Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why worry about doing my job

When the professionals at The Onion are doing it for me?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

MMTMQR: Preseason games, midseason stupidity

Back to the salt mines, people. It's time for another six month stint of awful, Gregg style.

Harbaugh-East note: Baltimore led 24-13 with 1:18 remaining in its preseason game Friday against Kansas City. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh had the Ravens' third-string quarterback Hunter Cantwell play-fake and throw deep. Having reached the Kansas City 1 with 8 seconds remaining, Harbaugh-East called timeout to allow a final play, running up the score to 31-13.

Are you surprised that Gregg thinks getting high pressure late game reps during a preseason game for players who may or may not make the team and need a chance to distinguish themselves is no different than running up the score in a regular season game? If so raise your hand. Now use it to tap yourself on the balls for being a dumbshit.

Not only was this bad sportsmanship, but it was classless considering that in their previous meeting, at Kansas City in the playoffs, Baltimore had won big.

In what way is the outcome of last January's playoff game relevant here? I'm racking my brain. Is Gregg mad because he thinks the Chiefs and their players had forgotten about that game, but this would remind them of it? Because he thinks it's bad form to blow another team out twice in a row? Because Harbaugh was dressed more warmly than Todd Haley? Your guess is as good as mine.

Lack of class always comes back to haunt you -- and now the Ravens enter the 2011 season as bad sports.

Go Ravens!, And also this.

This season the Bills go to a retro-1970s uniform, which is better than the Rusting Russian Dreadnaught look. But why did the Bills return to a uniform style they wore when making the postseason three times in 17 years? They could have gone back to a gloried Super Bowl look based on red, white and American-flag blue -- not to put too fine a point on it, but the single most successful color scheme in world history.

Let me tell you, I really put a lot of stock in what uniforms teams zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

During the offseason, coach Chan Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix repeatedly criticized defensive end Aaron Maybin, the 11th overall choice of the 2009 draft. Then this summer, they tried to trade him. The public criticism meant other teams knew Maybin would be waived, so no one made a trade offer, leaving the Bills with nothing when they released Maybin last week. So was the public criticism nonsensical? Not if the goal is to lose cheaply.

The last line goes hand in hand with the main hypothesis advanced by Gregg this week, specifically that many owners find it more profitable to put a crappy team on the field that's way under the salary cap than to spend up to the cap and field a winner. This ignores the non-monetary value that some owners derive from fielding a winner and being in the good graces of the team's fans- although I concede that many owners really don't give a shit about that and would rather make a few extra million than be liked.

The reason I didn't pick apart the hypothesis is that if you grant him the 17 assumptions he made in calculating the profitability of a winner vs. a low-cost loser, he's pretty much right. And I didn't feel like doing my own research. However, I explain it here and copied/pasted the passage above because Gregg is apparently blissfully ignorant of the fact that Aaron Maybin was fucking atrocious (a source close to the Bills organization, i.e. a friend of mine who likes the Bills, says the real problem is that he never bothered to bulk up). Generally trying to trade and then releasing an atrocious player is a way to get better rather than worse.

And of course, let's all get on the same page re: one other thing. Clearly Maybin sucked ass with the Bills because he was a high drafted megabucks glory boy.

Making a great show of discussing how bad the previous regime's high draft pick was creates an excuse for Gailey and Nix to present a losing team in 2011 -- "What did you expect, when the guys who came before us blew the team's 2009 first-round pick?" Since arriving a year ago, Nix has waived, traded or let go four recent first-round draft choices (Maybin, Evans, Marshawn Lynch and Donte Whitner), cutting costs while shifting blame backward to the previous coach and general manager.

I love this. Maybin = terrible. Lynch looked terrible at the time he was cut, although he did have that beastly run against the Saints in the playoffs for the Seahawks. Still, probably more likely to be out of football in 2 years than starting anywhere. Whitner = terrible. Evans wasn't even the best WR on the team at the time he was traded, although I admit it didn't make a whole lot of sense to do it. Still, it's fantastic watching him work himself into logical knots in order to prove his next big point. He's so eager to paint the Bills FO as trying to field a loser by getting rid of good players that he completely ignores the fact that none of the HIGH DRAFTED MEGABUCKS GLORY BOY guys they got rid of were very good in the first place.

Didn't Ohio used to be a hotbed of football culture?

Perhaps, and on the HS and college level it certainly still is, but it's also a miserable place to live. It combines all the fatness of Indiana with all the failing rust beltness of Pennsylvania.

The Bengals' last winning coach was Sam Wyche, who left in 1991. The Browns' last winning coach was Marty Schottenheimer, who left in 1988. Since these two gentlemen departed, the state of Ohio is 226-364-2 in the NFL. And Ohio's record will not improve opening weekend, because the Browns and Bengals meet.

Listen, I'm just sayin', as long as they don't tie the state's to win percentage will go up. Just sayin'.

Leading the Patriots 10-0 in the first half, facing fourth-and-1 in their own territory, they went for it. So what if on the next snap, the Browns lost a fumble? The football gods smile on boldness.

They smile on it so much they caused a turnover 15 seconds after the gamble. Chris H nominates this as the most striking display of cognitive dissonance in the history of sportswriting.

Houston: The Texans have a chairman and CEO, two vice chairmen, a general manager, a president, three senior vice presidents, three senior directors and 14 directors -- resulting in a franchise lifetime record of 55-89. Maybe if this organization wasn't so top-heavy, it could get things done. Such as making the playoffs, which the Moo Cows -- check their lovely cow-inspired logo -- never have accomplished.

First of all, if you don't know what the Texans logo looks like, please stop reading TMQ and go click around for a while. On the other hand, people like that are probably right in Gregg's target demographic. "Say, I'm a pretentious faux-academic who obsesses over nerdy pop culture and pop economics, and I also sometimes watch the Super Bowl! This Easterbrook fella is really something if you ask me!"

Second of all, I love the assertion that the Texans struggle because they employ too many useless executives who pull a paycheck and don't do much else. I'm quite sure they have too many useless executives who pull a paycheck and don't do much else- and I'm also quite certain that that's the case with approximately 31 other NFL teams. Look at the Bears, for crying out loud. And yet they were within a few plays of making the Super Bowl last year. Bloated upper management kind of tends to be a part of the deal when you're involved with the most popular, profitable sport in the country.

Traditionalists believe the run is the key to NFL success, despite nine of the past 10 Super Bowls being won by teams with pass-oriented offenses.

/goes into archives, finds 46 TMQs from the past five years that bemoan how pass-wacky the league has become [Edit made later- I somehow tried to loop "Stop Me Before I Blitz Again!" into this point by saying there was an identical item titled "Stop Me Before I Pass Again!" As usual, the reason for the mistake is that I'm a fucking idiot.]


/eats Sharpie

Cut by the Jets, DE Shaun Ellis signed with archrival New England, causing Ryan to say, "There's no way I am going to wish him well." But New England made Ellis the best offer. If Ryan had been fired by the Jets and gone to New England because that's where the best offer was, no one would bat an eyelash. This seems to be yet another example of a pro sports double standard: If a player does what's in his best interest, he is condemned as a mercenary. If a coach does what's in his best interest, he's viewed as just taking care of business.

Huh? Although this is a stupid paragraph about an irrelevant distinction, at the very least I think Gregg and I can agree that pretty much every single NFL coach is a raging self-important asshole.

But then the Patriots wheezed out at home in their first and only game of the playoffs. It was the second consecutive year New England had been fabulous in the regular season, then looked awful at home in the postseason. The year before that, the Patriots finished 11-5 but didn't make the postseason owing to a standings quirk. Here's the deal: The New England Patriots have not won a playoff game since Spygate broke.

Spygate broke in September 2007. In January of 2008, the Patriots won two playoff games.

/eats another Sharpie

Bill Belichick continues to refuse to say, "I cheated and I apologize." Until he does, the football gods will torment this team by allowing the Patriots to play very well during the regular season, then denying them in money time.

Go Patriots! Oops, sorry, nevermind. Fuck the Patriots.

A Boom or Bust Round: With the Steelers' decision to waive Limas Sweed, the 2008 second round of the draft continues to be a tumultuous one for the wide receiver profession. Picks were either terrific or terrible. The 2008 second round produced DeSean Jackson and Eddie Royal, both stars; Jordy Nelson, who was terrific in the Packers' Super Bowl win; and Donnie Avery and Jerome Simpson, both of whom have shown flashes. The 2008 second round also produced several wide receiver busts, all since waived by at least one team -- Sweed, Devin Thomas, Dexter Jackson and James Hardy. Malcolm Kelly, another 2008 second-round receiver, is a long shot to make a 2011 NFL roster. There must have been something in the water in 2008.

Breaking news: sometimes, draft picks work out. Other times they completely fizzle. Unfortunately, you have to be an ESPN Insider to read the rest of Gregg's analysis, in which he explains the fact that offensive linemen are secretly very important to a team's success.

Tennessee: Bearing in mind that the Flaming Thumbtacks were once the Houston Oilers, this team now has two coaches who made the Hall of Fame as players in its colors. New head coach Mike Munchak was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Oilers; new offensive line coach Bruce Matthews was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Oilers/Titans. If nothing else, that is good vibes.

Munchak was drafted 8th overall. Matthews was drafted 9th overall. Sounds like bad vibes to me. Get me a coach who never played, and was told his whole life he'd never be good enough. THAT'S who I want coaching my team. Someone like Josh McDaniels.

Next Week: The Eagles become the Philadelphia Heat, plus the rest of TMQ's NFC preview.

Go Eagles! Oooooooooooooof.

/considers a Philly-New England Super Bowl

/drinks dish soap

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh Goodness. Oh me. Oh my. Oh WRONG.

Jim Bowden is doing chats for ESPN now. This is awesome because Jim Bowden is: a moron. This is going to be a "mistake rant". I don't care.

Robert (Orlando FL)

Hi Jim,Comparring Granderson and A-Gon for AL MVP consideration, I see that Grandy is leading A-Gon in Runs, HRs, and RBIS and A-Gon leads in Batting Average. Since Grandy leads in Runs and RBI's what value would you say does A-Gon's batting average really have?Thanks!

Jim Bowden: MVP voting is so difficult to predict when the numbers are so close

Thanks Joe. Thought they fired you.

Wait....Joe didn't care about numbers.

.....A-Gone will have the issue of splitting votes with his teammate Jacoby Ellsbury

Not to mention Pedroierrrrrrrrr

...all 3 are candidates and with 6 weeks left in the season....any one of them can still win it....If i had to decided today...I would take Matt Kemp in NL (slightly over Braun, Fielder) because of Defense...and A-Gone in AL slightly over Grandy man

1) "A-Gone???"
2) "Grandy man????"
3) Joey Bats?

Peter Huisking (Alpharetta, GA)
Who is the NL Rookie of the Year ......Kimbrel, Venters, or Freeman? I am thinking Freeman because the Braves are the Wild Card Favorite now and he plays everyday. Thoughts??

Jim Bowden: That is a tough one.....most people that I've talked to have Kimbrel, Freeman, Espinsoa.....I personally would go with Freeman because of his GOLD GLOVE defense at first base

Fielding stats are blech, especially for 1B, but I find it funny that Freddie's 3rd from the bottom in terms of fielding runs for rookies at any position.

.....but we should have a rookie pitcher and players of the year...silly to have to compare the 2

Yeah, let's not bother trying to cross-compare the value of pitchers and hitters. Trade you Eugenio Velez for Justin Verlander, Jim? Why not? It's silly to compare the two.

Also is anyone else sickened by the contrast between "pitcher" and "players"?

Nick (NJ)
2011 AL ROY: Ivan Nova or Michael Pineda?

Jim Bowden: Pineda....but there is time left...Hellickson, Trumbo also in mix

Somewhere, Dustin Ackley is crying.

marcel ( camden, n.j ) [via mobile]
Which team matches up best against the phillies in a playoff series ?

Nobody matches up with their rotation if healthy...but Giants, Brewers, Braves could all beat them in a very short series with a couple of shutouts.

Nobody, but everybody. For crying out loud, Jim. That was terrible.

Matt (Chicago)
Jim thanks for chatting. How would you now rate the Cubs draft on a scale of 1-10, please explain why. thanks

Jim Bowden: I would rate Starlin Castro a 10 and the rest a 3

Yeah Castro's sick. First ever player to hit .300 in the majors the year prior to being drafted.

Calindc (DC)
Are the Angels done and can they look back at their inactivity at the trade deadline for their fall?

Jim Bowden: they needed a bullpen arm and unlike the Rangers didn't get one....they needed another RBI bat and didn't get one...they need to win these next to for a reliever and have a fun or sept

What? Seriously, what? I feel like I've bit my tongue plenty on the whole spelling-and-grammar-police crusade through this entire chat, but what???

"they need to win these next to for a reliever and have a fun or sept"

This is not English.

Sean (Tempe, AZ):
Why isn't Josh Collmenter getting any respect for ROY?

Jim Bowden: because of Kimbrell, Freeman, Espinosa, Venters

::sigh:: "Kimbrell" is not a thing. "Venters" is not a rookie.

Graham (Toronto)
Why no Bautista love? 2nd in runs, 1st in hra??s (despite 60 less ABa??s to Granderson), 1st in walks by a mile, 1st in OBP , 1st in slugging (by 2 miles), 1st in OPS by the combined length of his 35 dingers. Are people really still not noticing what hea??s doing?

Thank you, Graham.

Jim Bowden: Bautista gets love...but 2nd half since all star break has knocked him down a notch

I feel ya, man. The fall to a 1.111 OPS has derailed many a career. Maybe next year you'll be more than a win better than the competition, Joey.

Tim (Washington DC)
So the guy(jose bautista) leading in the stats that really matter(OBP and Homeruns) isn't even considered for MVP?

Jim Bowden: The stats that really matter? This is not fantasy baseball or a computer game.

Tee hee!

It's not about one number or 2 numbers

How many numbers do you want to talk about? Bautista leads the league in pretty much all meaningful ones....

Bautista has great number, but they don't dwarf Gonzo and Grandy

Uh, they kind of do. Bautista's OBP is 84 points higher than Granderson's. Take 84 points of OBP off Granderson's OBP and you get a very Kurt Suzuki-esque .291. Granderson's SLG is 115 points higher than that of "A-Gone". Back the 115 off of Gonzo and you land somewhere close to Andre Ethier (10 HR) territory. This is a big deal! Dwarfing!

Joey (West Palm Beach)
Please explain why this doesn't make sense: Felix Hernandez for Hughes, Banuelos, Bentances, Montero, Nova, Nunez, and Heathcott/Gardner??

Hahahaha. Joey, you're a funny man. Jimmy can't screw this one up, right?

Jim Bowden: If I'm the Mariners...I make that deal right now


I think I'm going to enjoy this man chatting about baseball. That is all I have to say.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

As promised, more high-larious excerpts from that ESPN book

At this point I feel like I'm shilling for the book. Which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, it's a pretty interesting read and all. But I promise you, unlike that one time Jeff Pearlman sent me a copy of Love Me, Hate Me for free because I made fun of him for knowing nothing about baseball and then I plugged it here, I have no allegiance towards Those Guys Have All the Fun. Just thought I'd share some more of ESPN's fucknuttery with you.

Oh, before I do, and speaking of being a shill, it's TMQ season again. I'll tackle his first installment of the season this weekend, but his opening line is too good not to larf at right now.

Though commissioner Roger Goodell just led a collective-bargaining negotiation that resulted in NFL players being showered with money and benefits, according to Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, Goodell is "a crook" and "the devil."

Hold on, play that first part back again.

Though commissioner Roger Goodell just led a collective-bargaining negotiation that resulted in NFL players being showered with money and benefits,

Though commissioner Roger Goodell just led a collective-bargaining negotiation that resulted in NFL players being showered with money and benefits,

Though commissioner Roger Goodell just led a collective-bargaining negotiation THAT RESULTED IN NFL PLAYERS BEING SHOWERED WITH MONEY AND BENEFITS,


/wipes tears from eyes

Watch your back, Peter King. There's a new shill for the league offices making the rounds. And his ability to spin the truth and ignore basic but essential facts puts yours to shame.

Anyways, back to the ESPNery. First, let's talk about Mark Shapiro. Shapiro started at ESPN straight out of college in the early 90s. He was brash and loudmouthed and the book describes how he was nearly fired after only a few weeks on the job. He managed to stick, though, because he had incredible talent for production. He was responsible for the execution of SportsCentury and a lot of good shit on ESPN Classic. So he quickly shot up the ranks because of his talent.

And herein lies the problem, a problem that affects rising superstars in many/most industries: when you're really, really good at something, eventually you get promoted to management and start gaining control over a) stuff that's unrelated to the area where you cut your teeth and b) lots and lots of people. But what if your talents don't really expand beyond that teeth-cutting arena, and what if you have atrocious personnel management skills? Unfortunately those things often end up not mattering. And so we have Mark Shapiro, genius producer, who by his early 30s was doing a lot more than producing. He was making decisions about a lot of very important and ambitious stuff that shaped ESPN's overall direction. He was in charge of programming, which is a whole lot different than being in charge of producing something that someone else came up with and told you to produce. This is when the shit started hitting the fan.

Before reading the book I knew the name and knew some of his ESPN history- I knew he was responsible for a lot of shitty projects and shows back in the early part of the 00s. But boy, I had no idea he was this prolific. Please click that link and glance down the list. It doesn't even credit him for Dream Job, but according to the book, yup, that was him as well. Basically he came in swinging his big dick and set fire to ESPN's legitimacy as a sports network (which I'd say was relatively intact as of 2001, when he rose to head of programming). Nearly every bomb he was in charge of conceptualizing/executing wasn't really about sports. The way Sports Media Watch describes it in that link is pretty accurate- he was trying to MTVize ESPN's stuff. Make it EDGIER and HIPPER and "like [name of popular non-sports related show that already exists on another network], but with some sports thrown in."

He was a ratings whore, brought in to generate attention and viewers. He claims in the book that when he left, ratings had risen for eight straight quarters. Assuming this is true, I have absolutely zero desire to even guess what percentage of that increase is actually due to his work. I'm going to guess it's well south of 100. When he was named head of programming in 2001, ratings had been falling for a couple years. But that's probably largely attributable to the explosion of digital cable around that time, dramatically increasing the number of channels people got in their homes. This is pure speculation from me, but given 1) that Shapiro comes off as exactly like the kind of person who would gladly take credit for something they didn't do, 2) the fact that it's extremely difficult to attribute ratings increases solely to one person, even if they are head of programming; and 3) the number of atrocious shows he launched, it's unlikely he was nearly as successful as he'd like you to believe.

To be fair, he came up with some hits (PTI, Around the Horn, Outside the Lines Daily). But man... LOOK AT THE SPORTS MEDIA WATCH LIST AGAIN. HOLY BALLS. This guy really shat out some miserable ideas. The book portrays him and his ideas in a very positive light, really gives him the kid gloves treatment. That's fine, that's bound to happen when you're given the access the book's authors were given for something like this, but it is a little disappointing. They picked up a few quotes from other employees who were willing to say that Shapiro was a real stumpfucker (see below) but mostly he's portrayed as a megawondergenius who occasionally rubbed people the wrong way but mostly was an essential cog in the company machine. My perception doesn't align with that but you can read the book for yourself and decide just how important he and his ideas were.

Anyways Shapiro eventually left ESPN in 2005 to work for fellow megawondergenius Dan Snyder as the CEO of Six Flags. As you probably know, in 2009 Six Flags filed for bankruptcy. So draw your own conclusions about Shapiro's management skills from that. In any case, did I mention that he had/was a big swinging dick? I believe I did. In the words of ESPN Marketing Exec Lee Ann Daly:

There should have been more of a real search for people to put around Mark before he got put into such a high-level position. Mark was the kind of person who just wanted to bark in everybody's face, to make them go away so he could do what he wanted to do. He was very much like "I know what's best and everybody just needs to shut up and go away." He wanted to tell everybody how it was going to be and that you just needed to accept it. That was, I think, very destructive.

Well there you go! That general opinion is corroborated by a handful of other people throughout the book, but let's get some of Mark's greatness in Mark's own words.

Re: negotiating a TV rights deal for NBA games

David Stern was by far the best and most intimidating negotiator I'd ever faced. No one stands up to David,

No one?

and to have me standing up to him,

Ohhhhhh. I see.

not just once, but multiple times over the course of the relationship . . . . never went well.

Isn't this quote just dripping with the same self-importance those Berman quotes I posted Monday had? It's great. I AM SPECIAL AND DIFFERENT HEAR ME ROAR. (Coincidentally, Berman and Shapiro hated each other. Wonder why?) Anyways, Stern wasn't the only commissioner Shapiro (probably) aggressively insulted to his face. Remember how ESPN lost the rights to NHL games about 8 or 9 years ago? Yup. Barry Melrose says:

Shapiro and Bettman came to hate each other. And Gary is a lawyer and a tough negotiator, and I think he felt that ESPN was trying to take advantage of the NHL and lowball them with the price.

And that's how OLN/Versus ended up with those games. Good job Shapiro! Fred Gaudelli, a former Coordinating Producer who was with ESPN for about twenty years and left around the same time Shapiro did:

What they did to the National Hockey League was insane. From the time that I got to ESPN to the time that I left, our philosophy was that we wanted to be known as people who you want to be in business with; we wanted to be good partners, and have good relationships with the leagues. We didn't want to thump our chests at them, and we didn't want to thump our chests at the media. As a result, ESPN for a long time had a reputations for being really good guys who do good work.

When Mark came in, he brought an arrogance. His regime or style, however you want to put it

That's hilarious.

was basically the turning point for ESPN going from the good guy to the arrogant guy. I don't care what they tell you, ESPN is not well liked at 280 Park [NFL headquarters], the are not well liked at the NBA, and they are not well liked at Major League Baseball. So you saw it in their relationships with partners, and you saw it on the air with the way they overpromoted the stupidest things, like the Bobby Knight movie.

Or Cold Pizza.

And that's what Mark brought to the company. ESPN had always been a place where you could have productive discourse. That's what made the place--that people were free to disagree, free to argue, and free to make your point, but at the end of the day, whoever was in charge when they made the decision, everybody got on board. That was just the way it was. That was not the way Mark Shapiro operated.

That pretty much explains everything you need to know about Shapiro. He's been gone from ESPN for about six years but his legacy lives on in steaming piles of garbage like "Who's Now" and the fact that Sportscenter runs shit like this instead of just showing highlights and adding a little non-sensational analysis. Thanks Mark. You made blogs like FireJay possible. How did you feel as you were winding down your tenure at ESPN and preparing to help run a large amusement park chain directly into the ground?

When I look back on my final year, it's with a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Color me shocked! We've all met a few Mark Shapiros throughout the course of our lives, haven't we? I know I have. May they all be kicked in the balls by a horse, and soon. Before I wrap up, let's hit a few more highlights.

Stuart Scott:

I can't be that concerned with how I'm perceived. I care about how my mother and father think about me and how my friends and how my loved ones think about me. I care about how my ex-wife thinks about me; she and I are still good friends and we do a good job raising our kids. It matters to me. But it doesn't matter to me what people who are writing a blog on the Internet think. I can't think about that.

If you buy that, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona you might be interested in. Also: he leaves open the possibility that he cares a lot about the opinions of people who write non-internet blogs.

Jay Lovinger, an editor who has had the privilege of working extensively with the guy who I only make fun of because I'm super jealous and want to be him:

Bill's obviously good for the company, it's just that he's an incredibly pain-in-the-ass guy to work with. You don't really edit him. He turns in his thing, you suggest stuff, he writes "Stet all changes," on the copy, you fight with him over things, he goes to Walsh or Skipper (high level execs) to complain, and you say to yourself, "I don't need this grief." His goal is to get you to the point where it's such a pain in the neck that you just put the stuff through--unless there's something you're going to get sued over.

I also edited Olbermann, at Sports Illustrated. He was a pain in the ass and a whining little baby, but ultimately he was more professional that Simmons. If you edited Keith, he'd whine and scream as if you had betrayed him in some way, but then he'd read the thing, and if the editing was actually helpful, he'd respond--unlike Bill, who would just say no. Bill's thing is "I know what I'm doing, so that's it." You know: "Don't touch anything." It was more satisfying editing Olbermann.

Anytime you are a bigger baby and more difficult to work with than Keith fucking Olbermann, you've got some serious problems. Berman... Shapiro... Simmons... they have something in common. They all seem to know everything. HEY MAYBE THEY SHOULD BE THE ONES FIGURING OUT THIS WHOLE NATIONAL DEBT MESS, HUH?


Bill's boy Kimmel steps in to half-heartedly advocate on his behalf:

We started corresponding, and when I got a talk show, I hired him to be one of the writers. He's a character. He likes analyzing the show more than writing for it.

He's also not particularly funny and has all of three or four gags that he recycles in every column. Which is probably why your first season kind of sucked taint and why he no longer works for you.

Simmons was suspended for two weeks in late 2009 for ripping WEEI in Boston because the station was a member of the ESPN family of networks. He appeared on the station's morning show to promote his Book of Basketball, and that afternoon a different set of DJs took some shots at him He responded via Twitter, and was then given a slap on the wrist for being a bad team player. His thoughts:

My attitude was, you guys aren't handling this. You have let this fester and it's become a real issue in Boston with these guys killing me for two weeks. I have a thick skin,

BWAHAHAHA. Hardest you've made me laugh in a good long while. Naturally Simmons's response to the situation described in the link was to accuse Price of being the thin-skinned one. Lulz upon lulz upon lulz.

I'm fading fast so I'm not going to be able to get to the debacles that were the Tirico/Theismann/Kornheiser and Tirico/Jaworski/Kornheiser Monday Night Football experiences. Maybe next time. I'll leave you with some Stephen A. Smith. Like I said in the last post Stephen A. actually comes off as very smart in the book. Predictably though, he thinks pretty highly of Stephen A. Smith. His thoughts when he was told in early 2009 that his contract would not be renewed:

What people need to remember is I was a general columnist for the magazine, I was a columnist for, I was a radio host for ESPN Radio, I was a television host for Quite Frankly on ESPN2, and I was the NBA analyst for ESPN. And then, by one person's wand, it was gone. Because everything was under their umbrella, I was out of five jobs! Not many people are talented enough to have five jobs--but I did.

Yeah, those 45 minutes a month you spent writing your online and magazine columns really took a lot out of you, huh? And then you tack on 30 minutes a day for Quite Frankly, a regular radio program (no idea how much he worked, I'll be generous and say 3 hours a day on weekdays although I doubt it was that much) and a couple hours a week during basketball season for NBA analysis? Who are you, Bradley Cooper's character in that brain drug movie from last winter?

Oh by the way, do you know who hired Stephen A.? Hint: if you read the Sports Media Watch countdown piece carefully, you already know.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm back from vacation, and while I was on it I read that ESPN book that came out back in May

God, look at how proud of myself I am for having done something that literally billions of people are capable of doing on any given day. I couldn't wait to tell the six of you who still read this blog. I had to put it in the title of the post, didn't I? I feel like Jim Gaffigan, shoehorning it into conversation. "Hey, how's it going?" "I READ A BOOK!!!"

Anyways "Those Guys Have All the Fun" is a pretty decent read. It certainly had its boring and slow parts HOLY BALLS I REALLY COULDN'T CARE LESS ABOUT THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF HAVING YOUR CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS THREE HOURS FROM NEW YORK CITY RATHER THAN IN NEW YORK CITY but it's largely entertaining. (To be fair, the story of why ESPN originated in Bristol CT in the first place is actually very cool. The book follows the network's history chronologically and I think the first 150 pages were probably my favorite.)

Predictably (and with good reason) it gives ESPN the kid gloves treatment, failing to mention some of its biggest failures while glossing over the rest, but obviously I expected that. It was still reasonably candid on some topics that I thought might be considered taboo. I also learned to see some ESPNers in a new light. While Mitch Albom and Jemele Hill are obviously incredibly stupid people, they come off as very down to earth and normal in the book. Their egos seem to be under control. And while Stephen A. Smith is a jackass whose ego is out of control, he comes off as extremely smart. I didn't see that coming.

While I could probably do five huge posts about some of the shit ESPN's biggest and brightest said in there, for tonight I will simply share with you a series of quotes from one man. His identity should be immediately obvious. The samples below represent about 3% of the insanely obnoxious things he says throughout the book.

If you put my professional tombstone up, the first sentence would be: "He did [name of show]." First one. That show made [sport that was already one of the most popular sports in America before the show existed, if not not the most popular] famous. I would always hear "You guys made me a [name of sport] fan! Now I can watch a whole game!" or "We watch [show] together as a family."

I'll give you a hint as to which sport he claims to have helped make palatable for the average American sports consumer in the 1980s/90s- it's played with a ball, and you use your foot to kick that ball sometimes, and it's not soccer, and Trent Dilfer is really good at identifying guys who play it, teams that play it, and fields upon which it is played. So yeah. That's a reasonable thing to say.

Re: Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,131th consecutive game, which this guy announced:

In early August, I started reading a book on Lou Gehrig, which I thought would be a nice way to prepare. No one told me to do it; that was my contribution, all by myself.


I looked him straight in the eye and said "Cal, do you think you might get in tonight?" And he just lost it. Cracked up . . . He thanked me later. I'm the only person who put him at ease the whole couple of days-not that that's what I was trying to do.


Re: obnoxious former ESPN producer/manager Mark Shapiro, who is such a legendary fuckass that he probably deserves his own post later this week:

We would meet quite a bit. I was pretty secure in where I was and what I was doing. I had been there at that point for over twenty years, from the beginning, and I wasn't about to leave because this guy was there. I have the public. I walk down the street and it's like "Thanks for twenty years!"

Oh brother.

Here's my favorite:

I've been treated unfairly by the TV sports critics. They say I'm a clown. It's an act. When they use the word "act," it's like "aaact." "Act" would be playing a character who you're clearly not, by definition in Webster's. To act is to take on the characteristics of someone else. "We don't like Berman's style." Fine "Don't like Berman's act" is "WHAT ACT?!" What is that? What would that be? Or that he's a clown. You mean I don't come prepared? Stop. Stop. The most hurtful thing they write is that I'm just out there making events be about me.

Oops, did I leave his name in up there? Or did your brain just fill it in where I used a placeholder since it's so fucking obvious that this is who I'm quoting? It's a mystery. But in either case, have you ever heard a person be this blissfully self-unaware and so patently self-absorbed before? You think that people say you're a clown and in doing so mean that you don't prepare for your work? You think that your show (NFL Primetime) "made football famous?" FUCK. YOU. Christ, he makes Simmons sound like the Dalai Lama.

More to come later this week. Specifically stuff from Simmons (he claims to have "thick skin"- lollerskates), that obnoxious whiner Kornheiser, and a cast of thousands.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I sent an email to Simmons begging him to do a mailbag column, because I am a complete and utter fucking box of tools

SIKE, I actually did NOT send such an email, but apparently dozens of mouth-breathers around the world do every day. Bill always makes sure to lead of his mailbags with a few of those emails just so we all know that the people like him, they really like him! To wit:

Q: I'm having a rough patch in my life. I am a broke college student home for the summer and can't find a job. I deposited $6 to my bank account today and the teller literally laughed at me when she saw that my balance was $13. Then I went home and cut my nipple when I was shaving my chest. All I ask for is a mailbag. I need this.

— Jono, St. Louis

Based on the stories he's told about his upbringing, there is no way in hell Bill can relate to the idea of being broke. The nipple thing? Possib-lye.

Q: Which will last longer: The NFL lockout, or the time between Simmons mailbags?
— David C., NYC

Unfortunately the answer was not "the latter, because Simmons has been strapped to a leftover space shuttle launch rocket and shot towards the sun."

Q: Please do a mailbag before Sasha Vujacic marries Maria Sharapova and the world ends.
— John, Omaha, NE

SG: I'll do you one better — how 'bout a mailbag every Friday for the next six weeks?


As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Some of the questions are so WACKY you'd think they were made up! But nope, turns out there are plenty of people out there who go to Vegas and pretend to have an invisible friend in their midst the whole time, or who think it's hilarious to scream and yell while doing everyday things because that makes you similar to Kevin Garnett or something.

Anyways this mailbag isn't really anything special, relative to the tired and trite crap he usually churns out. In fact, now that he's officially doing it for Grantland, it's about 5% less obnoxious that most of the questions and answers deal with mindless pop culture bullshit rather than sports. (Prominently featured in this edition: how about that Princess Kate? And how about her less attractive sister who is predictably declared to be the hotter sister by prongs like Bill who worship Klosterman and emulate his practice of pointing out secretly super sneaky and counterintuitive stuff that is actually either 1) not sneaky/counterintuitive or 2) just plan wrong? Pretty compelling stuff, no?) Anyways, it's not an excessively horrid mailbag and I don't have a ton of time so there are just a couple things I'd like to bring to your attention.

Q: Grant Wahl thinks we should play the Women's World Cup every two years. You down with that idea?

SG: Absolutely. I couldn't get my 6-year-old daughter to watch the Women's World Cup until the second half of the final game … and by extra time, she was totally hooked.

Absolutely! Have I ever mentioned that I have kids?

She won't watch another meaningful women's soccer game until she's 10. How shortsighted is that?

How do the people in charge of FIFA sleep at night, knowing that they're depriving my not-caring-about-soccer daughter of the opportunity to watch more soccer?

In general, we need to reconfigure these schedules: The Olympics and the World Cup should happen every three years so we could have something this&

Typo alert! Grantland's editors don't hold a candle to the big boys at the parent company. But hey, it's a minor miracle the site is still running at all given the people who are behind it. I'll cut them some slack. Also, I've already talked about how breathtakingly dumb this idea is, but it's been a year. I'm happy to do it again.

2012 (summer): Summer Olympics
2013 (summer): Men's World Cup
2014 (February): Winter Olympics
2014 (summer): Women's World Cup
2015 (summer): Summer Olympics
2016 (summer): Men's World Cup
2017 (February): Winter Olympics
2017 (summer): Women's World Cup

Beyond the entertainment value of having at least one major event every year, did you ever wonder why we decided on the "every four years" thing in the first place?

Because it's a fantastic international spectacle that's difficult to plan, extremely expensive to execute, should have the "specialness" associated with having to wait four years for the next one, and because the ancient olympics took place every four years?

The modern Summer Olympics started in 1896 and settled on a four-year format for one simple reason … it was 1896!

And because the ancient games were on an every four years schedule and the modern organizers wanted to replicate that. AND BECAUSE THEY WERE CONSPIRING TO DEPRIVE BILL'S CHILDREN OF PRECIOUS CHILDHOOD MEMORIES OF SPORTS THEY DIDN'T KNOW EXISTED.

There were no airplanes! Back in 1896, it was really, really, REALLY hard for anyone to get to Athens unless, you know, they lived in Greece. The Games took time to catch on because of travel and the no-television thing; when St. Louis hosted the 1904 Summer Olympics, 580 of the 650 athletes were Americans. In 1921, they decided it was weird to include figure skating and hockey in the Summer Olympics, so they spun those events off into a Winter Olympics (along with new events such as skiing, speed skating, ski jumping, etc.) that launched in 1924 in France with the same every-four-years format because, again, we didn't exactly have United and Virgin around back then.

Look, I can summarize what I read on Wikipedia! And of course, because we CAN do something differently now because of technology, that definitely means that we should. I for one am tired of umpires- let's get an automated strike zone set up ASAP. There is no way that system will have any problems or make baseball less enjoyable.

The Olympics didn't really become THE OLYMPICS until 1936, when Berlin hosted the Summer Games during Hitler's Nazi regime, leading to America's whole "should we boycott?" debate (it didn't), Jesse Owens' laying the smack down (as Hitler watched from the stands) and the Olympics finally reaching its athletic/political/cultural/social potential... only we were stuck with the every-four-years gimmick at that point.

Tommy Craggs thinks you're a fucking dunderhead for pretending that anything at all relevant or interesting happened during the Berlin Olympics.

And it's been that way ever since. Why? Because of the always-dangerous, "That's the way we've always done it!" logic.

No, it's been that way for many other compelling reasons and should not change. But let's get to the apex of the dumbfuckery in this mailbag, presented by Bill Foster Wallace in a footnote to the preceding sentence.

I wrote this in my NBA book when I was trying to blow up the Basketball Hall of Fame: "Few arguments cause more problems than this one: Come on, that's the way we've always done it! When those nine words become the sole reason for keeping something intact, it's a bigger red flag than the one Nikolai Volkoff waved. Change is good. Change leads to hockey masks for goalies,

So having more Olympics because that would be fun for Bill, which means it's a perfect analog to a change that was made to keep guys from being hit in the eye sockets with hockey pucks.

wheels for suitcases,

And a change made because of innovation in the realm of consumer goods

baby seats for little kids

And a change made to prevent people from dying

and seats atop the Green Monster.

SEATS ON THE MONSTAHHHH! BRETT FACKIN' GAHHHHDNAHHHH CAN HEAR US TAUNTING HIM ALL GAME FROM UP THEY-AH BUT HE CAN'T DO SHIT ABOUT IT! This is a change made because it helps the people who made it make more money. In that sense it's almost identical to the idea of having the olympics more often, as long as you replace the word "make" with "lose." (And yes I know the IOC probably has the power to make the games happen every three years if they want, and that the members of the governing body could gain from that. But given what a bunch of greedy twats they are, don't you think they might have already done that if they could get away with it?)

Change leads to iTunes, breast implants, 'Madden' video games, Tommy John surgery, plasma televisions, BlackBerrys, podcasts …"

People who spend money on personal items have the ability to generate change in the markets for those items by demanding certain products and being willing to pay a certain amount for them. So all we need to do is turn the Olympics into a publicly traded company, have the shareholders demand that they happen every three years, and we can expect to see the exact same results that the cell phone and video game markets have seen in the last 20 years! Swell.

Going every three years would be more entertaining, generate more money,

Sound effect goes here

give us a better measure of who mattered the most during a 10-year window,

No one except idiots like you who know nothing about sports think this is important.

and do a better job of capturing athletes as they're peaking.

Oh brother.

Here's a great example: Carl Lewis started peaking in 1982, dominated the 1984 Olympics (when Russia and so many others never showed), then got robbed of his rightful glory in 1988 when Ben Johnson showed up in Seoul with more drugs in his system than every 1999 Home Run Derby contestant combined. By the 1992 Games, Carl Lewis wasn't totally Carl Lewis anymore; from 1983 to 1991, he won six golds in the Olympics and another eight at the World Championships (nailing the 100-meter dash and the 4x100-meter relay every time, and long jump every time except 1991), then two golds in the 1992 Olympics and one gold in 1996. So really, the apex of someone who has to be considered the best sprinter/long jumper ever only coincided with two tainted Olympics and that's that. How was that fair?

And of course, sports should be all about being fair towards athletes. You know, Dan Marino never got to play in a Super Bowl during his prime. Ken Griffey Jr. never got to play in the World Series at all. Every World Cup qualifying period, a top UEFA team chokes away a game or two ends up missing the main draw while some crappy CONCACAF team makes the draw and gets embarrassed in all three of their group stage matches. None of those things seem fair, you know? I think we should change the rules so that none of those injustices can ever happen again. Sorry, Red Sox/Yankees/Rangers- we're putting the Mariners in the World Series this year because if we don't King Felix might never get to play there during his prime. Tough nuts to you guys, you had your chance during the past four seasons. We're all about fairness now.

Every four years gives little flexibility for someone getting screwed over by an injury or accident (Mary Decker), a fluke stinker of a performance (Dan and Dave), a boycott (any of the 1980 Summer Olympians) or even a random attack by a competitor (Nancy Kerrigan). Just watch Without Limits, for God's sake — how was it fun for us as sports fans to watch Steve Prefontaine get boxed in during his gold-medal race in 1972 and settle for fourth, then wait another four years for his redemption (which never came)? If you can come up with a good reason why it shouldn't be every three years, I'm all ears.

So stupid that my mind is boggling as I contemplate even beginning to formulate a specific response. Saying that the Dan O'Brien/Dave Johnson rivalry failure in 1992 means that we should have the Olympics more often is perhaps the worst possible argument you could make in support of this awful position. I'm truly flabbergasted. Dave didn't qualify for the Olympics... which shows that (that year at least) he didn't belong at the damn Olympics. You can't accept a hyped-up advertising campaign as the basis for your position and then reason that because the hype wasn't fulfilled, there is something wrong with the system. The system is not in place to reinforce hype. It's there to make things MORE fair. Holy Jesus on a fucking pogo stick, how fucking clueless is this guy? Probably about as Clueless as Alicia Silverstone! /high fives self

One last point before I go.

Q: You tweeted a link to Kobe's Turkish Airlines ad and asked "'Why does Kobe peek at the chef's ass?' has replaced 'Why does MJ have a Hitler mustache?' as No. 1 weirdest ad subplot." You realize Kobe was actually watching the guy limp away, right? Or do you just hate Kobe so much that you see what you want to see?
--JB, Van Nuys, CA

SG: I just watched the clip 24 straight times. Six of the times, it seemed like he was watching the guy limp away. You might be right, JB. You might be right.

If there is a better example of pathetic trash talk than Bill's BURNTASTIC roasting of Kobe for shooting 25% from the field in a game in which 1) the two teams combined to shoot 35% from the field and score 162 points 2) only one starter on each team shot above 46% from the field 3) Kobe scored 23 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and 4) also made a bunch of clutch FTs down the stretch as his team clinched a motherfucking title after being down at the half in a game seven, I haven't come across it. It's not just a really sad train wreck of bullet trains full of sour grapes. It's patently unclever. LOL SIX FOR TWENTY FOUR HARF HARF HARF WHY DID HE WIN MVP THAT'S SO DUMM

Kobe can eat a fucking dick and all, but Bill makes me smile a little every time Kobe succeeds.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 hires writers who embrace controversy

Skip Bayless ain't got shit on Mike Bauman. Brace yourselves, America. It's about to get real in here. This is the kind of incendiary stance that usually follows a false qualifier like "I understand that the US government did not stage the 9/11 attacks, but all I'm saying is..." or "Listen, I'm the least racist person in the world, but..." Have I adequately prepared you? Here goes:

Only future will tell for impact of Jimenez trade

Deep breaths, people. He's know that's preposterous. He's just trying to bait you.

In all of the non-waiver Trade Deadline activity, the one individual case that was most compelling was that of Ubaldo Jimenez.

The one single sentence in this article that was most poorly written was that of the first sentence that started the article.

However briefly, he achieved greatness. Now, moving from the Colorado Rockies to the Cleveland Indians, will he again find greatness, or will he never again be the pitcher that he was in the first half of 2010?

Well those are great questions, and I'm pretty sure both Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd and Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti have the answer to both: yes. Maybe. But if stuff happens, then definitely not.

The range of possible performances from him would seem to be somewhere between large and immense.

Which makes Jimenez different than most pitchers- their range of potential performances is usually somewhere in between medium and average-sized. And I take back what I said about that opening sentence being the most poorly written in the article.

On the side of his acquisition, Jimenez's injuries earlier this season were not arm injuries and most of his recent work was trending in a positive direction, with five quality starts in six outings at one point, including victories over heavy-hitting clubs such as the Yankees and the Brewers.

On the side of trading him, since the All-Star break in 2010, Jimenez has gone 10-16 with an ERA of 4.19.

A complete list of things you just learned about Jimenez and Colorado's decision to trade him that you couldn't have learned in 30 seconds on baseball-reference:

The contrasts are stark, and so are the views about what might be next for Jimenez. He is only 27, but that cuts both ways, too. In theory, a return to dominance is more than possible. But the Rockies weren't counting on that happening, or they wouldn't have traded a 27-year-old with a manageable contract and with one great half-season on his resume.

A complete list of valuable insights regarding Colorado's decision to trade Jimenez and Cleveland's decision to obtain him that you just gained from those two sentences:

This trade by the Indians is neither a screaming-in-the-night gamble

What kind of gamble? The imagery that phrase conjures up doesn't really make me think about taking on risk and hoping to be rewarded for it.

nor a lock.

If only it were a lock!

There is evidence to suggest that Jimenez can pitch competently for them.


But they could use something substantially better than that.

Right, but-

In that significant area between all right and great is where the questions will be asked and answered.

Jeebus, are you Joe Morgan? Are you Peter King? What are you getting paid for again? Take a stance on something you dunce.

In conclusion: Ubaldo Jimenez is a pitcher. But that could change, largely or immensely, at any time in the future, depending on what happens.