Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ten Errors

Don't worry, Jays fans. The team might be trash this season, but the Blue Jays have a promising bunch of young talent in the minors!

...or not. Ten errors?! Ten errors?! Yes, my voice became high-pitched like Jim Mora when I said that. Who makes ten errors in a game? I don't think my team ever did that back in house league, and we had some pretty crappy teams (especially when I was at second base). My friends and I went to see the debut game of the Canadian Baseball League in 2004 and that featured a combined eight errors from both teams, but that was a fourth-rate quality of play. Syracuse is Toronto's Triple-A affiliate. They are the next-best thing to the Majors.

On the bright side, nobody threw a ball into the stands and killed anyone. Also, at least it wasn't eleven errors.

I lied. There is no bright side.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


* I've spent literally the last 20 minutes trying to kill a fly that has been buzzing around my house. It's one of those irritating kinds that has a constant buzz going at all times but never lands. I mean, never. And it moves quickly enough that I can't just snap it out of air using my two moccasins as gloves. I've decided to submit and just wait until tomorrow to see if I can lure it out the front door. What a sad sack.

* It's been months since I've done a bad poker beat post, but this one is a doozy. This might be the worst beat I've ever had in my life. I'm playing a freeroll tournament online, and am about middle of the pack with 60-odd people left. I get pocket tens, raise the pot, and get only one caller (the big blind). The flop is A-10-8, with two clubs. So automatically I'm pleased. The guy checks and I check as well, hoping he has an ace and he thinks he's slow-playing me. Turn card is a nine of clubs. My spidey-sense starts tingling since now there's a flush potential, so after he checks, I put in a raise of about a third of the pot. He calls. River is another nine, so now I have the full house and am feeling like the cat's meow. I figured he doesn't have pocket aces since he would've re-raised on the turn to knock out the flush draw, so when he checks, I put in another third-of-the-pot bet to try and induce a call. At this point I'm thinking he has either nothing or a flush. So when he re-raises all-in, I figure I have him. But no... he has friggin' pocket nines. Four of a kind, runner runner. I sat there open-mouthed as my stack was reduced to barely enough to cover the blinds. I was knocked out a few hands later.

Now, this was in a free tournament that cost me zero dollars, but I was incredibly ticked off. This is why I could never be a professional poker player --- if that beat had taken place in a hand worth thousands of dollars, I would've been homicidal. Perhaps had this hand occurred right now, I even would've been enraged enough to destroy my kitchen in order to kill this fly.

* The Dodgers signed David Wells. Sometimes I wish my parents had conditioned me to be left-handed. I could've potentially been a major league pitcher and played for years after I stopped being effective. What do the Dodgers hope to gain with this signing? Sure, they're hurting for southpaws (only three on the entire pitching staff), but the lefty-righty matchup dance is a lot less effective when the lefty really sucks. We've already learned Wells can't hack it in the NL West and in a pitcher's park. Maybe L.A. just wants to learn some of San Diego's signs.

* And finally, an addendum to an item in my post two days ago about Kristen Bell joining the cast of Heroes. My jaw hit the floor when TV Guide's Michael Ausiello reported that Bell was offered a recurring role on LOST as an Other named Charlotte that may have been become regular. I kid you not when I say that had this gone down, I would've done a small gig around the living room. Possibly some self high-fives. Anyway, Bell turned it down because she didn't want to move to Hawaii. WTF? Who wouldn't want to move to Hawaii?! It's not like the show is shooting in Wilmington, Delaware or something. The bad news about this item is that now I'm going to be unfairly judging whomever ends up playing Charlotte, since it's not likely they're topping Kristen Bell. Maybe they'll bring back Maggie Grace or Kiele Sanchez to play totally different characters just to fuck with everyone's heads some more.

The other interesting tidbit is that new roles were reportedly offered to both Bell and, get this, Peter Stormare. That's right, German engineering in da house, yah! Presumably the cast for next year will grow by just two, with Harold Perrineau coming back to replace Dom Monaghan and the new Charlotte and Stormare characters. That's probably a better idea than last year's move of five new regulars -- Ben and Desmond bumped into the main cast, introducing Juliet and then bringing in Nikki and Paulo for, apparently, no reason. If there's only 16 episodes next season anyway, there's only so much room for characters to have flashbacks/flashforwards.

* I'm sorry, I can't let this go. Dammit! Kristen Bell on LOST....the possibilities were endless. That could've been amazing. After learning about such a missed opportunity, I don't know what could possibly raise my spirits...

....oh wait. This. We want the Eliminator!

Friday, August 24, 2007


Found this on another blog but it brilliant enough for link. These are apparently the contract demands for Chelsea soccer star Frank Lampard. It's quite possible this is a spoof, but if there's even a slightest chance it's true, it's still hilarious. You know who really comes off great in this? John Terry. You know you're a respected captain when even an egomaniac exempts you from his pamperings.

Click on the pictures to see them in a larger frame. Not pictured: the third page of demands, where Lampard asks to be given a sequined robe and serenade the fans with a five-minute pre-game posedown like Ravishing Rick Rude.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


* Let's start things off with the worst moment of this guy's life. Ouch. It was his own fault for proposing during a Nationals/Astros game. At least pick a game featuring good team, buddy. One time back in my house league baseball days, the opposing coach came onto the field since one of his players seemed to be injured. The coach's girlfriend (and unofficial team doctor, I guess) came onto the field with the first aid kit. The player then recovered and the coach pulled out a ring and proposed to his girlfriend right there at home plate. What I remember the most about that incident is our team's coach quickly walking up and down our bench warning us to "not say a word." Let's just say we had a snarky bunch of guys on the roster.

* There weren't many things on Arrested Development that were unintentionally funny, but I always got a kick out of the fact that the second Marta was way less attractive than the first Marta. For non-fans of the show, one of the first-season plotlines was that Michael was in love with his brother's girlfriend, Marta. The phrase 'most beautiful woman he has ever seen' was thrown around, and the first actress cast in the role (Leonor Varela) at least looked the part. After one episode, however, the role was recast with the much lesser Patricia Velasquez. Check out their IMDB profiles for a comparison --- for me, at least, there's no contest as to who was more attractive. I dunno what the logic was behind the switch in casting, but the AD producers made a huge mistake.

* Dammit, I guess I'll have to start watching Heroes after all. If I ever met Kristen Bell in real life, I would find it really difficult to keep myself from casually calling her 'Veronica' at all times (also, from proposing marriage). I think I'd get the names mixed up for a lot of actors who are so well-known in one role that you have trouble seeing them outside of it. Someone like, say, Denzel Washington wouldn't be a problem since he is 'Denzel' before he was 'Hurricane Carter,' for instance. But it would be hard to hang out with, say, David Schwimmer and never find yourself slipping in a 'Ross' here and there.

* Ok, so my plan to pick a college football team to follow for the upcoming season has been narrowed down to four. I had a few criteria behind my selections. The team had to be a) competitive but not 'too' good, since I don't want to be a bandwagon jumper, b) a team that didn't have a bunch of crazy Southern fans, so that eliminated most of the SEC and c) a team with a fairly respectable history and tradition, and weren't just one-year wonders (which, unfortunately, eliminated Boise State).

So the final four are, in descending order of likelihood I'll pick them, are...

4. Michigan. On the list just because they're local and because several of my friends are pro-Michigan already. But that's really more of a reason not to pick the Wolverines, just for the sake of having more arguments. Plus, after being a Leafs fan, I'm not sure if I'm ready to follow another team that cock-teases its fans with a championship every season. At least with the Leafs you can tell where they're going in December and you can steel yourself for the upcoming disappointment. With Michigan, you wait until late November with growing anticipation and then BOOM, loss to Ohio State.

2. (tie) Oregon and Oregon State. It's funny, I have both teams ranked the same right now, but if I pick one of them, I will by law have to immediately develop a blood hatred for the other. The big plus in OSU's column is that I'll be cheering for a team called the Beavers, which is just a non-stop comedy buffet. But if I cheer for Oregon, I'll get to potentially buy a horrendously ugly jersey. That's very tempting.

1. LSU. Louisiana is a pretty cool state, and probably my favourite state south of the Bible Belt (a.k.a. the border of crazy). The Tigers always have a good team, though they have countered that over the years with a few years of tremendous sucking, so it's not like they're perennial powerhouses. If David Toms and I ever meet, this gives us an automatic conversation starter. Also, the SEC is the best conference, let's be honest, so being an LSU fan would allow me to see the most competitive games.

* Quick UFC picks for this weekend. Grove, Huerta, Stevenson, GSP and Couture. This is one of those rare UFC events where the people who I think will win are also the people who I want to win, so I'm apt to be disappointed at least once.

* And finally, of course I have to comment on the rumour sweeping the blogosphere that Derek Jeter gave herpes to Jessica Alba. If the FBI looked at crime with the same intensity that anonymous bloggers do to ridiculous rumours like this, nobody would ever get away with anything ever again. I read one 'report' where a guy said that a friend of his worked at a drugstore where Jeter used to come in to get Alba's Valtrex prescription filled. Talk about concrete evidence! Anyway, as much as I would love to point and laugh at Mr. Yankee, this one is kind of far-fetched. Here's my logic...even for a noted ladies' man like Jeter, sleeping with Jessica Alba is a major get. In a situation like this, you've got to step up in a big way. I just can't believe that a guy with a .312 career average with runners in scoring position and a .314 postseason average would fail so spectacularly in a clutch situation by giving Jessica Alba a VD. This is the kind of thing I'd expect from A-Rod. That is, if he could actually get Alba and not some chick in Toronto he takes to strip clubs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


So, Tiger Woods won a major. Big deal, he didn't outplay Woody Austin!

The preceding two sentences were sponsored by Woody Austin.

So, Tiger Woods won a major. This gives him thirteen on the career and puts him just five back of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. I think it's pretty clear that Tiger is going to break the record barring an injury or assassination by Phil Mickelson, so now the only question is when. My guess is within the next four years, which isn't exactly going out on a limb given that Tiger has won five majors in the last three years. I'm going to try to do this by looking at the sites of the next 16 majors and rating Tiger's chances at each course. Now, this is obviously inexact for a couple of reasons. 1. I'm an idiot. 2. Southern Hill wasn't a course that was 'supposed' to fit Woods' game, but he obviously dealt pretty well with it over the weekend. Here's a breakdown of the venues for each major over the next four years.

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Masters -- Augusta National
It remains to be seen if the 'new' Augusta National will remain its suddenly-deadly tough self in the years to come. Some golfers welcomed the new challenges presented by the venerable old classic, while others didn't like playing a second U.S. Open with more azaleas. However Augusta National ends up playing, the bottom line is that Tiger has to be considered the favourite any time he steps onto the course. He has four green jackets to his name already, and the tougher Augusta remains, the more it will favour Tiger since he is one of the few capable of all the shots that this uber-Augusta demands. He came within an inch of winning another Masters last spring, and if he keeps up that average level, it's going to be increasingly unlikely that another Zach Johnson will pop up to have the week of his life and beat him. I predict T-Woods to bring home two of these four green jackets.

Toughest competition: Phil Mickelson. This is one of the few courses where Phil can actually have a shot at standing up to Tiger for once. Then again, Phil has also already blown a couple of Masters to Tiger, and plus, he is recovering from The Most Horrific Injury In The History Of Golf (tm Phil Mickelson).

Odds of winning any of them: 75%

2008 U.S. Open -- Torrey Pines

Homer on the phone: Hello, Vegas? Give me 100 bucks on red....D'oh!...All right, I'll send you a cheque.

I wish I could pull a Homer and call up Vegas to lay odds on Tiger winning this U.S. Open. This is as close to a lock as you can get in championship golf. Tiger has played in 10 Buick Invitationals at Torrey Pines, and here are the results. T3, Win, T2, 4, T5, Win, T10, Win, Win, Win. Jesus Christ. You really think Woods won't have even more incentive to bring his A-game to Torrey Pines with a U.S. Open at stake? Mark it down.

Toughest competition: Again, Phil. He has a pretty outstanding record himself at the Buick, winning three times. Unfortunately for Phil, it's the U.S. Open. It's his answer to Greg Norman and the Masters, Ahab and the whale, me and a cheap place to park around the CNE.

Odds of winning: 95%. I'd put down the 100, but hey, it's the U.S. Open. You never know when an Angel Cabrera or Michael Campbell is lurking around the corner.

2008 Open Championship -- Royal Birkdale
The last time the Open was played at Birkdale, Tiger had one of his rare near-misses, as he finished third and one shot out of a playoff between his good buddy Mark O'Meara (who won) and Brian Watts (who then entered the witness protection program). Ergo, this is a course that Tiger knows well, and thus is the strong favourite to bring this one home. It will also eliminate the last thing that O'Meara can still hold over Tiger's head when they're out on the fishing boat. After this, O'Meara will be forced to fall back on bragging that he has a Honda Classic title and Tiger doesn't. In a related story, I pick Woods for the 2009 Honda Classic.

Toughest competition: Maybe Justin Rose, who tied for fourth at the 1998 Open before he had even hit puberty, and has since become a top pro. Maybe Padraig Harrington, who may become Mr. Major (not to be confused with Mr. Manager, George Michael Bluth) now that he has his first title under his belt. Maybe Jim Furyk, who had one of his better Open finishes here in 1998.

Odds of winning: 75%

2008 PGA Championship -- Oakland Hills

This course is something of an unknown quantity as it relates to Mr. Woods. The last major played here was the 1996 U.S. Open, when a fresh-faced amateur version of Tiger finished in a tie for 82nd. Tiger also appeared here at the 2004 Ryder Cup and played like a jobber like the rest of the American team. So this is definitely the biggest obstacle for Woods to hurdle next season, since otherwise, he has a shot at a grand slam.

Toughest competition: Hell, I dunno. It's tough to predict PGA Championships. Let's go with...uh, J.J. Henry, Ernie Els or Bradley Dredge.

Odds of winning: 30%

2009 U.S. Open -- Bethpage Black
Well heck, this one's a replay! Tiger won the 2002 U.S. Open at this course, and given how it perfectly suits his game, I see no reason why he couldn't keep the good times rolling in 2009.

Toughest competition: Any of the usual U.S. Open suspects, plus the runner-up in 2002, Phil Mickelson! Ha ha, just kidding! If I can get off on a rant about Phil for a moment, his recent comment about how he didn't consider his year in 'big' events a failure because he won the Players cements him in the underachiever hall of fame. The Players may be "like a major" but guess what, Phil? It's not a major. It's a tournament that has the field befitting a major championship but none of the historical pressure, which is why fellow major underachievers Greg Norman, Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Tom Kite, and Adam Scott have been able to win there since they're not swallowing their owns tongues. Trying to atone for a year of bed-shitting in majors by pumping up your Players win is like a music executive signing Pete Best to a recording deal in 1965 and saying that's just as good as signing a Beatle.

Odds of winning: 60%

2009 Open Championship -- Turnberry
Another unknown quantity for Tiger, as he didn't play in the Open the last time it was at Turnberry. This one is a big who knows, as it could be anything from a middling top 25 finish to a total domination. Maybe someone will step up to duel Woods in this generation's version of the legendary Watson vs. Nicklaus battle at Turnberry in 1975.

Toughest competition: ...and maybe that someone will be Ernie Els. Poor Ernie. You have to wonder how many majors he would have by now if it weren't for Tiger. I'm holding him out of the aforementioned Underachievers Hall of Fame just because I like Ernie a lot and he does have three majors (the same as Phil, in fact, but Phil sucks). Els has a wonderful record at the Open and perhaps he just needs one huge win to snap out of this mental funk he's been in for the last couple of years. Maybe he could put together a Vijay-esque late career run and become the signature rival that people have always thought he'd end up being to Tiger.

Odds of winning: 20%

2009 PGA Championship -- Hazeltine
Oh man, you think Tiger won't want this one? It was at Hazeltine in 2002 that Tiger had the one semi-choke of his professional career in a major, when Rich Beem barely outlasted him down the stretch to capture the PGA title. We've seen what Tiger does in vengeance situations -- just ask Rory Sabbatini or Stephen Ames. Tiger will want to win at Hazeltine and win big to erase the memory of 2002.

Toughest competition: The Beemer? Yeah, he has done jack and all since 2002. Beem's 15 minutes were up long ago.

Odds of winning: 75%

2010 U.S. Open -- Pebble Beach
It's been seven years, and thus the amazement has faded somewhat from memory. It also came just a few years after another titanic win, Tiger's 12-stroke victory at the Masters, and thus it perhaps didn't seem as impressive on its own. But I still think the most amazing feat of Tiger's amazing career came when he won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble by 15 shots. I'll repeat that again, by FIFTEEN GODDAMN SHOTS. This is at a U.S. Open, where birdies are near-impossible. He finished 12-under par! If you think I'm picking against Tiger on a course he's picked apart this surgically, think again.

Toughest competition: The wind. I'm not sure any mortal man can beat him at Pebble, so it'll take one of those crazy weather weeks that sometimes occurs at Pebble Beach to have any chance of Tiger losing. I can't believe this man is so good that I'm resorting to a scenario of Tiger vs. Thor. This is turning into one of those SNL Da Bears sketches.

Odds of winning: 90%

2010 Open Championship -- St. Andrews
Another slam-bolt lock. Tiger loves St. Andrews. If his next child is a boy, he should name it Andrew. In his two Open wins at St. Andrews, he has won by a combined total of thirteen shots. Game over, man. Game over.

Toughest competition: The ghost of Old Tom Morris, who isn't a kindly old spirit like in that golf commercial. He's a vengeful wraith searching for blood. Knowing Tiger, however, he'd show up with the Ghostbusters in his gallery. Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, shows up with Rick Moranis but argues that he's just as good as an actual Ghostbuster.

Odds of winning: 99.99%

2010 PGA Championship -- Whistling Straits

Tiger didn't do much at the 2004 PGA at the Straits, finishing an indifferent T24th. This was, however, during his two-year major drought when he was going through swing changes, knee surgery, a marriage, and all sorts of things. It's quite possible that a focused Tiger can tear this course apart, especially given how much it resembles both Pebble Beach and a British links venue.

Toughest competition: I'd say 2004 champ Vijay Singh, but by 2010 Vijay will be 47. I don't think even the Veej is that much of a late-career marvel to keep playing at a major level in his late forties. Literally anyone could win here, given that it's three years in the future and anything could happen in golf in that time. Maybe Boo Weekley could even learn what the Ryder Cup is by then.

Odds of winning: 20%

I'm going to halt my projection right here, since though I said I'd track the venues through 2011, the number of Tiger-friendly sites over the next three years leads me to believe that he'll get it done by 2010. Just look at the last two years -- Tiger won two majors in 2006 despite his father's passing. He won the PGA and nearly two other majors this year in spite of his first child and trying to get the AT&T National tournament started from scratch in six months time. A fully-focused Tiger over the next couple of years could be downright scary. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him repeat his 2000 feat of three majors in a season or maybe even a Tiger Slam again. If I were a betting man, I'd say the record is broken at either Pebble or St. Andrews. For one, it would be a nice piece of history in either case. Pebble often considered America's best course, it's in Tiger's native California, and it was at Pebble that Nicklaus went ahead of Bobby Jones' career majors mark in 1972. St. Andrews, of course, is only the course where the modern game was developed and is considered by many to be the best course in the world, period. What better place for the greatest golfer of all time to break the sport's greatest record? At least until Woody Austin passes Tiger in 2018.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


* I"m going to spend my Saturday night in, but fear not! This isn't for nerdy reasons! It's time for my annual reading of Live From New York: An Oral History of Saturday Night Live, by Tom Shales and J.A. Miller. It doesn't get much better than a behind-the-scenes look at SNL from just about everyone who was ever on the show. I've limited myself to reading it just once per year in order to keep in fresh, since it would be a shame to get so used to it that it loses its edge like...well, any number of SNL recurring characters, ironically.

* There has been so much made about Jennifer Love Hewitt going topless that when she finally does do it in a movie, it won't possibly live up to the hype. I mean, she has a nice pair of breasts. Let's not even kid ourselves about that. But it's funny how she is such an object of desire and speculation simply because she's never finally busted them out on-screen. Really, why should she? She hasn't made a good movie or had a good role in years, but still holds a special place in the cultural zeitgeist of horny men by being the forbidden fruit.

* Two great links for all you sports fans out there...

The great Pro Football Talk site recently unveiled their still-growing All-Seinfeld NFL team. Some big laughs from comparing NFL personalities to Seinfeld personalities. I think my favorites were Ron Jaworski = George when he buys ladies' glasses, and Dick Vermeil = Bette Midler's understudy in Rochelle Rochelle

It's not often you find a post that seems like it's written solely to appeal to me. Well, besides the posts on this site, that is. But this one has it all --- sports, comics, movies and the Office, all wrapped up into one. Enjoy!

* Sunshine was pretty good. It's sort of like a poor man's 2001, though since I didn't like 2001, perhaps that analogy doesn't quite fit. It was a great example of situation-based suspense for the first two-thirds of the film, as the crew has to logically deal with the problems that arise from their mission. The final third of Sunshine is a bit lesser, as it sort of devolves into more of a conventional thriller, but overall the movie is well worth seeing. I helped that I like a lot of the actors in the cast (Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Michelle Yeoh, Scarecrow) and I'm generally a fan of director Danny Boyle.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the Wikipedia entry for the film and it's pretty hilarious. There's a big long section about the research that Boyle and his screenwriter did in the year of writing and conceiving the idea, then another big section about consulting with NASA scientists to get facts right, then a section about what the actors were instructed to do and a lot of the filmmaking process and how the effects and sets were painstakingly developed.

Then, at the bottom of the page, it notes that the film stiffed at the box office and critics didn't really like it. Oh well.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Premier League preview

Good lord, the Premiership season starts TOMORROW? Dammit. Keep in mind I'm taking more or less totally out of my ass with these picks.

1. Manchester United
The rich just get richer. If there's any poetic justice, Carlos Tevez will get some sort of rare staph infection just before a match between ManYoo and West Ham, and somehow the mutant spore will infect everyone on both sides, and cause both to be relegated. Can you imagine what would happen if United actually got relegated one season? The earth would stop spinning on its axis.

2. Chelsea
Surely my boy Shevchenko can regain a bit of glory this season. He did score 14 goals last year, so it's not like he was ignominiously horrible or anything, but it was underwhelming for someone making all of those pounds. Perhaps he was tired from carrying Ukraine on his back for the entire World Cup, and now he'll be fresh and ready to go. Seriously, was Ukraine the worst team to ever make the World Cup quarter-finals? I don't think they had even one good player besides Sheva on the roster. Anyway, Chelsea will have another good year but once again come up short against Man U.

3. Liverpool
Peter Crouch might be my favourite footballer in the world. What's not to love about a gawky giant of a man who occasionally celebrates goals with the robot?

4. Tottenham
Many seem to think that Spurs have added enough talent to break the Big Four's dominance on the Champions League spots, and since I'm always in favour of variety, what the hell, Tottenham for fourth. A videotaped message from Tim Duncan provides inspiration for Spurs to follow in San Antonio's footsteps. Bill Simmons remembers he picked Tottenham as his favourite team and jumps on the bandwagon at the end of the season to celebrate, i.e. he vaguely mentions it once in a mailbag.

5. Arsenal
Thierry Henry is gone, which apparently has robbed Arsenal of its heart and soul. Unless you're a vampire, you generally don't operate very well without a heart and/or soul. Is Arsene Wenger actually a vampire? That would explain a lot. Like how Arsenal never plays day games (editor's note: not true).

6. Aston Villa
That's right, I'm going out on somewhat of a limb to predict that Villa will qualify for Europe. What am I basing this on? Coach Martin O'Neill has a dry wit. That's right, I'm now basing my predictions on the qualify of answers during press conferences. O'Neill reminded me a bit of the Edge for some reason. Aston Villa looked good in their friendly against Toronto FC, but...well, it was a friendly. And it was against Toronto FC. But hey, every year it seems a lot of the high-profile player signings blow up in teams' faces. Maybe one will finally pay off and the acquisitions of Reo-Coker and Harewood will prove to be spectacular.

7. Portsmouth
The team known as Pompey had a surprising run last season and nearly qualified for Europe for the first time...ever? I'm too lazy to take the one-minute trip to Google to check this, but let's just say it would've been a big deal for a team that is usually a doormat. They've done nothing but improve their club in the offseason, so I'll say that Portsmouth actually breaks through and gets that last UEFA Cup slot as a reward for all their hard work.

8. Newcastle United
Newcastle welcome new coach Sam Allardyce, who turned crappy old Bolton into a semi-contender by slowing down play to a near-comatose level. Newcastle United have more offensive talent, so perhaps they can actually make things interesting for their fans who appreciate victory, but also like to stay awake while watching their team play. I actually considered adopting Newcastle as my favourite Prem team last year, and my final decision was based on a taste test. If I liked Newcastle beer, I would've started rooting for the Magpies. As it turned out, it tasted like a dying magpie's bodily fluids.

9. Everton
Everton fans will be singing the 'blues' after this poor finish! Zing! Tip your waiters! Yeah, I just don't have a good feeling about Everton this season. They'll have the UEFA Cup to worry about, plus this whole controversy about them maybe moving out of Liverpool to a new ground, and I just think it'll wear on the team after a while.

10. Blackburn
Rovers have the rep of being the dirtiest team in the EPL, so they've got to stick around at mid-table just to make things interesting for dramatic purposes. It's the perfect place in the final battle between good and evil. If they were relegated or just crap, there's no fun in seeing villains get such massive comeuppance. If they were really good, it would be irritating. But at mid-table, they get to continue their rep as the Midnight Express of the Premiership, while never really being quality enough to worry anyone. They're villainous, but not too villainous. In Batman terms, they're like the Riddler. He causes problems, but he's not a mass killer like the Joker or anything.

11. Middlesborough
This team has the most accurate name in the league. They always seem to be hanging around the middle tier, except for those wacky years when they actually made the UEFA Cup final. I'll say they take a step up and crack the top dozen this season, though who knows, they could easily fall into the relegation zone. I really have no idea. I don't know anything about football. I'm a fraud.

12. Sunderland
Roy Keane, former Irish superstar, has done a remarkable job of building Sunderland up into a contender once again. They'll win the Promoted Teams Cup by sticking around the Premiership, and make a good showing of themselves. What I like most about them is that they play in a venue called the Stadium of Light. That just sounds intimidating as hell. Where would you least rather play, the Stadium of Light or Bolton's Reebok Stadium?

13. Reading
There seems to be a couple of different schools of thought about European competition. One is that it's a prime goal that every team should strive for; others think that it's just a distraction to league play. Reading manager Steve Coppell is one of the latter. This is why, when his team made a surprise run at a UEFA Cup spot last season, he publicly spoke out against it, arguing that it would harm his team's overall development. He may have a point, but I just thought it was funny that crappy old Reading (in their first-ever year in the top flight) were suddenly getting all high and mighty about playing for the UEFA Cup. I think they're going to fall back a bit after their impressive EPL debut last season.

14. West Ham United
Hey, remember last year when West Ham were shite and would've been relegated without help from the player they illegally acquired? Why does everyone think they'll suddenly turn into semi-contenders again? People might be reading too much into their late-season run against largely garbage competition. Seriously, you could've relegated the bottom six of last year's league, since that was a poor excuse for top-tier soccer.

15. Manchester City
Hey, I remember Sven-Goran Eriksson! That is literally all I can think of about Man City this year. Maybe they'll actually score some goals this year. They somehow finished 14th in the table last year in spite of finishing tied for last in goals with 29.

16. Fulham
So last year I took a page from Bill Simmons' book and decided to pick my favourite EPL team. I took on some of his same criteria -- pick a team that I might see play live sometime (so probably in or near London), none of the big four so I don't seem like a bandwagon jumper, and a team that wouldn't be a constant threat to be relegated. Well, I did well on the first two, but the no-relegation-threat went out the window for 'my' Cottagers. In hindsight, picking a team that I later learned was something of a joke in the English soccer world might not have been a good idea. New coach Lawrie Sanchez seems hell-bent on reviving the team by signing every Irishman he can except for Bono. It'll be another tough go this year for Fulham, but I think in the grand tradition of teams I like being mediocre but never totally bottoming out (take a bow Leafs, Packers and Blue Jays), they'll avoid relegation.

17. Bolton
Here's a team that has been built up by Sam Allardyce as a defensive stalwart a la the trap-era New Jersey Devils (i.e. crushingly boring) except without near the championship pedigree. Now Allardyce has left, leaving a roster that's still mostly stick-in-the-mud defensive types under a new coach that's going to play a bit more of a regular type of attack-minded soccer. This seems as ill-fitting as Ricky Schroeder as a bad-ass CTU agent on 24. Combine this with the distraction of playing in and probably getting killed in the UEFA Cup, Bolton is in for a bad season.

18. Wigan
Someone has to be relegated from the 17 teams that were in the 06-07 EPL, and Wigan gets the short straw. They're just not a very interesting club. They have a reputation for being tough at home, but that can only count for so much. Plus, they're putrid on the road. Like, Blue Jays-level putrid on the road.

19. Birmingham
Congrats Birmingham City, you're in the Premiership! You're going to get your asses kicked! They're going to be beaten worse than the female character in Amanda Marshall's "Birmingham" got beaten by her husband. One preview I read favored Birmingham to stay up since their lineup has the most Premiership experience. Yeah, it's full of Premiership guys....who weren't good enough to stick around in the EPL and got a spot on a Championship team.

20. Derby
If you read some of the Premiership previews at various soccer sites around the net, you will find unanimous opinion that the Rams will a) be relegated and b) have one of the worst seasons in Premier League history. I've seen some pundits predict them for fewer than 10 points. You've got to be just about clinically dead to not even get 10 points over 38 games, right? Derby still gets relegated, but they shut the critics up with an awe-inspiring 11-point season.

BONUS PGA Championship pick!

I'll pick Tiger to win. I also predict strong showing by Scott Verplank, Stephen Ames, Geoff Ogilvy and Woody Austin. Wait, what's that? It started two days ago? And those guys are the top five? I'm clairvoyant! I'll celebrate by doing the robot!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Random Nonsense

My pal Kyle snagged free tickets to a preview screening of Bourne Ultimatum last night, and boy did that ever turn out to be an awesome evening. I've posted before about my issues with Bourne Supremacy and Paul Greengrass' action-distorting shaky camera, but old Greeny stepped up in a major way for his second crack at a Bourne movie. I'll avoid any spoilers, but I will say that the chase/fight scene in Tangiers was one of my favourite action scenes in any movie in a long time. To put on my film major hat for a moment, the sound effects editing in that sequence alone deserves an Oscar. Remember how the fight scene in Supremacy between Bourne and that guy in the kitchen was criticized in some quarters because you couldn't understand what was happening at all times? Trust me, you see EVERYTHING that happens in this one.

As a bonus, since it was a preview screening, I even got a Bourne Ultimatum t-shirt! I will be wearing this motherfucker out very quickly. I'm even wearing it as I write this post. It is a high improvement over the last movie screening t-shirt I received.....for Cellular. Remember that piece of crap with Chris Evans and Kim Basinger? Yeah. It's a perfectly servicable garment (I still wear it as an undershirt), but the movie was so mediocre that it doesn't even have schlock value.


The Holiday Inn commercial with Cal Ripken Jr. is utterly hilarious. "Oh, so it was your vocation?" Last week's Hall of Fame induction with Ripken and Gwynn was great because you got a strong retired-ballplayer vibe just from looking at them. None of this Jim Palmer-esque nonsense where the guy looks like he can still play. Cal is as bald as I am, and Tony has achieved just about a perfect oval shape.


Some may be spending their vacation at Carabana, or going to a cottage, or just hanging out at home. I'm going to the circus --- namely, the chaos that is David Beckham's first MLS game. There's the press conference tomorrow at the ACC, which isn't at BMO Field simply because the facilities can't handle the overwhelming media requests. It's not from the sporting press, of which there will be tons in attendance, but rather outlets like ET Canada or Star! On the bright side, I might get to meet Rick the Temp. I'll tell him about how he was one of the 'distinguished alumni' listed in my brother's brochures about Brock University. And not just on the list, but, like, second.

Sunday is the game itself, and it was shifted to a night game to accommodate both ESPN and to give the Exhibition Place people time to clean up after Carabana. That's right, Sunday Night Football is back on ESPN! Maybe Joe Theismann and Paul Maguire will come along to commentate. "Ok, watch this, see how he brings that foot back? He swings the leg and BAM, look at that contact." "David Beckham (dramatic pause) can kick the football."

The funny part about the whole situation is that Beckham is questionable with an ankle injury. In my professional capacity as an (ahem) football journalist, I think he'll play. Definitely not the full 90 minutes, but he might come on for a 20-minute cameo at the end of the game as he did in the friendly against Chelsea a couple of weeks ago. Maybe if the ankle is feeling particularly saucy, he might even start the game and play the first half. The bottom line is, unless something goes awry in the next two days, my gut feeling is Beckham will be making his official MLS debut against Toronto FC. Or, more accurately, what's left of Toronto FC. That's the other bit of comedy surrounding this game -- literally half of the TFC roster is injured. Players are dropping like flies. It's not just any players, too, it's their two top strikers, their regular starting goalie, one of their top midfielders and two of their top defenders. If anyone else gets hurt, I may be on the bench next Sunday against New York. I may not be able to add much in terms of playing quality, but I can bring the orange slices.

Also, in somewhat Beckham-related news, Toronto apparently won an online poll to host an extra date on the Spice Girls upcoming reunion tour. Yay Canada? Oh, who am I kidding...masculinity be damned, if I had the money I'd totally go to this show. This begs of the question of which Spice Girl has held up the best since the group's heyday. I think Baby is the hands-down winner in this category. She looks exactly the same, and she was already one of the better-looking ones in the group to begin with. Sporty has ditched the sporty look altogether, perhaps out of 10 years of frustration over being targeted as 'the ugly one' in spite of not being ugly whatsoever. Be honest --- if Mel C. was just some random woman you knew, you'd think she was hot. She merely suffered in comparison to the rest of the group due to the fact that she was the only one who didn't dress like a harlot. It's like Kevin Smith's wife being one of the sexy thieves in Jay And Silent Bob. It's not that Mrs. Smith is bad-looking or anything, but compared to Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku and Ali Larter, she came up short. I could never decide if that was Smith's way of complimenting his wife, or secretly putting her down.

Anyway, back to the Spice Girls. Geri Halliwell (a.k.a. the Spice Girl who is readily identified by her actual name) still looks pretty good. Scary has had the biggest dropoff. I don't think she packs much of a punch at all any more. The stress of trying to bring Eddie Murphy's sorry ass into court has taken its toll. As for Posh, I was never a big fan back in the day, and I'm not a big fan now. She strikes me as someone who is too self-consciously stylish, and thus isn't actually stylish.

Do you think David Beckham will somehow come across this post between now and Sunday and order me banned from BMO Field for knocking his wife? I think that could be an even better story than the game itself.

To end the Beckham segment, here's the legendary interview of Posh and Becks conducted by Ali G. The best joke in the clip requires a bit of set-up, so here it goes: Scunthorpe United are a notoriously poor English soccer team. That is all. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Rickey Henderson Stories

This is taken from and its comment board. I'm pretty certain that some of these stories are untrue, but this is one of those man who killed Liberty Valance moments where the legend overwhelms the facts. When I interviewed John Olerud last year, I actually asked him about the Rickey story, and he confirmed it wasn't true. It was like finding out Santa doesn't exist.

For those of you who aren't baseball fans, Rickey Henderson is a future Hall of Famer who is one of the greatest players in history...and also the walking stereotype of the egotistical, self-absorbed, dim athlete. Enjoy!

1) In June 1999, when Henderson was playing with the Mets, he saw reporters running around the clubhouse before a game. He asked a teammate what was going on and he was told that Tom Robson, the team’s hitting coach, had just been fired. Henderson said, “Who’s he?”

2) Rickey... on referring to himself in the third person:
“Listen, people are always saying, ‘Rickey says Rickey.’ But it’s been blown way out of proportion. People might catch me, when they know I’m ticked off, saying, ‘Rickey, what the heck are you doing, Rickey?’ They say, ‘Darn, Rickey, what are you saying Rickey for? Why don’t you just say, ‘I?’ But I never did. I always said, ‘Rickey,’ and it became something for people to joke about.”

3) In the early 1980s, the Oakland A’s accounting department was freaking out. The books were off $1 million. After an investigation, it was determined Rickey was the reason why. The GM asked him about a $1 million bonus he had received and Rickey said instead of cashing it, he framed it and hung it on a wall at his house.

4) In 1996, Henderson’s first season with San Diego, he boarded the team bus and was looking for a seat. Steve Finley said, “You have tenure, sit wherever you want.” Henderson looked at Finley and said, “Ten years? Ricky’s been playing at least 16, 17 years.”

5) This one might be my second favorite. This wasn’t too long ago, I think it was the year he ended up playing with the Red Sox. Anyway, he called San Diego GM Kevin Towers and left the following message: “This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball.”

6) This one happened in Seattle. Rickey struck out and as the next batter was walking past him, he heard Henderson say, “Don’t worry, Rickey, you’re still the best.”

7) Rickey once asked a teammate how long it would take him to drive to the Dominican Republic.

8) Moments after breaking Lou Brock’s stolen base record, Henderson told the crowd – with Brock mere feet next to him – “Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today, I am the greatest of all-time.”

9) Henderson once fell asleep on an ice pack and got frostbite – which forced him to miss three games — in mid-August.

10) A reporter asked Henderson if Ken Caminiti’s estimate that 50 percent of Major League players were taking steroids was accurate. His response was, “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49 percent right there.”

11) Henderson broke Ty Cobb’s career record for runs scored with a home run. After taking his usual 45 seconds or so around the bases, Rickey slid into home plate.

12) On being Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th career strikeout: “It gave me no chance. He (Ryan) just blew it by me. But it’s an honor. I’ll have another paragraph in all the baseball books. I’m already in the books three or four times.”

13) San Diego GM Kevin Towers was trying to contact Rickey at a nearby hotel. He knew Henderson always used fake names to avoid the press, fans, etc. He was trying to think like Rickey and after several attempts; he was able to get Henderson on the phone.

Rickey had checked in under Richard Pryor.

14) I didn’t believe this one at first. However, I emailed a few contacts within the Sox organization and they claim it actually happened. This is priceless, it really is.

The morning after the Sox finished off their 2004 World Series sweep against St. Louis, Henderson called someone in the organization looking for tickets to Game 6 at Fenway Park.

15) The Mets were staying in a hotel less than a mile from Cinergy Field in Cincinnati. While some players walked, most took the team bus. A few minutes after they arrived — again it was less than a mile – the last players off the bus noticed a stretched limo that had just pulled up.

Of course, Rickey emerged from the back seat.

16) A reporter once asked Rickey if he talked to himself, “Do I talk to myself? No, I just remind myself of what I’m trying to do. You know, I never answer myself so how can I be talking to myself?”

17) OK, I know everyone has been waiting for it. Alas, according to both parties involved, it’s not true. I wish it were. Heck, both Rickey Henderson and John Olerud have said they wish it were true. But it just didn’t happen.

The story went that a few weeks into Henderson’s stint with the Mariners, he walked up to Olerud at the batting cage and asked him why he wore a batting helmet in the field. Olerud explained that he had an aneurysm at nine years old and he wore the helmet for protection. Legend goes that Henderson said, “Yeah, I used to play with a guy that had the same thing.” Legend also goes that Olerud said, “That was me, Rickey.”

Henderson played with Olerud on the Blue Jays and the Mets.

18) Rickey was asked if he had the Garth Brooks album with Friends in Low Places and Henderson said, “Rickey doesn’t have albums. Rickey has CDs.”

19) During a contract holdout with Oakland in the early 1990s, Henderson said, “If they want to pay me like Mike Gallego, I’ll play like Gallego.”

20) In the late 1980s, the Yankees sent Henderson a six-figure bonus check. After a few months passed, an internal audit revealed the check had not been cashed. Current Yankees GM Brian Cashman – then a low-level nobody with the organization – called Rickey and asked if there was a problem with the check. Henderson said, “I’m just waiting for the money market rates to go up.”

21) This is my all-time favorite. Rickey was pulled over by a San Diego police officer for speeding. As the officer was approaching Rickey’s car, the window went down a few inches and a folded $100 bill emerged. The officer let Rickey and his money head home without a ticket.

22) When he was on the Yankees in the mid-1980s, Henderson told teammates that his condo had such a great view that he could see, “The Entire State Building.”

23) During one of his stays with Oakland, Henderson’s locker was next to Billy Beane’s. After making the team out of spring training, Beane was sent to the minors after a few months. Upon his return, about six weeks later, Henderson looked at Beane and said, “Hey, man, where have you been? Haven’t seen you in awhile.”

24) To this day and dating back 25 years, before every game he plays, Henderson stands completely naked in front of a full length locker room mirror and says, “Ricky’s the best,” for several minutes.

25) In the last week of his lone season with the Red Sox, Chairman Tom Werner asked Henderson what he would like for his ‘going-away’ gift. Henderson said he wasn’t going anywhere, but he would like owner John Henry’s Mercedes. Werner said it would be tough to get the same make and model in less than a week and Henderson said, “No, I want his car.” Turns out the Sox got Henderson a Red Thunderbird and when he saw it on the field before the last game of the season, Rickey said, “Whose ugly car is on the field?”

26) After signing with the Dodgers, broadcaster Dan Patrick asked Rickey why he thought he could still play pro baseball in his mid-forties. Rickey's response: "I feel my physical in good... physical condition."

27) When Rickey played for the Mets, his fellow outfielders were Derek Bell and Jay Payton. Rickey played dominoes with them every day, and reporters eventually got wind that some big money changed hands. In like August, a reporter asks Rickey about the daily game he'd been having (for like five months at this point). Rickey looks around the locker room as says "Rickey play with THAT guy and THAT guy."

28) Rickey, on one of his many contract renegotiations. "I don't see what's so hard about it. All Rickey wants is what Rickey's asking for."

29) One year when playing for the Red Sox, Rickey bought a BBQ grill during spring training. When the team finished training and was about to head up to Boston, Rickey showed up for the team flight with the BBQ in tow. When it was explained that he couldn't take a propane device on an airplane, his indignant response was "Oh, Rickey's takin' the grill."

30) Rickey reportedly once called Padres general manager Kevin Towers and left a message regarding a contract. "This is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey."

31) When Rickey played for San Diego, he knew Tony Gwynn's name...and nobody else's. He referred to his teammates by their position (i.e. "Hey third baseman!") Even in Gwynn's case, Rickey referred to him only by his last name, never as Tony.