Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Put Big Mac in the HOF

Think back to 1994, specifically, August 1994. Baseball stopped. No World Series, no .400 average for Tony Gwynn, no playoffs in Montreal, no World Series for the Braves to lose in. Baseball ceased. Now, think to early September 1995. Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s “Iron man” record. Baseball modestly creeped back into national consciousness. Now, refer to the infamous and still referenced commercial featuring Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and their catchphrase “Chicks Dig the Longball.” What player most epitomized America’s infatuation with the longball in the late 90s? Certainly there’s only one answer to that: Big Mac, Mark McGwire.

The summer of 1998 was baseball’s resurgence. McGwire and Sosa captivated the country, cliché as it sounds. Only two games have been on FOX in primetime outside of the playoffs: Big Mac’s 62nd homer game and the first Sox-Yanks game in April, 2004. The chase to Maris was more “Wag the Dog” effective than anything President Clinton could’ve otherwise used to get the country’s attention off the whole Lewinsky thing. BIG MAC BROUGHT BASEBALL BACK. Look, we may have very well been duped (in fact, we likely were), but there is no Game of Shadows-esque rundown of McGwire’s doping schedule as there is Barry Bonds that tears him down and proves beyond doubt that he was a doper, and hence a cheater. Rather there is merely the scared testimony of a human in a suit before Congress one day 20 months ago.

But, in the end, so what if he did do steroids? Barry Bonds has been a cancer on the game; a plague everyone seems to just be waiting out before he goes away for good. He’s also considered a pretty huge jerk. None of these same things could ever have been said about McGwire before that fateful St. Patrick’s Day in 2005. Bonds may be a loving doting father for all any of us knows, but come on, McGwire and his son Matt were all over the news and pictures in 1998. People loved the guy, and baseball suddenly had that charm back on it for the first time since the strike occurred. Add into the mix the sunny Dominican slugger, Sammy Sosa, and this was a marketer’s dream.

However, in a way that Sosa continuously sullied his good deeds as his career wound down (the cork incident, injuries, infighting while with the Cubs, issues with the O’s), Big Mac retired gracefully once his bat speed and career were obviously over. Maybe there was a reason for this, but it’s possible the guy actually knew he was done (why this was the case may also be up for debate, of course). He hasn’t exactly been an ambassador for the game since retirement, and again, for all any of us can speculate, there may be a reason for that, but what isn’t up for speculation is that for one magic summer, this man was what brought eyes back to baseball and put people in seats. No one would even care about the hearings in Washington or that Jose Canseco wrote a book and is now up for election too if Big Mac hadn’t spent his 1998 summer sending balls all over parks with his son and a smile. Say what you will about how he may have done it, but you can’t tell me he didn’t make you care about baseball again and that you don’t still feel the way you did in 1993.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Go Home, Homers !

How many times have you sat down, hoping to be enlightened by the so-called "experts" of the sports world, only to be completely blown away by the sheer one-sidedness that they have towards their own alma mater or former employer? ESPN hires ex-players because they seem to make the most natural progression to the booth. But - as evidenced by former Hurricane WR Lamar "Don't Come Into The OB With That Weak Stuff" Thomas' comments during last month's Miami-FIU brawl - you can take the player out of the system, but can you take the system out of the player? From 10 to 1, here's the biggest homers in the sports world ...

10. Stuart Scott, University of North Carolina Tar Heels - The lazy-eyed wonder himself barely beats out Maryland's Scottie Van Pelt for SportsCenter anchor ACC pride. Scott makes the list simply because he cannot make it through a SportsCenter without letting you know if a Tar Heel did something big, and beats out Van Pelt because there's way more of a chance for Stu Scott to be calling a Vince Carter highlight than SVP calling a Steve Blake base-line jumper. Boo-yah!

Punishment: Scott should be forced to call a UNC football game twice a year. And get some friggin' surgery on that eye. Not even as punishment. Just so people can eat while he's on TV.

9. Shannon Sharpe, Denver Broncos - This guy has a head like Shrek, lips like a burnt Cher and the audacity to never pick against his former team, even when they're severly over-matched. He's the constant optimist for Jake Plummer, makes sure no one ever forgets he played with John Elway and loves Mike Shanahan more than Grandma Estel Shanahan does. I'm not sure if you can find the clip on Youtube or not, but I'm 99% sure that on last year's pre-Super Bowl coverage, when asked if Pittsburgh or Seattle would win, he picked Denver.

Punishment: Sharpe should have his eyes pried open a la "Clockwork Orange," be strapped down and forced to watch all of Jake Plummer's post-season games as a Bronco. And that weird Bronco hat should be surgically attached to his massive head.

8. Digger Phelps, University of Notre Dame Fightin' Irish - How can a college basketball analyst talk about a mid-level team so much? When he coached said mid-level team for 20+ years. He thinks they should be in the NCAA Tournament every year, despite not having a winning record or talented starting five. He wears their colors on most of his broadcasts - although he's since stopped so that he can match his freaking highlighters to his ties, a tip he got from watching too much "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

Punishment: Take away the highlighters, first of all, and then make him actually watch the Notre Dame teams play the Big East elite. But make sure you take away the highlighters. Please.

7. Rich Eisen, University of Michigan Wolverines - Don't have the NFL Network? Don't bother. It's basically Rich Eisen interviewing former Wolverines, or mocking former Notre Dame, Michigan St. or Ohio State players for not being Wolverines. He seems to be quiet at least once a year, though, and it's usually the week after Jim Tressel spanks Lloyd Carr.

Punishment: Since he's a regular on VH1's "I Love the 80's" and "I Love the 90's," he should be forced to come up with witty remarks about the 1993 NCAA Championship game. "Fab 5? Is that what Chris Webber got on his SATs?" Beat that, Michael Ian Black!

6. Howie Long, Oakland Raiders - Thank God Gruden left, because if Oakland had been good for much longer, FOX was going to have to ban Long from talking about the greatness of the Raiders. But even know, with his former team an embarrassment to its great history, Long still picks them to win games, and still thinks they have the pieces in place to win. The first five weeks of this season were surreal to watch on FOX's pre-game show, as Long thought first Aaron Brooks, and then Andrew Walter would bring the team victories. He loved the Art Shell hire, the only person on the planet to do so besides Shell himself - although that isn't even certain. Here's hoping the Raiders don't draft his son ...

Punishment: Stick him on the team right now. He'd probably kill himself or ask to be traded like every other smart player on that team ... That or put him and Tom Jackson in the same room before a Raiders v. Broncos game, surrounded by blunt objects.

5. TIE Peter Gammons, Boston Red Sox AND Dick Vitale, Duke University Blue Devils - Two of the most respected professionals in their field, each one absolutely oozes allegiance to a team despite their consumate "professionalism." Gammons got his career started in Boston covering the Sox, and praises everything they do. He grew up a Sox fan, and despite his fantastic coverage of professional baseball, he tends to lean a bit towards Boston in most of his critiques and predictions.

The same cannot be said about Dick Vitale.

Vitale has absolutely nothing to do with Duke. He didn't go there. He didn't coach there. He didn't grow up rooting for them. His parents didn't go there. His mother's maiden name isn't Krzyzewski. And yet every single thing he does, every prediction, every break-down, every praise ... Is directed at the Blue Devils program. He has an extreme bias for Duke, so much so that college coaches have even called him out for it. His favorite cartoon dog? MarmaDUKE. Favorite first person video game from the 90's? DUKE Nuke'em. His favorite position in a sovereignty? A DUKE.

Punishment: They're both too old to really do anything mean to. We'll make Gammons watch the Buckner play over and over, and ... Oh, just shoot Vitale in the head. Dipsy-doo-dunk-a-roo that, baby!

4. Kirk Herbstreit, THE Ohio State University - His dad was a captain for the Buckeyes. He was a captain for the Buckeyes. How can you impartially bestow "expert" knowledge of the game to us when you grew up hating some of the best teams, and then played against those programs yourself? Lee Corso needs to be medicated, but at least he doesn't always pick his Florida State Seminoles. Herbstreit defines the term "homer."

Punishment: Make his first-born son go to Michigan. And like it.

3. Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, St. Louis Cardinals - How can a broadcast team as different as this one both be Cardinals fans? McCarver is a legally retarded, and was a catcher for the Cardinals organization for most of his playing career. Buck, who was born and raised in St. Louis, by his father Jack - the legendary Cardinals announcer - began his own broadcasting career calling games for St. Louis' minor league team, the Redbirds. He then worked Cards games with his dad, before getting hired as a national broadcaster. So how do let these two in a booth together? During the World Series featuring the Cardinals??? I was waiting for Ozzie Smith to start doing the sideline report ...

Punishment: Aside from never being allowed to call a Cardinals game together again, both men should have the Cardinals logo tattooed on their foreheads and have their vocal cords pecked out by a few real cardinal birds.

2. Michael Irvin, University of Miami Hurricanes AND Dallas Cowboys - The only duel threat on this list, Irvin is an NFL analyst for ESPN that manages to defend both the Hurricanes and Cowboys on a weekly basis. Never before has a former player brought so little to the broadcasting world in terms of talent, and yet had so much to say, so poorly dressed. You'd think a born-again Christian cokehead would have more sense ...

Punishment: Make him wear a regular black suit, white dress shirt and solid tie. Every day.

1. Jay Bilas, Duke University Blue Devils - If you've ever heard Bilas call a Duke game for ESPN, or listened to him in the pre- or post-game coverage of one, you damned well know where he went to school and played his college ball. You can actually measure on his body how far up Mike Krzyzewski's ass he is. The guy was a four-year starter for Coach K, went to Duke Law school while serving as an assistant to Krzyzewski and cleaned his office twice a week, too. He has never picked against Duke on the air, wears a one-piece "Blue Devils" pajama outfit (with attached feet) to bed and has almost as much of Coach K's semen in him than Mrs. Krzyzewski (and Dick Vitale).

Punishment: Paint him up like a Cameron Crazy and force him to watch JJ Redick's tournament games versus Kansas in 2003 (2 for 16 shooting), UConn in 2004 (4 for 12), Michigan State in 2005 (4 for 14) and LSU in 2006 (3 for 18). And then sit down and listen to some of Redick's poetry, while watching a Duke football game.


Get Ready for it: President Heath Shuler

Hey guys at, get ready because by 2020, you may have to stop Shuler from making the trek from Capitol Hill to Pennsylvania Ave. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the facts. The guy just won an election at the age of 34 in a red state as a Democrat. Not only that, and going largely on my preconceived, stereotypical notions of the greater Asheville, NC area, I’m going to gather this victory was more uphill for Heath than beating Spurrier’s Gators in the Swamp or Gene Stallings’ Tide in Tuscaloosa.

What’s to say that he can’t next win, say, current Senator Richard Burr’s seat off of him in 2010? Everybody knows Democrats LOVE boyish looking senators from North Carolina (hello John Edwards), so, do I smell 2012 Vice Presidential nominee? Yes, yes I do, just like I smell North Carolina bbq emanating from the Outer banks or the carcass of John Bunting coming from Chapel Hill. A ticket of oh, Eliot Spitzer/Heath Shuler? After a campaign of constant references to Jack Kemp and full support in the metro Philadelphia, New York, and Dallas areas, Shuler would be prepared to graduate to the oval office after a successful two term run of vice presidential cliché espousing full of sports references (inauguration day example: We’re going to give 110%!!!) to being compared to that other DI football presidential dynamo, Gerald Ford. And then, by 2028, at the age of 56, Shuler’s wife will start running for congress, also perhaps extolling the virtues of “Mountain values,” a concept I in the Northeast consider more foreign than Borat.

I hope you read this Heath; any derivation from this plan and you will be nothing more than some Jim Ryan clone languishing in the House. You already sucked ass in the NFL, do you really want to be a TWO-career failure???

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Play - Stanford vs. Cal

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"We won! We won!! We ... WTF just happened out there???"

In honor of my Washington Redskins dramatic, entertaining, thrilling and dynamic finish Week 9 versus the Dalls Cowboys, here is a list of the greatest single-play finishes to games in my lifetime.
(And keep in mind, I'm counting from conception, not birth ... I had to get Cal-Stanford on here somehow ...)
Marshall 31, Youngstown State 28
- 1992 Division I-AA Championship -
In what is the most bizarre story on this list, Marshall's back-up kicker Willy Merrick
kicked the first and only field goal of his career to end this title game.
The injured starter?
Willy's older brother.
Needless to say, Thanksgiving dinner was a little tense at the Merrick household in 1992 ...

Colorado 27, Michigan 26
- 1994 -
In this match-up between two top ten teams, Kordell "Slash" Stewart threw a hail-mary pass to receiver Michael Westbrook as time expired to keep their championship aspirations alive.
(Just years later, "Slash" made Pittsburgh fans want to "Slash" their throats and wrists, as it seems all he was able to do for the Steelers was throw similar passes - mostly to the other team.)

California 25, Stanford 20
- 1982 -
With a mere :04 seconds to go, Stanford was all smiles, having just kicked a field goal to put them up 20-19 over the rival Golden Bears.
And then ... chaos.
Laterals, pitches, hand-offs, broken tackles, frogs, locusts ...
And then ... A band?!?
The play-by-play is timeless, as is the saxaphone player getting completely doushed at the end of the run.

Southern California 34, Notre Dame 31
- 2005 -
Watching this game live, I felt equal pain for both Trojan fans and Fightin' Irish fans alike. A) for not being the University of Maryland, and B) for the life-shortening stress the game put them through.
I was sweating as Brady "AJ Hawk owns me for banging my
sexy sister" Quinn led his boys down the field for an 87-yard TD drive, and I was soaking through my second t-shirt as Matt "I was a Trojan for four years
but never learned how to use one" Leinart fumbled the ball out of bounds in the end zone as time expired, but then was given a second chance by the officials
to sneak into the end-zone - with major help by Reggie "Shave Your" Bush.
With all the weapons on that team, a basic "QB Sneak" was so unexpected ...
Sort of like ...
Cole "Mommy Said Daddy Loves Her But Isn't 'In Love' With Her" Cameron-Leinart.
(Sorry for the nicknames, I got into my Berman mode.)

Boston College 47, Miami (FL) 45
- 1984 -
Flutie Flakes.
Hail Mary.
Heisman Trophy.
You know the play ... But the stat you may not know?
Doug Flutie had sex with 346 Boston College females that night.

North Carolina State 54, Houston 52
- 1983 NCAA Championship -
Fitting that a dunk does in the team nick-named "Phi Slamma Jamma."
This wasn't the best title game ever, or note-worthy for any other reason than Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano's reaction ... and the last play of the game.
With precious seconds ticking off the clock, NC State heaved up a prayer; a prayer that - thankfully - fell short. While everyone's eyes were on the ball, spinning slowly in the way only a last-second shot can, Lorenzo Charles found his way under the hoop, and slammed home the victory.
Houston took the loss so bad, they decided to never be good at college basketball ever again ...

Valparaiso 70, Mississippi 69
- 1998 NCAA Tournament First Round -
How much money did Bryce Drew cost some gamblers in 1998?
The all-time scoring, assisting and 3-point shooting Crusader,
Drew drained the most miracle of 3's with fractions of a second left to win his daddy a tournament game, and knock off a pretty scary Mississippi team.
Bryce is his dad's assistant coach at Valpo, and there isn't a player on the team - or an undergraduate female - who hasn't heard the story of when ol' Bryce made it rain.

San Fransisco 28, Dallas 27
- 1982 NFC Championship Game -
"The Catch."
'Nuff said.
Joey Montana to Dwight Clark to beat the unbeatable Cowboys with less
than a minute to play. It doesn't get much better than that.
Unless Montana was Jessica Alba, and Dwight Clark was Lindsay Lohan, and instead of a catch, it was a kiss ...

Tennessee 22, Buffalo 16
- 2000 AFC Wild-Card Game -
The "Music City Miracle" that buried the Bills of Buffalo.
At the post-game press-conference, Titans coach Jeff Fisher would say he made the team go over the play three times a practice, but with different personnel.
Does that make it any less amazing? A width-of-the-field lateral from TE Frank Wychek to WR Kevin Dyson that was shakier than Michael J. Fox ice roller-blading, "Home-Run Throwback" ends the Bills season 75 yards later, and extends the Titans'. That is why they invented the squib kick, and why Wade Phillips should never be considered for a head coaching job again ...

Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6
- 1993 World Series Game 6 -
The only thing uglier than Mitch Williams' mullet and delivery was the hanging cheese he threw to Blue Jays sluggers Joe Carter in this historic World Series game. Talk about a walk-off. Carter walked off the field a hero, while "Wild Thing" walked off and straight to a bar, never to be seen or heard from again.
Check the country music circuit, with that 10-90 Alabama Waterfall he had going under his hat ...

Dodgers 5, A's 4
- 1988 World Series, Game 1 -
Bottom of the ninth.
Full count.
Every hitter's dream/nightmare.
With Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound, it was shaping up to be a nightmare for Tommy Lasorda and his Dodgers. After a walk to pinch-hitter Mike Davis, Lasorda sends out a crippled Kirk Gibson to pinch-hit for his pitcher. The agony on this guys face before and during the at-bat is almost as powerful as the excitement and joy in it afterwards.
The power that was Eckersley's moustache was - for the first and only time - thwarted.

Yankees 6, Red Sox 5
- 2003 ALCS, Game 7 -
I'll spare the details so I have a blogging partner after he reads this; but the gayest moment of my entire life - not that there's anything wrong with that - was when I became fully aroused at the sight of Aaron Boone's pinch-hit, extra-innings walk-off home-run off of Tim Wakefield and his knuckleball in the bottom of the 11th inning in the Bronx.
(Unfortunately I was at my grandmother's house when it happened ... )

USA 5, China 4
- 1999 World Cup Championship (female) -
I've never watched a more unattractive woman rip off her clothing and been smiling.
With the game tied at 4-4 on penalty kicks, there was one chance left for America.
And as 90,000+ people prayed in the Rose Bowl - and a few million lesbians watched on TV - Brandi Chastain lasered a goal past some Asian chick (sorry, but they really do all look the same ...) to win the World Cup for the greatest country in the history of the universe.
(It also marks the only time I've watched soccer and been somewhat excited.)
- BP