Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cartoon comedy copyrights

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Everyone has heard this saying. However, it so happens there are only two groups of people who ever use it. The first group is someone consoling a friend/associate whose ideas have been ripped off. The second group is anyone doing the ripping.

This day and age sees many examples of imitation, plagiarism, copying, whatever you want to call it. Some instances are common place and generally accepted. When a movie or tv show is remade, people are usually fine with this. Perhaps the first time didn't live up to expectations and a writer wants another crack at the script. Perhaps the first time was a smashing success and a new director wants to benefit from that.

Other types of 'plagiarism' are only accepted depending on the situation. Copying music beats is an everyday thing in hip hop. People reuse beats from songs of decades past. Mos Def is known for this. He uses old beats from songs as odes or callbacks to artists he listened to. Other times in the music bus, this is frowned upon, such as when Vanilla Ice ripped his background beat to Ice Ice Baby.

The form of imitation I have a problem with today is in the world of cartoon comedy. I know what you're thinking. 'Aren't there worse things than copying the plot to a cartoon?' Well, yes and no. Mostly yes. But it still bothers me. Mostly because the program doing the copying is suddenly more highly thought of than the show getting ripped off.

A kid under the age of 17 probably thinks Family Guy is great and The Simpsons is something people in their 30's used to watch when they were in high school. These statements are both true. But the thought process is wrong. The Simpsons was king, at one time. Family Guy is a very funny show, but I find that, too often, it seems to ride the coat tails of a plot Matt Groening wrote for Simpsons episodes half a decade earlier. In one more recent episode, Groening and the other writers actually alluded to this, making a joke that Peter Griffin was wanted by the police for plagiarism. Now I don't know if they were giving the public what they wanted, or if it actually bothers them. I just know that it seems obvious to me where Seth Macfarlane gets lots of his brilliant Family Guy ideas.

To paint the scene, let me establish that The Simpsons has been running for 23 seasons. That is a lot of cartoon episodes. Family Guy also has passed the 100 episode plateau. Both shows have aired many ideas. There is bound to be some overlap. It just seems like too much to be coincidental.

For starters, both main characters are fat, stupid, alcoholic, married, white, males, whose wives are made out to be 'out of their league.' I guess, with the exception of being drunks, this setup was even done before Homer Simpson. Fred Flintstone fits all those other descriptions; I just don't recall him being a huge drinker. So maybe we can let that one pass. It's a nice gimmick and is easy to ride with/write for.

What about some of the side characters? Well, both shows have a family doctor that they always use. Dr. Hibbert, on The Simpsons, is always laughing, having fun, usually in situations that don't warrant it. The Family Guy doctor, Dr. Hartman, meanwhile, uses lots of shtick and jokes every time Peter goes to see him, even for very serious ailments. Are these different enough to let slide? Perhaps.

So how about we delve into the plot of specific episodes, where the similarities seem almost endless. In 1993, The Simpsons ran an episode where the wife, Marge, developed a gambling problem. Six years later, in 1999, the wife on Family Guy, Lois, is seen in an episode developing a gambling problem.

In a different episode in 1993, The Simpsons again hit jackpot by having witness protection move them to another town because a killer was after their son, Bart. In 2005, Family Guy writers strike similar gold by having the police move the Griffins to another town because, you guessed it, a killer was after their son, Chris.

In 2003, The Simpsons created a plot revolving around the daughter, Lisa, getting a makeover, and being seduced by the glamor. Just two years later, Family Guy ran a similar story where the daughter, Meg, gets a makeover and is seduced by the glamor of it.

There are still more examples of episode imitation. Both husbands ended up building a bar in their house. Homer decided to put his in the garage. Peter used his basement. I guess that was simply due to the architect's designs. Both families had to experience the horror of having their babies taken away by child services. Thank goodness both baby Maggie and little Stewie made it back to their families by episode's end. We even witnessed both show's husbands get a job at their respective Walmart store imitations. Homer was employed by the not-so-cleverly-named Sprawl Mart. Peter Griffin, on the other hand, got his employment check from Superstore USA.

There are many more examples of this in the shows' history. These were just what I could come up with off the top of my head. (Note: 'top of my head' in this case, refers to a handful of days where I was trying to think back on all the times I was watching Family Guy and got an odd feeling the story had been done before.)

But maybe I am making too much of this. Maybe they were all just really good ideas that should be used again. Why let a funny concept go unused? I mean, this isn't even just held to the world of electronic media. Books have been known to copy ideas from prior authors. The peerless J.K. Rowling may have borrowed an idea for her famous dementors from the Barrow-wights of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. Who knows? The only thing I can be sure of is that Matt Groening's friends must constantly tell him how flattered he should feel.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Miscellaneous Me

Here is a Memorial Day weekend edition of Miscellaneous Me!

(Please note: this post has nothing to do with Memorial Day or anything remotely related to Memorial Day.)

- The Chicago Blackhawks haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1961, the second longest title drought in American professional sports, topped only by the Cubs.
- Both these teams reside in the fine city of Chicago.
- The Chicago Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup finals.
- The Cubs suck.

- Red raspberry is way better than blue raspberry.

- If I ever flip to Mythbusters mid-episode, I always end up watching the rest of it, no matter what else I had been watching.

- I would listen to anything said with an auto-tuner.
- I would listen to Fran Drescher read minutes from a supreme court hearing if an auto-tuner was used.

- The Tampa Bay Rays had a perfect game thrown against them in back to back seasons.
- Paul O'neill was a position player on the winning side of three separate perfect games.
- There have only been 19 perfect games thrown in major league history.

- With the sheer size of the universe, it seems mathematically impossible that Earth contains the only living life forms.

- Nate Kaeding is statistically the most accurate kicker in NFL history.
- 22 of the 24 most accurate kickers EVER are still active.

- Racquetball is infinitely better than tennis and I think it is solely due to the lack of having to fetch the ball after a poor shot.

- I hate people who play a hand like Jack-Four suited because they "feel" like a flush is more likely than a straight. It's not. Look it up.
- I might play a hand like Jack-Four suited if I'm on the button.

- Rush Poker is currently the greatest thing available in the United States that is pending a patent.

- In spite of the writing in the Lost series finale, Benjamin Linus is one of the greatest television characters in history.
- This list also includes George Costanza, Gareth Keenan, and Perry Cox.
- Coming in dead last is Joey from Blossom, just getting edged out by Russ from that episode of Friends where Rachel dated the guy that seemed like Ross' twin.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The human element

Carbon, right?

Okay, well that's not exactly what I meant. I was referring to the human element in sports; i.e. the referees/umpires/officials. Why do we have such a desire to keep the human element in sports? I don't understand it. Why do 'people' strive to keep mistakes in a game where they can be removed? Why strive for imperfection? Actually, spelling it out like that, I could see that being a plan in the NBA.

Last night's Celtics - Magic game is a great example. Keep in mind, this is the eastern conference finals. That means, the winner of this series goes on to the championship. It, clearly, does not get much bigger than this. During the course of action, Celtics center Kendrick Perkins picks up two technical fouls and subsequently gets ejected. The problem is that neither T was deserved. The first technical was award after his elbow slipped helping up a teammate and jabbed into an Orlando player. TWEEET! The second happened after a bad call went against him, and he started walking away, in the opposite direction of the official, to vent his frustration on the bad whistle. Well, apparently the ref didn't like Perkins turning his back on him. TWEEET! Perkins got his second technical foul and was ejected. Now if the Celtics would have won with Perkins still in the game is not really relevant. The point is, if someone, anyone, just popped up a quick replay of both plays, especially the first, and saw what had happened, they could have just rescinded the T. It would have taken 45 seconds. We all saw it at home in that amount of time. Why this is not allowed, or even frowned upon, is beyond me. To make matters worse, if these techs aren't reversed on Perkins, he'll be suspended for game six because he hit the too-many-T's-in-one-series threshold.

With baseball, the desire for humans to remain in charge of the most important calls is the most evident. Calling balls and strikes is so simple, that each television station has their own 'K-Zone' that pops up after each pitch to show, technologically and unequivocally whether the pitch was a ball or a strike. We are shown this on the broadcast to prove whether the ump made a good call or not. Why? Why is this not just the way balls and strikes are called? I don't get it. What is the opportunity loss for implementing something that makes many fewer mistakes? Why do we, as a society, have a system that instantaneously shows whether the call being made is wrong, but is not used to correct the call? It would be as if a judge is ready to make a not guilty verdict, but someone comes up to them with DNA evidence proving otherwise, so instead of changing his call, he claims that he 'missed that one.'

The only argument with any validity that 'people' make against removing the human element, is that it will slow down these games too much. But that simply is not true. Viewers at home, and the announcers watching replays can see, often within seconds, that a play was called incorrectly. Why can this not be done as quickly on the field? You'd think by the year 2010, we would be able to communicate a call down to a field in under a minute. Even if it actually had to be yelled down, or passed person to person like the game of telephone, how does that take more than two minutes?

So instead of removing the precise human element from calling sports, we have conference finals games where a player is wrongly ejected. We have baseball games where it is common practice for a manager to come out and yell at the umpire for making a call he disagrees with. This is actually normal, if you can believe it. The sport that clearly moved the most to getting things right is football. Both college and professional football have replays systems that are, for the most part, pretty well used. College football is, in fact, the best. They have an official review every single play that happens, as it happens, just like we do watching a replay. If it is too hard to tell that quickly, he buzzes down and stops play for the ref on the field to check it out. The call is gotten correct, and play continues. This seems like the best system any sport has come up with thus far, unless you count tennis, where the entire court is digitized, so we can see, to the millimeter, whether a ball hit in bounds or not.

So here's hoping football continues to progress towards common sense, and the other major sports get their act together. I would end this by saying something along the lines of "I would rather the game take 10 minutes longer if we would be getting the calls correct," but I don't even see this happening. If anything, baseball especially, would go quicker. Balls and strikes would not ever be argued. Safe and out calls would be correct. There would be no discussions, no meetings of the minds, no managers sprinting out to throw dirt on home plate. We would finally have a game not ruined by those pesky humans.

End transmission.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What once was Lost now is found

I needed some time to reflect on the Lost series finale. I'm not even sure this has been enough time, but I must react.

Here's the thing, the finale wasn't that bad. The episode itself, if it could stand alone, was actually very entertaining. Without the last half hour, I would consider it one of the better episodes there has been. But, that would be like awarding the Larry O'Brien trophy to the Cavaliers because for 80 of the 100 total games (regular season and playoffs) they were the best team. But we have to count that last 20%. And with Lost, I have to adjust for that last 30 minutes. The sad part is, the last 30 minutes of the very last episode in a great series may have totally ruined everything that came before it.

The funny part about the ending to Lost was how ironic it was. Throughout the entire six years, season after season, Lost had us hooked and frustrated because of how confusing and unclear it was. And ultimately, the thing that may have ruined the show for good was how perfectly translucent and clear they made the end. There was pretty much no room for interpretation. People will argue other theories, but they are just pulling at straws. The creators made the ending very clear, with the objective being to wrap things up in a neat little package. They actually needed the ambiguity though. They needed some level of confusion to remain in order for people, like me, not to be pissed at it. I would rather have been confused. Sadly.

When Jack walked into the church and talked with his father, Christian Shepherd just came out and explained to him he was dead too. Everyone was dead. They were waiting to reunite and move on into the afterlife. That was it. That's pretty much all he said. And that is pretty much all there was. Jack went and met everyone else; there was plenty of hugging, etc. Then they were all headed into the light. The end. Come to think of it, it may have been less than 30 minutes. It may have only been the last 10 minutes that ruined the other 120 hours. What a powerful 10 minutes it was.

By explaining to Jack that they were all dead, it made the entire sideways universe irrelevant. It was officially a fake world where anything could happen and nothing that did happen mattered. Jack had a son that he loved, I guess. But as soon as he met his friends, he and his ex-wife abandoned their son. They both left. See ya kid. Because he didn't matter. It was a purgatorial world. Locke was with his love, Helen. In this life, they finally were able to be together and were going to get married, but once he got his back fixed and met his buddies in the church, she didn't matter. He left her behind. Abandoned his fiancée. Sayid, who through different times and different worlds and different lives, was always searching to be with Nadia. But what happened to reunite Sayid with his friends in purgatory and move on to heaven? He saw Shannon, a girl he knew for like a month on the island before she got shot. Sayid went with Shannon into the afterlife instead of Nadia. Nadia didn't matter.

So, in just a few examples, essentially everything that took place in the sideways universe was irrelevant and pointless. The objective was simply for Jack to meet his island buddies in the church and they would spend eternity together. We didn't need half of the scenes in season six.

But that's not all that the last 10 minutes of the finale ruined. For you see, it kind of ruined the entirety of every season prior as well. Essentially every single story line that took place, other than Jack dying, became irrelevant. The 'others' in the temple didn't matter. The birth defect problem didn't matter. The Dharma Initiative didn't matter. Ben and Widmore didn't matter. Not even Desmond mattered. Anyone could have removed the plug in the sink drain of life, they just would have died where Desmond survived. But Desmond died anyway, because we saw him in the church in purgatory. The entirety of every plot was rendered irrelevant and it's hard to think otherwise. The grand scope of the show turned into Jack growing as a person and getting to fix something, this time it being the island and the human life stream. Once he fulfilled his purpose, he was ready to move on with his friends into the afterlife. Nothing else mattered in the grand scheme of the show. In fact, I would argue that the show would make much more sense if you simply watched the pilot episode, so you can be introduced to Jack and the people he will learn to care about, and then watch season six. Don't watch anything else. There's no need. The rest of season one, and all of seasons two through five add nothing to the finality of the plot. Nothing.

So this is where I'm at right now. I'm obviously a little disappointed. Some people have said how you can throw out 30% of a show as episodes that aren't needed. Even for a show like The Sopranos. It could be cut down a bunch, trim the fat if you will. And this same thing has been said of Lost now. But 30% is wrong. What isn't needed for the way the show was ended is really more like 70-80%. Most everything that happened didn't matter. Remember Walt and Libby and Mr. Eko and Eloise Hawking? Yeah, you do now, but think back on Lost in a few months and you won't remember a single scene they were in because none of them mattered.

The reason I started by saying I needed time to reflect was because it didn't have to be this way. They were so close to a fantastic series finale, as I stated. If they simply changed the ending somehow, the show becomes a smashing success in my mind. Let's pretend they made the ending really sketchy and confusing, like old times. What if we didn't understand that the sideways universe was purgatory and they were all dead? Just simply making the ending unintelligible, the rest of the series is suddenly fantastic again. It all matters because we don't know if it doesn't. We are left with a ton of unanswered questions, but can at least speculate on why they weren't answered and what was left. What's the point of speculating now when the end result is all the characters die and we were watching them all after they had been dead? What they accomplished while they were alive suddenly becomes not as important.

To sum up the unimportance of everything once believed to be integral, just think about the character of Desmond. In the real world, as I already established, he was a pointless character. He had these special powers that ended up being of no use to anyone. His work could have been done by any other character. So, what about Desmond in purgatory? He was, again, pointless. His huge, special duty was to reunite everyone and connect the worlds. But many of the characters did this without his help, and the ones who needed his help were really just guided to events they needed to witness or people they needed to meet. Desmond was a chauffeur and nothing more.

I guess the saddest part is that Lost quickly entered the world of being impossible to re-watch with any enjoyment. I was looking forward to that the most: going back and watching a random episode from season three and connecting pieces I had previously not understood. Now, if I go back and watch pretty much any episode from any season, the only thing I will realize is how much story ended up not mattering in the least.

So, yeah, the creators tied up all the loose ends that needed tying. The show is definitely wrapped up. There isn't really anything to speculate on. Mission accomplished. I just wish, for once, I hadn't understood what had happened on Lost.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Today is a good day to be lazy, but a bad day to only own one television. Come to think of it though, what is a good day to only own one tv? Well, anyways, since I do only have one tv, I am going to encounter major channel changing problems tonight, as tonight happens to be a spectacular tv night.

The NHL playoffs will actually be kicking things off late in the afternoon today. The Chicago Blackhawks will be trying to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup finals. They are up three games to none right now on the number one seed Sharks and are looking to finish the sweep at home. This Blackhawks team is fun. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are fun. Their goalie, Antti Niemi is fun to watch and has a fun name to say. Patrick Sharp, the old vet Marian Hossa, and the two defensemen Seabrook and Duncan Kieth are all great as well. Not to mention, the playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien. By the way, look up how his name is pronounced, him and Jonathan Toews. See, everything about this Hawks team is fun.

Now I don't want to rule out the San Jose Sharks, since they were the best team in the conference all year long. But, come playoff time, this seems to be a recurring nightmare for them. They have loads of talent on offense. Their goalie is, perhaps, on the backside of his career, but I would not have expected them to lose the first two western conference finals games at home. They just seem to be, year after year, a regular season giant and playoff mouse. Think of them as the NHL's Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now of course, with it being a Sunday, there will be baseball on all day long, before, during, and after the hockey game. But the main event game, in my eyes, is the Yankees - Mets rubber match, which airs tonight.

(I still don't know why the deciding game in a series is called the 'rubber' match. I've heard this term for going on 15 years watching baseball and have never bothered to look it up. I will continue this tradition now, by, again, not looking it up.)

The subway series is always fun if you're a fan of either team, but tonight's should be special. These two teams split the first two games, and the pitching match-up for tonight is Yankees' ace CC Sabathia versus Mets' ace Johan Santana. It doesn't get much better than this (unless this same match-up happened three years ago, before Johan became mortal.) What would have been interesting, at least for the hindsighters, is if Phil Hughes pitched tonight, rather than last night. A few years back, the big talk around New York was Brian Cashman not pulling the trigger on trading Hughes for Santana. He wanted to keep the youngster, and it appears as though this was a very good decision. Of course, seeing them pitch against each other would have given the argument its own way of deciding who was right, at least for one night.

This is where my problems begin. For you see, very soon after this Yankees game begins, game three of the NBA western conference finals commences. Pau and the Lakers will be trying to put the first nail in the Phoenix coffin by winning tonight and going up 3-0. The Suns will be trying to hold serve at home, after losing games one and two on the road. If the Suns don't win here, it all but guarantees a Lakers - Celtics title rematch from 2008. All honest fans, with a good heart want the Suns to win here. No one in their right mind is actually a Lakers fan. I mean the only people who live in Los Angeles are fans from other cities that moved there anyway. Name one person born in LA, you can't.

To top it all off, and to further screw up my tv remote tonight, is the series finale of Lost. Have you heard about this? I'm not sure if they had been advertising about it. I hadn't seen anything. But apparently this is the last episode ever. The show is ending (until the spin-off where Jin is a ship captain who continually gets into boat explosions and somehow survives one after the other.)

With a simple check back to some previous posts, you can see I am very into Lost. I can't wait for this. I know I'm going to be slightly disappointed with the story arcs that are ignored or not finished, but I am certain the ending is going to be water cooler worthy. Whether that means it's actually a great ending or just spurs lots and lots of conversation, or both, I don't know yet. (By the way...water cooler talk? Does that happen still? Do people go talk by water coolers at places I am not aware of?)

So I think my decision is made. I have to watch Lost. I can't even wait until tomorrow to watch online. I'll feel like I missed something. Every commercial, I'll have to check in on the Yanks, because they're my favorite team. Meanwhile, I will be secretly rooting for Steve Nash and the Suns to pull out a game three victory. That's how it has to be. My priorities are set...unless I go buy another tv. I already have a cable splitter...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oh that sneaky NCAA

Here's a quick trivia question for you. Who was runner-up in the 2008 NCAA basketball national championship? Kansas won the title that year, who finished second?


The answer is: no one.

Aren't vacating wins great? I find nothing more delightful than the NCAA's punishment system. Just imagine playing a game of Trivial Pursuit in 25 years and getting that question.

The way the NCAA works is by reviewing past discretions when they get around to it. Obviously they are a busy organization, but subsequently removing wins as punishment for players that graduated or left years prior seems a bit unorthodox. Right now the NCAA is contemplating taking away the 2004 National Championship in football from the USC Trojans because of Reggie Bush and all the violations that he was a part of. I guess this would severely punish the school itself, and all the fans (or at least fans from rival schools would constantly remind USC alums of this.) But would the players care? This happened half a dozen years ago. They had the best team in the country that year. Wouldn't they always consider themselves champs?

I'm not as much concerned with the feelings of players involved, as I am with the fantastic paradoxes the NCAA strives to create with this punishment. Florida State and Alabama, in recent years, have also been a part of wins vacating in football. In fact, FSU got caught with violations in 10 different sports. That means, without getting into specifics, if Alabama scored more points than their opponent a certain game, they could have had the win removed. But their opponent does not have the loss removed. Therefore, there will be teams that have lost games that no one won. Just fantastic.

Obviously this is more clearly illustrated in simple win totals of teams or coaches, but shouldn't this be more clearly thought out? The Florida State football team under Bobby Bowden will now have 14 games where they scored more points than their opponent and did not win. But their stats will be skewed even deeper than that. Their average margin of victory will go sky high for those seasons. Just think about it. Let's say they won 10 games a certain season, by a total of 150 points, which comes out to an average victory of 15 points. Now what if they get six wins from that season taken away? Suddenly they only won four games that season, but still outscored their opponents by 150 points for the year. Their average margin in victories is now a whopping 37.5 points! I do not know which specific victories have been taken away, or if it is even decided, but I know that would be another fantastic piece of trivia. 'In 2006, Bowden's Seminoles won by an average of 37.5 points per game.' They must have been dominant.

Getting back to my original question, in the 2008 NCAA basketball title game, Kansas beat the Derrick Rose led Memphis Tigers. This information does not change. Kansas did beat Memphis to win the title. However, Memphis did not technically lose the game. So remember, don't add 2008 to the list of Memphis' title game losses, even though they were in the title game and they did not win.

Vacating wins, just fantastically fun.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The second rule of Fight Club

I was watching the Yankees - Red Sox game last night. Heading into the late innings, the Yankees had used some pinch hitters and moved their roster around a bit, and it came to the point where the player hitting in the third baseman's spot did not have the physical fortitude to play the position when the half inning was due to come around. Because of this, Joe Girardi was forced to move Alex Rodriquez from designated hitter to third base. I understood the move. He was seemingly out of better options. I also knew the consequences of the move, namely that the Yankees would lose the designated hitter spot in the lineup and the pitcher would be forced to bat. Now, at the time, I was fully aware of this, yet, after time passed, I started to feel like I shouldn't have been. Why does this rule make sense? It is almost as dumb as the second rule of Fight Club.

Now, to be clear, if a position player gets moved from, say, left field to right field, this has no effect on the other positions. He is free to do so. Whomever was slotted in at right field could move to catcher or vice versa. It doesn't matter. However, for some reason, if the designated hitter is moved to any other position at any point in the game, no one else can switch to DH. The spot is lost and whomever is slotted in at pitcher is forced to bat next time that spot in the lineup comes up. Why does this make sense? Isn't the DH a player like everyone else? Why single him out as being weird and different, giving him different rules and regulations to follow? It is just another position in a lineup and should be treated as such. To think otherwise is lunacy.

However, baseball isn't finished with dumb designated hitter rules. How about the fact that the DH exists in one league and not the other! The national league does not use designated hitters in their lineups. If an inter-league game is taking place, it is determined whether the teams use a DH by where the game is being played, who the home team is. Now those of you who are trying to defend MLB by saying the DH was a rule added recently and the national league chose not to adopt it, this is true. But that is not a good argument.

Just imagine for a second that something like this existed in basketball. Imagine if the western conference did not use the three point line but the eastern conference did. The three point line was a rule added to the game relatively recently, but let's pretend only one conference agreed to it. If the Lakers played the Magic, the teams would find out beforehand whether they would get an extra point from shooting behind that line based on if the game was in Los Angeles or Orlando. This time, the game is in LA so no three point line. Too bad for Orlando, but now they might as well bench Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick for the game because their only real strengths are shooting threes. What a shame.

How about if football did something similar? What if the NFC decided not to adopt the forward pass when it was instituted in the AFC. Anytime a game was played in an NFC team's home stadium, a forward pass would be illegal. Now if the Colts were playing....well, you get the picture.

But I shouldn't pile on major league baseball. They aren't alone in their use of dumb rules. In professional golf, in competition on the PGA tour, players are expected to call and enforce their own penalties. Now this is also the 'rule' in any form of golf, even playing with friends. If you commit a penalty during your swing or at any point during a hole, you are supposed to call yourself on it and add penalty strokes accordingly. If I am playing amongst friends, I can see this working out fine. Just like when I'm playing racquetball and I hit the ball back on a slight short-hop, I stop play and exclaim how my shot was no good. But on the PGA tour? These are professionals, paid to win, who yearn to win, who want nothing more than to win. In other sports, the same professionals are openly breaking rules (and laws for that matter) to cheat and get an edge to win. Why are golf professionals different? You cannot have a serious pro sport with a rule where players call their own fouls. How many players would foul out of an NBA championship game if they had to call their own fouls?

But what about basketball? They are not above this silly rule bonanza. The NBA instituted a rule where young men have to be out of high school at least a year before they can be eligible for the NBA draft. How does this make sense? Rather than going one way or the other with this, they chose the worst solution. It would be better if kids could still come straight from high school to the pros. The ones who made a bad decision would fail and have no degree to fall back on, but how is that different than the kids who only spend a year in college? It would also be better if kids had to be out of high school for at least two years. If they played in college an extra year, not only would it tremendously improve the college game, but the kids would not be able to find loopholes so easily. Let me explain. Right now, as the rule stands, a player has to spend a year out of high school before he can enter his name into the draft. Most people use this year to go to college and play (although they don't have to and not all do, see: Jennings, Brandon.) However, being a one-and-done, meaning going to school for one year, knowing you will leave for the NBA no matter what, means you only have to pass one semester of classes. And you don't have to pass by much. A kid can pass fall semester to be eligible for the entire college basketball season. If they go on to fail spring semester, it doesn't matter because the season is over already and they are leaving school. So the seemingly genuine rule by the NBA to force kids to go to college for a year now encourages those same kids to get even less out of college than seemed possible.

This past season's Kentucky Wildcats team posted a cumulative GPA of 2.02. Not only is that horrendous, but that includes the few players who posted GPA's over 3, meaning there were many who posted grade point averages below 2. Of course, as you may have guessed, Kentucky had five, yes FIVE, players leave early for the NBA. Four of them were freshmen and one a junior. So, technically, those four freshmen could have taken the minimum requirements to pass their fall semester classes and then fail spring semester and have no penalty forthcoming. They would be ineligible to play basketball next year unless they improved their grades, but they aren't playing next year. They skipped town instead.

I wouldn't want to leave the mighty NFL out of this rule stomping party. They have, well....let me think. (Thinking.) Their rules are actually pretty good. One of their more obvious rule blunders was actually adjusted just last year to correct for the previous mistake. Before, if a defender forced a receiver out of bounds while a catch was being made, the referee could decide that the player 'might' have come down in bounds had the defender not 'forced him out' and the catch would stand. Okay. But the defender DID force him out! He's a defender, there to defend. Shouldn't the rulebook reward a player for forcing the opposition out of bounds? Well, now it does. The receiver now has to come down in bounds for the catch to count because of the rule change, but also, because the opposite makes about as much sense as the rest of the rules on this list.

Well, that's all I have for now off the top of my head. If anyone can think of any other dumb rules in sports, let us know. Post them in the comments section. Just try to remember, if you can, not to talk about Fight Club in the process.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Father Time is gaining on us

Alright, I get it. The New York Yankees are old. The vast majority of their roster is past their prime. I know, all their off-season acquisitions have sucked/gotten hurt. I am aware of the standings and how freaking good Tampa Bay is. I understand. But I'm not worried. The Yankees are in good shape.

Yes, they are a group of old vets, but hasn't that been their MO for at least a decade now? (I have no idea what MO stands for but I am almost positive I used it correctly.) Being experienced and knowledgeable didn't stop them from winning the title last year. And, yes, they had a busy off-season which, on first glance, does not seem to have paid off. But we have time to look closer and see that this isn't time to panic.

I would make the Austin Jackson - Curtis Granderson trade again.
Now let me stop you before you get up on your soap box. That was still a good trade. Granderson will be back by June and he doesn't have a history of injuries. He should be fine and will produce as expected. As for Jackson, if his BABIP was any higher, he'd get suspended for 50 games just on pure principal that he must be cheating.

(For the uninitiated, BABIP stands for batting average on balls in play. It essentially means how often a batted ball is a hit, rather than an out. The normal rate is around .300. Austin Jackson's BABIP, last time I checked, was over .500. That means, when he puts a ball in play, more often than not, he gets a hit. That also means he has to be the luckiest person in Detroit, but to be fair, he didn't have much competition for that crown.)

(Also for the uninitiated, why don't you know what BABIP is? This is 2010. You better get your act together.)

I would make the Melky Cabrera for Javier Vazquez trade again.
Stop yelling profanities and throwing bottles at me. Now, flashing back, I don't see how anyone could have possibly killed that trade at the time unless they were Melky's mother or close relative. Cabrera was, at best, a fourth outfielder. He was an okay fielder, with a slightly better than okay arm. He was slightly worse than an okay hitter. He was traded for a top five finisher in the 2009 NL Cy Young award. Now, with hindsight, Vazquez having lots of bad starts and only one good start, and now being yanked around in the rotation, and sent to the bullpen for the immediate future, I can understand someone killing the trade, but barely. I still would make the same deal. He's our fifth starter. He has talent. Perhaps I am in the minority of not overreacting to anything that happens before Memorial Day, but I am fine to wait on Javy. He already started to turn the corner his last outing.

I would still not mind having Nick Johnson on roster over Hideki Matsui as the token guy-who-cannot-play-any-position-in-the-field.
Everyone who decided not to kill GM Brian Cashman for the Melky trade, certainly got on him for acquiring Nick Johnson at the expense of Hideki Matsui. I didn't mind the decision at the time. I was ready for the Matsui era to end. I also like Nick Johnson. Of course, he is made of glass. Samuel L. Jackson's character in Unbreakable was actually based off of Nick Johnson. Not many people know that. So, of course Johnson got hurt again this season. He is now out indefinitely. It is going to be a while. But didn't Joe Girardi want to use the DH spot in the lineup as a semi-revolving door anyways? He wanted to give Alex Rodriguez a half-day off once a week. He wanted to let Jeter play DH every once in a while. He needed a spot to put Jorge Posada knowing Posada wouldn't be able to catch 150 games. The Nick Johnson experiment was not making or breaking the lineup anyways. It just so happens that Granderson and Posada got dinged up at the same time as Nick, so it seems like more of a burden than it really is. If Johnson comes back for the second half, he can still get on base with the best of them, and he's not going to bat under .200 for the rest of the year. I can live with this move, but mostly because I don't see it mattering all that much.

Perhaps I am just a closet optimist. But I am not worried. I don't go crazy for April and May events. The immortal Mariano Rivera was unavailable for a few days and he came back to give up a grand slam in his first save chance in a couple weeks. That bothered me, but it doesn't worry me going forward. Nick Swisher is aching and needed the day off. He will probably miss a series or two. I'm not bent out of shape about it though. Let everyone get hurt in May. Let's get it out of the way and be healthy going into the All-Star break. Let Javy get all his terrible starts out of the way before it gets too hot outside. Let the Rays run away with the AL East. What do we care? We'll take the wild card and play the Twins in the first round of the playoffs. When is the last time the Twins beat the Yankees in a series? 1894?

Maybe I'm not even a closest optimist. Maybe I am an obvious optimist. Or maybe, I'm a realist. I didn't go crazy last year, when the Yankees got off to a slow start. I actually wasn't worried the year before either, even though they ended up missing the playoffs. I'm just not one to overreact.

And oh by the way, with all the talk of the sky falling on this Yankees team, and their age catching up with them, I forgot to mention that they have the second best record in the Majors. Maybe that's why I am not too worried.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Unpredictability is the new black

After tonight's game seven between the Bruins and Flyers, all the conference finals match-ups will be set in both hockey and basketball. However, to say the match-ups are surprising is a bit of an understatement. I'd have predicted Iron Man 2 for this year's best picture winner before I would have guessed these conference finals games.

Now usually hockey is schizophrenic anyways. A hot goaltender can carry a mediocre team for weeks in the NHL playoffs. That has never been more true than this year. The eight seed Montreal Canadiens toppled the top seed Caps in the first round in a seven game series. But that wasn't enough for them. They decided to do the same to the defending champion Penguins in the second round. Now, the bottom seeded Canadiens are waiting for their conference finals opponent, all while riding the coat tails of goalie Jaraslov Halak. This is a bit unexpected. The lowest seeded team beating the top seed, as well as the defending Stanley Cup Champion is enough of a story, but Halak wasn't even Montreal's top goalie heading into this season. That distinction belonged to Carey Price. Price was obviously unseated during the regular season and Halak carried that momentum with him all the way He still has it. He doesn't want to give it up.

If an eight seed making the conference finals wasn't unpredictable enough, the winner of tonight's game will also be one of the bottom seeds because this is a six vs. seven battle. That is right. The three lowest seeds in the eastern conference are the last three standing. The one, two, and three seeds didn't make it out of the first round.

But this rabbit hole goes deeper still. The Boston Bruins are also riding a tremendous goalie through the playoffs who wasn't their go-to net minder coming into the season. Tuuka Rask has been amazing all year after taking over for Tim Thomas, who was amazing last year. Goalies year to year seem about as quirky as middle relievers. But the Bruins' opponent also has a goaltender story for this game seven. The Flyers regularly scheduled goalie, Brian Boucher, got hurt during game six and left. Michael Leighton replaced him, led the Flyers to the victory, and now looks to be the starter for game seven.

Oh, by the way, the Bruins led this series 3-0. They won the first three games and lost the next three to force the deciding seventh game. I'd tell you how often that has happened in the history of the National Hockey League, but I don't have access to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The west has not been full of surprises like the east. The top two seeds both advanced. However, that in and of itself is a bit unexpected. The San Jose Sharks have finished near the top of the NHL for a number of seasons now, yet always manage to screw their season up come playoff time. This is the year, the unpredictable season, where the top seed that always loses, managed not to.

Now when it comes to the NBA playoffs, there is obviously no goalie momentum to ride. In fact, basketball is definitely the most predictable of the four major American sports. Eight seeds don't advance. Upsets are uncommon. The team with the best player usually wins. It is often very simple. That's what makes the 2010 playoffs a little odd. The Boston Celtics won. They were supposed to be too old, too slow, too worn down. It was too late for them. They also did not have the best player coming into the series: all bad signs. But they pulled it out, often very convincingly. And LeBron James didn't seem like the best player. Now, with an eastern conference finals match-up against the Orlando Magic, I'm not sure what to expect. The Magic steamrolled through rounds one and two. They didn't lose a single game, two sweeps. But the Celtics looked young again. The Celtics will make this a good series I expect, a series in fact, I would not have expected to happen a couple weeks ago.

The western conference finals is unpredictable in the sense of the Suns being there. This Suns nucleus had never beaten the Spurs. Not only did they beat them this year, they beat them down, swept them. The Lakers, on the other side, also come in after sweeping their previous opponent. Including the Magic's sweep, these three teams have been waiting around watching the Celtics - Cavs series just like the rest of us.

As for what happens during all these conference finals games, here is my guess: something unpredictable.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Fantasmagorical Mr. James

The Akron Hammer, The King, LeBron, he goes by many names. Up until recently, he had played at only one speed: faster than you. This eastern conference semi-finals match-up against the Boston Celtics has raised many questions however.

Perhaps LeBron is really, actually, really hurt. I just assumed, like many others, that he was 'hurt' but only enough to make himself seem mortal...take a little pressure off if you will. Now, if he comes back and leads his Cavs to the eastern finals, he battled through pain and fought back when everyone called him down and out! But perhaps that wasn't the case. Perhaps he was not manipulating the media for his benefit and he was actually just really injured. Perhaps.

Perhaps this supporting cast of his is as crappy and disappointing as every one previously. We already knew, and had confirmed again this year, that Mo Williams is no playoff hero. He shows up smaller than Carlton Banks. (Is it too late for Fresh Prince of Bel Air jokes? That show ended within the past decade....I think.) And what about the huge acquisition of Antwan Jamison? Well, since Wizards fans weren't exactly broken up about the departure, perhaps he wasn't as good as advertised. He now seems more like a guy who put up numbers for a bad team, rather than a star who can play as LeBron's second banana. 2010 Shaquille O'neal does not have to be addressed. Just know he's no 1995 Rik Smits. Delonte West and Anthony Parker are okay bench guys. Anderson Varejao is a good hustle player, a slightly poorer man's Joakim Noah. Who on this team other than the King can you see contributing to a league champion?

Perhaps LeBron isn't a winner. I am actually not in this camp. I still think it's too early to tell. He has already carried a team to the finals, and another two to eastern conference finals. And he is still only 25. The problem is, he's an old 25, a veteran 25. He has already played seven full seasons in the NBA. But I still don't want to address this one quite yet. Maybe if they lose game six in Boston by 28 points and he shows up small again this series, I'll consider it. But not yet.

If it isn't LeBron himself and if his injury isn't severe enough to effect his playing time, then isn't it time to find a new home? He has gone as far as he can with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I had always been under the impression that James would stay in Cleveland 'either way.' Either way means whether they won the title or not. If the Cavs took home the championship, 'how can LeBron leave a city like that??' He would turn into muscle for hire, moving from city to city trying to win the ring. That just doesn't seem feasible. He would never have a home. He would never be beloved by anyone. If the Cavs had lost, reasonably, in the finals, or the eastern finals in six or seven games, then 'how can LeBron desert Cleveland like that??' He gets so close but cannot reach the summit, so he bails and quits on the city? That would leave a sour taste in anyone's mouth. So I didn't see him leaving. But now, if they lose to this Celtics team with this Cavs roster, with his free agency looming, and so many more attractive locations available?

Just imagine him and Derrick Rose, with Noah running baseline to baseline for the next nine years in Chicago. Just imagine him and Dirk each scoring 33pts/game in Dallas. Just imagine him and Chris Bosh meeting up, wherever. And what if James does return New York to glory? Aren't all those options more appealing than another season of watching Mo Williams miss 18 footers?

I know more will go into the decision than just who his teammates will be. But I have a hard time believing he won't consider, as part of his decision, who his teammates are right now.

We are all King James packing a bag for greener pastures.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Where is Guy Ritchie's Best Director Oscar?

It can be a challenge to enjoy a movie containing many inaudible lines of dialogue. Hearing and understanding what a character is saying is of vital importance to following the plot and flow of a film. If a key piece of information is uttered in an indistinguishable tone, this could perhaps lead to confusions by the viewer later in the film.

I feel like this is the only reason why Guy Ritchie doesn't win Best Directing Oscars. If it wasn't for the lines and lines of gibberish scattered throughout every one of his films, Mr. Ritchie would be recognized up on that pedestal next to George Lucas and Peter Jackson (who get away with the very same thing because the characters we don't understand are of a different species. What a cop-out.)

But there is another layer of difficulties implemented by Ritchie to, I assume, drive away even more viewers. In his films, he tends to introduce dozens of characters, one after another, making sure he passes the point where you are able to remember who is who when they return at a later point in the story. This is an integral Guy Ritchie directorial move.

If Guy brings us to the point where we are watching a character, yet do not understand a word he/she is saying, and have no idea who he/she is, we have reached the pinnacle. Guy Ritchie will then put his director's cap away and call it a day: mission accomplished.

Our first introduction to Guy Ritchie films was Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. (By 'first' I mean first film that anyone has heard of.) I would describe the plot, but it doesn't really matter. At the very beginning, we are introduced to a group of four friends, who's names are irrelevant and who's accents are excellent. They really make it hard to put any accent above British on the list of Best Accents (with Bostonian uttered by anyone not in Good Will Hunting finishing last of course.) As the movie progresses, the viewers discover the rest of the endless list of characters that pull Ritchie's first film together: Big Chris and his son, the pot dealing roommates, the card players and the club owner, the next door neighbors, the rich black guy, etc. The key factor here is that I have seen this movie at least half a dozen times and only remember the name of one character: Winston. (I had to look up Big Chris' name because I couldn't figure out an easy way to describe him.)

Because of this dilemma, in his next film, Guy Ritchie decided to open by listing all the characters we will see during the movie, one after another, with a little picture for us to put a name to a face. I am not sure if this is a coincidence, but I know the name of every character in the movie Snatch. Every single one. By the time of my sixth Snatch viewing, I knew everyone, so I was ready to start remembering classic quotes. This is where I am sure Ritchie recognized his mistake. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels allows for occasional quote recognition, but since you do not remember who is saying it, the quote loses some luster. Since Ritchie had the opposite affect with Snatch, in that every character was memorable, he had to make the dialogue impossible to distinguish in order to finish with the same result. Now, we have quotes from Turkish and Mickey and Brick Top that are awesome, I assume, but we would have to check a script to be sure.

As Guy Ritchie's career progressed, I feel like he was given some bad advice. He was told, somewhere along the line, that making movies like this is a bad idea. I hope he fired that PR rep, but before he did, he made the movie Sherlock Holmes. Now, before you go off about how much money this movie made and how popular it was, just remember that it got Ritchie away from his roots. Rather than even attempting to infuriate the movie goers with lists and lists of characters, he simply picked a story with characters the public already knew. This was a real step back for Guy Ritchie's career. It would be like if Pablo Picasso, in the middle of his career, had switched to painting faces with all the eyes and ears and noses where they belonged. Sure, more people would understand it, but he would have lost his artistic expression. You could tell Guy battled with this dilemma throughout Sherlock Holmes, forcing himself at a number of points, to at least throw in some dialogue that we couldn't understand. He had to, to save his craft.

Mr. Ritchie has a number of films in the works, with 2011 and 2012 expected release dates. I am not sure which direction he is heading in. Perhaps he is moving even more mainstream. (I'd make another painter analogy but I don't know the correct affiliation.) Let's hope that he stays true to who he is though. The day I can use a quote from a Guy Ritchie film in everyday conversation is the day he failed me as a director.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Trying to wrap my head around Lost: The Final Season

Time for a frantic romp through last night's Lost and where we're headed. If I could make more sense of things, this would be a better written column. But, considering the program, I am just going to ramble.

For much of season six, we, as the audience, have assumed that Smoke/Locke wanted to either kill everyone or force everyone off the island, so he too could leave. (Everyone, in this case, just means all the candidates because it appears as though no one else matters really.) If one of the candidates remained island-bound, so too was Smoke/Locke. But the question was always out there of why he didn't just easily kill everyone and float his way 'home.' This was finally addressed directly during last night's episode, where Jack just comes out and says what we were all pondering. Perhaps Smoke/Locke is not allowed to kill them.

In fact, it seemed as though Charles Widmore's crew knew the same information. When the group was boarding the submarine, not one person was shot or shot at, except for Kate, who is not a candidate. Widmore's crew in the woods apparently did not want to harm any of the candidates. At least that is what I took out of that scene. Of course we still do not know how Widmore found the island again, got back to it, what he is doing there, what he wants, how he knows anything, etc, etc.

That brings us to the end of this most recent episode, with a seemingly shortened cast list and the story coming to an end. Presumably, there are only three hours remaining in the series. The plot itself can be wrapped up in that time span in a nice little package. I have confidence in this. We need Smoke/Locke to be trapped by the new candidate, everyone else to go home or die, and the two worlds to connect, probably immediately before the prior happens. And that will be that. There is really nothing else left to happen, in the broad sense of the plot line. Desmond is still alive and kicking, albeit with not much room to kick, being trapped down a well, Lassie-style. His job is to connect the worlds and I assume nothing else. No idea how this is going down, but that doesn't really matter as long as it happens. The candidate to stay and be the new Jacob is presumably Jack, but I suppose it can also be Hurley or Sawyer. Those are technically the only three options left. With Sawyer now forced to take a back seat to Jack, after being wrong about the bomb and killing a number of candidates, it has to just come down to Smoke/Locke vs. Jack. That is what everything has led up to and that will tie it off nicely at the end.

However, there is still so much left to explain, many factors that I had previously forgotten about, because they hadn't been addressed in so long. What happened to Richard, Ben and Miles? Didn't they go to destroy the plane a while ago? They obviously failed, Widmore beat them to it, or they joined Widmore since they each had the same objective. Can Hurley actually talk with dead people, or is his conscience giving him a platform to tell him what should be done when he does not have enough self-confidence to think these actions are his own opinion?

But let's travel further back. What about Walt? He was made out to be so special in prior seasons and now is irrelevant. What of Aaron and Claire leaving the island as per one of Desmond's earlier premonitions? He was never wrong on any of the others. What about the fact that Ben was apparently dealing with the Smoke Monster all those years, never having met Jacob? He was getting his orders from him, dressed most recently to that point, as Jack's dad Christian. What about how all pregnant mothers were dying, except when they weren't? I know that doesn't make sense, but that is only because it doesn't make sense in the show either. The Dharma Initiative mothers were able to give birth. Claire was able to give birth. Sun was pregnant and did not die, nor did her child (born off the island) have any problems. So all pregnant mothers died on the island, except the ones who did not die! Hopefully this is addressed. And what about Desmond? He turned a key to seemingly save everyone's life, and 'something' happened. His mind could subsequently travel back and forth through the past, and now, through alternate realities. Yet he is not a candidate and never was brought to the island by Jacob. He seemed to always be brought by Widmore, whether literally or figuratively. But pretty much everything about Widmore is, to this point, unanswered, except for the technical information of who he is.

There are plenty more question still remaining. Why was Sun never transported through time when they first returned with Locke's casket? Why was Jin 'grabbed' by the circumference of the island when it moved through time, yet the helicopter was not? Jin was much farther from the island than Jack and Kate, etc. in the helicopter were. Why did Ben have access to millions and millions of dollars when Miles tried to bribe him when Widmore's first boat came to attack? Miles asked the other characters if they knew who this guy (Ben) actually was. Well, didn't we know? He was a man who controlled an island that produced nothing. He made no money off anything that happened anywhere on the island. In my recollection, he would have had access to an amount of money reaching zero dollars. Where would Ben have gotten all that cash? Besides the ability to transport himself to a random Tunisian desert, (and, oh by the way, supposedly never be able to return to his precise island afterward) Ben had access to nothing worthwhile in the 'real world.'

But all of these things do not necessarily need to be answered, or even addressed, ever again. We will get an explanation of who Smoke/Locke is (probably next week based on the sneak peak.) We will get an end to Desmond's tale. The plot will come to a conclusion. I am not sure we will get anything more than that. T minus three hours left to find out.

(What does T minus mean? They use it in aircraft launch countdowns and such. Does it just mean 'takeoff minus?' So T minus 10 seconds means takeoff in 10 seconds. I guess that is feasible.)

My only Lost hope is that if I go back and watch old episodes, I am very pleased with how the seasons connect and the characters develop, rather than constantly disappointed with how many plot lines end up going nowhere.

Okay, I actually have one more Lost hope: that Dominic Monaghan is more typecast/associated with Charlie than as being a hobbit.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What to believe

We are a month into the 2010 Major League Baseball season. This is not nearly enough time to make proper judgments and predictions. Usually Memorial Day (roughly two months into the season) is used as the first day to 'see where you are' as a team, a player, whatever. One month in, some crazy stuff happens. In years past, April stars such as Chris Shelton and Emilio Bonafacio have graced the leader-boards of some of baseball's major stat categories, only to disappear by year's end (and in Shelton's case, to be demoted to the minor leagues.)

What of this year's crazy stuff is real, which statistics can we believe and which are bound to plummet? Let's examine and find out.

The most important stat in any sport is wins. Taking a quick look at the current standings we see that the Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in baseball. This is nothing mind blowing, however many of the other current division leaders left my mind blown. The Oakland A's, New York Mets, and San Diego Padres all currently lead their respective divisions. This is not going out on too thin a limb, but I still think all three will miss the playoffs. They just aren't good. I mean the Padres have allowed the third fewest runs in all of baseball. That will not continue for much longer with a staff anchored by the immortal Jon Garland. Their young pitchers (Correia, Latos, and LeBlanc) are good but not 'guys I would trust to win a playoff series' good.

On the other side of things, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Houston are in the basement of their respective divisions....Well, actually, this checks out. But so are the Braves, Dodgers, and Mariners. All three of those teams were picked by many to make the playoffs before the season started. However, as the famous saying goes, you can not win your division in April, but you sure can lose it. And I think only the Braves out of these bottom dwellers will come back to even make the playoffs. Sorry Seattle, your city's woes continue.

Individual April player stats are even more questionable than the current standings. Carlos Lee, a career .290 hitter, is batting a putrid .176 right now. That will get turned around. Ben Zobrist has hit zero home runs in 91 at-bats, even though he had been hitting them at a pace of every 18 at-bats the previous two seasons. Matt Kemp has already been caught stealing 5 times. Perhaps that doesn't sound too bad out of any context, but last year, in 159 games, he stole 34 bases and was only caught 8 times. And what about 2009's Cy Young award winner in the american league, Zack Greinke? He is off to a nice start in 2010, with peripherals of a 2.56 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and a 27/7 strikeout to walk ratio. All rather sparkling numbers. The only problem is he hasn't won a single game yet.

But enough with the bad starts. Who is off to a great start in 2010? (and is bound to come plummeting back to Earth soon.) Well the NL home run leader is none other than previously released Kelly Johnson. No one wanted him during spring training until the Diamondbacks finally signed him right before the season began. He decided to thank them by hitting 9 home runs in his first 23 games played. The only problem is he might not hit 9 more the entire rest of the season. He has never had a season in the majors where he hit 18 home runs. His career high is 16. Austin Jackson, the Tigers rookie who was acquired in the Curtis Granderson trade, is currently batting .356 with 37 hits and 21 runs scored on the year. April was his first month ever playing in the majors. Something tells me he won't continue on this torrid pace. And how about the resurgence of $100 million man Vernon Wells. He has a 1.069 OPS right now. He hasn't ended a season with an OPS even over .900 since 2003. To put it in some more perspective, 1.069 would be the 4th highest career OPS in the history of baseball, right behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig. I would have to say Vernon might be in for a bit of a decline before the month of May is out. The aforementioned Kevin Correia is off to a very nice start as well. He has already notched 4 wins on the year. However, he has zero quality starts because he hasn't completed at least six innings in any of them.

As you can see, the stats and standings are fun to examine any time of the year. However, they pretty much don't mean a thing. Yet.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sports bother me IV

I was not going to address this Dez Bryant situation. It's one of those stupid sports stories that come out that have nothing to do with sports and I don't care in the least about. But now I am forced to. For those of you who do not know the story, look it up, it has been everywhere.

'People' were outraged, literally outraged, at Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland for his question. Some 'people' wanted him fired. Others were debating whether the question was illegal and he could be reprimanded for it. Still others, such as Mike Golic, said on air that he would have punched Jeff Ireland in the face for asking that question, and subsequently walked out of his job interview for the National Football League. The only person I heard make a reasonable point about this topic the past couple days was Colin Cowherd. He was the only guy who actually made the point that the context of this question might matter...uhh, duh! Every other sports critic was too up-in-arms to make that point, and too concerned with winning over the audience to say anything besides that Ireland should be beaten with a large pole. (Colin is usually good for saying something semi-controversial that others won't.)

Now, two/three days later, however long it has been, a new development has come out! So wait, this question by Jeff Ireland was NOT completely out of left field, reprehensible, and cruel? The question was actually logical. Jeff Ireland apologized yesterday, I suppose for this becoming such a big story, but Bryant is now the person who should apologize for ruining Jeff Ireland's reputation. Of course, Bryant is denying this new development, so we should give it another day or two for him to admit what really transpired, but here is our new account of that 'job-interview from hell.'

Originally, Jeff Ireland asked Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. Everyone flipped out. Dez Bryant got "really, really mad but didn't show it." Mike and Mike in the Morning got on their high horse, etc, etc. Now, according to 'multiple sources' (which can probably mean just two, but still...) Bryant led off this line of questioning by saying his father was a pimp. But that's not all! He also said his mother worked for his father! What is the only logical next question that can be asked at this point by Ireland during the interview? "Your mom was a prostitute?" Thanks Jeff. That is what I was wondering at this point as well. Thanks for not completely ignoring that topic and moving on to Dez's vertical jump score.

I do not really care about what happened in this interview. I do not really care what happens to Bryant or Ireland at this point. I just want people to stop jumping to conclusions. I know the media is forced to take sides when a story comes out, or else it's not as interesting to watch and ratings drop, but shouldn't they have the facts first? I guess that is more of a 1990's thing, having facts, and that is why sports bother me.