Friday, May 25, 2007

Sports Illustrated Late On The Uptake And Featuring A Dude's Junk

I received this week's Sports Illustrated in the mail yesterday and it had MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) on the cover.

Sports Illustrated is a bit behind the curve on this one since MMA has been tearing it up and earning very strong ratings for a year now. I am not a big fan of MMA but I know plenty of people who are and this stuff has been blowing up, especially with the Ultimate Fighter reality show on SpikeTV, fights on SpikeTV and the enormous PPV bouts MMA has staged.

SI queries whether MMA is "Too Brutal Or The Future"? Sounds like some crusty old editor doesn't like that things are changing in his sports world. The fact is MMA has already addressed much of its alleged brutality by adding weight classes and sterilizing for cable TV. It has also gone through battles getting sanctioned in states where legislatures didn't want to give it a chance because it was too brutal. All the hurdles have been cleared.

It's clear MMA is one of the sports of the future because boxing can't do anything but trip over itself; hockey probably won't recover from its crippling strike; and, baseball just doesn't hold the interest with today's youth as it did with previous generations. MMA is here to stay. Heck, the Ultimate Fighting Championship series has been around for nearly fifteen years. But, I guess SI being slow on the uptake is just indicative of it perhaps being on its own path similar to boxing...a slow march to irrelevance.

By the way, has a dude's junk ever been so prominently featured on a SI cover?


Yesterday, I did a little post about Greg Oden and his jorts. Little did I know it would bring me this much traffic. I think that post has accounted for 10% of my overall traffic in the past year. Thanks for stopping by everybody, including those dropping the hate, I appreciate it.

All you dropped the knowledge as well. I didn't realize jorts were a little more acceptable for African-Americans. I still think that jorts are god-awful creations but everybody is entitled to their own "style" and if Greg Oden wants to model jorts here in Portland, I am more than willing to let it slide because as one commenter said, "Oden's the man." He'll just have to get somebody in his ear to up his style quotient once he starts rolling in the money. Although, it will be tough here in Portland because people think flannels, tevas and hiking boots are all stylish.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Greg Oden: A Jorts Man

Two days after the Portland Trailblazers won the NBA draft lottery, one of the potential top two picks, Greg Oden, arrived in town. It was a coincidence that Oden was meeting with Nike executives but it gave Portlanders an opportunity to see the presumptive number one pick. Although, Portland GM Kevin Pritchard will look carefully at drafting Kevin Durant as well.

The Oregonian covered his arrival and offered up this description:

Oden, wearing long denim shorts, a striped shirt and a Nike knapsack, said the coincidence of his Portland visit the day after the Blazers won the lottery hadn't struck him yet, even as people at the airport snapped photos of him with their cell phones.

Really, jorts? As much as I hope the Blazers draft Oden, he's going to need some help on the style front. It's almost like he grew up in the early nineties and never left the fashion behind.

There's a photo below of Oden arriving but you can't really see the jorts, which is probably a good thing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blazers Win The Lottery

The Blazers won the NBA Draft Lottery and with that victory the team has the option of selecting Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. I can’t explain how excited I am as a Blazers fan. I am not a hyper-emotional person, particularly when it comes to events that aren’t even during the season. But, as I sat in the car listening to the Blazers beat the long odds and come out with the top spot, I actually started yelling, screaming and pumping my fists. I looked like a bigger tool than usual, yet as I write this, more than 3 hours after the announcement, I am still excited at the possibilities that are afforded my team.

Either Oden or Durant will help the Blazers finally climb out of the abyss it has been in since the 2000 Game 7 Western Conference Finals collapse. The Blazers were a flawed but winning team at the time with serious character issues. After that loss the team spiraled down with more character problems coupled with losing. During this period Paul Allen continued to make awful business blunders like the throwing the arena into bankruptcy and ultimately buying it back from his creditors. Things were rough and Portland fans had been spoiled with 20-plus years of playoff appearances, so the fans started to leave in droves. I stayed but cringed every time I watched a game full of bad seeds play poorly.

Last year, GM Kevin Pritchard, then an assistant GM, wheeled and dealed in the draft ending up with Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez. All of these players performed well this past season. Moreover, these guys and others the management brought in had good character and the organization finally looked to be heading in the right direction, although the wins weren’t there yet. Now, with the power and possibility of the number one pick, it finally feels like the Blazers are really turning the corner.

The question now becomes who the Blazers draft—Oden or Durant. My money, and I think most others as well, is on Oden. I believe Oden and Durant are both real deals. Oden is a defensive stopper whose offensive game will develop in the next few years. Durant is the dynamic scorer on the wing that will have the ability to lift his teams on the offensive end. The two are a yin and yang of sorts and either will probably end up being long-term contributors in the NBA and likely have many All-Star appearances between the two of them. But, Oden is the better fit and gives the Blazers more options.

Coach McMillan is a defensive minded coach and will know how to integrate Oden into his game plan. Oden will be the defensive presence Portland lacks and will improve everybody around him because he will allow his teammates to be more aggressive knowing Oden can help clean up any mistakes. Offensively, Oden is not as progressed as Durant but he can improve his offense and he has lots of time to do that since he is only 19. It’s easier to improve offense than defense which gives Oden an edge.

A team also can’t pass up a potentially dominant center. There are many more gifted wing players in the league than there are talented big men. You just can’t. Look at what Tim Duncan did for the Spurs, although he was more polished coming out. Oden has the potential to make the Blazers a contender for a decade coupled with Aldridge and Roy.

Drafting Oden also gives the Blazers a good opportunity to trade Zach Randolph for an athletic wing with better character. Luol Deng probably isn’t available any more but somebody like him that will unclog the middle for Aldridge and Oden. I can’t think of anybody right because I am just so excited about the future. The only thing that could make this better is if Liverpool beats AC Milan in the Champions League Final on Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Phoenix - San Antonio: My Two Cents

Everybody seems to have an opinion on the suspensions handed down by the NBA against Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw in the Suns-Spurs playoff series. So, I might as well give mine.

First, it’s amazing to me to see the bland, regimented and disciplined San Antonio Spurs turn into the Bad Boys of NBA overnight. Numerous opinions, comments, columns and the like that have vilified the staid Spurs. All the Spurs team has done is have an aggressive defender in Bruce Bowen and committed one hard foul, which led to Diaw and Stoudemire making stupid decisions that forced the League’s hand.

Has the image of a team ever changed so dramatically in the course of one foul or one game? I might throw the 2004-05 Indiana Pacers out there, but I think Artest and Stephen Jackson were already known headcases. One little hard foul and it seems there image has swung 180 degrees from methodical, boring and emotionless to thuggish brutes. I can only imagine that some of this comes from the juxtaposition of soft and finesse of the Phoenix Suns, but I wonder if this branding will stick for longer than this series.

Second, I might be the only one, but that wasn’t a terrible foul by Horry. All he did was shoulder check Nash as he tried to go upcourt. It happened to be on the sideline where Nash went into the announcers’ table and there is a large size differential, which both made it look worse than it actually was. There are harder collisions in many attempted charges during games and if this had occurred in the middle of the court there wouldn’t have been such a furor.

Finally, can we all just get over the rule that led to the suspensions? It was and is being applied consistently and that’s all a fan could ask for given the NBA’s seeming predilection to favor “stars.” These players knew the rule and knew how it was applied, yet were unable to alter their actions accordingly. The reason the rule is black and white is because the league would be in a compromising situation if it had the leeway to affect the outcome of a game based on the suspensions, which obviously lead to calls of favoritism that could ruin the integrity of the game.

Look at how people are acting now with all the clamoring about fairness and ruining a series. The NBA would prefer to have its stars in the game, but if it had the leeway to make decisions on that rationale there would be no saving the league.

Whether this is a good rule or not is something that may need to be addressed in the offseason, but at this moment the emotions are obviously keyed into any discussion. Frankly, it makes sense to me to keep bench players from coming on to the court during an altercation regardless of their intention, because fewer players are easier to control for the officials and intention is so difficult to judge.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Even This Might Not Ruin Pepe Reina's Day

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina had a big hand in sending his squad through to the Champions League Final yesterday in 'Pool's shootout victory over Chelsea. Reina had numerous stops during the game and saved two of Chelsea's PKs during the shootout. It was truly a great performance. Unfortunately for him, his whereabouts at the time of the match were known by every criminal in England and one of them decided to burgle his home in Liverpool. (As an aside, the word burgle is simultaneously awesomely funny and a bit revolting, if you ask me. Burgle sounds like the proper name of a burp with substance.)

After what was probably a right and proper celebration after the Reds victory, Reina discovered his home had been violated.

He returned from the celebrations at 12.45am to find that his home in Woolton, Liverpool, had been ransacked.

Jewellery, a Bang and Olufsen entertainment system, personal documents and a grey Porsche Cayenne with Spanish number plates were taken.

The Porsche was found burnt out in the West Derby area of Liverpool at 6.30am, according to Merseyside Police.

Luckily, nobody was home, although Reina may have lost some personal documents, and his insurance should cover his losses. In the past couple of years, this sort of activity has been common in England, especially for Liverpool players. Former starting keeper Jerzy Dudek, Peter Crouch and yesterday's goal scorer Daniel Agger have all had their homes burglarized. Even Manchester United's Wayne Rooney has fallen victim to the Scouser criminals as his parent's Liverpool home was broken into while he was still living there.

I've wondered why this hasn't happened in the US more often. Well-paid athletes' schedules are well known and easily obtained, which would make them easy targets. Maybe American criminals have a bit of respect for the athletes, or maybe they are just too stupid to grasp this concept. My money is on the latter.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Champions League Liveblog: Chelsea - Liverpool

I won't be doing a liveblog of the return leg of the Champions League matchup of Chelsea and Liverpool, but the fine folks over at The Offside will. Please join them for the festivities.