Archive for June, 2011

Summer Doldrums Part 1

June 29, 2011 3 comments

It’s been a pretty boring few weeks in the world of news and I’ve had to do a lot of surfing to find anything to be snarky about. Here are a few items that caught my eye as we make our way through the dog days of summer.

In no particular order (The headlines and links are one and the same):

Newscorp Gets Ready to Dump Myspace at Firesale Prices

Imagine being the genius who came up with the brilliant idea of getting Rupert Murdoch to shell out $580 million six years ago for Myspace. Newscorp is trying to dump it now and was reportedly hoping to get $100 million. Looks like it’s going to go for $20-30 million. But as business bombs go…that’s nothing. I still have my T-shirt from my CNN days celebrating the fantastic, dynamic merger of AOL and Time-Warner. 

I remember a lot of back-slapping and parties with fancy hors’ dourves at the CNN Center. I think TW CEO, Jerry Levin, is the only guy who made money on that turkey; and it was from his golden parachute- not the underwater options the rest of us had to eat.

Just in:  Mudoch sold My Space for $35 million today

British Survey Finds Radio Makes People Happier than TV or Internet 

You know, I think this speaks for itself.

Best Excuse Ever for Losing a Soccer Game 

The head coach of the North Korean women’s national soccer team blames his 2-0 loss to the U.S. on the fact members of his squad got hit by lightening just before making the trip.

Sarah Palin Indecisivness Wrankles Supporters 

Make up your mind, already!  The toe-dipping into the presidential waters is starting to grow old with many.  But she has been really good about breaking the unspoken rule of not stepping on everybody else’s announcement plans. First, there was the appearance in New Hampshire hours after Mitt Romney announced. Then there was last night’s gala premier of her movie in Iowa, the day after Michel Bachman’s announcement. Then she heads to Bachman and Tom Palenty’s backyard in Minnesota today to sit with her daughter, Bristol, for a tag-team book signing at the Mall of America.

Bachman Still Playing Tom Petty’s “American Girl” 

One day after rocker, Tom Petty, had his lawyers issue a cease and desist letter to the Bachman campaign over use of his song “American Girl,” they played it again after one of her speeches Monday…albeit just 29 seconds of it before it stopped abruptly to make way for “Walking on Sunshine.” Oops.

And it’s not even July yet.  Long, hot summer ahead.

A Baseball Manager Quits on His Team

From his point of view, former Washington National’s manager, Jim Riggleman, preserved his dignity and self-respect. He’ll have many years to enjoy the Pyrrhic victory from the sidelines because it will be a cold day in hell before he manages in the big leagues again.

“Talk to me about a new contract or I quit,” is not an advisable form of dealing with any boss. They generally don’t take kindly to ultimatums. Really, what Riggleman was complaining about- and why he’s not likely to work in baseball again- is that he was chafing at the very reality of what it is to be a major league manager. He wanted a sense of job security and support from the Nationals. But there are managers with multi-year deals who get canned all the time. There are few managers, no matter how long their contract, who aren’t one 10-game losing streak away from unemployment. It’s the nature of the business and if he can’t live with the tenuous nature of being a big league manager, he did the right thing to leave the Nationals and the game.

What was wrong was putting his self-interests ahead of the team. Nat’s GM Mike Rizzo is completely right about that. The hottest team in baseball has a huge distraction to deal with now. I think they’ll be alright. A new interim manager will take over but it’s the players who perform and they have now discovered how to win. After taking 11 of their last 12 games and getting above the .500 mark for the first time in six years– Mr. Riggleman’s bizarre approach to trying to win job security has certainly been a buzz-kill.

But this team has survived losing Stephen Strasburg to Tommy John surgery; being without its best player, Ryan Zimmerman, lost to injury for nearly two months; lost its starting 1st baseman to injury and responded by putting Michael Morse in the position and promptly becoming the best hitter in the game.

Losing a nice man who was probably, at best, an average manager—well, unless he was suiting up and taking the field—and he wasn’t….they’ll survive Mr. Riggelman’s exit as well.

Wimbledon’s Grunting Problem

June 22, 2011 2 comments

Victoria Azarenka- "Serial Grunter"

I have mixed feelings about women grunting.  As I sense a suicidal situation if I elaborate much further- let me contain my remarks on female grunting to tennis in particular.  I had no idea about the extent of the problem until I read today that Wimbledon officials seem to be fed up with the practice.

The UK’s Telegraph explains the situation hereI did not know people were measuring tennis grunting but they are.  The record is held by one Maria Sharapova, whose grunts at the 2009 tournament reached 105 decibels.  Rustling leaves, for example, can reach 40 decibels.  Your average traffic noise comes in at 85 decibels.  A rock concert reaches 110 decibels.  So Ms. Sharapova’s grunts fall somewhere between what you’d hear on New York’s West Side highway or Washington’s GW Parkway and Peter Townsend and the Who. 

Equally important as loudness, however, is the length of the grunt.  The prime offender here is Victoria Azarenka of Belarus who has been referred in several publications today as a “serial grunter.”    Ms. Azarenka has reached 95 decibels but the average length of her grunts each and every time she hits the ball has been recorded at over 1.5 seconds.

The public seems to share my mixed feeling about how bad this problem is.  The Washington Post has deemed it an important enough matter to conduct an internet poll.  As I write, 56% of those who took the time to answer this survey say all grunting should be banned from tennis.  But there are 44% who would oppose such draconian measures.

I am completely torn over this issue and will reserve judgment until after I have watched a few rounds on TV this coming weekend.  But I don’t think grunting is something that can be stopped.   Our serial grunter, Ms. Azarenka, is quoted as saying that she is not alone; 70% of the women’s tour grunt as well.  She says she’s been doing it since the age of 10 and that it helps her put more power into the ball. 

Ultimately, it is the players themselves who can put a stop to it and I don’t mean by exercising will power or something.  The opponent of a serial grunter can complain to the umpire if it gets too overwhelming or distracting.  

Certainly, I am now officially adding tennis grunting to the things I worry about; a growing list that now includes sleep apnea, allergic reactions to peanuts, global warming and the shrinking number of Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets in America.

I know that was weird but I had to end this damn article somehow.

My Baseball Realignment Fantasies

Ok…it’s officially summer, there’s no news now that Anthony Weiner’s resigned and we won’t know whether Congress will cause the next Great Depression by not extending the debt ceiling for another 40 days or so. Time to talk baseball.

The sport is reportedly considering a realignment that ranges from minor to big-deal. A number of plans have been floated- all of them involve baseball going to a pair of 15-team leagues with a couple more wild-cards to make it a total of ten teams that get into the playoffs every year.

The simplest and most obvious suggestion is moving the Houston Astros from the National League Central Division to the American League West. The AL currently has 14 teams, the NL-16; a glaring and silly inconsistency that should have been corrected long ago. Putting Houston in the AL West creates a natural rivalry between Houston and the Texas Rangers.

But as long as we’re going to be thinking about realignment- why not go all the way? Blow up the whole thing!

Dear Commissioner:

I propose a version of a geographical realignment, the kind that former National’s GM, Jim Bowden’s been talking about. I don’t think he’s gotten this specific.  I’ve seen some pretty weird proposals but here’s the one that makes the most sense- go ahead, Selig, try to poke holes in it.

We start by blowing up the American and National Leagues. They’ve served their purpose for over a hundred years now and besides, with interleague play- the leagues are not what they used to be. The “junior” league, the American League, by the way, is only junior by about two years. They both basically started at the turn of the 20th century.

In order to really stoke up regional rivalries and save millions of dollars in travel- here’s the realignment for Major League Baseball’s new Eastern and Western Conferences.

The Eastern Conference’s Northern Division would be a powerhouse featuring some of the already existing greatest rivalries in the sport and creating a couple of new ones.

New York Yankees
New York Mets
Boston Red Sox
Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays

That’s right; both New York’s in the same division. It worked once with the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants- it’ll work again with the Yankees and the Mets. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continues unabated and now the Bosox would be able to avenge Bill Buckner’s game 6 World Series error every time they take on the Mets.

So, New York Yankees, you think you can buy your way into every playoff? Meet the Philadelphia Phillies. Mets/Phillies? They already duke it out every year. The money division. The power division. The glory division. That’s the Eastern Conference’s Northern Division. The Toronto Blue Jays? Hey- they’re North and you need five teams per division and they already have an established history playing the Yanks and Red Sox.

The Eastern Conference’s Southern Division is obvious:

Washington Nationals
Baltimore Orioles
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Right away you’ve got the Washington-Baltimore regional rivalry and create a new Florida rivalry between the Marlins and Rays. The Braves already have NL East history with both the Nats and the Marlins. Tampa and Baltimore already battle in the AL East. Finally, the poor Orioles get out from under the shadow of the Yankees and Red Sox.

The third group in the Eastern Conference is the Central Division:

Cincinnati Reds
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates

You’ve got the battle for Ohio and the existing rivalry between the Tigers and Twins. Then there’s Pittsburgh. It’s not possible to put the Phillies and Pirates in the same division but they’re not now and nobody cares.

Moving on to the Western Conference’s Midwest Division– it’s got the nicest symmetry of them all:

Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals
Kansas City Royals

How beautiful is that? The Cubs and White Sox battling for the hearts of Chicago. Milwaukee which is kind of a Chicago market anyway, throws a nice wrinkle into it. And then you have the Cards and the Royals battling for Missouri. Cubs, Cards and Brewers already fight it out in the NL Central so there’s familiarity.

And now off to the Western Division of the Western Conference. I know, it sounds redundant and you could call it the Southwest Division except you have to put Seattle in there so you can end up with an all-California Division:

Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
Texas Rangers
Houston Astros
Seattle Mariners

You have your new Texas rivalry. You’ve got Arizona and Colorado who already face off in the NL West and then the Seattle Mariners. You could swap them out for San Diego but then you’d break up the neatness of our final grouping- the Western Conference’s California Division:

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Oakland A’s
Los Angeles Angels
San Diego Padres

You’ve got your classic Dodgers-Giants match-ups. You have your Bay area rivalry between the Giants and A’s, and a secondary battle for Los Angeles between the Dodgers and the Angels. If you swapped the Padres for the Mariners, you’d call it the Pacific Division and the other the Southwest division. But it all fits so well when you have five teams from California- they need to be in the same division.

So there you have it, my bored baseball friends. The ultimate geographic realignment of major league baseball; institutionalizing no less than 11 regional rivalries.

There would be two wild-cards from each conference putting ten teams into the playoffs.  The wildcards play each other in a quick 2 out of 3 game set that starts the day after the end of the regular season to minimize the downtime for the division winners.

Then you’re left with your 8 teams. You have to keep it a 5-game series for the round of 8 or else you’d be playing baseball in late November. Regular season records would actually mean something- home field advantage to the team with the most wins through the year.

Stop this stupid business of home field advantage to the league that wins the All-star game. Best record plays at home under all circumstances (except for the Wild Card teams- there has to be a perk for being a divison winner).

The DH rule will have to be permanently put in place for all of baseball because you’d have to go to one system or another. The player’s union would never allow elimination of the Designated Hitter and as much as that would suck for basic game strategy, it would be a necessary evil.

Thanks in advance for considering, Mr. Selig, and best of luck with your deliberations.

Kindest Regards,


Congressional Country Club, U.S. Opens and Memories

June 17, 2011 1 comment

I will be watching the United States Open Golf Tournament from the best seat in the house this weekend- my living room. But there was a time Congressional was an annual tradition for me and it conjures up some great memories.

Before the abomination known as Avenel Country Club came into existence, Congressional was home to the Kemper Open Golf Tournament, the PGA’s only stop in the nation’s capital. It used to be broadcast by CBS, which I worked for at the time, so I used to get press passes and would alternate spending time on the course and hanging out with the CBS Sports crews in their trailer/studios.

The Golden Bear

I once got a ride in a golf cart with Pat Summerall and got more than a few grins watching the taping of a Ken Venturi chipping lesson at Congressional’s 18th green (the par-4 peninsula green). Trust me…they don’t do it in one take. But, to Venturi’s credit, it only took him three tries to chip to within about five feet of the hole. About a dozen of us spectators and the CBS ENG crew gave him a standing ovation.

I saw Freddie Couples win his very first golf tournament. It was memorable for the endearing spectacle of his first wife, a tall gorgeous blonde, running to the green with her arms open to crush him in a bear hug.

But the highlight of all highlights was following Jack Nicklaus on a magical round in which the Golden Bear notched six birdies in a row. For one of them, I totally lucked out and just happened to be positioned at a fairway trap on the back 9. Jack hit right into it, right in front of me.

So now I accidently happen to be in the front row of the huge gallery that was following him to watch as he tried to keep the birdie streak alive hitting out of sand about 160 yards away from the green. Nicklaus hit an absolutely amazing shot, landing about ten feet from the hole and made the putt. You could hear the roar for miles.

The Old Tiger

My only U.S. Open experience was at Bethpage State Park in New York two years ago. It was a soggy, muddy, hilarious adventure. My girlfriend, Millie and I, positioned ourselves on this hill that overlooks the 18th tee and the 17th green. It’s a very, very steep hill. After a couple of days of rain it had turned into a quagmire. As group after group of golfers would play through, spectators started slipping in the mud. I remember one guy, dressed in pressed white shorts, smoking cigars and looking every bit a close friend of Tony Soprano, as he started listing to the right. Having seen a couple of others topple, we could see it all happening in slow motion. Someone even yelled out, “There he goes!” And he plopped right into the mud as the ground gave way beneath him. So much for the pressed white shorts. He fell a few more times as he tried to get up. It was so much fun.

Then, lo and behold, THE group marched to the 17th tee- the one that included Tiger Woods. Tiger hit a shot that went considerably right of the tiny par-3 green and landed in super-thick U.S. Open rough. He was not a happy camper. This was the old Tiger- the one who still used to win tournaments and cursed up a storm after errant shots. He could barely see the ball. He positioned himself and took a whack at it. Three bounces and into the cup. Birdie. Tiger magic. Roar from the gallery. Tiger fist-pump and wide smile.

Neither Nicklaus nor Tiger won on the two days some 15 years apart that I was fortunate enough to watch them work their magic but that does not matter. Magic is magic, whether it’s part of a winning effort or not.

LeBron: Get On With Your Miserable Little Lives Now

June 13, 2011 1 comment

I wasn’t rooting against LeBron James, per se. I was rooting against hubris and arrogance. I was rooting for karma. I was rooting for the principle of the understated work ethic. And sure enough, the good guys won. Congrats to the veteran and classy Dallas Mavericks for claiming their first NBA title.

As for LeBron, he left with this parting shot to the millions of basketball fans across the nation that he turned off with his ESPN “Decision” extravaganza as well as the laser-show, smoke-effect introduction of the next dynasty he glibly predicted would win, I think it was, 8 NBA titles in a row.

I suppose it’s understandable that a guy in his mid 20’s who had to face as much criticism as he did this year, would have to vent, and vent he did. The question was, does it bother you that so many people wanted you to fail?

Absolutely not, because at the end of the day, all the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that.

“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”

You see, I spent every waking hour this year rooting for Miami and LeBron to fail. I put all my personal problems aside so I could do nothing but send withering hate-rays at LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. From November all the way through last night, it’s all I thought about.

Make sure my kids first year in college is going ok? Backburner, baby. “Hey, Dad, I need a few extra bucks this week,” my son, Charlie, would ask. “Go away, kid, you’re bothering me. Don’t you know better than to call me while I’m sitting here hating on LeBron James?”

I remember the night someone on my news staff called to inform me that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. “Osama, who?” I asked incredulously. “My God, man, the Miami Heat are playing tomorrow, I’m practicing my piercing voodoo hate vibes, leave me alone!” I pleaded.

Frankly, I’m exhausted from all this non-stop hating. Plus, putting off dealing with life so I could spend quality hours despising the Miami Heat has caused me to have this tremendous backlog of personal problems to attend to. Man, LeBron, you’re right. I do have to get back to the real world- whew- thanks for reminding me, dude!

The Reluctant King

LeBron James has all but disappeared in the 4th quarters of the last two games of the NBA finals and amateur psychologists among the nation’s sportswriters are weighing in with their theories.

Mike Wise of the Washington Post has a good one. He thinks that in Cleveland, everything depended on LeBron and the responsibility was just too much for him to handle. Teaming up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami was the answer; he would no longer have to carry an entire team solely on his back. Except last night, in the pivotal 5th game of the series, Wade came up lame with a hip injury. Chris Bosh had reverted to the critical nickname they use for him derisively at times in Miami- “Flower Forward.” That left LeBron as the man. And he scored two points in the 4th quarter. Earlier he’d been great, posted a triple-double (double digits in points, assists and rebounds).

The other widely heard theory as that when he tweeted prior to last night’s game that it was “now or never,” he put way too much pressure on himself.

Though he has no shortage of ego, I’m hearing Miami fans this morning saying that, ironically, King James has to be more selfish about scoring if the Heat are to prevail by taking the last two games of the series at home.

Actually, with all due respect to his tremendous talent, it’s character that usually comes to the fore in a championship series. I’m sure LeBron will eventually develop some- and this may be the experience that does it. But the mistake here made by the media and most of the public- is that the wrong King was being crowned.

The real royalty in the NBA is not from Ohio- he’s from Germany and his name is Dirk Nowitzki. Now that’s a guy who plays well under pressure. Torn tendon in the finger of his non shooting hand? No worries. Uses the injured finger and hand to make the lay-up that closes out game 2 in Miami. Sinus infection and 102 degree fever? No big deal, makes every clutch shot in game 4.

Here’s how I see this playing out. Heat win game 6 at home forcing a decisive game 7. Nowitizki comes through in the clutch, gets his elusive trophy he lost to Miami five years ago and the Dream Team finishes with in an inexplicable whimper. And then Miami goes on to win the next three NBA championships having developed some of the character that was missing in their NBA Finals debut. I swear, sometimes I think that’s all God demands every now and again. Just a little humility. That’s what the Miami Heat are in the process of developing right now.

Weinered Out

I took a few days off and unplugged from the world a bit. As I read back in to our political and cultural discourse today, I see 7 out of 10 news stories are about Congressman Weiner’s sexting and Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s midnight ride.

I understand the spectator appeal of both stories; we’ll call it the car crash syndrome- not pleasant to look at but impossible to resist. But really, Washington Post- five different Weiner angles? “Weiner’s District Debates His Future,” “Wives Increasingly Skip Public Confessions,” “Weiner Takes Mortification 101,” “Anthony Weiner’s Apology-Fest,” “Breitbart Inserts Himself in Weiner Drama.” Daily Beast/Newsweek is similarly obsessed with 4 of its top 10 stories concentrating on some iteration of All Things Weiner.

The Post also weighs in mightily with the continued brou-ha-ha over Sarah Palin’s historical boo-boo she insists was not a mistake about Paul Revere blowing whistles firing shots and ringing bells to warn the British not to take away our guns or something. We have “Don’t Know Much About History,” “Fight Brews on Paul Revere Wikipedia Page,” “Palin Once Again Disregards the Facts,” and “Sarah Palin Gallops Toward 2012.”

You know, in about two months this nation faces the very real possibility that it will default on its debts for the first time in its history. What’s that- a 1000-point stock market crash? We have a stalled recovery and a public frightened at the potential consequences of continuing job losses. Folks are paying up to $200 a month more to gas up their cars. The housing crisis continues unabated.

I understand the last question asked at Anthony Weiner’s news conference was, “were you fully erect?”

Beyond being disgusted, I thoroughly do not care. My 401K? Job security for my friends and family? Can I ever afford to buy a house again? Can I get my kid through four years of college? That’s the kind of stuff I care about. Call me Weinered out. Can we please get serious about things that actually matter?

Mavs Upset of Heat Fun to Watch

Except, of course, I didn’t actually watch it. As soon as Dwayne Wade hit the 4th quarter 3-pointer and posed for 5 seconds in front of the Dallas bench and his highness, LeBron, did this chest thing with Wade- I was out of there.

I was determined not to watch these preening egomaniacs turn the NBA Finals into their personal playground. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was disgusted. The Dallas Mavericks had had enough sand kicked in their face and they responded with one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NBA Championship. So I missed it, but have enjoyed reading about it, immensely.

The Heat are going to have earn it now and that’s the way it should be. The NBA Finals are nobody’s personal playground. They may yet be the champs. But, surely, they will have learned it’s not only talent that makes history. A little class usually goes along with a ring too. They still have a chance to show some.