Wednesday, May 31, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group A

As we count down toward the World Cup Opening match on June 9th, The Middle Foam Finger will be offering capsule previews of each of the World Cup groups, one group per day.

Group A
Costa Rica

Ah, the host group. This group should be more competitive than you think, with every team in the group having a reasonable shot at advancing. Only Germany seems to be a lock to go through to the next round.

If the tournament were being played anywhere else, I'm not sure if Germany would warrant that distinction, since this is a fairly weak squad. Ever since the final death of the old guard in France '98, Germany has been struggling to find a solid core of players. Michael Ballack is world-class, one of the very few box-to-box midfielders in the entire sport; however, the rest of the team is questionable.

The real problem seems to be that Coach Klinsmann prefers a system that depends on mobile defenders who are comfortable with the ball at their feet building up play from the back, an admirable style that runs into the problem of there not being any German players that really match this description. The attempt to overhaul the defense is part of a greater overall change, as the Germans appear to be in transition, abandoning the physical and deliberate style that has been their trademark since the early 80s (oddly enough the style that allowed Klinsmann to flourish and claim a World Cup in 1990) and trying to be more fluid and attacking (some kind of liquid football perhaps).

I say good luck to that and also not-so-secretly hope that the Germans knock out the English on penalties in the second round (a combination of a first-place and second-place finish between the two of them would produce this matchup) before losing in the quarterfinals (probably to Argentina).

(It should also be noted that Jens Lehmann and Oliver Kahn both continue the trend of German goalies being unsufferable pricks, a tradition dating back to Toni Schumacer back in '82.)

Costa Rica is a bogey team in that they're fast and physically strong, which can make for a tough opponent as long as they don't give up the early goal. So long as they can sit back and make life difficult for the other team, they'll be tough. If they have to go forward, they'll probably get eviscerated. The real reason why things will be tough is that to my knowledge, they've never produced a goalie that was better than "above average".

Ecuador is, supposedly, a team built around the old German style of defend first, defend second, kick them third and score on a set-piece fourth. This is actually a pretty decent way to go about things in international soccer and they have what I would judge to be a slightly-better chance than Costa Rica for pulling it off. Everybody seems to be hating on Ecuador for winning most of their matches at home, which just happens to be 9,000 feet above sea level. Well, fuck you guys, the Broncos still won two Super Bowls. I'm not sure that I could name a single player on the team aside from Ivan Hurtado and Ivan Kaviedes; they're still a Middle Foam Finger favorite only because Rosco lived there for a while and I was there for a short time in high school.

Poland has a team of reliable professionals who will probably give Germany a hard time and are a good bet to beat either of the other two sides. They seem to play the standard game for middle-of-the-road European teams (see also: Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Bulgaria, etc.) in that they play some kind of 442 and rely more on the other team fucking up than actually breaking down a defense. The fact that they can choose between the reliable-yet-not-spectacular Artur Boruc and the sometimes-spectacular-sometimes-horrid-always-a-nutter Jerzy Dudek as goalkeeper gives them a serious advantage over both of the Latin American teams. Extra points for having a player nicknamed "The Hash Bomber" (and yes, they mean that kind of hash). Extra extra points for Ebi "The Hash Bomber" Smolarek receiving his nickname while playing at Rosco's club of choice, Feyenoord Rotterdam.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I'm Here

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rosco's Lotto Fever

The NBA Draft Lottery was last night, so I must throw in my top 14 Mock Draft just like everyone else on the internet has. The difference is, uh, there is no difference...

1. Toronto Raptors - Andrea Bargnani (SF/PF Italy)
Earlier I dubbed him the Genoa Salami of NBA meats, but because of the rumors swirling around about his whining and moaning - generally being Generale Douchebaganno - I am going to rename him the Hormel mass-processed Pepperoni Loaf. Toronto ought to have a fun time with Bargnani, Villenueva, and Bosh in their frontcourt. That is - if none of them break in half.

2. Chicago Bulls - LaMarcus Aldridge (PF/C Texas)
Those of you that know me, ought to know that LaMarcus is my boy. It really has nothing to do that he is from my alma mater. Actually, wait, it does. He's a gifted post player with the frame and the need to add on some bulk. Maybe he should eat Bargnani as a light snack and finish it off with a side of Redick. Chicago will like this pick because it gives them something Tyson Chandler doesn't have - talent.

3. Charlotte Bobcats - Adam Morrison (SF Gonzaga)
Another one of my boys, I have the flop hair and 'stache to prove it. Everyone's comparing him to Wally Szczerbiak, but I honestly think he'll be better. His work ethic transcends that of Wally, and he head butts people. That makes him aces in my book. I really hate to see him in Charlotte (and those Redick lovers down there will too). He's unfortunately going to be teamed up with all those "I'm staying at North Carolina, just not college" wizards of rhetoric Felton and May. But, on the plus side Gerald Wallce, aka AK47 Lite, will be around.

4. Portland Trailblazers - Brandon Roy (SG Washington)
Ah, the Swiss Army knife in the draft. Quite frankly, if there is any team that needs a Swiss Army knife, its my Blazers. Last year, we were a magnifying glass, a bottle opener, and a tiny pair of scissors away from a mediocre season - which is to say, we had a horrible, horrible, horrible season. I love this guy's versatility and his all-round talent. He's the type of player that can make Sebastian, Martell, and Mr. Outlaw so much better. He also allows us to get rid of Darius "Frequent Air" Miles.

5. Atlanta Hawks - Tyrus Thomas (PF LSU)
An exciting pick, and I would consider him the dark horse of the draft. I am just very unsure how he will turn out in the NBA. I hope he succeeds, but seriously, can someone who was only noticed for three games in the postseason garner NBA-wide attention (cough, Jerome James, cough). Oh, and he is 6'9, which means he is a LOCK for the Hawks to draft him.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves - Rudy Gay (SF UConn)
Yes, get it out of your systems, his last name is "Gay." Hahaha, everyone. Oh wait, that is going to be on NBA jerseys? They will be marketed and sold? Well, that is funny. Who knows what the Wolves'll do here, but with all the KG trade rumors and noting that the Wolves' starting 3 is Rickery-Dickery Davis, I can only imagine that the Wolves spin this one as "taking the best player in the draft," but really, just covering their ass (eh Gay? eh?).

7. Boston Celtics - Shelden Williams (C Duke)
He torched Boston College last year in Boston, and I am hoping a Celtics scout was on hand to see him out-muscle pratically everyone in the college game. I still contend he was the best player on Duke last year, despite the awards. He could be the beast in the paint the Celtics have been searching for ever so unsuccessfully with people like Mark "Sleepy" Blount and Kendrick "I show up when I want to" Perkins.

8. Houston Rockets - Rodney Carney (SF Memphis)
This guy is somewhat of an enigma for this draft. He is so athletically gifted, but at the same time shows flashes of Mensa-level Basketball IQ. He could turn out to be anything from Darius Miles (you know my thoughts) to Tracy McGrady. So why wouldn't the Houston want to gamble to get two T-Macs? I mean, then you have a spare when one is injured. This move would also even out the Rockets starting five and give them absolutely no hope to win a long-range battle - but their dunks would be pretty spectacular.

9. Golden State Warriors - Randy Foye (PG Villanova)
I am not sure how BopCity and the Electric Zarko (both Warrior fans) would feel about this pick, but I think it might be the best of all worlds for them. He's an East Bay type player from the East Coast and could immediately fit in for the Warriors, you know, because Baron will only play three games next year. I think the Warriors make this move, as Monta seems to be more of a 2 and less a viable 1. Foye really does have the same qualities of a Chauncey Billups, in the sense that he does what it takes for his team, and I could easily see the undersized backcourt as an NBA fad to come. Now, if they could just move J-Rich to the 3 and bundle up Dunleavy and Murphy - not in a trade, per se, but in a blanket before throwing them off the Bay Bridge.

10. Seattle Supersonics - Ronnie Brewer (SG/SF Arkansas)
Seattle's two biggest concerns outside of David Stern and his "carpet pull trick" are Ray Allen's arthritis and Rashard Lewis' exit plans - so why not get someone who, if needed, could fill in either role? He may not have the range that either player has, but if he's the next Joe Johnson (like so many draft experts that cannot think of comparisons outside of race or school), then you better believe they'll jump on that opportunity.

11. Orlando Magic - J.J. Redick (SG Duke)
I am about to write about J.J. Redick - it's tearing me up inside. I think he is a fine outside shooter, but I don't see much beyond that. Apparently, many sportswriters did and he won the Wooden Award, the Naismith Award, and the Irving J. Douchebag Award. Since this is a mock draft, I have to mimic actual picks, and sometimes (if not most times) picks are bad. This one is bad. Redick = good college player. Redick = tweener. Redick = Shawn Respert (remember that pick, Portland?).

12. New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets - Patrick O'Bryant (C Bradley)
Top center in the draft, best available player for need. 'Nuff said. Okay, I'll say some more. Despite what you might think, Patrick is NOT Irish. Actually, I think he's the first center in the draft that weighs more than 250 lbs since Shaq. Actually, I could be wrong, but it sure seems it doesn't it? Sure Patrick went to a school named for a sissy, preppy boys name, but should that take anything away from his stock? Yes, yes it should.

13. Philadelphia 76ers - Marcus Williams (PG UConn)
Let's move A.I. back to the 2, whaddya say Mr. Cheeks? Marcus is the best pure point guard in the draft and could instantly work within an A.I./Iguodala focused offense. At this point I am assuming Chris Webber will be on a milk carton somewhere, if not on the Knicks (they would seriously be the only ones to take him on, am I right?). Additionally, there are so many computers in Philadelphia to keep Marcus busy.

14. Utah Jazz - Mardy Collins (PG/SG Temple)
The combo guard could work nicely in Utah, even though they don't seem to appreciate black basketball players (Sloan, you are near the top of my shit list). But, come on, Utah, his name is Collins, that could be white, right? He's the best player available, so just take him. Fine, take Whiteboy O'Talentless, doesn't bother me...
Somewhere in the 20s. Los Angeles Lakers - Stiff McBoogerDouche (SF/PF/C Sam Houston Institute of Technology)
They are going to draft someone no one has ever heard of and no one will ever again.

That's all for now. I hope I have fulfilled your jones for Laker-hating, Jazz-hating, Redick-hating mock drafts.

Until the next time, keep it real and hope, just hope, that Matt K and/or BopCity adds to the blog sometime, somwhere.

(P.S. Since we got screwed this year, can you give us the number one pick next year, NBA? I appreciate it.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


"They keep making jokes about how international our team is with soccer jibes! Make them stop, please make them stop!"

("Now they are making fun of Bruce's tendency to end people's careers! Once is funny!")

His protests go unheeded

Ref! Zee German does 'andball! Zees ees a yellow card! Alors!

Bruise Bowen

"He injured himself!"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Leave 'Sheed Alone, You Retarded Zebras!

Oh boy, am I steamed! I had tried to put it behind me, hoped that it would improve. It hasn't.

I would like to extend a middle foam finger to the guys (and girls) in black and white.

Officials in sports are getting worse. Actually, they are getting dumber, blinder, and more corrupt. You would think at least that one of those could be easily rectified thanks to modern science and some well-placed lasers. However, at this point, I would rather the lasers be used to burn a goddamn hole in those referee douchebags. Can we make bad calls a capitol punishment?

Bad officiating has long run rampant, but only recently has it become unbelievably excruciating. Now there are three possible causes for this - let's go to the tape:

1. I am getting older, and hence, more crotchety.
2. Officials are relying too much on technology, other officials.
3. Steve Javie.

Right off we can throw #1 right out the f-in window. F anyone who thinks so, bastards. Let's just get a fair game, you terd-bombs.

The second option sure is plausible, f-in irresponsible adults. Make the calls, balls-less! Or, if you are one of the few female officials out there, grow a couple!

The third, well come on. You figure it out. I'm a Blazers fan. I'm a Rasheed Wallace fan. I am not a Javie fan. You put that jigsaw together, dumbass.

Whether it's the Superbowl, the NBA playoffs, or friggin' Serie A soccer over in Italia, you've got officials that probably would be shot in more open-thinking countries. I'm not going to go into major detail about the whole Juventus scandal - let's just say that it doesn't help the officials' cause - nor does it help the cause of sports owners (don't get me started!).

Need I mention the Superbowl? I felt I was pretty partisan for the game, but I was pretty sure those refs were sitting pretty in their jacuzzis full of hundred-dollar bills courtesy Tagliabue after that debacle. No East Coast Bias, my ass (don't get me started!).

How about these NBA playoffs? Does anyone get the idea that the Association of National Basketball is catering a little bit to its most marketable star? Is it a coincidence that this league, a monarchy if there ever was one, might be skimming a little on the side on behalf of their King James? Hmmm. Maybe.

Maybe it is all a ploy to get a star-run team further into the playoffs and leave the ultimate team-run team behind. If I was Detroit, I would gather up the entire arsenal from 8-Mile and pay a little visit to league headquarters, with only the most honorable intentions in mind, I *swear*.

But seriously though, this is how bad officiating has been. Leagues have now instituted instant replay. Superficially, this says to the average George McIdiot that now calls will be backed up and reviewable - nothing bad will EVER happen. Ask any Alexander Sports-A-Lot about how this has worked to this point and he'll tell you it's just a major heap of horse stool. In turn, sports videogames now have to substitute their never-fail officiating for more "realistic" officials that F calls up on a regular basis.

Sure, everyone is a bit fallible, but how about we as a sports community stand up and tell these douchebags that they're not the only ones out there. Communicate you SoB's. Get your story straight, and stop T'ing up 'Sheed.

Santa H. Claus!

I mean, it's two thousand F-in six. Aren't we supposed to have flying cars by now? Can we at least get some roboreferees in there? Do we still have to employ these inept flesh pods?

Let's get failed OCP project ED-209 on the scene. You know he wouldn't take any sass! He might even "accidentally" terminate some of the more whiney players. Not to mention he would definitely take care of all those "fan" douchebags who jump into the field of play.

Don't get me started!

Monday, May 15, 2006

"I was fouled in de box. De BOX! Is penalty! I am to go against keeper! Do not shit me!"

Whah Joe Thornton izza CANADIAN?!?!!? Him too!?!? Sheesh.

Wow. Who would have thought that most of the San Jose Sharks would feel even more alienated and ridiculed in their own building than at Rexall in Edmonton. Well it happened, and it's pretty g-darn embarassing, but it's not the whole story. The 'Finger is going to actually do some journalism and explain Sharks fans were pissed in the first place, instead of being like every other lame sports writer's article belaboring the obvious, that Sharks fans messed up.

Hockey Night In Canada
After the Sharks bascially gave away game 3 while attempting to play prevent defense for a whole period (Triple OT never sucked so bad) Sharks fans were a little upset at their team. Things were made worse by having to watch douchebag Raffi Torres score the game tying goal two days after his dirty elbow would cause Milan Michalek to miss 2 games . On top of all of this Sharks fans had to watch the game on homer network CBC, with their color commentator yelling "Shoot the Puck!" on an Edmonton power play like some lame ass girlfriend taking an active interest. In short, fans wanted revenge in game 4.

Game 4 --- *sigh*
In game four most Sharks fans probably got home early, bought a couple of hot dogs, thought of nothing Canadian, and drank a six pack of Budweiser with the rally towell on their head before the puck even dropped or the national anthems were sung....okay maybe I just did that. Buzzed or not, anyone who decided to watch game four in it's entirety witnessed what happened during the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner". Chants of "Lets Go Oilers" during most of the beginning of it, followed by boo's until almost the end of it. For the record, what was kinda cool was how everyone in the crowd sang "O Canada". Naturally, I called everyone (three) people I knew watching the game and asked if they could believe this crap. After the Sharks turned a blown lead into blow out (not in their favor), Sharks fans had had enough, they were going to show Canada what they thought of them when they got back to the Tank! And they did, and it was dumb. Damn who knew so many hockey players were Canadian...makes you think how many other professional athletes are Canadian.

Today I found out it was because they were showing Joe Thornton on the Jumbotron during the anthem, which caused fans to lose their composure during the anthem and boo, but so what?!? Who shows the opposing players on a Jumbotron when it is not the "kiss cam"? Someone in Edmonton was being a dick and trying to get fans riled up and it worked on both ends. Sharks fans, none of you could have known this, so I can sort of understand why you booed. What I don't get is there are so many other things for Sharks fans to really boo about. Here's a list I made.

Sharks 1-29 on the powerplay.
That's like...a goal every 29 powerplays.....

The Sharks Not Rocking the Black Jersey
They've just lost 3 in a row if they get back home it's time for a change. Plus those jersey's are just wicked awesome and make everyone look like a B.A.M.F

A lot of playoff tickets are company tickets, and they're given to geeks.
The only time they get loud is when they're talking over the crowd about disk caching.

Una Mas Nachos
What do you mean the beans cannot be removed from the nachos?! OMG, they're not even re-fried!!! Pineapple salsa?!?!I want my money back...puto.
(Ummm Editor's note: None of those guys are me, however, you can tell in the pic that these nachos suck just lookit the guy on the right!)


Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Lonely Life of the Real Superman

One of the few questions to emerge from the first-round matchup with Arenas and the Wizards was whether The Once and Future King could drive to the basket with such apparent ease against a team who actually played defense. This question has been answered in the form of his 4th-quarter performance versus the Pistons today.

Yes, the Pistons performed poorly and the game was much more Detroit losing the game rather than the Cavs winning it. That said, even a flaccid performance overall does not mean that Detroit players had any less intensity on defense. That LeBron could take Prince off the dribble and get to the rack faster than the best help defenders in the league shows his physical ability and his ability to see openings not apparent to others. And of course the comparisons were made to Jordan. On one hand, the parallels are too many to ignore. He wears Jordan's number. He's the only star on the team. He's regarded as the team's future. His team seems doomed to lose to a physical Detroit Pistons team to the tune of 4-1.

These parallels obscure the fact that we are incapable of discussing future stars without comparing to Jordan, at least if the players in question are African-American. It's only natural that this is the case because Jordan is the first media superstar of the NBA, the first player to really take advantage of his public perception and create an iconic figure that was larger than the sport itself. Since this is America, he is regarded as the Alpha and Omega of sports marketing, even if you could realistically say that Jordan was just the NBA version of Pelé.

The other problem with these comparisons is that there's a distinct difference between James and Jordan. When LeBron was driving to the hoop, swishing that late 3 and dishing to the absolutely-disgusting-in-a-bad-way Damon Jones, I wasn't jumping out of my seat and whooping with exhiliration. I was nodding to myself, saying "nice play" and only later reflecting on the actual difficulty of these events.

I think of LeBron as a tragic figure even now, because he is stuck in a no-win situation. He is expected to create a Jordan-eque myth, as we can see by Scoop Jackson's latest, in which he half-boasting, half-deadpan refers to how LeBron will win 7 or 8 titles before his time is done. If LeBron fails to win all those trophies, he will have tarnished his image. If he does so, he will only be living up to expectations.

It is similar as to why his relentless drives to the hoop are lacking in electricity. There is no surprise or sudden epiphany to his game, just a player already recognized as superhuman exerting his will. Part of this problem is the man's game. Jordan was elasticity and acrobatics, James is all power and grace, so beyond the pale that he makes the impossible look effortless. James is the Real Superman, doing the incredible yet doing it so easily that we cannot sustain interest, spectacle reduced to the mundane through seeming omnipotence.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Killing Brain Cells One Dunk at a Time

Okay, so I skewered (or lightly poked) at the Blazers front office, now I take aim at the on-court personnel. And really, I have no added beef substitute for most of the players, but I have been in head slap mode (not to be confused with the "head bop") since the Blazers acquired Mr. Miles some infinity ago.

Now this is nothing against Darius personally - he just happens to be a 24-year-old with millions upon millions of cold hard Blazer dinero.

Sure, Darius is athletic. Sure, he has some base level talent on which to build. Sure, his arms are fifteen feet long. But, Darius, and I say so with the utmost respect, please find yourself a rock to crawl under.

Darius came out of the, in hindsight, weakest draft of the latest NBA generation. And, from the looks of it, Darius still is one of the most talented out of that draft class. His rivals, you ask. Well, here you go:

Kenyon Martin (#1): A chronically injured, chronically overrated player, and he's out of the House of Huggins.... ugh.
Stromile Swift (#2): Remember that dunk on Yao? People say he's in Houston now.
Marcus Fizer (#4): Tearing up the NBDL.
Mike Miller (#5): Talented? Sure. Do I like him? No. Can I tell you why? No.
Jamal Crawford (#8)/Quentin Richardson (#18): Huh, they both play for the Knicks, and we all know the Knicks have no problems whatsoever.
Joel Przybilla (#9): Don't get me started on the Przydent - I love this guy, a great role player and can be pretty effective in a pick-and-roll offense - good thing Portland runs that all the time- nevermind.
Michael Redd (#43): Second Round? He is the only stud from this draft class. Oh, and the Blazers were a nano-iota from getting him for Zach Randolph (they were so close that I had to make up a word).

At the outset of last season, Darius proudly took it upon himself to be the leader of the team. Or, at least, that's what he promised. Being under 25 and a leader on a National Basketball Association Franchise is actually all well and good... if your name is LeBron James or Gilbert Arenas. If your name, however, is Darius Miles, it probably won't work out. You know what? It didn't.

Now this "leader" wants out. Fine by me, I say, good riddance (but, I really do hope you make something of yourself wherever you go, just, you know, don't let the door hit you in the bop zone on the way out). Of course, Blazer fans want something in return for him (as if he has done something to make himself a valuable trade commodity). I say throw him to the wolves to the highest bidder, which in all likelihood would be a Jalen Rose (or some other douche worth way less than his inked price).

Poor Darius - he has the upside one only sees once in a million, but a work ethic mirroring middle management. To sum up in an apt movie quote: "Get off my plane!" Er, make that franchise.

For the record, Darius is the Oscar Mayer® Processed Turkey Loaf of NBA meats.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

We be doin' it 24/8/23

An interesting bit of incite from Free Darko today, talking about Kobe Bryant and the now apocryphal Game 7 against the Suns. They particularly attack Skip Bayless, who eviscerates K.O.B.E. for the same reasons as our own esteemed Bopcity did in his most recent post. For one thing, SilverBird5000's point about Jordan is astute: as much as we believe in the myth of the man, we can never know what Jordan would have done without the conceptual impossibility of a time machine or other such ultimately impossible metrics.

(As an aside, Skip Bayless is a douchebag contrarian whose screechy screeds are derived from assuming the stance of devil's advocate for whatever story might be considering current in the scope of the Worldwide Leader. I have seen people praise Bayless on the basis of his voice being "different" from the majority of views offered up in the monolithic field of sports reporting, which is a bit like praising a child who shits on the floor for not feeling constrained by the pressures of society. To have him ranting against Kobe is almost enough to sway my sympathies entirely, which is a lot to say for a Warriors fan.)

The crux (crunx) of all of this distate with Kobe is the unavoidable comparisons with Jordan. The most diabolical part of these comparisons is that they are all based on Kobe's own desires and dreams. He has, in the literal sense of the phrase, brought this upon himself by comparing himself to Jordan, by framing himself within the context of His Airness, he has given a free pass for every basketball writer to treat him as Hardwood Icarus, his wings melted by firey self-righteousness fueled by his own arrogance, which is second only to that of the man whose shadow prevents Kobe from developing his own iconic silhouette.

FD takes a basketball realist approach to the whole problem, pointing out that as much as was attributed to Kobe and Nashty, the tides of battle rested more on the shoulders of the supporting casts. When Kwame, Luke and Smush played well, the Lakers won. When Shawn Marion woke up and Barbosa started getting hot, the Suns won. Whether connected or not, each team had a hot streak with a certain amount of overlap. While Nash and Bryant were the catalysts for their teams, they were ultimately beholden to the performances of their lesser-talented teammates. This seems to be a reasonable, and wholly unsatisfying, summation of the situation.

Unsatisfying, because we will never really be able to tell whether Kobe's viewed capitulation was actually an attempt to show up his teammates, whether he just shut it down once it was clear the game was out of control or if he was honestly just trying to get his team to play well as they had earlier in the series, subsuming his own numbers in a futile attempt to get the engine running again. The second option is non-Jordan, the third option is psuedo-Jordan and the first option is probably closer to Jordan than most people would like to admit.

We can't tell because Kobe's character has been warped by the funhouse mirror of his public persona. His actions on the court can never be interpreted as pure basketball because there are always other contexts forcing their way into the scene. Because he is defined through his relationships with his teammates and his coach, he has become larger than the game and thus impossible to gauge as a pure player of the game.

Perhaps the clarity of history and perfect vision of hindsight analysis will reveal more about Kobe, in the same way that it has created a much more nuanced picture of Jordan. Until then we will be unable to see Kobe winning except as Kobe feeding his own ego and unable to see Kobe losing without seeing Kobe sabotaging the team for the sake of his ego.

I apologize for being so Kobe-centric in my first two posts. He doesn't consume my imagination as much as he might seem, it's just that he was the last truly interesting story of These NBA Playoffs. The Once and Future King is going to get ground beneath the heel of the Pistons and after that, it's the usual suspects, as the Pistons and the Spurs have their hands on the tiller, Dallas and Miami have outside chances if they can get through this round and the Suns will invariably fall on their sword, the fabled blade of Nobigmen. The only thing that I'm really looking forward to at this point is the possibility of Sheed getting another ring, this time for the middle finger on his left hand.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Poetic Thugs, They All Need Hugs (How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love K.O.B.E...failing.)

Looks like now Kobe really does have bigger fish to fry than Raja Bell. Real fish, because he and the Lakers have GOOOONE FISHIN' BABY!
I'm will Bill Simmons on ending all Jordan comparisons right effing now. Currently, Kobe is a healthier version of Vince Carter. Jordan was a competitor (he's probably swatting kids in some basketball camp right now), Kobe is a quitter (he's probably turning over a Parker Brother's board game right now, and stealing the pieces so no one can play. Ever again.)

Jordan with his team down a gillion points would done anything he could possibly do (read: shooting and getting to the line) to get his team back into the game. Kobe, being the square that he is, decided to do more things as a team.

One assist that won't show up in his stat column (coulda doubled his total for the game) was passing the beating that Phoenix layed down on Kobe to the rest of his team and MAN was it a DIME! 3 shots huh? He basically tried to throw Lamar Odom under the bus and put Smush, Kwame and Sasha on blast. Mamba thought he was slick, he thought we would see that he had NO help on his team to make it inconceivable he could have been even a little responsible for choking away three straight games.

Kobe underestimated real hoop fans who don't see, they observe. We got the dirt on you patna, lets go to the Game 7 stats.

R. Bell - 5-7
L. Barbosa - 10-12
S. Marion - 6-13
T. Thomas- 6-10
B. Diaw- 8 -14

Employee number 8, logging over 43 minutes, was guarding one or all of these guys at some point during the game. Laker fans will jump up and be like "NO HE WASN'T!". You know what???? We're both right! Kobe got lit up by almost everyone he guarded, in fact in the last 3 games of this sweet series all of his defensive assignments shot better that 50% from the field on him. So maybe instead of all that post game fist pumping, nipple showing and psycho-analysis of opponents, Kobe should have been watching tape on why he was getting his ass lit up.

Truth is in order for Kobe to be the "Greatest" (LOL) needs another player on his team in addition to Lamar Odom probably Chris Bosh OS X (you read it here second, you read it on rosco's post first). Another truth is, that Laker fans are soooo organized in their "Kobe is the best" B.S. that this addition will likely brainwash everyone into making Jordan comparisons all over again making Bosh OS X Kobe's Horace Grant.

I think $hort said it best, "There ain't nothin' worth kickin like a sucka MC." and right now employee number 8 is as sucka as they come.

Fear and Self-Loathing in P-Town

I debated with myself on the subject of my first post for TMFF, and it took me a long time to choose my beloved Blazers over the despicable Lakers. But in the end, I realized I love the Blazers much more than I hate the Lakers - and that is saying a lot.

So, because I love them so, let me tear into them for a second. It is no stretch to say that Portland is currently in its worst crisis of its existence. What once was a proud and storied franchise has now become slightly worse than the Knicks (by two whole games). That, in itself, makes me shudder. Nevertheless, there's nowhere to go but up, right? Right?!

Alright, so we will have a top-4 draft pick in this year's lottery - yep, THIS year's, which I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, proves actually to be full of chocolately goodness rather than the bread and butter it appears to be. Adam Morrison, please prove those bastards wrong. Andrea Bargnani, please be the next Dirk and not the next Tskasavkdajvdaillli. LaMarcus (you know you're my boy, right?), be Chris Bosh OS X, not Sam Bowie XP (ooooh, outta left field, a PC jab). For the love of all things basketball, please let the Blazers draft one of these fine gents, and please, please, please sell some goddamn jerseys.

Well, I am getting ahead of myself. This is all hoping for the future; but let's see what is in our immediate past that needs to be rectified. In order, the three real "cancers" of the team (in the world of sports, the term "cancer" is definitely benign rather than malignant, because, let's face it, it's sports):

1. Paul Allen (Owner): Yep, the Paul Allen, owner of the Blazers for the past 18 years. While I can appreciate the two trips to the finals using his sweet, sweet moola, it has become all too clear that this guy is not a real business man. I would liken him to George Steinbrenner, only without the eye for talent. He spent buttloads of money on talent, giving up a nice chunk of his earned fortune, and what did it get us? A lot of trades that ended up better for the other team (no need to thank us, Detroit). Paul Allen has two failing companies. His cable venture is deep in the red, and, by comparison, the Blazers are in the pinkish-white. If you look into his corporate past you'll see that his running a company has never been successful - his leaving a company has, however, been immensely successful for both him and the company. He knows how to make an exit, and all I can hope is that he can make another.

2. John Nash (GM): According to HoopsHype (an excellent NBA resource, by the way), Nash's best move of his tenure with the Blazers has been sending Rasheed to Atlanta for Ratliff and Shareef (there was some change thrown in, but that's the gist). That was his BEST move? Rasheed has been called the best player in the league by Scoop Jackson, Shareef has been called a good player playing on bad teams, and Theo, well, he's just Theo - he's a role player in a league where that role is ever-disappearing - and he's old. By the start of next season, neither Shareef (already a King) nor Theo will don a Blazer uniform. WHAT A MOVE! (Aside: Rasheed'll always be a Blazer to me.) So that ought to sum up the fine job John Nash has done. Oh, should I mention that previously Nash worked in the Nets' and Wizards'/Bullets' front office? Should I also mention the surge in both franchises post-Nash? Didn't think I needed to.

3. Steve Patterson (President): Grow a pair! So far his best accomplishment the "no duh" move to help Houston get an NFL franchise. What? Football in Texas? What a wash that'll be! Santa H. Claus, a friggin' retarded kitten could come up with that. C'mon, Stevie, let's get back to the way it was in the Rockets' front office during the Hakeem years - make some critical moves, like, oh, I dunno, promote Kevin Pritchard.

You better believe there is a whole lot more wrong with the Blazers, and usually, I am an optimistic sort, but if it keeps going the way of the douchebag some other city in the union is going to be cursed with this franchise. Changes need to be made, and from all indication, it appears as if the top two above will be shilling themselves in other ventures, but who will take their place remains to be seen.

So, I offer my fearless predictions for the coming months:

1. Kiki Vandeweghe named General Manager.
2. Blazers receive the 3rd pick in the NBA draft.
3. Blazers select Andrea Bargnani (aka the Genoa Salami of NBA meats).

Whatever happens, there is one constant, one surety next season. The Blazers will at least tie the season series with the Lakers, and really, that's all I ask for.

(For more awesome Blazer bloggin action check out the following sites: OregonLive Blazers Blog, BlazersEdge)

Image Courtesy of Build A Bear.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

There's always next year.

This past year I moved across the country, from the heart of Philadelphia Flyers nation (the city of Philadelphia and it's surrounding PA/NJ suburbs) to the sunny west coast of California. While this journey has been nothing short of amazing, with the change in time zones it has been nearly impossible for me to sit and watch a complete Flyers game. As someone who had spent 23 years living and breathing Philadelphia hockey, this year has been quite a shock to me. Throughout the season I tried to stay on top of all their acquisitions and standings but it's never quite the same as actually getting to watch the team perform night in and night out. So when the playoffs started, I was finally excited for the hockey season. With only 16 teams and only half of them playing each night the ability to see a Flyers game had arrived. Of course, what I found when I was finally able to see the team had me stunned.

When the lockout finally ended, the NHL decided new rules were in order to help open up the game, to help make the game more accessible and entertaining to the average fan. These rules included eliminating the two line pass, shrinking the size of the goaltenders pads, expanding the defensive zones/shrinking the neutral zone and adding a crazy trapezoid behind the goal. All of these rule changes meant that teams were going to have to move away from the bruising, slowed down, neutral zone trap game that had flourished in the 90's. No longer were teams going to be able to score one goal and then play dump and chase for the rest of the game effectively choking the other team to submission. Teams would have to sign younger, faster, and stronger skaters if they had any intention of competing in this league.

At the end of the lockout, the Flyers seemed in good shape; they had a core of young, talented and hard working forwards who could carry the team for the next 5 years. Once they added Peter Forsberg, Flyers fans around the country rejoiced. It seemed the Stanley Cup was within our grasp, for the first time since 1997, and a game hadn't even been played yet. In the previous playoffs, the Flyers were defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals by a much younger and faster Tampa Bay Lightning team. So when word got out that general manager Bob Clarke was looking to make changes to his defensive corps, it was not a big surprise. What was the solution from the brilliant mind of Bob Clarke?

Denis Gauthier, Mike Rathje and Derian Hatcher. Or as I like to call them slow, slower and rigor mortis.

The Flyers first round opponent for the 2006 playoffs was the Buffalo Sabres, a much younger and faster team, and suddenly Flyers fans were having deja vu. It's not possible they would make the same mistake twice in a row. Bob Clarke must know something, right? Apparently not. This is the new NHL and Bob Clarke didn't get the message. This is not to say the Flyers were completely man-handled during the series, in fact it took the Sabres six games to finally eliminate them, but had the Flyers focused on developing a younger, faster team they may have had a chance to go all the way.

There is a Flyers tradition, dating all the way back to December 11, 1969. Before important games during the season or playoffs, the Flyers play Kate Smiths' rendition of "God Bless America". Amazingly the Flyers are 69-18-3 when this is played. As a lifelong Flyers fan, who for the first time is away from his family and friends, it would have been nice to hear it played on national TV, as the Flyers prepared to take the ice in the Stanley Cup finals. I guess there is always next year.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Game 7, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love K.O.B.E.

When showing stats or information about a player, TNT has added a video clip of the player in question, doing whatever they want to do while the talking heads get "inside the numbers", as the kids like to say. First of all, these clips are somewhat unsettling, at least for someone brought up with the static player photograph. Most of the players seem as ill at ease as the viewer, which shouldn't be surprising as these are non-actors who have 10-seconds to sell their personality.

The most natural of the players in these videos is, of course, The Diesel. Mugging and clowning, Shaq easily portrays the persona that has made him one of the most immediately accessible yet ultimately enigmatic figures in the history of The Association. More than perhaps any other player in the history of the game, Shaq knows how to manipulate his public image to his own advantage, to the point where the only people who actually dislike the guy are people who view Shaq as having been the real catalyst behind the Kobe-Shaq split-up, which would be a small minority by most reckonings.

Kobe's TNT clip also manages to present a capsule version of himself, although it is almost certainly unintentional. Pursing his lips and locking eyes with the camera, Kobe is a canonical example of somebody trying to look tough where the emphasis is on "trying" instead of "tough". Like his rap album, it's a gesture intended to convince people that Kobe fits into the "urban baller" model and proves conclusively that he does not.

The archetype that seems more applicable is that of "tortured genius" on the level of Van Gogh or Caravaggio. Brilliant, misunderstood and unsufferably arrogant, Kobe has pulled a Bowie-esque (David, not Sam) transformation in these playoffs, suddenly appearing to be the team-first conductor of traffic that the media had been saying he was incapable of being. This conception of Kobe is so deep-set that as soon as he was viewed as having "regressed" by scoring 50 in Game 6, the TNT analysts concluded that he had lost the Lakers the game by scoring too much. The rebuttal came from Phil Jax, who pointed out that if Kobe had made his final shot in regulation, people would be praising Kobe for his aggressiveness.

He is perfectly correct in saying this and it is worth pointing out that Kobe is one of the few (would be the only, if it weren't for Billups and strangely enough, Lebron (only when driving)) players in the league where you are surprised when he misses an important shot. "Surprised" may not be a strong enough word for it, because it feels as if you've fallen through a rip in reality, like something has gone horribly wrong on an existential scale. Which is silly considering that this event is statistically fairly regular, which still does not deny that that the feeling is there.

The consensus seems to be that Game 7 will be determined by which Kobe shows up: Gunner Kobe (Lakers lose) or Conductor Kobe (Lakers win). As clear-cut as that analysis might be given the earlier results in the series, any of those games also could have easily swung the other way. I don't believe that which role Kobe plays determines who will win or lose. I do believe that having Kobe involved makes just about any game worth watching and a Game 7 gives it the possibility of epicness, for either Kobe calling out his self-believed status of Better Than Jordan or for watching somebody incredibly talented fall short of their expectations.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Welcome to The Middle Foam Finger

We're Making This Blog Because Your Favorite Team Sucks.
Your Favorite Player Sucks. Your Fans Suck. Your Team's Storied History Sucks.

2004 Red Sox? Sucked.
Ted Williams? Sucked.
Fenway Park? SUCKS!
Red Sox Fans? Suck Wicked Hard.

Okay maybe just the Red Sox suck, but at some point this blog is going to aimed at teams, fans, history, ball parks, stadiums, arenas, players, their wives, ummmm pets, shoes, rec league sports, regular olympics, special olympics, colleges, high school, little league, (Insert Sport) Parents, sports that no one cares about, fans of said sports, sports writers, sports bloggers (fake sports writers)....whatever. I kind of suck for writing this because it's not very creative, but that's not going to stop me from continuing to post about things that I hate, and right now it's really easy.