Derby: Game Over

Some horses ran and there was yelling and stuff. Good race but no winning tickets for me and my crew.

I also may need to modify my theory that God hates horses because after yesterday's deluge, the weather was exceptional today.

Overall, a great weekend and I would definitely do it again.

Ode To Bobby

Between the 6th and 7th races at the derby, Churchill Downs had a tribute to their fallen reigning champion, Barbaro. Out in the grandstand it sounded something like, "blah, blah, blah, blahblah, blah." But that's just a loose translation. My Bobby memorial experience was enhanced by the woman in my section wearing the "Barbaro Forever In My Heart," T-shirt. I'm reasonably sure that this woman expects Bobby to rise from the dead and ascend to his proper place among jebus and the holy ghost etc.

But enough about that. Speaking of miracles, I actually held winning tickets for the first two races. The next 4 brought me back down to earth, albeit with some close ones.

We still have about 3 hours and 3 races until its time for the actual derby but our bets are in. We've got money all over the board but we're a but heavier on Circular Quay, Scat Daddy, and Liquidity.

If you're betting with us, good luck. Because you must be an idiot.


We're On The Board

True Competitor finished 2nd in the 3rd to give √ľa our first betting win of the day, albeit a modest one. Hooray mint juleps!

Make It Rain (And Pacman Isn't Even Here)

The boys and I are approaching Churchill Downs and it's pouring. Nice. My only conclusion at this point is that God hates horses. Either that or it's a low pressure system. But what do I know? I'm no meteorologist.

This is my first crack at blogging from my Blackberry and I'll try to keep up with it today and throughout the weekend but we'll see how that goes after 2 (or 10) mint juleps.

My horrificness at picking anything has been well documented on this blog, but I like Idoitmyway in the 2nd today.


NEWS FLASH: Major League Baseball Sucks At Marketing

Barry Bonds is excellent at what he does. Being an especially selective hitter who frequently hits the ball far (or far enough anyway) when he does decide to swing is one of the things he does well. The other is engender hatred from fans, media, teammates, and even his league. In my opinion, he's earned it fair and square.

Aside from generally being considered a jerk, cheating on his wife, and allegedly physically and mentally abusing the woman he cheated with, his greatest sin - in the eyes of many fans, the media aristocracy that is baseball writers, and Bud Selig - is his tainting of the integrity of the game by taking steroids.

One problem. The guy has never failed a piss test. Well, for steroids anyway. But really, who isn't popping greenies? How do you think I hammer out my monthly post?

Summer of 1998 heroes - the guys who many credited with saving baseball after the crushing strike in 1994 - Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, are painted with the same brush even though they never tested positive for steroids. Of course the visual and circumstantial evidence is overwhelming in all of these cases. These guys performance and physical stature likely grew too much too fast to be anything natural. But when McGwire and Sosa staged their epic home run chase in '98 and Bonds began his level jumping in 1999, steroids were illegal in this country, but they were not against the rules of Major League Baseball.

I'm no doctor but I don't think steroids are good for people or good for the game. But I have a real hard time with his retroactive morality. If McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds were taking steroids in the late 90s, it wasn't against the rules. While I'd like the athletes I follow to all believe in the purity of performance, baseball is hardly alone in this. There are performance enhancing drug scandals at the Olympics, in cycling, football, basketball - in short, in every sport. The difference is these other sports and governing bodies regulate the use and punish the cheaters. Baseball did not. So who's fault is it then?

Fast forward to today. Unless he homers tonight, Bonds is currently sitting at 741 home runs. That's 15 shy of breaking Hank Aaron's all-time record. And Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are dropping the ball.

If Hank Aaron wasn't the first baseball player I was really conscious of, he was damn close. I spent most of my childhood thinking wishing I was named after him (my middle name is Aaron - I wasn't . . . the guy I was named after was pretty cool in his own right but he didn't have Hank's stick). So I can understand why many - myself included - wish that it weren't Barry Bonds about to break what might be the most hallowed record in all of sports. Bud Selig and Hank Aaron himself certainly appear to fall into that category. For Aaron, fine. He's still works in the game but he doesn't work for the league. In my mind, he can do what he wants. But Selig is a different story. His non-committal statements about his intention to attend what could be a record-breaking game are flat-out unacceptable for a man charged with operating in the best interest of the game.

Of course, he's allowed to feel anyway he wants personally. And I even understand the fear of celebrating Bonds' feat only to learn later - with hard evidence - that he was juicing. That said, by not celebrating what Bonds is about to do, Selig and the MLB are essentially killing the legacy of the sport, not to mention turning their back on baseball royalty - son of a star, god son of a Hall of Famer, and soon to be the All-Time Home Run King. Wouldn't you think the league would want to have a better relationship with arguably its most visible star.

After Babe Ruth finished his career with 714 home runs, it took nearly 40 years for Aaron to pass him. Now, assuming Bonds' head doesn't explode before he hits No. 756, it will have taken another 30+ years. We are watching a once-a-generation event taking place and so many are letting their disdain for the athlete or the question of tainted performance distract them from the fact that they are watching something truly amazing.

So tonight, I'm officially changing my stance. Instead of hoping it doesn't happen or ignoring it while it does, I'll be closely following Barry's progress. You don't have to like the guy, but he can hit. And like me, you're getting older, and you may never see this again.

And hey, steroids aren't all bad. Without them, chances are Barry wouldn't have had the tits to pull this off:


Cow-herd the Cow-ard

If you travel in the same blogging circles I do, then you've undoubtedly heard about what ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd and his denial of service minions have done to TheBigLead.com. According to TBL and other reports, this was an unprovoked attack. Now Cowherd can add cyber-terrorism to his list of offenses against blogs - prior to this, it was limited to stealing their content. Of course, Cowherd is far from alone at ESPN or among radio hosts when it comes to using blog content without attribution (fortunately some at the WWL are willing to give credit where credit is due) so let's not focus our attention there.

This story is concerning on a bunch of levels. First, it is clear that Cowherd has no respect for the blogging community. From the brief amount of time I've spent listening to him, I suspect he doesn't respect much. This is a guy that does a solo radio show and is perfectly comfortable with 15 minute monologues that amount to little more than verbal masturbation. In the instances where he does take phone calls from listeners, he routinely listens to one comment and the disconnects the caller while he berates them or their opinion or, usually, both.

The second thing is even though I'm not convinced that ESPN - Cowherd's bosses - truly "get" what blogging is all about, they are clearly trying to get on the band wagon with their Insider Weblog Roster. At the very least, shouldn't some big cheese be explaining this to Cowherd that blatantly disrespecting an entire community has repercussions on the ESPN bottom line (the dollars and cents, not the scoreboard)?

Lastly, and most important in my mind, this is just more proof that ESPN is not an organization of journalists but rather an entertainment company. This kind of activity would not be tolerated by a true news organization. And while you can argue that it shouldn't be tolerated by any kind of organization, this is getting Cowherd and ESPN attention. Don't they say that there is no such thing as bad publicity?

As The Big Lead has pointed out in the last few days, the sports information landscape is changing. The change began when people who loved sports began writing about it online and built their own audience. And the change is continuing as athletes like Gilbert Arenas and Curt Schilling use blogs to communicate directly to the public. The reality is that traditional media is losing control of the content. There will always be a place for ESPN, Cowherd, and others in their line of work but their stranglehold on the distribution channels of information and opinion is a thing of the past.

Ultimately Cowherd has a choice: He can recognize the change, embrace it, and find the angle where he can thrive or he can pretend it doesn't exist, insult it, and steal from it while it swallows him up and spits him out.

I never had a ton of respect for Colin Cowherd but now, he is nothing more than a vandal. If ESPN is really the reputable company it purports itself to be, they can not tolerate this kind of behavior from people in their employ.

See you in hell Schrutebag.


Baseball Fever - It's Twitterriffic

I've been hearing tons about Twitter in my daily reading as part of my day job. Because I like to experience these new technologies, understand their attraction and relevance, I signed up. I set myself as a "follower" of a friend of mine so I could read her twitters. It was mildly interesting but . . . I don't know, I wasn't feeling the next killer app.

That was, until tonight anyway. That was when that same twittering friend showed me the Red Sox Twittercast. For those of you who don't know about Twitter, it's essentially micro-blogging. Each tweet is limited to 144 characters so the thoughts relayed need to be short and sweet. Well, it turns out this works pretty well for live blogging an event. And with the ability to interact with twitter via SMS, you can receive messages on your phone.

You can bet I'll have that hooked up when Daisuke Matsuzaka is making his debut smack in the middle of my work day tomorrow. I'm a believer.


I Didn't Want To Do This . . .

I have a beautiful daughter who is four. She's a great kid, really well behaved in general. But a fact of life all parents - and some innocent airplane passengers - learn, is that toddlers occasionally totally and completely FREAK OUT. If I read a book about it, or watched Nanny 911, I'm sure I'd learn that these are power struggles.

As a parent, when I ask my kid to do something, what I want more than anything else is comprehensive obedience. Of course, it rarely works out that way, which is fine. But sometimes the result is out and out defiance. Being as I am, my response to this was to push and push and push to try to get my way. Partially because she's 4 and partially because she has at least 1/2 my genes, she appears to be just as stubborn - or worse - than I am.

One of the hardest lessons I learned was to let her freak. Just let it happen. Refuse to communicate on that plane. If you ignore the behavior then the child isn't getting the desired result from it and they'll change, right? It is always hard listening to screaming and crying - especially when it's over turning off The Wiggles (how can something that makes me so happy make her so sad?) - but lo and behold, the ignoring the undesirable behavior worked.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I did NOT want to post about Dan Shaughnessy. See, if I write and complain about Shaughnessy's latest annoying, stupid, boneheaded column, then I'm just reinforcing his behavior. Everyone up in arms is exactly what he wants. He's made a living off it. There is a freakin' blog about NOTHING ELSE! Of course, to be fair, there is at least one blog about pretty much anything.

But I'm failing. Right now. He sucked me in. DAMN YOU, CHB! (A special thanks to Carl Everett, patron saint of Shaughnessy hatred)

When I started thinking about this post, it was going to be about this Shaughnessy - Schilling spat. But even since he wrote that on Sunday, he's already got another stinker in his assessment of Daisuke Matsuzaka's pitching performance yesterday.

Let's start with Dice-K and work backwards . . . In this morning's column, Shaughnessy had this to say:

The story is that Dice-K walked five batters and demonstrated poor command of his fastball. Then he did some stretching of his back and legs, which was caught by ESPN cameras. Then he iced down in the locker room. Then he changed his mind about his postgame routine and decided for the first time not to speak with the media -- American or Japanese.

The result of all this will be a five-day frenzy of Dice-K speculation on two continents. Is he hurt? Is he frustrated? Is he a diva? Is he physically and mentally prepared for his first big league start next Friday in Kansas City?

Only in Boston. Only here could there be a crisis after a guy throws a five-inning no-hitter.

There's a crisis? I live and work in Boston. I'm not panicking. In fact, I'm encouraged. I rode the T in from Quincy today. No one looked overly depressed. There was no crying and wailing. A crisis? In March? Who really worries about spring training numbers in the first place? Dan Shaughnessy, that's who.

That bring us back to Shaughnessy's Sunday column. He rips Schilling - way to chase the easy target, Dan - and takes a pretty good shot as his own readership because I'm pretty sure the same Red Sox fans reading Schilling's blog also get their Red Sox news from The Boston Globe and Boston.com. Along the way he demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the new media.

Here's the thing though . . . when Schilling is out on the mound, I'm a huge fan. I love his style, love his toughness. He's a guy you want in your corner - cue the 14 billionth bloody sock reference - in tough situations. But when he opens his yap to proclaim he's still the ace, or he wants a new contract, or tell us how much he loves Everquest, eh, not so much then.

Put it this way: Having to pick a side in a Shaughnessy-Schilling feud is like being forced to pick your favorite contestant in a wet t-shirt contest between Charlie Weiss and Bill Parcells. You've gotta "support" Weiss - wins hands down, of course - and the same is true for Schilling here. But it's not something you feel good about.

Aside from his usual jack-assed-ness, what Shaughnessy is really missing here - like many other print dinosaurs (see: Smith, Sam and Vecsey, Peter) - is that in the last 3 years, it just got WAY easier to get your opinion out there. It wasn't that long ago that if you wanted someone to know what you thought, you had to tell your buddy in the bar (or whoever would listen) or be one of maybe 5 columnists in this city. But those days are gone. Long gone. Now anyone who has a computer, an opinion, and some free time can publish. God bless you, Al Gore.

One of the things that especially pissed me off besides, well, everything, was Shaughnessy's characterization of bloggers and blog readers as middle-aged guys living in their mothers basement. This misconception is laughable for a couple reasons. First, CHB and many other sportswriters of his era were likely not talented enough to play the games they now cover. They were the ones getting the figurative sand kicked in their face. But now, 20-30 years, a couple books, and generations of Red Sox players and fans as enemies later, he's the one making fun of the dorks. Second, this whole Internet thing is WAY BIGGER than you think, Dan. It's not just the dorks using computers. I hear it's like a series of tubes. Anyway, it's not just the geeks and the dorks consuming this content. And last, as a person who is now, technically, a blogger (albeit not professionally) and a person who used to work in sport communications (as a newspaper writer and sports publicity contact), let me tell you, those press boxes are not filled with athletic, confident, socially comfortable people. Dan, you need to look in the mirror before you point fingers.

Of all the stuff I've read about this today, I like TheBigLead.com take the best:

What’s the over/under on the day athletes stop speaking to print media, and instead head home and post their thoughts on a blog? Barry Bonds, Gilbert Arenas, Curt Schilling, Curtis Granderson and Paul Shirley, among others, are already there.

Beware, CHB. Be. Ware.

More Poor Performances Like This Please

Forgive me reader(s), it has been over a month since my last post . . .

Since the Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka - their $100 million dollar man - this past off season, I've been trying hard to temper my enthusiasm. I keep telling myself, experience in the Japanese League or not, he's still a rookie. He will be facing consistently better hitters day in an day out than he ever has before. And, of course, given all the hype, he could be an All-Star and still not live up to his billing.

I paid attention when he dominated a college team, experimented against the Orioles, and then seemed to find his groove. All good things. But I think last night was the best indication of future success yet.

Watching/listening to SportsCenter last night, you heard phrases like "struggled with his control" and "Matsuzaka's dissatisfaction with his performance." I heard Stuart Scott say that Matsuzaka only threw 59 strikes on 103 pitches against the Reds.

So what happened? A disaster right? He got shelled? Gave up a bushel of runs? Got chased from the game?

Nope. He threw 5 no-hit innings. He walked 5 but struck out 6. To see a guy "struggle with his control" on the way to 5 no-hit innings . . . well, it's safe to say that it's quite a bit tougher to contain that enthusiasm this morning. Could the next 7 seem any further away? Let's play ball!


Craigslist . . . The New Frontier

If you haven't already heard, an alleged Cincinnati Reds player, has allegedly posted an alleged personals ad in the casual encounters area on Craigslist.

I am here for two months before i head back up north. I have this morning before practice.....looking for a woman to enjoy the morning with. Can be married or single, disease free is important. I am 5'9" 180 short hair and blue eyes, in shape, of course.

It may or may not be Ryan Freel, who does fit the description. Of course, it could be a prank played by one of his teammates in which case they should win some kind of award - this is no shaving cream pie or hot foot.

Anyway, it got me thinking that Craigslist and personals ads could be an effective way for a variety of athletes to find what they are looking for. Here are some examples.


SBM, 23, is seeking fine ass bitches to dance on my at-home stripper pole while I "make it rain" (with Monopoly money - I learn from my mistakes muthfucka). See, I got to do it at my pad because I think I might be wearing some ankle jewelery real soon. Oh, and you need to like saliva too. That shit's gotta turn you on.

Hit me up: wakawakawaka@pacman.com


SEWMM (single-eyed white male member) belonging to semi-famous football "anal-yst" . . . looking for a SF to tell me I look good and bald is beautiful . . . I have a flexible schedule - hit me up and I'll rise to the occasion.

E-mail me: littlesean@espn.com


BM late 30s . . . I recently had an "incident" that was very embarrassing for my family . . . I said I hated all gay people. I feel like I've learned something and I really want to meet some butt pirates and learn about their culture. But let me tell you queers something. I'm not a flamer and I don't want any of you homos touching me. If any of you fairies try to go brokeback on me, I'll kill you. I really feel like I can grow from this if just meet some real fudgepackers.

Email me: TinRunTMC@Lebatardbaitedme.com


MWM seeks woman who . . . COULD! GO! ALL! THE! WAY! You prefer leather apparel of all kinds and like having coke snorted off your ass.

Email me: BoomerBerman@alumni.Brown.edu

Isn't that fun? Collect them all. Feel free to add your own in the comments.


The Unpopular View

I realize that I'm putting my man card on the line here, but I have something to say.

I hate the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

I know is sounds completely crazy but it's true.

I'm 34 years old and I've been Sports Illustrated subscriber since 1981. My first issue was sometime in February and it was the one with the basketball hoop filled with cash. It was about the Boston College point-shaving scandal. Not the last time it would happen.

But I digress. Since then, SI has been part of a weekly ritual. It has been modified at different points in my life. When I first started getting it, it would thumb through looking at the pictures, cutting out the ones I really liked. Later in life, it was a quiet hour or so spent on the couch reading the articles that seemed interesting. Now it's a worth a couple train rides on my way to or from work. All that is very interesting, I know.

I subscribed to SI because 51 weeks a year, they deliver interesting stories about actual sports. Then for one week a year - admittedly a slow one sports-wise - they bag the sports coverage for women in swimsuits.

Now, I'm a red-blooded, American male, and I love me some porn. In fact, I've been a consumer of porn for longer than I've been an SI subscriber.

An aside: I think it was 1979 or 1980ish when my friends Brian and Scott swiped an issue of Playboy from their Dad or older brother's collection. We looked at it and then we buried it. Yes, you read that right, we buried it. To this day I don't really understand it although in looking back, it seems like a protection instinct. Like a dog burying a bone.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right, I was loving me some porn. While the women in the swimsuit editions are certainly attractive, they have way too many clothes on so qualify as good pornography.

So I believe in specialization. Do what you do well. Sports Illustrated, you keep delivering interesting sports news. And take it easy on the NASCAR, will ya? And porn, you keep doing what you do well - showing me hot naked chicks and innovating in the online marketplace.

And . . . I'm spent.


What Just Happened?

I will admit that I spend a fair amount of time complaining about ESPN and how they cover certain events. Maybe it doesn't seem like a lot but let's just say I only post about fraction of the things that drive me crazy. So I'm watching college hoop (Big Monday), Villanova vs. Pitt, and I find myself applauding something ESPN has done (not literally, I'm alone in my living room so that would be weird).

In their studio show, in addition to capable Reece Davis and aged, mildly insane Digger Phelps, was Stacey Dales (what happened to Schuman?). It's never been out of character to have a male analyst for women's basketball but this is the first time I can recall a female analyst for men's basketball.

Now, if I were your typical, sex-driven male, I might comment on how hot Ms. Dales is. Or how sexy basketball skillz are in a woman. Or maybe I'd comment on how the ESPN camera is position tantalizingly close to her rack. But no, I'm not going to say that (even if it is true).

In all seriousness, I think this is fantastic. Dales, like any quality analyst, has experience both as a standout college player and a solid pro, and she knows her stuff. That gives her more game experience in her field than Mel Kiper Jr. - or Sean Salisbury for that matter.

And speaking of The Steak, I'm 99 percent sure that Dales isn't going to start taking cell phone pictures of her cooter.


What's That, ESPN? Vick Had Pot? No Way!

It's not like I need another reason to be annoyed with ESPN but I got it regardless. I had a three-hour traffic-filled drive between the unfortunate hours of 4-7. I attempted to listen to ESPN Radio during that stretch but I am always bored when radio hosts are flying solo and do 12-minute monologues which is exactly what Jason Smith was doing.

But I did listen long enough to hear - again - how stupid Mike Vick is (I'm paraphrasing Smith here) for getting caught trying to board an airplane with a water bottle that had a secret compartment containing what appeared to be marijuana residue (see the 55 Problems re-enactment of the scene, above).

I changed the station because, among other reasons, I'd already heard about this about 8 hours earlier. But I flip back later to see if the if they are talking to anyone interesting and Smith is still on the same topic. Then I flip back again and he's talking to John Clayton about it. Again later . . . still going. All in all, I flipped to ESPN Radio 6 times and save for 45 seconds mocking Barry Bonds transparency in saying Mark McGwire and Pete Rose should be in the hall of fame, every time, Smith was talking about Vick. And while I'm sure Smith felt like one of the popular kids while he displayed his knowledge of drug paraphernalia from his high school days, he sounded like a complete blow-hard when characterized Vick as QB who gets 95 yards passing and two picks every game. Vick, much to the establishment's chagrin, has not turned into Steve Young, but he is still an amazing football player. More on that in a minute.

This story is mildly interesting, especially given some of the other comical (depending on your point of view) transgressions by Vick in the past but Smith calling for his head - he said Matt Schaub should be competing for the starting job next year - over this, is ridiculous.

Not that I would expect perspective from ESPN or its personalities. I'm sure that they lead with this on every show - SportsCenter, Mike & Mike, Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick etc. I'm sure if I turn on ESPN Radio right now, whoever is on now will be talking about it. Enough already. There are playoff football games this weekend. Why are we talking about this? Even if there weren't playoffs games this weekend, this shit doesn't even rank compared to other "crimes" committed by NFL players or throughout the sports world.

All that aside, the secret compartment is an intriguing idea. I looked around online and found the water bottle safe pictured here. But Vick wasn't limited to water bottles. Maybe some of these other options will work better in the future (depending on the situation).

Back to Vick the player. . . I don't have any particular love for Vick but when I look at his career, I see it more as a failing of his coaches than his failing. Maybe he could work harder, maybe he could study harder. I have no idea. I'm not saying he is perfect. But what strikes me is I see coaches trying to fit him into their system. Let's have Vick be like John Elway (Dan Reeves). Let's make Vick a west coast QB like Steve Young (Jim Mora). Here's an idea - one I bet Bobby Petrino used to get him the job - let's stop trying to jam the square peg into the round hole and build an offense around Vick's strengths as an amazing football player. I'm not going to start rooting for the Falcons any time soon but I think it will be good for the league if Petrino and OC Hue Jackson can put together an offense that is not against the grain of Vick's skills.

Michael Vick's water bottle raises suspicion at Miami airport [Sun-Sentinel.com]