Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006: The Year of the Head

It's that time of year when everybody does retrospectives of the year and lists of the year's best/worsts. Well, I am about to go a little further and declare that this was the year of the head in the sports world.

The head affected championships, champions and made some spectacular highlights. No other body part had more of an impact on the sports world...not the hands...not the feet...nothing else. So, without further ado, the top three heads affecting the sports world this year.

3. Aaron Rowand, Philadelphia Phillies: This incredible catch and collision by Rowand may not have had as much effect on the team's season, but it was amazing and showed the bravery of Rowand.

2. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: There isn't actually a picture of Roethlisberger's head after it met the car above this summer. However, his head has greatly affected the NFL champion's season. Big Ben ended up having an emergency appendectomy at the outset of the season and played rather poorly throughout the first half of the season. The Steelers have started to recover but the champions may still miss the playoffs. For that, Big Ben's head gets the number two slot.

1. Zinedine Zidane, France Men's National Soccer Team: Zizou's headbutt of Marco Materazzi in the World Cup Final this year affected his sport more than any other head involved incident this year. Zidane was ejected from the game and ultimately his team lost. There was worldwide outrage and curiousity about his actions. He gave interviews and was called upon to apologize. By the way, he only apologized to the children and not to Materazzi. Zidane's actions even led to numerous parodies of the headbutt. Ultimately, Zidane's head most affected the sports world in the year of the head. Congratulations, Zizou!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bagwell Retires. That's nice. What Took So Long?

I'm a little late on this story but, I guess, so is Jeff Bagwell. Last week, Houston Astros great, Jeff Bagwell, announced his retirement after 15 years in the big leagues. I can't say I've ever been a fan of Bagwell but I'm no hater. He had a great career. Maybe even Hall of Fame worthy. However, I wonder why it took so long for him to announce it.

Bagwell has barely played in the last two years and he didn't even play this year. So, why the wait? Well, it appears the Astros have reached a settlement with its insurance company on a breach of contract claim. The Astros had a policy that would pay Bagwell's 2006 salary--$17 million--if he could not play that season. The settlement terms aren't public but I'm sure Houston got a good chunk of change and now Bagwell is retiring. Coincidence? I think not. But according to Astros officials it was just dumb luck.

It was a total coincidence that this occurred about the same time that Jeff's announcement of his retirement (did)," Fisher said. "We ... got together and resolved it. It's over and done with.
I imagine if Bagwell retired he wouldn't get that $7 million buyout from Houston and the 'Stros probably couldn't get any money from the insurance company. In the end, it always comes down to money, doesn't it?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Reviewing Jemele Hill's Work on

Back in November hired a new writer, Jemele Hill, ostensibly to replace the departed Jason Whitlock, who went out guns blazing and taking aim at the ‘bojanglers’. first reported her hiring and $200K/year salary about two weeks after had interviewed her. The first offering of Ms. Hill came out in mid-November and it was not very well received by many (here, here and here), myself included.

Being the impulsive sort, I fired off an email to Ms. Hill criticizing here. Here’s the text:

"Give me two things you believe that logical people think are utterly ridiculous.
1. Oliver Stone's movies are based on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.
2. "Old School" wasn't that funny. "Anchorman" crushed it."

So, was the above statement meant to say that you are an illogical person? It sure sounds like it, which means everything you said prior to that statement and everything after should be considered illogical. Oh well, at least it's not me writing.

The Fan's Attic

Lo and behold, a few weeks later Ms. Hill, to my great surprise, responded:

The Fan’s Attic

Sorry it took so long for me to respond. Thanks for writing.

Just speaking from the heart.


I very much appreciate that she took the time to write back, although she didn’t say much. Since she took the time to write back, I thought it would be good to take the time to go back and review her columns and see how she’s doing. Let’s go into the wayback machine and look at her work. Below are her columns on so far.

Just an ol’ Jock Fight - This is her most recent work and it’s about the Knicks-Nuggets fight. She says it was a just a fight between jocks and not a big deal. Ms. Hill also obliquely refers to what may be subconscious racism caused by the use of the word ‘thug.’ I tend to agree with her on these two points and that may color my view of this article, but I think she makes some very good points.

These Guys Are Teflon - This article is about people/athletes she perceives to never have bad stories stick to them. Chief among them for her is David Stern, who she thinks isn’t getting flak for the whole NBA ball fiasco. She calls this skill having “the hook up.” She has a point about Stern but her argument seems to overlook a significant point, namely, that all the other people she names are athletes and their personal travails are not the most important thing to the public—their ability to play a sport is the most important. Second, the people she lists, save Ray Lewis, haven’t done anything too horrific and the public want to like the athletes so they give one or two free passes to them. Given time and enough screw-ups all of these people will use up their political capital, so to speak.

Look at Rosie O’donnell and her bad Chinese joke, she was in hot water because her role is as a talk show host who gives opinions and pontificates on subjects. Shaq, Clemens and others’ who have made borderline racist comments about Asians only have to play a sport. What they say is ancillary to what they do on the field/court/diamond. Interesting concept but a flawed argument.

NFL Selling Smith Short - This story is about how the NFL is under-appreciating Ohio State QB Troy Smith because he has great stats and just wins games. Well, she has a point but Smith did have a lot of other world-class weapons on his team. Put some of these other quarterbacks in the same situation and I wonder how they would do. Also, it’s a bit early to say he is undervalued since I saw one draftboard that had Smith listed as the #2 QB available. Average marks for this one.

Hnida finds peace in telling story – This article is about the first woman to score in Division I-A football, who was at the center of the Colorado recruiting scandal a few years back because she was raped. This was an attempt at providing an update and a new angle on an old story. It was a good effort and poignant because of the tragedy suffered by Hnida. However, and I don’t want to be harsh here, but Ms. Hill injected her own tragic experience into the story, which really has nothing to do with the Hnida story. Yes, it shows she can relate but doesn’t add anything to the story and seems to be emotional pandering.

Not as simple as black or white - Ms. Hill calls out Larry Johnson for his comment that he plays better for a black coach, Herm Edwards, than a white coach, Dick Vermeil, because they have a common experience of being black. I have to say, this was a very good article and it is nice when athletes get called on their BS and hypocrisy.

Groupie Life An Open Book - Ms. Hill argues that pro-athlete groupies are not living up to their end of the bargain when they publish books about the trysts they have with athletes. I am not sure whether this was tongue-in-cheek or serious but my inability to discover the truth makes this an absolutely awful column. I don’t know how a woman can argue that these men should be allowed to use and abuse groupies and at least tacitly support these women essentially prostituting themselves. Utter trash.

A Whistle is a Whistle – Ms. Hill believes that Tom Izzo taking the reins of the Michigan State football program isn’t such a bad idea because great coaches are great leaders, like Izzo, and that will translate to any sport. Interesting argument but I don’t buy since all great coaches have some intuitive knowledge of X’s and O’s for their respective sports as well as being good leaders/managers. She gets good marks for originality even though I disagree.

I’m hearing voices - Ms. Hill’s first article. Lame gimmick introducing herself but I’ll give her a break for her first column even if her jokes fell flat.

Overall, she has improved with her posts and ideas but, I still find her writing lacking in something and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it lacks personality and heart despite her attempts to write in an informal, almost conversational, manner (which, by the way, I can’t stand). Her reasoning often has flaws, in my opinion, but she does make good points. I’m willing to give her some more time to develop her voice but not enough to write another post about it.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Euro Club Roundup #10

Wow. It's been a while since I've done this update. Just to recap: I have selected one soccer team from each of the "major" leagues in Europe to follow and support this season in the hope to better know each of the leagues and the teams. My teams are: Liverpool in the EPL, Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga, AS Roma in Serie A and Valencia in La Liga. Here's a quick status check for each of the teams:

Liverpool: After a horrendous start to the campaign, the Reds have moved into 4th on goal differential in the EPL. However, it is unlikely the squad will be able to catch ManU who leads Liverpool by 16 points. The team has also advanced to the Round of 16 in the Champions League after winning its group.

Roma: The Italian side sits in second in Serie A, seven points adrift of Inter Milan. Roma also managed to advance to the Round of 16 in the Champions League after place second in its group to Valencia...

Valencia: After a torrid beginning to the season, the Ches sit in ninth in La Liga. The squad has been decimated by injuries and hopefully it can recover.

Hertha: The German squad is in fifth in the Bundesliga and has crashed out of the UEFA Cup already. So, here's hoping the team can make a run and qualify for next year's Champions League.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Not Dead!

I'm not dead, yet. I've just been really busy with work and moving into a new house. The home internet isn't set up yet. Hopefully soon and back to my blogging ways.