Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Unintentional Contribution from Jack Meaney

Jack Meaney, a friend of the blog, posted this excellent YouTube video as his gmail status. Without his permission we stole it and now present it to you. Behold, the original dance dance revolution: 1980s workout culture meets the video fast forwarding function on your VCR:

"Piney Scents" with Dax Calloway, the religiously questioning outdoorsman

Dax Calloway is a wildlife enthusiast who loves to share his insights on the many sports of the great outdoors. Dax is also going through a period of profound change in his life that has led him to experiment with a number of different faiths. In his column, "Piney Scents," you'll get the full Dax, his wildlife expertise and his personal journey. Enjoy!
- The TUS Staff

Is Deer Hunting Becoming a Stag? Try Elk!

By Dax Calloway

Don't get me wrong folks, I love deer hunting. I love the smell of the forest, the thrill of the pursuit, and the satisfaction of a one-shot kill. But sometimes even I get bored shooting and stuffing the same old bucks. Sure, familiarity breeds a certain level of comfort, but at some point in your life you realize it's time for a change.

Maybe you try a new brand of jeans, or switch to diet cola, or finally get around to exploring that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints you've heard so much about.

In that spirit of discovery I recently ditched the deer in favor of their larger brethren, the Elk. Like deer, Elk are an antlered woodland herbivore known for their exceptional grace and speed. But don't bring the same old buckshot to hunt down these beasts, Elk can be nearly twice the size of an average stag.

I mean you wouldn't bring an American Indian to a Mormon ward meeting, would you? The infallible Book of Moroni tells us that they are inherently sinful beings!

When hunting the noble Elk remember to keep a steady hand. With a creature this big your first shot has to be precise, or else the frightened thing will scamper away faster than you can say "Brigham Young sired over 100 children."

An idle thought: Has anyone made magic underwear fit for an Elk?

When it comes to big game hunting, the Elk presents a unique challenge. Equipped with an ultra-sensitive sense of smell, Elk can detect hunters from even the slightest hint of gunpowder residue. Keep your barrels clean!

According to scared Mormon text, the Prophet Joseph Smith once slaughtered 1,000 Elk with a single bullet. 520 people witnessed the miraculous shot, but none could recount the event because the prophet wiped their memory clean with a magical silver sledgehammer.

Mormonism is chock full of great hunting stories. What about the time Brigham Young slew a dinosaur or when John Taylor decapitated 50 gentile pioneers at a Starbucks? No more caffeine for this woodsman!

Isn't it amazing how Mormon scripture transcends all space, time, and logic? Only God could come up with this stuff, it's just great. And like the mighty Elk, Mormon doctrine is a living, breathing thing, subject to major shifts in interpretation. 

Polygamy? Banned! Racism? Fixed! 

Finally, a faith that values conformity above all else. Isn't it about time? I mean we are living in AMERICA!

Ultimately, as with all hunting, the joy of tracking Elk comes not in the shot or the kill, but in those idle moments spent in nature's cradle. Sitting on a bed of leaves underneath an auburn-hued October sunset, the beauty of the hunt reveals herself in full color. Indeed my friends, this is the place.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Interview with a Dead Athlete Vol. 2: Maurice "the Rocket" Richard

Joseph Henri Maurice "the Rocket" Richard finished his stellar NHL career with eight Stanley Cup championships, 14 all-star selections, and more goals than any other player in league history at the time. Although he lacked a strong slap shot, Richard fashioned himself into an offensive threat through sheer determination and grit. Richard's scoring prowess impacted the modern game so thoroughly that the NHL waived the usual three-year waiting period for Hall of Fame candidates and elected Richard into the hallowed body just one year after his retirement.

In May of 2001, at the age of 79, Richard passed away in his hometown of Montreal. Last week The Unreliable Source sat down with the ice hockey legend for an intimate one-on-one interview.

TUS: My favorite character on Friends is...

MR: Don't you mean "was?" Pop culture has two eras, before Friends and after Friends, what a shame to see the dynasty die. I thought they had a couple of good seasons left. Why not explore Phoebe's music career with more depth or really unearth the root causes behind Ross's love of dinosaurs?

TUS: Don't tip-toe around the question Maurice.

MR: You're right. If I have to pick one I'd pick Joey. With his crippling stupidity, his blatant objectification of women, and his unyielding passion for sandwiches, Matt Le Blanc delivered a character we could all understand. An everyman in the order of Arthur Miller's Willy Loman.

TUS: Could you compare any of your hockey contemporaries to members of the Friends cast?

MR: It's a stretch, but I could see Gordie Howe as something of a precursor to Monica. Gordie was an upright man whose penchant for cleanliness could border on obsession. He loved to cook, maintained a fierce loyalty to his close friends, and had a long on-again-off-again relationship with Tom Selleck for much of the 1990s. I wonder if Friends creator, and known super genius, David Crane used Gordie as an archetype for Monica?

TUS: Speaking of Gordie Howe, many consider the rivalry between you two as a formative plot line in the NHL's early years, one that propelled the league to new heights. How would you characterize the relationship?

MR: It was one of absolute bitterness and hostility. I have absolutely no respect for him as a man or a hockey player. He was rotten in every regard, and I still refuse to concede the fact that he can skate without holding onto the wall. I'm sure he'll say the same about me.

TUS: Some say that you are the most revered athlete in Canadian history, even more so than Wayne Gretzky. Would you agree?

MR: Sure, but those honors mean little to me. I mean seriously, greatest athlete in Canadian history? That's like being the best basketball player in a midget colony. It's Canada. One of our most popular sports involves brooms...BROOMS!

TUS: I'm pretty sure midgets don't live in colonies.

MR: In Canada they do, yet another strike against us. Mounted police, LaBatt Blue, midget colonies, it's like hell on earth.

TUS: You're given name is Joseph Henri Maurice Richard, why so many first names?

MR: My parent's were plagued with indecision. One time we spent four hours at a grocery store debating the various merits of chunky and smooth peanut butter before finally deciding that no one in the family liked peanut butter and leaving the store empty-handed. Vacillation runs in my family. In fact, my great-great grandfather earned the last name "Richard" because his general indecisiveness so bothered the other residents of his French village that they endeavored to label him and all his descendants "Dick"s.

TUS: In other words your full-name is Maurice "the Rocket" Dick?

MR: I suppose.

TUS: You're a Rocket Dick?

MR: I guess.

TUS: You have a rocket dick?

MR: Yes. What are you getting at?

TUS: You don't find this funny?

MR: Wait...oh my goodness...rocket dick! AHAHAHHA...that is hilarious. (Puts hand to ear to mimic radio communication) Rocket dick to mission control, should I turn on my thrusters?

TUS: Rocket dick, this is Houston, you are cleared for lift up...

MR: Roger that, I'll report back as soon as we've penetrated the "O"-Zone. All systems are go, awaiting countdown to boner launch.

Together: 5...4...3...2...1...EJACULATION!!!!

(Wild laughter and hand slapping)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Really "Heat"-ing Up

Miami, FL - Christmas came right on time for Lebron James and his pals as the Miami Heat turned the Lakers into a holiday "yule log" and "burned" them 96-80 in a much-hyped "match".

It was more than just a stat-packing night for the "wildfire" Heat; it left the nay-sayers "smoldering". Those who have been calling Lebron just a "flash in the pan" and claim he lacks the "fire in the belly" to really compete had their words turn to "ash" in their mouths as the Chosen One "lit up" the Lakers with a triple-double. It wasn't all about number 6, however; he was simply the lead "torch" in a mob of swarming defense, good transition play, and "hot hands" all around. In a "barn-burner" where James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh each outscored Kobe Bryant (the Lakers' lead scorer), it was safe to say the defending champs were "snuffed out".

James was demure after the victory: "this was a real good opportunity to check the 'temperature' of our team and in the end something good came out of the 'oven.'" Added James, "we'll see how this 'ignites' our team for the rest of the season". On the other side of the coin, Phil Jackson was "chilly" towards reporters in the post-game interview. "It saddens me when it looks like our team has 'cold feet'. We were really 'frozen' out there."

It was an encouraging win for the Heat, who may just be getting "warmed up." The path to the Finals, however, is still crowded with teams eager to "rain" on the Heat's "bonfire."

Meanwhile, over in Boston, the Celtics are... "green," or... fuck it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Baby Lab Vol. 1

With advances in modern technology it's only a matter of time before scientists can manipulate genetic code in order to produce a new breed of SUPER ATHLETES. But why wait for the Geek-a-sauruses in the biology world to catch up?

In the spirit of progress TUS reaches across time, space, and gender to propose a fresh batch of athlete-on-athlete love children. Armed with imagination and the crude interface of microsoft paint, TUS presents volume one of "The Baby Lab." Let the mad science begin!

Evander (Holyfield) (Joe) DiMaggio
Straight out of a Simon & Garfunkel greatest hits collection, "The Boxer" meets "Mrs. Robinson."
Sport: Baseball
Assets: 1) Could wreak havoc on opposing pitching staffs by punching them in the face. 2) Blitalians are hot.
Drawbacks: Bite-a-bility of ears might lure blood-thirsty  Barry Bonds out of retirement.
Famous Future Quote: "I'm the only living boy in New York...due to the fact that, in this future world I inhabit, the entire city is under water. I live on a house boat."

Allen (Iverson)   (Michael) Phelps
Can drive the lane and stay in his lane. Can freestyle swim and freestyle rap. Can swim butterfly and stay superfly
Sport: Water Polo
Assets: 1) Would break water polo's unintentional color barrier. 2) Line of water-proof headbands could change fashion forever.
Drawbacks: Both dads have been arrested on weed-related charges. Those kinds of "gateway genes" could spell trouble.
Famous Future Quote: "Practice?!? Practice!?!?....Seriously I can't hear you, I'm under water."

Abert (Haynesworth)  (Tara) Lipinski

Might triple lutz her way into America's hearts or cleat someone in the face, whichever way the genetic cookie crumbles.
Sport: Roller Derby
Assets: 1) One parent represents all that is right with American sports, the other all that is wrong. Child could be the total package. 2) Roller derby successes might inspire long overdo re-make of "Whip It."
Drawbacks: Child would be an unholy cross-pollination between polar opposites, a cesspool of swirling contradictions, a mutated half-beast of the highest none that I can think of really.
Future Famous Quote: "Show me the money...and the smiles!"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Carson Palmer Claims "Star" Quarterbacks Receive Preferential Treatment From Opposing Teams

Cincinnati, OH - In a season fraught with controversy over concussions, tripping, and an unfair playoff system, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is distressed about another issue entirely. Not one to mince words, Palmer claimed in an interview that opposing teams are much more likely to let less famous quarterbacks get intercepted than the ones in the limelight.

"I don't want to name names," said Palmer, "But if your name doesn't rhyme with 'shady', [Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady] 'thick' [Eagle's Michael Vick], or 'Schmeyton Schmanning', opposing teams will simply look the other way while their secondaries pick off your passes."

Palmer's accusations may be inflammatory, but they are substantiated by statistics. Quarterbacks like Palmer, 49er's Alex Smith, and Cardinal's Derek Anderson have each reached double digits in interceptions this season, while so-called "elite" quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Michael Vick each have less than 5.

"It's a matter of equality," continued Palmer. "I'm fine with throwing interceptions - that's just a part of the game. I'm just saying that everyone should be throwing the same amount."

The issue of dominant quarterbacks throwing fewer interceptions reaches back into the annals of history. Traditionally, passers with high quarterback ratings have had fewer passes picked off by opposing teams than their lesser-known contemporaries. Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath threw an average of just over 6 interceptions in his first three seasons; by comparison, Joe's college teammate Richard Todd threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his first five professional seasons.

Palmer's Bengals are now statistically eliminated from the playoffs and preparing for the next season, a fact Palmer is quick to attribute to his high interception count. "I can't say how things might have been if I hadn't been picked off so much," said Palmer, "but it's frustrating to think that the opposing teams have such a hand in determining our status in the league."

Athletes: What are they thinking? Vol.2

Above: Artist's rendering of Dr. Wilhelm Goodrich
Resident psychologist and palm reader Dr. Wilhelm Goodrich checks in with a very special Christmas edition of "Athletes: What are they thinking?" So gather 'round the fireplace and roast your chestnuts on the good doctor's mind-melting analysis.

Larry Bird: "This red satin suit is silky smooth, just like my jump shot. Saaaaawiishh."

David Wells: "Guess who just farted in the Santa suit?"
Tommy Lasorda: "First I became a trusted figure in their beloved national pastime, now by disguising myself in this costume I'm almost indistinguishable from their most cherished ritual gift-giver. Phase 1 of Tommy Lasorda's Elaborate Plan to Enslave the Human Race is now complete."
Mr. Met: "All I want for Christmas this year is the ability to close my eyes. Santa can you help ease my pain? Oh and I also want a 'Bop-It.'"
Ray Allen: "Presents!" Kevin Garnett: "Candycanes!" Glen Davis: "Holiday ham!" Child: "Where the FUCK is Paul Pierce? You think you can dress up Patrick O'Bryant as Santa Claus and I won't figure this shit out? I may be 5 years-old but I'm not a damn fool. Don't smile at me Big Baby, I oughta shove my Jordan sneakers up your fat behind. Where's my fucking juice box?"

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dodging the Bullet

Why are kickers and punters so terrible? With the most well-paid one-dimensional job in the country, they never cease to fail. If a kicker's only job is to put the ball through the uprights, why can't he do it every time? If soccer players can place a soccer ball in the corner of a net, surely a man can kick a football through a very wide target from 35 yards away, every time.

I bring up this topic because of yesterday's Giants-Eagles game. Giants punter Matt Dodge, after being instructed to punt the ball out of bounds, punted the ball straight to DeSean Jackson, who proceeded to fumble the ball, and then run for a touchdown. Cue in Coughlin screaming at Dodge and Dodge looking like he just caught taking the last brownie from the freezer, unable to even hold eye contact.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Headlines from the Sporting World

Cliff Lee Only Returning to Philidelphia to "Pick Up A Few Things"

Strangled Dog Impressed With Vick's Play

Panthers Aim for Unprecedented 1-18 Season

Orioles Traded For 1st Round Draft Pick

Light-Cycle Referees Clamping Down on Sharp Turns, Swerving

Fat Linebacker Just Knows He'll be Drafted Last

"High Tops" with Marlon Brando Vol. 1

Hello folks, it's me, Marlon Brando. I've signed on with TUS as a part-time correspondent to give you my take on the comings and goings of the National Basketball Association. I call this column "High Tops," named after the specialized, ankle-supporting sneakers that many basketball players use.  I've got a lot of opinions so let's get right to it.

Le Baron James
Now first I want to talk to you folks about this Le Baron James. I hear that people are getting all gussy about his decision to play with Darren Wade and the Miami Heat. Awww geeeez folks...YOU HARDLY GAVE THE KID A CHANCE! He's a damn good kid, honest-to-goodness the kid's got heart. And just like the beeyoootiful Chrysler sedan he's named after, the kid knows how to drive the lane. Just put some gas in the kid and go go go...yeesh. So this week, I'm smoldering at all the folks that are givin' the kid a rough time...WHERE DO YOU GET OFF?

The Set Shot
Friends, what happened to the set shot? Excauuuuuuse me for asking, but nowadays it's all jumpy jumpy, guys doing jam dunks and stuff shots. Where's the class? I remember Paul Arizin used to do a set shot from the corner, NEVER MISSED! When I see Karl Bryant bouncing around the gym it makes me sick. So this week, I'm smoldering at these so-called "jump shooters," HOLD YOUR DAMN GROUND!

European Players
I don't know about you, but last time I checked it was called the National Basketball Association, not the International Basketball Association. It seems like every team has a Pierre or a Jose or an Enrico, and I don't like it one bit. Would the great George Mikan have been so great if his name was Jorge Mikan? I DOUBT IT! But these days it's all about global marketing. If the New York Knickerbockers can get their hands on some tall Swede with a thousand-watt grin they'll stick him at center. Who cares if he can't tell a BASKETBALL FROM A BAGUETTE?!?!? So this week I'm smoldering at all you overseas talent scouts, GET YOUR BUTTS BACK TO THE STATES!

That's all for this edition of "High Tops." I hope you enjoyed yourself, I know I did. Until next time, I'll see you around the peach basket.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Athletes: What are they thinking? Vol. 1

Above: An artist's rendering of Dr. Wilhelm Goodrich
TUS's resident psychologist and palm reader Dr. Wilhelm Goodrich examines athletes' facial expressions in order to determine their exact thoughts at the moment the photographer snaps the shot. Here he provides commentary for a Sports Illustrated gallery entitled: Baseball's $100 Million Men.

Derek Jeter: "As I struggle to grip this baseball, I am also struggling to grip the complexities of being bi-racial in a society so hopelessly caught up in the binaries of whiteness and blackness.

C.C. Sabathia: "I'm thinkin' Arby's"

Manny Ramirez: "I'm thinkin' fertility drugs."

Troy Tulowitzki: "I refuse to kowtow to society's demands that I wear sleeves of equal length."

Carl Crawford: "You can take the devil out of the ray, but you can't take the Lord out of CarL CrawfORD. Carl Crawford loves wordplay!"

Todd Helton: "Vanilla ice cream."

Johan Santana: "They say laughter is the best medicine, but my shoulder still hurts."

Jayson Werth: "Without facial hair I'd look like an asshole."

Barry Zito: "I look like an asshole."

Miguel Cabrera: "Aha Mr. Sun, I see you up there in the sky. You are a worthy foe, but you will not burn my supple skin today because, as we speak, I am putting a ball cap on my head

Kevin Brown: "What will that crazy George Lopez do next?"

Mike Hampton: "I'm pitching with one leg, suck on that Jim Abbott."

Rex Ryan Buries Sal Alosi Following Embarrassing Tripping Incident

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - Jets coach Rex Ryan, known as the "ultimate motivator" sent a message to his team following their loss to the Miami Dolphins . Rather than the usual boardroom meeting, Ryan asked the players and staff to follow him outside. Leading them to a park near the Jets stadium, Ryan revealed his plan to hold an informal "funeral" and produced the body of strength coach Sal Alosi, wrapped in a carpet. Alosi had become the center of controversy after tripping Dolphins' player Nolan Caroll as Caroll ran down the sideline.

"We are going to put Sunday into the earth," said Ryan to his team as he rolled the staff member's body into a shallow ditch. "We are going to put this behind us and look to the next game."

Quarterback Mark Sanchez was impressed. "Rex, more than any coach in the league, makes such a powerful impression on his team. Most coaches will talk a lot about putting games behind us but he actually shows us. It was really symbolic." Added Sanchez, "I think I saw Sal's feet move a little when we started filling the grave."

The Jets have fallen to 9-4 and are vying for a wildcard slot into the postseason. Some have their doubts that Ryan's tactics will galvanize the team for the remainder of the season. "Burying Alosi won't change their record or their poor offensive line," remarked Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. The Jets, however, are taking the message to heart.

"We're already forgetting about last Sunday" said safety Darelle Revis. "Sal who?" Ryan concluded the makeshift ceremony by asking each of the players to put their fingerprints on the shovel used to both wound and bury Alosi. "We're all in this together," said Ryan.

Ryan asked each of his players to put their fingerprints on the shovel used to wound and bury Alosi. "We're all in this together," said Ryan.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Funny Sports Vol. 4

Meet sepak takraw. One of Indochina's most popular pastimes, the sport receives little attention outside of Southeast Asia. As a game, sepak takraw combines the fast-paced action of volleyball with the foot skills of soccer and the demographic breakdown of M.I.T.'s engineering program. You haven't lived until you've seen a Cambodian do a running scissor kick and crash into a tiny net.

The Skinny: Basically it's volleyball but you play with your feet and I'm pretty sure you have to be Asian.

American Equivalent: Hackeysack off drugs.

Most commonly seen in: Indonesia, Thailand, 'Nam....'nam....oh God the horrors...have you ever seen sepak takraw played with a human head son...HAVE YOU?!?!?

Greatest doubles match of all time: Nguyen & Nguyen v. Nguyen & Nguyen. A classic back-and-forth struggle for kick volleyball supremacy. The fans were the real "nguyen"-ers.

Did you know?: In 1989 a team representing the United States competed at the sepak takraw world championships. They were beaten badly.

Video hosted by sepak takraw's Bob Geldof :

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Friend Cliff

Late last night, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported on the "shocking turnabout" by which our Philadelphia Phillies acquired sexy lefty pitcher Cliff Lee. Hmph. Well, I guess the trade was shocking for those poor souls who aren't in Cliff's top 8. I, of course, knew this was coming, because Cliff and I are close like that. We're buddies. You know, confidantes. Lovers.

He just doesn't know it yet.

But in all seriousness, I will say this: When I, a truly unreliable source for all things sport, saw Cliff Lee in his Phillies uni for the first time, I knew that we had something good with this fella. And he pitched real good, too. So after Cliff's departure last year, while the rest of the Phillies phamily tried to move forward, I held good ole treinta y tres in my heart, knowing that someday he would be back.

The whole thing just goes to show you that sometimes Philadelphia doesn't know a good thing until it's gone. Like, I'm really starting to miss Carl Green and all those belly dancers. And evidently, so was Cliff.

The Anatomy of a Brilliant Move

No one knows what happens after this. If Cliff Lee gets hurt or regresses or grows disenchanted with cheesesteaks perhaps the Phillies end up looking foolish. But you can't deny that Phillies' General Manager Ruben Amaro conducted a near-perfect pursuit of Cliff Lee.

And his reward? The best pitcher on the free agent market. He landed a former afterthought who had earned the right to squeeze every last penny out of his one big pay day, but took significantly less money to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Ruben Amaro Junior sold Cliff Lee on the losingest franchise in professional sports even though the winningest one offered him a princely megadeal.

Too often people look at sports free agency as a matter of economics, a calculating game of cost-benefit analysis that matches agents against owners. We overlook psychology,  where the art of salesmanship meets the very human object of the negotiators' affections. To track the psychological prep-work of this deal you have to return to 2009.

Mid-Season 2009:

The Phillies acquire Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians in a trade. Lee's stellar pitching down the stretch in the postseason propels the Phils to their second straight World Series where Lee dominates the Yankees in a losing effort. The Yanks begin to openly covet Lee, and although he was already a Cy Young Award winner and a hot commodity, his value grows immensely as he gains notoriety as a "big game" pitcher. Lee also discovers he loves Philadelphia; loves the manager, the fans, the city, and decides he would like to retire as a Phillie.

End of Year 2009: The Phillies trade Lee to the Mariners after acquiring Roy Halladay in a separate deal. A publicly remorseful Lee packs his bags and moves to Seattle. I think many figured that this trade would sour Lee on the Phillies, turn him bitter. But it didn't. I think Lee also recognized that the Phillies built his legend, they made him desirable, and eventually this trade indirectly leads him to playing in his second straight World Series, this time as a member of the Texas Rangers. Besides, Lee still loved Philadelphia, the packed ballparks, the manager he adored, and the clubhouse many consider the most tight-knit in the league.

End of Year 2010: As soon as the Giants win the 'ship everyone starts talking about Cliff Lee. Tons of teams throw their hats into the ring, but the Phillies don't make much noise. Amaro knew that the Yankees and Rangers would emerge as the favorites, and that all of those other teams (Angels, Nationals, Dodgers etc.) would ultimately cede. Why would Amaro get lost in the milieu by jumping in with these other characters? If he waits he can at least guarantee that he will be in the final three after the Yanks and Rangers drive everyone else out of the market. So Ruben waits...

This Week: As negotiations wind down Amaro springs back into action. He knows Cliff Lee's choices, and he's been surreptitiously throwing him low-ball offers in order to gauge his interest. Just as Amaro thought, Lee is very interested, but he needs a better offer.

Now I imagine Ruben's final pitch to Lee looks something like this:

"Cliff you have two choices. You have the Yankees. They're giving you the most money and in New York you can become a celebrity. But you don't want to be a celebrity and your wife openly expresses disdain for the city and its fans. Besides, if you take the megadeal with the Yankees you'll become a villain, just like A Rod (the last Ranger to become a Yankee) or even Teixeira (generally despised in the Baltimore-D.C. area he grew up in).


You can go to the Rangers. Obviously you like the clubhouse and they're offering you big money. But you want to win a World Series, soon, and the Rangers might be a one-and-done kind of club. They're losing Vlad Guerrero and you don't have much help on that pitching staff. If you get hurt the season might be shot.

So now you have a third choice, join the Phillies. It's less money, but you'll become a folk hero in the Delaware Valley. The fans always adored you, now they'll shower you with praise. Plus you get to part of the greatest pitching staff of all time. Even if you or someone else gets hurt, the Phils will still be there at the end of the year. You love Philadelphia, you love Charlie, you love Rollins and Victorino and Ibanez...

Oh and there's this, you get to continue building the legend of Cliff Lee. You've made a career out of surprising people, and now you can deliver the biggest surprise of all. You can spurn your high profile suitors and you can do Cliff Lee really wants to do...remain enigmatic."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interview with a Dead Athlete: Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch Edition

In a career that spanned twelve professional seasons, flanker Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch caught 60 touchdown passes and amassed over 7,500 total yards from scrimmage. His stellar play for the Chicago Rockets of the short-lived All-America Football Conference and the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL earned him a place on the NFL's all-decade team for the 1950s and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On January 28, 2004, Hirsch died of natural causes at an assisted living home in Madison, Wisconsin.

Last week "The Unreliable Source" sat down with Hirsch for a revealing one-on-one interview. Here's the transcript in all its unedited glory.

TUS: Sorry, I can't find my pen...

EH: What?

TUS: I can't find my pen, don't worry we'll just edit this part out.

EH: Of course you will, it's completely pointless.

TUS: Found it! Ok, first question: Sportswriter Francis Powers once wrote that you ran "like a demented duck." Did that playing style manifest itself in any other facets of your life?

EH: QUACK! QUACK! Cinnamon sticks. Porterhouse Ale. Charles Manson runs the U.S. economy from his jail cell. QUACK!

TUS: Indeed. What current player reminds you of yourself?

EH: Well I've been dead for six years so I haven't been able to follow the game for awhile, but based on the 2003 NFL season I'd have to say Laveranues Coles.

TUS: If I could talk to one famous dead person it would be...

EH: I mean I can talk to famous dead people, I just had lunch with James Dean yesterday. In fact, you're the first living person I've talked to since I haunted my old gardener two years ago.

TUS: So you can talk to any famous dead person you want to in heaven?

EH: Well...not exactly...actually in heaven you can only talk to people who were alive during your lifetime. So I can talk to anyone who lived between 1923 and 2004. It sucks because when I got up here I thought, "This is my chance to finally talk to Rene Descartes." Turns out the only way I can communicate with him is if I give a message to someone older than me and then have them pass it down through the generations. It's frustrating because I see him in the cafeteria every day. We both eat lunch at exactly 12:40!

TUS: There's a cafeteria in heaven?

EH: Yep. Actually, heaven is a lot like middle school in many ways...not that you'll ever know...

TUS: Wait...what...what did I do?

EH: Memphis...'94....the alley behind the Steak 'n' Shake...

TUS: Ohhh yeah....any way I can make up for that?

EH: Only one way, convert to Jainism. Trust me on this one.

TUS: Duly noted. Now back to football. In 1951 you had 66 receptions for 1,495 yards. What a year!

EH: Oh my, yes it certainly was. Ike was in the Oval Office,  we sent those commie Rosenbergs to chair, and "I Love Lucy" stole America's hearts. My wife and I got a nice place in the suburbs, everywhere you looked people were getting a piece of the American dream...t.v. dinners...dishwashers...little league baseball... we were living high on the hog, couldn't nobody stop the U.S. of A.

TUS + EH (together): U-S-A! U-S-A! (repeat for 20 minutes)

TUS (voice weakened from excessive chanting): What is your favorite football memory?

EH: The time I sucker punched a young Gerald Ford in the testicles. He was an offensive lineman for Michigan at the time.

TUS: Interesting. Didn't you also play for Michigan?

EH: Yep, I was actually known for punching teammates in the testicles when they weren't looking. I did it so much they started calling it "a Hirsch" if someone got maimed in the groin. I was not well liked in college.

TUS: What player from your era do you most admire?

EH: Has to be James "Crazy Legs" Delfino. That sum-a-bitch was tough as nails.

TUS: Two players nicknamed "Crazy Legs"? That must have been confusing...

EH: No, no, no. I became "Crazy Legs" only after I killed James Delfino. That's how we did it back then. If you wanted someone's nickname you had to kill him. The NFL was a man's game back then, no plastic helmets, and mouth guards, and rules against killing a man for his nickname...

TUS: Sounds pretty brutish.

EH: Thank you.

TUS: Well Crazy Legs it's been an honor to talk to you. Any final remarks?

EH: Nope...just trying to get back to heaven for lunch. Fishsticks today! You should watch Descartes eat fishsticks....have you ever seen a frenchman eat fishsticks?


EH: Oh man you are missing out.

Why Not the A's?

After suffering a few years of verbal abuse from the anti-Moneyball crowd, Billy Beane and the Athletics are primed for another run to the top of a severely weakened AL West. Let's survey the landscape:

The A's are quietly building one of the best young pitching staffs in baseball (again). Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden, all carried ERAs under 3.50 last year, with Cahill and Anderson coming in under the 3.00 mark. Couple that with Billy's latest reclamation project Rich Harden (he's due to connect on one of these), and the A's may well have the division's best rotation.

The A's perennial problem seems to be offense, although they did score a respectable 663 runs last year. reports today that Oakland appears "close to a deal" with veteran DH Hideki Matsui. Laugh, go ahead, but Matsui is a very productive player that fits the Billy-ball style of play. If you disregard his first year with the Yankees, and the two seasons that he suffered major injuries, Matsui has posted an OBP of .360 or higher (his lowest all things considered is .353) and swatted more than 20 hrs in each of his big league seasons. That's five seasons of 20 or more. Couple that with addition of David DeJesus and the A's can expect at least modest improvement.

But the biggest reason for optimism by the Bay might be the epic failures of their division rivals during this off-season. Seattle is in rebuilding mode. The Angels struggled last year, and although almost everyone predicted they'd be big players in the free agent market this winter, they swung and missed at each offering. They couldn't land Crawford, Werth, or Lee (it appears) and they need Kendry Morales to return to full strength in order to have a prayer.

And then there's the Texas Rangers, the defending AL champs. If they lose Lee to the Yankees they could be in big trouble. It looks like Vlad Guerrero is already half-way out the door, and without Lee they're the same old Rangers. Great offense with a pitching staff full of nobodies. They'll still have Neftali Feliz to shut the door (or start?), but those other weaknesses might make innings one through eight a mighty struggle.

That leaves us with the A's, welcome to Oakland baby.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stop Teasing us

On the ESPN MLB homepage is an article by boy genius Buster Olney (grow up and get a real first name). The lede goes like this: "It can't be easy for fans in Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay to get excited about their chances in the AL East. So maybe it's time to blow up the divisions and change the playoff structure."

First of all, I have to admit I didn't have the chance to read the actual article, because I'm not an ESPN Insider, BUT, please, Buster, and every other sports reporter, you have to stop. No longer can you tease us with division reshuffling, baseball salary caps, NFL overtime rules, logical college football playoff structures, american soccer, canadian baseball, mexican political transparency or any other idealist change to a professional sport. The rule of thumb is, the more logical the idea is, the more managers/coaches/owners/deans will go on the record saying they will never vote for it.

So here's to fans only going to Blue Jays games by accident, Orioles fans watching Ripken games on ESPN classic, and Rays fans missing the game to catch the early bird special at Poppy's. Dream on, Buster.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Funny Sports Vol. 3

Meet hurling, Ireland's answer to lacrosse. As the ancient Gaelic legend goes, the Irish examined every field game in the world and wondered, "How can we make this more violent?" Their solution: give everyone on the field a wooden club.

Most commonly seen in: Ireland, Movies about Ireland, Bennigan's.

American equivalent: Murderball, Stab Hockey, Blood Soccer.

Sport's most prestigious honors: The Manley Cup (awarded to player with most grizzled demeanor), The Golden Shamorck (for excellence in bludgeoning), The Firehouse Trophy (given to the player with the reddest hair).

Bryn Mawr

This is Bryn Mawr college:

For those in the know...see Colin Sarafin in the sixth frame.

Funny Sports Vol. 2

Meet Indian Gymnastics. It's like regular gymnastics but the participants are Indian, and there's a humping pole.

American equivalent: Competitive strip-tease.

Interesting fact: Indian Gymnastics League commissioner Rajindah Goodell routinely suspends or fines players who wear too much clothing.

Most commonly seen in: North India, South India, Middle India (Bombay's premier Lord-of-the-Rings-themed gentleman's club)

Honestly, these are some of the greatest athletic feats I've ever seen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Funny Sports Vol. 1

Meet Jai Alai. It's like squash on drugs, and the players have baskets for hands!

Most commonly seen in: Florida, Mexico, crossword puzzles.

Please note the reaction of the very enthusiastic fan at 5:42 in the video. Actually just skip the rest of the video and watch that snippet on repeat. According to youtube commentators there is a man who looks like Borat sitting in the background around 5:01. I kind of see it.

I know that this video made the rounds weeks ago, but...

EVERYONE SHOULD SEE THIS VIDEO! I believe Andy Reid hit puberty about three times before the age of 13:

Special shout out to the tailor who customed designed that pee wee football uniform, you're the real hero.

Jeter and Chocolate Cake

Derek Jeter must have been beyond frustrated to tell the media about his "anger" with recent Yankee contract negotiations. I could understand Jeter letting his feelings known if he hadn't ended up in pinstripes, but the fact he's going to be with the organization he's bashing is puzzling - especially because we're talking about Mr. Captain Goody Two Shoes.

The fact is that Derek Jeter isn't a great baseball player anymore. His last season's statline read like a decent hitter at the top of a very powerful lineup: 111 R, 10 HR, 67 RBI, 106 SO, .270.

He doesn't deserve a large contract in playing ability alone - something the Yankees knew - and his marketing worth is many times larger with the Yankees than any other organization - something the Yankees also knew. So, they let him shop around. It's not entirely different from a child telling his parents he's going to move out if they don't let him eat chocolate cake for dinner every night. "Sure, you can move out, just go and find a new house that will pay for everything you need and give you chocolate cake every night, and we'll drive you right over." Well, this might not be the best idea; pedophiles might try to steal your child with chocolate cake, but the metaphor has been made.

Could you imagine Jeter signing with a team, any team, and being paid what he wanted to be paid, to play above-average ball at shortstop? Neither can I.

Is He Really Carl's Junior?: The Case for Jayson Werth

Compared to those climactic moments of early autumn, the MLB off-season offers little in the way of substance. Like Hollywood in July, winter is baseball’s blockbuster season: flashy, riddled with false bravado, and ultimately all about one thing, money. It is a season of make-believe and paper games, complete with its own mélange of familiar roles and predictable tropes.

Among the most common off-season archetypes is that of Free Agent “B.”

Free Agent “B” is a good player, a damn good player, but he cannot escape the fact that his skill set and career trajectory parallels that of Free Agent “A.” Unfortunately for Free Agent “B,” Free Agent “A” is a half-step quicker, a couple of inches taller, and probably even a little bit prettier. Because they fill such a similar need, all of the same teams court both free agents. But deep down every team wants Free Agent “A,” and Free Agent “B” is just the store brand substitute.

In 2010, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth typified the A-B relationship. Werth was the RC Cola to his Coke Classic, the “Deep Impact” to Carl Crawford’s “Armageddon,” the Jason Biggs to Carl’s Ben Stiller. Everyone seemed to agree: Crawford was the more valuable player and the one who held more future potential.

Werth’s 7-year/$125 million deal with the Nationals sent fans and pundits into hysterics, some calling it a Waterloo signing for the franchise. When Theo Epstein nabbed Crawford for 7 years at $142 million Joe Lemire of called the pick-up “nearly flawless,” typifying a generally glowing response.

Now it is hard to determine whether either player is “worth” what each received. The more accessible questions would be which player is better now and which player will be better over the life of their respective contracts? To both I would answer Jayson Werth, and here’s why.

  1. Werth is the better offensive player

Over the past three years Werth’s offensive production surpassed Crawford’s, and by a fairly healthy margin. From 2008-2010 Werth averaged 29 home runs per season and his OPS numbers over those three seasons are .861, .879, and .921 respectively. In Crawford’s nine-year career, the left-fielder has never hit 20 home runs in a single season or recorded an OPS above .855. Although Crawford holds an advantage in career batting average, Werth has a much higher career on-base-percentage because he walks so frequently. Werth’s career OBP is 30 points higher than Crawford’s, and he’s maintained a sizable advantage in OBP over each of the last three seasons.

Crawford only outpaces Werth in one meaningful offensive statistic, stolen bases, which leads me to my next point.

  1. Werth will age better

Crawford’s speed makes him a better base stealer and defender than Werth, hands down. Werth is no slouch, but it’s difficult to compete with a guy who almost signed at Nebraska to play option quarterback. Carl Crawford is a fast dude, but Red Sox fans still have room for worry. Any player who derives their competitive advantage from speed is always one year or one injury away from mediocrity.

Many corner outfielders regress defensively over the years, and they only retain value if they can hit for power. Crawford doesn’t fit the Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds, Adam Dunn mold, and if he can’t keep his wheels he risks become a significantly less impactful player by the fourth or fifth year of this seven-year contract.

Werth by comparison has the plate discipline and power that tends to translate well in the latter stages of a player’s career. As I say this I can already here the naysayers groaning, “But Crawford is younger than Werth, he’ll hold up better over the next seven seasons!” To you naysayers I say, “Read on.”

  1. Werth is the “younger” player

“Wait a second,” you’re thinking, “Carl Crawford is 29 and Jayson Werth is 31.” Let me explain what I mean by “younger.” In the comparison between Crawford and Werth, age is a particularly misleading number. Crawford entered the League in 2002. A starter from day one since he played on such a poor team, he's notched 1,235 games in his career.

By comparison, the elder Werth has only played in 775 career games, and broken the 140+ games barrier just twice. To put that discrepancy in perspective, that's almost three full seasons less than Crawford in terms of games played. And it's not like Werth was toiling in the minor leagues, riding buses and playing winter ball every year. Werth's been in the bigs since 2002 as well, but a spate of freak injuries relegated him to the bench. Most of his first five seasons were spent rehabbing or platooning, meaning that he pretty much sat on his ass while Crawford pounded the Tampa turf every night.

I liken Crawford to Andruw Jones, and not in a good way. Like Crawford, Jones was a speedy outfielder who entered the league when he was young. In 2007, at the tender age of 30, Jones experienced a dramatic drop in production from which he still hasn’t recovered. Certainly Jones’ long swing and questionable training methods played some role in his rapid decline, but you have to imagine that the 10 full seasons as a starting centerfielder didn’t help.

Werth’s career, however, maps out like that of his former Philly teammate Raul Ibanez. Ibanez didn’t become a full-time starter until his seventh year in the major leagues, and as a result Ibanez has remained productive well into his late 30s. Werth’s career might last longer than Crawford’s simply because he spent so many seasons waiting for his chance.

  1. Werth has greater offensive potential

I’m puzzled by the notion that Crawford has “emerging power” simply because he hit a career-high 19 home runs in 2010. In 2006 Crawford hit 18 home runs before regressing over the next couple of seasons, and he’s already enjoyed a couple of other seasons at or above the 15-homer mark. The 19 home runs seem more like a plausible statistical spike based on a few good swings rather than a new trend.

Crawford has been a consistently excellent performer in the major leagues for nine seasons now. He regularly hits in the high .200s or low .300s and jacks between 11 and 19 home runs. He’s demonstrated modest improvement in on-base percentage, but nothing indicates that he’s about to become a prolific slugger. My point is this: Crawford has a large big league sample size, and it’s hard to imagine him getting all that much better in the next few years. He is what he is.

Werth, on the other hand, only has two years as a fulltime starter on his résumé. He’s experienced enough to have gone through the league a couple of times without being exposed, but still green enough to consider the possibility that he might improve in various facets of his game. I personally believe Werth has plateaued as a 28 homerun, .375 OBP kind of player, but if either guy has real potential for growth it has to be Werth.

  1. Werth was underappreciated in Philly, Crawford was over hyped in Tampa

One of the big knocks against Werth is that he performed well because he played for a good team and hit in a good line-up. Both are true, but they mean very little. Let me be clear, there is no, I repeat, N-O, statistical proof for the concept of “protection.” Players do not perform better when they’re hitting in-front-of, behind, or in-between certain other players.

Consider two ex-Nationals. Alfonso Soriano and Adam Dunn had almost no line-up protection when they played in Washington, yet both of them performed according to precedent while wearing the red and gold.

I want to consider the opposite effect. I believe that Crawford received much more attention, and thusly gained a reputation as the better player, because he toiled on such a poor team. For years Crawford was the only marketable DEVIL Ray, and he gained All-Star bids and MVP votes for seasons that would have garnered little recognition elsewhere. Werth, by contrast, failed to stand out on a national scale because of the prodigious numbers posted by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and the like. Werth’s 24 home runs in 2008 faded in the face of Utley’s 33 and Howard’s 48. Based on factors other than their merits, Werth was cast as a bit player and Crawford as an all-star.

And so it was again this off-season, Free Agent “B” versus Free Agent “A” in the battle for riches and fame.

Fade to black, and roll those credits.

One Soxxy Line-Up

Looks like the Red Sox just nabbed Carl Crawford for about 7 years $142 million. After adding Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez the Sox line-up looks downright unfair. Line-up projections are my favorite part of the baseball off-season. Here's a quick first stab by ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes:

Carl Crawford, lf
Dustin Pedroia, 2b
Adrian Gonzalez, 1b
Kevin Youkilis, 3b
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew rf
Jason Varitek, c
Marco Scutaro, ss
Jacoby Ellsbury, cf

Some folks think Crawford fits better as a three hitter, although hitting in front of a power bat like Gonzalez might negate his threat as a runner. How about something really unorthodox like Ellsbury leading off and Crawford hitting second? That kind of speed at the top of the line-up reminds me of those great Marlins offenses that started with Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo. Those teams wouldn't let you breathe, five pitches into the game they'd both be on base with bunt singles. Then we had to watch a sweaty Kevin Millwood reluctantly throw lazy lobs to first or second base before the inevitable stolen-base, sac-fly combination put the Phils in a 1-0 hole.

Didn't remember this great Juan Pierre 'stache from his time on the Rockies. Actually I didn't remember he ever played for the Rockies. The 'stache is Rocky Mountain fresh, for sure.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This just in from Sports Illustrated...

"Pats' Danny Woodhead is just like us, and that's why we root for him"

I haven't actually read this article, but I received a divine premonition about its contents:

"Danny Woodhead is white. Despite this crushing disability he manages to play professional football for a very good team. Although his contributions might be favorably compared to those of Ryan Moats, this front page story on Sports Illustrated's website confirms that he is indeed a 'fan-favorite.' Danny Woodhead is white."

I believe The Onion already wrote this article, and by wrote this article I mean that they posted a picture with a single caption that was ten times more poignant than the 5,000-word SI piece:,9975/

ESPN projects that, at his current pace, Woodhead will eclipse the vaunted 440-yard rushing mark this season. I looked back in the annals of great Eagles' running backs for a statistical and biographical comparison.

Remember Texas A & M-Kingville graduate Heath Sherman from the '93 team?

The former Javelina rushed for 406 yards that season as a backup to Herschel Walker. He earned lavish praise from fans, journalists, and civic leaders for his relentless and reckless running style. Then mayor Ed Rendell called Sherman "the consummate Philadelphian, a shining example of what this city and its people represent," declaring later, "the jelly doughnuts at this press conference are spectacular!" Sherman became a latter day Rocky, and his unlikely story from Division II afterthought to moderately productive NFL running back inspired millions to pursue their dreams. To this very day, the name Heath Sherman reamins synonymous with unflappable perseverance.

And so I'd like to think Sports Illustrated for their Sherman-esque reporting on this Danny Woodhead piece, inspirational.

Go Javelinas!

*Non Sarcastic Afterthought: The wikipedia entry on Danny Woodhead has an entire section about the exploits of his high school football team year by year. The wikipedia entry for Heath Sherman has two sentences. Interestingly, Sherman appeared in a 1987 Sports Illustrated about Johnny Lee Bailey, his record-breaking backfield mate at Texas A & M-Kingville. Between the two Sherman actually had the better NFL career, rushing for 2,130 yards as a Birds' running/full back between 1989 and 1993.