Saturday, February 18, 2017

Idle TV thoughts

At first I didn't know what to make of it, What, pray tell, is a Pornanong Phatlum? By the name, could it be an obese adult film star with a mean streak? Turns out, not. PP, no pun intended, is a Thai golfer on the LPGA circuit. And pretty good too. She was right up there in the lead at their latest event. Whew. That was a close one.

Another one is fairly confounding as well. The commercial Verizon is airing on TV. It shows their spokesman dropping a microphone, maybe on purpose. So he grabs another one and -- drops it too. Then a third -- same thing. Well then. Isn't a microphone a communication device? And isn't a cell phone used for communicating too? What exactly is the message here? That during the course of 30 seconds one can expect a call or calls to be dropped 3 times by this company? And they might be doing it on purpose? Well OK, maybe I'm an idiot but, to my feeble mind, this doesn't appear to be great advertising. I mean, would you go on TV and keep scratching at yourself if you were trying to sell some sort of soap or other hygiene product?

Speaking of close ones, maybe the UConn girls basketball team isn't unbeatable after all. Sure, we know they just rattled off a 100 game winning streak and have won the last four national titles in a row. And we also know they've been absolutely blistering most opponents this season, often to the tune of 40 or more points.

Further, the Green Wave of Tulane shouldn't have posed much of a problem. After all, they're a mere 7-7 in the same conference and 16-11 overall. To boot, last time they played, back on Jan. 22, the lady Huskies bombarded them 100-56, a 44 point thrashing.

So this game should have been a piece of cake -- right? Wrong. It was all UConn could do to hold off Tulane and escape with a very close 63-60 win. And yes, the game was as close as the score indicated.

The normally unflappable Geno Auriemma, head coach of the Huskies, looked stunned -- STUNNED. This wasn't supposed to happen. To the untrained eye, it appeared the usual dapper Geno had gone from clean-shaven at the start to a wolfmanish five o'clock shadow by the time the game concluded.

Thing is, Auriemma would likely admit that such a close call was a good thing for his team. After so many wins in a row, complacency is bound to set in on some level. What might have been even better is if his Bambinos actually -- gasp -- got beat. That would have been some wake up call. Because when the NCAA tournament starts, after likely a couple rather easy games, the competition is going to stiffen up substantially. One slip up or bad night and you're out. That just won't do after such a spectacular season. UConn and most others are no doubt expecting them roll to a five-peat. It would be quite the story/upset if they didn't.

Teams around the country had to take heart at seeing how close lowly Tulane could play UConn, probably thinking if THEY can hang, so can we. Maybe even knock them off if we play our best game.

They escaped by the peach fuzzies on their chinny-chin-chins this time.

But it showed they're not invincible after all.

Good news to all the others.

We'll see how it plays out.

Could get interesting indeed.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Bonehead Files

It seems we have a couple new members to bestow the not-so-honorable title of "Bonehead" upon.

Holy cow. Can that be right? AARP is considering issuing its own swimsuit edition of its magazine?

Well then. If it's anything like Sports Illustrated's, seniors will get to see a whole lot of pix of females in various stages of undress, up to and including nudity. Thing is, who might they be? Judge Judy? Hillary? Baba WaWa? A Supreme Court justice or two? Dang, who wouldn't be just tickled to see Ruth Bader Ginsberg frolicking on a beach stark naked? Brrr.

What they don't seem to realize is that by coming out with such an outrageous pictorial they might just lose a great deal of their membership -- see dues money. If people started leafing through that, they might keel over dead from utter shock.

Truly a bonehead idea.
Ixnay that -- please.

The ever-yappy Stephen A, Smith is back up to his boneheaded ways. As stated in this space before, his initials -- SAS --  are just about perfect, because nobody's sassier than that clown. And why does he always have to get wound up like Barney Fife on 'roids over the most mundane of topics?

The rumor has been floated that the Houston Texans and New England Patriots might consider swapping J.J. Watt for Rob Gronkowski even up. If true, interesting. Both are certainly dominant players -- when they can stay healthy -- which doesn't seem to be very often. Both would likely cost a fortune to sign long term. The Pats could use an edge rusher, and didn't they just march through most of the regular season, playoffs, and miraculously win another Super Bowl without Gronk? He likely wouldn't be too happy to leave, especially bound for a sub-par team like the Texans. Watt would be thrilled to finally get a chance at a ring. Lots of subplots on this trade possibility.

But then along came Stevie with his two cents worth. Watt's job is easy, he said. All he has to do is stop the run and get after the quarterback on pass plays. No prob, said the sass-meister.
Never mind that on every play, he gets into a virtual car wreck with a 300+ pound offensive lineman.

And right then, yours truly would have gladly ponied up a C-note if someone would have countered Smith with the following:

What about your job, Stephen A.? You spend a couple hours in make-up, have the majority of your future dialogue given to you by various off-screen stat geeks, then come out here and flap your clueless gums about sports you never played -- while raking in mega-bucks. How easy is THAT?

Yep, the SAS man most definitely deserves a plaque and immortal place is the most un-hallowed of halls.

Welcome to the Bonehead Files indeed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Mayweather/McGregor folly

Could it actually happen? Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor squaring off in a bout?

Maybe, depending on which rumor one wishes to believe. But there's a lot of things wrong with this.

McGregor says Mayweather needs him more than the other way around. That's laughable. Mayweather has somewhere around $400 million in the bank, has an undefeated record as a pro boxer (49-0), and will turn 40 years old in a matter of days. The LAST things he needs are more money, risking his unblemished record, and getting in the ring with a crazy Irishman intent on doing him serious bodily harm at his age. Over the years, he's proven all he needs to prove. Sure, he fought a lot of bums, but so did every other champion along the way. Thing is, with Rocky Marciano, they're the only two that retired undefeated. Why would he want to do this?

But, if the bout does go on, McGregor himself is likely falling into a trap. Mayweather's smart enough to pick his opponents wisely. He fights them on his terms, where and when he gets good and ready to. Remember now long he put off the inevitable confrontation with Manny Pacquiao. The Philipine had by then become a member of his country's Congress and had other duties to tend to. No way could he devote his entire energies and focus to train and prepare for a fight with Mayweather. The result was predictable.

Then again, McGregor is absolutely right on one count. Mayweather is afraid of a real fight, and well he should be. If this event occurs, it will be a boxing match, fisticuffs only, with heavy padded gloves. A REAL fight is what goes on in the Octagon. Not only fists (with much less padding), but various kicks, grappling on the mat, chokes, arm bars, and other submission holds are all allowed. Unlike the genteel sport of boxing, kidney punches and spinning back fists are just fine. Blood is ignored. Most anything goes in a true cage match -- a FIGHT -- though oddly the groin area is off limits. One can smash an opponent's windpipe, but isn't allowed to kick or otherwise strike him in the "family jewels". Killing is OK, but leave the nads alone. Go figure.

So that's exactly why, if it does happen, it won't be under mixed martial arts conditions and rules. Mayweather wouldn't last 30 seconds against McGregor in such a scenario. Floyd may train hard and still be quite quick with his fists and defensive moves, but get him on the mat where anything goes, and the dude would be serious trouble. All Conor would have to do is tackle him, easily enough done. Mayweather would either tap out or wake up in a hospital somewhere, if he survived at all.

But heavily padded fisticuffs only would give Mayweather, even at his "advanced" age, a definite advantage. He might well remain too slick for even the lightning fast McGregor to handle under such limited conditions.

In that sense, it's a dumb idea for both of them. If Mayweather did lose, especially having fought under terms he dictated, his reputation would be shattered. If McGregor lost, he'd have to hang his head in shame for having asked for such a ridiculous bout to begin with. And one of them has to lose.

Yet maybe, just maybe, it's an ego thing for both of them. Alpha males trying to prove they're the baddest boys on the planet, at least in their weight division, which Mayweather will no doubt dictate as well, and willing to do something bizarre and out of character for both of them.

It's a ridiculous premise, but ya know what?

Like so many other suckers, yours truly would likely pony up the pay-per-view bucks to watch such a spectacle as well.

P.T. Barnum was right. There's one born every minute, and obviously I'm no exception.

Bring it on.

Why not? It ain't gonna be me in there getting his brains beat out, what little is left of them......

Monday, February 13, 2017

UConn's 100 in a row

Like them or not, what UConn's lady basketball team has accomplished is incredible. Winning a HUNDRED in a row? That's three entire seasons worth. And counting.

The late John Wooden's UCLA Bruins once held the mark of 88. Geno Auriemma's teams have surpassed it -- twice. And not just broken it -- shattered it.

Detractors could argue UConn plays in a weakish conference, the American Athletic Conference. Point noted. But it's not as if the Lady Huskies play nothing but patsies. While the conference schedule itself may not exactly present a murderer's row, Auriemma has long been open to taking on all comers during the non-conference portion of it, whether at home, on the road, or occasionally at a neutral site.

Consider the current/ongoing season alone. Along the way, Geno's Bambinos have taken on, and obviously defeated, two nationally ranked #2's, a #4, two #12's, a #14, #15, and a #20. They just got done playing #6 South Carolina. That's nine games against Top 20 competition, four in the Top 6. Has any other team, male or female, had to face more top-notch opponents this year?

All due credit to the South Carolina Gamecocks for hanging in there. (Though Gamecocks would appear to be a strange name for a female team. Gamehens?) They're certainly talented, have size, quickness, and can ball-handle, shoot and rebound. For quite a while in the first half, they stared the Lady Huskies down, often leading. Quite a feat in itself on UConn's home court.

Yet slowly the tide turned, as most thought it would. UConn would go on to win by 11, 66-55, which is about as close as it gets anymore. During their 100 game streak, they've routinely pounded many opponents by 40 or more points, often resting their starters for large portions of the latter parts of games.

Now at the century mark, UConn has 4 more games to play in the regular season. The first three will likely be of the blowout variety, versus Tulane, Temple, and Memphis, none ranked in the Top 25.

Only #22 South Florida remains before they gear up for the NCAA tournament, where they'll no doubt have the overall #1 seed.

Could South Florida give them a decent run for their money? Perhaps, but likely not. When the two teams met earlier this season on Jan. 10, UConn absolutely trashed them to the tune of 102-37, an eye-popping 65 point differential. So it's probably safe to say Auriemma and his Huskie express will roll into the tournament with 104 in a row. And counting.

The big news now isn't so much how high that number might get -- if they win the NCAA tourney, they'd be at 110 going into next year -- and then who knows how much longer it could go? No, the truly big news will come when somebody somewhere actually succeeds in finally knocking them off. It has to happen eventually -- right?

100 in a row is something we'll likely never see again, by any team in any sport. Nor by any individual. It just doesn't happen -- never has. It takes too long, injuries can happen, players come and go, and the competition keeps getting better. And EVERYBODY wants to beat #1 in the worst way, so they get the best of whatever the other teams have to offer, game in and game out. All it takes is a combination of any of that -- or a single bad outing -- it happens to the best of them -- and POW, the dreaded L. End of streak.

But for now, they should be appreciated for what they have done and continue doing, with no end apparently in sight.

Incredible indeed.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

More dumb rants

Idle thoughts: So how did it come to pass that his name wound up being Keith Urban (citified), when he would make his claim to fame with rural (countrified) music?

On that note, ever notice how country stars of the past had names that the average working stiff could relate to? Johnny CASH. Charlie PRIDE. Most definitely Johnny PAYCHECK. His real name was Donald Lytle, but Paycheck and Cash surely beat the heck out of, say, Credit or, heaven forbid, Debitcard.

What do you get when one TV station breeds and becomes a half dozen of them? Not sure, but one of the byproducts might be called SC 6. The SC is short for SportsCenter, a highlight show ESPN has long featured. But the "6" will offer up talking heads Jemele Hill and Michael Smith. They used to be on something called "His and Hers". Evidently, the powers that be are trying to repackage basically the same product and get a ratings boost. Hey, Jemele and Michael, Bud and Lou, Stan and Ollie -- whatever. They are what they are, or were, and there ain't no changing the spots on those leopards. But this is what happens when a network stretches itself too thin, while trying to report on the same amount of sports worth paying attention to. The "6"? Nobody seems to know for sure what that denotes, but put a "deep" in front of it, and it might just be what the network does to this show when the ratings inevitably plummet after a year or two.

See the amazing Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. See Russell leading the league in scoring. See him put up 30, 40, maybe 50 points. See him and his teammates trash talk former teammate Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors when they came to visit OKC. See Russell and Co. lose the game by 20.

And that's the thing. While Westbrook is so busy putting on a one man show and racking up his personal stats, that necessarily means his teammates on the floor aren't contributing all that much. Worse, if they come to overly depend on him, it will be to the team's detriment. No one player, regardless of how super-talented he may be, is ever going to win a championship in a team sport. Michael Jordan wouldn't have won squat if not for Scottie Pippen and Co. pitching in. Nor would Magic of the showtime Lakers. He had Kareem and Worthy. Lebron couldn't win until he teamed up with D-Wade and Bosh. Even in Cleveland today, he's got a worthy cast of supporting characters. The GS Warriors have a 3-headed monster, with able role players as well. Westbrook can talk all the trash he wants, be he and his Thunder will continue to go down to superior team oriented squads like the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs until he gets the rest of his teammates more involved. So while he makes the highlight reels, he's also making a fool of himself in a larger sense. And let's face it. For whatever reason, the Thunder let guard James Hardin get away from them a couple years back. He's become an MVP candidate and certainly one of the top 5 players in the league. Then Durant took a hike. Maybe dear Russell should get the message good players don't want to be on the same team with him. Either that, or change deodorants. Something....

The once proud Detroit Red Wings have thudded into the basement of the NHL's Eastern Conference. Their long run of playoff appearances appears to finally be over. Know what's really strange? Out of the 16 teams in that conference, only one has a losing record. How the heck can that be, you say? Well, this is what happens when the league adapts a politically correct scoring system. Teams are given points for games they ultimately lose. Like so many other wimpy sports these days, EVERYBODY'S has to be a winner. No criticizing allowed and nobody stinks, although they really do. Like the Red Wings. And it doesn't look like they're going to get much better any year soon.

Their coach, Jeff Blashill, successful at the minor league level, finally got his chance at the big leagues. Only to inherit a team in serious decline. Poor devil. Meanwhile, former coach Mike Babcock, who enjoyed much success with the Wings, including hoisting Lord Stanley's cup, bailed to the Toronto Maple Leafs. And after being terrible for so long, the Leafs are on the rebound, while Babcock is back home in Canada, no doubt much more happy. So guess who got the best of that deal?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The OJ Simpson debacle

Many moons ago, when yours truly was just beginning to try his hand at this on-line sports journalism gig (sometimes referred to as a "blog" by the heathen infidels), a supreme being (sometimes called an "editor") sat me down and laid out a few ground rules. Thou shalts and thou shalt nots. One never knows about editors. Like other all-present powers, they may or may not be checking up on you at any point in time. But it's usually a good idea to assume the all-seeing eye is looking over your shoulder -- always. Get out of line and -- WHAM -- off to the woodshed you go for a proper thrashing. Been there, done that, and no thanks, it's not much fun.

Besides the obvious, such as staying away from gross profanity, and most things ethnic, religious, or political, one of the biggies was to credit one's sources if and when one kinda sorta "borrowed" somebody else's work. That said, noted scribes Michael McCann and L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated recently penned an article regarding OJ Simpson's possible release from prison later this year. If any of the following just happens to overlap with their fine product, I indeed give credit to McCann and Wertheim for at the very least inspiration.

Take that, Boss, wherever you are. And you can put that dadburned switch away for another day, thank you very much.

Certainly we all remember the trial Mr. Simpson went through back in 1995. It was hard to miss. Though the majority of the public to this day likely feels he literally got away with murder, I know for at least a legal fact OJ was innocent. How do I know this? Because the jury said so. They heard all the evidence and testimony and rendered a verdict. If one is to believe in the old adage of "innocent until proven guilty", then it follows that a defendant not convicted must still be innocent. But we also know it doesn't quite work that way. One charged, a defendant is never innocent again. At best, they can get an "acquittal" and be considered "not-guilty". Such was the case with OJ. So like it or not -- he walked.

At that point, he pretty much had it made. He could live in sunny Florida, where state statutes protected his residence(s) from forfeiture due to the civil suit he would lose to the families of the victims, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, two years later. Also, his NFL pension, roughly $300,000 a year, couldn't be touched either. I don't know about you, but I dare say most could get by quite comfortably on that amount of money, and Florida's not exactly a bad place to be "grounded" to. Lots of things to do year round.

On the matter of the civil case, it defied logic in a way. How could a jury find him culpable of "wrongful death" when a previous jury had already declared he hadn't killed anybody? True, the burden of proof in a civil trial is lower than that of a criminal trial, but still......

And then he screwed up -- big time. Off to Las Vegas he went with some "friends" to repossess some paraphernalia he thought rightfully belonged to him. In the process, one of his cohorts brandished a gun, the cops were called, and just like that OJ was jammed up again. This time he wasn't so fortunate.

He was found guilty of conspiracy, burglary, robbery, kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon. Heavy duty stuff. To no one's great surprise, the sentencing judge "threw the book" at him, giving him a whopping 33 years in prison. Many perceived this as "payback" for his earlier "non-crime" and were fine with it.

Thing is, nobody was kidnapped and somebody besides OJ had the gun. But the powers that be were on a mission to slam dunk Simpson and they knew the court of public opinion would agree with them. And so it came to pass.

One should note that prior to this, OJ's record was essentially clean. Had another citizen without the pseudo-baggage of the previous high profile trial done the exact same thing at that room in Vegas, he/she likely would have received a much lesser sentence. Maybe a few years, but certainly not 33.

OJ will turn 70 before he goes before the parole board this time around, and will have served 9 years at that time.

It should also be noted that in a prior hearing in 2013, he was already paroled on all other charges but the burglary/robbery aspects. He's also been a model prisoner while on the inside. Nary a violation or "write-up".

From a strictly objective point of view, it could be argued that 9 years in prison is more than enough for a robbery/burglary, which is the only thing keeping him in.

While the parole board certainly possesses the power of discretion, and can pretty much do what it pleases with any prisoner, again, for an ordinary citizen this would seem to be a slam dunk hearing. Of course he should get out. The 33 years was ridiculous in the first place, given the nature of the actual offenses.

But obviously, OJ Simpson is no ordinary case. No doubt, the parole board is acutely aware that if they let him out, there will be a huge public outcry of protest. The media will zero in on it and scream foul. He got away with murder again, they and the masses will claim.

Yet that's not quite right, and never has been, for the factual reasons listed above.

It remains to be seen just what the board will do, but one can bet that as the time for a decision draws near, the drums will get louder and louder and the pressure immense on those poor devils that actually have to make the call.

Will they do what is logically the correct thing? Or will they cave to the outside forces that will be at a fever pitch in protest?

In concluding their article, McCann and Wertheim offered a truism that can not be denied. Even if Orenthal James Simpson is released from custody, he'll never be totally free.

Perhaps somewhere in there, proper justice will wind up being served after all.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Tiger Woods. Reality check

Eldrick Tont Woods has withdrawn from the tournament at Pebble Beach citing "back spasms". Again.

That could raise a few questions to an inquisitive and, hopefully, objective mind.

First, were they real or faked? In other words, did he actually experience an involuntary physical contraction of his back muscles which kept him from playing on -- or -- was it just a convenient method of saving face when he continues to play so poorly?

Only Tiger knows for sure. Thing is, like your garden variety headache, back spasms (particularly after they've abated) are undetectable to the finest of medical technology. No X-Ray or MRI is going to discover whether they ever existed in the first place. So we are left with his word only. Most wish to believe him, but this certainly wouldn't be the first time the good Mr. Woods has, shall we say, stretched the truth a tad. Ask Elin.

Another question would be thus: Why is it that Tiger could "gut it out" on a "broken leg" back in the day to win a major championship, but now something as minor as back spasms totally incapacitates him? And hey, nobody walks mile after mile on a truly broken leg, so that was a fishy story even back then.

It's hard to dispute the preferential treatment Woods continues to receive. No other professional athlete in any other sport would be afforded the same. For background, consider Woods hasn't won a tournament in about 3 years, nor a major in roughly a decade. Further, he can't even seem to make a cut these days. Not even close.

In an NFL player turned in the same performance, he would long have been cut from the team.

The same goes for an NHL player. Non-productive for too long means outta here.

In the NBA, such a woeful player, for whatever reasons, would either be dismissed or find himself in the development league or overseas hoping to catch on.

Major league baseball would send him down to the minors to hopefully get his act together.

But in all cases, such an athlete, regardless of how good he once was, would no longer be allowed to play with the "big boys", at least temporarily. So how and why is it that Woods gets to keep on competing in PGA tournaments? Shouldn't he be delegated to the lesser Nationwide Tour (minor leagues) until he can prove he's worthy of competing with the best players in the world?

For that matter, if this horrible slump he's in doesn't improve some time soon, it would seem reasonable to question his very credentials as a PGA player. Only so many are allowed "cards" which enable them to compete. The question then becomes -- how bad does he have to get before they yank his ticket and make him go back through qualifying school? Oh, that's right. He never had to slog his way through it in the first place. Unlike other American players, he was given a pass.

Being ranked so low, not even in the top 500, if Eldrick was a pro tennis player, he'd find himself served up as cannon fodder to a top seed in an early round of a tennis major.

Only Tiger, and only in golf, is allowed to keep getting away with this sham.

The truly amazing thing is his legions of loyal fans (the media) continue to bombard golf fans with every and any Tiger "update" they can dig up. See Tiger drive. See Tiger chip. See Tiger putt. See Tiger 15 strokes behind. And of course, there will inevitably be a Tiger interview. Reporters hang on his every word after yet another disastrous day on the course. Nowadays, pitifully, a cast of thousands consider a "tweet" from Tiger as having the same impact and importance as if Moses just came down from the mountain with another set of tablets. They can't wait for this stuff, no matter how trivial it is. Does anybody with a lick of self respect really care what he ate for breakfast or how his practice rounds went? If that's how dumb-downed and hero-worshiping so many people have become, mankind is in bigger trouble than we thought.

But I'll just bet you a nickel that, roughly a month from now, as the Masters approaches, the media will be circling their wagons to build the hype of Woods playing again at Augusta. Never mind he not only won't be a favorite, and the longest of long shots to win. Also never mind it would be miraculous if he even survived the cut after two rounds of play -- if he can even make it THAT far, without those pesky back spasms or some other mysterious malady forcing him off the course prematurely -- real or fabricated.

The trumpets will sound and the media will swarm all over Eldrick Tont Woods with their cameras and microphones.

Given his atrocious play (and what else should matter?) of late, it is absolutely confounding why so much attention continues to be payed to what appears to be a hopelessly washed up former great.

In that respect, he is one of a kind indeed.

But that doesn't make it right.......