Saturday, July 31, 2004

I Don't Buy It

One thing is certain about Dodgers first-year GM Paul DePodesta: He has balls of steel. Give the guy credit for taking the bull by the horns and poking its eyes.

It still remains unclear if he knows what he's doing. We shall see.

Me? I don't buy it. I'm a big fan of "chemistry," whatever that really means in the world of sports, and you will find varying opinions, as well as varying opinions of its importance. Some say pure talent will eventually win out. To each his own. This shall eternally remain unanswered.

However, whatever "chemistry" is, the Dodgers seemed to have it in abundance, winning 23 of 30 games and looking like a serious World Series contender. They were hot, hot, HOT!

Apparenly, DePodesta wasn't satisfied. This, of course, is no crime as any GM worth his salt will attempt to improve his club at the trade deadline. The Dodgers were surely expected to add somebody.

An extra bat or another starter for some prospects was more than expected. Anything less and Dodger fans would have been an angry bunch.

DePodesta, however, more tha tinkered with the lineup - he went nuts. I'm not saying it won't work out for the Dodgers. I'm not saying DePodesta doesn't have some grand vision that nobody else can see. I'm not saying the Dodgers aren't going to win the whole friggin' thing.

I am, however, saying that I thought they had a better chance before this particular shakedown. Yep, I think they screwed up.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Oh, the possibilities

Some of Russia's lovely young female tennis stars are critizing Maria Sharapova, who moved to the United States from Russia at age seven, for not being Russian enough. Somebody sounds jealous.

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking:
A) Ring.
B) Mud
C) Pay-per-view.

There wouldn't be such hubbaloo surrounding young Russian females since those girls in boarding school outfits were busy constantly making out on camera. What was that one-hit duo called again?

Ah, nevermind, I don't really care. I really don't.

John Kerry Shines (in His Sweat)

Hey, John Kerry sweats. No, really, he does. Who knew?

He's not a political robot after all, plugged into a wall to recharge and then released for photo ops without the hint of humanity, an image he often seems to project, sort of Herman Munster in better suits and without the affable personality.

A tiny wad of spit even made it's way fom Kerry's mouth and disappeared off camera. Nice. That happens to real people. Come on, we've all had somebody slobber on our face mid-converstaion and then had to slyly wipe it off without letting on how disgusted we are. Or is that just me?

Sure, Kerry's sweat glands may be in overdrive as the MLB trade deadline radpidly arrives and he sweats bullets about who the Yankees will aquire to futher dull the chances of his beloved Red Sox, but the hint of humanity never hurts, especially when Kerry is often viewed as a snobby, distant elitist who lives the life of ease and vacations in Nantucket.

He doesn't exactly ooze that "just a regular guy" charm, more that "hey, that's the guy who nearly hit me as he sped past in his Volvo", uh, charm.

As Kerry's freakishly long face grew continually clammy, he looked not like a man burning unflatteringly in the spotlight, but a man laying it all out there. He was into it. This was his coming out party, a big "Hello!" to a nation that hadn't previously known him, at least not all that well. He was trying - trying, man - to be passionately poweful, a trick that clearly doesn't come easy to him. It wasn't the best speech in the world, and paled in comparison to Barack Obama's gem, but Kerry delivered when it mattered most, concocting just the right mix of biography, hint of vision without promising too much, and, of course, some thinly veiled bashing of George Bush.

Sure, there were a few things I felt he could have done better such as:
A) Smile a little more. He looks better and younger when he smiles. (Who doesn't?) He was wildly beaming as he walked out and while soaking up the post-speech lovefest, but during the speech he looked like the fear of his botoxed-mug cracking and falling to small pieces on the podium was a serious concern. Plus, it helps raise the bottom of his chin above his waist. I don't know about you, but that puts me at ease.
B) Stop talking during the applause breaks. Note to Kerry: The TV networks aren't going anywhere. Relax. Take it easy. Take it in. You aren't going to get love this easy from a prostitute, so make it last. And it's free.
C.) Bash Bush. Go ahead. Just do it. Why do the Democrats always have to be so nice? You know the Republicans aren't going to take the high road. They never do. It's a prerequisite to join the party - that and you mustn't have any touch with reality, or an ounce of sympathy, or a conscience to get in the way, or a sense of the plight of the common American,, it must be tough to get in. Anyway, something along these lines would have been nice: "Bush fucked up the economy, fucked up Iraq, fucked up America's image and, basically, is one big fuck up who hasn't been a succes at anything in his life...and he can't pronounce the English language...and his momma dresses him funny! Na, na, na, na, na!" Man, that would have been refreshing. Maturity is overrated.

Oh, Kerry did touch upon Bush's many inadequacies. After bringing up feel-good memories of his Cub Scout mother and being born in the "west wing" of a hospital, Kerry calmly ranted against the damage inflicted upon America's image, questionable and changing rationale for war, abuses of executive power, favortism towards corporations, favortism towards the rich, overextension of the military, and the spending of billions on war while the defecit balloons, among others. (Speaking of balloons, where the $%$# are those %$#@ balloons?)

Obama was the week's true sensation, however. Not since the Olsen twins' 18th birthday has the world seen a coming out party like this, and I don't forsee Obama entering rehab anytime soon. Or making really bad TV shows. I do, however, forsee the Olsens fading into relative obscuity, sort of the Michael Dukakis or Dan Quayle of showbiz. At least we can hope.

Already known in Chicago as "the politician of the future," Obama announced to the rest of the nation that he is a man to be reckoned with, immediately igniting talks of a presidential run in the future. He displayed the perfect mix of "distinguished white gentleman" and "bombastic, almost poetic black shouter," possibly the result of coming from a mixed heritage. He's Bill Clinton meets Al Sharpton. The future of the Democrats is in good hands as long as Obama isn't shot or something. Hey, I wouldn't put anything past Republicans when they feel threatened. You could almost hear the Republicans grumbling: "Who is the guy and where is downstate Illinois?" or "Yeah, but he's only half black. Are we supposed to be impressed? Ha!" or "I think I almost like this guy. Wait! No I don't! Must...despise...Democrats."

Colin Powell was heard grumbling sadly, "That coulda been me. I coulda been a contender." Too bad. Too late. Now go fetch Cheney some coffee and smile for the cameras.

Why do I sense an Obama-John Edwards presidential ticket in the future? What about an Obama-Hillary Clinton ticket? A black and a woman, both liberal, on the same ticket? Whoooeee! There'd likely be a sudden wave of heart attacks among staunch Republicans who would be convinced the end of the world is upon us. Strom Thurmond would be rolling over in his grave. Republican or otherwise, such a ticket would blow more minds than Timothy Leary in his psychedelic prime. Maybe too many minds?


Yeah, on second thought, that isn't likely to happen.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

That is All

Rock Stars? I Don't Think so

I just have to get this off my chest: Politicians are not rock stars.

I've heard the likes of the Clintons and Al Gore described as the "rock stars" of the Democratic party on - get this! - more than one occasion of late. The latest ill-advised description came last night from Peter Jennings, who hails from Canada, which produced Bryan Adams and Celine Dion, so, OK, I can see how Jennings might get confused. Adams and Dion make Mr. Rogers and his piano "rockers" look like Keith Richards neeeding to "unwind."

Look, you are not a rock star if you wear a suit and tie, unless, of course, you're in court facing charges of drug possession, inciting a riot, or something else just as scandalous.

I guess Bill Clinton could be be considered rock star-ish...sort of. Getting your knob polished in the Oval Office would certainly make even Motley Crue-in-its-prime or a Gallagher brother proud. And, yeah, he plays the sax. As long as he's not citing Kenny G as an influence, that's cool. So I'll give Bill a big "maybe." Had he admitted to inhaling, I'd be convinced. Even John Kerry admitted to it, and Kerry has about as much charisma as a sleeping Backstreet Boy.

But Hillary? Gore? Or, even more ludicrous, any conservative Republican?

Come on! It's not exactly she-be-evil Martha Stewart comparing herself to Nelson Mandela, but that's getting carried away.

To note:

Politicians wear makeup to hide wrinkles. Rock stars wear makeup because they can.

Politicians have affairs. Rock stars have groupies.

Politicians inhale. Rock stars overdose.

Politicians have joint chiefs of staff. Rock stars have stashes of chief joints.

Politicians carefully decide what you're hearing. Rock stars damage your hearing.

Politicians lie. Rock stars can't remember a damn thing. Really.

Politicians started the War on Drugs. Rock stars hate that.

Politicians love the latest polls. Rock stars love girls on poles.

Politicians make war. Rock stars make love.

Next time I hear a politician compared to being a "rock star," I'm turning off the TV, cracking the Jim Beam and plugging in my sticker-covered Strat with burn marks on the neck where I placed cigarettes.

Rock stars, my ass.

Simmer Down Now

So, Carmelo Anthony has guaranteed gold in Athens? It's a nice gesture, but not exactly Joe Namath guaranteeing a win over the Colts in Super Bowl III, is it? If he had guaranteed an NCAA tournament title for Syracuse, now that would have been cool. How about a Nuggets NBA title?

Hey, if Anthony wants to be like Namath, he could always don pantyhose. Just a suggestion.

Are You Ready for Some Football?

NFL teams are reporting for training camp. Life just got a little better. That is all.

Time for White Sox to Grow Some Balls

Torii Hunter steamrolled Jamie Burke last night in a shocking eighth-inning collision at home plate that sent Burke to the hospital, suffering from trouble focusing. I've had trouble focusing for years, but never thought of seeking medical help. Maybe I should. Anyway this isn't about me, it's about...wait, what was I talking about again?

Oh, yeah, Hunter and Burke and the friggin' Twins.

It's episodes like Hunter's legal takedown that make be both despise and love the Twins all at the same time. It's a shame they are in the White Sox' division, otherwise I might afford myself the luxury of being a big fan. The Twins come to play. They play hard. They play to win. They send an opponent to the hospital, if need be. They even maintained their dignity after wearing those blue retro uniforms over the weekend in Baltimore. Lesser men would have crumbled.

The Twins have balls.

The Sox need to take note, and they need to take note soon. Namely, they need to give the Twins a taste of their own medicine over the next two days, or run the risk of yet another disappointing finish to yet another season of high hopes and midseason aquisitions, a tale that has become all too stale over the past three seasons.

The Sox need to get even. Period. There is no reason to resort to dirty tactics, however. Aiming at batter's head is cheap and uncalled for, and I don't care how many "old-schoolers" or "purists" say "it's part of the game." These are the same people who probably never faced a 90 mph fastball launched with ill intent. Or they're Tony La Russa, who'd throw at his daughter if the situation called for it.

The Sox don't need to resort to some staged, all-too-predictable fight the way Yankees and Red Sox often do. OK, we get it already, they don't like each other. Good for them. Why don't you take your mask off next time, Varitek? As soon as the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the playoffs maybe I'll give some props to Varitek for chasing Alex Rodriguez down the first base line like a nagging wife. OK, I admit, I found Saturday's fight highly entertaining, hilarious even. I enjoy a good bench-clearing brawl as much as the next guy, but Yankees-Red Sox scuffles have the predictability of a WWF event.

No, the White Sox need to take a page out of the Twins' notebook and bowl somebody over, take somebody out, particularly Hunter. Anybody! Man, how depressing was last night's finish, Timo Perez striking out in the rain? I really hope they don't plan on going out like that.

Sure, without Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez, the Sox are wounded. Severely. Obviously, their arsenal, once cited anong the most powerful in baseball, is down to a few pistols and some slingshots.

If that's the case, however, they might as well go down shooting in a blaze of glory, not striking out in the rain.

Monday, July 26, 2004

That is All

Let's Make This Happen

Bears get...

Dolphins get...

A Little Pressure? Nah

Rudi Voller couldn't get the job done. Maybe his former strike partner can.

Jurgen Klinmann, who partnered with Voller up top on the German team that captured the 1990 World Cup, will replace Voller as Germany's next coach.

Good luck to him. He'll need it.

On paper this is an odd choice since Klinsmann has no coaching experience and, with the next World Cup being hosted by Germany in 2006, the pressure will be monumental, to say the least. German fans will consider anything less than a championship on home soil to be a failure.

Then again, Klinsmann was a great striker and, more importantly, a consistent winner. He should be fine...just don't expect a World Cup triumph.

Run, Ricky, Run

Ricky Williams has never been "normal", has he?

As far as athletes go, at least, he could always be described as eccentric, off the wall, out there, different. He has always seemed to ponder more than his next carry or his contract status or the weight room. He always seemed a little cerebral for the world of sports, or "halfway intelligent", as he humorously described himself.

Yep, Willams has always been a little odd. The dreads. The wedding dress. The social anxiety disorder.

And now sudden retirement. This is shocking news, yes, but considering Williams' reputation, is it really that shocking?

Williams doesn't want to play football anymore. It's that simple, or so he says. If so, I say good for him. He wants to travel, to see the world, and claims he has never been so happy, nor ever felt so free. Personally, I think people who have publicly struggled with their emotions, then later unleash the "I have never been this happy" mantra, are trying desperately to convince themselves that this is the truth, but, deep down, know, or fear, that it isn't. Kurt Cobain said the same thing in the months before he put a bullet through his brain.

I don't think Williams is happy, at least completely. I think he's confused and desperately hoping to find direction. I think he wants, and needs, something that he just can't find. Not yet anyway. Not in the world of the NFL.

I think he's a lost soul.

If walking away from football helps the inside of his head in any way, who are we to question his decision? Sure, the Dolphings have the right to complain as they now open training camp without their biggest weapon, but they were never going anywhere anyway with Dave Wannstedt as their coach. Believe me. As a Bears fan, I am shocked he has been a head coach as long as he has. This will be his last season. Mark my words.

Judging by Williams' questionable timing, just days before training camp, I suspect this was a decision that tortured him for months, years even. I suspect he was like a kid dreading the end of summer and saddening as the final days dwindle away and the start of the school year looms like an albatross. I suspect he didn't want to play and the weight of his apprehensions finally became too much to carry and he said, "Fuck it. I don't want to go, I ain't going." (This never worked for me as a kid trying to avoid school.)

Williams has always been a class act, a seemingly genuine and sensitive soul in a cold and cutthroat world. I highly doubt he would screw over the Dolphins this way without alot of introspection and torment. I bet he feels terrible it had to go down like this. I bet the only reason he waited to the last moment is because his head kept insisting that he return, but, ultimately, the tugs of his troubled heart were too strong.

He had to do what he had to do.

There has been alot of talk about Williams' penchant for the ganja. Is he retiring to avoid a possible $650,000 fine for two failed drug tests? Does he simply want to toke up freely without fear of repercussions?

Who knows? All I know is that I fully expect him to grow his dreads back out - wink, wink - if this is any indication.

To be honest, I think the fact that a good person such as Williams is being hounded for smoking pot on his own time speaks volumes about the absurdity of marijuana being illegal, in the NFL or in the real world. If Williams does smoke pot, so what? That's his decision. It hasn't prevented him from being an outstanding running back nor a public figure who has both avoided trouble while remaining highly likeable. I dare say that Williams has been a role model.

But Williams and his relationship with pot is an argument for another day. The law is the law.

Wasted talent is a curse, and for this reason I'd love to see Williams change his mind. He has his whole life ahead of him to explore any corner of the world he wants, but his years to exploit his unquestionable talent as a football player will soon pass. Besides, there's always the offseason.

I for one will miss Williams. I've always been a fan. I fear he's running, forever running, away from whatever troubles him and towards whatever it is he hopes to find. I just hope he finds it, whether it be peace of mind or good bud.

Hey, Some Good news for Iraqis!

Substitue Younis Mahmoud scored just three minutes from time as Iraq beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a must-win game to advance from the group stage and into the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup. The Iraqis earned the right to face the host Chinese in Beijing.

If the Iraqis can overcome such a daunting task, surely, the country can forget its problems for a few days. Or, at least, it can try.

Friday, July 23, 2004

That's What I'm Talking About!

17-0. Back-to-back shutouts. In Cleveland.

The White Sox began their stretch of 22 consecutive games against division rivals in grand style, casually dismissing the supposedly upstart Indians behind the splendid pitching of Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia. Were these the same Indians who mysteriously had five All-Stars, which, let's be honest, was a complete injustice? I'm not whining, but it was.

Apparently, the Sox weren't thrilled about the All-Star insult either and let the Indians know that they may be young and talented, but it isn't happening this year.

While the pair of wins were important, there was another development that looms large: The Sox are having fun. They're enjoying themselves. They're loose.

This was expected when Ozzie-ball arrived in town, but, to this point, the Sox have often played with the same malaise that so inflicted the team under Jerry Manuel. Old habits are hard to break, I guess. Ozzie's looser, just-win-baby approach may be kicking in. While the Cubs of late have offered brawls, whining, and falling concrete, the Sox are giving off good vibes.

There are few things in life as pleasing as seeing the huge smile on Shingo Takatsu's face after each of his saves, or the cries of "SHINGO TIME!" upon each of his entrances. I'll never forget the sheer delight on his mug after Billy Koch left town and Takatsu earned his first save. Simply, good times. Or Carlos Lee last night ignoring Aaron Rowand's "I got it!" and nearly crushing him, and Rowand looking pissed, and Lee flashing him a look that genuinely said, "What'd I do?" Or Ozzie accidentally calling to the bullpen for a righthaner when he needed a lefthander to face the red-hot Travis Hafner, and the ump insisting that he can't change his choice, and the righthanded Cliff Politte entering with a he-can't-be-serious look on his face...and then getting Hafner to fly out.

HAHAHA! The Sox are cracking me up. I love when baseball teams do that.

The Tigers are in town starting tonight. This is a huge series. The Tigers are, really, they are. Believe it. After already slapping around the Twins a bit just before the All-Star break, and the Yankees just after it, the Tigers would like nothing better than to stake their claim against the frontrunning Sox. Alan Trammell will have his troops fired up, just as he has all year.

To be honest, I think it's cool that a Sox-Tigers/Chicago-Detroit series means something. These teams make perfect sense as fierce rivals, yet this is the first time that a series between the two clubs has mattered since the realignment of division. That's kind of sad.

Of course, Pudge Rodriguez, the Tigers' catalyst, will need to be dealt with, and I plan on doing my part in this regard.

I just need to figure out a way to get pliars and a blowtorch into the stadium.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Mr. Consistency?

Hey, that's two in a row for the old man. More importantly, that's two in a row for the resurgent(?) Cubs.

That is All

Please... better than Eli Manning, please be better than Eil Manning, please be better than Eli Manning...

Philip Rivers and the Chargers may be close to a deal. Word is, Rivers just wants to be assured that the team will occasionally wear their sky blue retro jerseys because he thinks they're really, really cool.

I still can't believe Eli Manning passed up being a millionaire quarterback in southern California. That's my dream!

Rasheed Must Be - Get This! - Happy

The famously surly Rasheed Wallace will be staying with the Pistons, thus assuring that the defending champs will once again be the team to beat next season.

This also means that Detroit must have some pretty good pot, if Wallace is satisfied. What? What did I say? I'm just going by what I hear, that's all. This could help explain Wallace's transformation from the most notoriously crazed, unpredictable player in the NBA into one laid back, I-ain't-got-no-problems-with-noboody dude with the Pistons.

It could also help explain Kid Rock.

In other Pistons news, they signed Ronald Dupree, ome of my favorite Bulls. Good for Dupree.

(Note: When searching for a picture for this post I typed in "basketball and marijuana" and Portland Trail Blazers kept popping up.)

My Pump Sneakers Never Worked Like That

A Cleansing?

It all came crashing to a single moment in the falling rain on Wednesday afternoon.

The Cubs were in complete disarray, a runaway wreck without a driver, nor even a road to blindly navigate, or so it appeared. They had deteriorated into an angry, out-of-control laughingstock over a two-day stretch against the Cardinals that effectively ended any NL Central title hopes. Concrete was falling from Wrigley Field, literally, and Mayor Richard Daley was threatening to close down the Cubs' legendary home if something wasn't done immediately. Sammy Sosa, forever a magician when it comes to working a crowd with a swing and a smile, was booed like some unknown minor leaguer called up in late August to absorb the scattered boos of another meaningless loss. And, yes, the Cubs were behind again, this time to the fellow wild card-hopeful Reds. A season that had begun with previously unheard of expectations, at least for the past several generations, was feverishly melting into frustration, despair, and brawls.

It was raining. Hard.

Then it happened.

As the eyes of the drenched crowd looked to the umps in anticipation of the assuredly coming signal for another stoppage, Sosa shrugged off the unfamiliar jeers, the soaked bat, the slippery fingers, a season slowly slipping away, and smashed a line drive into the awaiting bleachers as the fickle fans suddenly remembered who they loved. The rain was no longer an annoyance, but a welcome reprieve to the relentless heat making their beloved Cubs' troubles all the more unbearable. Wrigley Field was happy again.

5-4, Cubs. It would stay that way.

Maybe it was just a singular moment lacking any rhyme or reason. Maybe it was just Sosa doing what he has done so many times before. Maybe it was just Reds pitcher Todd Van Poppel struggling to find an adequate grip on the ball in the merciless downpour. Maybe it was nothing at all.

Or maybe it was a moment where all the mounting bad vibes, all the crippling injuries, all the negativity flowing from the pen of too many hope-is-surely-lost writers, all the heckles and taunts from fans conditioned to easily let go of a season at the first sign of trouble were...washed away, simply washed away with the mid-summer rain.

Overly poetic? Maybe.

But maybe Sosa's shot was the proverbial turning of the corner. Maybe it was the culmination of a season's hardships collapsing upon themselves, no longer able to support their own weight. Maybe it was the signal that it is OK for the Cubs to enjoy themselves again, to conquer and win rather than merely overcome the absence of this player or that in a slow and trudging fashion, to have fun rather than ponder all they were meant and built to accomplish.

Maybe the rain washed that all away.

Yes, there is still hope, something too many people in this town are already casting aside in a way only Chicagoans can do when it comes to their tortured baseball teams. True, it's hard to blame them after decades of mediocrity, near-misses, and downright ineptitude, but the number of people jumping off the bandwagon is alarming, if not surprising.

Of course, these will be the same people jumping back on the bandwagon when the Cubs start a winning streak. They'll claim they never left, that their faith was never compromised, at the first realization that, yes, the wild card race is winnable.

In the meantime, they moan about history and being burned before, spreading predictions of doom and coming disappointment and comparing this team's failures with its sorry predecessors, as if this will change time already come and gone. They'll continue to do this until it's safe to come out again and announce to the world that they always believed.

They're liars. Long spurned and understandably bitter, yes, but liars nonetheless.

There's a long road ahead. The path to the playoffs is meaningless as long as you get there, somehow, someway. Last year's Marlins were a wild card team. Last year's Marlins were World Series champs. Nobody remembers division winners once the postseason chips away at the memories of the summer months.

All is not lost. Please don't say it is...until it is.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I Smell Training Camp...

...and continual football talk.

Apparently Bears GM Jerry Angelo is busy doing interviews instead of getting first round pick Tommie Harris signed and sealed in time for the start of training camp next week.

Here's what he had to say.

(Notice the back of Kordell Stewart's head leaving town in the picture above.)

Let Me Get This Straight

Mo Vaughn signed an $80 million dollar contract with the Mets, retired not long thereafter, and is now suing Nomar Garciaparra for virtual peanuts over their hitting camps for Boston-area kids this past January? Vaughn claims that Garciaparra's camp lured kids away from his, costing him what sports finance consultant Mark Ganis described as "a rounding error for the interest (Vaughn's) making off his money."

I would think that Vaughn's camp had alot less attendees than Garciaparra's because Vaughn is an overweight retiree with arthritic knees and a questionable attitude who last played for the Red Sox in 1998, while Garciaparra is, well, "Nomah!", Boston's golden boy, and two-time AL batting champ.

But that's just me.

Back on Track

Two goals from Damani Ralph, including a golden goal in the 106th minute, saw the Fire defeat the Crew 2-1 in the Sweet Sixteen of the U.S. Open Cup. More importantly, it ended the Fire's seven-game winless streak.

Hopefully, this means the Fire has its head straight after the long-anticipated departure of DaMarcus Beasely finally came to fruition.

In other U.S Open Cup news, the remaining A-League teams fared well against their big brothers in MLS.

Ah, to Dream...

Conservative Humor

If you are a fan of right-wing conservatism, then avoid this post.

If not, then click here and enjoy. Funny stuff.

That is All

Welcome to the Wild Card Race

"It's not dark yet, but it's getting there."

Those are the lyrics of Bob Dylan, and while Dylan was likely writing about dying, coming down from a high, or some other annoying buzzkill, they could be about the current Cubs mess.

Yep, it's all over, Cubbie Blue. The NL Central Strike a match, we'll start anew.

In the wild card race.

The Cardinals waltzed into town, put the final nails in the coffin, stretched their lead to ten games, and did it all while pushing the Cubs to the brink of insanity...quite literally, in fact. Tony La Russa's boys did more than defeat the Cubs, they embarrassed them. At least when the Cubs weren't busy embarrassing themselves.

Yep, the "Loveable Losers" disintegrated into disgraced, sore losers over a forgettable two days, fighting with the Cardinals and umps alike, blowing a six-run lead and generally making complete asses of themselves. It was ugly. Chicago hasn't seen this level of self-destruction since Chris Farley was living in the Hancock.

Get these guys into rehab. Fast.

Tuesday's 11-8 loss to the Cards was an anamoly. The Cubs haven't played in many such slugfests lately. Overall solid piching, at least from the starters, and an underwhelming offense have resulted in alot of low-scoring affairs. So much for all that pitching-always-wins talk. So much for the Cubs' offense. That considered, maybe it wasn't a surprise that the back-to-back, hey-let's-embarass-ourselves meltdowns both came from pitchers.

Carlos Zambrano, never known to be the most level-headed of cats, has a bit to learn in the way of subtlety. On Monday night, he could have just sent a note to Bud Selig's office asking to be suspended. This is just a guess, but it's probably not the best idea to give up a home run and then nail the next batter...on the first pitch...after you already nailed the same batter earlier in the game...and hollered at him as he trotted around the bases following a homer. Like I said, I'm just guessing here. What do I know? But I've seen more subtlety in strippers.

In Zambrano's defense, however, he's pitched well this year.

LaTroy Hawkins can't say as much, which is weird, and a big tease, since he used to kill the White Sox while with the Twins. WTF? Man, that was a class act on Hawkin's part on Tuesday, huh? Going after a gray-headed ump half of his size and being held back by approximately half of the Cubs dugout. And for what? Balls and strikes? Hey, LaTroy, you unclear on the strike zone? I'm just guessing again, but maybe it's somewhere near the spots where you tossed up that pair of ninth-inning home runs. Maybe?

The Cubs are a team that has dealt this year with too many injuries, a fatal shooting on its sidewalks, the toughest division in baseball, and, most recently, concrete falling from the walls of hallowed Wrigley Field. They have just been laughed at by their arch-rival. Things can only get better. That's what they say. Deals can still be made, and they must be. Soon.

There is, of course, the wild card race.

But that's it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Sexy Lexy?

What the $%#@ is this? Is this chick for real? Read this. High Comedy.

Strange thing is, I think she's onto something.

Not Enough College Basketball News Lately

Oscar Robertson will serve as interim head coach at Cincinnati while Bob Huggins enjoys his summer and winds up his suspension in style. Maybe one NCAA champion Bearcat can tell the current Bearcats how to get past the second round...or how to go to class.

Speaking of the current Bearcats, they can't be thrilled about working on the drill pictured above...or those stupid classes with books and stuff.

God Has One Helluva...

...sense of humor. Yessir, other than rampant war, poverty, genocide, and the television careers of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, He's downright hilarious.

Did you hear His latest zinger? Michael Jackson may be having quadruplets. (Is this thing on? Hello?)

I believe this is where the Onion meets reality. This may be the most ill-advised plunge into parenthood since...well, since Jackson had his first three kids. It's hard to tell if he wants to start a pop act or a harem.

If this rumor is true, this is must-see reality television just waiting to happen, if for no other reason than it might be a good idea to have cameras rolling at the Neverland Ranch at all times.


The most popular game at Jackson's quadruplets' birthday parties will be:
A) Pin the Tail on the Weird-Looking Guy Lying Naked on the Bed
B) Hide and Go Seek For My Pop's Nose
C) Wardrobe Malfunction (an offshoot of "dress up")
D) Twister!

The French Are Esctatic!

Yeah, right.

Lance Armstrong is back in the lead. The French can barely conceal their indignation. Surely, spectators will be farting in his general direction for the rest of the Tour. (That's a "Quest for the Holy Grail" reference. Monty Python wouldn't create ridiculous stereotypes of the French, would they? Nooooooo.)

Yep, it's all but over at this point....unless Armstrong breaks a foot kicking some French journalist rummaging through his trash. France's favorite American will have to wait a few days, but somebody is planning a very special surprise for him...

Viva la Sheryl Crow! Lucky bastard. I'd ride a bike roughly 1,800 miles for her, too.

Title Defense

The Fire begins defense of it's U.S. Open Cup title tonight on the road at the Columbus Crew. With the is-he-or-isn't-he saga of DaMarcus Beasley in its rearview mirror (though still clearly visible) maybe the Fire can regroup and remove itself from its current slump. For a match preview click here.

Meanwhile, there are currently five A-League teams still in the hunt against the big boys of MLS. Here's hoping a few upsets unfold. Cinderella stories are always nice. Here's a look at the bracket.

It's All Over Now, Titan Blue

Call the lawyers. Prepare the divorce papers.

It's always a shame when a talented, successful and stand-up athlete is unable to end his career on his own terms, but it appears that will be the case with Titans running back Eddie George.

George and the Titans are set to part ways after a lengthy and highly-successful relationship. Likely, it is a combination of George's wounded ego and the Titans' financial concerns (not to mention the presence of Chris Brown.) Jeff Fisher seems like a class act, not the type of guy to coldly cast away "one of his own" without deep reservations. Nobody seems to be at fault here. It happens. It's understandable.

It will be strange to see George in another uniform, sort of like Franco Harris becoming a Seahawk, Tony Dorsett becoming a Bronco, or Emmitt Smith becoming a Cardinal.

However, George has listed the Eagles, Bucs and Cowboys as his preferred destinations. Smart guy. Each team is solid with a respected coach who could likely fit George into the team's plans, if even in a diminished role. George may have the last laugh here.

Anyone remember O.J. Anderson? He was the former Pro Bowler but supposedly washed-up Cardinals running back who was nearly forgotten before resurfacing in his 30's and leading Bill Parcell's Giants to the 1990 Super Bowl title.

I'm betting George ends up with Parcells in Dallas. I'm also betting George has something in the tank. He now has something to prove.

Bye, Bye, Beasley

The Fire's summer of discontent continues.

Already winless in its last seven games, the Fire on Monday received news that had long been inevitable: DaMarcus Beasley is packing up and heading to Europe, where the best and richest soccer players congregate. Europe is the mecca of club soccer, and Beasley has made it. Good for him. The fact that his destination will be Holland's PSV Eindhoven, one of Europe's most historic clubs, is just icing on the cake.

Beasley had been adamant about moving onto bigger things. Fire GM Peter Wilt had been reluctant to let him go, denying all previous offers. Ultimately, $2.5 million dollars was too much to pass up, and Beasley became a free man.

It's hard to blame Beasley for his eagerness to leave. He already has more than proven himself in MLS as well as with the U.S. national team. Why not test himself against the best players in the world? And, hey, if the money happens to be monumentally better, that's not a bad thing. Besides, have you ever seen Dutch women? Enough said.

It hurts to see Beasley go, particularly as the Fire struggles, but the team will recover. Wilt will aquire new players. Coach Dave Sarachan will lead them. Life goes on. With a little luck, the Fire will quickly return to their winning ways. Fire fans will get over this.

My concern is centered more on MLS, a league desperately trying to gain a place among America's pantheon of glossy, in-your-face, media-frenzied professional sports. In an age when a blip on SportCenter is a major priority, endorsement deals often dwarf a player's salary and star athletes are often discovered shortly after puberty, MLS severely lacks all-important star power. It lacks sexiness. Sooner than later, it needs players that fans can immediately recognize and adore. The loss of Beasley further expands this troubling vacuum.

Who provides that elusive star power now? Freddy Adu, of course, but his fame is based more on his potential and the media's fascination than anything he's done on the field. Landon Donovon comes to mind, but he's far from a household name.

Who else?

The problem is, America's best talent heads overseas at the first opportunity. Soccer fans can keep tabs via the internet or the rare game on television, but, other than that, America's young stars dissolve into the obscurity of being half a world away.

Of course, many would contend that this is no problem at all, that young American players can only benefit from playing among the best. This, in turn, can only help the national team. And, yes, of course, this is true. In fact, it already has.

Yet, how long will this exodus of American talent continue to hamper MLS? Until it teeters on the brink of destruction? Until it folds? Until its American fan base gives up hope of ever seeing it become a major league entity?

Look, if America is producing enough talent to continually see more players heading to Europe, then why not bite the bullet and make all efforts necessary to keep them here to form a pool of talent that will be both formidable as well as ripe with potential household names? Why not harvest America's brightest young talent and let it blossom in front of our

Ah, yes, money. But of course.

MLS does not have the resources to keep its best homegrown talent. How can the MetroStars keep Tim Howard when Manchester United, possibly the worlds richest and most famous franchise, comes calling? They can't. They didn't.

It's a dilemma, for sure. Hopefully, with the rise of more soccer specific stadiums will come a much-needed rise in attendance. If that happens, MLS will need to "take care" of its bigger names. No, it must "take care" of its bigger names...within reason, naturally. While MLS has done an admirable job of avoiding the preposterous contracts that NASL clubs offered to the likes of Pele and Johan Cruyff in the '70s - contracts that ultimately doomed the ill-fated league - we all know that forever penny-pinching is no way to become a major sport in America, which loves its athetes and games as overbearing and exuberant as possible.

When America's best players stay at home and produce a quality league, then - and only then - will soccer, and MLS, have truly arrived on the American sports landscape. When American soccer fans, and not just MLS diehards, can tune into a game on TV and recognize many names, and lookout for stars, MLS will have arrived. Without being overly hasty, this must be brought about in a relatively speedy manner. Until then, MLS will remain a minor league outfit.

Also, it goes without saying that keeping America's finest talent at home would immeasurably improve the MLS's level of of play on the field, which, at this point, is improving, but nothing to get excited least not yet.

Of course, counting on the bigwigs of MLS to oversee the transformation of the league from steady newcomer into a major force with adequate money and star power, is, unfortunately, a stretch. After all, these are the same people expanding into remote outposts like Salt Lake City and relying on cheap and desperate gimmicks such as the Chivas debacle. This is ridiculous when considering soccer hotbeds such as Seattle, Rochester, St. Louis and Detroit (among others) are being bypassed for reasons unknown.

But that's another story. I will surely bitch about it a later time.

Monday, July 19, 2004

This is a Poll!

Vlade Divac's return to the Lakers happened because:

A) Now that Kobe Bryant is signed and sealed, the Lakers know they desperately need a high-quality center to accompany him. Shaquille O'Neal and his 25 point, 15 board efforts never adequately filled that role, but an aging, chain-smoking, retirement-pondering Euro should do the trick.

B) At 36, Divac should fit in perfectly alongside fellow relics Karl Malone, Gary Payton and Brian Grant in their extended stays in the trainer's room to address various nagging injuries that affect, you know, old people.

C) Lamar Odom needed someone to take smoke breaks with.

D) Karl Malone lobbied hard for Divac, and when Malone opens his mouth, all those championship rings start talking.

E) Divac is famous for being a good "locker room" guy, and, man, will the Lakers need one of those around when Kobe goes to jail.

F) If you can't beat the Sacramento Kings, join them! Oh, wait, nevermind.

Sketch Comedy Meets Reality

Arnold Schwarzenegger called Democrats "girlie men" at a rally on Saturday. This is too funny.

Word is he re-election campaign slogan will be, "I Just Want to Pump You Up."

The Crazy Mofo is Back!

Randy Johnson? Nope

Carlo Beltran? Uh-uh.

Kenny Williams continues to wheel-and-deal, but the big name - well, bigger than Freddy Garcia - that White Sox fans are craving has yet to arrive. But, hey, we got Carl Everett, and he's crazy...crazy I tell you!

If anything, Everett, known for his, uh, outbursts in the past, may provide an incident or two. That would keep things interesting. How crazy is Everett? Well, he left the White Sox at the end of last season to sign with the Expos. He wasn't traded to Montreal. No, he willingly went there. He is one crazy mofo!

If the 33-year old Everett can recapture any of his former magic, this isn't a bad move, considering the Expos are picking up virtually his entire contract, and the unpopular Jon Rauch and an unknown prospect named Gary Majewski were the only Sox casualties, prompting me to let out one big, "Who cares!"

Unfortunately, these are Everett's digits this year: .252, two HR, 14 RBI, two injuries, 44 games missed. Not exactly what you would call "inspirational."

Maybe being tossed into a pennant chase will ignite Everett, who was solid last year. All he needs to do is provide a little somethin'-somethin' until Frank Thomas returns.

Everett probably has enough in the tank to do so.

Or at least we can hope.

Prior Always in Pain

The Cubs only managed a frustrating split with Milwaukee over the weekend, but you can bet Cubs fans feel pretty good, if a little annoyed at the pesky Brewers.

Yep, there is reason to rejoice. Mark Prior's elbow is OK.

It looks like that death threat I sent to the Billy Goat was heard loud and clear. Here's another message for him: "I ain't through with you yet, you over-sized rodent! Watch yourself. Watch yourself real closely."

When Prior walked off the mound last Thursday and disappeared into the depths of a stunned and silent Wrigley Field, his head down, the extent of his injury unknown, you can bet many a Cub fan, conditioned to such disappointment after decades of torture, let out a long sigh and said, "Oh well. Maybe next year." More likely, they let out a litany of words unfit for print, as in "What the #$%@!" or "#%$@ this!" or "#$@%$ 1984 $%#$ Leon Durham $%$# the Amazin' Mets $#%$ there is no justice #$#@ why, god, why? #$%$#@#$##@$%$$#%%!!!!!!"

The immediate talk was that Prior would be lost for the season. The name of Tommy John surfaced like a death threat and hung like smog. The Cubs had admirably dealt with a long list of injuries this season, but a permanently missing Prior? Certainly, that would be the death blow. Right?

Consider death averted, or dodged for awhile. At least until Prior is sidelined with a hangnail or a nasty sunburn or a bad hair day.

The news, in fact, is about as positive as could be expected, with one start against the Cardinals hoped to be the extent of Prior's absence, if he misses even that. All over the North Side, people are coming in off their ledges. Dusty Baker is giving Darren a big hug and saying things like, "Life is fragile, son, fragile. You never know what you have until you almost lose it." Darren is playing video game baseball and Prior's elbow is just fine.

It's all good.

I have just one problem: Prior is as about as durable as Hillary Duff's singing career. He's 23 going on 53. He's dangerously close to morphing into the second coming of the oft-injured Jim McMahon, but without the shades or wacky persona. Or the ring. Do you get the sense that it will be a surprise if "Old Man" Prior manages to get through this season without debilitating corns or a diaper rash. When does he start complaining about today's kids and all that loud garbage they call music? When does he show up to Wrigley in plaid shorts, black socks and loafers? At least when Prior went on the DL last season it was the result of a vicious crash with Marcus Giles, and, even in that case, Giles is one of the smaller players in the game, yet sent Prior spiralling towards the DL like he was Jevon Kearse.

This season Prior keeps opting out of action due to various "owies". His achilles hurt, which forced him to adjust his throwing motion, which caused strain on his elbow, which weighed on his mind, which forced him to play it safe and head for the locker room early on Thursday, which caused me to say, "Give me a break." Whatever happened the old throw-some-dirt-on-it-and-get-back-in-there attitude? Did it disappear about the same time MLB teams started hiring strength and conditioning coaches? Or when agents started worrying about long-term extensions? Or when players decided their bodies meant more to their bank account than the W-L column?

Maybe Prior hangs with the Bulls' fragile Tyson Chandler, another guy racing towards old age with alarming pace. (A sore back, Tyson? At 21?) A sore hangover is about the only thing he should be complaining about at 21. I could understand that. Prior and Chandler have more "nagging" injuries than gray-beard survivors of the NFL's leather helmet era. It's hard to believe that they're barely legal to drink. Look, nobody is allowed to complain (or miss games) due to "nagging" injuries until they're, oh, 40. Before then, they better have a broken bone, or a ligament tear or a missing appendage.

That said, Prior's health is no joking matter. When his body is feeling good, Prior can be the best pitcher in the none. During the second half of last season, he was virtually unhittable, better than Johnson or Clemens or Mulder or anyone else you want to offer. Prior is that good when his body is willing to go along for the ride.

I understand the choice to be safe. I understand that Prior has an entire career ahead of him to think about. I understand that it's best to rest him now if that means a healthy Prior come September and beyond.

I don't understand guys who are continually absent for one reason or another. It just doesn't look good.

Meanwhile, I take back what I said last week about the Cubs needing relief pitching. Well, yeah, they do need relief pitching, but they need a bat or two. Their current scoring slump, which I thought (or hoped) would pass, no longer qualifies as a slump. It's an epidemic. Cubs batters are wasting solid efforts by the starting rotation on an almost daily basis, or just barely winning when they don't. We need Nomah. Or Carlos Beltran. Or somebody! We need guys on base. We need guys running. We need some excitement. It isn't happening right now, and there is no longer any time to wait.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Who is This Guy?

He's the British Open winner...that's who.

Todd Hamilton defeated Ernie Els in a four-hole playoff to capture his first major and continue a recent trend of unknowns becoming well-knowns by winning majors.

Of course, people will talk about Tiger Woods' failure as much, if not more than, Hamilton's fine accomplishment, so let's not. Tiger didn't win. Big deal. Get over it.

I don't want to talk Tiger unless she's involved...

Discussion, anyone?

Funny Stuff!

I just wanted to share some laughs.

Mark Fiore is funny. He has alot in his archives as well, so check them out.

This is classic, and makes fun of John Kerry and George Bush equally.


Friday, July 16, 2004

This is the Dress Code.

I have no idea what this picture means. I stumbled upon it accidentally. But if she insists that this is the dress code, who am I to argue?

Is Mark Prior the new...

Prior sure gets injured about as often as the punky QB. I fully expect him to start mooning helicopters and wearing headbands with messages meant to anger Bud Selig.

I think it's safe to blame it all on this little guy...

That's a death threat in his mouth. I sent it to him.

Meanwhile, Sox fans are doing this...

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Big Opening Acts to Second Half

The second half of the baseball season begins tonight. The playoff race has already begun.

The White Sox open up with an eight-game road trip that begins with four games in Oakland, where they have won once in their last 14 tries.

The Cubs host the upstart Brewers, who swept a series between the two teams last week.

Enough said.

Chance to Shine

Barack Obama will be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Wow! This is heady stuff for a man who, while a quickly rising star, has yet to even win his position in the Senate.
Speaking of Obama, did you catch him and Edwards standing alongside each other and smiling - looking, oh, so political and shiny - at Wednesday night's fundraiser at the Chicago Hilton and Towers? It all looked very a futuristic sort of way. Could Edwards-Obama be the Democratic ticket for the 2012 election? (This is presuming John Kerry wins this year and keeps the the Republicans at bay for two terms, which is highly possible.)

Speaking of future presidential candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton was dissed by her fellow Democrats when they bypassed her for a speaking role - any speaking role! - at the convention.
Man, Ms. Clinton can't be happy about this, although she is maintaining a take-one-for-the-team game face. She is being bypassed for the unknown wife of a relatively unknown governor who was recently bypassed by Kerry for the vice presidency nomination. Do you know who Christie Vilsack is? Thought so.
Ouch. Ms. Bill gets less repect than Magglio Ordonez.
I have a feeling Bill Clinton won't be in charge of the remote control for the next few days. I have a feeling he'll conveniently find a "project" in the garage that needs immediate tending to.