Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My final Cubs post of the year

First I'd like to point out that, while I may have said some things about Kosuke Fukudome on this blog in the past, I am now back on the Fuku-Train. Why? Well, because Wedge gave me a Fukudome jersey for Christmas! I'm his #1 fan now. Unfortunately, even if he starts off having a great year, I fear this will only increase his trade value and probability.

Also, I'd like to note that I finally watched the episode of Undercover Boss that featured Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Cubs. First I must point out that Ricketts himself was pretty terrible. I'm not great at a lot of things, but I think I could hose down a bathroom. Also, I'm pretty confident I could sell my last four hot dogs and not have to throw them away. It's a baseball game at Wrigley Field. How hard is it to sell hot dogs??

Still, it was a lot of fun to see some of the employees behind the scenes and to see what their lives are like. We all know so much goes into preparing these stadiums for games, so to see this taking place at Wrigley Field, my favorite sports facility, was great. I haven't been to Wrigley in over 20 years, and now I'm ready to get back. If you're a Cubs fan, or even just a baseball fan, try to check this episode out.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Grab Bag Sports

Well, I have tons of things to do over the next 24 hours, but I wanted to get in one last post before Christmas. Everyone's been doing those stupid "elf yourself" videos, so I figured I'd make one for our site. Yet rather than subject you to elf versions of me, Wedge, and Speedgeek dancing, I chose a few of the pictures I had saved in my files from posting on this site over the past year.

Consequently, I am pleased to present to you: Chris Paul, Danica Patrick, and Lou Piniella. As dancing elves.

Happy Holidays to all. I'll be back in a few days with my review of the BCS book I'm reading and a post of some of my favorite fan fights!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cliff Lee and I are basically the same

So Cliff Lee left $30 million on the table. Big deal. This one time I had a job offer to be a P.E. coach. How awesome does it sound to be able to wear shorts to work and play kickball all day? I ended up taking a different job that I thought would be more challenging. I left wearing shorts to work on the table, Cliff Lee! We have so much in common.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

There's no "I" in team, but there is one in Heisman!

I've never understood the big deal about the Heisman Trophy. It's so strange to me that an amateur team sport makes such a big deal about one player every year.

This is not an anti-Cam Newton post, either. (Although I loved it when he mentioned how his parents do a lot of things behind the scenes to help him!) Newton was definitely the best player I saw this year and even if the allegations prove to be true, I believe he should keep the award. Like Reggie Bush, Newton would have done nothing to improve his talent on the field.

That being said, we know all about the Heisman winners who quickly became NFL busts. The award really doesn't signify much, as far as I'm concerned. We're talking about a sport where you don't even play all of the teams in your own conference and then move on to a 1-game post-season. Are we really that positive that we can select the one best player to treat like a god at the end of the season?

So what's the deal? I'd love to hear from someone who loves the idea of the Heisman and wants to tell me how, just like the bowl season, it's all about tradition. But I wonder if those people still exist in 2010!

Friday, December 10, 2010

College Football - The Postseason is Here!

Yes! I cannot wait. My team, LSU, had a pretty good year. Even with the loss to Arkansas at the end, they were still 10-2, much better than we fans expected before the season started. If you translate that into a basketball record, it'd be like 25-5 and probably good for about a 3-seed in March Madness. So I like our chances in the football postseason. The SEC title was settled last weekend. So now let's get this postseason rolling. Where do we start? Who do we face first? When is our first postseason game??!!


That can't be right?! My team hasn't played since November 27th. Are you telling me I have to wait 41 days between games? And then the game doesn't even matter?! There is no hope of anything more than an 11th win or 3rd loss?

41 days? That's longer than the entire Justin Beiber fad, isn't it? The Beatles recorded their first album in 10 hours and I have to wait 41 days to watch a football game?

By January 7th, I'm ready for the NFL playoffs, NCAA basketball conference games, the NBA All-Star game, BLOGATHON, maybe the BCS title game if I care about either team. But some random, meaningless bowl game?

And speaking of the BCS and bowl games, my new favorite angry blogger, Sean O., must be so happy that his team (UConn) gets to play in a(n equally as meaningless) BCS game! I mean, it must feel great to know that you had a worse record in a much weaker conference than numerous other teams yet you still get to play an "important" game. And I'm guessing every game didn't really matter as much as Sean thinks it did, considering his team lost to Louisville 26-0. In fact, they could've won three of the four games they lost and still would've ended up where they are now!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Shy Champion: Phil Hill

As part of VivaF1's Blogger Swap Shop, I figured what better subject than the late Phil Hill - an intriguing figure and a World champion to boot.
Apologies if it's a bit long and sorry it's a little late.  Enjoy.

The F1 and Motorsports Archive.

When Wolfgang von Trips found himself involved in a horror crash on the second lap of the 1961 Italian Grand Prix, it once again hoisted Grand Prix motor racing into the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

A slight error from the German Count saw the red Ferrari bounce politely into Jim Clark's Lotus-Climax, before clouting the inside barrier and ricocheting violently across the circuit.
The out of control machine became airborne and plunged into the crowd, killing fifteen spectators. In the middle of this melee, von Trips himself was thrown clean of his car, landing fatally upon the Monza tarmac.
This was a black day - not just for Formula 1, but for all motorsport.

It was all the more galling for a Ferrari team on the verge of crowning a new World Champion – as the season drew to a close, von Trips was leading team mate Phil Hill and only needed a podium to claim the crown. In the end, death betrayed the German – with von Trips dead in the circuit’s medical unit and Sir Stirling Moss eleven points adrift; Hill became the first American World Champion with one race to spare.
It would be bittersweet - a distraught Hill was to be one of von Trip's pallbearer's.


Favourite Aunt's and Model-T Fords!!
An almost unlikely Champion, Philip Toll Hill Jr was born on April 20th, 1927. A deeply intelligent and introverted Florida native, he initially started out towards a path in music, quickly becoming prodigious as both a pianist and a horn player.
Music was not his only love. The young Hill became enamoured with motorcars, often delving into the magazines and the annuals of the day. All the while, he absorbed the dangers and the romance of competition – the very same perils that would later haunt him during his time behind the wheel.
Hill had already assumed control an Oldsmobile by the age of nine, often driving around the dirt fields of Santa Monica, aided by his Aunt’s chauffeur. These lessons would soon assume an extra depth and three years later, Hill was gifted a Model-T Ford. It would begin a process where he would dissemble the car and put it back together again – just to find out how it worked.

With the passing of his teenage years, a post-war Hill became more embossed in the automobile culture and soon settled into the California Sportscar Club, only to be interrupted by a two-year sojourn in the University of California to study Business Administration. This deed, done more to please his father rather than gain intellectual credits, simply bored Hill and soon the allure of speed pulled him back to his Sportscar roots, where he took to working as a mechanic for a local amateur racer.
Although tinkering with midget car entries soothed his interest temporarily, the 21-year-old was keen to get behind the wheel, soon picking up and MG-TC. Converting the machine to a single-seater, Hill settled into racing very quickly, winning on his racing début at Carrell Speedway.
It would be the beginning of a legacy that would eventually see Hill winning both his first and final races.

As the curtain drew upon the 1940’s, Hill left for England to work as a trainee for Jaguar – it would not be long before the American found himself behind the wheel in a number of sponsored drives. Instantly recognising his potential, Texan oil tycoon Allen Guiberson placed Hill in one of his Ferrari’s for several entries of the Carrera Panamericana – a popular Mexican road race that ran from the city of Ciudad Juárez towards Texas. The 22-year-old impressed immediately with a 6th place finish on his first outing and would be the beginning of an incredibly successful relationship with the famed Italian marquee.
It also was a time of distinct change for Hill. Having both passed away in 1951, Hill’s parents left him enough money to purchase his own 2.6-litre Ferrari and further success soon followed, where the American began to develop a fresh sense of self-depreciation over time; often crediting wins to his machinery rather than his own skill.

Anxiety, Horror and Success
Yet, constant anxieties about the dangers of motor racing lingered left Hill suffering from stomach ulcers and in great pain – so much so that he was sidelined for ten months and even then, tranquilisers were a necessity to drive. Such was the struggle to find a sensible balance between the pleasures and perils of racing; Hill became the cause of his own discomfort.
As he recovered gingerly, sportscars came back into view and with his Ferrari at the ready; Hill had every intention of hitting the track. Indeed, sportscars had become so popular, that in 1953 a World Championship was declared, with Hill contesting two-rounds – the first at Sebring and the next at the Carrera Panamericana.
For the famous Mexican event, drivers were allowed to take riding mechanics along and at Ciudad Juárez, Richie Ginther sat in with Hill. Whereas differential problems ended the Ferrari’s Sebring race early, his run at the Carrera Panamericana was halted by a violent accident, but despite initial reservations, neither Hill nor Ginther would not be deterred from further competition.

Where 1954 brought some further solid results for the American, it was 1955 that things really began to fall into place for Hill – a period that culminated in him being proclaimed as America’s best sportscar driver by Sports Illustrated as the year drew to a close, earning the canny racer a prized front cover appearance.
Yet while he took some of the acclaim with grace and honour, the truth is 1955 was another horror year in motorsport’s history – a horror best represented by the tragic events at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. Hill’s entry – a Ferrari 121LM with Umberto Maglioli – retired after only 76 laps. Just over two hours into the race, the Mercedes of Pierre Levegh ramped over Lee Mackin’s Austin-Healy and plunged into the main stand. It would claim more than 80 lives, including Levegh himself.
As sensitive to the dangers as Hill was, it almost seemed as if he was spurned on, yet remained apprehensive. For many others, each fatality was an invitation to an early retirement and a longer life. While motorsport remained under the microscope, Hill took the SCCA Championship – his first title.

An Italian Renaissance
Ferrari beckoned in 1956 and the Floridian moved to Modena, competing in the Nurburgring 1000kms and Le Mans. Partnering Peter Collins, Hill would have a quiet, but successful 1957, claiming a podium and a win at races in Sweden and Venezuela respectively.
However, whereas the previous two seasons saw Hill complete reasonable campaigns, 1958 would prove to be a year of change for the American. Wins at the Buenos Aires 1000km race and the Sebring 12 Hours set Hill up for his first Le Mans triumph with Olivier Gendebien. As he crossed the line, he became the first American to win the famed 24 Hour Race, eventually taking it three times – all the while partnered by Belgian sportscar legend, Olivier Gendebien.
Still, being with the bounds of Ferrari was not that easy. Frustrated by not being afforded the opportunity to race in Formula 1, gave Hill the impetus to hire Jo Bonnier’s private Maserati 250F for the French Grand Prix at Reims. The American, as always, drove a solid race and it was one that eventually changed his career – nine laps in saw Ferrari pilot Luigi Musso crash fatality at the tricky Muizone Curve. Suddenly a place opened up within the red team, but this was never how Hill intended to make his progression.

More disaster was to follow. While Hill made his début for the Prancing Horse at the Nordschleife in a Formula 2, Ferrari’s second driver Phil Collins would perish behind the wheel.
The lead Ferrari, driven by Mike Hawthorn would eventually take the title from Sir Stirling Moss by a single point, while Hill claimed two podiums in the final two events of the year at Monza and Casablanca.
Still in mourning following the deaths of Collins and Musso, the new Champion retired instantly from the sport, only for Hawthorn to be killed in a road accident several weeks later. Ferrari's tragic 1958 was complete. Four podiums followed in 1959 and 1960, before Hill comfortably won his first Grand Prix in 1960 at Monza in a field made up mainly of Formula 2 machinery.
However the fear was still all too apparent in approach. Before races, he would be very nervous; often spending time chain smoking, chewing gum or constantly cleaning his goggles - the pre-race nervousness became almost compulsive.

With a difficult 1960 out of the way, Ferrari went into the following year buoyant. The introduction of a new formula signalled the dawn of a new period of success for the red cars, as Carlo Chiti’s “sharknose” machines powered their way to six pole positions and five victories in the seven events they contested. Yet, as fast as the new Ferrari's may well have been fast, their handling was regularly derided its drivers.
Having secured both titles on that ill-fated afternoon in Monza, Ferrari never bothered to show up at the final race of the season – ironically, the United States Grand Prix.

The Falling Star
Sadly for Hill, as the curtains were pulled on 1961, his success flirted away too. The tail end of the year saw the great walkout at Ferrari as many the key personnel and engines left to form their own team and while the season began reasonably well (three podiums in the opening trio of races), it was fairly clear that Ferrari's advantage had disappeared. Thereafter, their season deteriorated and Ferrari found themselves routed by their British opponents – particularly BRM and Lotus.
Hill eventually finished 6th in the Championship following two retirements and a poor Italian Grand Prix; while Ferrari while Ferrari withdrew from the French, US and South African Grand Prix altogether!
Eventually Hill left Ferrari for ATS with teammate Giancarlo Baghetti, but by now the success of two years previous was a distant memory. Blighted by unreliability, Hill only managed to see the chequered flag once - ironically at Monza where he took 11th, while Baghetti only managed one 15th place finish, also at Monza.
ATS withdrew from several races during the 1963 season, compounding the frustration, prompting Hill to jump ship to Cooper in 1964. It would be his final season in Formula 1 and although Hill started to reach the chequered flag on a more consistent basis, he only scored a single point for his efforts.
As he crossed the line to finish 9th at the Mexican Grand Prix, Hill waved goodbye to Formula 1 forever.

Later Life
Once Hill left the top flight, he continued to race sporadically in sportscars for Chaparral and with Ford's GT programme, taking several more victories before hanging up his helmet, including a win at the BOAC 6 Hour Race at Brands Hatch - a victory that ensured Hill was a winner in both his first and last races. Thereafter, many offers poured in to tempt the former-World champion out of retirement, but a wary Hill always politely turned these temptations down.
After two years away from the Ferrari squad, Hill did step back into a single seater, but not to race. With John Frankenheimer direction, Hill stepped in as the driver of the camera car for the 1966 feature film, Grand Prix.
While other drivers of the day appeared as cameos, Hill took to a modified Formula 3 car, as he sped around Monaco, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza on practice days of race weekends. When viewing the film now, it is clear that a true professional is turning the screws of the speedy machine.
Later in life, Hill became a commentator on ABC World Wide of Motorsports, formed a classic car restoration company and also became a regular judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. He would also fill up his time by occasionally writing for Road & Track magazine.

Hill was often sensitive and suffered from an inner turmoil about the dangers motor racing. These feelings instilled a sense of care behind the wheel; while also allowing him to pull the maximum out the machines he had at his disposal.
For a man so pre-occupied by the perils of motorsport, Hill was never once injured during his career. Such was the ease of his driving style, the American rarely suffered accidents or offs and he always left his best for the monster circuits like Monza, Spa-Francorchamps or the Nordschleife, while finding great comfort in difficult conditions, such as heavy rain.

Having being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at the turn of the century, Hill retired to a quiet life in Santa Monica, before passing away in August 2008 and the age of 81.
Phil Hill became America's first World Champion in 1961 and with the 50th anniversary approaching in nine months time, let's hope it is a anniversary suitably embraced.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Top 5 Sports Fights

Here in Nashville, all I've heard about for the past week is the big fight between Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan.

I don't really care about either team. I thought it was funny that Finnegan basically knew what to do to get Johnson kicked out of the game. It just didn't matter because the Titans had no offense anyway.

Either way, the fight wasn't very good and doesn't crack my Top 5 Sports Fights.

5. The Racing Dad Fight - This is for our Indy fans. I know this stuff goes on sometimes, but I like this one because you get parental involvement. Reminds me of little league baseball.

4. The Ninja Kick Opening - This a great way to start a baseball fight and ensure that you get at least one good shot on an opposing player.

3. The China/Brazil Basketball Fight - I like when #8 and #14 go at it around 1:25.

2. The Hockey Staredown - How long would they have done this? Like, if no one had broken it up, they could STILL be doing this!

1. The Bike Fight - This fall was my first semester of college and I remember a lot of it pretty well. People's Court, Love Connection, and a new discovery known as taco salads tried very hard to keep me from going to class. OJ Simpson went to court. Cal Ripken broke the record. And these two guys dropped their bikes and tried to fight in the street. Best sports fight ever.

Honorable Mention - While this is not really a "fight," I promise, any brawl in the history of brawls would be improved by the addition of this:

***I should note that MLB does not allow any of their fights to be on youtube, so we're missing some great ones here. Nolan Ryan/Robin Ventura is probably my favorite. Also, there are so many good high school and college fights out there. Stay tuned for more fight lists in the future!

Ron Santo

As (one of?) the resident Cubs fan(s) here, I feel I should say a few words.

OK, so I love baseball. I love the Chicago Cubs. And Ron Santo may have been my favorite human being that I have never met. With the advancement of the internet, I have been able to listen to him broadcast hundreds of games, making even the worst of major league teams seem entertaining to listen to. It was like watching Saints games with my grandfather or an uncle. Except this was baseball on the radio. Even if the Cubs were down 12-0 in the 8th, you had to listen.

I have two things to say about this.

1. The guys on the White Sox station (670 "The Score") have been ripping Santo a lot lately. The man had nothing to do with their team and they easily could have just ignored him and talked about the myriad other issues involving their own quite dysfunctional team. Yet this past summer, certain shows were dedicating entire hours to Santo insult time.

It was amazing to hear grown men go out of their way to attempt to humiliate someone who has never really done anyone any harm, a man who, at his worst, could be annoying to listen to if you don't like his team, I suppose. But that is easily solved with a power button or a channel switch, correct? At his best, putting baseball aside, this is a guy who raised tons of money and helped many with diabetes.

2. The Baseball Hall of Fame used to be the only Hall of Fame I really respected. For as long as I could remember, they always seemed to do things right. It was the absolute best of the best, a list of only the most legendary people to play the game. But now, I must say this: If Santo is now voted into the Hall of Fame, I will immediately lose all respect.

I don't know if Santo is good enough or not. I never saw him play baseball. But I know how much he wanted it. I know how much others said he deserved it, people who did see him play and whose opinions I do trust. It truly seems like there were some who were not voting for him simply because so many Cubs fans wanted him in. The same kind of people who openly insulted his broadcasting style and the way the fans adored him as an announcer.

Either way, to deny him the opportunity of reaching his final goal in life, only to go ahead and give in after his death, would be to lose all credibility as far as I'm concerned. It would make the voters seem power-hungry and petty to me. If he is good enough this year, then he was good enough last year and they should've done it then.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Speedgeek Inspires a Furious Return

Guess who's back. If you guessed SpeedGeek, then you're right! (Go read his post.) But I'm back too.

The only problem is that it's not going to be free this time. I hate to break it to Wedge, but to get these hands to type these words, it's gonna cost a little change. I'm NOT SAYING it's gonna cost $180,000-$200,000... but I am TEXTING it to him right now. Don't tell any Mississippi State boosters though. Those dudes can't keep a secret.

So I recently made some big decisions and am now able to devote more time to making you all scroll through a bunch of bull to get to the good stuff that the other guys post. And let's face it... it's almost the most wonderful time of the year. BLOGATHON. Are you guys ready, or what?

Besides Blogathon, here are some other things I'm anxiously looking forward to:

- Auburn is going to lose a game and LSU will somehow play for, and win, the BCS title. As I celebrate (into the NFL playoffs and watch the Saints repeat), the uproar among NCAA officials will finally spark some change and we'll finally see a playoff.

- The Cubs are going to unload Fukudome, trade for Prince Fielder, and bring back Kerry Wood. (OK, we'll be lucky if they can dump Kosuke, I'd just love to see Wood back at Wrigley, and imagine how pissed the Brewers fans would be if that Fielder trade actually happened.)

- Sean O. is going to stick around and post more comments like "THE SHITTY SHIT THAT YOU POST ON THIS SHITTY BLOG IS A BUNCH OF SHIT." It's going to be so much fun. Huskies Football 4 Life.

- East Dillon is totally going to... Ahhh... Andy would kill me if I did that. BUT HOW AMAZING IS THIS SHOW? I can't believe it's almost over.

- The Hornets are going to win the NBA Finals. I can't believe it.

- NO LIMITS. Where will you be on New Years Eve? Hopefully in front of your TV.

So yeah. I'm glad to be back and, as that list proves, I should have a ton of stuff to post about in the near future.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Introduction (of Sorts) and a Farewell (of Sorts)

Hi, everybody. Speedgeek here. Some of you might be familiar with my work, but a lot of you may not, so I feel compelled to drop a few words up here to let you know who I am and what exactly it is that I think I'm doing here.

As you might figure from my name, I'm a racing fan. I'm also a sports fan in general, and so I very much enjoy reading the non-racing stuff that Wedge, Ron and Deuce write here, but my main forte and what you'll read the most from me is racing stuff. IndyCar and Formula 1 are the two main series that I follow and dedicate my time to, but I also follow the American Le Mans Series pretty thoroughly and I also stay pretty well up to date with GrandAm (hey, the Daytona 24 Hours and Blogathon 2011, are just around the corner, right?), the three top NASCAR series, the European Le Mans Series and Le Mans Intercontinental Cup, and lots of the junior formula and undercard series (including but certainly not limited to Indy Lights, Star Mazda, USF2000, SCCA World Challenge, GP2, Australian V8 Supercars, German DTM, and on and on). I'm also a bit of a gearhead, and enjoy talking about street cars and nuts and bolts stuff, but I'll probably leave that stuff to other sites, if I ever do get around to writing about it. This is a sports site, right?

OK, as far as what I'm doing here, I was invited by the staff of Grab Bag Sports to join up with them a few months ago. In my usual timeline of getting around to things, here I am about five months later getting to my first post. Hooray for me! Anyway, my sincerest thanks to the guys here for taking me on board and thanks to all their regular readers for reading (assuming you're still reading this far down in a post that is probably only interesting to me) whatever it is that I might come up with.

Oh, and as Ron started out when this site relaunched as Grab Bag Sports, I also have a grab bag tale of my own to share. Growing up, my brother and I went to A LOT of baseball card shows. He was, being the older of the two of us, far more invested in baseball cards, both monetarily and intellectually, and so he spent most of his time at shows wheeling and dealing and looking for his next investment that was a sure thing to increase in value by 300-800% (by the way, I wonder if he still has that stack of 100 Dave Martinez rookie cards that he bought for like $0.06 a piece?). I spent most of my time wandering around looking for Ryne Sandberg cards, caches of Donruss, so that I could work on scratching a few more cards off of my sometimes-shortening checklist of cards that I needed from the '85 to '88 sets (damn that Barry Bonds rookie card that I still need to this day to finish off the '87 set), and getting sucked in by various tables of "grab bags". I was a total sucker (as my brother told me vociferously and repeatedly), and so I probably spent $150 of my hard earned allowance over the years on what probably turned out to be about $21 worth of assorted commons and Rated Rookies that never panned out. I guess that all that taught me a valuable lesson: don't play the lottery. Also: never trust greasy looking card dealers because there really is only one Bo Jackson and one Orel Hershiser in that entire table worth of bags.

With all of that out of the way, I also have a farewell to make today. As many of GBS's faithful readers might be aware, the esteemed Roy Hobbson of The Silent Pagoda has hung up his spurs and The Pagoda is being deposited in a mini-storage somewhere west of Plainfield. There have been a couple of hints dropped on Twitter that we may not have seen the last of Roy, but at the very least, he's on a good long break for a while. Um, 6 to 8 years with time off for good behavior, to be exact, I think. Anyway, Roy's a solid fella (that stuff that happened in the Coke Lot after Carb Day this year notwithstanding), and a heck of a writer, so I sincerely hope that he finds his way back to The Internets sometime soon. Thanks for all the entertainment you've provided over the last two years, Roy. We'll keep the closet well stocked with Febreeze (for external and internal use, to be sure) until you get back.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Regular Season College Football Fans Could Be Excited For

Oh college football regular season, how you bore… The BCS supporters would have you believe that the BCS is amazingly awesome because “every game counts” or “it makes the regular season matter so much” or “the regular season is the playoffs.”

So for a moment, lets forget about the ridiculousness of calling a system that eliminates undefeated teams a playoff. Forget the money involved, forget discrimination, and bad poll voters and broken computer formulas.

Lets just think about how the BCS actually effects the regular season in a manner of  what truly “matters” to the end goal – a championship. Effectively there are now three weekends remaining in the Division I college football season, and we’re all bored. So bored Pat Forde even spent his space as an ESPN columnist to writing about how boring it is.

TCU and Boise may once again
be playing for nothing
So boring that rather than analyzing potential upcoming matchups, we’re listening to analysts blab about how they think TCU’s close game against a 7-win SDSU doesn’t bode well for them, but pay no attention to Oregon’s close call with a crummy Cal team… because they say so. Regardless of the reasoning behind the Mark Mays of the world, the reason they are giving the opinion, is because that’s all there is to talk about right now, because we’re all bored. Why?

With 3 weeks remaining in the “every game is a playoff” regular season, we’ve already decided the championship game matchup. We’ve even decided on the two alternates for that matchup. The stage was actually set a week ago when Alabama lost to LSU. If there is anything to happen to our championship situation, it must come in the remaining regular season for Auburn or Oregon.

Including conference championship games there are 131 games remaining in Division I… but only 4 of them matter in respect to the championship (Oregon has two and Auburn has two): only 3% of remaining games definitely matter.

If you include the possibilities where Oregon or Auburn lose and then include remaining games for championship alternates TCU/Boise State (possibly LSU) as potentially mattering then it goes up to 8-10 games or 6-8%.

We’re leading in to the BCS post-season and only 3-8% of the remaining season matters? What a shame in a season like 2010 where so many conferences, rankings and bragging rights are still up for grabs.

The Alternative
: In the past we’ve proposed a 16-team playoff with 11 auto-berths for conference champions and 5 at-large spots based on rankings; almost the exact same thing proposed in the popular new Death to the BCS book. Lets think about what could be if we used this proposed and universally liked 16-team playoff system, and how that would affect the remaining scheduled games.

(warning there is some math coming ahead, but its worth it).

SEC: Their championship game will match Auburn and South Carolina (1), but Auburn can’t afford to lose its game to Alabama (2) and also the champ game because that could lose them an at-large position so both games definitely matter.

Stanford could be fighting
for the 5th seed
PAC 10: Oregon has not yet sewn up the title, they and Stanford each have 2 games remaining. Stanford plays one of those games before Oregon can clinch, so both of their next games definitely matter in reference to the playoff post-season. Were Oregon to lose against Arizona all 4 of their remaining games would matter. (2 definite to matter / 4 potential to matter)

ACC: Virginia Tech has the Coastal Division wrapped up but there’s still a 3-way tie in the Atlantic between Maryland, NC State and Florida State so there’s 3 more season games plus a championship game that matter to a playoff; plus Virginia Tech is in position to get an at-large berth without the ACC champ game giving potential meaning to their remaining games (4 definite / 6 potential).

BIG 12: There’s the champ game (1), but before that Nebraska still has win the North with their next game; if they lose to A&M then suddenly their final game and Missouri’s 2 games matter. In the South all Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M’s next game already matter; pending results the final games can matter as well. (4 definite / 9 potential)

BIG EAST: Interestingly Pittsburg has only played 4 conference games thus far, they are in the driver’s seat but have 3 games remaining. Even if Pitt wins their first game, all the 2-loss Big East teams’ next games still matter to keep them alive: that adds Syracuse, UConn, USF, and West Virginia’s next game to the mix (2 more definitely mattering) What if Pitt loses their game to USF? Then it’s a mad house, all the rest of their conference games could matter: (3 definite / 9 potential)

BIG TEN: We have a 3-way tie, but 4 teams are alive (Wisconsin, OSU, MSU and Iowa); all next games definitely matter, but pending results all their final games could matter too (3 definite / 7 potential)

"The Rock" in Hattiesburg could host
playoff implications
C-USA: One championship game, but thanks to Southern Miss’ victory over UCF, still undecided participants. In the East division by virtue of chronology, UCF and ECU’s next games definitely matter, pending the UCF outcome both their final games along with both USM’s games could matter. In the West we need to know what happens in SMU and Tulsa’s next games; and pending their results, final games could matter. (5 definite / 8 potential).

MAC: One championship game and 5 teams vying for a shot to get into it; all of their next games matter; pending results they all likely need to play out their season before someone can clinch.  (4 definite / 8 potential).

MWC: The Mountain West is the only conference that is decided. But even so, Utah’s final game matters in terms of them trying to get back into position for an At-Large bid. (1 definite)

SUN BELT: Like the MAC, another conference with a wide open door and many potential champions, but due to how the scheduling falls, FIA’s next 2 games definitely matter, while the rest of the contenders only matter pending the outcome of those games. (2 definite / 6 potential)

WAC: Common theory dictates that Boise State will be the champ, but math dictates that 4 teams are still eligible, and 3 of the 4 play each other. (4 definite / 8 potential)

How can we live in a world where
Les Miles and his 'damn strong'
football team don't matter?
At Large etc. – In the 16 team playoff, there would be 5 at-large berths up for grabs; and while I’ve addressed some of those implications above, here are some more: All of the Top 25 are within a reasonable mathematical striking distance to an at-large bid depending on outcomes of all the games, meaning they all definitely need to be played and definitely matter. The top 25 is covered in most above, except we need to add definitely mattering for LSU (+2), South Carolina (+2), Arizona, (+1 as 1 was already counted with Oregon) Mississippi State (+2) and Arkansas (already counted with LSU).

Current conclusion: This gives us a current tally of 41 remaining games definitely mattering mathematically to a playoff championship, and a potential for it to reach 66 remaining games having an impact on the postseason.

BUT we’re not done… Very important to the playoff equations are the at-large selections; this means many of the above marked “potential implication” games need to change to “definite implications;” this is because while they may not already be set to affect conference championships they definitely already affect at-large bids. So we change status from potential to definite for: Stanford (swap 1), Wisconsin (swap 1), Nebraska (swap 1), OSU (swap 1), OkSt.(swap 1), MSU (swap 1), Oklahoma (covered by OkSt), Missouri (swap 2), Va Tech (swap 2), Nevada (swap 2), Texas A&M (swap 1), Iowa (swap 1) and Miami (swap 1). Suddenly a whole LOT of games (56) in the final 3 weeks have a definite impact on who our national champion will be.

The Final Conclusion for “making the regular season matter”:
  • A 16-team playoff would mean that 56 of the 131 remaining games would already definitely matter (i.e.have implications on the eventual national champion) – 43%!
  • There is a potential that 66 games could end up mattering depending on early outcomes – 50%!!
  • The current BCS system gives us 4 games (3%) definitely mattering
  • The BCS scenario can potentially have upwards of 8-10 games (6-8%) possibly mattering

BCS = 3-8% of the remaining games in the final 3 weeks of the season mattering   


 16-team playoff = 43-50% matter

Now, can someone explain for me again how the BCS is the best system in making the regular season important???

Monday, November 8, 2010

Another Voice for BCS Frustration

Its not that no one has said it before, but I'm just glad yet another person who takes the time to be aware of the real goings on in the BCS is willing to use their good platform to rail on the stupid BCS system.

Alas, I give you ESPN/Washington Post sports analyst, Michael Wilbon:

BCS deja vu: TCU, Boise State are getting snubbed once again

Friday, October 15, 2010

Formula 1 Championships By the Numbers... Literally

#5 is juuust right
So last weekend I was staying up into the wee hours of the morning to see Formula 1 pretend they were going to attempt qualifying during a freaking monsoon. Oddly enough that may not have been the weirdest thing I saw that night. In fact, that may have been when announcer Bob Varsha informed viewers of the possible scenarios in case qualifying had to be canceled. Plan B) Qualifying is moved to race day, sensible enough… but Plan C) If that 2nd attempt has to be canceled then the cars are lined up on the grid by their car number!

Not point standings, not practice times, not the most recent race’s result; a completely arbitrary identifier on a car. Rather than debate the merit of the system (or come up with other silly ideas, like driver height), I instead just looked at how the grid would have played out, and honestly it wouldn’t have been too terribly jumbled. So that leads me to wonder, is there a connection between good teams and lower car numbers.

Over the last 36 Formula One seasons here is how it breaks out:

#1 = 9 Championships
#2 = 3 Championships
#3 = 2 Championships
#5 = 8 Championships
#6 = 3 Championships
#8 = 2 Championships
#11 = 3 Championships
#12 = 2 Championships
#22 = 2 Championships
#27 = 2 Championships

The breakout between having a single digit and having two digits on your car is 27 to 9. Obviously #1 would be expected to be high because returning champions can obviously be expected to perform well. Secondarily interesting is how well #5 does, trailing #1 by only one championship and with Sebastien Vettel threatening to tie up the score for #5s this season.

But furthermore, if you are the kind of person who believes there is something more than coincidence going on here, well… then I guess of the current five drivers remaining alive, Alonso is the long shot with the #8, and Vettel and Button are your favorites with #s 1 and 5… and poor Nico Rosberg… he was doomed before he even turned a lap with championship-less #4.

But they are just arbitrary numbers on a car... right?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So Who Does the BCS Blame When it’s Out of Excuses?

When it comes to the Bowl Championship Series, unless you talk to the handful of people who run it or the handful more who benefit from it, you will find nothing but disdain, anger and confusion regarding it. It’s not a debated issue, ask anyone if they think the BCS is the best we can do for determining a national champion in Division I-A football and you will get a 100% consensus that it is not. In the twelve seasons of its existence, the system designed (and repeatedly redesigned) for the sole purpose of giving us a National Champion has only produced two completely controversy-less championship match-ups, a 17% success rate.

Grab Bag Sports is no stranger to dissecting the BCS and its committee’s unproven excuses, but as part-time bloggers, we’ve never had the resources to research in more depth than online stats and databases.

So upon learning that Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan spent two years doing the hard research, over 100 interviews and more to get the cold hard facts behind the BCS excuses, its history behind the scenes and financial standing, I was practically salivating. Their findings, Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series, does not disappoint.

Death to the BCS is a must read for anyone who considers themselves a fan of college football in any way shape or form. They manage to tackle every argument, claim and excuse that BCS committee members (noted as ‘the cartel’ by Wetzel, Peter and Passan) have argued as reasoning that we can’t have a playoff. Academic fallout, decreased economic impact, decreased regular season importance, the death knell for traditional bowl games, playoff selection controversy; there isn’t a single anti-playoff argument that isn’t struck down or corrected with facts, research and studies. The approach used alone is why it puts to shame the likes of Rece Davis, Mark May or any other proponent of the BCS.

Wetzel, Peter and Passan don’t stop with simply putting the anti-playoff claims in their place, the real juice of their work comes from interviews with athletic directors, coaches and, most of all, results of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to obtain the financial statements of the current bowl games, possible because, unknown to many, most bowl games operate as tax-exempt non-profits.

As someone whose family lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, one factoid really hit close to home for me:
“The Sugar Bowl received $3 million in direct funding from the Louisiana state government, according to its 2008 tax filing; brought in $34.1 million in revenue. The Sugar Bowl gave nothing. Not a buck to the Hurricane Katrina reconstruction effort. Not a dime to New Orleans after school program. Not a penny to Habitat for Humanity. It hogged everything, including the $3 million in taxpayer’s money.”

The millions pocketed or wasted (those are really their only options) by BCS Bowl Game staff aren’t the only facts to be damning. The shocking discovery, likely to many football fans, is to learn the truth behind all Bowl games financial stability and burden. The numbers prove most bowl games usually end in a HUGE loss for the schools sending their teams to play. Losses in the hundreds of thousands, losses after the so called bowl game payouts (sometimes negotiated away from the teams in order for the privilege to play). And that’s not exclusive to the Boudreaux’s Butt Paste Bowl, once the University of Florida split its payout amongst its conference, pays all the team/band/cheerleader travel, coach and AD bonuses and lodging for the National Championship game it stood to gain a measly $47,000… for the National Championship.

Then there's the mind-numbing... baffling discovery found in the straight admission by members of the Harris Interactive poll that they didn’t even watch a single game of the University of Utah before they trounced Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Yet these same people who don’t even watch the teams are controlling those same teams destiny.

Interestingly enough, Wetzel, Peter and Passan provide a solution that is eerie in its stark similarly to the solution produced here at GBS just short of a year ago. Great minds think alike I believe they say; but that one difference between our proposed solutions (home games versus neutral sites for quarter and semifinals) while debatable on the surface is plenty convincing once you take a look at the money required to have a game at a neutral field vs. sensibly funneling revenue straight into the colleges/conferences that host them.

By this point the questions don’t lie with debaters like us or the likes of Wetzel, Peter and Passan anymore, but instead for the BCS. Definitive proof is now supplied for general public consumption proving that none of their excuses hold any water. With possible litigation coming not only from anti-trust lawsuits but now also possibly the IRS, how will they attempt explaining that because we may complain about the occasional paper cut in a playoff, they’ll continue to punch us in the face instead?

Who/What do the BCS ‘cartel’ blame now for its greed?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Will Power Has Already Won

Before we get into it, let me just say this; Dear:  Hyatt Place Downtown Seattle... I think it is considered false advertising when the word "Downtown" is in the name of your hotel and yet I'm looking at the skyline of downtown Seattle from the distance out of my window... just saying... "Hyatt Metropolitan General Area" might be a little more appropriate... but anyways...

So we are just one day away from the IndyCar Series season finale. I have to assume some kind of record, 5th consecutive season that the championship will be decided in the final race, and if Will and Dario Franchitti put on a close show, it could even be the 5th consecutive time it may be decided on the final lap of the final race. Chase that NASCAR...

But even if you stand back for a second from the points battle, who will win, how awesome it is the series has had so many tight battles, and the fact that Dario could easily be building the best resume of any driver in the past 15 years... there is this:

One year ago, Will Power was in a back brace and we didn't know if he'd ever walk, let alone drive competitively again. Two years ago Will was dropped out of KV Racing Technology's roster because Aussie Vinyeards dropped their sponsorship of him when the Surfer's Paradise race was dropped (or at least that's what was claimed as reasoning).

Two and a half years ago when Will Power got his first lap around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he responded by saying exactly "How in the heck do people go flat out around this track?"

For even if Will Power does win the championship this weekend at Homestead/Miami Speedway; he's already done one thing; he's proven to many young kids out there, to many aspiring young drivers, and even to current drivers overcoming injury like Mike Conway that overcoming adversity is entirely possible. Excelling after hitting the lowest of lows (from losing sponsors or losing the ability to stand) should still be shot for and aspired to; because if you put your heart into it, you can accomplish great things, and working VERY hard can reap wonderful rewards.

Will Power is already a winner, this weekend he's just trying to add another trophy to his shelf.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

PlayoffPAC Files 27-Page IRS Complaint Against BCS Bowls

While I said I wouldn't write anything more about the BCS this year. It certainly does not mean we won't paste in a very newsworthy release that was sent our way. The following is not the work of any writers at GrabBagSports; but its highly worth reading. - Wedge:

WASHINGTON, DC--Playoff PAC, the principal opposition group to college football's Bowl Championship Series ("BCS"), today filed a 27-page legal complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against bowl organizations affiliated with the BCS.  The complaint lists significant tax irregularities discovered through a methodical review of over 2,300 pages of tax records and public documents. 
The complaint was submitted to the IRS on Playoff PAC's behalf by Marcus S. Owens, former head of the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division, and Joseph M. Birkenstock, former Chief Counsel of the Democratic National Committee.  Both attorneys are Members of Washington, D.C. law firm Caplin & Drysdale.

Playoff PAC co-founder Chad Pehrson said: "BCS Bowls all claim to be '501(c)(3)' public charities--the same tax designation as the American Red Cross--to make their revenues tax-exempt and obtain other taxpayer-funded benefits.  Playoff PAC's review uncovered a disturbing pattern of BCS Bowl organizations using their charitable funds to enrich Bowl executives, pay registered lobbyists without disclosure, fund political campaigns, and heap frivolous benefits on Bowl insiders.  The BCS Bowls' activities raise important concerns under federal tax laws and we anticipate that the IRS will give these issues due attention."


Federal law prohibits BCS Bowls from abusing their favorable tax status and using their charitable funds to enrich Bowl executives.  However, Bowl officials are rewarded handsomely for promoting the BCS's once-a-year events with lavish salaries, sweetheart loans, and generous perquisites.  The findings of Playoff PAC's review include the following: 
  • The Sugar Bowl's top three execs received $1,225,136 in FYE 2009 on revenue of $12.7 million, meaning that just three people skimmed almost $1 of every $10 the Bowl earned.
  • Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker received $317,717 in FYE 2009 for working just 21 per week from the Arizona Sports Foundation, the Bowl's lead entity.  Mr. Junker's total compensation package from all Fiesta Bowl-related entities was $592,418 for FYE 2009, nearly quadruple the CEO pay at similarly sized charities.
  • The Fiesta Bowl gave two Bowl executives $240,000 in unsecured interest-free loans, reportedly to pay for their personal memberships in a private golf club.
  • Sugar Bowl Exec. Dir. Paul Hoolahan received $645,386 in FYE 2009, a year in which the Sugar Bowl lost money despite receiving a $1.4 million government grant.  Mr. Hoolahan collected $25,000 more than the Rose Bowl's top three executives combined.
  • BCS Bowls use charitable funds to fly Bowl execs and spouses first-class, pay private club dues, and foot the bill for employees' personal income taxes.  The Orange Bowl, for example, spent 756,546 on travel in FYE 2009 for its employees.

To be clear, BCS Bowl officials should receive "reasonable compensation" for their efforts.  But BCS Bowl officials are not entitled to appropriate charitable funds for their own benefit in the form of above-market salaries and excessive perks.  To do so is an abuse of their organizations' favorable tax status.


Federal tax laws require all tax-exempt charities, including the BCS Bowls, to disclose fully all lobbying payments to the public and the IRS.  But Playoff PAC's review has uncovered rampant failures to disclose activities that clearly constitute lobbying.  The Fiesta Bowl has somehow repeatedly affirmed on its federal tax returns that it does not "engage in lobbying activities."  Yet the review has found that the Fiesta Bowl has engaged in the following activities:

  • Gave $1.2 million for "consulting" to one registered Arizona lobbying firm and retained two other registered lobbying firms for undisclosed sums;
  • Paid $123,637.93 for state officials' entertainment and out-of-state travel expenses;
  • Registered with the Arizona Secretary of State as a "principal" each year from 2005 to 2010, signifying that it employed lobbyists to "attempt[ ] to influence the passage or defeat of ... legislation by directly communicating with any legislator" on its behalf; and
  • Pushed specific legislation that required taxpayers to, among other things, bear game costs while forgoing all ticket, concession, and advertising revenue at a state-owned stadium.
These facts show that the Fiesta Bowl undeniably engaged in lobbying as defined under federal tax rules, and should be held accountable for its failure to disclose properly over $1.2 million in lobbying fees and expenses.  The Orange Bowl also appears to have made several large payments to registered lobbyists that were inadequately disclosed.


            As a public charity, the BCS's Fiesta Bowl is strictly prohibited by federal law from using charitable funds to contribute to political campaigns. 

Despite this ban, The Arizona Republic reported that five Fiesta Bowl employees made contributions "at the urging of [Fiesta Bowl CEO John] Junker and were reimbursed a few weeks later."  Donating charitable funds directly to political candidates is clearly against the law; funneling donations through employees by arranging to reimburse them is no less illegal.  The Fiesta Bowl attempted to stem the controversy ensuing from The Republic's reports by paying a consultant to perform a cursory internal review.  But after the Arizona Secretary of State conducted a real investigation, he recommended that the state Attorney General open a criminal investigation on potential violations of state election laws.

            The Fiesta Bowl's use of charitable monies to support a politician's legal defense fund also appears to violate the federal ban on "political intervention" by tax-exempt charities.  Despite the fact that its purpose is supposedly to promote amateur athletics, the Fiesta Bowl made monetary contributions out of charitable funds to former Congressman J.D. Hayworth's legal defense fund.  At the time, Mr. Hayworth was testing the waters as a U.S. Senate candidate and pitching donations to his legal fund (which was used to settle politically related legal expenses) as a way to jump-start his candidacy.


Bowl organizations have long justified their existence, if not their tax-exempt status, by trumpeting their magnanimity.  But as reported in the press, the 23 bowl games run by charitable groups "combined to give just $3.2 million to local charities on $186.3 million in revenue."  Playoff PAC's review of charitable giving by BCS Bowls revealed a similarly lackluster record.  While BCS Bowls were relatively frugal with their charitable grants, they were positively spendthrift when it came to less worthy causes.
  • Gave $1.2 million for "consulting" to one registered Arizona lobbying firm and retained two other registered lobbying firms for undisclosed sums;
  • Paid $123,637.93 for state officials' entertainment and out-of-state travel expenses;
  • The Orange Bowl spent $535,764 on "gifts" in FYE 2006;
  • The Fiesta Bowl spent $1,325,753 on "Fiesta Frolic," an "annual weekend golf retreat for college-football officials at a Phoenix-area resort" from FYE 2005 to FYE 2008;
  • The Orange Bowl paid $331,938 for "parties" and a "summer splash" in FYE 2004;
  • The Sugar Bowl spent $710,406 in FYE 2007 and FYE 2008 on a mysteriously vague category called "special appropriations;
  • The Fiesta Bowl spent $91,020 on "travel or entertainment expenses" for "federal, state, or local public officials" in FYE 2009;
  • The Orange Bowl spent $111,492 on "postage and shipping" in FYE 2008;
  • The Sugar Bowl paid $201,226 for "gifts and bonuses" and $330,244 on "decorations" in FYE 2008;
  • The Fiesta Bowl spent $444,948 on "hospitality" in FYE 2009; and
  • The Orange Bowl paid $42,281 for "golf" in FYE 2004 and FYE 2006.

This BCS Bowl spending calls into question the Bowls' need for the substantial government assistance they receive.  If the Orange Bowl can afford to spend $535,764 on "gifts" and $756,546 on travel for its personnel, why does it deserve charitable status and the resulting "free ride" on paying taxes?  If the Sugar Bowl shells out $201,226 for "gifts and bonuses" and six-figure sums for its crony-filled "Football Committee," why has it received $5,448,539 in government grants the past three years?  And if the Fiesta Bowl has had the money to spend $331,438 per year on a "Fiesta Frolic," why did it need a hefty taxpayer-funded subsidy from the State of Arizona?  These are among the important questions raised by Playoff PAC's review.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Bat Rules!

Tyler Colvin's potential rookie of the year season ended sooner than expected last week when a broken bat impaled his chest. So now we're hearing the debate about maple bats and how they should be banned. I think we could take it a step further. Similar to how interleague play (and steroids) gave baseball a burst of energy, we could take this opportunity to make some rule changes and add some excitement. Here are a few options to consider:

1. 100% Cork Bats - You know how we're supposed to believe that a corked bat adds like 200 feet to every pop fly? Imagine ALL CORK, ALL THE TIME! If that little piece of cork (and a ton of steroids) helped Sosa hit 66 HRs one year, then an entire bat being made of cork could yield 1,000-foot long balls. Right? (Plus, I doubt cork would impale a guy's chest.)

2. Other team gets a run - If your bat breaks, the pitcher should be rewarded for his extreme pitching that has the ability to break wood. His team should get a run. (This is an exciting possibility. The idea of scoring runs while on defense means you'd have to bat in the bottom of the ninth even when you have the lead. Obviously you'd want to just keep the bat on your shoulder and take the strikeout, but could today's stars really stand up there without trying to pad their stats?)

3. Make your own bats - Like on The Natural, you should have to make your own bat. From a tree. Wanna be a major leaguer? Fine, make a bat. If it breaks, make another one.

4. One bat per game - If you break your bat at any point, you just have to keep using it for the rest of that game. You can always just hope for a walk.

5. Mini-souvenir bats - This is an amendment to the "one bat per game" option. Except in this rule, if you break your bat, then for the rest of the game, you're only allowed to use the mini-souvenir bats they sell at the stadiums. (In Spring Training, we'll test out applying the same rule for batting helmets, where your back-up plan is the mini-helmet ice cream bowls.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good news!

Yahoo just let me know that I am lucky (as a LeSean McCoy fantasy owner) that Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver is likely out for the season with a knee injury. Good news! Glad that guy hurt his knee so Yahoo could congratulate me for eventual McCoy production. I just might send an e-mail to all my family and friends to tell them about this recent development of fortune!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My First Demolition Derby

I am obviously not knowledgeable about motor sports of any kind. Before Wedge started hosting race parties and pools, I wouldn't have even been able to name any racers. But at least I can now say that I recognize a few names when I hear them. I can also at least have fun participating in this blog, including our super-fun Blogathon, and even put Indy races on for a few minutes every now and then. And of course, I have now actually attended a race with Wedge here in Nashville. Here's proof!

So tonight I decided to branch out even further and headed to the Tennessee State Fair to check out the Demolition Derby. When I got there, I realized quickly that I was in a new world. A world known as Demolition Derby.

First of all, 90% of the audience members either (a) were smoking, (b) had tattoos, or (c) both. Without a tattoo or a cigarette, I thought I'd be asked to leave before the demolition could even begin!

Then, while waiting for the doom and destruction to start, as my kids played with... you know... toys... the little girl next to us played with JALAPENO PEPPERS. She was sticking her fingers in the juice, then she'd put her finger in her mouth or her eyes. She was coughing and had tears in her eyes! But her dad was jamming to Lynard Skynard, so no one noticed.

Another strange occurrence was the presence of one lone merch table near the bathrooms. All they were selling were t-shirts with the name "Brynn Marie" on them. I thought this must have been the name of one of the contestants. The Danica of Demolition Derby! But no, it turned out to be the girl singing the National Anthem. They also told us she'd be signing autographs, but when I passed her table, she was alone, eating nachos. I bet she would've sold more shirts if she had been in the Derby.

Nonetheless, I am happy to report that you do not need cigarettes, tattoos, or even Brynn Marie autographs to enjoy a good Demolition Derby. Watching these guys smash into each other was amazing. It makes me want to get some guys together, buy some old cars, and do this ourselves. (Blogathon 2011. Who's with me?)

Here are a few pictures I managed to get...

This Volunteers-themed car didn't bring Tennessee any luck against Oregon tonight:

Car #89 was the first one to break down tonight:

Then he needed a forklift to move him out of the way.

The quality here is even worse than the others, but it's a funny a story. This guy's steering wheel fell off before he even got into the demolition area, so he couldn't steer it in and didn't get to participate.

This is one of the last pictures I could get before it got too dark. The driver in this car was fine and even tried to continue in this heat, but couldn't get the car running again.

And here is a little video I got. Sorry there is no audio.

Unfortunately, darkness (and being so far away from the action) prevented many good pictures. But it was still a pretty fun night. This is 9/11. This is Demolition Derby. God Bless America!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Art Form That No One Asked For

In the past few decades a trend has really taken precedence that no sports fan will deny; it is simply that announcers/analysts have vastly increased their role in sports coverage. While some could argue that this has meant the expansion of knowledge depth given to fans/listeners/watchers; many (myself included) would argue that it’s actually diluted the analysis and really has only majorly served to promote… well… the analysts.

Writers and talking heads making a name for themselves is not anything new, but because of the expansion of radio broadcasting capabilities, the introduction to local TV stations, and then the explosion of the internet, satellite radio and all the other mediums leads to a whole heck of a lot of talking and writing sportsters. As a result, its led to an art form that I think many would like to see die, and that is the art of sports-peoples standing out.

This brings me to the recent story and so-called “outrage” over Dan Hampton. For those who don’t know, Hampton (a former NFL player) is an analyst on a TV show called Pro Football Weekly. On said show this past week, while analyzing the New Orleans-Minnesota game Hampton dropped this gem:
“the Vikings need to hit that town like Katrina.”

Now if you have a brain and a pulse, and know of Hurricane Katrina, you understand why it wasn’t exactly the smartest thing to say. What is more interesting to me isn’t necessarily his comment but instead the reaction to it. You have two sides, those who think it’s incredibly offensive and think Hampton should be fired (will address in a second), and those who think that the comment is “fair game” because New Orleans by their own will have interconnected the New Orleans Saints to Hurricane Katrina.

First let me tell you why it’s not fair game, by explaining that I grew up in New Orleans (25 years of my life in the New Orleans region); my family and many friends lost their homes in hurricane Katrina (including our very own Deuce and both my and Ron Furious’ parents) by no fault of their own except trusting a government who lied about how well levees were built. More importantly many people lost their lives in the disaster and many of us have gone through the destruction, and now the still ongoing rebuilding process; and that is simply not something that is ever “fair game.” If there is ever one rule of humor, its that real death and destruction aren't funny or "clever," but instead simply ignorant.

But the more important issue here for me isn’t the ignorance or stupidity of those who make the comment or think its ok; its people who are “outraged” and demand apologies or firings. For starters, it’s stupid to demand an apology because there’s no way sincerity can ever be part of a requested apology. Secondly rarely ever are people actually offended, and instead are just bored people with airtime on Fox News or MSNBC. But more importantly it’s because firing a guy over making this dumb comment would be just as dumb as he is for making the comment.


Because this wasn’t Dan Hampton’s first day on the job, and it wasn’t even his first time saying something of a stupid nature. After learning of this incident, I’ve gone back to read/watch more of Hampton’s analysis/color commentary and to be honest the Katrina comment isn’t exactly surprising nor does it offend me personally. It just comes across as stupid, the only offense to me is that someone who thought that was a good idea had the job in the first place and that now I’ve now lost time in my life having spent listening to him that I won’t ever get back. Firing him now would be like firing an executive at BP for lying about how well the cleanup is going.

Last week the Nationals turned “vacation” for Rob Dibble into permanent firing because of some comments Dibble recently made about Stephen Strasburg. ESPN had to fire Jay Mariotti because of his domestic abuse arrest and way back when Rush Limbaugh got in trouble of inherently racist things he said about Donavan McNabb. In all cases the stations don’t look good for getting rid of these guys, they looked stupid for having ever hired them in the first place. Dibble was a decent pitcher but he’s a horrible commentator/analyst; Mariotti was hardly likable or insightful and I’d say just the same for Limbaugh… not to mention the MANY other sports yakers who have had similar issues in history.

This isn’t even the first time someone has tried to throw a horrible metaphor into sports analysis. In fact recently while going through old newspaper clippings of my grandfather’s school/minor league baseball career, we discovered an astonishing metaphor from the local writer who compared his pitching hard like he wanted to “get those Japs.”

So it brings us to the cause of this whole thing to begin with; the actual problem that should offend people: It’s not Dan Hampton saying the retarded Katrina comment, it’s the fact that he thought he needed a “clever” metaphor to make himself stand out. The problem is broadcasters (especially ESPN) have put entirely too much emphasis on how much the sports yaker “stands out” and less emphasis on checking how smart they are for starters, and then the ability to stand out and make metaphors second.

It’s why we get so many idiotic TV commentators who can’t describe a single play of a game and instead give us “did you see that!?” type stuff or catch phrases, or analysis on things that don’t need analyzing. And it’s why I need to go bang my head against a brick wall because I just found out that Matt Millen wasn’t enough idiocy for the NFL Network, they decided they needed to add Joe Theisman to their cast.