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Posted on: June 26, 2008 12:40 pm
 

Fresno State Brings it Home

First off, I want write something that I never thought would reach my blog: THE FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS ARE THE COLLEGE WORLD Fresno State's 14-4 run in the postseason makes a 33-27 regular season moot. (Getty Images)SERIES CHAMPIONS.  And really, did anyone else see that coming?  Well, maybe my buddy Steve, who is a CSU Fresno alumnus and has been inundating me with email and text status updates of this improbable story.  Steve has a vested interest, but we should all take notice of some of the highlights of their fairy-tale run to the title:

  • After finishing 47-31 in the regular season, they went on to beat No. 3 Florida State, No. 6 Rice, No. 2 North Carolina (twice), and finally No. 8 Georgia;
  • While many of the other teams were carrying recent high MLB draft picks, Fresno State’s highest draftee (Tanner Scheppers, 2nd round) didn’t even play in the postseason; and
  • In the finale, Justin Wilson (5-5 on the season) threw 127 pitches in seven innings of shutout ball and while playing with a torn ligament in his thumb, Steve Detwiler crushed two home runs and six RBIs to finish the tournament with six home runs and 17 RBIs.  

But what did their Finals win over Georgia really come down to?  Well, the powers-that-be clearly hate it when baseball teams label themselves the “Dawgs.”  Don’t they know that all of the great Dawgs in history (i.e., the Cleveland Dawg Pound, Dawg of DC Comics fame, and American mandolinist David “Dawg” Grisman) actually earned their nicknames?  These guys need to step their game up and read a history book (or Wikipedia.org).

On a side note, did anyone else find it amusing that Orel Hersheiser was the color guy for the ESPN broadcast of the Finals?  Because…Hersheiser, Fresno State, and Georgia all share the same nickname: Bulldog.

So for my buddy Steve, CSU Fresno alumni, and all grads of the CSU system (yeah, we can claim a piece of this too!), congratulations Fresno State Bulldogs on winning the 2008 College World Series!

Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980


Posted on: June 18, 2008 3:38 pm
 

Game 6 Embarrassment

I have a quick thought on last night's Game 6 of the Finals:

While a 39-point beat-down at the hands of the Celtics and a complete defensive collapse by the Lakers (if there ever actually was a "defense" to collapse) is embarrassing, NOTHING was more embarrassing than watching Michele Tafoya's post-game interview of Kevin Garnett. This interview gave us two adrenaline-packed, testosterene-filled gems from the elated Garnett: "Michelle, you look good tonight, girl", which was soon followed by "Anything is possible. ANYTHING IS POSSIBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!"

Now, I can't fault the guy for being stoked after completely deconstructing the Lakers en route to winning an NBA Championship, but I'm just guessing that once he got home last night, flipped on SportsCenter and saw the video of his interview that was capped by his best Howard Dean impression ("Byaaaaaah!!!"), he had to say, "Wow, that was a bad idea."

And yes, Laker fans, like any serious fans who just witnessed their team endure one of the most painful losses in recent memory, will have the memory of an elephant and should greet Garnett in his next trip to the Staples Center with chants of "You look good tonight" and "ANYTHING IS POSSIBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!"

Until then, the Lakers and I will be working on our defense.

Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980

 

Posted on: June 16, 2008 1:44 am
 

Lake Show -- Game 5 & Michael Wilbon

In my best impersonation of Count Blah (of "Greg the Bunny" fame) while rounding out my feelings of Game 5 of the NBA Finals: "That was so painful, blah."  I love the result, 103-98 Lake Show, but the rollercoasters that were Game 4 and 5 (Lakers giving up 24- and 19-point leads, respectively) are just about killing me.

However, nothing is making me pop the Alka Seltzer like the post-game comments Michael Wilbon (a guy whose opinion I typically appreciate) made about Kobe Bryant's 4th quarter steal off of Paul Pierce: "It's a foul, but...not in Los Angeles."  What?  Was Wilbon watching the game or did his ESPN/ABC producers get in his ear to make sure this "ref scandal" story keeps its legs?  After all, ESPN's decision to air SportsCenter throughout the day has created a huge demand for "new" news. 

But if we look at what Wilbon is choosing to criticize, shouldn't he also be questioning other 4th quarter non-calls like Pierce passing while sliding down the lane on his back (traveling) and Sam Cassell pulling a "sweep-the-leg" move while tossing Sasha Vujacic (ended up being a jump ball)?  Since I'm a Laker fan, these two non-calls had me jumping off my couch and through the ceiling.  Did Wilbon not take issue with these non-calls because it wouldn't fit into his "home-team-ref-bias" theory?

While Wilbon was busy implicating the NBA refs of favoritism, Doc Rivers was asked to give his assessment of Kobe's pivotal steal: "Give him credit. He made a hell of a play."  Unfortunately, unlike Doc's opinion, Wilbon's sound-bite will be replayed over-and-over on ESPN.

And funny enough...as I was about to search for information on Wilbon and my initial thought that he might be suffering from an East coast bias (he's written for the Washington Post for 28 years), I came across this article on Yahoo! by Dan Wetzel: Ref's in crosshairs of biased announcers.  It doesn't necessarily apply, but I thought it was interesting and timely.

Now, these may just be the angry ramblings of an angry Laker fan, but hearing Wilbon's comment after a game like that just made me want to throw my remote through the TV screen.  Fortunately, I can turn to my blog for therapy.

Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980

 

Posted on: May 12, 2008 4:07 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2008 5:19 pm
 

NBA: Got Soft?

I have never pretended to be a huge NBA fan.  I’m a Lakers fan by default (if my memory serves me correctly, the Dodgers and Lakers were on a continuous loop at my grandparents’ house), so I actually have many great Kareem/Magic/Worthy/Shaq/Kobe playoff memories.  But, I refuse to actually watch a whole game during the first half of the season. 

Do I watch the highlights?  Of course, but the only greater waste of time than sitting through an early-season NBA game (in a league that ends with half of the teams reaching the playoffs), is watching pre-season NFL games.  Naturally, following the results of every Spring Training game makes complete sense to me.

With that disclaimer, my jaw dropped yesterday when Ronny Turiaf was ejected from Game 4 of the Lakers-Jazz series after fouling Ronnie Price

I agree that it was a hard foul and due to Price’s botched landing/faceplant, I would even agree that it should be considered a Tech-1.  But a Tech-2 and an ejection?  I was stunned.  The refs even came to the conclusion after reviewing the play on the sidelines!  So, I have to ask the question, is the NBA getting too soft?

The thought first came to mind while reading Dan Patrick’s interview of Larry Bird in this last week’s Sports Illustrated.  Bird was asked to compare the physicality of the game when he played to today’s on-court product.  Bird said, "We had a no-layup rule. Just about everybody in the league did. Our regular-season games used to be rougher than our playoffs now, but the playoffs took it to a different level. Now when you get hit hard, you expect a flagrant."

Then, a few days ago I came across J.E. Skeets’ Ball Don’t Lie blog on Yahoo! and read his article about Bird losing it in a playoff game against the Pistons after Bill Laimbeer laid the smackdown on him.  After watching a true ejection-deserving technical, I could really see how much the game has changed.  A guy with a reputation of playing dirty slams arguably the best player in the game to the floor…just because he was trying to work the paint!  Can you imagine how many heads would roll if Boozer body-slammed Kobe?  How about ‘Sheed horse-collaring LeBron as he takes it to the rack?  How many season-long suspensions would that lead to?

Look, I understand that trying to injure another player has no place in the game, but it bothers me when common sense is overruled by public relations.  Yes, here I go again…it is my opinion that the NBAer’s recent history of off-court shenanigans/crimes against humanity has resulted in the contact-equates-to-a-foul version of the game we see today.

David Stern had to do something after countless run-ins with the law by his employees, right?  He had to salvage the product and the NBA’s reputation, right?  He had to create the public-relations-machine NBA Cares, right?  He had to make sure his top-tier stars kept the focus on the court, right?  So then isn’t it a natural step that no hard fouls would be tolerated?  And that – no matter what – players leaving the bench would lead to automatic suspensions? 

Well, I understand Stern’s business motivation, but was Turiaf getting tossed yesterday and Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw getting suspended in last year’s playoffs after Steve Nash got whacked by Robert Horry, really creating a better product on the court?  I really doubt it.  No, I think the real goal is to create the appearance that if Stern won’t accept rough play on the court, then he won’t accept it off the court.

Trust me, I wish I was wrong.  Unfortunately, the league’s image problems and its way-too-valuable-to-lose-to-injury stars have steered the game even further away from the NBA’s glory days of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. 

Is the game better off?  Nope.  Are the fans better off?  A good question.  Does anyone really care?  An even better question.

Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980

 


Posted on: May 6, 2008 11:57 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2008 11:11 am
 

Blogging = Armageddon, or something

By now, most of you should be familiar with Will Leitch of Deadspin.com and his appearances on Costas Now and Best Damn Sports Show a few weeks ago (the videos can be viewed here and here).  To summarize, Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Buzz Bissinger, the legendary Bob Costas, and the consummate host/windbag of Best Damn Chris Rose, all question the value of blogging.  The most extreme view, which was embodied by the flustered old-schooler Bissinger, was that bloggers represent the second sign of the Apocalypse; preceded only by Bret Michaels’ Rock of Love.

As you will notice on the Costas Now video, Costas turned into a potty-mouth while reading a few blog comments posted in response to an entry on Sean Salisbury leaving ESPN.  Costas says, “Now, these are posts. It isn’t you [Leitch], but you don’t stop these posts from following what you put up there.  This is HBO, so…‘Good riddance, f-ck face’, ‘So long, you fetus-faced windbag’, ‘Good luck managing a Denny’s, douchebag.’” 

Although this historic moment in television would make for an excellent ring tone or voice mail greeting, the biggest fireworks came from Bissinger, who melted down and told Leitch “I just don’t know where you’re coming from except that I think you are perpetuating the future and the future in the hands of guys like you is really going to dumb us down to a degree that I don’t know if we’ll ever recover from.” 

Now, I accept that in the blogosphere, there is a lot of crap out there.  But that’s probably because many blogs are written by 12-year-olds with as much life experience as a pet rock. [Editor’s note: For those of you under the age of 20, “pet rocks” were sold in the ‘70s to thousands of still-shamed buyers duped by the idea that a rock-in-a-box could provide both entertainment and a best friend.]  What Bissinger doesn’t understand and what Leitch explained on both shows, is that it’s not easy to maintain a successful blog.  Leitch said, “The nice thing about the Web is that it’s a meritocracy; anyone can start a blog.  But to get a readership you have to be serious, you have to be consistent.  It’s hard god d-mn work doing a blog.”  So, if your blog is weak and relies solely on personal attacks or profanity, no one is going to pay attention to what you have to say.

Leitch said that Bissinger is probably afraid that blogging will eliminate quality journalism.  This assessment has merit, but I think if Bissinger wanted to confront what is really bothering him about the blog-generation, it would include the following:

  1. Unfamiliar format.  Blogs represent a new media that many sportswriters are not comfortable with and are actually intimidated by.
  2. Job security.  Unpaid fans can provide content to blog-sites for free, so companies may choose to retain fewer experienced, higher -paid sportswriters.  There will always be demand for quality journalism, but writers now need to be able to meet fans on a new medium, which may be unfamiliar to certain sportwriters.
  3. Random criticism.  Bloggers can criticize a sportswriter’s takes almost immediately.  Rather than have his opinions automatically placed on a pedestal, informed (and unfortunately uniformed) readers can take pot shots with few negative repercussions.  This is a huge change from writing newspaper articles.
  4. Limited accountability.  Unlike sports beat writers, bloggers are not accountable to a media outlet employer (newspapers, magazines, sports websites) and typically do not have to maintain personal relationships with players.  Consequently, bloggers don’t have to live up to the same standards of journalism that beat writers do.
  5. Decrease in player access.  If bloggers are overly critical of athletes and base most of their opinions on what sportswriters and sports media companies are reporting about athletes, they may be less willing to be candid with sportswriters.

Although most bloggers probably laughed at Bissinger’s rants against Leitch, the concerns listed above probably get to the root of why many sportswriters’ loathe the average blogger.  The most detrimental concern that is applicable to all of us, may actually be the potential restriction of the media’s access to athletes. 

If the “trust gap” between athletes and those who write about them continues to widen, and athlete-endorsed companies continue to have millions of dollars riding on an athlete’s image, it will be increasingly common for them to issue all significant statements solely through press releases or their websites, both of which would be ghost-written by their publicists.  This information would communicate the endorsing company’s the athlete’s desired message and not necessarily the true emotions that make sports so compelling.

I won’t be aligning myself with Buzz Bissinger to strike against Will Leitch and all blogs anytime soon, but his concerns are based on the unknowns of what new digital medias bring to the sports world and whether we are headed towards a watered-down version of the sports we have grown up with.

So what do you guys think?  Bloggers?  Sportswriters?  Let's hear it.

Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980

 

 

Posted on: May 3, 2008 1:28 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2008 2:15 pm
 

Extra Hustle -- Paul Pierce Shuts It Down

For the casual observer of Friday night's Game 6 of the Celtics-Hawks series, they would have a hard time telling which was the veteran team with a 66-win regular season and which team reached the playoffs with a meager .451 winning percentage.  This was most apparent during the 4th quarter of the Hawks' 103-100 win.

Although the momentum was clearly with the Hawks, Celtics forward Paul Pierce fouling out with significant minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter marked the "end" of the game for his team.  His sixth foul was a flukey call as he wrestled for position under the basket with Zaza Pachulia, but Pierce's response was the story of Game 6.

Rather than mentally stay in the game and continue to be a leader from the bench, he draped his head in a towel and sulked while looking like he knew the Celtics were going to lose.  When Doc Rivers called time outs in the final minutes of the game, where was Pierce?  At the end of the bench not listening to the coach or providing any support to his struggling team.  Unless there's a compelling reason for Pierce just quitting on his teammates like that, I hope Rivers or Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen gave him the business after the game. 

I'm not a Celtics or Hawks fan, but Pierce's actions were bush-league and inexcusable.  Now, what do I think that means for Game 7?  Pierce probably knows he shut it down near the end of Game 6 and he probably can't wait to get back on the floor because he has something to prove.  I can't argue with his skills and obviously this has been his team for the past few years, but if Pierce really wants to win a Championship, then he can take lessons from the new leaders of this team: Garnett and Allen.

Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980 

Posted on: April 29, 2008 12:23 am
Edited on: April 29, 2008 12:03 pm
 

Late NFL Draft Pick Saves a Trip to the Mid-East

This past weekend at the NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected a 6'2", 230-lb SS from Perryton, Texas with their final pick.  Historically, few significant stories come from the 218th overall draft pick, but if you are familiar with college football (or were unable to escape ESPN's blanket coverage of the story), you probably know that the pick was used on Caleb Campbell.

Caleb Campbell played at Army and if undrafted, he was destined for a tour in Iraq after graduation.  However, until recently, there wouldn't have even been an option for a Cadet.  Per the NFL website:

"Army recently revised those requirements, leaving the door open for Campbell and other Cadets to pursue their dream of playing in the National Football League.

"What Army has done is offer its top athletes a side door to professional sports.  West Point has implemented an alternative service option program that allows cadets to turn pro -- and play -- right away.  Cadets accepted into the program 'will owe two years of active service in the Army, during which time they will be allowed to play their sport in the player-development systems of their respective organizations and be assigned to recruiting stations.  If they remain in professional sports following those two years, they will be provided the option of buying out the remaining three years of their active-duty commitment in exchange for six years of reserve time.'"

There are a couple interesting ways to looks at this, one obvious and one not so obvious:

  1. If he isn't cut, Campbell will be the only Army graduate on an NFL roster and will be able to fulfill his obligation to the military by working as an Army recruiter and then as a reserve; and
  2. Although most observers consider it a blessing that Campbell will not have to see combat overseas, the young man in question doesn't really see it the same way.

In an interview on draft day, Campbell was already discussing how he may resume his military career as soon as his football career is over.

"After I'm done with the NFL, after I'm done playing football, I'm still in the Army and I might want to pursue it.  I did go to the Academy to be an officer, to have the opportunity to lead troops one day as a leader, so that opportunity is still appealing to me.  So it's like a win-win situation for me.  I have the opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream and play in the NFL, but who's to say after I'm done playing in the NFL that I can't fulfill another dream I had and the reason that I went to the Academy?"

Wow.  It is strange to hear that from such a young guy.  The Pat Tillman's and Caleb Campbell's are few and far between in the sports world, but they continue to have a positive effect on future generations.  Campbell's story is somewhat unique to sports, but fortunately, his desire to serve his country is not.  There are many other American soldiers and reservists making significant sacrifices on behalf of others, so I appreciate that Campbell's athletic success has helped bring some attention to that fact.

And one last thought, if Campbell isn't able to earn his way onto the Lions' roster, is anyone willing to make the impossible decision to cut the guy?  If so, that person will no doubt become infamous in Detroit and beyond.

Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980

 

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com