Friday, June 27, 2014

Breaking News: Ann Coulter is Stupid, Trolling for Clicks

Listen, I know that Ann Coulter says stupid shit just to get attention. I do. And I know by responding, I feed the beast, in whatever small measure. But fuck it. She's stupid, and when one assumes that other people recognize stupidity, the result is that the stupidity spreads. It's like a virus. But with stupid.

So, let's knock this out quick, OK?

Ann Coulter's stupid column is here. You can read it, if you want. But it is pretty stupid.

Keep in mind, this is now an America in which World Cup matches are being broadcast in MLB Parks so both the players and the fans can watch what happens before the baseball game starts. That was certainly not true back in 1930, when the USA had their finest performance. Ann Coulter was there for that tournament, and she's still bitter. Let's just see how stupidly out of date she is!

"She" uses an itemized list, and luckily, that's how I like to blow up stupid arguments, so this will be very convenient. Let's start at the beginning. Ann Coulter quotes in bold.

1) "Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer. In a real sport, players fumble passes, throw bricks and drop fly balls -- all in front of a crowd."

That's incredibly stupid. Soccer is full of individual performances. Russia is going home because their goalie failed to stop an easy shot. Lots of teams are sent home because of a failed Penalty Kick. Roberto Baggio's missed PK was TWENTY YEARS AGO. Ghana last cup?

Also, just to be clear, Ann is celebrating the fact that people who play her sports often display incompetence at them. Yay?

Also, soccer is played in front of a crowd. Not sure what that last phrase is about.

2) Liberal moms like soccer because it's a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.

Boy, that's stupid. No sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level? When did Ann Coulter decide that she hates women, anyway? Liberal, Centrist and Conservative moms like soccer, by the way, because it doesn't leave their kids with brain damage.

3) No other "sport" ends in as many scoreless ties as soccer.

Is soccer low scoring? I HADN'T HEARD.

4) The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport...After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.

Boy, that's stupid. Major injury is necessary? So, tennis is not a sport, then? Also, if you think soccer doesn't have the chance for major injury, you're stupid. And have probably never watched a game, much less this video. That's a stupid argument, from a stupid person.

5) You can't use your hands in soccer. What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs. Our hands can hold things. Here's a great idea: Let's create a game where you're not allowed to use them!

Nonsensical. Idiotic. The only thing keeping the Wombats from being great at human sports is their lack of opposable thumbs! This sport is open to all species! The horror. I could make a joke that even the biggest dick of the animal world, the mink, has more of a soul than Ann Coulter. But that would be picking on a really stupid person, and I'm above that.

But seriously, this point? It is incredibly stupid. Hey, Volleyball? Why don't you just catch that ball and throw it back and forth? What's with this bumping and setting? Why aren't hockey players allowed to pick up the puck and skate with it? BECAUSE SPORTS HAVE RULES. Poor, stupid, Ann Coulter.

6)  I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO's "Girls," light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton.

Watch soccer, don't watch soccer. We don't care one way or another. The fact that something is on TV, because the TV Channel in question has decided it is worth their time and money to broadcast it? That's not force-feeding. It is actually the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace, which you stupid jerks LOVE.

It isn't soccer's fault, Ann Coulter, that you are widely derided as an idiot and soccer and Hillary Clinton are more popular than you. That's your fault, you stupid dummy. Stop writing stupid things, and maybe people will like you more.

Ann, do you think that "force-fed" means "made available"? They are quite different. But you are quite stupid, so maybe you don't get the difference.

7) It's foreign. In fact, that's the precise reason the Times is constantly hectoring Americans to love soccer. One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not "catching on" at all, is African-Americans.

That's why half the US team is African-American, you stupid person. Let's see - Tim Howard, DeMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, Julian Green, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Tim Chandler, DeAndre Yedlin, Jozy Altidore. But, sure, yeah, African-Americans aren't into soccer, and certainly not playing it. I'd call that argument stupid AND racist, but the real racist argument is upcoming. You want a sport that African-Americans are not playing much anymore? Try baseball, dummy.

8) Soccer is like the metric system, which liberals also adore because it's European...Liberals get angry and tell us that the metric system is more "rational" than the measurements everyone understands. This is ridiculous. An inch is the width of a man's thumb, a foot the length of his foot, a yard the length of his belt. That's easy to visualize. How do you visualize 147.2 centimeters?

Ummm, what?

9) Soccer is not "catching on." Headlines this week proclaimed "Record U.S. ratings for World Cup," and we had to hear -- again -- about the "growing popularity of soccer in the United States." ...If more "Americans" are watching soccer today, it's only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy's 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.

So, record ratings, showing a growth in the sport doesn't mean anything? Makes sense, to a stupid person. MLS keeps expanding, that doesn't matter. TV deals for the Premiership and Bundesliga and Serie A and Premiera keep getting more expensive--but soccer's popularity is just an illusion. Huh.

Why the quotation marks around American, Ann Coulter? Is because you are kinda racist, or because you are VERY racist?

And, hi, my last name is nice and white and my great-grandfather was born here. In fact, on one side of my family, I can trace my American roots all the way back to Nathan Hale. I've got the DNA of Hale, and John Muir and General George Crook flowing in my veins. And I love soccer. I also love the NFL, and college basketball. Can you imagine that, or are you too stupid to grasp that potentiality? Or were you just grubbing for reactionary bile, so you could complain about the Liberals Who Love Soccer were mean and vindictive towards you?

I don't care what your goal was - the column you wrote was the product of a stupid, stupid mind. A mind that is possibly calculating and definitely racist, but mostly stupid. It kinda feels like you wrote this article 50 years ago (which still would have been 14 years after the first time America made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup, which you were around for, being the Stupidest Vampire). Learn your history, learn the sport, if you can, you stupid, stupid person.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Cup: Group C and D preview

Clearly, I'm feeling pretty full of myself with the way that I predicted that Holland collapse. (In my defense, I had no idea Iker Casillas was capable of playing that shittily. He personally gave away 3 of the 5 goals that Holland scored on Spain. Of course, Spain only scored one, but that's what they are good at, in theory. Score once and win 1-0.)

So, just to be slightly ahead of the games tomorrow, here's the rigmarole, and then some quick thoughts.

It is possible to overthink the World Cup. In fact, it is really easy to do so. You can get into tactics, or managerial skills, or possible talismans. Simple point of fact - since the World Cup began, only 8 teams have won. You can pick a Dark Horse if you want, but the odds are not with you.

Group A here
Group B here

Group C consists of:
Cote d'Ivorie

What Group C is is the Group of No Fucking Clue. Colombia is probably the strongest top to bottom. The Elephants of the Ivory Coast have the most talent, but they are all on the wrong side of 30. Can they get it together for one more push? I WOULD LOVE THAT SHIT. Greece is boring as shit. Japan plays a very high energy, frenetic passing game, modeled on Spain. Which means in their own way, they are also boring as shit.

If I were picking, I would Colombia gets out of the group (but not guaranteeing that they finish 1st in it) and that the second team could be anyone. But I really, really want it to be the Ivory Coast. I want Didier Drogba to have one last great run.

Group D consists of
Costa Rica

If people thought just a little more of England, or a little less of Ghana, this might have been the group considered to be the Group of Death. This is a mean, tough group.

Italy and Uruguay have to be considered the favorites. Both are going to be playing to their strengths, which is attacking football. I happen to LOVE Uruguay. The combination of Suarez and Cavani up top is a better attacking duo than just about anyone in this tournament. They have old man Forlan, who was one of the best players in 2010. He doesn't have to be that good this time around, because the youngsters have come into their own. Though they do have to contend with the Sports Illustrated curse. Their midfield is full of hard men, whilst their backline is shaky. They are like a mini-Argentina.

Italy, I would think, can contend with the loss of Montolivo.  Italy has almost too many options. Their success is predicated on which combination of players will be on the pitch. For some teams, their Top 11 is pretty easy to suss out. Italy? Who knows. Hell, going into the Cup, Italy has deployed a wealth of formations that have left much closer observers than I wondering what the hell they will look like on the pitch tomorrow (bear in mind, they are playing on the worst pitch to start their World Cup).

England is caught between generations. The previous generation, so full of bad red cards and shitty penalty kicks and really questionable goalie play? That generation is still around. But they are also counting on a bunch of near-teenagers. If it all comes together, it will be a miracle. Miracles happen, via hard work or belief or some such intangible bullshit. The truth of the matter is that if someone asked me to pick between England advancing and England not scoring a goal, I'm not sure which one I'd pick. I am pretty damn sure they will concede a decent number, though.

Costa Rica is not advancing, but they are going to make sure as shit that the team they are playing doesn't advance because of them. Costa Rica is going to play physical, borderline dirty, and if the other three squads aren't careful, they aren't going to lose to a Costa Rica team that scores 1 goal and gets 9 yellow cards. If nothing else, Joel Campbell is a Master Diver, first class. If Costa Rica should draw a referee as easily duped as the ref in the Brazil/Croatia game, anything can happen! (But again, The Ticos are not advancing).

Saturday, June 07, 2014

World Cup: Group B Preview

It is possible to overthink the World Cup. In fact, it is really easy to do so. You can get into tactics, or managerial skills, or possible talismans. Simple point of fact - since the World Cup began, only 8 teams have won. You can pick a Dark Horse if you want, but the odds are not with you.

Group A here.

Anyway, let's get to Group B, and who is going to advance! 

Group B consists of:
Spain (your defending champions)
The Netherlands (your defending runners-up)

Spain, barring something horrible happening, should advance out of this group. The bloom is off the rose for this team, which is arguably the greatest collection of players to have ever been on the pitch together. Much has been made of the tiki-taka, but positive and negative. There are times that Spain seems be playing for 0-0 draw for the first 85 minutes. I have a grudging admiration for the way Spain plays, but I don't necessarily like it.

Yes, owning huge percentages of possession means the other team can't score, but it is the kind of "innovation" that led to the shot clock in basketball. This team, for a long time, has been "What if Barcelona didn't have Lionel Messi", and that lack of a truly great finisher does sometimes get in their way. I think it will trip them up at some point in this tournament, but not in this group.

(note: Deadspin's Billy Haisley says that "Sergio Busquets has the best first touch in the world". I'll admit to not watching as much soccer this year as I have in years past, but I refuse to believe that is true. Busquests, to my mind, is better known as one of the consummate floppers/complainers/foulers in the game. I don't know who I'd put at the top of the Best First Touch in The World list, because that's a really weird thing to give a ton of thought to, but it wouldn't be Busquets. )

The Netherlands are primed for a disappointment. This is not a controversial take, but it is one I believe strongly in. For a team that, historically, has been one of the more beautiful teams to watch play the game, they were ugly and disturbingly cynical in their 2010 Final against Spain (in which they accumulated 9 yellow cards, and ended the match with 10 men.) This is a team that dominates, wonderfully, against inferior opponents, but as soon as they are faced with a challenge, they shrink up the field, cluster and foul. It's like Nigel De Jong says, "Hey guys, let's play this one my way," (Nigel De Jong is this decade's answer to Gennaro Gattuso).

Everyone's four years older, everyone's carrying knocks - Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder can all be great. But the odds of them all being great at the same time? Seems unlikely to me. I do believe that only one of Spain and Holland advance, and my money is on Spain.

On a personal note, as a guy who has been around just long enough to remember Cruyff, and Van Basten, and Guillit, and certainly remember the team of the 90's, with Bergkamp and Davids and Kluivert, this version of Holland? It makes me sad.

I think Chile is advancing. And Haisley at Deadspin is right, a lot of the reason goes to the sheer badassery of Arturo Vidal. I love this comparison between him and Yaya Toure: "Whereas Yaya makes popping up deep in both penalty areas at any given moment look effortless, almost like he teleports from place to place, you can see the exhaust fumes billowing from Vidal when his motor is revving. He'll steam backwards into a tackle, collect the ball and slap out a pass to start the counter, then speed ahead to join the attack all in mere seconds."

Vidal is the straw that stirs the drink, to be sure, but combine him with top notch talent like Mauricio Isla (dangerous overlapping runner/crosser), veteran midfielder Jorge Valvida, strikers Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez (and Mauricio Pinilla in reserve), and you have what could be the most aggressive offensive talent in the group. With La Liga netminder Claudio Bravo (whose nickname, "Little Monkey" is awesome) in the back, Chile is one of those teams that is sneaky - players who play in top competition all over the world, but somehow escape notice.

Australia's team is nicknamed "The Socceroos", and that isn't the worst part about them. They will get to enjoy the sights and sounds of Brazil, and I bet their cute accents will help them get laid. That's about it. Their chances of advancing would only be slightly worse if their nickname was "The Kangaroos", and they fielded 11 kangaroos. Where's Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell when you need them? Retired, years ago, that's where. And Tim Cahill probably should have joined them by now, but he's now the "star". Australia never did anything of note when they were kind of good. No reason to expect anything out of them now that they are, hands down (with apologies to Iran) the worst team in the field of 32.

World Cup 2014: Group A Preview

And we're back, kind of. This here blog was started, back in 2006, for one simple reason. The World Cup was not being talked about, and when it was, it was being talked about by idiots who hated soccer. Back in 2006, some of our fun was running the US roster through the Wu Tang Generator. It still exists! Jozy Alitdore, in case you were curious, is Big Wicker Ventriloquist. Which feels frighteningly apt, in its way.

In 2010, we were happy to see that the idiots backed off their idiocy. Tom Powers was still stupid, but he knew that he couldn't describe soccer as the sport of Illegal Immigrants anymore.

In 2014, it feels like a watershed has been crossed. 4 years ago, Deadspin was perfectly happy just calling out provincial fucks, without providing any actual soccer coverage themselves. But with Greg Howard and Billy Paisley, and assorted others, Deadspin is providing insights to every single team out there. And that's great! But they are often wrong, and that's OK! They know the game, perhaps too well.

It is possible to overthink the World Cup. In fact, it is really easy to do so. You can get into tactics, or managerial skills, or possible talismans. Simple point of fact - since the World Cup began, only eight nations have won it. You want to pick a dark horse? Go ahead! But history is against you.

Anyway, let's get to Group A, and who is going to advance!

Group A consists of:
Brazil (your host)

Brazil is as guaranteed to walk into the Round of 16 as any team in the Cup. But let's not pretend there are not warts on Brazil. There are, absolutely. Their defense is tough up the middle, but their wing backs are maybe prone to a bit o' wandering. There is almost always space behind the Brazilian defense. Thiago Silva is almost always there to clean that up. But if he's caught out of position, when Dani Alves sends a shitty cross in to spark a counter? It could be trouble. But not in this round. Not with group.

That said, in the long term, I don't love this Brazil team. Neymar is spectacular, but a bit dainty. There's no Ronaldo on this team, especially if Fred isn't available. Brazil has wunderkinds up the ass, but it has been 12 years since they hoisted a trophy, and I don't know they have the depth and physicality to win this whole thing, home team or not.

Mexico is terrible. Let's not kid ourselves. They needed an extra time goal from the US to even get here. Couple that with Luis Montes' great goal and terrible leg break in a friendly a week ago, and that team is coming into the World Cup knowing that they are lucky to be there, and without one of their best players. Couple that with a suspect defense? The New York Times argued that Mexico got lucky in this draw, and they are right. But it won't matter.

My pick to advance is Croatia. Deadspin says that Croatia's way to advance is to "Rise and Grind", which is, to my mind, damning with faint praise. This team is dangerous. They don't have to "grind". They will be as dangerous as anyone on set plays, with Manzukic up top, with Olic and Eduardo possibly playing withdrawn attackers. Combine those guys with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, and you've got the second best offense in the group. They aren't fast? We'll see.

Cameroon is a very old team that qualified. The Indomitable Lions are back, and you never know what E'to and Webe will pull off. But a weak midfield and sketchy defense dooms them. They may lose every game in the Round Robin, even as they score 2 or 3 goals a game.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Zlatan is a Hanna/Jason Bourne/Volvo Driver

I don't speak the language, so I can only rely upon the visuals of the commercial, and the translated summary provided by Volvo on their YouTube page. But I'm pretty sure I can't be the only one who comes away from this advertisement with the feeling that Zlatan Ibrahimović is either some sort of super-spy, or perhaps a villainous boyfriend in the fictional world of Stieg Larsson? Did he date Lisbeth Salander? Did he kill her? Did they meet whilst hunting elk? I DON'T KNOW. Has Zlatan ever had a fourway with Eric Bana and Daniel Craig and a reindeer? I bet a few slash-fiction sites in Sweden are hard at work right now to make it so.

Zlatan, why are you jumping into icy lakes in just your underwear? PSG needs you healthy, man! Let Freddie Ljungberg do that kind of shit. No one cares if he gets hypothermia!

In short...beautifully shot, really weird ad, Volvo. I bet if it were translated into English, I'd still be saying, "Ah, now I understand the voice over. And wow, what a weird ad, Volvo."

Monday, October 14, 2013

What Should Be The New Name?

Seeing an overthrow of "Redskins" as a fait accompli, let the fans of this team make a strategic withdrawal to this critical position:  we had better create a new name, or a terrible anguish will be imposed upon us (see:  Washington Wizards).  Obviously, every jigger of racist iconography must first be stripped from the uniforms and stadium bunting.

It is logical to begin here.  The Washington DC football team wears burgundy and gold, which looks like red and yellow unless you have a really sweet TV.  Preserving this clear, definitive adjective ("red") would go far to appease the fans.  It will feel right to scream, "Hail to the Red-[tbd]," and the uniform colors will still make sense.

Hail to the Red-
shirts, pants, cloaks, backs, necks (oops)
hawks, tails, birds, beasts, dogs, wolves
storm, dawn, wind, stripes, lights, weddings

It seems as if the answer ought to be there, or at least in these neighborhoods.  Yet none fit properly.  Disappointingly, "red" is at once prosaic as well as too particular.  

Keeping the name "Redskins," but transferring the meaning to potatoes is the absolute purest distillation of idiocy.  Not only will nobody know how to spell "potatoes" (the e isn't necessary, but common) and Sam Johnson only knows where that apostrophe might land, but most essentially, rooting for a potato is impossible.  It looks like a turd, it can't impose its will, and the fight song becomes forbearingly fatuous.

Dropping the old name entirely, Washington could grasp for the ephemeral:  a horrid neologism (the Spoiler Alerts), glib meme (the Dougies) or alliteration (see:  Washington Wizards).  

This is the great eschatological and existential danger to fans of the Washington DC professional football team.  Is a future rooting for the Washington Wookies (Disney + Dan Snyder = fusion power) pulchritudinous?  No:  butter face.

May I present, for your consideration ...

Hail to DC Skins, hail victory, Skins on the attack, fight for old DC!

"DC Skins" preserves the suffix, the uniforms remain untouched, and the rhythm of the fight song doesn't change.  Yes, the meaning is a little obtuse.  And yet, what exactly is a laker, or a met, or a brown?

"The Skins" are what we call our team already.  Officially drop "Red" and make sure every last racist iconograph is removed.  This is the most painless answer to this intractable situation.

Or we can wait until some jackass politician grandstands on this issue and we're left rooting for the Washington Boehners.


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Dan Snyder says: "I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name." No he doesn't.

Dan Snyder wrote an open letter to the Washington Drunken Savages Season Ticket holders, in which he again attempts to defend the least defensible name in American professional sports (go ahead, and come up with your second choice. Cleveland Indians, with Chief freakin' Wahoo? I'll give you that as a decent 2nd place).

Let's check out this letter, shall we?

"As loyal fans, you deserve to know that everyone in the Washington Redskins organization -- our players, coaches and staff -- are truly privileged to represent this team and everything it stands for. We are relentlessly committed to our fans and to the sustained long-term success of this franchise."

Hey, that's great! That's got nothing to do whatsoever with the nickname of the franchise, but it is great to hear! I for one am glad to hear that Rex Grossman is relentlessly committed to me, the fan. If I'm honest, I am not that committed to him. But still...good to hear.

"Like so many of you, I was born a fan of the Washington Redskins. I still remember my first Redskins game."

I remember my first and only game. November 21st, 1991. Drunken Savages were 11-0. We lost to Dallas 24-21, and that score was closer than the game was. We went on to win the Super Bowl. I was there for the one home loss the Savages suffered that entire year. It was still an incredible experience.

I also remember, walking up to RFK, in 1991, being surprised that there were Native Americans protesting. I'm not surprised now, because I fucking get it. All the false, fake equivalencies you see out there --The Vikings, the Fighting Irish, etc. You know what you don't see when you walk up to game at their stadiums? Vikings and Irish folks protesting. That's a key difference. And one the Washington Drunken Savages would rather you didn't realize.

"Most people do. I was only six, but I remember coming through the tunnel into the stands at RFK with my father, and immediately being struck by the enormity of the stadium and the passion of the fans all around me."

As a fan, I bet Snyder remembers how the Drunken Savages left RFK and in 1997 moved into a stadium named after Jack Kent Cooke, the recently deceased owner of the team, who had been part of the franchise since 1961.  That's over 35 years of tradition right there. Jack Kent Cooke had been the owner of the team throughout Dan's childhood, adolescence, and whatever part of adulthood he can claim. It took him about 2 seconds to sell that lovely bit of of tradition to the highest bidder. Jack Kent Cooke stadium became FedEx Field as soon as Snyder found a way to make some money. So...tradition.

"I remember how quiet it got when the Redskins had the ball, and then how deafening it was when we scored. The ground beneath me seemed to move and shake, and I reached up to grab my father’s hand. The smile on his face as he sang that song ... he’s been gone for 10 years now, but that smile, and his pride, are still with me every day.

That tradition -- the song, the cheer -- it mattered so much to me as a child, and I know it matters to every other Redskins fan in the D.C. area and across the nation."

Not to be cold, but this irrelevant. Everyone's father dies. The fathers of Baltimore Colts fans have passed away. Fathers of Houston Oilers fans have died. Teams move away, and they change their names, and you know what? Life continues on. A team that stays in the same place and changes its name? It isn't the end of the world.

In Washington DC, if you are 16 years old, you don't remember a time when the Washington Bullets existed. And you know what? Your life is not worse for it. It doesn't matter. A name doesn't matter. Unless it is offensive. Like Redskin.

Dan Snyder's childhood is not more important than the Oneida Nation.

I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. But we cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name “Redskins” continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.

What. Utter. Bullshit. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

1500 ESPN Represents All Types of Viewpoints

There's a really old grumpy white guy. There's a younger white guy whose facial hair and frown connotes a certain confused toughness. There's a couple of other white guys in the middle.* There's an old white guy with a leather jacket, which means his reactionary conservatism is somehow a cool, rebellious stance**. And photoshopped in, Mike and Mike! When Mike Greenberg (a pretty fantastic douche in his own right), is the one whisper of a minority voice on your banner photo, and you are discussing sports full time, you may wish to think about how you are going about business. Just sayin'.

*I feel a bit bad about that one, as Judd Zulgad, the 3rd white guy from the left, is one of my favorite radio hosts in the Twin Cities. He deserves his job, which necessitates waking up early in the morning, driving to an AM sports station, and having to engage with, for hours at end, Jeff Dubay. I take it back - Zulgad doesn't deserve that at all. He deserves something a bit better.

**To be clear, that isn't supposition. That's Joe Soucheray, host of Garage Logic, and he's tough as fucking nails! He's an angry, leathery Ward Cleaver, complaining, for example, about how single moms are ruining society. Seriously. A couple of months ago, he made that argument. A couple of months ago!

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's Been a Long Twins Season for the Production Crew, Too

Felix Hernandez pitching. All-Star. Commanding, 3 hits over 8 innings performance. Twins Killer. His name happens to not be Pedro. But, you know, close enough.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Corey Brewer is Coming Back, Y'all!

The Timberwolves definitely seem to be putting together something that actually looks like a plan. After the draft that a lot of local guys didn't like, but I did (seriously, watch out for Lorenzo Brown!*), the Wolves did something that we haven't seen in many a year - paying a reasonable amount of money for free agents who fit the needs of the team.

With the re-signing of Chase Budinger and the grabbing of Kevin Martin, the Wolves have secured a couple of guys who know and love Rick Adelman's system, and play well in it. Losing Kirilenko is somewhat annoying, but seeing as he ended up taking millions upon millions less dollars to play in Brooklyn, it is safe that the Wolves couldn't have done anything to keep him. Very good basketball writers (as opposed to reactionaries that live on radio and daily fishwraps) started getting worried that the Wolves had gained offense but had lost way too much from an already shoddy defense.

So, one freakishly skinny defensive dervish gone; let's get a new one, and the Wolves did that in bringing back IDYFT Favorite Corey Brewer. He doesn't have AK's game on the offensive side, no doubt. Brewer is a career .416 shooter from the field, and a very pedestrian/bad .298 from the three point line. He's a bit of a spaz, to be honest. But I love the guy.

He plays defense on the perimeter and causes nightmares for opposing small forwards/shooting guards. He's 6' 9", with a wingspan closer to 7'. He's got quick feet. He sometimes gambles too much on passing lanes, in part because he's so good at getting in those passing lanes that he over-commits. He's a terror on the perimeter, and has the span and speed to block what looked to be uncontested lay-ups. I love having Corey Brewer back on my team. I never wanted him to leave it.

A lot of Wolves fans were borderline outraged when the news hit Corey was coming back, but they aren't getting what Corey is being brought in to do. He's not here to score. That's what Kevin Martin is for. Corey is back in Minnesota to play perimeter defense, cause turnovers, and be a great locker room guy. There's a reason that the Denver Nuggets (who won 26 more games than the Wolves did last year) played the guy 24 minutes per game. He's gotten better at his role. And he's got some pretty impressive stats to bring along back with him to Minnesota.

Corey was Top 10 in steals per turnovers (he'll be joining another underrated Top 10 guy from that list in Dante Cunningham). Corey was just one spot below Josh Smith in points scored per 48 minutes last year. Again, I can't call him efficient, exactly, but I think he's more efficient than his shooting percentage suggests.

Essentially, for the $11 million that AK opted out of, the Wolves got Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer. That's weird...that's Timberwolves math that MAKES SENSE.

And hey, for small market teams who feel like they can't get free agents - it is amazing what a respected coach and GM can do for you. I don't think any of these guys sign without the Adelman/Flip combo running the show. (Sorry, Kahn, you crazy bastard, you undoubtedly made free agents more expensive).

Oh, also, the Wolves signed Ronny Turiaf, which gives them a center trio of Pekovic, rookie Dieng, and Turiaf. That's as good of a trio one can ask for at the Neglected 5 in the NBA.

But back to Brewer. I'm looking forward to more of this:

 *I'm saying that as the guy who liked Pekovic before anyone knew who he was, not as the guy who was against trading OJ Mayo for Kevin Love on draft night.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Another Analysis of the Wolves Draft, By Another Person Who Doesn't Know That Much

The mood around the Twin Cities today was a fairly dark one, after Flip Saunders and the Timberwolves traded down and selected Shabazz Muhammad at #14 in the NBA Draft. How dark? Let's go to the Star Tribune's Jim Souhan:  "Muhammad makes Kris Humphries look like Magic Johnson." I don't think that's accurate, if one can figure out if Souhan actually means that comparison, or whether he's been hyperbolic in that funny and helpful way that sportswriters like to be. But we can at least agree that it wasn't meant to complimentary, yeah? (For the record, I've had an up-and-down (in a non-sexual way) relationship with Souhan)

Every local media analyst seems pretty convinced the Wolves made a huge mistake. But there's a couple of problems with that, problems that have very little to do with how good Muhammad will be as an NBA player.

The first problem is that this wasn't a great draft. Everyone said so. There wasn't a guaranteed impact player in the bunch. Nerlens Noel, the guy everyone thought was going to be Top 2 fell to #6, and Anthony Bennett, a guy most people had sliding down the board went #1. There wasn't even a consensus Top 2. That's rare.

So, in a draft like that, how upset can anyone get? How can it go from "This draft doesn't feature a ton of talent, so it's kinda anyone's guess" to "OH MY GOD THE WOLVES HAVE REALLY SCREWED UP THIS TIME". (See MPR's Newsman Bob Collins' Twitter feed to see how little I'm exaggerating that). I'm not sure when CJ McCollum magically transformed from an undersized, injury-prone two-guard to the Savior of the Franchise, but that's the player most of these guys feel like we should have gotten.

The second problem is the bigger one in my mind, especially for those of us who listen to the experts on the radio, read their columns in the newspaper (they still print those!) and assume, because they are in the media, that they have some insight that we don't. Sometimes they do - particularly the inside politicking of a franchise. KFAN host Dan Barreiro and Star Trib Wolves writer Jerry Zgoda had a quick Twitter exchange in which it was clear that both had been told that Muhammad was not going to be a member of the Wolves. They had inside dope, but it was wrong, or rather the circumstances changed to make Muhammad a reasonable pick-up (namely, getting a second first-rounder to go along with him). But when it comes to evaluating talent, when it comes to judging ability, these experts on the radio and in the newspaper aren't any better at it than the average schmo.

They are often rather brazen about it. This morning on KFAN's morning show, with Paul Allen and Paul Charchian (a veritable nexus of credulous boobery, as has been discussed previously), they were "analyzing" Shabazz Muhammad's game, and both admitted they were basing it on some limited information. How limited? Paul Allen was basing everything he was saying on the one game that UCLA played against the Gophers in the NCAA's. Charchian was going off what he saw on YouTube. FOR REAL. Without doing a lick of work, I have researched Muhammad's game more thoroughly than the guys paid to talk about it? By watching 2 UCLA games last year? Incredible. Jim Souhan's article is more of the same.

Hell, Britt Robson, a basketball writer I love to no end, basically admitted to be working off completely received knowledge, because he doesn't watch college basketball. To his credit, Robson also points out that anyone thinking this draft was the Most Important Thing ever are kinda crazy.

Sometimes, they are just outright wrong. I can't believe these sentences are still up on the St. Paul Pioneer Press website, for example. Tom Powers writes the following about Muhammad: "And it was discovered that his birth certificate was purposely falsified and that he really was a year older than everyone thought. That's a big deal when you're a teen and able to dominate younger kids."

That's just factually wrong. His birth certificate was not falsified. It was his birth certificate that lead the LA Times to conclude that Muhammad's age was incorrect in the UCLA media guide. Finding this out takes about 30 seconds of Googling, which Tom Powers just doesn't have time for, because he's too busy not doing anything resembling basic research. Why should facts be important to a member of the media? I guess budgets cuts mean that Tom Powers, who was/is/will always be a Stupid Fat Fuck is allowed to write whatever he wants. And I'm not really sure how it is that big of an advantage Muhammad got all through his years in basketball, playing against people younger and older than him throughout high school and college. Was he beating up 10 year-olds on the court when he was sixteen? Nope. Again, Tom Powers is a Stupid Fat Fuck, who could maybe get sued for getting this very, very basic fact of the story so very wrong.

So, with that said, here are more observations from a person who doesn't know that much more than you do about the Wolves picks, but probably just as much as anyone else you've listened to (aside from the crazy people who run the full time Wolves blogs like Canis Hoopus or A Wolf Among Wolves - those guys use analysis and shit. (that sounded mocking. it wasn't. I love those blogs. They make charts, and I don't know how to do that)).

#14 - Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA). Perhaps one of the more divisive picks of the entire draft, leaving aside #1 Anthony Bennett, which made Bill Simmons poop himself a little, and Noel falling down to #6. Muhammad is a bit of a conundrum. But without getting into all the stats, he is a good to great midrange shooter, and was 42% from the three-point line in his one year at UCLA. The Wolves were the worst three-point shooting team in the league, needing to get hot at the end of the year to get above 30%. For every person who says he lacks a work ethic, there's another person who will swear up and down that he works as hard as anyone. For every critic who says he's a black hole on  offense, and points to his terrible assists numbers at UCLA, there's a proponent who points out that his job was to shoot, not pass. My guess is that between Ricky, KLOVE, Rick Adelman, Shabazz will get sorted out in that regard. He's great in transition, but some folks worry that his high scoring percentage in transition means he's terrible in the half-court. Not from what I've seen. On a team where he'll be coming off the bench for at least his first year, if not first two, he'll be asked to do what he does well, which is score. He needs to work on his defense, but his cause there will actually be aided by the Wolves 2nd First Round pick:

#21 - Gorgui Dieng (Louisville). He's already the press' preferred first round pick (He loves cold weather!). Quick aside - remember when people argued that David Kahn screwed up terribly by drafting Ricky Rubio, because he'd never come here, because the winters are too damn cold? No? IT HAPPENED. I like Dieng, too. Here's why I like him - I have watched a ton of Big East Basketball (oh, and I hate Louisville), and I watched Dieng transform himself from awkward tall guy who could block shots into a much more complete player. He can absolutely block shots - his timing and wingspan (Jay Bilas says,"drink!") are a great combination. But over the past couple of years, he's learned to pass well, often triggering plays on the baseline from the top of the key. He's limited offensively, but he's learned that at his height, he just needs to go up aggressively to make a difference. He reads the floor extremely well. He's just a smart player, who is still learning and willing to do so. The Wolves haven't had a great shot blocker since Kevin Garnett. Dieng will provide a defense in the paint not predicated on taking charges, and we can applaud that, as taking charges is the kind of bullshit stat that the Joe Smith's and Shane Battier's of the world got their money. And with a shot-blocker in the middle, maybe Muhammad's perimeter defense doesn't have to be spectacular right off the bat. Put them on the floor together, and let Muhammad just filter his man into the middle into the waiting, go-go-Gadget arms of Gorgui. And it should be noted I haven't seen a player who doesn't appear at least 25% better offensively just by being on the court with Ricky Rubio (see Derrick Williams). Gorgui better like alley-oops (spoiler: he does)

#52 - Lorenzo Brown (NC State). I wish I could say I was shocked that Brown was still there at #52, but there's one thing College Basketball doesn't lack, and it is athletes. The fact that Rodney Williams of Minnesota and Khalif Wyatt of Temple are both signing free agent deals speaks to that. But I have watched a lot of Lorenzo Brown, more than any talking head in the Twin Cities, and I'm here to tell you that this kid is going to be something. He's a steal here. And I think he'll contribute right away - he's a tall-ish combo guard (6' 5") who gives the Wolves some options outside of the Short Combo of Luke Ridnour and feisty but annoyingly inconsistent JJ Barea. While not crazy explosive (no one the Wolves picked will be in the Dunk Contest) he's athletic enough to finish at the basket. He's not a great shooter, but the Wolves system is probably just fine with that at the moment, considering that their plan seems to be to run a traditional point. But I really can't wait for this kid's first steal and dunk in transition. I don't think I'll have to wait long.

#59 - Bojan Dubljevic - Essentially, no one in America outside of Pro Scouts know a thing about this guy. I'll just link to DraftExpress and leave it at that.

In my mind, the Wolves got three guys who will contribute something pretty much right away. They won't be starters - this wasn't a starters kind of draft. But they got three players who are worthy of more optimism than is being sent their way currently, particularly at the local level. (notable exception: the aforementioned geeks at A Wolf Among Wolves).

It wasn't a tranformative moment, but Michael Jordan wasn't in this draft. The Wolves did just fine, in my humble opinion. And at the very least, I know more about that Tom Powers, who is still just a stupid fat fuck.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Goodell Gets Involved in the Redskins Debate and Gets It Wrong

I really was going to leave the issue with the Redskins alone for awhile. I made it just over a month. But to be fair, I wasn't expecting the Commissioner of the NFL to step into quite the way he did today. I guess members of Congress (including the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus) forced his hand by sending a letter asking for him to step in and get that racist ass name changed. But to respond as dully as he did? That caught me off-guard, for some reason. I don't why I'm surprised that Goodell finds new ways to disappoint--I guess I assume he doesn't have an infinite resource of ways to screw up, but perhaps he does.

(Side note: High Schools in Idaho know what the right thing to do is.)

I doubt the letter reflects his own true personal beliefs, but since he has taken the job of carrying the owners' water, and has maybe elevated into art that particular profession, he's stuck here with a terribly lackluster defense of the most terrible nickname in the world of sports (and I'm including the Swiss Professional Soccer League's "Young Boys").

Let's get to that letter (dutifully published by Indian Country Today). I'll start off by noting you may have heard these arguments in some form recently. They feel very recycled from the Washington Drunken Savages PR department - even the wording sounds pretty familiar. So if you've been following this story closely, there may not be much new for you here. Goodell's letter is in the italic maroon script. My commentary interspersed in the boring ol' black and regular script.

In our view, a fair and through discussion of the issue must begin with an understanding of the roots of the Washington franchise and the Redskins name in particular. As you may know, the team began as the Boston Braves in 1932, a name that honored the courage and heritage of Native Americans. The following year, the name was changed to the Redskins, in part to avoid confusion with the Boston baseball team of the same name, but also to honor the team’s then-head coach, William “Lone Star” Dietz. Neither in intent nor use was the name ever meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group. 

There's a couple of things going on in this paragraph that I would like to address. It should be noted, LOUDLY, that the brains behind the name change was then owner George Marshall. Marshall was, by any objective measure, a racist. This isn't some charge coming out of some corner of the internet. It is well-known that he resisted integrating his team - they were the last team to add black players, years upon years after the rest of the league had already done so. I don't know about you, but I don't find racists to be racist toward just one particular race. They tend to have opinions about all the races. Maybe George Marshall disliked black people, but LOVED Native Americans, and couldn't wait to honor them. That's possible. It seems unlikely, however.

(beside the point, but maybe worth pointing out that research suggests that Dietz's Native background may be fiction)

But the real nutty sentence in that first paragraph is that last one. One can argue "intent" all day long, but in "use", intent is out the window. It doesn't really matter that the name was never "meant" to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group. The fact of the matter is that it does. No one has ever argued that Dan Snyder hits his pillow every night dreaming of new ways to make Native American children cry...but the result of the name is that it does. In preparing to write this response, I've read story after story about Native children playing for a team with an Indian mascot, and just how often their own personal nickname becomes "Redskin" or "Redman". It isn't fair to anyone,  but even more so to a child, to have themselves compared to cartoons and caricatures based on race. No one cares about "intent" or what "Redskins" was supposed to mean. The effects are what matter. Goodell, I suspect, knows this.

[Above] The honoring of Native Americans. 

The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context. For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.

You can't separate a word from its origin just because you want to. If I started up a new football team, and paid my $500,000,000 franchise fee and convinced some community to buy me a stadium, and did all my legwork, and then announced that I was taking back the word "Chink" on behalf of all Asians (non-Chinese get called Chink, you know), and the best way to do that was to name my team the St. Paul Chinks, I'd get some blowback, even if I asserted that the St. Paul Chinks "represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context." Good to know that Commissioner Goodell would be right there to defend my ideals, and allow me to rescue "Chinks" from negative connotation, just by naming a football team after that particular racist term. I would be a hero! Never mind that I am white, and my entire management team is white, and I'm maybe actually attempting to race bait. I'm A HERO! Go, St. Paul CHINKS!

The word "redskin" isn't just historical (that's a mistake that both defenders and protesters of the name make). The word is contemporary. It may not be in the high schools on the central East Coast, where so few Native Americans are to be found, but again, one of the things that struck me as I read background on this issue is that it is a profoundly personal issue for Native Americans who are against the name - "redskin" was the word they were bullied with. The name they were called on the basketball court, or in their school hallways. The racist overtone of the word isn't in some distant past when whites were collecting scalps (though it was certainly there. I think people are still blown away when they are presented with Frank L. Baum's words on the subject). In Minnesota, in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Montana, Washington - there are kids being mocked for their race and the kids who are calling them that might well argue that they aren't being racist. How can it be racist, if there's an NFL team called that? And that's a legitimate question.

As for "Redskin" being positive, because the Redskins stand for strength, courage, pride and respect? It seems Goodell doesn't know that racism can be expressed as appreciating positives. Doesn't he have a buddy who creeps him out when he says, "Man, I really dig Asian chicks." I thought every white dude had that friend.

Maybe he missed Reggie White's legendary talk at the WI legislature? Or maybe he would agree it was alright to suggest that all Asians are good at engineering and can turn a "television into a watch." Going by Goodell's letter, he would certainly not argue that Reggie was being racist - he was clearly "honoring" Asians, right? No disparagement meant, therefore it is OK, right? Not every single Native American wants to be known for their tough warrior spirit, as it turns out. Some Native Americans are writers, artists..they may not be able to run through the forest twice as quick as a white man, or shoot an arrow at all! Screw those nerdy Indians (who often get called super-racist shit when they voice their concerns, by the way. I've seen "mud people" bandied about on forums like you wouldn't believe).

Importantly, this positive meaning is shared by the overwhelming majority of football fans and Americans generally, including Native Americans. (Attached as examples are recent remarks from Chief Steven Dodson, an American Inuit chief and resident of Prince Georges [sic] County, Maryland, and recently retired Chief Robert Green of the Patawomeck Tribe of Virginia.) Indeed, the most recent detailed survey of Native Americans, conducted by the independent and highly respected Annenberg Public Policy Center, found that fewer than 10% considered the name objectionable. Among the general public, an Associated Press survey conducted just two months ago found that only 11% felt it should be changed. 

The number of things wrong with those polls are legion, and I couldn't possibly explain them all. Luckily, I don't have to. Overall badass Suzan Shown Harjo has done it for us all.

The inclusion of "Chief" Steven Dodson in the letter seems to have struck a chord with both the reporters at Indian Country Times and in particularly, one of the readers (Geddes Lindsay) of Indian Country Times:

I'm Stephen's uncle...We are Aleut, not Inuit and he is 1/4, not full, as his mother, my sister, is only a half. Stephen isn't a "chief" but in the Air Force that was his nickname, as it was my brother's nickname in the Marine Corp. I'm not even sure Stephen has been to Alaska...I have no problem with Stephen expressing his views or standing up for what he believes in, but let's keep it honest. We were all raised in the mid-west, in Oklahoma..I personally find the Redskins name offensive, but we don't always agree on things like this. I know some Indians that aren't offended by the Redskins name and more still that are. The fact remains that it is a racial slur and therefore wrong in my opinion.

Public opinion aside, the Washington Redskins name has been confirmed in a legal context. When the matter was considered by the D.C. federal district court, the judge ruled against the plaintiffs and recognized that the name was been used by the team in a respectful manner. As I understand it, this ruling reversed the decision that informed the basis for the registration denials mentioned in your letter. 

Now, we are getting to an area that Goodell knows - look at him flexing his law muscles. But this seems mostly a PR move, as the law is one that Congress could (but is unlikely to) change. From what I know about that case, he's also being a bit disingenuous as to what the court found. If memory serves, what the court found, initially, was the people who brought the case to the court had waited too long to be offended (that's actually a concern in trademark law). There's a new case working its way right now, one that has yet to be decided. The Washington Redskins, it turns out, are still offending young Native Americans. Who knew?  

As you correctly recognize, the issued raised with respect to the Washington Redskins name are complex and we respect that reasonable people may view it differently, particularly over time. But we hope that there is no doubt that the team understandably is proud of its heritage and the culturally rich community it serves, and its fans understandably are highly attached to that history and the team’s history. The National Football League takes seriously its responsibility to exemplify the values of diversity and inclusion that make our nation great. To that end, please be assured that we are committed to working with the team, this Caucus and others to continue to reinforce the many positive attributes represented by the team’s name and marks.

Speaking of history, I almost lost my mind a few weeks back when reading the comment section in an article posted to ProFootballTalk about this issue, and read a comment from pathsovglory that read, "'As a citizen of Norwegian decent [sic], I demand that the state of Minnesota change their football teams [sic] name to better represent a more open and accepting term. “Vikings” is an offensive and derogatory term that blatantly assumes all people of Scandinavian descent are ruthless savages. And I take great exception to that.' Yes, it is the same thing.”

No, it ain't. But it does explain the mentality of a whole lot of white folks. They see Vikings and Indians as part of the same ancient back-story. There are descendants of actual Vikings living in Minnesota, I'm sure. There are actual Native Americans living in Minnesota, too. The Swedes in Minnesota have never protested the Minnesota Vikings. The Redskins meet their biggest protest crowds when they come to play in Minnesota. There's a difference between historical figures from across an ocean and 800 years ago, and Native Americans, here and present. Seems obvious to me.

With all due respect to the fatuous waste of space that is Commissioner Goodell, it isn't a complex issue. The NFL has thrown "heritage" and "tradition" out the window whenever it has served it's financial goals to do so. Ask the fans of Baltimore Colts, or Cleveland Browns, or Houston Oilers, or any number of other teams about what their pride in their tradition meant to their owners when there were dollars to be made.

So Dan Snyder, Roger Goodell and all of the apologists can stack up "positive attributes" like cord wood - the name is still racist.