Monday, November 29, 2004

Weekend Upside

On Thanksgiving night, Hubie Brown retired from coaching the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA. Some will remember him as the 71-year-old coach who came out of retirement when Jerry West came a-calling. Others will remember him as the former coach of the Knicks and the former coach of the Nets.

I will remember him as the man who infected the world with the "upside" during his NBA Draft analysis and his NBA broadcasting. He may not have invented the word, but he perfected it. He could hit you with the "huge upside" in the blink of an eye, then catch you off-guard with the "tremendous upside." What versatility!

So, in honor of Hubie Brown, we bring you Volume IV of the Weekend Update, with the upside of each event.

* - Quincy Carter got whacked in the head, Brooks Bollinger ably held down the fort for a few series, Carter returned to the game, threw the decisive touchdown pass to Santana Moss, the Jets beat Arizona 13-3 and moved to a head-twitching 8-3 on the season. Another ugly win. Another win!
Upside: One week closer to the Return of the King. Hurry Chad!

* - Philly's Eagles flew up the Jersey turnpike, then made Eli Manning look like he wanted to crawl up in a ball and cry underneath the bench. Two games in, and he has the worst record of any rookie quarterback this season. Geez, even Craig Krenzel won a game.
Upside: The Mannings are human. Let the next controversy begin. Bring back Kurt Warner. Better yet, bring in Jesse Palmer.

* - Brian Randall supplanted Don Strock as the career leader in passing yardage at Virginia Tech.
Upside: Not exactly the biggest news up here in New York, but anytime the words "Don" and "Strock" appear on the sports landscape, it's worth noting.

* - St. John's imposed sanctions on its men's basketball program after it was determined that Abe Keita received $300 per month from a former assistant coach. The Red Storm shorted themselves one scholarship in each of the next two recruiting cycles, plus a postseason ban this season.
Upside: We're spared the one-and-done run in the Big East tournament.
Tremendous upside: Mike Jarvis is no longer the coach.

* - The Knicks won a game against the Toronto Raptors, improved to 6-6 and took sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.
Upside: We now have a reason to watch Knicks games in December.

* - Ben Roethlisberger improved to 9-0 as a starter for those pesky Pittsburgh Steelers.
Upside: His record remains pristine for another week. Three more such performances and the Jets' defense get the chance to shred him in half.

* - Bengals 58, Browns 48.
Upside: Suddenly, college football scores don't look so outrageous.

* - Nebraska's 35-year streak of bowl eligibility came to a crashing halt.
Upside: Another American institution crumbled. Surely, we can blame same of this on the Bush administration.
Huge upside: Ex-Raiders coach Bill Callahan looks even worse as a college coach, but that means more repeats of his "We're the dumbest football team in America" quote last year with Oakland.

* - Peyton Manning threw six touchdowns and moved within seven audibles of tying Dan Marino's NFL record of 48 touchdown passes in one season.
Upside: Marvin Harrison finally showed us his upside with a tremendous three-touchdown performance, allowing my fantasy football team -- the Fryburg Antonellis -- to avenge a Week 1 beatdown.

* - NHL players began receiving stipends from the union.
Upside: That means there's still no professional hockey being played on television here in America.

* - Anna Kournikova and Serena Williams lost an exhibition tennis match.
Upside: Anna.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Miracle on Ice?

Tuesday night, 12:21 a.m. Hmmm, let's see what the movie stations have to offer. (OK, technically, it was already Wednesday morning, but I don't believe the next day starts until you wake up).

Ah, HBO's Pornucopia series is on. But, wait there's only three minutes left. Not worth it. Oh, lookee here, Starz West is serving up two hours of Herb Brooks. So I sat down and watched "Miracle."

It was fantastic. Scared that I might be softening my stance on my hatred of hockey, I did the only thing that made sense. I threw back a shot of rum. Then I realized hockey players are all alcoholics, so now I was really confused.

How could I like a hockey movie when I thoroughly despise the thug sport (it's worse than Rappin' Ron Artest)? Is the NHL lockout making me secretly miss those eight minutes of hockey I watch each season?

Up until this tumultuous Tuesday night, my three favorite hockey moments were, in order:
1) The episode of Beverly Hills 90210 when Brandon Walsh is at hockey practice and loses a race around the rink to a female figure skater who later fell in love with Brandon Walsh for an afternoon or two because he bought her a burrito.
2) Rich Pilon coming off the top rope with a high-cross body to level Dale Hunter seconds after he leveled Pierre Turgeon.
3) The kid who goes into the batting cage after Adam Sandler in "Happy Gilmore."

My world is in disarray right now. North looks south. Apples are oranges. New Jersey has redeeming qualities.

Lord, help a troubled soul.

Why did I enjoy this hockey movie? The rationalizing began immediately.
* Kurt Russell's wig was pretty funny.
* Kurt Russell's accent going in and out like Andy Garcia in "The Godfather Part 3" was even funnier.
* Kurt Russell's clothes left me with a strained spleen from laughing so hard.
* "Pav on Whoever-ov" is a tremendous movie quote.
* Every now and then, Kurt Russell becomes Gene Hackman. Watching the transformation to and from is compelling.
* I don't like Russians not named Sharapova.
* Well, at least Mike Eruzione is Italian.
* It was just Hollywood pulling out the cheap emotional tricks and I let them do it to me.

O Canada, please let there be some truth to these irrational rationalizations. It was just one quick shot. I'm clearly not under any influence.

What in the name of Uwe Krupp am I doing even writing about this f-bombing sport? Especially so close to the holiday season? Am I trying to excise myself off people's Christmas lists?

I'm tempted to call the library at Newsday right now (3 a.m.) and demand them to pull out the newspaper clippings from that monumental day in 1980 so I can read the accounts on microfiche.

I am afraid to go to sleep because I might wake up with long, straggly hair and two teeth missing. Oh crap, I already have the long, straggly hair. Looks like Stylist friend Claudette is getting a phone call Wednesday morning.

Thank God "Miracle" was on Starz West and not regular Starz because there's no telling what I'll do if I watch the movie again tonight. I might go online and buy skates, then drive to my parents' house and dig up my 1985 Brian Trottier edition Mylec stick and start flicking pucks all over the neighborhood.

Please, Gary Bettman, DO NOT end the lockout on Wednesday. I'm having a moment of weakness and I just might buy tickets to a game if you start your league again soon.

For the love of Pete, please let there be a good basketball game on television Wednesday morning. I'll even settle for the seventh-place consolation game of the Maui Shootout.


Monday, November 22, 2004

Weekend Update, starring Ron Artest

Many people deserve the blame for the latest episode involving Rappin' Ron Artest.

But there's one person in this world who is loving all the attention Artest received this weekend. And no, it's not me, but if I see the video of Jermaine O'Neal cold-cocking that fan in the home Pistons jersey, who is as stupid as he is rotund, I will crack three ribs from laughing so hard. As it is, I'm listed as questionable for next week.

Lloyd Carr is a huuuuuuuuuge fan of Rappin' Ron Artest. Carr had the unfortunate pleasure of taking his Michigan Wolverines to Columbus, Ohio, so they could lose to Ohio State in one of the two best rivalries in college football on Saturday. Carr also had the fortunate pleasure of coaching in Michigan, the same state that houses the trainwreck of a city known as Detroit, which staged the greatest/worst fight in professional sports history.

Rappin' Ron Artest definitely deflected some of the crapola that Carr would have received for losing to Ohio State. The Detriot News and Free Press gave the bigger play on its Sunday front page to Artest.

There's another person happy with Rappin' Ron Artest. And yes, this time it is me. He gave me a perfect theme for Vol. 3 of the growing-by-the-week-in-popularity Weekend Update. So, I shall recap this weekend's events and then ask "What would Rappin' Ron Artest do?" in this situation. Look over your shoulder before reading. You never know when you might walk into a Stephen Jackson haymaker.

Let's begin:

* Phil Dawson missed two easy field goals, allowing the Jets to come back for the 10-7 road win. This after hitting 27 of the first 27 field goals he attempted this season. But it's about time the state of Ohio did something beneficial for New Yorkers, what with that whole power outage thing two summers ago and that brain-cell outage on Election Day.
What would Rappin' Ron Artest do? He and O'Neal would jump out of the stands, run up to Dawson and kick him through the uprights for a 38-yard field goal. In keeping with his New York roots, Artest would then go Jimmy Dix and launch a football into the Jets' booth, taking out Paul Hackett. And really, who would blame Artest for that one?

* Eli Manning made his first NFL start. He could have won the game in the final minutes. He didn't. Good to know one NFL Manning is still human.
What would Rappin' Ron Artest do? He'd hire Kurt Warner to help promote records for his label. Warner doesn't have much to do anymore and he could help Artest, who last week wanted a month off to promote Allure's new R&B album. Then, he'd punch Manning if for no other reason than he walked in front of Artest.

* Jermaine Wiggins goes Hulk Hogan and drops the big elbow on the football after scoring a touchdown early in Minnesota's 22-19 win over Detroit. Let's not forget Minnesotans did elect Jesse "The Body" Ventura its governor a few years back.
What would Rappin' Ron Artest do? He'd line up Wiggins for a straight right to the jaw. But professional wrestling is fake, so the punch would not be on every news station in the Western hemisphere and Artest would still play for the Indiana Pacers . . . until his next brush with stupidity. Wiggins would likely catch Artest off-guard with a sunset flip, hook the tights and get the quick win in the classi "Loser Leaves Town" match.

* Money is getting tossed at Pedro Martinez like he was a blue-chip college football recruit. A lunch with George Steinbrenner is worth an extra 365 days and $13 million to Boston. The Boss may turn this into a strange bidding war between himself and the machine behind the bullpen that prints his money. Will the ink hold out, or will George just buy a new machine?
What would Rappin' Ron Artest do? He'd convince Steinbrenner to lower the cost of beer at Yankee Stadium. With Artest roaming the stands for home games, fans will go broke even faster throwing their $7.50 beers at him. The move is celebrated by the media, who hail Steinbrenner as the best benevolent dictator since Jim Fassel.

* St. John's won its season opener for coach Norm Roberts. Granted it was against Wagner, but any win for the Red Storm this season will be viewed as a tremendous accomplishment. History Channel has already begun the documentary.
What would Rappin' Ron Artest do? He'd yell at his teammates, watch his coach get fired, then lead his team to the brink of a Final Four only to collapse in the clutch. Oh wait, he already did that for St. John's.

* UNC upset the UConn women in basketball on Sunday afternoon, giving the Huskies their earliest loss since the 1995-96 season. Such dominance deserves praise.
What would Rappin' Ron Artest do? He'd punch Geno Auriemma right in the grill because such early lack of focus is not the way to win a championship, which is something Artest told us precisely 812 times from his car during an ESPN interview last week. However, Auriemma, being the tough Philly guy that he is -- oh yeah, and he's a guido (cultured, but a guido nonetheless) -- catches Artest's hand and squeezes. Auriemma's hair never moves an inch as he reduces the bones in Artest's ring finger to ashes. Auriemma then rips open his $200 Armani shirt, exposes the $38 wife-beater and drops the People's Elbow on Artest. "This is something David Stern and your mama should have done a long time ago," Auriemma screams. Auriemma throws down, pummeling Artest for six minutes. But wait, what's this? It's . . . it's . . . it's Jamaal Tinsley. And it looks like he's carrying a . . . a . . is that a? . . . yes, Tinsley has a dustpan. And here comes Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson to rescue their fallen teammate. It's pandemonium. Haymakers all over the place. Only Barry Tompkins can announce such a chaotic fight. Here comes Ben Wallace. O'Neal throws a left hook, but it's absorbed by Wallace's afro. The fans are throwing chairs. What's this? It's Andrew Golota with seven straight punches below the belt to Jackson. Spike Lee, in his LJ jersey, has his hands around Reggie Miller's neck. Miller is breathing without a problem, but appears upset that Lee hasn't made a good movie since 1988. Just as Larry Brown gets a noogie from Ric Flair and an eye gouge from Magnum T.A., a figure appears at midcourt. He raises his right hand toward the sky and order is restored. The Pacers are escorted to jail. Auriemma sits down at the foul line with a plate of rigatoni and a fresh gel job. Three hours later, NBA commissioner David Stern released a statement. It was one sentence: "I am God."

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Friday, November 19, 2004

T.O., an American Hero

So, America hates Terrell Owens, which is fourth on the Inherently Funny scale, ranking just behind the tried and true categories of chimps, midgets and farting. (Go ahead, let one rip at the Thanksgiving dinner table and see how long it takes Uncle Bruno to stop laughing.)

America hates T.O., unbelievably hilarious when you realize T.O. is America's poster child for, oddly enough, America. He's the end product of the finely crafted mythological reality known as the American Dream.

He was born in Alexander City, Ala., -- estimated population 14,832 -- and rose to fame across the land by choosing an occupation and excelling in it. That's some Thomas Jefferson right there for ya. Given life and the freedom to do whatever he wanted to do, he is pursuing happiness in a manner he sees fitting. (Turn on "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan voice now.) U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! (Turn off "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan voice now.)

And he just so happens to have beautiful women de-toweling in front of him, looking for a little T.O. time. Another tremendous by-product of fame bestowed upon the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver.

Quick recap:
  • T.O. makes mad loot.
  • T.O. has 80,000 people cheering him every weekend.
  • T.O. makes the world stop when he scores a touchdown so they can see what he does to celebrate.
  • T.O. is the best at what he does and proves it every weekend.
  • T.O. has beautiful women lining up to take a number to stand in line to wait to get into the same nightclub as T.O.

    Oh wait, we never hear about T.O. in nightclubs and other places that suborn indiscretions by athletes. T.O. never gets a DWI, much less a DUI.

    T.O. doesn't go Michael Irvin and get caught with whores, drugs and stabbed teammates in apartments or training-camp complexes. T.O. does not go Jason Kidd and beat his wife. T.O. doesn't go Eugene Robinson (or Daryl Strawberry or St. John's men's basketball) and proposition hookers (undercover agents or otherwise). T.O. also doesn't go Ray Lewis and get involved in double-murder cases and later plea to obstructing justice.

    He just imitates Ray Lewis' signature dance when he scores a touchdown against Ray Lewis and his Baltimore Ravens defense. He pulls a Sharpie out of his sock, autographs a ball and sends it into the stands. He dances with the cheerleaders, using their pompoms and celebrating the pageantry of the sport.

    And, by the way, he's a model citizen who prepares for his job in a professional manner. And yes, he likes to have some fun at his job. He should be canonized, not demonized, especially in today's world where some journalism establishments run a weekly police blotter in the sports page.

    Who among us does not want to have some fun in the workplace? T.O. is fortunate to have one of those jobs where fun is allowed, even if NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue passes a kidney stone every time T.O. catches a pass in the open field.

    So rename some streets in Philly for its new favorite son. Vine Street could easily be Terrell Owens Blvd. Pat's Cheesesteaks could change its name to T.O.'s tasty cheesesteaks.. Old City? T.O. City!

    It's the American way. T.O. is living the dream. Don't hate on him. Be jealous, but don't hate.

    Besides, our great grandchildren will be spending money with T.O.'s face on it. Close your eyes and dream. That's why America is America.

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  • Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    No love for Sammy

    Sammy, we need to talk.

    Try to understand. It's nothing personal against you, Dominican Daddy. It's just that, well... we aren't right for each other. You see, we've been hurt before.

    We haven't been on speaking terms with Mo Vaughn and Steve Philips for a while now, after the way they wrecked our 2000 World Series team. Tom Glavine is in the dog house, too. And Cliff Floyd. Don't even mention Robbie Alomar. Lately, we've been investing a lot of time and energy in guys like you, and we've been rewarded with three straight sub-.500 seasons. Love hurts.

    So when another aging, oft-injured, big-money player promising us the moon and stars comes a-knocking on our door, you'll have to forgive us if we look the other way. You see, we're Mets fans. We've learned to expect the worst. Besides, bringing you into our lives wouldn't be fair to you when we've really got our eyes on someone else.

    His name is Carlos. He's young, talented, charming. Gold Glove fielder, power-hitter, base-stealer. He's really quite perfect. We're trying not to let ourselves believe he could really be ours, but we're hoping. And as long as we've got him in our heads, we can't be loving and faithful towards you.

    Sammy, now is not the time for us. There may have once been a time where we were good for each other, but that time is past. Wouldn't you be much better off with someone else, anyway? I mean, you've still got some spark. Explore your options, see what's out there, you never know.

    In the meantime, tell the Cubs to stop calling. We aren't interested. Let's just move on and pretend this whole affair never happened.

    E-mail Mike Casey:
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    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    He really can't Hackett

    I interviewed Paul Hackett on Monday afternoon. OK, so that's a big lie, but only because Hackett has ducked the media for two straight days.

    This guy finds testosterone for 30 seconds on a Sunday, it backfires and then he goes into hiding like a 75-year-old man's sex drive after the Viagra wears off. There's nothing worse than a man who can't face criticism. That's worse than a B-level celebrity thinking he or she is really A-list and refusing to acknowledge the B-level status.

    Our legal system gives defendants the right to face their accusers. Hackett opts out of that, even though the paycheck he gets on a regular basis borders on depraved indifference to human life.

    Hackett may think he's safe from the media, but no one is safe from the Keyboard Quarterbacks. We're equal opportunity offenders, and by the stroke of good fortune, it's Hackett's turn.

    So here's my imaginary conversation with Mr. Hackett:

    Mark La Monica: "I gotta know, please. Why the f-bomb did you call that halfback pass?"
    Paul Hackett: "Well, I figured our second-string running back who hasn't thrown a pass in a game in forever could fake out the best defense in the NFL, a defense, mind you, that has two players that are the best in the league at their position."

    ML: "Why not just a simple draw play? You call them in every other situation."
    PH: "I actually was debating any of seven draw plays at that time, but I figured Quincy Carter had completed every pass until then, so why not see if someone else could make a throw. I figured the Ravens' secondary was vulnerable to the pass. I even had a play ready for Bollinger but Herm thought that would be rubbing it in."

    ML: "But you love the draw play. It's your bread-and-butter play."
    PH: "The draw is only effective on third-and-5 or more when everyone in the stadium and around the NFL knows it's coming."

    ML: "The logic is stupefying. I'm twitching."
    PH: "See, I told you, I really am a smart football mind."

    ML: "Oh yeah, well, how do you account for Carson Palmer having a miserable career at USC until you leave, and then he wins the Heisman Trophy?"
    PH: "I taught him everything he knows."

    ML: "You're killing me. Please wait a moment as I remove my spleen without anesthesia or medical instrument"
    PH: "Let me show you my new draw play."

    ML: "Dear God, no. Next question. Why did you call running plays on your last 9 nine first downs of the second half and overtime?"
    PH: "I was trying to establish a distinct pattern so that, four weeks from now, our opponent will see that film and think we'll run again. That's when I bring out my new trick play -- a reverse, fullback draw!"

    ML: "I think I just murdered my cat."
    PH: "Can he block?"

    ML: "Quincy Carter played well in Chad Pennington's absence, right up until the last minute. What happened?"
    PH: "He was expecting a draw play to be radioed into his headset. When he didn't get it, he got flustered. He didn't expect to get a call to throw to his tight ends because he knows they can't catch but I don't."

    ML: "When was the last time Chris Baker or Anthony Becht caught a wide-open pass for a first down?"
    PH: "When was the last time we called a play for them?"
    ML: "At least three times on Sunday. Watching Baker try to catch a football is like watching guys on the docks throw fish at each other."
    PH: "Oh, yeah, those plays. They were check-offs out of a draw play."
    ML: "Naturally."

    ML: "Why did you curl up into a little ball in the second half with your play calling?"
    PH: "I was waiting for this question. The answer is simple: I'm terrible at my job. I don't know how to call a game, yet I think I'm a genius and everyone else seems to agree. It's like passing the All-American basketball player because he can hit from 25 feet but you know he can't read. That's basically how I've kept my job. I don't deserve my paycheck."
    ML: "Paul, I'm stunned. Where did that introspective, honest opinion of yourself come from?"
    PH: "Psych! Wanna see my new draw play?"
    ML: "I just poked out my right eye with a spork. Goodbye!"

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    Monday, November 15, 2004

    Weekend Update, ODB style

    We pour a little out for homey Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the grungiest member of the Wu-Tang Clan who died Saturday night at a recording studio in Manhattan. He was two days shy of a 36th birthday.

    Volume II of the Weekend Update is in honor of ODB, aka Dirt McGirt, aka Big Baby Jesus, aka Russell Jones.

    Through lyrics and song titles from the Ol’ Dirty Bastard and his Wu-Tang Clan brethren, I offer my shout-outs to the more intriguing events of the weekend:

    “Old Dirt Dog, no liar, keep your fantasy hot like fire.”
    For Quincy Carter, who said he could play well and did just that. After Jets fans have three heart attacks from the anger of not being able to get within choking distance of Paul Hackett, they will realize that the Q-man can help the Jets win some games without Chad Pennington.

    “Shame on a -----, who tried to run game on a -----.”
    For Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan, who ordered an intentional incomplete pass to stop the clock with 1 second left, just so his Cornhuskers could kick a field goal and prevent a 30-0 shutout against No. 2 Oklahoma.

    “Shame on a -----, who tried to run game on a -----.” (remix)
    For Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, who called a pass play on fourth-and-8 at the Nebraska 17-yard line with 40 seconds left and his Sooners maintaining a 30-0 lead.

    “Then we got the Ol’ Dirty Bastard ‘cause there ain’t no father to his style.”
    For Paul Hackett, who again proved there has never been a more awful offensive coordinator in NFL history. This platinum idiot calls a halfback pass with less than two minutes left in the first half and the Jets in field-goal range with a 14-0 lead. That’s when you become a red state. Take the free three points and kill the clock. But, nooooooo, not Hackett. Ed Reed, the intricate figure in last week’s Weekend Update made the interception, ran it back and the Ravens eventually scored a touchdown to steal all the momentum and eventually win in overtime, 20-17.

    “Hey, Dirty, Baby I got your money, don’t you worry.”
    Carlos Beltran is reportedly seeking a 10-year, $200-million contract. It’s just a matter of time until George reaches into his pocket, makes the deal, then makes us reach into our pockets for $8 pretzels and $2 ketchup packets for our $9 hot dogs.

    “Ooh, baby, I like it raw.”
    For ex-heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, who enjoys getting beaten mercilessly every time he steps in the ring nowadays. The only “Real Deal” left is the guarantee that he will lose regardless of opponent. Put Holyfield in the ring against the Venus de Milo statue and I’m putting my money on de Milo knocking him out before the 8th round.

    “Can it be that it was all so simple then?”
    For Kurt Warner, the 1999 and 2001 NFL MVP with the St. Louis Rams, who was sacked six times while attempting to quarterback the New York Giants on Sunday. That's 24 sacks in his last four games.

    “Do you think your Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?”
    For Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ rookie quarterback who improved his record to 7-0 with another solid outing and a 24-10 thumping of the Cleveland Browns.

    “Protect ya neck.”
    Joey Porter brought his haymakers to Cleveland and began throwing punches prior to start of the game. Browns players, in self defense of course, punched back. Lips were bloodied. That’s just plain stupid. When entering a fight on the football field, make sure the helmet is on first.

    “Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yeah, shimmy yay, gimme the mike and I’m take you away.”
    For Ron Artest, who begged his Indiana Pacers coach for a month off to heal his aching body (the season is two f-bombing weeks old, by the way), and, oh yeah, promote his label’s album featuring a little bit of Ron Artest and a lot of the group Allure. It is now we bless technology for creating free music sharing sites.

    “Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M., get the money, dollar dollar bill y’all.”
    For Scott Boras, simply because baseball has entered its annual phase of giving Scott Boras’ clients outrageous sums of money. Some call it free agency. Those who know better call it “Boras wants a new pool, four new cars, three new villas in Portugal and an office at Shea Stadium to conduct business” season.

    “In yo’ face like a can of mace.”
    From Brett Favre to Daunte Culpepper. It seems Culpepper thought he could throw two touchdowns in a 1:33 span against Favre’s defense in Favre’s house and leave Favre more than one minute on the clock. Well, Mary’s almost-husband (no, not Woogie) went 2-for-3 for 32 yards on the final drive and Ryan Longwell kicked the winning field goal as time expired. Favre 34, Culpepper 31.

    “I don’t have a problem with you ------- me, but I have a little problem with you not ------ me.”
    To Maria Sharapova, the lovely, leggy Russian tennis player who so beautifully beat Anastasia Myskina in the semifinals of the WTA Championship. I keep checking my Russian Mail-order Bride catalog for Sharapova, but all they ever have in there is the Nikolai Volkoff life-size replica who sings the Soviet national anthem and Cara Mia on demand. The Iron Sheik is not included. Very disturbing.

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    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    Isles off to fast start

    Buoyed by a quick start by Alexei Yashin, a rejuvenated Mark Parrish and a recent win over Tampa Bay, the Islanders are off to one of their hottest starts in franchise history. At least in a fantasy world.

    You see, the good folks at G4 tech TV are simulating the entire season on their web site. They even have a weekly highlight show hosted by Luc Robitaille. The Islanders are 7-2-3-0 and are sitting in second place behind the Flyers. Yashin has 6 goals already, as do Parish and Czerkawski. DiPietro has looked solid in net too.

    As for the Rangers, well they stink. But you knew that. Mike Dunham and Kevin Weekes are taking turns being pummeled in net and the Blue Shirts are off to a 2-9-1-0 start. It seems as if the lockout may be good for them. The only teams worse than the Rangers are the Coyotes, Capitals and Hurricanes.

    So rather than watching in horror as the NHL self-destructs, I can watch live game updates on the web and just picture Peca not clearing the puck, DP leaving the crease dangerously and chanting Mike Must Go! At least we are winning.

    Rapping with Ron

    Just when I thought Latrell Sprewell set the bar at an unattainable height with his "I gotta feed my family" gem when discussing his $14 million contract, along comes Queensbridge's finest.

    Ron Artest now leads the NBA in idiotic moves. This is no small feat, either. With a cast of characters that can make the Kids in the Hall look like high-fallutant lawyers in an Ivy League secret society, the NBA has found its new leader in Ron Artest.

    This guy asked his Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle for time off to rest. It appears he was too tired from promoting his soon-to-be-released rap album.

    I know what you're thinking. What label would sign a man who went 4-for-10 from the field and committed five turnovers, single-handedly costing St. John's a berth in the Final Four in 1999? Amazing, isn't it?

    I cannot begin to discuss the insanity of Ron Artest (in this situation or in any other one he comes up with) because journalism ethics prevent me from f-bombing cursing like a sailor at the brothel on a weekend pass. But I can say that Ron Artest has a mustache, so he can't be trusted. (see The Mustache Maxim)

    Sports, especially selfish basketball players getting paid like a corrupt politician in Colombia, are all about stats. So, let's look at where Artest ranks among the NBA ballers turned hip-hop ballers:

    Worst Basketball-players-turned-rappers:
  • 1, tie) Cedric Ceballos
  • 1, tie) Dana Barros
  • 1, tie) Allen Iverson
  • 1, tie) Kobe Bryant
  • 1, tie) Ron Artest
  • 1, tie) Jason Kidd
  • 1, tie) Dennis Scott
  • 1, tie) Chris Mills
  • 1, tie) Bryan Shaw
  • 1, tie) Gary Payton
  • 11) Shaquille O'Neal

    Note: The first five names I knew. The next five I spent 38 minutes researching online (and I have a cable modem). I may have more problems than Artest.

    And just for fun:

    Best Rappers-turned-basketball-players:
    1) Master P
    2) Ice Cube (the one-handed driving hook-layup he hit in the "It was a good day" video is more undefendable than Kareem's skyhook)
    3) Silkk the Shocker
    4) Mark Wahlberg (kid can shoot from outside, just watch "The Italian Job")
    5) Shaquille O'Neal (his verse on Fu-Schnickens' "What's up Doc? (Can we Rock?)" was good enough to put the Big Aristotle on both lists)
    6) Lil' Bow Wow (ever see "Like Mike?")

    Artest's album hits stores Nov. 23. What's the musical equivalent of straight-to-video movies? Ah, yes, it's Ron Artest.

  • Monday, November 08, 2004

    Terrell, just shut up already

    It seems like everyone these days is enlightening us with an opinion on Terrell Owens. He's a flamboyant superstar! He's a spoiled primadonna! He's a spokesman for a generation! He's a homophobe! ... Oh the contradictions!

    So who is Terrell Owens? Well I'm not going to tell you I know for certain, since I've never met him, and if I did, I wouldn't ask him to describe himslf, because I'm sure his answer would involved fifteen references to the Lord, nine "I'm a team player" comments, seven improper adjectives and four occurrences of double talk. Actually, the only reason I feel a need to chime in on the matter is because the answer is unbelievably simple:

    Terrell Owens is the most immature idiot in pro sports.

    Others have tried to attribute his quirks to an overly ebullent personality, a stark desire to win, an unfair media, and I believe, on one occasion, al-Qaida. Friends, it's not all that complicated. Owens is dumb. And unlike some of his fellow pro athletes, he's not getting any less dumber (pardon the colloquialism).

    Take Jeremy Shockey, Owens' homophobe brother-in-arms. Well, we all thought Jeremy was pretty cuckoo for insinuating that a certain Cowboys coach with a fishy nickname was a fan of Boys on the Side, but since then he's been able to keep his insightful social commentary to a hush. Sure, he still whines about his playing time like a two-year-old without a teething ring, but just yesterday I saw him do the most incredible thing.

    With the Giants trailing 28-14 at the end of a very long, very poorly played game against the Chicago Bears, Shockey caught a touchdown pass. And then, without hesitation, without celebration, he flipped the ball to the official and jogged off the field. I nearly fainted.

    Where was the flexing and the posing and the strutting? I checked the number. Yep, it was 80. Well, well, I thought, it appears Jeremy is finally learning the value of sportsmanship over a cutesy highlight on SportsCenter. But not our Terrell...

    Terrell knows the cameras are on him. He likes that the cameras are on him. He eats it up. He absolutely thrives off it. As writer Skip Bayless recently pointed out, Owens is a master of self-promotion. His ear-to-ear grins and touchdown celebrations have an undeniable appeal. But to say that Owens intends to be so controversial, to act so stupidly so shamelessly, gives T.O. way too much credit. Because as much his Sharpie-wielding, pompom-shaking, sign defacing stunts have made him into a celebrity, they've also turned him into a anomalous circus sideshow.

    What people should be talking about his how many touchdowns he's scored this season, and how he's the greatest receiver since Jerry Rice. Instead, they talk about everything else. Instead of Terrell Owens, Hall of Fame receiver, he's become Terrell Owens, lightning rod for controversy and spokesmodel for immaturity. He's 31 years old, and he still doesn't understand there's a difference between superstardom and celebrity... Sigh...

    Sadly, as long as he continues justify his obnoxious behavior with virtuoso on-field performances, he'll largely be shielded from criticism. If the Eagles finally win the big one, he'll be celebrated as the man who helped put Philly over the top. People will forget about his ignorance and his self-interest because everyone loves a winner.

    But history plays a game too, and right now Owens is on the wrong team. While men like Rice will be remembered principally for their accomplishments, Owens seems destined to be remembered as a curious character, a self-serving egomaniac, and oh yeah, a pretty decent ballplayer. If Pete Rose coaches that team, it looks like he's found his wide receiver.

  • E-mail Mike Casey.
  • Weekend Update, Vol. I

    We begin the inaugural Weekend Update with a shout-out to Gwyneth Paltrow. Why, you ask, do we praise the sometimes-blonde-sometimes-not waify actress in a sports blog?

    Three reasons:

    1) Certain scenes in “Shakespeare in Love” were beautifully, uh, acted.
    2) Her uncanny ability to ride family coattails to individual stardom
    3) If not for her movie “Sliding Doors,” Ed Reed’s 106-yard interception return Sunday night for the Ravens would be just another 106-yard interception return Sunday night for the Ravens.

    “Sliding Doors” looks at how Paltrow life goes after not making a subway train and explores how her life would have been had she made that ride.

    What would have happened if Ed Reed didn’t scoop a tipped pass from Cleveland’s Jeff Garcia one inch before it hit the ground with less than a minute left, his Ravens already leading 20-13, and run it back an NFL-record 106 yards for the touchdown and 27-13 victory?

    I would not have covered the 7.5-point spread in the office pool and would not have guaranteed myself third place.

    I would not have covered the 7-point spread in, uh, another “pool.” It would have been a push, which is worse than watching most Paltrow movies.

    My fantasy football team, the Fryburg Antonellis (unofficially renamed the Fryburg Fibulas due to eight season-ending injuries for my players) had one more point. This is crucial because I’m going up against Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, The Idiot Kicker and Marcus Robinson on Monday night. Sure, I have Marvin Harrison and a 40-point lead, which means Reggie Wayne will catch three touchdowns and Manning will run for two more and beat me by two points.

    The Reed Runback put another team in my league ahead of my division’s leader. However, the division leader has Daunte Culpepper left and the other team was stupid and started Duce Staley when Bill Cowher decided not to.

    But there’s still hope.

    So, with Reed making the play he called on radio “A miracle in the making,” I’m up $50 bucks, have a chance to eek out a fantasy football win and perhaps move a game closer to first place in the division.

    For the record, Kenny Wheaton of the Toronto Argonauts had a 116-yard interception return for a touchdown in a CFL playoff game, but the exchange rate makes it only 94 American yards.

    Some other happenings from the weekend:

    * (Turn on Joe Beningo voice now) You just knew that when Herm Edwards won the coin toss and elected to kick, they were going to lose the game. (Turn off Joe Beningo voice, unless of course you prefer it to your own voice. Either way, keep reading.)

    * Lawyer friend Steve, a Jets fan by trade, got engaged to Jamie the Eagles fan this weekend. Here’s hoping the Jets and Eagles don’t play in the same Super Bowl for at least the next 50 years. Herm Edwards said he was unsure of which side to sit on at the ceremony.

    * The U’s Brock Berlin could very well be the worst quarterback in the state of Florida. Impressive when you realize Jay Fielder, A.J. Feely, Chris Rix and Jeb Bush are all in Florida.

    * The Knicks treated their faithful to a crapola home opener. Fans were heard outside the Garden saying, “That was worse than a Spike Lee movie.” Ouch. The body of evidence to support fans’ theories is outstanding. I’d rather slam my unit in the glove compartment of my car than watch “Summer of Sam.”

    * The huevos rancheros belonging to Texas A & M head football coach Dennis Franchione are beyond comprehension. Against the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners, Franchione calls a fake punt AND a fake field goal in the same f-bombing game. Both go for touchdowns. Huevos!

    * Willie Randolph began his tenure as Mets manager. Ticket prices are expected to drop since operating costs at Shea will go down now that “Windmill Willie” is powering the team.

    * Pat LaFontaine completed an Ironman Triathlon in Florida. 13 hours, 6 minutes, 49 seconds. 0 concussions. Some things travel beyond the realm of comprehension.

    * Hockey still on strike! America rejoices. Liquor stores in NHL cities file for bankruptcy.

    E-mail me

    Friday, November 05, 2004

    Dry ice

    I enjoy a good basketball game as much as the next person. But seriously, is this NHL thing ever gonna get figured out?

    Today is the 50th day of the lockout; 146 games have already been missed, not counting the All-Star Game and every contest in the next 45 days, which have all been cancelled too. The NHL and its players association have not met since September, a couple of days before the lockout went into effect. More than 200 NHLers are scattered across Europe and North America, trying to earn a living by playing for local professional clubs or minor-league teams. Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently the season is "likely to slip away" and NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow affirmed that the "all the guys are on board" in their staunch opposition to a salary cap. Somehow all of this is not making me very confident.

    I'm starting to feel like I have a better chance of seeing my alma mater Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds celebrating a men's basketball title on the grey tarps at Reitz Arena than I will of seeing NHL hockey this season. (For those of you not familiar with the program, our record the last two seasons is 5-51.) I'm pressing along in my NHL 2005 season for PS2. Seven games into the season, I'm 1-5-0-1. And I still think I've got a better chance of winning a Stanley Cup this year than any NHLer.

    What will June be like without a grizzled, bearded man listing along the ice toting a big silver cup and flashing a toothless, ear-to-ear grin? How will I get through April without 16 teams, 16 wins, octopii, sudden death, Buccigross and Melrose? No Sam and J.D.? No Howie and Joe Mich? No Doc, nor Chico, nor Pang & Steve Levy? I'm starting to feel ill...

    No matter how the rhetoric czars in the NHL's PR department try to explain it, the league needs to realize that the average fan doesn't understand or care why a salary cap is important. They just want cheap tickets and an exciting product on the ice. And similarly, the players need to understand that the average fan doesn't give a damn about your financial problems when you've been living in a mansion in Oyster Bay for the last six years. No amount of explanations or excuses or apologies can atone for my having to spend January watching sporting events like the "Huminatarian Bowl" or the "Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl." I'd rather be humming the National Hockey Night theme song and knocking hockey balls around my house.

    Unfortunately, no one seems all that interested in reaching a bargain or appeasing my appetite for pucks. A few NHL players have spoken out in question of the impasse, but Goodenow has quickly reached out to hush any malcontention. We are left to believe that both sides are at a complete standstill, completely unable and unwilling to work together. And at the expense of those who pay their salaries, the players and owners have got me pretty convinced.

    So while we wait for an end to the obstinance, we'll get by on other distractions: the Knicks, Jets, Giants, St. John's, World Series of Poker, Rutgers, or the -- *gulp*, dare I say it? -- Nets! I hope the players are enjoying their extended vacations. I hope the owners have a little extra change in their coffers come Christmastime. In the meantime, I'll be warming up to Trevor Ariza and Jamal Crawford, trying to catch the occasional Rangers classic, and suffering the intolerable silence of an NHL fan who is alone in his misery.

  • E-mail Mike.
  • Newsday's Mark Herrmann chats with Pat LaFontaine.
  • Give 'Windmill' a Chance

    The hiring of Willie Randolph as manager of the New York Mets renews my faith that idiots are alive and well in America.

    This has nothing to do with Omar Minaya, Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, Randolph or anyone else in the Mets’ organization and everything to do with the people calling radio shows and posting on Internet message boards and chat rooms.

    These schmucks on wheels believe that Randolph won’t be a good manager because he’s a Yankee. And just when I was ready to give credit to America for not being dumber than Nicole Richie on late-night talk shows, they come out from under the couch to drop such insightful gems as, “I’m disgusted. I don’t want a Yankee running my team.”

    Well, morons:
    A) It’s not your team.
    B) He’s not exactly replacing Connie Mack or Miller Huggins.
    C) He understands how to win, which is unheard of in Mets country.
    D) When the Mets are .500 in August and perhaps playing one or two meaningful games in September (very early September), you’ll be praising Willie as the savior.
    E) The Mets copy everything from the Yankees, from their pinstriped uniforms to the logo on their hats to the city they play in.

    Wait, there’s more:
    F) If the Mets’ franchise is so bad (and it is), then why not take from the best? It worked for Robin Hood.
    G) Art Howe couldn’t handle the New York media and he was ripped for not being a New Yorker
    H) Joe Torre was blasted the day he got hired and looked what happened the past nine years.

    You can criticize the hiring for Randolph having no managerial experience, or for the fact that he’s not Bobby Valentine or Jim Leyland. But he’s an established name in New York and is hungry to prove that he deserved any of the 12 jobs he interviewed for previously.

    In the end, Randolph needs players to be considered a successful manager. Torre was average at best until he came to the Yankees and had some talent to work. Mike Piazza is on the decline and Randolph must fire up the front office to pursue big free agents such as Carlos Beltran.

    The Yankee pedigree can only help the Mets in the short-term. Wise front-office moves and better on-the-field talent will carry the rest.

    Rip the Mets if you wish for the hiring, but do it for the right reasons.

    If the Mets make a run at the playoffs in 2005 or 2006, would you really care that Randolph once played for the Yankees? Remember, he once played for the Mets, too.

    E-mail me | More Randolph coverage

    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    These (don't) go to 11

    Meet the 2004-05 New York Knicks, a talented but flawed bunch.

    Although New York has assembled what many consider to be the favorite to win the reconfigured Atlantic division, the Knicks proved Wednesday night why they're still a step or two short of making a serious title run.

    The Knicks had the guts and the wherewithal. What they didn't have, to borrow from Spinal Tap, was "the extra push over the cliff." When the T-Wolves kicked the energy up to 11, the Knicks were stuck on 10. New York couldn't find its fifth gear -- or simply hasn't formed one yet. Until that happens, it will be tough to compete with the best teams in the NBA.

    With that in mind, let's take a look at a player-by-player recap of the team's performance in the loss to Minnesota:

    Stephon Marbury: Stephon was his usual self, dishing off several nice passes and finishing the game with 10 assists and 27 points. But the former Lincoln High star never got into a serious groove offensively and couldn't make tought shots down the stretch. He also missed two free throws late in the third quarter that would have given New York the lead.

    Jamal Crawford: Came out firing early and showed his explosive offensive potential. Crawford made some nice plays defensively, but his shot selection was erratic and he occasionally took the Knicks out of their offense with wild lay-ups and quick jump shots. If he settles down he should be an excellent pick-up for GM Isiah Thomas.

    Tim Thomas: Awful start for the Knicks' starting swingman. Thomas played just 23 minutes and went 3-13 from the field. He looked out of control and out of sync on offense and lost a lot of playing time to rookie Trevor Ariza in the second half.

    Kurt Thomas: Kurt had his hands full guarding league MVP Kevin Garnett and did about as well as one could expect. His defense was solid -- although at times irrelevant when KG got hot -- and he made a couple of his long-range jump shots. Came up with 15 rebounds to help limit Minnesota's second opportunities. But was invisible offensively for most of the game and couldn't contribute down the stretch.

    Nazr Mohammed: Nazr had a quiet game, playing 29 minutes and notching 5 points and 7 boards. He did not have a blocked shot and did not run the floor especially well. Did nothing to dispel the notion that the Knicks might have trouble at center this year.

    Trevor Ariza: Isiah hit the jackpot with Marbury, the daily double with Crawford and may have landed a trifecta with Trevor Ariza. This raw, talented second-round draft pick saw plenty of crunch-time minutes in the second half and played reasonably well. He created problems defensively for Minnesota and gave the Knicks some needed energy. However, he needs to learn to harness his energy, or he'll end up drawing a lot of offensive fouls and taking a lot of wild shots. Overall, the future is bright for the rookie.

    Michael Sweetney: Last year's first round pick contributed as well, playing 18 minutes and scoring 10 points off the bench. He also grabbed 6 hard-earned rebounds and showed a physical and atheltic maturity that should make him a fixture in New York's rotation throughout the year. Looked comfortable playing big minutes late in the fourth quarter, although he still has some learning to do.

    Penny Hardaway: Penny struggled to make an impact, going 1-5 and scoring just 3 points. His calm on the court may be his best asset to the Knicks, but he's also going to have to make some clutch shots and play tough defense, too.

    Jerome Williams: The Junkyard Dog looked good defensively and under the boards but couldn't help much on the offensive end. If teammates can remeber to keep the ball out of his hands, the Knicks should get their money's worth with this guy.

    Vin Baker: Baker was combative in his six minutes and looked for his shots on offense. If he gets hot during games throughout the season, look for coach Lenny Wilkens to favor him over the offensively-challenged Williams. His lack of mobility appears to be his biggest liability for the run 'n' gun Knicks.

    Moochie Norris: Still not sure why Moochie is a Knick. When you have to get rid of Frank Williams, I guess Norris is the next best option. Williams may be the most sorely-missed player this year, as Moochie just doesn't have the talent to keep Stephon Marbury on the bench for the rest he needs.

    Shandon Anderson: Well... uh.... he gave some good high fives. I'm still not sure why the Knicks stopped using him. He would have been useful on defense over a cold Penny Hardaway tonight. But I guess if Isiah doesn't mind letting him sit on the bench collecting his pay checks, I don't mind either.

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    Election Day Voter's Guide

    Even if you’ve been caught up in Bostonian revelry the past few days, or are completely focused on the Jets’ Monday night game againt Miami, surely you realize that Tuesday is Election Day.

    CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and every other telecommunicative acronym says this is the most important election in our country’s history, so it must be true. (George Washington could only afford basic service, so he refused to go on those other pay-cable shows.)

    I would never cast my political views on other people because Agnostic Fundamentalism isn’t my style. But I do agree that this election is bigger than Nino Brown, so I came up with a way to reach the sports fan.

    Here is the inaugural Mark La Monica’s Voter Guide, based on the candidates appearing on New York’s ballot:

    George W. Bush (Republican)
    He bought the Texas Rangers in 1989, then sold his interests in the team in 1994. The baseball strike canceled the postseason. Also in 1994. Not until 1996 did the Rangers finally make the playoffs, two years after Bush left. Texas reached the playoffs in three of the four full seasons following Bush’s departure. He traded Sammy Sosa and two others for perpetual DH Harold Baines and Fred Manrique. That’s right. Fred f-bombing Manrique. That should eliminate the Texas vote, if they (and their shotguns) aren’t loaded, but it could make Illinois a red state. Curious sidenote: whatever happened to Fred Manrique. Fred, if you’re reading this, give me a shout out. I also wonder if Bush’s Cabinet members are on steroids and he, using his baseball experience, decided to look the other way.

    John Kerry (Democrat)
    Maybe he likes the Red Sox, maybe he doesn’t. But he’s a huge fan of Manny Ortiz. Aye, Papi! One could argue that he did what MVP voters wanted to do, which is merge Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz into one über-hitter. One could also argue he’s a sports idiot. Both seem viable. But he did set a campaign record for being photographed playing the most amount of sports. (Note: The hunting photo doesn’t count because guns don’t play sports, people play sports.) And he never helped destroy a franchise by trading Sosa, nor was he part of a group that allowed the cancellation of its sport’s playoffs. He likely never even voted to put Bud Selig in charge of anything, nor vote to remove Fay Vincent from his charge as commissioner of baseball. If Bush had showed such conviction with his Cabinet selections, maybe much of the country’s problems wouldn’t be as bad. Hmmm?

    Kerry’s cause was boosted by the Green Bay Packers beating the Redskins in Washington. Since 1936, the outcome of Washington’s final home game before a presidential election has determined the next president. If Washington wins, the incumbent does too. If the visitor wins, it’s a brave new world. However, trusting this theory this year seems difficult. Not because of the candidates, but because trusting Brett Favre this year isn’t as easy.

    Ralph Nader (Independent)
    I’m all for consumer advocacy, but this guy looks waaaaay too much like the guy who played Sonny Red in “Donnie Brasco.” And we all know what happened to Sonny Red. He had poor underlings who couldn’t gather for enough intelligence to tell him he was about to get whacked.

    Roger Calero (Socialist Workers)
    Once arrested for selling weed to a cop, so he’ll likely earn the NBA’s votes. He’s also a raging Communist, and given their inability to produce non-drug-enhanced Olympians, the NBA may withdraw its support. Plus, he was born in Nicaragua, making it constitutionally illegal for him to serve as president of the U.S. of A.

    Michael Badnarik (Libertarian)
    If only he had actor Stephen Bauer walking down the streets of America in a wife-beater sweating up a storm and chanting “Liberte! Liberte!,” he might have had a chance to earn a few votes outside of his family and those he went to college with. Come to think of it, I wonder if he went to college. Hang on, let’s see what Google says . . . a ha! He’s a Hoosier. He was there during Bobby Knight’s perfect 32-0 season of 1975-76, but was powerless to stop the made-for-ESPN movie “Season on the Brink,” so I must immediately question his ability to lead a nation.

    David Cobb (Green)
    No relation to Ty Cobb, which may or may not hurt his chances. Of course, no one outside of his family and Ralph Nader knows who the f-bomb this guy, so that may hurt his chances, too.

    Michael Anthony Peroutka (Constitution)
    This political genius resigned from his position with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services when he realized none of his projects were constitutionally permissible. That’s some Fred Wilpon stuff right there, i.e. Art Howe “lighting up the room.” Who exactly was in that room and why were they sitting in the dark?

    Hope this helps you make up your mind. Come to think of it, I hope you use none of this to make your decision, but maybe it made you laugh a little and got you to start thinking about the election.

    To quote my favorite Diddy, “Vote or die!”

    E-MAIL ME | More Politics