Que Sarah, Sarah

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Blackhawks '08 Remix

By Sarah Spain
December 23, 2008 04:02 PM

It's that time of year. Sarah Spain shows off her more creative side with a hockey spin-off of the holiday classic. The old Christmas poem, revisited...Blackhawks-style and just in time for the upcoming Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings.

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through Wrigley,

Not a creature was stirring, not even Versteeg.

Skates had been placed by the lockers with care,

In hopes that come New Years they still would be there.

The Blackhawks were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of hat tricks danced in their heads;

And Dale in his pjs, and Joel in his cap,

Had just settled down for a pre-Classic nap,

When out on the ice there arose such a clatter,

Joel sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Out to the dugout he flew like a flash,

Raced up the steps and kicked over the trash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave a goal-light glow to the ice rink below,

When, what to Joel’s wondering eyes should take place,

But a magic zamboni rounding first base,

With a little old driver so full of glee,

He knew in a moment it must be McD.

Speeding like fastballs his skaters they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Kaner! now, Sharpie! now, Toews and Eager!

On, Khabby! on Campbell! on, Havlat and ‘Steeger!

To the top of the crease! All the way to the boards!

Now skate away! Skate away! Skate away, Lords!

Like Mikita and Savvy, Hull and Hall,

They owned the ice, one and all.

From blue line to blue line the skaters they flew,

Duncan and Barker and Seabrook, too.

And then, in a twinkling, Joel saw on the ice

Burish and Johnson—healed up all nice.

As he waved his hand, and smiled with glee,

Off the zamboni jumped a sprightly McD.

He was dressed all in Gucci, from his hat to his boots,

And he shined with the sparkle of freshly-made loot.

From his sack a handful of giveaways he plucked,

Bobbleheads, posters and autographed pucks.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up in a smile,

Spread ear-to-ear like a crocodile.

A Hawks TV schedule held tight in one fist,

In the other a team nice-and-naughty list;

He had graying hair and a face slightly pinched,

He looked like a happier, friendlier Grinch.

He was lean and tall, a right jolly old elf,

Cool and collected and sure of himself;

He looked off in the distance, as if to dream,

And Joel knew he was hatching a marketing scheme;

He went straight to his work and spoke no words,

Pinstriped the jerseys and ivy’d the boards.

Called up Jeremy Piven to sing “Here Come The Hawks”

Dubbed “Hockeyville” the stadium and it’s surrounding blocks.

Joel leapt up from bed—it was all just a dream,

Fans weren’t there for the hype, they were there for the team.

“Thanks, McD, for all you’ve done.”

“But our real ONE GOAL is to be number one!”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Love It Or Hate It: Sleeping With The Enemy

By Sarah Spain
Originally published 4/1/08 on TheLoveOfSports.com

A few hours before the Chicago Cubs officially began their 2008 season, Ernie Banks, known throughout the world as Mr. Cub, was honored with a statue outside Wrigley Field. Banks spent his entire career –19 seasons—with the Cubs, and Monday his love affair with the city and the team was finally immortalized in steel and bronze.

At the ceremony, Banks boasted that he’s the only pro athlete to spend his entire career in one city (Chicago), under one mayor (Richard Daley), for one owner (P.K. Wrigley) and in one park (Wrigley Field). He finished by saying: “I played all my home games under one light, and that’s God’s light.”

That kind of loyalty (and eloquence) is hard to find these days.

Across the country, another player was remembered for his days with a Major League ball club. Jeff Conine, (who I’m told is known throughout South Florida as Mr. Marlin) signed a one-day contract with the Marlins Friday afternoon so that he could “technically” retire as a member of the team with whom he won two World Series rings. Before today’s season opener, Conine, who also played for Kansas City, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, addressed the home crowd, saying: "Even though I wore five different uniforms, I always considered myself a Florida Marlin.”

If Banks’ speech was a heartfelt love letter to a life-long spouse, Conine’s was a post-it note apologizing to a disgruntled wife for a few adulterous trysts.

Of course, Conine shouldn’t be blamed for switching teams more often than Anne Heche. In today’s world of professional sports few athletes are afforded the luxury of playing for one team and one team only. Those who can are forever associated with the town in which they made their name: Kirby Puckett, Walter Payton, Dan Marino, Steve Yzerman, John Elway and Cal Ripken, to name a few. Players these days barely have time to get to know their local groupies before they’re off to a new area code with new…well, you know how the song goes.

So what’s a modern day fan to do?

Is a kid who grew up idolizing the Red Sox’s Johnny Damon supposed to just forget about him because another team scooped him up in free agency? On the other hand, isn’t that same kid a traitor if he roots for the Yankees’ Johnny Damon?

What about Tom Glavine fans who burned their #47 jerseys when he left the team for the hated New York Mets? Now that he’s back in Atlanta is all forgiven, or will the Braves faithful always remember that Glavine chose money over loyalty?

Now that one of my favorite Bears, Bernard Berrian, has been lost in the free agent market to NFC North rivals, the Minnesota Vikings, I can’t very well cheer for him, can I? Even if deep down I love him, I’d have to hate myself for rooting for a Vike, right? Well…it’s just not that easy, is it.

Memories of a player can’t simply be erased when he changes teams, much in the same way memories of a lover aren't forgotten immediately after a break-up. That guy is still the guy who hit that game-winning homer or drained that series-winning three, even if he’s not technically your guy anymore. And really, what’s so bad about wanting the best for someone who gave his best to your team for years? Who can be faulted for wanting to hang on to the good times you had with your team’s former superstar? Why can't a girl sleep in a tent on the street outside her ex-boyfriend's apartment if they used to like camping a lot?

Not everyone can be as faithful as Ernie Banks but, thankfully, not everyone is as slutty as Jeff Conine. As for those guys in the middle, the players you used to love but who have now moved on, can you really "stay friends?"

Are Giants fans who secretly want Jeff Kent to have a career year with the Dodgers, in essence, sleeping with enemy? Are New England fans who like to see the Colts’ Adam Vinatieri succeed making cuckolds of their Pats? If you root for one guy and not his whole team, isn’t it kind of like hooking up outside of state lines or sleeping with someone else when you’re “on a break”—it’s not really cheating? If I invite Bernard Berrian into my proverbial boudoir, but I keep Adrian Peterson and company out of the house, will the Bears still have grounds for divorce?

Can you root for a player on a rival team or do you have to cut ties when your team does? Sleeping with the enemy, love it or hate it?

Hawks Squawk: Rookie Kris Versteeg Early Favorite For Calder

By Sarah Spain
Originally published 11/24/08 on MouthpieceSports.com

Chicago Blackhawks rookie Kris Versteeg would never admit to checking out the stats of his fellow rookies or scanning the NHL leaderboards for his name. The 22-year-old forward is content just to be a part of one the league’s fastest-rising teams.

“I just try to help this team win,” Versteeg told me earlier this season. “It doesn’t matter in the rookie race where I finish, it matters where the Chicago Blackhawks finish.”

Despite his “team first” approach, Versteeg’s individual play has him leading the pack in the race for Rookie of the Year. Named to this week’s NHL.com “Hot List” for his recent play, the Lethbridge, Alberta native is making the most of his enviable position sharing a line with superstar sophomores Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

In his last four games, Versteeg has put in four goals and dished out three assists. He’s riding a five-game scoring streak and has scored 20 points in his 19 games with the Hawks—a mark that ties him for second-most on the team with Patrick Sharp. His +/- of 11 trails only Aaron Johnson on the team and leaves him tied for seventh overall in the NHL.

In 2004, the Boston Bruins drafted Versteeg in the fifth round, but he was traded to the Hawks for Brandon Bochenski in 2007. Versteeg played just 13 games with Chicago in 2007, spending most of the season with the Rockford Ice Hogs. Many scouts pegged the 5’10”, 180 pounder as too small and too weak for NHL standards.

Versteeg, following in the footsteps of diminutive linemate Kane, who won the Calder Trophy last year, looks to be enjoying proving his doubters wrong.

His 20 points, 13 assists and plus-11 rating are all first among rookies. His seven goals put him third behind the Leafs’ Mikhail Grabovksi and the Blue Jackets’ Derick Brassard, who have nine and eight goals, respectively.

Of course, Versteeg himself is the first to point out that his success is due in great part to his teammates.

“I‘m playing with two great players,” said Versteeg of linemates Kane and Toews. “It’s fun playing with them … those two are pretty special.”

With a nose for the net, great hands and endless hustle, Versteeg manages to keep up with the two 2008 Calder Trophy finalists. His success on the first line has allowed the Blackhawks to use Sharp to anchor the second, a move that helps compensate for the team’s lack of a true second line center.

A confident, outgoing guy (this season’s impromptu locker room serenade of Fergie’s “Glamorous” came as no surprise to his teammates) Versteeg is handling his newfound success with equal parts aplomb and humility. He’s quick to smile and eager to praise the efforts of his teammates, two great qualities that never show up in a box score.

The Hawks are just 19 games into the 82-game season, so only time will tell if Versteeg can stay hot all year. The NHL, enjoying one of its most popular seasons in years, would certainly benefit from a funny, personable guy like Versteeg (from an Original Six team, no less) taking home the hardware at year’s end.

The song that should accompany Versteeg on his walk to the podium at the 2009 NHL Awards ceremony? “Glamorous,” of course.

The Top Ten Things Chicago Sports Fans Are Thankful For This Year

By Sarah Spain
Originally published on 11/25/08 on MouthpieceSports.com

Mariotti and mashed potatoes. Cubs wins and casseroles. Sarah Spain lists the top ten things Chicago sports fans can be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving. It’s not just about stuffing your maw full of turkey and sweet potato casserole, over-imbibing and passing out on the couch ten minutes into another display of Detroit Lions’ futility.

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for your blessings. Family, friends, health, wealth (well, what’s left of it) and, of course, sports. In honor of the most delicious of all holidays, I present:

The Top Ten Things Chicago Sports Fans Are Thankful For This Year

10. Jay Mariotti’s Resignation: After 17 years of uninspired, unfunny and uh-nnoying contributions to the Chicago Sun Times, the city’s least-favorite columnist finally called it quits. Mariotti claims to be the only Chicago writer who tells it like it is, but negativity for negativity’s sake is worse than blatant homerism. No, Jay, Chicago is not, as you said, “a weak market,” and it’s certainly even stronger without you in it.

9. The Chicago Cubs’ Season: Before the disappointment and heartache of the playoffs, there was the joy and excitement of the Cubs’ wildly successful 2008 regular season. Fans should be thankful for 97 wins, a no-hitter from Carlos Zambrano, an eight-run comeback win over the Colorado Rockies, a series of Brewer beat-downs, a Wrigley sweep of the White Sox and countless other magical moments. While some believe a World Series win is the only thing that matters, there’s something to be said for six months of outstanding baseball. For half of 2008, Chicago fans were treated to the best baseball in the world. That’s something to be thankful for.

8. Cubans: Not the cigars, or Mark (though we’ll be very thankful if he finds a way to beat the system and buy the Cubs). Nope, Chicago fans are thankful for Cuban baseball players, who look to be a big part of the 2009 Chicago White Sox. Teenage slugger Dayan Viciedo, a Cuban defector, recently signed with the Southsiders and will join fellow Cubans Jose Contreras and Alexei Ramirez.

7. The Emergence of Kyle Orton: You won’t get far in the NFL without a capable signal-caller (see: 2007 Chicago Bears) unless your team’s defense is so good it can also provide the offense (see: 2006 Chicago Bears). After several years in the shadow of the biggest turkey of all, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton finally snatched up the starting job this season and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s no Tony Romo, but Captain Neckbeard possesses the skill, strength, size and smarts to keep this inconsistent Chicago Bears team competitive. For the first time in a long time, the Bears’ offense is the constant, while the team’s defense is the question mark every week. A quarterback we can believe in? Definitely worth giving thanks for.

6. Inspiring Comebacks: Though only one of them will be back next year, both Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster are worthy of our thanks. Woody had 34 saves and 84 Ks in 66 innings in his first season as the Cubs’ closer. Not only did his success help the team win games, it was also cathartic for fans who spent years rooting for the return of the former NL Rookie Of The Year. After struggling out of the bullpen in recent years, Dempster spent the offseason and spring training trying to work his way back into the starting rotation. Lou Piniella gave him the nod and Dempster shocked everyone, playing well enough to earn a couple Cy Young votes. Pitching at Wrigley last year, he went 14-3 with an ERA of 2.86, enough to earn him a four-year deal with the Cubs. Now, if he could just make that World Series prediction come true…

5. Cedric Benson’s Arrest For BUI (Boating Under The Influence): Normally I wouldn’t wish for anyone—even White Sox fans—to run into trouble with the law, but Cedric Benson’s arrest was a real highlight of my summer. Truth is, Benson couldn’t score in your family’s annual flag football game, not to mention the NFL. The sorry excuse for a running back was sent packing after the arrest and the city of Chicago couldn’t be happier. Which leads us to…

4. Matt Forte: Holy crap it’s nice to have a real running back! Chicago Bears’ rookie Matt Forte needs just 91 more yards to break the 1,000 yard mark, a feat accomplished by only three other Bears rookies. He’s on pace to gain 1,810 yards from scrimmage on the year, the most by any Bears player other than Walter Payton. The second-round draft pick has 909 yards so far this season, good for fifth overall in the NFL, and first among rookies. With a running style sweeter than pecan pie and jukes that’ll freeze you faster than a gust of wind off Lake Michigan, Matt Forte’s arrival is definitely something Chicago should be thankful for.

3. The New-Look Chicago Blackhawks: There are countless reasons to be thankful for the resurgent Hawks. For the first time in the storied history of the team, fans can watch every single one of the Hawks’ 82 games on TV. Pat Foley, who was unceremoniously dumped in 2006 by former Hawks higher-ups is back in the booth where he belongs. Chicago is leading the league in attendance, an incredible feat for a team that looked dead in the water just a few years ago. Most importantly, the team is putting together one of its best seasons in recent years and looks primed for their first playoff run since 2001-2002.

2. Derrick Rose: Looks like one year of college ball was all Derrick Rose needed. In his first NBA season, the Memphis product is averaging an absurd 19 points, 5.7 assists and 3.9 boards per game. Rose is putting Chicago ball back on the map, breaking down defenders and taking it to the hoop with the authority of a shopper navigating sales on Black Friday. Less than 20 games into the year, he’s already assumed a leadership role on this team and feels comfortable taking the shot with the game on the line. The Bulls, formerly Chicago’s darlings, have become an afterthought in the last few years, but Rose might just be their saving grace.

1. Barack Obama: Alright, fine. He’s not really a sports figure, but he’s a big White Sox fan, repped the Bears on Monday Night Football and wants to throw his weight around to get a college football playoff. Plus, he’s a native Chicagoan and the guy can hoop. The election of our 44th president is something everyone—not just Chicago fans—can be thankful for.

Top Ten Sports-Related Halloween Costumes for 2008

By Sarah Spain
Originally published 10/17/08 on MouthpieceSports.com

Halloween is fast approaching and people everywhere are scouring the web for this year’s hottest costumes. Ladies, you don’t want to show up at the party only to find you’re one of many dressed as “Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin.” And fellas, you’re not gonna be the only “Joker in a nurse’s costume” at the club, so don’t run the risk of that pretty bird you’ve been working all night accidentally leaving with that other guy in face paint and a red wig.

Here’s an idea! Why not combine your passion for sports with your passion for alcohol-infused, obesity-promoting holidays? Below: 10 sports-related Halloween costumes that are sure to amuse, entice and/or offend.

10. Tim Donaghy: In July, the former NBA ref was sentenced to 15 months in jail for gambling on games he officiated.
Costume Requirements: For all you lazy fans out there, this costume is quite simple. A ref’s outfit, a wad of cash and some handcuffs. If you wanna get creative, tape a “Parking in rear” or “Exit Only” sign to the seat of your pants and carry some soap on a rope.

9. Madonna & A-Rod: Perfect for couples! Now that both superstars have split with their spouses, the most in-shape twosome since Hans and Franz are free to be together forever—or at least until next season starts.
Costume Requirements: HIS: The Yankees are out of the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, so an A-Rod jersey and a Yankees ballcap can be bought on the cheap. Not so cheap? That hundred dollar bill you’ll have to carry around and use as a napkin. HERS: On her Sticky & Sweet tour, Madonna has been seen rocking knee-high boots, fishnet stockings, a pleather leotard and a top hat. All should be easy to find at your local S & M store. (Bonus: Add some boxing gloves and you’ve got your Oscar De La Hoya costume ready a year early!) .

8. Michael Phelps: Guys, are you dying to show off those chiseled abs one last time before winter sets in? Here’s your chance.
Costume Requirements: A speedo, goggles, eight gold medals, aggressive manscaping.

7. David Tyree: Everyone remembers the unbelievable catch Giants’ wide receiver David Tyree made in Super Bowl XLII.
Costume Requirements: A New York Giants uniform, a Super Bowl ring and a football to glue to your helmet. Don’t glue the football to your hand, though—you might need that hand to double-fist.

6. Misty May-Treanor: Just months after winning her second straight Olympic gold with beach volleyball partner Kerri Walsh, May-Treanor tore her Achilles tendon rehearsing for Dancing With The Stars.
Costume Requirements: A sparkly gown, high heels, tranny-licious makeup, a cast and crutches. Carry around a volleyball and recruit friends to be your partner, Maksim, and judges Carrie Ann, Bruno and Len.

5. 2008 Barry Bonds: The King of the Swing hasn’t taken one since the end of last season, despite filing for free agency in October of 2007. Let people know what Bonds is up to now that his baseball career appears to be over…
Costume Requirements: A San Francisco Giants uniform, an impossibly large head, a McDonald’s visor and a drive-thru headset.

4. Pacman Jones: Gather your hos together to celebrate everyone’s favorite strip club-frequenting, gun-toting, suspension-lovin’ NFL cornerback!
Costume Requirements: A life-sized Pacman costume (true to the original video game), a bottle of Cristal and a wad of singles. Recruit all your “lady friends” to be strippers that escort you around the party, occasionally pausing to pick up your scrilla after you make it rain.

3. Manny Ramirez: The newest LA Dodger did it all for the blue in the 2008 playoffs. In eight games he batted .520, walked 11 times, hit four homers and drove in 10 runs.
Costume Requirements: A Dodgers jersey, a head full of dreads, a cane and a back-brace (from carrying the rest of the Dodgers on your back).

2. Chinese Gymnast: Ladies, this is a great way to have an of-the-moment costume, but also, as is the Halloween tradition, wear little to no clothing.
Costume Requirements: Red leotard, a red scrunchie and barrettes for your hair. Blue eyeshadow, chalky hands, underdeveloped breasts and baby teeth. Don’t forget to proudly display your fake passport and be sure to eschew the traditional water bottle for a baby bottle.

1. Epic Fail: Any Chicago Cubs player.
Costume Requirements: A Cubs uniform, something to choke on and a box of Kleenex for your fans.

Blogs With Balls 1.0 Recap

By Sarah Spain
Originally published 5/15/09 on MouthpieceSports.com

It’s Monday afternoon and I’m still recovering from hours of hand-shaking, air-kissing and card-pushing at the mutual admiration society that was the first annual Blogs With Balls convention. The event allowed many who have communicated with each other solely via e-mail and Twitter to finally meet in person. It was great to put faces with names (both real and aliases) and to get to know the personalities behind some of the most influential voices in sports and new media.

While there were certainly differences of opinion and moments of contention, in the end it seemed that most everyone agreed on a few basic points:

1. Talent and hard work will win out in the end, whether in mainstream media or blogging. As Bethlehem Shoals of Free Darko so eloquently put it during his panel: "I hate bloggers who can't write!" It doesn’t matter how much you like sports, if you don’t know how to write, then blogging is not the profession for you. Period. The fear that uneducated, untalented bloggers will make a big mark in the world of sports is irrational. As with most everything in life, talent will rise to the top.

2. The terms “blogger” and “journalist” don’t mean what they used to. Many credentialed mainstream media members write “blogs” these days. That just means a particular piece they’ve written is intended for consumption online. Some “journalists” have even less access than “bloggers” (or, in some cases, simply choose not to take advantage of their access). Even the term “media” gets lost in what one panelist described as a “first person” world. Is Shaq a media member because he twitters about games? Are bloggers media members simply because they’ve decided to create a blog and write about something? Is the idea that media is limited only to credentialed members of the press antiquated? Dan Levy has a great take on this in his recap of the weekend. (http://onthedlpodcast.com/Blog_Podcast/Blog/Entries/2009/6/15_The_Official_Blogs_With_Balls_Review__What_Was_Answered_and_What_Questions_Came_Out_Of_A_Fantastic_Event.html)

3. Everyone should understand the importance of research and reporting. (Levy also covers this, in regard to a Bill Simmons podcast interview of Erin Andrews). Mainstream media members should not be the only people digging below surface level for a story. The most compelling stories—on the web or in print—are those that feature strong opinions based on facts.

4. The notion that blogs are written by those who want but can’t get mainstream media jobs is tired. Successful bloggers are as educated, talented and followed (if not more so) than many of the reporters who show up to the ballpark every day and get sound bites.

Which leads me to a topic that I spoke a bit about on my panel, but found really intriguing as it popped up in a number of discussions throughout the day: how does access affect coverage?

One of the earliest complaints about bloggers was that the anonymity of the web allowed any Joe Blow off the street to spout off about any number of topics without having to answer to criticism or back up his or her claims with proof. Those who used their virtual soapbox solely for the purpose of ripping athletes, teams or reporters gave a bad name to everyone in the blogosphere. Talented writers who wanted to give a voice to the fan and view sports with a fresh perspective got lumped in with the guys who posted unfounded rumors and hadn’t learned the difference between “your” and “you’re”.

I have an interesting perspective as someone who produces what most view as “blog content” but with the access of a credentialed mainstream media member. In my opinion, there’s a balance to be found between eschewing access and getting so close to the athletes you can no longer report objectively.

In an interview with Buzz Bissinger following their Costas Now appearance, Will Leitch wrote of bloggers: “We enjoy the distance that ignoring the press box gives us; it allows us to remain in touch with being an actual sports fan, and respond to sports in the way actual sports fans do. We're not chummy with anyone, and we're not out to get anybody either. The distance is (theoretically) what keeps us clear.” (http://deadspin.com/5020265/our-conversation-with-buzz-bissinger)

Yes, seeing Derrek Lee speak to the media whether he’s gone 0-for-5 or had the game-winning home run, does affect my opinion of the guy. He’s the most respected player in the Cubs’ clubhouse by his teammates and the media, both for his attitude and his work ethic. Knowing this, I cringe when bloggers or radio callers say he’s “not trying.” Not one tiny part of me thinks his early-season slump was the result of him “not trying” and that’s because I was at the ballpark every day, watching him put the work in and seeing his frustrations mount with every strikeout or double-play ball. That doesn’t mean I don’t cover his struggles objectively, it just means I have a point of reference to speak from when doing so.

Sure, rip a guy for throwing the ball in the stands after two outs (I’m talkin’ to you, Milton) but don’t give yourself the authority to make claims about him as a person if you’ve never so much as shared air space with him. Now, if you dislike a player because he’s a crap interview or he blames his mistakes on his coach or any other legitimate reason, chances are he’ll give you the quotes to back that up. Armed with truth, your opinion will be viewed as legitimate commentary, rather than just the spewing of another schmo searching for a spotlight.

Be funny, be edgy, be controversial, but consider the power of your words. I agree with what ESPN’s Amy K. Nelson said about considering your subject. Your intended audience may very well be different than your actual audience. (Jerod Morris’s Raul Ibanez fracas proves that - http://www.midwestsportsfans.com/2009/06/what-i-learned-during-the-most-bizarre-week-of-my-life/). If you would never say in person what you’re writing, figure out why. If you’re writing the truth (which is what everyone on stage at BwB seemed to imply is the goal) then you should feel comfortable backing up your statements to the very person you’re making them about. You get a pass if the post is about wanting to sleep with his wife, though.

Having said all that…the truth is, access or no access, if your shit is funny, compelling, original and smart, you can get away with a lot. If it’s not, you just sound like a dick.

Which brings us right back to the beginning. Talent will rise to the top. The panelists—and many of the attendees—at Blogs With Balls confirmed as much. The taste-makers and industry-changers are those with a unique take on sports and the skills to express that take. After meeting me for a few drinks with some of the speakers Friday night, a friend of mine from college told me, despite not being particularly into sports or the internet, how fascinating and inspiring she found it to listen to a group of people who are so obviously passionate about what they do. Blogs with Balls panelist Jeff Pearlman said as much in his wrap-up of the weekend. (http://jeffpearlman.com/?p=1853)

It was a pleasure to meet so many people who love what they do and are interested in making a difference in an industry that was stagnant for a very long while. Props to the guys from Hugging Harold Reynolds for putting it together and props to those from the mainstream media who had the balls to attend or appear on a panel in a room full of potential haters. No props for ESPN’s “Blog Buzz” segment, which didn’t have the balls to say the word “balls.”

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NHL Legend Jeremy Roenick On Retiring, Regrets, Fame & The Future

By Sarah Spain
Originally published 8/9/09 on MouthpieceSports.com

NHL legend and former Chicago Blackhawk Jeremy Roenick took time out to talk to MOUTHPIECESPORTS personality Sarah Spain about his decision to retire from the National Hockey League after 20 years. Roenick talks about leaving Chicago, the state of hockey and his advice for Patrick Kane and the rest of today's players. He even reveals which opponent he'd most like to deck.

SARAH SPAIN: Now that your hockey career is over, there's so much to reflect upon. Of all the things you’ve accomplished, what are you most proud of?

JEREMY ROENICK: I think just my career in general. I don’t think there’s any one specific thing, but if I had to pick one I think scoring 500 goals. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d be able to accomplish that, especially with as few people that have done that. But I think the fact that I’ve played the game as hard as I have for the length of time that I have, without really wearing down. I was able to keep up a very, very physical style of the game and my body withstood it right to the end, so I’m pretty lucky about that.

SS: Looking back are there things you regret—interviews, quotes, actions on or off the ice?

JR: The only thing I wonder is what would have been different if I didn’t get traded from Chicago in ’96. What would have happened if I would have stayed there. Obviously not all of it was my doing. The Hawks, at the time, didn’t believe in the big contracts and didn’t think that the contracts and the salaries would get to the level that they’ve escalated to, which is understandable—they had their belief and I had mine. You know, that pretty much led to my big move. But nothing that I said I regretted. I probably wish maybe I said it a little differently or made sure that the media understood it better so they didn’t throw me under the bus at times. But no, there’s nothing that I regret I said or did…but I would like to know what it would have been like if I had played my whole career in Chicago. It would have been pretty unbelievable.

SS: Now that that’s all over—and your career is over—do you see your departure from the Hawks the same way you did when it happened or is there some honesty and truth about what went down that was never really revealed at the time?

JR: You know, I think that’s all…well, Bill Wirtz had to run his business the way he saw fit. He did a lot of things that a lot of people didn’t like. You know, he didn’t put games on TV, he didn’t agree with the salary structure as it was moving forward. As soon as the salaries were being released and disclosure came about and salaries started escalating, he didn’t believe that they would go to the level that they did—and that’s perfectly fine. So…I understand, it’s his business and he can run it the way he deserves and he wants. I was in full agreement—it was with that same thought process that I ran my life; that was, at the time that I was in Chicago, I wanted to get paid $4 million. They didn’t think that I was worth that. They thought that that was a lot of money to pay an athlete. You know, they didn’t think that I’d be able to get that—well, big deal, four years later I was making double that $4 million. That was their thinking, they were wrong in their thinking in terms of where the salaries were going and, in general, it lost me for the rest of my career. I think it did hurt me a little bit…but it also hurt the Hawks with where they went for the next 12 years. It’s nice that Rocky [Wirtz] has changed all of that thinking and has really brought the Hawks back onto the map and done great things with this team. Now it’s paying off for them ‘cause the fans are coming back and it’s a full building and there’s excitement again. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why.

SS: You’ve mentioned several times that you’d think about joining the Hawks’ front office—is that still an appealing idea even after everything that has happened this offseason?

JR: Oh, absolutely. Without question. I’m a Hawk through and through, it’s in my blood. That’s where I started, that’s where the best days of my career were. I’m very, very proud that I got to wear the Indian Head on my chest. There’s no question. My loyalty is also to Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks and to the Flyers—it’s to the people that I worked for that showed me class and did things for me. You know, I’ll show my loyalty to them. If the Hawks ever came to me and asked me to do something and work with them, or to join the front office or something, that would be like a dream come true for me; to get to represent the team that put me in the life I’m in. I’m very, very fortunate for that and I would love that.

SS: Have you reached out to anyone in the Blackhawks organization or spoken to anyone about any of the offseason issues, whether it be keeping quiet about the Hossa injury or the problems with the qualifying offers?

JR: I have a lot of opinions. I understand that some things are business-related and have to stay under wraps. I have my own opinions about the Dale Tallon situation, I have my own opinions about the Hossa situation. But, you know what…you know, if I was in a media position…I would speak my opinions, but I’m going to be politically correct and say that they choose to do business the way that they want to do business and…you know, can’t fight them on that.

SS: During your retirement press conference you talked about a special moment you shared with Gordie Howe as a little boy and the effect that had on you for the rest of your life—how it made you always want to take time to connect with your fans. Have you ever had a teammate you felt you needed to tell to straighten up and be a better guy with the fans?

JR: Absolutely, and I have. I have gotten into a lot of guys’ faces and I have yelled and I have screamed. I preach to a lot of guys that they have to be better. I think Keith Tkachuk has gotten a lot better with the fans because of our friendship and me telling him that he’s gotta give more time, you know, to sign, and to not be so standoffish. I think Tony Amonte has learned a lot from watching me deal with the media and the fans and he has become very good with both. I think those are two examples of guys I think have learned from the way I’ve dealt with fans and media and have gotten very good at doing those things.

SS: What do you say to those who think your interest in fame and celebrity took away from your game at times?

JR: I think it’s all just excuses to try to find flaws, because if they can argue with 500 goals and almost 1,300 points and almost 1,400 penalty minutes and all the other accolades—having the most game-winning goals in American history. If they can argue that my media took away from my game, well I find it very hard for them to win that argument.

SS: Lots of talk about you taking a gig in broadcasting—do you ever worry that your sometimes controversial opinions would get you in trouble with a network or do you think you’d be more like Charles Barkley, who gets away with it because it’s clear he’s speaking from experience?

JR: I wouldn’t be affiliated with any teams, I’d be independent. I don’t answer to anybody, I answer to myself, so I would be very much like a Charles Barkley. I’d very much say how I feel and how I see it and if you don’t like it, that’s too bad. I’ll also maintain a level of respectfulness, not demeaning someone ‘cause of their race or their religion or their ethics. Just tell it like it is, whether it’s good or bad. If you don’t like it, see ya later.

SS: Are there guys in the league that you would like to call up, maybe tell them to spice things up? Maybe you think they have the opportunity to fill a hole that you’re leaving in the league, personality-wise.

JR: You know I’ll tell you the truth I don’t think guys have the guts to do it. I don’t think there’s guys out there that have the—for lack of a better word—I don’t think they have the balls to step up and be an individual and push the limits of what they can say and what they can do, because they worry what their teams are gonna say, their GMs are gonna say and what their teammates are gonna say.

SS: Do you think that that’s the state of hockey today?

JR: I think it’s the mentality of the league and the squeaky clean image that the NHL likes to have. That’s the vision that they hold and if that works for them and that’s what they want to do, like I said, I don’t tell people how to run their businesses or their companies or their leagues. Publicity is an amazing thing in this world and sometimes negative publicity is better than no publicity at all because it puts you on the map. But, the NHL is a wonderful organization, it’s a first-class organization and a squeaky clean organization. There are a lot of guys who will be very reluctant to challenge that and I totally understand it.

SS: So speaking of sqeaky-clean images, the Patrick Kane arrest situation is adding fuel to an already volatile situation in Chicago, what with the offseason the Hawks have had. Kane’s a young guy, what kind of advice would you give him?

JR: Well first of all he’s a hockey player and just saying that, he’s a respectful person and he’s a good person. I know him very well and I’ve talked to him at length at times. I know he’s a really good kid. People use youth as an excuse for a lot of things and I think he will use that, but I also think the experience he’s going through will teach him a lot about being a professional athlete, about being a celebrity and about putting himself in the proper situations and acting in certain ways. Patrick Kane is now gonna realize that he represents one of the most storied franchises in all of sports and one of the greatest organizations in the world, the National Hockey League. He’s gonna have to answer to those people and he’s not gonna like having to answer to those people with what happened and that will stick with him. He’s respectful and he’s smart and he’ll learn from it….he’s gonna become a better person because of it.

SS: Beyond the hockey-related gigs and broadcasting, is there another job or experience you hope to have that no one would ever expect from you?

JR: Yeah, I’m gonna sell insurance. Can you believe it? This is gonna be important to me, ‘cause who would have ever thought that Jeremy Roenick was gonna sell insurance? I was asked to join forces with an insurance company and a friend of mine here in Arizona. I said the only way that I will do it is if you make sure that you take care of the people that have taken care of me my whole career. And that’s make sure that you save them money, give them good coverage, and if I bring somebody’s account to you, you give them the best possible rate that they can find on the market. He promised that so I said: okay, let’s do it. I will go out and I’ll bring people to you and make sure that I take care of those people and all their coverage needs are well-met but they save money at the same time. It’s kind of like a way of giving back, also.

I’m dealing with an energy drink, too, called Verve. I’m doing things for kids’ charities. Trying to put some good juices and good vitamins into kids so they don’t have to drink the cokes and the sodas and the high sugar stuff. Trying to take care of kids out there.

SS: Alright, let’s finish with a speed round:

Toughest guy you ever played against? Mark Messier
Goalie you most hated to face? Dominik Hasek
Team you played the best against? Toronto Maple Leafs
Favorite coach to play for? Mike Keenan, but I also really enjoyed playing for Hitch [Ken Hitchcock] and Ron Wilson.
Biggest hockey idol? Rick Middleton
Player you’d most like to punch off the ice? Jordin Tootoo

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I Love: Jason Fagone


This article is amazing. I don't even like or play video games. It's not about video games, it's about life and creativity and art--and fantastic writing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - Still looking for a Halloween costume?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Still looking for a Halloween costume?


The Top Ten Sports-Related Halloween Costumes for 2008

Halloween is fast approaching and people everywhere are scouring the web for this year's hottest costumes. Ladies, you don't want to show up at the party only to find you're one of many dressed as "Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin." And fellas, you're not gonna be the only "Joker in a nurse's costume" at the club, so don't run the risk of that pretty bird you've been working all night accidentally leaving with that other guy in face paint and a red wig.

Here's an idea! Why not combine your passion for sports with your passion for alcohol-infused, obesity-promoting holidays? Below: 10 sports-related Halloween costumes that are sure to amuse, entice and/or offend.

10. Tim Donaghy: In July, the former NBA ref was sentenced to 15 months in jail for gambling on games he officiated.
Costume Requirements: For all you lazy fans out there, this costume is quite simple. A ref's outfit, a wad of cash and some handcuffs. If you wanna get creative, tape a "Parking in rear" or "Exit Only" sign to the seat of your pants and carry some soap on a rope.

9. Madonna & A-Rod: Perfect for couples! Now that both superstars have split with their spouses, the most in-shape twosome since Hans and Franz are free to be together forever—or at least until next season starts.
Costume Requirements: HIS: The Yankees are out of the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, so an A-Rod jersey and a Yankees ballcap can be bought on the cheap. Not so cheap? That hundred dollar bill you'll have to carry around and use as a napkin. HERS: On her Sticky & Sweet tour, Madonna has been seen rocking knee-high boots, fishnet stockings, a pleather leotard and a top hat. All should be easy to find at your local S & M store. (Bonus: Add some boxing gloves and you've got your Oscar De La Hoya costume ready a year early!) .

8. Michael Phelps: Guys, are you dying to show off those chiseled abs one last time before winter sets in? Here's your chance.
Costume Requirements: A speedo, goggles, eight gold medals, aggressive manscaping.

7. David Tyree: Everyone remembers the unbelievable catch Giants' wide receiver David Tyree made in Super Bowl XLII.
Costume Requirements: A New York Giants uniform, a Super Bowl ring and a football to glue to your helmet. Don't glue the football to your hand, though—you might need that hand to double-fist.

6. Misty May-Treanor: Just months after winning her second straight Olympic gold with beach volleyball partner Kerri Walsh, May-Treanor tore her Achilles tendon rehearsing for Dancing With The Stars.
Costume Requirements: A sparkly gown, high heels, tranny-licious makeup, a cast and crutches. Carry around a volleyball and recruit friends to be your partner, Maksim, and judges Carrie Ann, Bruno and Len.

5. 2008 Barry Bonds: The King of the Swing hasn't taken one since the end of last season, despite filing for free agency in October of 2007. Let people know what Bonds is up to now that his baseball career appears to be over…
Costume Requirements: A San Francisco Giants uniform, an impossibly large head, a McDonald's visor and a drive-thru headset.

4. Pacman Jones: Gather your hos together to celebrate everyone's favorite strip club-frequenting, gun-toting, suspension-lovin' NFL cornerback!
Costume Requirements: A life-sized Pacman costume (true to the original video game), a bottle of Cristal and a wad of singles. Recruit all your "lady friends" to be strippers that escort you around the party, occasionally pausing to pick up your scrilla after you make it rain.

3. Manny Ramirez: The newest LA Dodger did it all for the blue in the 2008 playoffs. In eight games he batted .520, walked 11 times, hit four homers and drove in 10 runs.
Costume Requirements: A Dodgers jersey, a head full of dreads, a cane and a back-brace (from carrying the rest of the Dodgers on your back).

2. Chinese Gymnast: Ladies, this is a great way to have an of-the-moment costume, but also, as is the Halloween tradition, wear little to no clothing.
Costume Requirements: Red leotard, a red scrunchie and barrettes for your hair. Blue eyeshadow, chalky hands, underdeveloped breasts and baby teeth. Don't forget to proudly display your fake passport and be sure to eschew the traditional water bottle for a baby bottle.

1. Epic Fail: Any Chicago Cubs player.
Costume Requirements: A Cubs uniform, something to choke on and a box of Kleenex for your fans


Monday, October 20, 2008



http://www. mouthpiecesports. com/media/15184


FRIEND ME!!! : )

Wednesday, October 08, 2008 - I’M F****IN’ STEVE BARTMAN!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Cub fans everywhere are mourning the team's colossal tank job and wondering if the curse will ever be broken. Fear not, for I've taken it upon myself to end the Cubs curses once and for all.

See the video below for all the answers. Don't worry, it's safe for work...bleeps a'plenty. : )


Monday, October 06, 2008 - Go Nuts For The White Sox?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Go Nuts For The White Sox?


Saturday, September 13, 2008 - B-E-A-R D-O-W-N

Saturday, September 13, 2008




B elieve. Last year after training camp, the Bears claimed to be stronger, faster and better than the Super Bowl squad of 2006. Their 7-9 record proved otherwise. This year's preseason contests led many to believe that Chicago fans were in for another year of heartache. Opening day, the Bears ran all over the Colts, beating the AFC South favorites 29-13. That's why they play the game.

E fficiency. In the season opener, Kyle Orton was a respectable 13-of-21 for 151 yards and, most importantly, helped the Bears go 10-for-16 on 3rd downs. When Orton plays conservative, smart football, the Bears succeed. Seven different players caught passes from Captain Neckbeard, none for more than 50 yards. In Carolina, the offense should stick to the game plan that helped them crush the Colts–establish the run and throw to the open man-—whoever it may be.

A dewale. Bears' defensive end Adewale Ogunleye was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for week one, registering three tackles and three tackles-for-loss in Sunday's season opener. Ogunleye was also responsible for the Bears' lone safety, taking down Colts' running back Joseph Addai in the 2nd quarter.

R unning man. After a spectacular NFL debut, Matt Forte can no longer fly under the radar. Last week Forte became the first Chicago rookie running back to start in an opening game since Walter Payton in 1975. His 123 yards were the most ever by a Bears' back in his pro debut and the 12th highest rookie rushing debut in the history of the league. He showed tremendous breakout speed, quick feet, great hands and cutbacks so devastating he had the Tribune Company taking notes. Forte will have his hands (and feet) full in Week 2, facing a Panthers defense that held LaDainian Tomlinson to under 100 yards rushing last week.

D efense. The black 'n blues brothers are back. After a disappointing preseason that saw the Bears D make guys like JT O'Sullivan look like Pro Bowlers, the Monsters of the Midway opened up 2008 in classic style. They helped Indy christen the brand spankin' new Lucas Oil Stadium with sacks, strips, stunts and a safety. Carolina's offense looked poised and potent against the Chargers last week, despite being without the efforts of stud wide-out Steve Smith. The Bears D will need to continue to attack the line of scrimmage and take away the deep ball if they hope to contain Jake Delhomme and a surprising Panther receiving corps.

O h my, O-Line. Taking Chris Williams first in this year's draft, Chicago seemed determined to shore up its aging offensive line. After losing Williams to injury before one down of regular season football, all hope seemed lost. Not so fast, Chicago fans. The o-line was surprisingly strong against the Colts, protecting Orton and creating big holes for Forte and the run game. I'm worried about the return of Fred Miller, who was cut after a miserable season last year (and has gotten nothing but older since then) but perhaps the Bears' brass sees something I don't in the veteran tackle.

W here receivers go to die. Once and future Panther, Muhsin Muhammad, gave the Bears some bulletin board material last month when he told Sports Illustrated "Chicago is where receivers go to die." While Moose and his former teammates in Chicago have tried to downplay the significance of the comment in recent weeks, there's no denying that the pass-dropping, AARP card-holding wideout will have a big target on his back in Week 2. Even old friends like Tommie Harris, who remember the 13-year vet fondly, have plans for Sunday's reunion. "Moose is like a brother to me," Harris said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him. I might give him a big hug or something; maybe tackle him across the middle if it's a wide receiver screen or something."

N ew game, new challenges. Blasting Indy on Opening Day was sweet revenge for Super Bowl XLI, but one game does not a season make. After a week of watching tape, Carolina will be ready to take on Forte's feet and Babitch's blitzes. Orton and the Bears' receivers will need to play a much bigger role in week two and Chicago's D will have to stay creative and aggressive. I expect big games out of Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen and wouldn't be surprised to see Orton and Hester connect on a deep ball early in the game.

Thursday, September 04, 2008 - Get To Know Your Gators

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Get To Know Your Gators


TLOS Preview: 4 Florida

By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

(Starting August 1st, The Love of Sports began featuring one college football program each day, breaking down their offense, defense and - most importantly - their food, beverage, cheerleaders, tailgating prowess and all-around campus life! That's because those are the things we value here the most. College football is all about the atmosphere, and that's exactly what we'll give you all season long!)

Today's Preview - Florida Gators

TLOS Preseason Rank: 4
TLOS Predicted Record: 11-2
2007 Record: 9-4

I'm not exactly the biggest college football nut in the world. I'm not gonna lie to you.

You see, the football team from my alma mater, Cornell University, probably couldn't crack the high school Top 25, not to mention the Division I college rankings.

So, I enlisted the biggest UF fan in the world, Mike "I'd go gay for Tebow" Geezy to help me drop some Gator knowledge on the masses.

It wasn't hard to convince him, especially since I guaranteed him a Top 5 spot in the rankings if he did it. Seems only fair.


Last year, UF quarterback Tim Tebow became the first sophomore in history to win the Heisman Trophy. The guy was automatic, finishing second in the nation in pass efficiency while becoming the first major college player ever to throw for 20+ touchdowns and rush for 20+ touchdowns in the same season.

Geezy's take: "Basically, the guy walks on water. If I came home one day and found him in bed with my wife, I wouldn't even be mad."

Tebow won't have to do it all himself. Florida's returning some talented targets, too. Versatile junior WR (and sometime tailback) Percy Harvin is recovering well from offseason surgery for a nagging injury to his heel bone and, if back in prime condition, could battle Tebow for the Heisman this year. One of the most explosive players in the nation, he totaled 1,622 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, becoming the first receiver in school history to have over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a career.

Geezy's Take: "Harvin is the Devin Hester of college football. Absolutely untackleable (yeah, I just made up that word), 4.2 speed and can cut on a dime. Simply put, he's the most dangerous playmaker in the nation."

Other playmakers include tight end standout Cornelius Ingram and a stable of solid RBs. Kestahn Moore will likely be the starter, but the Gators are counting on a big year from Emmanuel Moody, a five-star recruit out of high school who sat last year after transferring from USC. Redshirt freshman Chris Rainey might just be the breakout player of the year for the Gators. The diminutive scatback could be a huge difference-maker for UF.

Geezy's Take: "Rainey is basically a human highlight reel. He's far and away the best 'quote' on the team, too - constantly cracking jokes and speaking his mind, no matter how it may sound. Oh yeah, and UF also has Jeffrey Demps, who just a couple months ago ran the fastest 100 meters by a high schooler EVER ... but he could very well redshirt this year, because they're so deep at the position."

The skill positions may be sexy, but the O-line is the heart of the Gators. Their top offensive lineman, Phil Trautwein, missed all of last year with a stress fracture, but he'll be back at left tackle and ready to lead UF's best O-line in years.


Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was voted preseason First-Team All-SEC, is the leader of what looks to be a very mediocre Gators defense. DE Carlos Dunlap will have big shoes to fill, taking over for the eighth overall pick in last year's NFL Draft, Derrick Harvey. Corner Joe Haden and free safety Major Wright both started all last season as true freshman, a testament to UF's lack of depth. Their secondary was atrocious, but should be better now that those two have a year of experience under their belts. Starting strong safety Dorian Munroe is out for the year after tearing his ACL, and much beloved co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison left UF for the Baltimore Ravens. There are two solid guys on the D-Line, Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap, but after those two, things get messy. Bottom line: UF's offense will have to carry this team.

Geezy's Take: "Spikes is rated as one of the best MLB in the country by many, but I think he could stand to improve A LOT. True freshman Will "The Thrill" Hill has a chance to start at safety, but will have to compete with Ahmad Black, who had a great spring. Hill's drawn numerous comparisons to maybe my favorite Gator of all time, Reggie Nelson, or as Gator fans call him, RFN (can you guess what the F stands for?)"

Season Outlook

After a rebuilding year that saw UF go a disappointing 9-4 last season, hopes are high for coach Urban Meyer's squad. While the Gators are probably another year away from being championship caliber, if everything fits into place they've got a chance to go all the way this season.

The three main rivals are Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State, but one of the biggest games of the year will be against a team they haven't beaten since 1985, the Miami Hurricanes. While they don't play Miami every year, the 'Canes dominance in recent years has made them the team to beat.

Geezy's (honest) Take: "I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. Pieces of s*** scum, their thug nation will invade Gainesville and get spanked. Bitches."

The Old Ball Coach

Of course, any time UF faces their former Heisman Trophy-winning QB, national title-winning "Head Ball Coach" and basically the face of the program, Steve Spurrier, things get serious. Spurrier's Gamecocks will return to the Swamp on the opposing sideline for the first time since 2006, when Jarvis Moss blocked a chip shot field goal with no time left to preserve a Gators win and their national title hopes.

Geezy's Take: "When Spurrier returns it might be the first time in college football history that both the opposing coach (Spurrier) and a current QB (Tebow) face off in a stadium that already has both of their names and numbers painted on the walls."

The game of the year for UF will be against the Georgia Bulldogs - an annual event dubbed "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." Last year, the entire 'Dawgs squad stormed the field and danced in the Gator endzone after scoring the game's opening touchdown. The move so angered UF coach Urban Meyer he slammed the Bulldogs in his new book, vowing to get revenge.

Geezy's Take: "In my opinion, this will be THE best football game of the entire year, in the entire country. We have a bone to pick with Georgia after that chickens*** move they pulled last year. Did I mention that we've won 15 of the last 18 matchups?"

School Traditions

The 2009 Princeton Review just named UF the 1 Party School in the nation, an "honor" that's no surprise to the school's alumni. Gainesville's got it all: the food, the Southern charm, the tailgating and, of course, the girls. (Seriously, even I can appreciate the kind of women that result from uninterrupted sunshine and an all-year-long bikini season). The Swamp holds over 90,000 people and is widely viewed as the loudest, most intimidating stadium in all of college football. One of the most chill-inducing traditions for Gator fans comes at the end of the 3rd quarter, when the entire crowd locks arms and sways in unison to "We are the Boys." When Meyer was hired, he put in place a few new traditions. One, The Gator Walk, is when the entire team, dressed in suits and ties, walks through a pack of cheering fans, giving high-fives on their way into the stadium. Another is the serenade that follows every game--a team-wide singing of UF's alma mater and fight song in the corner of the field facing the student section.

Geezy's Take: "Don't forget Mr. 2 Bits. I'd try and explain who he is, but it'd be too long-winded. Google him. Hes a legend."

Famous Alumni

--Steve Spurrier, Former Florida head coach, NFL 1 draft pick
--Emmitt Smith, NFL Hall of Famer, game's all-time leading rusher
--Cris Collinsworth, All-Pro WR, NBC and Showtime broadcaster
--Fred Taylor, All-Pro NFL running back
--Heather Mitts, World Cup & Olympic soccer player
--Erin Andrews, ESPN broadcaster and blog icon
--Jesse Palmer, The Bachelor, former Giants backup QB, curent ESPN broadcaster
--Joakim Noah, Sideshow Bob of the sports world
--Bill France, Jr., Former president of NASCAR
--Tom Petty, OK, he was never technically a student, but was born and raised in Gainesville and actually used to work for the UF grounds crew - no kidding
--Joe Scarborough, Host of Morning Joe on MSNBC
--Jonathan Demme, Academy Award-winning Director, Silence of the Lambs
--Faye Dunaway, Academy Award-winning actress, Network
--Stephen Stills, Musician - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Sunday, August 31, 2008 - Ramirez’s Late Inning Lumber

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ramirez’s Late Inning Lumber


Rami's The Cubs' Biggest Stick

By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

Thursday night, Aramis Ramirez powered the Cubs to a comeback win over the Phillies with an eighth inning grand slam.

The Cubs' sixth straight win put them at 34 games over .500 and gave manager Lou Piniella something to smile about on his 65th birthday. Wrigley Field was rockin' as the Northsiders moved even further atop the N.L. standings.

Nearly every man on the Cubs roster has played the hero at some point during this magical season. From Alfonso Soriano's solo shot to beat the Phillies on Friday, to Daryle Ward's ninth inning three-run pinch hit job to beat the Marlins in mid-August, all the way back to Ronny Cedeno's five-RBI performance in a big 8-1 victory over the Mets in April.

This team's shown itself to be full of gamers. But of all of the Cubs' clutch performers, no one's been bigger in big situations than Ramirez.

After Thursday's game, Ramirez spoke to reporters about his late inning heroics. "I've been able to do that since the minor leagues," he said. "I've always been able to drive in runs. It's something I'm proud of, and I like to be in that situation late in the game."

As of Saturday afternoon, Ramirez had 100 RBI on the year, 45 of which came in the seventh inning or later. That means 45 PERCENT — nearly half for those of you not big on math — of his RBI have come late in games, when they matter the most.

Ramirez, who leads the Cubs in RBI, is now tied with Carlos Lee for third-most RBI in the NL behind Ryan Howard and David Wright.

Still not impressed? How 'bout this for a stat? Ramirez has 24 home runs this year, and 11 of them have come in the seventh inning or later. Yup, that means 45 percent of his long balls have come in the clutch, too.

As the Cubs look to put the past — and their supposed curses — behind them, they can rest assured that with Ramirez in the lineup, no game is over until the final out is recorded.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 - Love It Or Hate It...There’s Something About Favre

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Love It Or Hate It...There’s Something About Favre

Love It or Hate It?
By Mad Love on 07/29 at 05:47 PM
.. -->
OK people, I think it's apparent this Brett Favre thing has gone just about far enough! Yet, the media keeps jamming it down our throats. I know Sarah Spain's fed up with it, but how about you? Do you Love or Hate the Favre coverage?

By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

Monday, on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption, host Michael Wilbon started off the show by lamenting ...

"There's a ton — a ton! — of great baseball stuff to talk about, but NOOOOO! We, like everybody else, are obligated to smother you with wall-to-wall Brett Favre."

ESPN has always tried to force-feed its audience time-killers during the slow summer months ("Who's Now?" and "Titletown, USA" anyone?), but rarely do its anchors acknowledge a dead horse while it's still being beaten.

A story that began as nothing more than a few rumored text messages has quickly become a PR nightmare for the Green Bay Packers and a topic of endless discussion for the sports media. As one of the most compelling baseball seasons in years rounds the corner into the home stretch, and the Beijing Olympics loom on the horizon, it's the "will he or won't he" of one man that dominates the headlines.

Brett Favre is the sports world's Britney Spears.

Even as reporters and writers bemoan Favre's complete media takeover, they contribute to it. Stories like "Brett Favre: Sick and Tired of the Guy" and "Brett Favre – Get Off My TV" dominate popular sports blogs. Shows like PTI introduce another day of Favre news (or non-news, as is often the case) with an apologetic preface, but wouldn't dream of letting the topic go unaddressed.

If everyone's so over Favre, then why is everyone still talking about him?

The truth is, Love It or Hate It, Favre's struggle to un-retire is compelling — especially for those who saw it coming.

Mere moments after the face of the Packers tearfully announced his retirement, rumors of his imminent return began to circulate. I guess statements like "I know I can play, but I don't think I want to" didn't make for a very convincing exit.

A little over a month after his official press conference, Favre's appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman left the proverbial door even more ajar.

"I think when training camp gets close, I will ... something's bound to happen," Favre said cryptically. Letterman saw an opening and jumped on it: "What does that mean? You just said, 'Something's bound to happen,' so this makes me think you're not retired."

Favre replied with a wry smile, "Butterflies, or I don't know. I don't know. Something's bound to happen."

Something has happened, and it's literally tearing Green Bay apart.

When rumors of Favre's return first emerged, it seemed everyone was on the side of the future Hall of Famer. Fans were excited at the prospect of his return, and media members assumed the Packers would welcome him back with open arms, a la Michael Jordan and the Bulls or Jay-Z and Def Jam.

But as negotiations continue, the idea of Favre wearing the Packers' green and gold seems less and less likely. The team's embraced a new quarterback, in Aaron Rodgers, and two more signal callers were added to the team via the draft. Plans were made for life without Favre.

Who could ever have imagined the organization would turn its back on the man who just months ago led them to the brink of Super Bowl XLII? The man who's been the name and face of the franchise for 16 years. Even more surprising is that the majority of Green Bay fans seem just as ready to move on as their owners.

Therein lies the intrigue that keeps this story on the front pages of newspapers. The comeback of a high profile athlete is always big news, but the comeback of a high profile athlete who is no longer wanted? That's made-for-TV movie material.

Paging Kevin Costner. Kevin Costner, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Whether or not you hope to see Favre in an NFL uniform this season, you have to admit the story's got legs. Love It or Hate It, there's enough drama in the city of Green Bay to keep Favre's name echoing throughout the blogosphere and etched firmly atop the PTI rundown.

What do you think of Favre-gate?

Should certain superstars be afforded the right to change their minds mid-retirement, even if it's detrimental to their team? Should the Packers trade Favre, release him, or hand him a clipboard and watch him squirm?

Do you Love or Hate the constant media attention Favre's currently receiving?

Thursday, July 24, 2008 - Holdin’ Out For A Hero

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Holdin’ Out For A Hero


Brief thoughts on the Hester Holdout...

The Hester Holdout
By Sarah Spain

Last night on my way home from work I was listening to All Night With Jason Smith on ESPN 710. The topic was Devin Hester's holdout and subsequent absence from the Chicago Bears training camp. Smith feels that Hester, primarily a punt and kick returner, is asking for too much because his role on the football field is equivalent to that of a late reliever in baseball. Fleshing out his analogy, Smith compared quarterbacks to starting pitchers—when a team loses, most of the blame falls upon the starting pitcher or the quarterback–and kickers to closers–when the game's on the line, it's in their hands (or feet, as the case may be). Smith claimed that Hester, like a late reliever, played an important role in–at the most–half of the games in which he played last year. While I agreed with a lot of Smith's thoughts, his fatal flaw was in not watching enough Bears games.

Hester affected almost every single Chicago offensive possession last season. Teams that dared kick to 23 were immediately burned by another ridiculous highlight reel return from the Windy City Flyer. When he wasn't taking it to the house, he was taking it three-quarters of the way there and giving the anemic Bears offense a decent shot at getting in the endzone. Most importantly, Hester's influence was obvious when he didn't even touch the ball. Every time the Bears started their drive near midfield, it was because of Devin Hester. Every pooch punt and squib kick that bounced out of bounds at the 45 yard line was the result of Hester's inhuman ability to beat an entire special teams unit. You cannot underestimate the importance of field position in football, and thus, you cannot underestimate the importance of a Devin Hester.

Looking beyond the league-changing stats Hester puts up as a returner, Bears fans see a real future for him at wide receiver. With an entire off-season to learn the offense and get more comfortable with his routes, Hester may surprise a lot of doubters who want to see him as just a special teams player. Everyone knows that Hester is the greatest returner in the history of the game, but at this point, no one–not even Lovie Smith–knows whether Hester will be a 1, 2 or 3 wide receiver by the season opener. His enormous potential is one reason Bears brass shouldn't be short-sighted in their contract talks. Hester's deal shouldn't be based on the contracts of other special teams players or wide receivers. He's ten times more valuable than any returner in the league and until he's in camp working with the offense, there's no way to tell how he'll fare as a consistent receiver. Sad as it is to say, the Bears as a team have the worst skill players in all of football. Most football fans would describe the team's quarterback(s), receivers and running backs as "strike year" standouts. Give Hester what he wants. Late reliever, special teamer–whatever you wanna call him–he may just be the most important player the Bears have got.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - Love It Or Hate It...Thunder-whelmed?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Love It Or Hate It...Thunder-whelmed?


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

After 41 years in Seattle, the team formerly known as the Sonics is headed to Oklahoma City.

It's been weeks since the move was announced, but the NBA has yet to reveal the franchise's new official name and colors. So, while Kevin Durant and Co. play their summer league games in nondescript black unis, impatient fans everywhere have been tossing around possible monikers.

The O.C. Wranglers. The Oklahoma Marshalls. The Bandits. The Barons. The Oklahoma City Outlaws.

Even the O.C. Umenyioras.

On Friday, local TV station KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City announced that a source confirmed the team would be named the Oklahoma City Thunder. While O.C. team officials have yet to respond to the report, KOCO.com also sites a newly registered website as their evidence.


"KOCO.com confirmed that the registrar for all of the NBA's Internet domain names reserved okcthunderbasketball.com and okcthunderbasketball.net on July 10 …"

… Over the course of the past two weeks, KOCO.com and SportsXtra have worked together to research what's called 'whois information' on more than 200 domain names, with the focus primarily on possible nicknames such as Barons, Outlaws and Thunder. Most domain names and variations of them had been registered well before the settlement between the city of Seattle and the former Seattle Supersonics of the NBA."

It's possible the newly registered domains are the work of yet another fan hoping to cash in, but the timing of the registry has fans all over Oklahoma buzzing.

Some locals seem excited about the endless pun possibilities: Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman wrote, "The team store can be ThunderWear, which will market Thundergarments … The beer at ballgames can be ThunderWater. Analysis of the payroll cap can be called ThunderFunded."

Others — particularly those who dislike puns — are less than impressed with the name.

And I'm one of them.

The Oklahoma City Thunder? I hate it, for a number of reasons.

1. I've always been partial to teams who are named after actual creatures or characters. Not only do teams like the Bengals and the Warriors sound much more menacing than those named after inanimate objects, like the Lightning or the Fire, they also make for much better mascots. I'd rather cheer for a dancing Benny the Bull or a trampolining Hugo the Hornet than root for the Stanford Tree.

The Heat, Jazz and Magic are the only current NBA teams whose nicknames aren't pluralized animate objects. The Thunder would fit in better in the WNBA — a league whose teams are primarily named after weather systems or temperatures (i.e. the Sun, the Storm, the Fever, the Mercury).

2. Oklahoma already has a team named the Thunder — their minor league professional football team. Of all the names in the world, you'd think Clay Bennett could come up with a new and original one. Then again, if you've made a name for yourself stealing another city's team, I guess stealing a name isn't such a big deal.

You can't put all the blame on team brass, though. Seems the good people of Oklahoma are just as uninspired as their new team's owners. Shortly after the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City was announced, The Oklahoman held a 64-name bracket competition to see what name Oklahomans would give their first major league franchise. The Thunder beat out the Outlaws in the final. The paper's poll had no bearing on the actual naming of the team, but it seems Oklahoma's fans and owners all agree that stealing is A-OK.

3. I was really hoping the rumor about the Oklahoma City ThunderCats was true. As an '80s baby who admittedly used to pretend to be "Cheetara" in backyard games with my cousins, I can think of nothing better than an NBA team named after one of my favorite childhood cartoon series. Plus I'd love to see that ThunderCats insignia on the uniforms — totally badass.

What do you think? Do you Love or Hate the name "Oklahoma City Thunder?" What would you name YOUR NBA franchise?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008 - Don’t Sleep On These Busts...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Don’t Sleep On These Busts...

http://www.commishkit.com/articles2.htm (Click on top right icon - Fantasy Gods 2008)

It's only July, but it's never too early to talk fantasy football. So put down that Corona, kick that girl from last night's pool party out of your bed and get your head back in the fantasy game. I know you're a bit out of shape, so in the spirit of summer - a time for flimsy dresses and bad decisions - I'll try to keep it short and sexy. Here are my predictions for 2008's sleepers and busts…


Big-name busts can ruin your entire fantasy season. There's nothing worse than a hyped-up first rounder who can't get the job done. One of last year's biggest busts, Reggie Bush, has spent the off-season cuddling with another sizable bust - the one belonging to girlfriend Kim Kardashian. In honor of The Bush and The Tush, I give you my potential busts of 2008…

QB: Derek Anderson - Browns

Anderson's breakout 2007 campaign earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl, but I've got some doubts about the Browns signal caller. He threw for 29 touchdowns and ran for 3 more, but his completion percentage (56%) and 19 interceptions are troubling. With one year under his belt - and a revamped receiving corps featuring Donte' Stallworth, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Joe Jurevicius - Anderson might settle down and improve his accuracy. On the other hand, he might get too comfortable and become even more careless with the ball. Worst case scenario? Anderson starts off poorly and gets yanked for the always lurking - and quite capable - Brady Quinn.

Other potentially comBUSTible QBs: Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb.

WR: Marvin Harrison - Colts

Harrison's knee injury caused him to miss 12 games last year and even when he returned he wasn't the Marvin Harrison of old. His name and legacy may tempt owners to draft him early, but the 35-year-old is no longer a 1 WR and shouldn't be drafted as such. To add insult to injury, (pardon the pun), early in June, the Indianapolis Star reported that Harrison could start this season on the Physically Unable to Perform list until he gets full medical clearance. Fantasy owners should be wary of Harrison's off-the-field distractions, as well. There was a shooting outside his car-wash/garage last April and, though Harrison claims he wasn't involved, police have matched the bullet casings from the crime to his gun.

Other potentially comBUSTible WRs: Javon Walker, Lee Evans, Hines Ward.

RB: Jamal Lewis - Browns

At first glance, Lewis's numbers from last season are impressive. He rushed for 1,304 yards, averaged 4.4 yards per carry, scored 9 TDs rushing and 2 receiving. However, a closer look reveals that the bulk of Lewis's stats came in five games in which he ran for over 100 yards. In eight of last year's 16 games, Lewis couldn't break the 65-yard mark. He had 4 touchdowns in Week 9 against Seattle alone, which means he had just 5 rushing TDs for the rest of the season. When it comes to fantasy football, a top running back needs to be, first and foremost, consistent. The guy's got heart and fight, but I'll be surprised if he can bring it week after week in '08.

Other potentially comBUSTible RBs: Edgerrin James, Ronnie Brown, Laurence Maroney.

TE: Jeremy Shockey - Giants

A pre-season deal that trades Shockey away from the Giants seems likely at this point. Last year's Super Bowl Champs won it all without him and their team-first approach doesn't mesh with Shockey's me-first attitude. Besides, second year man Kevin Boss is ready to fill the shoes Shockey seems all too happy to give up in New York. While the four-time Pro Bowler still has the skills to play, last year's injury and all the drama off the field have significantly lowered his value in the Giants offense. Also of note? Shockey and I share the exact same birthday, right down to the year - August 18, 1980. (Guess that explains my considerable bust potential as well…)

Other potentially comBUSTible TEs: Ben Watson, Vernon Davis, Todd Heap.


Sleepers - whether they're complete unknowns or just guys who greatly exceed expectations - are the secrets to fantasy success. One of my favorite sleepers last year was Tony Romo. The Cowboys cutie made some mistakes late in the 2006 season, but 2007 owners who took a chance on him as a 1 QB were highly rewarded. In honor of Romo and the beautiful blonde he sleeps with, I give you my potential sleepers of 2008…

QB: Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers

Truth be told, no one outside Packers camp knows much of anything about Aaron Rodgers. Talk about a real sleeper candidate! The heir to King Favre's throne has inherited a nasty crew of offensive weapons including WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, TE Donald Lee and last year's late-season stud Ryan Grant. Like Tony Romo, Rodgers has had plenty of time to watch and learn, a luxury most NFL QBs these days don't get. Owners can expect a few turnovers early on, but if he can stay healthy, I think Rodgers will make the most of an opportunity he's been waiting three long years to get. If you're feelin' lucky, the reward might be worth the risk…and isn't that what sleepers are all about?

Other QBs you shouldn't SLEEP on: Jake Delhomme, Jay Cutler.

WR: Santonio Holmes - Steelers

Even if you don't believe in the "third-year breakout" theory, you should believe in Santonio Holmes. In just 13 games last year, Holmes scored nine touchdowns and had 942 yards on 52 receptions (his 18.1 yards per reception were a league best). Teammate Hines Ward, who's coming back from off-season knee surgery, is entering his 11th NFL season. His yardage totals have declined or plateaued every year since 2002 and I think he'll eventually become the number two wideout behind Holmes. If Big Ben stays healthy, fantasy owners might get a steal drafting a number two receiver who puts up stats like a number one. Ya feel me, Holmes?

Other WRs you shouldn't SLEEP on: Anthony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe, DJ Hackett, Devin Hester.

RB: Matt Forte - Bears

Now that the Bears have let go of Cedric Benson, the starting position is wide open for Matt Forte. In his last eight games at Tulane, he averaged a ridiculous 202.3 yards per game on the ground and scored 23 rushing touchdowns on the year. The versatile Forte also caught 32 passes for 282 yards and prides himself on his pass blocking skills. Rex - will he be Sexy Rexy or Train Rex? - Grossman is still under center in Chicago, so once again the Bears will be all about running the ball. The "other" Adrian Peterson will steal some carries, but Bears brass are counting on a breakout season from Forte, who should benefit from a shored up offensive line that will include the team's top draft pick, Vanderbilt standout Chris Williams.

Other RBs you shouldn't SLEEP on: Ahmad Bradshaw, Ryan Grant, Pierre Thomas, Michael Turner.

TE: Greg Olsen - Bears

With last year's top offensive targets, Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad, out of the picture, Olsen should play a much bigger role in Chicago. The 6'5", 250 pounder was the first tight end drafted last year and while his freshman campaign was a bit disappointing, early reviews out of this year's camp are glowing. Olsen will have to battle fellow tight end Desmond Clark for looks, but in an anemic offense with few other options, they'll both get plenty. Expect Olsen to grow into a Shockey-esque player - minus the attitude and the eagle tattoo.

Other TEs you shouldn't SLEEP on: Chris Cooley, Anthony Fasano, Owen Daniels.

Friday, June 27, 2008 - The Sequel At The Cell

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Sequel At The Cell


Crosstown Classic—The Sequel At The Cell

Paul M. Banks vs. Sarah Spain

PB- Given what happened at Wrigley this past weekend…I'm ready to start discussing this weekend. The Sox have the second most home wins in the AL and the Cubs are a less than awe-inspiring 16-20 away from Wrigley. That said, are you worried about heading into The Cell?

What about the fact that your Cubs now have to deal with a U.S. Cellular Field crowd filled with thousands of my SICA people from places like "The Wood" (Crestwood) and "The Port" (Lockport). The wrath of the SICA crowd this weekend frightens you, doesn't it?
SS- You may be more than ready to forget about the complete and utter thumping your Sox received last weekend, but let me take a moment to mention how wonderful it was to watch the Cubs give the Wrigley faithful—and Northsiders nationwide—such an entertaining, awe-inspiring, belief-reinforcing series. Ozzie Guillen proved himself to be less-than informed about his opponent: "He just had a good day." Guillen said of Jim Edmonds 2 HR performance in the Sox loss on Saturday. "I'm not going to promote [the] guy who's hitting .218." Jim Edmonds was, in fact, batting .238…And, more importantly, OVER .300 as a Cub. Even better, Guillen had to eat his words on Sunday. "Jim is Jim. Jim is not going to scare me," Guillen said Saturday. "I will pitch to him another time." But he didn't. He intentionally walked him.

When it comes to outspoken, opinionated managers, I'll take the usually positive Sweet Lou over an eternally bitter Ozzie. The quickest way to display one's insecurity and jealousy is through catty remarks, like Ozzie's classless ripping of Wrigley. I know you love Ozzie, but do you support his trashing of one of Chicago's most recognizable and beloved landmarks? As for me, I'll take a rat-infested treasure over a heartless, tradition-less, corporate monolith any day.

Speaking of The Cell…I'm more worried about the Cubbies getting shanked than swept in that haven of White Trash debauchery. Provided they're not storming the field to attack D. Lee and the boys, your SICA crew doesn't scare me. Sox fans are more deserving of pity than they are of fear. Cubs fans are always commended for staying faithful to a team that hasn't won the World Series in a century, but what about you Sox fans? You guys stay true to a team that threw the World Series! Cubs fans are like wives who stay faithful to a loving but eternally unemployed husband. Sox fans are more like wives who stay true to an abusive husband.

PB- The Cell is tradition-less? Are you dismissing the fact that it's overseen more World Series championships than Wrigley Field has? Despite its pig-sized rats, I can't hate Wrigley too much, because it's a big part of why the Cubs are such a national brand, and their appeal on both a national and local level is a big part of my job. Although I understand its attraction, I still think it's a bit overrated. Yes, the scoreboard looks like the one in The Natural and the park overflows in old-school charm, but the constant tourist whoring detracts from it. Like the Cubbie Kool-Aid that's flowing freely all over town these days, the Wrigley experience starts out sugary sweet. However, later it ends up rotting your teeth and giving you nausea. Ok, maybe it's a bit more like candy. Ozzie trashes everything and everyone, sometimes he's right and sometimes he's wrong. In this case, the latter.

The White Sox gave baseball its first exciting and memorable yet utterly criminal and amoral moment in 1919. Therefore, in keeping with the lovely analogy you initiated, all the mentally deranged women walking around with "bad boy complexes" should love this team. Ah yes, the obligatory Sox fans=white trash reference….as Chris Rock would say, "that train's never late!" It doesn't bother me though because the sort you're describing (I call them "Jolieters") only make my sophistication, classiness and material success (I probably could have just said "juice" there) look even bigger by comparison.

There has to be a weakness in this Cubs team somewhere, what is it? How can my boys exploit it? (By the way Turner Broadcasting Service, if you're reading this, we should set up a deal where every time I use the phrase "my boys" it will directly link to the page for your show "My Boys." A Chicago based sports webzine advertising a sitcom about a Chicago sports writer? Just think of all the potential viewers you would reach! TSB and TBS: with abbreviations so close to one another, we were made to synergize!)

SS- Yeah, yeah, the white trash comments are unoriginal. Kinda like the "Cubs fans are drunk frat guys" bit. Of course, there are always exceptions. I'm a drunk, but not a frat guy. You're white, but not trashy. The Sports Bank: breaking stereotypes on the daily! In all seriousness, the series at The Cell will be much tougher for the boys in blue than last weekend's rout. If you're looking for a weakness, I think you've found it in our less-than-stellar away record. When the 2008 schedule came out I had mixed feelings about the lopsided home vs. away games early in the season. Yes, winning is contagious. Yes, the Cubs' hot start certainly gave them confidence and swagger. On the other hand, it can be difficult to face an overabundance of away games late in the season when the team is tired and injured. Away series' against strong teams like the Rays and White Sox will help prepare the Cubs for all-important postseason play. Speaking of being prepared…Contreras will take the bump in the series opener—do you think his meltdown last weekend was an aberration or are you concerned that he'll self-destruct again?

PB- I am a bit worried about Contreras as he is (along with John Danks and Gavin Floyd) a crucial factor in this season's success. Last year, Contreras threw a lot of very slow fastballs and sinkers that stayed afloat. For most of this season, he's looked like he put his bitter divorce behind him and his head is back in the game. If he gets rocked again by the Cubs's 1 offense in all of MLB, I won't be too worried. However, if his rocky streak extends a couple starts beyond that, I would have to suspect that something is psychologically troubling him again. I think—and hope—his mechanics and his stuff are still sound.

My favorite White Sox shirt selling on the streets of the Chi parodies the "It's Gonna Happen" slogan beloved by you and your Cubbie brethren this season. These shirts simply state "It's Not Gonna Happen." As Homer J. Simpson would say: "it's funny because it's true! HA HA!" I think you should get one of these shirts or a business card, key chain or something with this slogan, so you can just flash it at the dozens of overzealous men who come on to you every time you attend a sporting event, go to a nightclub, get on a bus…well, pretty much every time you leave your house. It would save you some trouble. Do you find any of the anti White Sox shirts out there to be especially clever?

SS- Unfortunately, I don't get to see too many anti-White Sox tees out here in LA. There are Cubs fans everywhere, but us transplants are more into reppin' our team in Dodger country than in dogging our rivals. However, if your choice is something as simple as "It's Not Gonna Happen," then mine is the always effective: "Sux".

p.s. – The fact that they cast that "My Boys" show without first inviting me to audition is a travesty, I tell you! A Chicago girl who hangs with the boys and works in sports? It's worse than Joel Silver continually ignoring the future big screen Wonder Woman living just miles away from him!
PB- What can I say? Simple shirts appease a complicated man like myself. Let's cut the chatter and get to the games. Welcome to the Cell!
SS- I'm in. Let's get weird.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 - Love It Or Hate It...Shaq It Like A Salt Shaker?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Love It Or Hate It...Shaq It Like A Salt Shaker?


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

Monday evening, TMZ.com released footage of everyone's favorite NBA center and part-time sheriff/rapper/genie, Shaquille O'Neal, getting wicked on the mic at an NYC club.

Shaq-Fu briefly dissed fellow big men Patrick Ewing and Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, but focused most of his vitriolic verbiage at the Heidi to his Lauren Conrad ... Kobe Bryant.

The fallout from the outrageous rap has some wondering whether Shaq has forever tarnished his legacy in Los Angeles.

Shaq and Kobe led the Lakers to three straight NBA championships from 2000-02, but became bitter enemies when Shaq was traded away at Kobe's behest. In 2006, the hardwood hotheads finally cooled down a bit, shaking hands and embracing before a Lakers/Heat matchup at the Staples Center.

Those who believed the two superstars had forgiven-and-forgotten may be shocked by Shaq's very public, and very personal, attack on his former teammate.


Here are just a few of the gems in O'Neal's lyrical beatdown ...

First, Shaq calls out Kobe's inability to win it all without him as a teammate, noting the Lakers' loss to the Celtics in this year's NBA Finals: "You know how I be, last week Kobe couldn't do without me."

Later, Shaq blamed Kobe for his divorce.

"I'm a horse. Kobe ratted me out. That's why I'm getting divorced. He said Shaq gave a [woman] a mil. I don't do that 'cause my name's Shaquille. I love 'em, I don't leave 'em. I got a vasectomy, now I can't breed 'em."

(You may remember that Kobe threw Shaq under the bus during his 2004 rape trial. The Los Angeles Times reported that Kobe told police "he should do what Shaq does ... that Shaq would pay his women not to say anything ... Shaq has paid up to a million dollars already for situations like this.")

And, of course, there was an easy-to-learn chorus to get the crowd involved.

"Kobe, tell me how my a** tastes."

Shortly after the video was released, ESPN, L.A. sports radio and other media outlets began questioning Shaq's intent. Was the notoriously funny big man just poking fun at the duo's well-publicized falling-out? Or was Shaq fanning the flames of a still-smoldering feud?

According to Shaq, the rap was just the natural reaction of an "MC" being handed a mic. He told ESPN's Steven A. Smith: "I was freestyling. That's all. It was all done in fun. Nothing serious whatsoever. That is what MC's do. They freestyle when called upon. I'm totally cool with Kobe. No issue at all … Please tell everybody don't make something out of nothing."

Shaq may be waving the white flag now, but the video (particularly the section about Kobe's role in his divorce) tells a different story. Entertaining as it may be, the rap is an obvious jab at the Lakers star — and a clear sign the two men won't be sharing a bicycle built for two anytime soon.

After the Kobe/Shaq blowout, most Angelenos took Shaq's side. Shaq was just easier to like than Kobe. The big man's easy smile and hilarious soundbites — not to mention his MVP-winning stats – made him a fan favorite. Despite their nasty breakup, L.A. loved Shaq and continued to love him for his contributions to the Lakers, even after he'd moved on.

Now, some L.A. fans question whether Shaq has worn out his welcome in the City of Angels.

Was Shaq warranted in his attack on Kobe? Maybe.

Was a club the right place to air years-old dirty laundry? Probably not.

Will Shaq's legacy in Los Angeles be affected by his outburst? It shouldn't be.

I'm have to admit I'm biased.

I love anyone and anything that reinforces the centerpiece of my "Kobe will never be M.J." argument, that Kobe has never won it all without a dominant big man (and wasn't even the MVP when he did win).

So, what do you think? What about all you Shaq fans out there?

Do you think he'll be remembered more for the championships he helped bring Los Angeles, or for his public attacks on L.A.'s current MVP?

Will Jerry Buss and the Laker brass still be willing to hang O'Neal's number from the rafters in Staples?

Did you Love It or Hate It?

Sunday, June 22, 2008 - Bartender, another draft please...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bartender, another draft please...


Rating the Pro Drafts

The TSB staff tells you what each of the four major sport drafts bring to the table

Three of the major sport drafts are held in June. It's the season for amateurs going pro, just like February is the season for all-star games, it also has three of the four major sport events. This was probably my favorite TSB panel question ever…mostly because I didn't have to do a ton of work in answering it. I just sent the question and writer assignments out and my talented and hard-working staff did the rest. Simply just calling the play and handing the ball off to my top four playmakers yielded the following insightful analysis…and the metaphor choice told you what my favorite one is!

David K.- NBA
As if there is even a question about which draft I think is the best… The NBA Draft trumps all others, hands down. Here's why:

1) It's a one-day, three hour event. It doesn't take two days and 18 hours to complete like the NFL and MLB Drafts.

2) Except for the ten or so foreign players drafted, there is a good chance that the average football fan has heard of almost every player selected. That certainly can't be said of the NHL or MLB Drafts where the average fan has maybe heard of ONE player who gets picked…Maybe? As for the NFL Draft, except for the major talents and most of the skill positions, you haven't even heard of these guys. Let's be honest, has anyone ever seen Joe Flacco play? Had anyone ever heard of him until Mel Kiper Jr. started talking about him after the season was over?

3) Speaking of Kiper Jr., he is not part of the NBA Draft which automatically adds points to my argument for roundball.

4) Yes, we have to suffer through Stephen A. Smith and Dick Vitale during the NBA Draft, but their arguments put any Kiper Jr./Todd McShay disagreement to shame. Didn't we all think Vitale and Smith were going to fight in the parking lot after last year's draft?

5) The ridiculous outfits the players in the green room wear. Remember Joakim Noah's draft day attire last year? You just don't get that with the other drafts.

6) There is, thankfully, no NBA Live show every day on ESPN for the two months leading up to the draft where we have to deal with reckless banter about every single team's every single possibility with every single pick. Seriously, by Mid-March, I want to vomit at the sight of Trey Wingo on the NFL Live set.

Case closed. I will now celebrate with my Championship belt!

NFL- Sarah Spain
Since we all know the NFL draft is the best around, I'll make my argument quick and painless.

1) Big, chunky dudes stuffing their huge necks into collared shirts and their huge asses into mustard-colored, quadruple-breasted suits. "Fat man in a little coat," indeed.

2) Fans, particularly New York Jets fans. They may be annoying and loud (not to mention way too fond of gold chains, wife beaters and shaved chests) but Jets fans add a raw, game-like feel to an event that is essentially an old dude announcing names at a podium.

3) Mel Kiper Jr's hair- Much more impressive than any of the draftee highlight reels he introduces.

4) Crowd-wide heckling of Chris Berman.

5) Shocking draft droppers like Brady Quinn. Rarely do players in other sports drop as dramatically as NFL hopefuls. Watching Quinn squirm in his chair was alternately hilarious and tragic. The only other selection ceremony with this kind of drama involves a rose and a Bachelor.

6) Watching the satellite feed of a player who wasn't invited to New York get the call at home, surrounded by friends, family and the college sweetheart he'll be cheating on in…3….2….1. Heartwarming.

7) It's looooong. People who don't like football may not be interested in the later rounds (or any rounds at all) but diehard football fans wanna see every guy right down to Mr. Irrelevant. When someone like Marques Colston barely avoids the dubious final draft spot then blows up in his first season, draft fans can say they called it right from the moment he was picked. You never know when the next Tom Brady will get his name called…

Soxman- MLB
While Major League Baseball has made a huge push over the past few years to generate more excitement over its amateur draft, it remains the least exciting of all professional sports drafts for several reasons:

Seedlings Don't Bare Fruit Immediately
Unlike all other professional drafts in which top picks are expected to make an immediate impact with their team, it can be years before a MLB top draft pick ever plays in a major league game. Since the draft began in 1965, less than one percent of the top 50 draft picks ever start immediately in the major leagues. Future Hall of Famer and White Sox Legend Frank Thomas was selected in the June 1989 Draft, and did not make his MLB debut until August 1990. While Thomas was considered to be fast tracked for the majors, he played in the minors for well over a year before getting his first MLB at bat.

Most Never Make It to The Show.
The vast majority of players selected in the draft will NEVER play in a single MLB game. Even worse- just over 50% of all first round draft picks have more than 5 games of major league service.

America's Pastime Only Applies to the Pros
While NCAA baseball has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to ESPN, it only has a fraction of the popularity of college football and basketball. Simply put, have you ever seen a "May Madness" bracket for the college baseball play-offs? Or gone to a college World Series party?

Draft Picks Are Not Guaranteed
Players drafted in June MUST be signed by August 15th or the team loses rights to that player, essentially making him again eligible to be drafted by another team the following season. The most famous player and most notorious agent to spurn a team under this rule in recent memory were J.D. Drew and Scott Boras.

Drew was the second overall pick in the 1997 Major League Baseball Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Boras warned all teams not to select his player unless they were willing to pay his client $10 million. The Phillies ignored Boras and drafted him anyway with no intention to pay the Boras asking price. Drew refused to sign and played for the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League that season. Drew was then drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in June 1998, and made his debut later that year in September. He was forever hated by Phillies fans for spurning the team. Interestingly enough, the MLB draft is the only draft among all professional sports that actually takes place during the course of the season. Despite all the reasons that it is currently the least popular draft, it will forever remain my favorite draft, because it is an essential building block of the game that gave Soxman life.

NHL Draft Superiority? Not Quite, but it's closer than you think.
By Peter Christian

We are all clear that the NFL has done the best job of exploiting its draft (without looking it up I would guess that the NFL nets at least 8 digits from the draft weekend). The NBA Draft is one of the most fun to speculate about (because of the extremely high bust vs. breakout ratio) and the MLB Draft can never be fan friendly (due to the immense draft pool and subsequent waiting period for most players). The major sporting draft that often gets left out of the "Entertaining for Fans" Category is the NHL Draft. That fact alone is very disappointing since the NHL Draft is often the most eventful draft of the four sports. If you didn't already know, for fans eventful = entertaining and exciting.

At face value the NHL Draft has all of the same things to offer as the NFL and NBA drafts (known prospects and lots of talent) and tends to offer more draft day trades and player movement but doesn't get even a quarter of the attention from casual fans the two major sports drafts do. However, for those who do stay interested they get the pleasure of being part of the best draft process in North American Professional Sports (or NAPS as the kids call it on the streets, not to be confused with the National Association of Postal Supervisors that my dad is a member of). The NHL draft set-up is undoubtedly the most conducive to excitement, both for the league and the fans. Unlike the NFL, MLB or NBA, the NHL draft brings all of the team General Managers together in the same place. With all of the decision makers together trades and back room deals are bound to happen. And they do. While the NBA usually has a couple of draft day deals that have teams sending a player and a pick packing in the effort to move up in the draft to get their guy, the NHL usually has a bunch. Every team has their eye on a certain player and has a plan to get that guy if it looks like he might come off the board before their slot. What's more, the NHL rivalries transcend to the draft as well. If the Maple Leafs know that the Canadiens have their eye on Player X and the player they had their eyes on is gone, they are more likely to take Player X just to screw their rivals rather than trade down and accumulate a few more picks. That just doesn't happen in the NFL or NBA.

So with so much going on at the NHL Draft why isn't it a bigger fan event?

The simple answer is marketing. Shocking, I know. The fact that the NHL cannot even swing a major network deal for its regular season games (one game a week on NBC from January through April is a joke) means that they have got bigger fish to fry than working on selling the NHL draft to the casual hockey fan. That being said, the NHL draft is still a great product and should be recognized as the format that is best among the best. At least it is still considered more entertaining than the MLB draft. Hey, it's a start.