Friday, March 30, 2007

Turn that Shit Down

I've heard, from what I would consider to be a very reliable source, that a new edict has come down from David Stern. This particular "request", in the Mafia sense, is that those companies who are making NBA-licensed videogames make a move towards soundtracks with more musical "diversity".

Which basically means "put something else in your games aside from that rap music", to the tune of having 70%-80% of your soundtrack be explicitly something else. There hasn't been any word as to how soul and R&B are classified under this system, or whether hip-hop will be separated from the rest of the soundtrack, to be played mono in a system that allows them to retain their dignity, while keeping them from unsettling potential listeners.

This is just a further step down the road that Mr. Stern has been herding the NBA towards for the last couple years. He's trying to make the league more palatable to the people who are the main consumers of the NBA, who also happen to be middle-aged white men (or at least the popular perception goes). He hired one of Bush's old campaign advisors from Rove's happy family and next thing you know, it's crackdowns on retro jerseys and videogame soundtracks.

These decisions are especially conspicuous because the NBA is the most race-concious of any of the major sports because of the cultural differences between the majority that play the sport and the majority that consume it. Recent and subtle examples can be taken from the previously-covered-here trade between Indiana and Golden State, where Indiana fans lauded the exchange because they were losing "thugs" and "snapperheads" to gain "more fundamental" players with "high basketball I.Q.s". (The latter being the major sign that there was something else going on here, since if somebody's seen Lil' Duns play and thinks he's a "smart" basketball player, I'm going to want to check the lead levels of your drinking water.)

The decision to regulate NBA-related soundtracks makes even less sense than many of the previous ones made by the commish because it's not like the success of rap and hip-hop is constrained to the young black male demographic. While middle-aged white men are buying the good tickets for NBA games, this doesn't match with the people who play videogames, especially sports-based videogames, not to mention rap music. So, considering that fans of both sports videogames and rap music tend not to answer to a single demographic*, handing down orders from on high about diversifying the soundtracks comes across more as a part of a bigoted agenda than as a logical business decision. It's patently obvious that Dad Rock isn't going to make more games sell, so why else would the decision be made?

I don't think that David Stern is racist. I do think that he has embraced the generification of the NBA to the point where he's squeezing the individuality out of the league and creating a situation where he could legitimately be critiqued as somebody who wants to surpress "hip-hop" culture. Maybe he doesn't think that's a particularly bad thing, as long as the league continues to do well. I don't begrudge the NBA success; I'd just like to see it doing well without pushing people away in the process.

* - Videogames and rap are, after all, enjoyed by young white males, young asian males, young black males and young latino males.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Luol Deng: Telekinetic Master

"Hey, Dickau! Quit hittin' yourself. Quit hittin' yourself."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Never Saw THIS on "Hang Time"

Straight P-I-M-P-I-N-G.
"It's hard to lose looking THIS GOOD!"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

It's About Time

I couldn't let this story pass without comment.

Truly, I had wondered about Phil Jackson. For all his wisdom and insight, how could he be missing what all of us can see plainly? Was it a case of his own intellect clouding his own vision? Was he truly too close to what he was seeing to be able to comprehend the totality of it?

Thankfully, that answer is no.
Jackson has finally come around, gone to the press and said what everybody's been thinking all this time. Especially Shaq.

Perhaps seeing his own coach, his mentor, call him out in the headlines will trigger something inside Kobe, to make him question his ways and to turn a corner, to become the player, to become the man, that we all hope that he could be. What a difference it would make for the Lakers. What a difference it would make for the Association. What a difference it would make for himself!

I mean, just knowing that P-Jax finally called him out for being a whiny little...oh. Oh. Oh wait. Ohhhhhhhh, it says "witch-hunt".

Never mind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Middle Foam Finger Salute to the NCAA Tournament

Thankgodthankgodthankgodthankgod... It's here. It's FINALLY here. Yep, folks, we are but ticks away from the (real) NCAA Tournament (congratulations, Niagara, you pikers)!

Let me tell you, this is MY favorite sports time of the year (not to be confused with my favorite arts time of the year, my favorite gourmet time of the year, or my favorite stuffed sandwich time of the year).

Also, let me get this off my chest before I explode with glee - my bracket sucks.

So, for that reason, you aren't going to find any of my upset picks in here (wait, did I pick any upsets?). Nor will you find my thoughts on who will take it all (cough, south, cough).

What I will give you is a tournament watcher's guide - Rosco-style (covered in brown mustard). And that way, I can just rant about any old thing and it might, to the undiscerning eye, look like science.

I can't wait for Thursday, because this year, seemingly more than the last, seems so close and so teeter-tottery that expecting winners in any matchup is not a good idea (except for Niagara - have fun on the flight home, Purple Eagles). But, a few teams to watch out for, if not only for the reason that they are just plain, old, fun to watch -

In the Midwest

Number 3: Oregon
I know, it's a bit of a homer pick, but watch out for my Ducks. Their starting lineup, albeit skewed to the guard, is pretty formidable. And I know, they are a number 3 seed, which shouldn't make anyone think they are a pushover - but they are able to win some pretty big games, and I wouldn't count them out of a big tournament push. Bryce Taylor and Malik Hairston (pictured) are matchup problems for most, and most don't even know who they are.
Number 11: Winthrop
How can you not root for a team that's one phoneme away from being a stodgy, old British guy with a foppish manner from a Bronte novel? Yeah, that's right, I thought you had a heart. Their only losses were to UNC, Wisconsin, Texas A&M, and Maryland. Noooooot bad. You looking for a lower seed that could make some noise in the bracket? Look no further than Winthrop. Potentially.

In the West

Number 16: Niagara
Nah, forget about it, these guys are toast.

Number #9: Villanova
Alright, I'm a 'Nova fan with no real right to it, but I can't help it. I would watch out for these boys, they are well coached, and have some great senior leadership and some tourney experience - they may turn some heads.

Number 5: Virginia Tech
I know, I know, this isn't football, but the Hokies are playing the old charm game with Rosco, let me tell you. They finally got over the hump and were able to beat Duke at Cameron (which they were millimeters away from last year). That could mean that all the cards are in place for VaTech this year to make some noise, you know on the basketball court, because, well, they also play basketball now.

In the East

Number 3: Washington State
Gotta like what the Cougars do. They are great "game managers" and find little ways to win - in the tournament that usually equals advancement. With that and their cautiously good backcourt, don't be surprised if that OTHER Washington state school get into the nicknamed rounds.

In the South

Number 3: Texas A&M
As a Longhorn alum, I probably should say this, but A&M is really, really, really good. With Acie "Roman Numeral" Law IV leading this top to bottom talented squad, this team has a major chance at scaring some of the team's that forgot that there was a team in College Station. But, because I am sworn in by blood to do so, I also must say - SUCK IT, Aggies!

Number 5: Tennessee
Lofton is back. 'Nuff said.

Number 7: Nevada
Don't underestimate the Wolfpack - they have some great talent, and with Fazekas stealing the limelight from Kemp and Sessions, they have some under-the-radar folks that can burn anyone on any night.

The BIG BOYS this year, however, are pretty solid. And Florida's track record and untouchable talent, they could have the tools to win it all again, BUT, they might have to go through a good Wisconsin team that, although I find them suspect, could eke their way into the championship - but, really, when I think about it, they won't.

To me, Kansas are the shakiest of the numero unos, just because of their history in the tournament. They have a boatload of NBA-caliber players, but they are young, and from my viewpoint a little inconsistent. Look for a lot of close games that might edge out in favor of the underdog. If that's not tough enough, UCLA is a number two and has the cajones to run the whole table. Not to mention they may have the ugliest player in the tournament (I realize that's a BIG statement, but come on) - Mr. Mata - so, whatever the Bruins' outcome, they have my deepest sympathies.
North Carolina is another team I am unsure what to think about. While they have a talented team and a coach that finally won one, I just am too unsure about their path to the Final Four. I realize I probably just locked them into another championship (like I did a couple years ago), but at least they will have to prove it to me. Georgetown may be the most dangerous number 2, solely based on how hot they are right now. Outside of Ohio State, they have a viable and dominant center (sorry, Pittsburgh, should have pulled out the old smelling salts on Aaron before the Big East championship) in the tourney. They shouldn't be overlooked.

Ohio State might be the strongest team out there. Sure, they play that "boring as hell" cringe-worthy Big Ten basketball - but we've all seen that leads to NCAA wins (just maybe not the greatest TV ratings). With Oden playing as fiercely as he has lately, I can't imagine an early exit for the Buckeyes. Memphis are a bit of an enigma. Maybe it's because their schedule didn't include anyone not named Powderpuff University? In any event, I can't see them making a huge splash - but if they do, great, it'd be their best competition all year.

The PLAYERS to watch come tourney time are, for me, the biggest draw to the whole shebang. In terms of FRESHMEN, you can't go wrong by watching Kevin Durant (my boy!), Greg "Gentle MuthaF'in Giant" Oden, or Thaddeus "I Put the G in G-Tech" Young. But a couple of sleeper freshmen may have the biggest impact.

Take a look at Oregon's Tajuan Porter, the Detroit import, with a Kiki Clark complex. If he's hitting his out-of-the gym range bombs, forget about it.

Also, another guard to keep a look our for Villanova's Scotty Reynolds, a dangerous marksman, who has gotten better every game.

Be wary of Gonzaga's swingman of the future, Matt Bouldin, who has only become a better, and smarter, scorer with each game he plays.

But what about some of the experienced dudes? Besides insta-names like Acie Law IV and Aaron Affalo (whose name I still love pronounced by some of the color commentators), Be on the look out for some of these folks.

Definitely pay attention to Vanderbilt's silky swingman Derrick Byars, who can light it up any night. What about A.J. Graves over at Butler? The sniper extraordinaire is gonna look for that open 30-footer anytime. Finally, look out for Jamaal Tatum in Saluki country, one of the great floor generals in the tournament.
That's just a teeny bit of the greatness you'll experience come Thursday. I could rant on, but I am trying to limit my ranting (my sponsor agrees it's the right thing to do)...

Just remember, if nothing I said works out, at least you'll enjoy watching me cry.

$20 and out.

Love and kisses,

If you're wondering why I didn't have anything on Texas and my boys Durant, Abrams, Augustin, Mason, James, Atchley, Winder, and ESPECIALLY Matt Hill (and his 'fro) - it's because they are so TIGHT I don't even have to mention their excellence. And, I don't want to jinx them. Hook 'em!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In Hudson's defense, he was probably drunk

Today we'd like to extend a double duece of middle foam fingers to the above dipshits -- Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson of Gol TV, one of the three widely available channels to broadcast soccer in the United States. I'm not even sure where to start with these guys, who throughly stunk up today's Sevilla v. Barcelona match.

I'm really not sure what was worst -- when Ray Hudson revealed the result of the Liverpool v. Manchester United match (which after being broadcast live at 4:40 in the morning PST, was going to be rebroadcast immediately following Sevilla v. Barcelona on competing soccer channel Setanta Sports, something that was entirely conincidental, I'm sure) or when Ray and Phil spent roughly 10 minutes repeatedly praising the cross that led to Barca's opening goal, making sure to heap praise after praise onto the head of Frenchman Ludovic Giuly, who is a fine player who also happened to not be the player who had made the cross. That was Gianluca Zambrotta, a player who is a good head taller than Giuly and also doesn't happen to be wearing bright white boots with matching ankle sleeves, which I would like to attribute to a display of good taste by the Italian; however, they were probably just still in the wash.

I can understand mis-identifying a player. We've all been guilty of it. Still, if it is your job to broadcast these games and to know these players and you have the benefit of multiple slow-motion replays, I would really hope that you would avoid talking about how great this one player is roughly 20 times as it becomes increasingly obvious that the player in question was not involved in the play that you're praising, to the point where you are wondering whether he was offside or not, something that requires intense attention to detail, without noticing that you're looking at somebody else entirely.

Oh, and there was a game, I guess, featuring one of the more controversial, and by that I mean "douchebaggy", players in La Liga:

Sevilla's Dani Alves is one of the best and most infuriating players in the world. Incredibly fast, good with the ball at his feet and capable of great crosses and accurate shots, Alves is also a relentless whiner and cheater.

Every nudge is a serious injury, every call that goes against him is a injustice against humanity and what's more, he seems to relish it, consistently gesturing for cards and melodramatically screaming. In short, he's the Brazilian Frank Lampard, only he's not fat, is actually skillful and plays a different position entirely.

And like Fatty Frank, it's all the more maddening because his team tends to win, often because of what's perceived to be flukey luck or cheating. Today, for example, the second (and winning) Sevilla goal came from an Alves free kick that deflected off the head of a Barca player and behind the grasping Victor Valdes. Not done yet, Alves was then involved in the sending off of Giuly, who may have been vigorously defended by his lovers on Gol TV. I couldn't tell, having switched over to the Spanish-language audio channel at halftime, feeling that incomprehensibility is a step up from incompetence.