Monday, June 30, 2008

My Latest Favorite Song

Songs like this one are dangerous to my hearing, because I have a tendency to want to play them over and over, very loud. Once upon a time, it drove my parents and brothers crazy. Now, it drives my sons crazy. The only alternative is headphones, hence the danger to my hearing. Tinnitus City.

The song in question here is "Acid Jazz Singer," by The Fratellis. I bought the album a couple of weeks ago, but haven't had a lot of time to listen to it. But I loaded it onto my MP3 player, heard it during my run on Saturday, and the rest is history.

Here's one version, with good audio:

Here's a version where you can actually see the band, but the audio isn't quite as good:

The album is very good, by the way. I've seen it priced as low as $7.99, and it's a bargain at that price.

Scotty Nguyen - King of Poker

The five-day H.O.R.S.E. championship did not disappoint. As evidenced by the list below, the tournament lived up to all expectations, with more than 40 World Series bracelets represented in the final sixteen. You had red-hot Erick Lindgren and Daniel Negreanu, you had former Main Event winner Huck Seed, you had Phil Ivey and Barry Greenstein, who would probably be the consensus choices for best all-around player at this moment, and you had 74-year old Doyle Brunson, who is only the most famous poker player of all time. Not bad.

And you had the champion, Scotty Nguyen. Nguyen is one of the greatest stories that you will find among today's poker greats. A native of Vietnam, Nguyen came to the United States at 14, and ended up being expelled from school for spending too much time around poker rooms. But as he was dealing those games, he picked up the goods - and soon realized that, as dealer, he knew more about poker than just anyone in the room. It was time to start playing. His extended family still lives in Vietnam, and Nguyen sends a good portion of his winnings to them.

Nguyen's table demeanor is one of all-out aggression, featuring a frequently hilarious stream of non-stop patter. Every sentence is punctuated by "baby" (as in "you gonna call, baby? you do, you gonna lose, baby"), but always with a smile on his face (and a beer in his hand, which is definitely one of those "don't do this [drink and gamble] at home" kind of things). In short, Nguyen is almost impossible not to like, much closer in style to Mike Matusow than he is to Phil Hellmuth, who is openly disdainful of his opponents at the table, and who thinks he is robbed from every title he doesn't win.

This is Nguyen's fifth bracelet, and his first since 2001. And even though Nguyen won the Main Event in 1998, I suspect that the Chip Reese Trophy he received for winning this tournament will become his most prized possession.

Final Standings: Top Sixteen

Scotty Nguyen $1,989,120
Mike DeMichele $1,243,200
Erick Lindgren $781,440
Matt Glantz $568,320
Lyle Berman $444,000
Barry Greenstein $355,200
Huck Seed $284,160
Patrick Bueno $230,880
Ralph Perry $177,600
Raymond Davis $177,600
David Bach $159,840
Phil Ivey $159,840
Daniel Negreanu $142,080
Joey Michael $142,080
Andrew Bloch $124,320
Doyle Brunson $124,320

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tim Lincecum

Got a chance to watch nearly all of the Giants-A's game tonight, and it was a classic, with San Francisco prevailing 1-0 in a game where they only got 2 hits. The Giants young phenom Tim Lincecum won over the A's Justin Duchscherer, who had a four game winning streak snapped, and in losing only lowered his ERA to 1.91, to lead the majors.

But Lincecum is really something, and what is amazing is that when he's out there, he looks like he's about 12 years old. And small - I was thinking while watching him tonight that in terms of stature he reminded me of Ron Guidry, and sure enough both are "just" 5'11".

Now that the Barry era is over, and with a good draft behind us this year, it looks like the Giants might actually have some promise, and Lincecum will be the linchpin of whatever they're able to pull off in the next few years.

But he's only 24, he's pitched a lot of innings, and he looks like a damn kid out there. Nervous time.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm A Winner!

The Starbucks I stop by on my way to work when I'm in the mood for something other than regular coffee has a "Question of the Day" contest. If you answer the question correctly, you win an extra shot of espresso in whatever drink you've ordered.

For the first time, today I actually knew the answer to the question. I thought it was pretty easy, but knowing the answer dates me, and so I'll repeat it here (answer in the comments section).

What two disaster movies released in 1974 were known to Hollywood Insiders as "Shake and Bake?"

Jeff's Jukebox: B-2

B-2: If I Had A Hammer, Trini Lopez

My dad was big on Trini Lopez when I was growing up, and this was his favorite song of Trini's. I may be wrong, but I think some old, scratchy Lopez records are sitting in one of his closets somewhere.

Video Credit: Vinylmorpher Gold

Thursday, June 26, 2008

H.O.R.S.E. Championship Underway

The event that is coming close to replacing the Main Event as the most coveted bracelet at the World Series of Poker (in terms of prestige, if not actual cash) is now underway - the World Championship of H.O.R.S.E.

H.O.R.S.E. consists of five games that are played on an alternating basis until the final table, when Hold 'Em becomes the game of choice:

- Texas Hold 'Em
- Omaha (8 or better)
- Razz (lowball)
- Seven-card stud
- Seven-card stud (8 or better)

With an amazing or absurd (depending on your point of view) buy-in of $50,000, the game has a short field (less than 150 this year), and invariably becomes a battle featuring nearly all of the most prominent professionals in the game today - Hellmuth, Brunson, Negraneu, Matusow, Lederer, Greenstein, Lindgren, Ivey, you name it...they're probably there. Last year the tournament was won by Freddie Deeb, and the year before that was captured by the late Chip Reese. The trophy awarded to the champion is now named for Reese, who died in December 2007.

In short, the winner of this tournament has a legitimate case for calling themselves the best player in the world. You've got to be great at all five games, you've got to be able to shift your strategy on a moment's notice, and you've got to be able to read the best players in the world. In other words, it's poker at its very best.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

25 Years Ago Tonight

I stumbled onto this one quite by accident, but the coincidence was too much to ignore. Great song.

Exile in Guyville: Liz Phair's Unruly Teenager

Since I've been writing about 30-year old albums this year (with at least one more to come), it seems only fair that I say something about Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair's landmark album, which turns 15 this month. And thanks to Sheila for reminding me that this was something well worth writing about.

You should read her entire post, but here's an excerpt:

But Exile in Guyville was a singular event, one of those albums that came along and expressed a truth about a certain KIND of person, in a certain KIND of environment ... Not all women are going to relate to the images of womanhood that Liz Phair exposes in Exile in Guyville, but if you do? You're hooked for good - because there's not a lot of other women out there doing what Phair did at that time. It's a messy and complicated and beautiful woman - I don't know, I'm thinking of someone like Chrissie Hynde, who seems to embody the same type of woman ... except Liz Phair does it in a mid-90s context, as opposed to 70s and 80s. Liz Phair is strictly Generation X, and so am I - poster children for the cliches of our generation. We're about the same age. We were in Chicago at the same time. Hanging out (in some cases) in the same crowd. The album came out as I was going through it, so listening to it for the first time was one of those uncanny "Holy sh*t, did she read my diary??" moments.

My perspective on the album is different, because my circumstances were/are different. With some exceptions, I've never been someone who goes straight to the lyric sheet of an album. There isn't one on Exile in Guyville, but I didn't go out of my way to figure out what she was singing about, and whether I could relate to it or not. It's true that some of the songs were pretty easy to figure out - "F*ck and Run," for instance, or "Girls! Girls! Girls!," and a couple of others (it's hard, for example, to miss a line like "I want to f*ck you like a dog and make you like it..."). But Phair's attitude is evident in the tone of every song, and in the self-assured way she sings them. From the first time you hear the album, you can just tell that this is an artist with the goods - someone who will be around for a generation.

In her post, Sheila makes reference to the fact that a lot of Phair fans find her later work to be a betrayal of the promise of Exile in Guyville (that discussion also takes place in some of the comments to her post). That kind of thinking has always driven me batsh*t crazy, not only because I think it's dead wrong, but also because I think in many cases an accusation of "betrayal" says more about the listener than it does the artist. It's only natural for fans of an artist to gravitate towards one of their works, but I've never understood the mindset that results in disdain for the rest of that artist's other works just because it doesn't quite measure up to the favorite.

Liz Phair, released in 2002, may be the all-time best example of the phenomenon (others include Born in the USA, and Rilo Kiley's Under the Blacklight). The absolute venom with which the album was greeted upon its release was shocking (with some exceptions; Robert Christgau, for example, thought it was great); the general attitude seemed to be that Phair had somehow committed a crime by working with the same producers as Avril Lavigne. Well, I have a confession to make, because Liz Phair is my favorite album of hers. I simply can't fathom why people would not like that album, and it breaks my heart a little that it didn't make her a huge star. Without question, it is the most underappreciated album of the decade. So be it. But to bring this post back to where it began, I also can't say anything but wonderful things about the debut. While I really do believe that much of Phair's later work can stand proudly next to the debut, there's no question that she never again captured the moment as she did on Exile in Guyville.

Happy Birthday!

Amen (or, death to cell phones)

Michele at A Big Victory writes a great open letter addressing the lack of common courtesy and decency on display at just about every public event one attends in this day and age.

At some point in the future, I really believe that people will come to the conclusion that cell phones have done more damage than good in modern society. The only solution to the problem that Michele describes is a "cell phone check," akin to the coat checks of yesteryear. Just take them away at the beginning of the event, and give them back at the end. If "social networking" is more important than the event, then you probably should not have come in the first place.

I realize that cell phones are just one manifestation of the decay in public behavior that seems to be advancing at an alarming rate (and I also realize that I sound like an old curmudgeon for writing all of this), but you have to start somewhere.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Vote Early, Vote Often, Burp A Lot

I can't decide whether this is the dumbest thing I've ever seen, or the most ingenious cola marketing campaign of all time. Pure McCain Cola is also available, as is Capitol Hillary Cola.

I can't see myself paying $15 for a six-pack of cola, even for the novelty value (and the potential that you'll be the proud owner of a collector's item). But somebody appears to be buying the stuff.

Jeff's Jukebox: B-1

B-1: "When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," The Platters

A song that is particularly appropriate today, as Sacramento and the Central Valley is covered by a layer of smoke from the numerous wildfires currently raging. Driving into work this morning, many cars had their headlights on, despite the sun being out and there not being a cloud in the sky. Think of it as "under a blood orange sky," and you get the idea.

In any event, this is a great, wonderful song. I think the first time I heard it may have been in American Graffiti.

Monday, June 23, 2008

From the NFL Wire

Since fantasy football is just around the corner and I have a title to defend, I thought it might be a good idea to peruse the NFL wire, just to make sure that I'm abreast of all the current developments - you know, important stuff like who is playing for whom this year.

Here are some of the things I learned:

June 23: Panthers WR Jarrett pleads guilty to DWI charge

June 22: Jevon Kearse charged with DUI

June 20: DA: Bills' Lynch will plead guilty to hit and run

June 20: Woman involved in Pacman fight is found dead in NY

June 19: NY Giants RB Bradshaw jailed in southwest Virginia

June 18: Raiders' Javon Walker releases statement on robbery

June 17: Seahawks' Tatupu enters not guilty plea to DUI charge

June 16: Falcons reserve safety charged with DUI

June 13: Titans receiver faces gun charge at airport

On second thought, maybe I'll just wait until training camp starts.

On Carlin

Other pieces on George Carlin, all worth seeking out:

Undercover Black Man


Matthew Caverhill

Steven Rubio

Ken Levine

Tom the Dog

The House Next Door

Ann Althouse

Alan Sepinwall

"I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death."

Classic Carlin II

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

Classic Carlin

"The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done."

George Carlin R.I.P.

The death of George Carlin is a little bit of a punch in the gut. He's one of those people who, when they die, you think to yourself, "Wait a minute, that can't be right. George Carlin has always been around, and he's always going to be around." I suppose it isn't that shocking; Carlin has always been known to have a bad ticker, and it's not as if he was the fitness king or anything.

Along with I'm sure must be thousands of people today, I'm posting a couple of his routines, the first being the famous "baseball and football" comparison. It's been around for so long that it's almost a cliche, but think of it as a great rock 'n roll song from the sixties that still sounds as good today as it did on the day it was released.

And then, a bit that is most definitely not safe for work - Carlin's commentary on why white people should never try to sing the blues.

My all-time favorite Carlin routine is "Shoot," from his AM/FM album. You can buy it on, and it's well worth the 99 cents it will cost you. It's Carlin's thoughts on sh*t, and when I heard for the first time at age 13, I thought it was just about the funniest thing I'd ever heard in my life. My friends Ron and Richard were mortified that I insisted on playing it for my parents, but I told them not to worry, that they'd think it was funny. And they did, because it was.

Carlin's HBO programs were invariably brilliant, if not always hysterically funny. In recent years, his social commentary had come to be just as valuable as the funny stuff, and when he was on, he was able to combine the two into something that transcended both comedy and social commentary. Because of his history, he could get away with vicious routines attacking political correctness that in lesser hands might have gotten someone banned from performing altogether.

What's really sad is that we'll never get to hear what he would have had to say about this presidential election. I'm sure it would have been worth staying up for.
He was one of the great ones. R.I.P.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Baseball Project - Unlikely Smash?

Twenty four hours ago I had never heard of The Baseball Project, and now their album - due to be released on July 8 - is, at least for me, the most-awaited album of 2008. Combining two of my passions in life - rock music and baseball - Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails includes songs with titles like "Gratitude (for Curt Flood)," "Satchel Paige Said," "Fernando," "Sometimes I Dream of Willie Mays," and a song that is destined to become immortal, "Ted F*cking Williams."

With respect to the latter song - if you don't understand at first glance why a song with that title would be such a treat, then maybe this isn't the album for you. Or, perhaps you should do a little research on the legendary Williams first, and then listen to the song. Or, just listen - it's a hoot, a rollicking rocker with a terrific sense of humor. And then look it up.

The Baseball Project is the brainchild of Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Scott McCaughey (the "fourth R.E.M."), and Linda Pitmon. I can't wait for Volume 1, and I can only hope that means a Volume 2 won't be far behind.

Stream the album here.

The band's MySpace page is here.

Steve Wynn's site is here.

Batter up!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Springsteen at Madison Square Garden? It Doesn't Get Much Better Than That

I guess you could say that I burned myself out with all the golf and basketball posts over the past week. But when inspiration is fleeting, one can always find it in the work of Bruce Springsteen. So now seems as good a time as any to get back to my accounts of the Springsteen concerts I’ve been lucky enough to attend. For those who can’t wait for this little project to end, take heart – there’s only two to go!

Show #8, June 2000
Madison Square Garden
New York City

This account is going to be a little different from those in the past, in that it quotes liberally (and verbatim) from an e-mail I wrote to friends shortly after I returned from the concert. After all, it’s not every day that you fly across the country to see a concert – at least not for me. This was the only trip I’ve made to New York City in my lifetime, and it was all a little overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong; it was about as much fun as you can pack into a two-day period – but when you live in a city where the tallest building isn’t as high as every building you can see around you for blocks around, it sort of puts things in perspective.

The year 2000 was the year I turned 40. In an e-mail exchange early in the year, shortly after Springsteen had announced a two-week stand at Madison Square Garden to close out the E Street Band’s triumphant reunion tour, I had joked with my friend Craig that we should treat ourselves to a 40th birthday present and go to one of the shows. As it turned out, since Craig works for a major airline, this was not as difficult as it might have seemed at first glance. When he and his family visited Sacramento during the spring break holiday, he told me, “just say the word, and we can do this.” I didn’t take much convincing.

Because I was flying on a family and friends pass, it made the most sense to fly direct to Kennedy Airport out of San Francisco. This brings us to vignette #1:

Upon advice from friends in San Francisco, I arrived at SFO on Thursday a mere six hours prior to my flight, the expected traffic never having materialized. After a couple of drinks in the bar and reading three magazines from cover to cover and doing the SF Chronicle crossword, there were only 2 hours left, which were somewhat nerve-wracking - because I was flying on a Friends/Family pass, I was designated standby. Fortunately, because he works in their corporate office my friend Craig was able to track ticket sales to the last minute, and had sent me an e-mail earlier that day saying that I had a "90% chance" of getting on the flight, but probably in coach." After checking in, and waiting until everyone on the flight boarded, and then waiting for other standbys to be called, I was literally the last person they let on the plane (we did have contingency plans, but all of which included a changeover - this was a direct flight). And I made it in first class - which I could easily get used to. And flying a 767 is not the same as one of the little puddle-jumpers they use for LA-Sacramento flights; this is a real plane well-equipped to handle such things as turbulence. So, after my complimentary champagne and cocktail, and my "midnight snack" of pizza with sun-dried tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms (and glass of cabernet, of course) I settled down for a little nap in my reclining chair with footrest (having declined to watch a movie on the offered personal DVD player). Oh, and I mustn't forget the hot towels to freshen up every now and then.

I have to say, nearly 8 years later, that the wait was really excruciating. I didn’t do a lot of flying in those days, and when I did it was not a long flight. Having crossed the country numerous times now in my current job, I’ve gotten used to flying, but back then it was way down on the list of my favorite things.

After the red-eye flight, I landed at Kennedy at 6:30 a.m. on a Friday morning (the concert was that night). Which brings us to vignette #2:

Craig picked me up at JFK at 630 am, and we headed to our accommodations - the apartment that his employer rents in the City. It was on the 48th floor of a 72-story apartment building, on E. 38th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue. About 1600 square feet, with a "great room" consisting of a half circle of all windows, overlooking the United Nations building, the East River (Queens and Brooklyn in the distance), and the financial district to the south.

Needless to say, this was an amazing place. I probably didn’t know well enough to appreciate it properly.

After freshening up, we were afoot - walked to Grand Central Station, through Rockefeller Plaza to see the Today Show Concert (Sting), and then through Central Park and up to 5th Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After 3-4 hours there, we cut through the park to Central Park West, walked to Broadway and then down through Times Square, Herald Square, a quick lunch at a diner, by the Empire State building and other sights, and I made my only real "touristy" purchase, a Late Show with David Letterman t-shirt, at the CBS Store next to the Ed Sullivan Theater where they film the show. Then, back to the Apartment for a much-needed afternoon nap. Around 6 p.m., we cabbed it to have a quick dinner at the Carnegie Deli, and then walked down to Madison Square Garden for the Springsteen concert, which of course was the reason for the trip in the first place.

I should also mention that it was really, really hot that weekend. And New York City hot isn’t the same thing as Sacramento hot – there really is something to that old “but it’s dry heat!” cliché.

Of course, the show was great, and seeing him at Madison Square Garden just added to the greatness. I remember getting there really early; in fact, we must have been among the first people in the arena to take our seats. They were the best seats I’ve ever had at a Springsteen concert – not on the floor, but very close to the stage, close enough that you could see everything perfectly without having to resort either to binoculars or the big screens. The highlight of the early part of the show was “American Skin (41 Shots),” which he had just started playing a couple of months beforehand. Sitting in front of us that night were three firemen who were joined by one of their sisters, and I remember one of the firemen being so offended at the song (it had gotten quite a bit of notoriety) that he stood with his back to the stage during the entire song. I also remember that by the time the night was over, for the first time I really understood the phrase “stinking drunk on beer.” Even though they all kept their faculties (more or less), by the end of the evening they smelled like a keg left out overnight after a frat party. And when the first notes of “Jungleland” hit, we got to witness one of those classic “this is the greatest moment of my life!” moments that you only see when someone has had, oh…9 or 10 beers or so. It was great, and just added to the atmosphere.

In truth, the show was really one long highlight – the heart of that tour, which never changed from night to night, was the Youngstown/Murder Inc./Badlands/Out in the Street/Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out sequence, and I don't know how it could have sounded better than it did on this night. And “Point Blank?” “Dead Man Walkin’?” Wow. But the best moment may have been Bruce’s hilarious monologue during the middle of “Light of Day,” during which he played a bit with the New York City crowd:

“New York City !....New York City !....but everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve seen people lost in confusion....I´ve seen people lost in loneliness on the subways....I´ve seen people lost in the wilderness of the concrete jungle....I´ve seen people lost in envy of the Jersey Devils winning the Stanley Cup....I´ve seen people lost at the Statue of Liberty which is actually in New Jersey, come to think of it....I´ve seen people lost in the New York Giants memorabilia, who actually play in New Jersey....should be called the Jersey Giants, baby....I´ll show you some controversy !....I´ve seen people lost to the strains of the theme song ´New York, New York´ ....actually sung by a man from New Jersey....”

But that wasn’t the end of the trip; we had one more full day in the city, and made the most of it. Which brings us to our final vignette:

Saturday, we had a leisurely stroll down to Greenwich Village where we explored used book stores and had brunch, and then walked back up the piers to around the Javits Center when we decided that a cab sounded like a great idea (it was hot both days - 90s and very humid). We went through the Museum of Natural History, and then explored the Upper West Side for a few hours before heading back down Broadway to have drinks and dinner. And then, an early Sunday morning flight back, again in first class (and this time I took the DVD player), with mimosas and a full-blown Sunday brunch. All in all it was a wonderful time, and probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience (though I hope not).

I took quite a few pictures on this trip, and in many of them are the twin towers of the World Trade Center. In retrospect, that was probably the most touristy thing I did during that weekend. But, hey – what better way to prove that you were in New York City than to frame as many pictures as you can around the World Trade Center? But I’m glad I did.

To date, it still counts as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but someday I’ll make it back. And next time, my wife Debra will be with me.

Setlist: Code of Silence/The Ties That Bind/Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street/Two Hearts/Darkness on the Edge of Town/Point Blank/American Skin (41 Shots)/The Promised Land/Youngstown/Murder Inc./Badlands/Out in the Street/Tenth Avenue Freeze-out/Human Touch/Dead Man Walkin'/Meeting Across the River/Jungleland/Light of Day/Hungry Heart/Born to Run/Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)/Thunder Road/If I Should Fall Behind/Land of Hope and Dreams

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"To Tim, All Our Love, God Bless, We're Gonna Miss You"

Tiger's Injury

The news is both shocking and unsurprising at the same time. For it to keep Tiger out of the year's remaining major tournaments, not to mention the Ryder Cup, you know it has to be pretty bad. No doubt there will be some speculation about what this does to his chances of catching Jack Nicklaus' major championship record. There may even be some who question the wisdom of Tiger playing in last week's U.S. Open.

But what it really does is take the legend of Tiger Woods and add to it a chapter even more extraordinary than those which came before. I mean, come on - you mean to tell me that all those months he was playing with a damaged ACL, and then at the U.S. Open was also dealing with a double stress fracture of his left tibia?

The mind reels. Well, guys on the PGA Tour, here is your chance - two major tournaments, with the presumptive favorite at home nursing an injury. Better take advantage of the opportunity now, because I've got this strange feeling that Tiger might want to celebrate the year of his return to competitive golf with that Grand Slam that's been eluding him for so long.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Oh My

This has turned into the basketball equivalent of Foreman-Frazier. The only thing missing is Angelo Dundee standing on the sidelines screaming at the referees, "STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!"

Wake Up, Mitch!

Classic moment in the 3rd quarter, with the cameras catching Mitch Kupchak mid-yawn.

Funny - I'm usually wide awake during horror movies.

This is pretty amazing. Right I feel sorry for the Lakers fans, if not the players themselves (after all, you have to draw the line somewhere). Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson have got it right. They haven't used the "q word," but their comments clearly imply that the Lakers have quit out there.

It should be a rough day for the team in the L.A. Times tomorrow.

Stifling Rumors

It is NOT true that the Los Angeles Police Department issued an All Points Bulletin for Kobe Bryant at halftime of Game 6 of the NBA Finals. This is nothing but a vicious rumor, obviously started by someone with no sense of propriety.

In response to this irresponsible rumor, representatives of Mr. Bryant have assured Jerry Buss and Phil Jackson that Mr. Bryant, known in some quarters as "MVP," will return in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, search parties have reported no progress in locating the games of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol.

Jeff's Jukebox: A-8

A-8: "White Bird," It's A Beautiful Day

This isn't the kind of song that I normally go for (it doesn't get more "trippy hippie" than this, does it?), but there's a story behind it. When I was growing up, my family always spent a week in July at South Lake Tahoe, spending the days doing things like swimming in the frigid water and playing minature golf. The nights were another story - the adults would head over to the casinos to make their contributions for a few hours, so my brothers and I would stay with Grandma, whose primary assignment was to make sure that we got to bed at the appointed time.

The cabin was nice, but not large, and it had no television. After a while we started bringing our own TV, but the reception was so lousy that it didn't really make a difference. But that first year, 1969, it was strictly radio time, and the only station that got decent reception was on the FM side of the dial. And one of the songs they played in heavy rotation that summer was "White Bird." At the time, I thought it was the most exotic thing I'd ever heard, but there was also something about it which filled me with a vague sense of dread. I was only 9, but it seemed to me that there was danger in the song, and something about it ingrained itself into my mind.

To this day, hearing the song pulls me back to that era, to the point where I can see every nook and cranny of that cabin - what it looked like, what it smelled like, and the sound of the pine trees, just outside, whistling in the wind.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Worth 1000 Words, U.S. Open Edition

(Los Angeles Times photo)

Tiger Woods, Your U.S. Open Champion

As excruciating as it was to rely on intermittent Internet updates, in the long run it was probably good for my health, not to mention my sanity, that I didn’t watch the playoff on television. After the weekend, I’m not sure I could have withstood that level of drama. But when things moved to the 18th hole with Tiger trailing by one, I had to watch – and joined a handful of others to commandeer the one office in our building with a working television. Fortunately for the sake of our incursion, the owner of said office was at home waiting for air conditioner repair.

And what did we witness? Just some normal ho-hum stuff from Tiger. What’s that? I need to birdie the 18th hole of the U.S. Open for the second consecutive day just to stay alive in this thing? No problem.

It will take a while to put this triumph in perspective, but over time it may come to be appreciated as Tiger’s greatest and most impressive victory. As I said a couple of days ago, here was a guy who hadn’t play a round of competitive golf since April, and one who was prone to sharp pains in his surgically repaired knee at any given time. If nothing else, viewers got to hear Johnny Miller talk about torque more often than one would have thought possible. And yes, on a U.S. Open course, designed to punish less than a great shot and send the maker of a bad one through golf’s gates of Hades.

And yet, another win, in compelling and especially dramatic fashion. Some strange shots, some inexplicable decisions, some ill-timed temper tantrums (sometimes I wonder if Tiger realizes that he loses fans when he does the kind of stuff that he pulled on 18 yesterday?), and of course, some drama for the ages. Tiger’s back nine on Saturday was not perfect, but it is right up there with Nicklaus’ back nine at Augusta in 1986 for sheer drama – not to mention historical importance.

It will be interesting to see what happens now. Just how bad is the knee? Will we see Tiger at Royal Birkdale for the Open in July? Right now, nothing he does would surprise me.

The Horror, The Horror

In case you were ever wondering what the trailer would have looked like if Caddyshack had been promoted as a horror movie, take a peak here.

Further evidence that you can accomplish just about anything in a trailer. A movie trailer, that is.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

NBA Finals Game 5 Report

The Lakers won.

There really isn't much more to say. Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson said all that really needed to be said, at the end of the game. If you weren't watching, you'll have go back and find the tape.

UPDATE: How ironic. In the post-game interview, Kobe makes note of the Celtics' advantage in free throws.


Tiger's Agony and Ecstasy

As much as I try to avoid using the word "quintessential," I think today we may have witnessed the quintessential U.S. Open round. Final day, pressure unlike that which most of these golfers have faced in their lifetimes, and a course that the USGA overseers have ensured will forgive nothing. Survival is the name of the game.

It was far less dramatic than yesterday, primarily because Tiger just couldn't pull it all together. And that just about says it all - the best player in the world, wounded from an injury, for whatever reason lacking the mental focus that sustains him 9 days out of ten, still manages to make the playoff. By making a putt on the 72nd hole. Needless to say, such is the stuff that legends are made.

So now Tiger will face, in this corner, Rocco "Rocky" Mediate, who now stands a good chance to play Jack Fleck against Tiger's Ben Hogan. That's not entirely fair to Mediate, who after all has had a good career, but I think it is a fair representation of the odds against him tomorrow.

The amazing thing about Tiger's round today is that he did just about everything imaginable to give it away - the most striking thing was not the physical issues, but rather the mental lapses. His play of the 13th hole was inexplicable; that was where he had a chance to wrap everything up, and through a bad choice almost gave everything away. But I have a feeling that he will be looking at some film tonight, and probably will be making some very different choices tomorrow.

But you've got to love Rocco - no one in the world thinks he has a chance tomorrow, so he is quite likely to go into the playoff with the perfect mind set - a la Lee Trevino vs. Jack Nicklaus in 1971. If Rocco pulls a fake snake out of his bag on the first tee, then make the bet right then.

Good stuff.

More Fathers

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Most Amazing Half Hour In Golf History?

You be the judge. When Tiger stepped up to the chip shot on 17, I was thinking to myself that he needed to stay within 2 of Westwood to have a chance tomorrow. Well, he managed to pull that one off, didn't he?

Tiger and Phil

"If you're the type of person who likes to compare, on Saturday Woods beat Mickelson on the 13th hole by six shots. On one leg."

- Gary Van Sickle, Sports Illustrated


There's Your Leader!

Who knows how long this one will remain up. Enjoy it while you can. I especially enjoy the incredulous tone in the voice of Johnny Miller at how Tiger has read the putt. I guess he knows what he's doing.

Tiger Woods - When Words Fail You

Saying that a third round of a U.S. Open was one of the greatest sports moments of all time is a little like saying that the 6th inning of a World Series game, or the 3rd quarter of a Super Bowl, made history. It just doesn't make sense to say something like that.

And yet - if there is a more dramatic moment in 2008 in the world of sports than what we witnessed today at Torrey Pines Golf Course, then it will likely be provided by Tiger Woods. Johnny Miller called him "the human highlight reel." Even Tiger himself seemed incredulous at what was happening. The simple fact of the matter is that, if you saw what happened today in a film, you'd snicker, thinking "that sort of sh*t just doesn't happen in real life."

You have to put this in perspective. Think what you will about the course setups of the USGA, but they are designed to award the last man standing. You are going to suffer on a U.S. Open course, whether you win, finish 40th, or miss the cut. You are one of the very best in the world at what you do, and this course will humble you.

So...Tiger had knee surgery in April. He has not played competitive golf since the Masters. He is in obvious pain on the course, if not agony. To finish would be a testament to his will and his ability. It is not possible for a human being to do what he did on the back nine this afternoon and evening. And yet, he did it. He leads the U.S. Open, heading into the final round. Were he healthy, people would be closing the books as we speak. But he is not healthy, and thus there is heavy drama heading into the final round. Lee Westwood is just the kind of guy that is unflappable enough to shine in this kind of moment. Geoff Ogilvy is lurking. Rocco Mediate is looking to make history.

My money is on Tiger.

(AP Photo)


No, not Ray "Boom Boom." Henry Mancini. Larry Aydlette has a nice appreciation up.

I actually have what I think is a pretty funny Mancini anecdote. The man himself was not involved, but...

My brother plays the violin, and when he was growing up played in a number of youth symphonies. The director of one of them had the memorable name of Joseph Monte de Rey, and he had the demeanor to match the name - in other words, he was a bit on the pompous side. So one year, the whole family is there attending one of their concerts, and as the program moves to its finale, "Monte" proudly and loudly exclaims, "and now, ladies and gentlemen, and tribute to one of the great American composers...Hank Mancini!

WTF...Hank Mancini!? Now think about it. Have you ever, in your entire life, heard anyone refer to Mr. Mancini as "Hank?" No, I didn't think so. Maybe his friends perhaps, of which Monte was most assuredly not one of, but in the public arena I can't recall a single time hearing "Hank" applied to Mancini.

It's a family joke that has lasted for decades. At any given moment, you might hear a conversation like this:

"So, what would you like to listen to during dinner?"

"Oh I don't know. How about some Hank Mancini?"

Tim Russert R.I.P.

John Althouse Cohen says, better than I ever could, why Tim Russert was so important and why he will be so missed.

Flag Day

Happy Flag Day.

(photo credit: son #1, taken at the Arizona Memorial, July 2006)

Friday, June 13, 2008

You've Got To Prove It All Night, Every Night

From Legend To Goat, All In 24 Hours

It reaches a point where you have to wonder whether it's getting out of hand. One day, you're the greatest coach in NBA history. The next day, you're to blame for the greatest meltdown in the history of the NBA Finals.

Or so says Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times:

Intrigued by the idea, shocked at its audacity, folks around town are whispering it.

Adjusting their Tivos, rubbing their eyes, NBA fans around the country are wondering it.

So, what the Zen, we might as well say it.

Was it Phil Jackson's fault?

Well, let's see. It wasn't Jackson out there throwing up bricks, running poor plays, or playing defense as if the concept was too difficult to grasp.

But Plaschke doesn't stop there.

Since his last championship in 2002, he has been on the wrong end of playoff history three times, and always it has been about momentum.

In 2004, playing the Detroit Pistons, his Lakers were the first visitors to be swept by the home team in the middle three games of an NBA Finals.

In 2006, playing the Phoenix Suns, his Lakers were only the eighth in history to lose a three-games-to-one lead in the playoffs.

And now, playing the Celtics, his Lakers has suffered the biggest single-game Finals collapse in recorded NBA history.

And he left the court with one timeout remaining.

Yeah, one timeout. A couple of more minutes with your team. Another chance to remind everyone to pass the dang ball.

Yeah, that's right. The guy can't coach a lick. And besides, he's been giving Kings fans a hard time for close to a decade.

I find all of this highly amusing. Eventually, hubris and arrogance come back to bite you in the butt. The Lakers, and Phil Jackson, are learning about that today. And it's about damn time.

Tiger Lurking

Had he been completely healthy, this would have been the easiest call in the history of golf - Tiger Woods would win the 108th U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

The knee surgery cast doubts on that, but after today's round, Tiger looks poised to capture his third Open. A lot can happen between now and Sunday afternoon, but I wouldn't want to bet against him. Only on the back nine (actually the front nine of the course, but the back nine for Tiger) did he begin to look like his old self, and if he can maintain that play for two more days, it's all over.

It would be just another amazing chapter to add to the greatest story in the long history of the sport. (Photo credit: Richard Hartog, Los Angeles Times)

OK, This May Be The Last One

But then again, it may not.

I don't know how I could have missed Ailene Voisin's column today, and in my hometown paper, for goodness sake.

Excerpt #1:

That noise in Staples Center on Thursday night? I swear I heard cowbells.

I swear I saw Kings fans.

I swear the gods were collaborating, getting even.

On the night David Stern takes a swipe at conspiracy theories, Game 6 remains a topic of significant interest, and Kobe Bryant struggles without former sidekick Shaquille O'Neal, the Boston Celtics overcome one of the largest deficits in an NBA championship matchup and stun the Lakers with a 97-91 victory.

Excerpt #2:

For a change, there were no last-minute heroics from Kobe, none of those three-point flurries, breakout monster dunks, crippling follow shots, or momentum-changing steals. For one pivotal hour in smoggy Southern California it was all about green, about Garnett and the local product Pierce, and mostly about Allen. The gentlemanly former Seattle SuperSonics guard contributed nine rebounds, three steals, and one of those sweet, gravity-defying baseline drives more reminiscent of Kobe.

After House stroked a jumper for the lead, the 6-foot-5 Allen swooped in from the left, and as he began his descent, flipped up a one-handed shot that banked into the net, sending the crowd into a state of shock and awe.

As if that weren't enough to send the celebs running for the exits, he dribbled around Sasha Vujacic, then drove toward the basket and down a wide-open lane.

That was when – and I swear – I heard from the folks back home, a rousing, collective "gotcha" reverberating around the arena. The Lakers lose, the Lakers lose, the Lakers lose … and somewhere up there, Red Auerbach is ready to fire up another cigar.

For Those Looking For Info on "Papa Shuttlesworth"

I'm getting a lot of hits on the site today because of Bill Simmons' reference to "Papa Shuttlesworth" in his comments about last night's game (which I quoted). For those looking for the straight poop, this link should help.

Negreanu Adds A Bracelet To His Collection

Just a day after Mike Matusow got back into the winners circle, another one of my favorites, Daniel Negreanu, has captured his fourth World Series bracelet, winning Event #19, Limit Hold 'Em. Like Matusow, with whom he is friends, Negreanu is a talker, but unlike Matusow is always in relentlessly high spirits. He's one of the most entertaining players in the game today, and I'm happy he's ended his four year drought.

ESPN has got to be loving this, assuming they had the cameras at the right events - two of the best TV-friendly players, winning on back-to-back days.

Just A Little More Reveling

With a hat tip to Judy from work, we are proud to bring you Bill Simmons' classic live-blog of last night's game. My favorites:

8:13: From Lyndon in New York: "Has there EVER been a worse crowd at a major sporting event than this Game 4 crowd at the end of the third quarter? Has there ever been an instance in which the number of designer handbags and purses outnumbered the number of home team jerseys? It was like a combination of the crowds you would anticipate at the World Cup, Super Bowl, Game 7 of the World Series, the Klitschko brothers heavyweight title fight and the final match in 'Victory,' only the EXACT opposite. I'm so mad right now I want to punch someone in the face. That's it, I'm rooting for the Celtics out of principle just because their fans seem to give a crap whereas the Laker 'crowd' would simply move on to whatever happened to be the next fad of the week."

8:21: Breen says the crowd is very quiet because the fans are "so nervous right now." If you say so, Mike. Maybe the fans are nervous the game might go into OT, and they might miss out on the table they reserved at Le Deux.

8:36: Two terrible possessions by L.A.: A fallaway by Vujacic right at the shot-clock buzzer, followed by an Odom rebound and eventually another brick from Farmar. (Celts up by three, 2:30 to go.) Boston responds by isolating Garnett against Gasol. KG gets into the paint, gives him the hop-step move and drains it! Celts by five, 2:10 remaining. That was the single biggest shot of KG's career. I'm not kidding.

8:46: Capital letters coming ...




After a Lakers basket, Allen whittled the next 20 seconds off the clock before completely abusing Vujacic for a back-breaking layup. (Special thanks to Gasol for not helping in time -- I'm starting to think Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and two draft picks was a fair trade.) Boston by five, 17 seconds left. I'm not kidding, Ray-Ray is in "I'm destroying Papa Shuttlesworth and I'm not signing that letter of intent!!!" mode right now. This seems like a good time to mention he has played the entire game. Amazing. This was like J.D. Drew's $14 million grand slam in October, only for two solid hours. I'm stunned and continue to be stunned.

8:48: Just when I thought this couldn't get any better, they just cut to a replay of Vujacic punching a chair and fighting back tears on the bench. That wasn't just the best moment of the Celtics season, I think it was the best moment of my life.

And from the wrapup:

5. The Kobe-MJ thing ... done. Over. Jordan never would have let that happen in the Finals. Ever. Under any circumstances. Nobody is ever allowed to bring this up again.

Reveling in the Lakers' Disaster

I have a confession to make - sometimes I revel in the defeat of a team that I can't stand. I savor it. I imagine the pain the fans of that team must be feeling, and chuckle to myself.

I'm certain that makes me less of a person, and complicates my prospects for the afterlife. So be it. When you're a sports fanatic, you end up being on the short end of a lot of contests. I'm certain that there is someone out there who enjoys the losses of my favorite teams just as much as I enjoy the losses of theirs. What goes around, comes around.

So this morning, I've been reveling in the coverage of last night's game in this morning's Los Angeles Times. Some nuggets:

T.J. Simers:

Incomprehensible. Disgusting. Deflating. Ridiculous. Sickening.

Impossible to fathom. A total meltdown. Appalling. Revolting. Depressing.

Talk about a choke job. Historical and horrifying. Alarming. Shocking.

The Lakers have the game's best coach, the game's best player and a 24-point lead almost halfway into a game they really must win, and they fall apart, disappear, take the rest of the night off.

Unexplainable. Laughable, if everyone isn't crying, and Boston doesn't have to win but one more game to win a championship that was still there in the Lakers' clutches.

T.J., I'm positively giddy, if that makes you feel any better.

Also from Simers:

Sasha Vujacic is the hero in Game 3, and one for nine in Game 4, playing without his athletic supporter after Ray Allen left him behind to secure the victory.

Now that was a play to savor for the ages, but I probably need to provide a bit of background. Back when the Lakers-Kings rivalry was at its apogee (for those who don't follow basketball closely, that would have been around the time the referees were stealing championships from Sacramento and handing them to L.A. on a silver platter), the Laker I hated the most - by far - was not Shaq, Kobe, or even Kings-killer Robert Horry. No, that distinction was saved for Rick Fox, the pretty boy for whom "fix hairdo" was #1 on the morning list, right ahead of "take acting lessons," "pose for photo shoot," and "try not to be late to practice." The words don't really exist to describe my level of hatred for Fox - I openly admit that it was irrational, to the point where I'd flip him off every time his perfect mug crossed the television screen.

Last night, I was starting to feel similar feelings for Vujacic - wondering what this guy had done to deserve the plaudits he was receiving, other than look pretty good for the camera. So the sight of him adopting a "right this way, sir" stance on the most important play of the night, well...that made me think that there is indeed a basketball God. Imagine - no matter what this poor guy does for the rest of his career, that particular highlight is never going to go away. If there was still a "Wide World of Sports," it might replace the guy wiping out on the ski jump slope as the manifestation of "agony of defeat." But he did show some manly anger when he got to the bench, so maybe that will make it OK.

Simers also gets off a spirited blast at David "See No Evil" Stern:

NBA COMMISSIONER David Stern called the media together 30 minutes before the game, everybody figuring he was going to tip them on who might win Game 4.

Instead, Stern wanted to make it clear the NBA is on the up and up. He said every official in the league has been asked if he ever fixed a game, and gee-whiz, golly-gee, you know what -- none of them said they have ever cheated.

That takes care of that, as far as Stern is concerned.

Bill Plaschke:

They didn't choke.

By definition, when one chokes, there is noise, movement, desperation.

The Lakers didn't choke.

They blew the NBA Finals without making a sound.

They botched their entire season while standing still.

Man, that is some good stuff. And later on:

In the final quarter-and-a-half, the Lakers seemed afraid of plenty of things, mostly success.

Mark Heisler:

Hello, ignominy, their old friend.

It turned out the Lakers and Celtics weren't reliving any of their Finals in the 1980s, after all. This one is right out of the '60s, when it wasn't a matter of what would go wrong for the Lakers but when and how horrific it would be.

This has always been a franchise that was built on arrogance, on the certainty of its players, coaches, and fans that yes indeed, they really were better than everyone else. More often than not, they've been able to back it up. So it will be interesting to see how they handle the fact that the biggest failure in the history of the championship now rests on their shoulders. It will be fun to watch.

Well, I guess that's enough of that. Not really, but there's golf to watch.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Idea For A New Commercial

Number of NBA Titles on the Floor: 30

Cost of a Courtside Seat: $22,000

Watching the Lakers Blow a 24 Point Lead in the NBA Finals: Priceless

The Rumor Mill Machine Gears Up!

Michael Reynolds, the erstwhile Sideways Mencken, has obtained a secret list of the Barack Obama rumors that will be placed with right-wing bloggers in the next few weeks.

My favorites:

- Obama's blood has been replaced with a modest Pinot Noir that carries bright notes of cinnamon and raspberry yet lingers on the palette.

- Obama once used the word "autodidact" without softening it with a self-deprecating smirk.

And the absolute killer (with apologies to Steven Rubio):

- Obama watches professional soccer.

OK, Just One More

OK, call me a liar. And no more promises - I'm going to get all the mileage I can out of this one.

Here, Michele Catalano of A Big Victory delivers a great commentary on Game 6, over at Pajamas Media. Excerpt:

While Donaghy’s revelation may bring some relief to Kings fans who now have some backing for their fixed game theory, it also has renewed the anger they felt in 2002. This wasn’t just some game in the middle of the season; it was a game that meant the world to the Kings and their fans, a realized dream of a trip to the NBA finals and a chance at basketball glory.

Kings fan Reggie Boon recalls what he felt as he watched the game unfold. “It was like the NBA was telling all the smaller markets to go to hell, that all the NBA wanted to see was dollar signs and Sacramento just didn’t have enough.”

For the Kings, this is their job, their profession. Imagine if you were up for a promotion at work and the day you walk into your boss’s office with the anticipation of being handed the promotion, you find out that some guy who did half the work you did, who is clearly not as capable as you, was handed the job. Why? Because he’s better looking. Or wears nicer ties. Looks better for the company. I’m sure that’s the same sense of frustration the Kings felt that night.

Any sports fan (though perhaps not a 2002 Lakers fan) can sympathize with the angry Kings fans. Imagine being that close to celebrating a victory only to have the rug pulled out from under you - not by lousy playing or even bad bounces, but by the people who run the game and the sport. The chance to win or lose is not even in the hands of the players, nothing they can do will change the outcome of the game. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

Fix I-5? Heck, Let's Move It

Dan Weintraub in The Sacramento Bee is on to something here.

Which begs that question again: If we are doing such a good job getting by without the freeway for a week, couldn't we do it for a month, or a year?

What if interstate traffic were routed around the city, and the existing freeway were turned into a four-lane boulevard similar to San Francisco's Embarcadero?

Zhang laughed nervously at the thought of such a change. He didn't think it was a serious question.

"I-5 is like one of the wheels of your car," he said. Without it, you might manage to limp toward your destination or find another ride to get where you are going. But for the long term, in his view, you couldn't get by that way.

"I don't think that's a good idea," he said.

Maybe he's right. But the Big Fix of Interstate 5 has given us what might be our last best chance to wonder: Why not?

I don't think there's any question that Zhang, an engineering professor, is wrong on this one. People with no other choice but to commute by car (such as myself) would be willing to put up with a little inconvenience (like we did last week, and survived), and people who work downtown would finally have an incentive to use the public transit system that, while not perfect, served me perfectly well for close to a decade when I worked downtown. And who knows what impact moving I-5 would have on the prolbematic area around Old Sacramento and the Capitol Mall? California's Capital City could finally have an urban area of which it could be unblinkingly proud.

I'm with Weintraub on this one. Why not? Let's give it a try.

The Big Fix

- Rex Babin, The Sacramento Bee

Closing the Book on Game 6

I think this is going to be the last post on the whole NBA/Game 6/Donaghy imbroglio, absent any new, stunning relevation about the Kings' Gatorade having been spiked during the series, or something like that. But there's still some good stuff out there today:

- Marcos Breton column, Sacramento Bee:

Stern can pretend all he wants that his ref problems are relegated to Donaghy, the busted gambler and point shaver. But the larger issue is that NBA fans believe NBA refs could be crooked because they are so bad – because they have affected too many outcomes since.

Fix that if you can, Mr. Stern. But you can't re-create a championship parade down J Street that never happened. You can't retrieve years the Kings wasted while vainly chasing that stolen title dream long after their window had slammed shut.

Conspiracy or not, it is undeniable that the refs adversely affected the outcome of the '02 series. Yes, they blew calls that benefited the Kings, too. But they blew an entire game – Game 6 – which didn't.

- Ailene Voisin column, Sacramento Bee:

Stern has other pressing matters on his agenda, among them the arena mess in Seattle/Oklahoma City, political concerns pertaining to the Olympics in Beijing, small-market owners grumbling about an ailing business model and pleading for revenue-sharing relief and, closer to home, another attempt to preserve a franchise and build a facility at Cal Expo. (It should be noted that his personal involvement in Sacramento's arena plans speak to his appreciation for a region and an organization that he has labeled a "model".)

But this is a state of emergency, the damaging Donaghy incident trumping all others. The highly regarded commissioner should take a closer look at those Game 6 videos, perhaps establish an impartial panel of ex-coaches to critique it possession by possession. And as Phil Jackson suggested late Tuesday night, it might not be a bad idea to enlist the services of an autonomous governing body to supervise league officials.

"I think these guys (referees) have an impossible job," offered Jackson, who was victimized by one famously brutal last-second call while coaching the Chicago Bulls. "Judgment calls on many, many situations in the course of a game … I think that influence, opinion, all the things go into making us human lemmings, which we are."

"There are even teams posting basic Web sites that kind of critique the referees from game to game. I think that has put a lot of pressure on the quality of the job that's getting done."

Still awaiting word from Stern.

- Eric Bailey story, Los Angeles Times:

Bill DeBlonk, a real estate agent and 23-year season ticket holder, has every turn in that series etched in his memory.Robert Horry's ice-water arteries in Game 4, hitting the game-winner at the buzzer. The Kings leading 3-2 heading into Game 6 but seemingly never having a chance. Shaquille O'Neal plowing like a semi-truck past Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard before the two Kings' centers fouled out. Kobe Bryant smashing Mike Bibby in the final seconds, bloodying Bibby's nose but not getting called for a foul.

"What can you say about it -- it was a debacle, it was ridiculous," DeBlonk said. "To hang on and still be bitter about it isn't worth the negative energy."

But, he added, "You know deep down in your heart that the next time it comes around and we're playing the Lakers with a championship on the line, we've got to lead by 20 to win by five."

Even without corroborating evidence, the allegations offer Sacramento's devout fans a vintage opportunity to grumble anew, this time in a national spotlight.

"There's no smoking gun. We'll never really know," said Rick Elliott, a season-ticket holder for 22 years. "It might not have been fixed, but it was one of the worst officiated games I've ever seen."

And now," he added, "everyone in Sacramento can say, 'Hey, I told you so.' "

- Phil Taylor column, Sports Illustrated:

Stern can't be laughing now. Even if Donaghy's claims aren't true, league executives have to recognize that the NBA has given fans reason to believe that his claims are, partly because of the league's cavalier attitude toward the inconsistencies in the way games are called. Players, coaches, media and fans have all questioned NBA officiating at one time or another, and the league would be wise to finally take those questions seriously.

A good place to start would be with making the process more transparent, including having referees give more interviews to explain controversial calls. The league office should also publicly instruct the referees that they are to call the game without giving special treatment to stars, and without considering the time or score. No more swallowing the whistles at the end of close games. There's not much Stern and his associates can do to change what happened in the past, but they can address the future.

Stern can shout from the top of the Manhattan skyscraper that houses the league's headquarters that none of Donaghy's allegations are true, but the real problem for the NBA is that hardly anyone would be surprised if they were.

And once Stern solves this, he can begin working on the main problem facing the NBA today - the fact that no one, not even the best teams, can remember how to play an exciting transition offense.

Mike the Mouth IS BACK!

Before we move on to some good stuff about the ongoing travails of the NBA, let's take a quick look at a sporting event with no integrity issues whatsoever - the World Series of Poker!

Specifically, the news that Mike "the Mouth" Matusow has won his first bracelet since 2002, capturing Event #18, $5,000 No Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball w/ rebuys against an elite field. I'm going to be a man and admit that I don't even know how that game is played, but the combination of a high buy-in and relatively obscure game drew an incredible roster. The final table included such luminaries as Jeffrey Lisandro, Erick Lindgren, and Barry Greenstein, who would probably be the consensus choice for the best player on the planet. But in the end, Mike was triumphant.

It's almost impossible not to like Matusow, and I always root for him. As evidenced by his nickname, he never shuts up, and his ceaseless patter can be hilarious and biting. But it's the key element of his persona, and if you can't withstand it, you shouldn't be at the table with him. On TV he sometimes comes across like Phil Hellmuth, but as Matusow himself once explained to a player, "the difference between me and Hellmuth is that Phil really does believe he's the best player on the planet."

Way to go, Mike.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One: V.P. Gore?

Dayo Olopade in The New Republic makes the case for Al Gore as Vice President.

That seems to me to be a really bad idea. In this excerpt, Olopade explores whether a Gore selection would represent "turning the page:"

There’s a chance that Obama could be bitten by the throwback politics of a Gore selection. (Chris Cillizza has more on the pitfalls of Obama’s “change everything” message.) Josh has made the good point that veeps should serve as party leaders of the future, and that it would be nice to promote a new face onto the national scene. I think that’s valid, but that Whitcover’s point still stands. No potential veeps mentioned are a total blank slate—nor should they be.

Of course, Carville is allied closely with both Clintons, and Gore, though he distanced himself from Bill Clinton in 2000 (most notably with the choice of Joe Lieberman as veep), never got the official “Judas” touch. Which begs the question: Is this change--or worse, some kind of backdoor Clinton scheme to stay hitched to power? Perhaps the CNN boosterism is tat for Hillary’s 2000 Senate run, which in countless ways split the attention of the two popular campaigners. Perhaps, dare I say, it’s an entrée for Hillary to run with Gore in 2016?Cheney was never interested in the big one, but has still been "hell, yeah"-ed for a McCain administration. Could that be the case for Albert Gore, Jr.?

There's a chance Obama could be bitten by the throwback politics of a Gore selection? Right. And there's a chance that gas prices will go up tomorrow. Oh, yeah - there's also a chance that the sun will rise tomorrow. I wouldn't see it as a backdoor Clinton scheme, but I would see it as a repudiation of just about everything Obama has said on the campaign trail so far.

And of course, that whole ManBearPig thing would have to be dealt with.

(Hat tip: Althouse)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh, You Thought This Day Was About YOU?

Former President Bill Clinton and Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez both announced yesterday that they were cancelling their scheduled commencement addresses at UC campuses, due to an ongoing labor dispute.

Bill Clinton cancels commencement speech at UCLA
- The Associated Press Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bill Clinton Tuesday canceled a commencement speech at the University of California, Los Angeles, because of a lingering labor dispute.

The former president was scheduled to address 4,000 graduating seniors on Friday, but his office said he would not appear because of the long-running rift between UC and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Contract talks have sputtered for months.

"Due to the ongoing labor dispute, he regrets that he will be unable to participate in commencement this year and he wishes the UCLA graduates the best of luck," a statement from Clinton's office said.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block will deliver keynote remarks to approximately 4,000 graduating seniors.

The university and Clinton agreed that because a union contract could not be guaranteed by Friday, it was best to tap a new keynote speaker, UCLA said in a statement.

Judith L. Smith, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education at the UCLA College of Letters and Science, said in a statement that it was "unfortunate" that the labor dispute spilled into a day "intended to celebrate student achievement.

"While we're disappointed for students and their family members looking forward to hearing a former president speak, we anticipate a joyful mood as we send off graduating seniors with a ceremony filled with colorful traditions," Smith said.

Clinton's office said last month he wouldn't appear unless a contract is settled. The 20,000 workers involved in the wage dispute range from technicians at UC medical facilities to janitors and landscapers.

Former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez also canceled a commencement speech at UC Davis scheduled for Wednesday because of the labor dispute, the university said Tuesday.

You can think what you want about who's right and who's wrong in this particular dispute. Personally I have no idea, but having worked closely around higher education labor issues for over a decade, I suspect that there is right and wrong on both sides.

But I can't help thinking that this an entirely inappropriate gesture on the part of Clinton and Nunez. This action on their part will have no impact on the ongoing labor negotiations. The only losers here are the students. Well, at least the students at UCLA, who would have been hearing Clinton.

Mmmm...Gotta Love That Barn Fresh Flavor

It's been quite a while since I linked to anything by James Lileks, one of the funniest men in the land, but since today's Bleat made me laugh out loud, that seemed excuse enough.

The part which made me laugh out loud, describing his and Gnat's visit to Dairy Queen:

Your hamburger is excellent and your daughter’s hot dog is “as good as Disney,” which is high praise. The store has old photos of bygone Dqs on the wall, including those wretched barn-shaped structures they put up in the sixties. That’s where you went in Fargo, after the classic smaller DQ was closed. It was down the street from the bread bakery, which always made the trip extra special: you got to smell fresh bread and have a cone, or, if you had forgotten the last time you suffered an incandescently painful aneurism, a Mr. Misty. The picture under the barn says “Barn Fresh Style Introduced in the 60s."

Barn fresh. It takes a certain form of tin-eared ignorance to use those words together. It’s like “Stable-flavored.”

Search Term of the Week

I'm pleased to announce that this site's most popular search term of the week - ie, the Google search resulting in the greatest number of hits - is "Phil Jackson whining."

Reactions to Game 6 Fix Allegations

Much to his dismay, the smirk of arrogance on David Stern's face wasn't enough to keep the media from offering its commentary on the allegations that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals was fixed.

Some samples:

Sacramento Bee (story)

Los Angeles Times

Sports Illustrated

The Guardian

The Kansas City Star

Sacramento Bee (Ailene Voisin column)

The Voisin column is particularly good, and probably comes closest to expressing how I feel about the whole matter:

For the record: I thought Game 6 was the poorest officiated playoff game I have seen in almost three decades of covering the NBA. Dick Bavetta, Ted Bernhardt and particularly Bob Delaney had a miserable night at the office. Later that evening, I applauded Rick Adelman, a notorious whiner, for praising his players and then immediately ripping into the officials for basically stealing his club's trip to the championship series.

I have chatted on several occasions with Geoff Petrie, and never once has he subscribed to the conspiracy theory. I also watched replays of Game 6 – just to refresh the memory and provide perspective – and saw the same game. Many of the calls still stunk, the refs still flunked, the Lakers still won.

But there was no fix.

"I broadcast that game, and, no, I don't there is anything to it," Bill Walton said of Donaghy's allegations while standing in the Staples Center corridor, shaking his head.

"No, no. I don't buy it," Magic Johnson said. "I just don't buy it."

The consensus Tuesday mirrored the reaction of that night in 2002, when the national media collectively bolstered Sac's back. This was incompetence, not a lack of integrity. And let's be honest here: Subconciously, emotional, partisan crowds in every home building affect players, coaches and, yes, the officials. They're human. They botch calls. They have human failings, which ultimately, is why the Donaghy matter remains such a cause of concern.

What's a scumbag doing in the league? And how many more of him are out there? No, you don't have to believe anything he says to realize the league has some serious cleaning up to do.

In fairness to Stern, he did offer this comment, which I can't deny is reasonable:

"The only concern I have,'' said Stern, "is that when a letter gets filed on behalf of a convicted felon, my concern is that news media run with it as a major blockbuster series of allegations, when, in fact, this guy is dancing as fast as he can to throw as much against the wall so his sentence won't be as hard. But then everyone runs around and says, 'What about the newest allegations?' But pretty much he's a singing, cooperating witness who's trying to get as light a sentence as he can. He turned on basically all of his colleagues in an attempt to demonstrate that he was not the only one who engaged in criminal activity.''

But on the other hand, Stern cannot publicly insist that there's nothing there, when he expressed such surprise (as he did last year when the Donaghy mess surfaced) that there was a problem in the first place. Show us what you've learned, and what you're going to do about it. That's all we ask.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Jeff's Jukebox: A-7

A-7: "Forget Me Nots," Patrice Rushen. From what I call the great "Chuck's Steak House of Hawaii Era," that period of time in the early 1980s, post graduation from college, when I hadn't really figured out what I was going to do with my life, but was having a pretty good time being a waiter. I never bought any of her albums, but I do own this single - and it makes an appearance on many of my mix tapes.

Video Credit: Vinyl Morpher

Hat Tip: Undercover Black Man