuts for the Machine. Culver was a first team All American defender while Morris and fellow Chicago rookie Joe Boulukos are finalists for this season's Tewaarton Trophy (the lacrosse equivalent of the Heisman trophy).

Meanwhile, attackman and Syracuse alum Ryan Powell played his first game for San Francisco after being traded from Rochester and registered 3 goals. The league has some star power with guys like Powell, New Jersey's Kyle Harrison, Baltimore's Mark Millon, and Boston's Conor Gill. The MLL must find a way to keep its stars happy and in the fold before the National Lacrosse League launches it's new outdoor league and attempts to woo them away.

- The athletes are accessible. After Saturday's game, fans were allowed to mingle along the benches of the teams, shaking hands, taking pictures, and grabbing autographs. Every player remained on the sidelines signing for each and every kid that asked. Powell admirably signed for at least 15 minutes, even chatting on a fan's cell phone, despite the fact that his smoking hot girlfriend waited nearby.

- The sport is growing. Lacrosse offers a blend of contact and high scoring that isn't found elsewhere in sports. Perhaps this is the reason why many high schools are adding lacrosse and the number of youth leagues is at an all time high. It all starts with the kids, noobies. Can't fight against the youth.

Reasons for pessimism:
- The MLL is receiving some TV exposure, ESPN 2 features a game of the week on Tuesdays and games are covered locally by stations like Comcast Sportsnet, but the games are shown on tape delay. The delay takes away credibility from the game. No fan likes hearing scripted commentary or having portions of the action removed so that the game can fit into a tidy 2 hour time block.

- The league needs to market its product more effectively. In the spring, Notre Dame and Cornell played on the same field at Benedictine and that game outdrew the Machine's home opener by more than 1000. Much of the difference at the gate can be attributed to a huge number of youth lacrosse players and their families at the college game. Those in charge had given away tickets to youth leagues in the hopes that if the kids wanted to come, their families would follow. It worked. The MLL should adopt a similar strategy, as well as lower ticket prices below $20. Otherwise, the league might price itself out of the market quicker than Matt Harrington.

- The players need to be paid a full-time salary. Currently, the players are paid around $18,000 for the season, which runs from May through August. This means that players must also work full time jobs and are not able to devote themselves fully to the sport. Many top players even sit out the occassional season, including Ryan Powell's brothers Mikey and Casey. If the season was extended by a month or so, perhaps there would be enough money to support full-time lacrosse players. Not only would the quality of play improve, but players could spend more time being ambassadors of the game.

- I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the MLL was founded by legendary meathead Jake Steinfeld, of "Body by Jake" fame. Try not to let that ruin it for you.

Reasons to care:
This is a pivotal year for the MLL, as it will face direct competition next summer. Recent dialogue between the league and the Players Council give hope that all parties will be able to work together and elevate the sport while remaining its premier league. Then again, perhaps the second league will weaken the game's solidarity and divide fan interest.

On a larger scale, lacrosse is America's oldest game, invented by Native Americans, but what is the future of the sport? Are we witnessing the beginning of lacrosse's prominence or is the American sports landscape too crowded as it is? It would seem that the sport has the necessary ingredients to take off, but how far along is lacrosse in its development? And is the sport in good hands?

At any rate, its a unique and ongoing case study in the business of sports and one that Noob Sports will continue to keep an eye on.

-NJV

Thursday, June 01, 2006 

Upset of the Century


[Editors Note: The Davis is a guest writer, and is writing exclusively for Noob Sports. He currently resides in the utopia that is Baltimore, MD., and is known for stealing SEL's "Lake Superior State University 1992 National Ice Hockey Champions" T-shirt, and hooking up with a 1 (on a scale of 1-10... and not the good side of that scale). Let the record show that this destroyed any chance of SEL getting one of his favorite t-shirts back.]

The good thing about being unemployed again is that I get to watch ESPN’s coverage of the spelling be for the 11th straight year. I have seen a lot of things in my day, from footage of the Miracle on Ice, The BoSox coming back from down 3-0 and Jammin’ Ice beating the Chicago Flames in 1999, but todays events had to be the biggest upset in the history of sports.

After cruising through the first six rounds of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, this years crowd favorite, and all-around good guy Samir Patel was taken down after incorrectly spelling eremacausis in Round 7.

Let me put it to you this way: Eremacausis is such a fucked up word, that Microsoft spell check not only doesn’t recognize it, but also doesn’t even have any suggestions on what the word might be. (In case you were wondering, it means “a gradual oxidation from exposure to air and moisture, as in the decay of old trees or of dead animals.”)

After spelling adiaphorism, grandelle, intarsia, saponin, and thymiaterion correctly, fans were shocked to hear the bell signaling Samir’s exit. This not only is disappointing, it’s a travesty.

Samir had paid his dues, finishing second last year, and had one thing going for him that seemingly no one else in the competition had: he actually seemed like a pretty normal kid. Just because Samir went down before prime time, don’t be surprised to see ABC run a montage of his
career highlights at some point during tonight’s broadcast.

With Samir gone, its pretty much wide open, but Noobsports new pick-to-click has to be 14 year old Saryn "gas" Hooks. After spelling bombycine correctly in round seven, she appears to have the momentum to outlast the Indians and take home the belt.

- The Davis

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