A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fantasy Football Update: Week Three

Skipped right over Week Two, since none of my players attempted suicide OR had an allergic reaction to painkillers and steroi... supplements, and now we're into Week Three. Since my thrilling opening week victory, it's been all down hill for the Libertarian Librarian's Ackphblllt! Injuries, byes, and general suckitude will take their toll. At the moment, I don't believe I'm in a death spiral comparable to, say, the St. Louis Cardinals, but the two losses have been pretty brutal.


Game Capsules

Dog Bites Orc
Coach "I am amazed by the simplicity of this game" Scotty left nearly 25% of his possible point production on the bench and his Fearsome Canines still won for the third straight time, nipping (Hah!) the Fighting Uruk-Hai, 75 to 69. With their backfield stymied, the doggies turned to the air (no frisbees), getting 20 points out of QB Eli Manning and 15 and 11 out of Andre Johnson and Muhsin Muhammad respectively. The Uruks, losers of three straight to start the season, got a good game out of Kevin Jones (16 points) but continued suckitude out of Duante Culpepper and Randy McMichael was too much for the White Hand of Saruman to overcome. You'd think Saruman would use some magic or something to get his boys to play a little better.

Wu Tang Clan Takes Down nate
Not surprising that a guy that can't even take the time to capitalize his name, much less come up with a team name, lost to a guy that capitalizes both words in his team name AND uses three exclamation points. However, the margin of the thumping is perhaps surprising-- 92 to 51-- as both teams came into the game undefeated. nate, oh hapless schmoe of the "can't be bothered to name my really good team" fame, was handicapped by the absence of Larry Johnson and Terry Glenn to byes, and the injury that took Rueben Droughns out very early. And yes, I am going to continue to rip on nate and his pathetically unnamed team until he bothers to take the lousy thirty seconds necessary to change it. Get in the game nate. Finally, last time I ripped Troy for excessive punctuation in his team name, citing the three exclamation points as pure bad form. Troy responded that he had no choice, this was simply Wu Tang Clan requirements, and that he risked ending up like Tupac if he went against the Clan. Which at first I accepted until it occurred to me that Troy knows Hip Hop/Rap about as well George Allen knows black people. Punk or alternative, sure, maybe rock and metal, but hip-hop and rap? So, I did some digging. Not much, I'll grant you, but several Google and Wikipedia searches later, I find Troy's explanation unconvincing. While the phrase, Konnichiwa, bitches does seem to have originated with the Wu Tang Clan, I can find no evidence of requisite three exclamation points. Indeed, on the song by the same name (a solo effort by Clan member Method Man), there are actually NO exclamation points. None. Not in the title, or in the phrase which is repeated frequently in the song. And it is spelled with only 1 n. Various Google hits do have three exclamation points, but far more have only two, one, or-- most frequently-- none at all. So. Dude, I think it's time to lose the exclamation points and consider the more traditional spelling. Before these killahz really do come after you. Word.

Stench Edges Happy Scrappy
For the first time all year a dog-themed team lost in the WBKL. It was close, 77-75, but Stench held off the Happy Scrappy Hero Pups behind a stellar game by Willie Parker (22 points). The victory kept Stench even with Konichiwa, Bitches! with a perfect 3-0 record, but the smelly ones trail Hip Hop boy by twenty points for the Peanut Butter Division lead. It was a sad day for lovers of annoying animated puppy sidekicks everywhere, as Javon Walker's monster 21 point performance came up just short for the Happy Scrappies. Even Peyton Manning scoring a rushing TD for the first time since the Wilson Administration was insufficient-- some weeks it's just not your day. Err... or something.

Fishies Win Battle of the Disgruntled
You had ill-tempered fish and Favre haters banging heads last weekend, and in the final accounting, it was the seawater breathers taking the win, 89 to 71. PO'ed fish can be dangerous. The game featured two "Pass first and hand the ball off later" offenses-- there were no running backs in double digits on either side-- but in the end Keyshawn's monster 17 point game and Pittsburgh's 12 point defensive output were enough to send the Favre Haters spiraling to their third straight loss. Coach Rafal really might want to consider getting a better defense-- to date his team has given up an average of 94.7 points each week. That's nearly 20 points above the league average, as Coach Rafal made quite clear to me in a recent rant-filled conversation. I feel your pain, man. I don't share it, nor do I wish to participate in it-- I have enough of my own with a team littered with injuries and suicide attempts, thank you-- but I fell it. For the Bass, the win moved them into sole possession of the Crap Ass-- I mean Jelly-- Division lead.

Big Block of Cheese Cheats Death
Despite, or perhaps because of?, a logo only slightly smaller than his Pluto-sized (not as big as a planet... but close!) original, the Cheddarheads were able to defeat Mojo's Reapers 77 to 67 behind Clinton Portis' monster 23 point game. It does seem odd that a bunch of guys armed with razorsharp scythes intent on harvesting the souls of mortals are only 1-2 so far, but perhaps they were confused by being pitted against fermented milk products? Or perhaps the wily Coach Frank had his curdish troops listening to Blue Oyster Cult before the game?

TTRE Beats Noisy Water Vapor
The TONY REALI Experience (and are all those capitals REALI necessary, Gym? Hah! Trying to make up for your Capital challenged Instant Messages?) got balanced, if unimpressive, scoring which was just enough output to defeat Cloud's Thunder, who got balanced and even less impressive scoring, 67 to 61. The win moved TTRE to 2-1 and kept them in the running in the Peanut Butter Division despite having a below average point total to date, while the loss dropped Cloud's Thunder to 0-3 despite having an above average point total to date. Go figure. Pearly whites trump noisy atmospheric disturbances every time, it appears.

Mayhem Get First Win
Behind massive doses of Megadeath, Metallica and ABBA, as well as good games by Tatum Bell and Torry Holt, the Metal Mayhem cruised to a 74 to 52 victory over the Motor City Cheese. The Cheese got a monster (24 points) game out of Matt Hasselbeck, but two goose eggs and the absence of L.T. were too much for Coach Bill's group. "It's disappointing, of course," said Coach Bill. "We wanted to uphold the honor of cheese, and with the Cheddarheads winning, we really had a chance to make a statement about the power of cheese. But it's tough when your best guy is off, and the rest of the team stank like Limburger.

Muffdivers Breakthrough!
Into the win column, you perverts. Strong games by Ladell Betts and Roy Williams were more than enough to offset a big goose egg by the Patriots defense as the Muffdivers sailed to an easy first victory-- 81 to 55 over Ackphblt! The vowel challenged felines were handicapped by the absence four starters to byes/injuries, and were never really close as they lost for the second straight week.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Price of Appeasement

It's not a one-time cost. Quite the opposite. Because those whom you are attempting to appease don't look at your concession and think, "That's all right then, clearly these are well-intentioned folk who meant no offense. Perhaps we over-reacted." They think something along the lines of, "Clearly violence works, my friends. Soon, perhaps even the threat of violence will be sufficient. Regardless, we must press our advantage and agitate for still more concessions."

Which leads, quite naturally and unsurprisingly, to this. An opera house canceling a new show before it even opens because it might be too provocative, and thus presented an "incalcuable risk". The show includes a scene with the severed head of Muhammad. Kirstin Harms, director of the opera, cited Muslim responses to the Danish caricatures-- violence, bombings, calls for assassination-- as a principle reason for canceling the show.

Oddly enough, though the opera also includes the severed heads of Jesus and Buddha in the very same scene as the one containing Muhammad's severed head, Harms did not include any concern that local Christians or Buddhists would riot, commit arson, or threaten death in response to the opera. How odd. Surely the sight of Jesus' head sans body would be somewhat disturbing, even distressing, for a Christian, and even a Buddhist might have some twang of apprehension upon seeing that jolly Buddha fellow rendered as a bleeding, severed head.

Yet nobody is worried about that.


Wonder what the difference could possibly be?


Monday, September 25, 2006

Yeah, What He Said

As is often the case, Orson Scott Card's most recent column is DOBA. My daughter just started third grade and I am surprised, and somewhat discouraged, by the amount of homework she is getting assigned. Spelling (I can see that one-- spelling is, in large measure, repetition), math, reading, writing. Plus occassional extra bits.

Now, she is in the excelerated learning school, so I expect a bit more homework than I had as a kid, but I don't really recall having much of any in third grade. Maybe I blocked it out, but I do think there is a danger to over-assigning homework, particularly before 5th or 6th grade.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Ryder Cup Update

Once again the U.S. falls behind on the first day of the Ryder Cup, 5 points to 3. This is no longer becoming a habit, it is a well-established trend. And it is the primary reason the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup in 1995 and has been unable to reclaim in the four tries since.

Still, it could have been worse. Trailing 2.5 to 1.5 after the morning matches, the Americans were down in all 4 of the afternoon matches at one point. The team rallied late, and only a disappointing bogey on 18 by Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson kept the days' tally from being 4.5 to 3.5.

If the Americans can manage to keep the deficit at 2, or pick up a point or more, tomorrow, they'll have a legitimate shot on Sunday, when the format switches to straight 1 on 1 match play. But if the deficit creeps up to 3 or more... well, then I think Samuel Ryder's Cup will remain with the Europeans.

I hope to catch as much of the action as I can this weekend-- the Ryder Cup matches are some of the most riveting in all of golf because A) It's match play, which is a format that is a lot of fun to watch B) The world's best players are all competing and C) It's not just individual golfers-- it's a team event for national pride. When individual sports-- golf, tennis, some of the Olympic events-- are transformed into team events there is an extra dimension added to that sport. Your clutch putt is no longer just for you to win... it's for your team and your country to win. If you miss, you don't just let yourself and your family down, you let the whole team down AND the whole country. The pressure that puts on those guys is incredible. Easily Major tourney level, probably greater.

Really looking forward to it. Go team USA!


Doyle Must Go

For those of you outside of my fair state of Wisconsin, this November we're having an election for Governor. The incumbent is Democrat, Jim Doyle-- just finishing up his first term. His Republican challenger is Mark Green, previously a U.S. Congressman from the Green Bay region of Wisconsin.

I'm not a big fan of Green's. He strikes me as an empty suit with little or no leadership ability, and his time as a member of Congress isn't really very good training to be the chief executive officer of the state. And he really is far too lock step with Bush for my comfort.

But quite frankly Jim Doyle has made a mockery out of the state's reputation for clean government. Just in today's Milwauke Jourtinal there are these articles:

And that's just today. There remains questions about the sale of the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant last year. Originally, the Public Service Commission rejected the sale of the plant. Later, after the company that wanted to buy the plant made $41000 in contributions to the Doyle campaign, the PSC reversed its decision, with the two Doyle appointees changing their vote from nay to yea.

There remain questions about the sweetheart deals Doyle negotiated with the state's Native American tribes, all of whom were huge contributors to Doyle's campaign. Fortunately, the Supreme Court over-ruled the "in perpetuity" portion of that deal-- and I say that as a fan of Native American casinos. But things change, times change, and "in perpetuity" deals are ridiculous.

And, though this is not specifically campagin related, there remain questions about a state sponsored web site that encourages Wisconsin residents to get their drugs from Canadian pharmacies. At a minimum, the web site undercuts Wisconsin pharmacies and U.S. pharmaceutical companies. At a maximum, Doyle may be advocating for the citizens of his state to commit a crime.

Although our President can't remember how the "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" saying goes, I can. I can also recognize a pattern when I see one.

Jim Doyle is a debacle, and if Wisconsin votes him back into office, it will be "shame on us" for being foolish enough to believe his disavowals and rationalizations.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Bit of Filler

Not much time to write this week. Teaching, working, and writing for other purposes. Blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, a couple of worthwhile links to occupy your time:

A very dangerous and worrisome man.

Couldn't have said it better myself. And goodness knows I've tried.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TC is Right!

If we can't count on fair elections in this country, American Democracy is over.
It's that simple.

-tc, Friday Sept. 15, 2006
I agree. Well, to a point. That's probably overstating things a bit-- it's not that simple (nuance, remember?) but it's close. Voting is a remarkable thing-- all those blue-fingered Iraqis pretty much proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt recently. But if the vote's integrity is in doubt, or worse yet, known to be fixed, then you have a Banana Republic.
No, not this kind. This kind.
And right now, there seems to be very little reason to have confidence in the Diebold Voting Stations. They CAN easily be hacked, and digital is the most transient, fragile and easily modified way to store data ever invented. Whether accidentally or intentionally, the integrity of digital data is hard to ensure.
All of which is totally separate from this. But there is this little thing known as "conflict of interest" and it's not irrelevant or of little import. Quite the contrary. I have problems, substantial ones, with what seems a pattern with Wisconsin's Governor Jim Doyle getting large campaign donations from companies that shortly thereafter get lucrative state contracts, but at least those companies are not integrally associated with the voting process itself.
For the head of a company that makes voting machines to make comments about "delivering elections" is... stunning in either its audacity or its stupidity. It is possible that O'Dell merely meant he's going to bust his tail to get Republicans to the polls and donate his personal money to help Bush get re-elected. But even if that were the case, the phrasing is so god awful bad that it's hard to imagine someone that stupid running a multi-million dollar company.
And if he really meant that his machines would help get Bush re-elected... well, then he should be going to prison.
Either way, when you roll the general fragility of digital data in with some serious questions about the company making the voting machines, and O'Dell's crappy-ass voting machines shouldn't be used in something as important and central to our country's foundation as voting for our elected representatives. On that, tc is correct, and I agree with him 100%.
Well, okay, not about the Right-controlled media thing... but he got most of the post right.


Friday, September 15, 2006

A Small Act of Defiance

It meant nothing, in the grand scheme of things, but it felt good and if enough other folks join me in doing it, perhaps it will begin to be noticed. What was it?

I voted Tuesday in Wisconsin's primary election, and I wrote-in a candidate for every single slot. I wrote myself in for Governor (I'd make a good governor), my wife in for attorney general, and various of my friends and neighbors in for the other slots. I didn't write in Ronald McDonald or anything like that-- I picked real people.

Surprisingly, I did not win the primary and none of the folks I wrote-in did either, but for the first time in quite a while I left the voting station content that I had voted for people that I actually thought would do a good job if elected. Wasted votes? In a way, sure. But I have to tell you it felt great not to compromise while voting-- no picking the lesser of two evils for me. No voting straight party line tickets knowing that while I generally prefer one party over the other they each endorse things I find very distasteful and even immoral.

My sister once said that it would be nice if ballots came with a D) None of the above selection. In a way, they do-- it's all those blank lines with (write-in candidate) underneath it. Write somebody real on those lines, and you've just voted "none of the above."

And what if a LOT of people did that? What if 5% of the votes cast were for write-in candidates? In a presidential election, that would be around 6 million votes. Can you imagine the havoc that would cause? That would totally RAWK.

I think this is the answer to the dilemma I keep bumping into when I talk to people about the need for a viable third candidate. Inevitably we get to the question of who should we vote for. Nearly everyone is comfortable with NOT voting for the major party candidates because, quite frankly, they're a bunch of schmoes. But finding someone else that folks can agree on-- that's much, much harder. Maybe impossible.

So, fogettaboutit. Fill in whomever the heck you want. Just make it real people, and in the case of a presidential election, someone who actually qualifies (Ahhrrnold, for example, should not be written in for Prez, as he can't lawfully hold the position). Talk amongst your friends and associates and agree on a candidate you'll all vote for, or just go with the man or woman you wish had won in the primaries. Go with yourself, if you wish.

Personally, I shall be writing in Thomas Freidman and Tom Coburn in the fall of '08. Two Toms for the price of one!

Try it in your next election-- it really is very liberating.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife?

That's the classic trick, or loaded, question-- if you answer "yes", it implies that you used to beat your wife, while if you answer "no", then you are still beating your wife. And I had a serious "Have you stopped beating your wife?" moment a few days ago when I read tc's response to my post regarding a DailyKos poll that boggled my mind.

The poll [in response to the tremendous hue and cry over inaccuracies in "The Path to 9/11"] asked which was a greater threat to democracy, Corporate media consolidation or terrorists, and fully 70% of respondents voted for Corporate media consolidation. I was, and still am, stunned by that result.

tc, apparently agreeing with the 70% in fear of Corporate media consolidation (I keep capitalizing Corporate, btw, because that's how the poll creator did it-- Corporate got a Capital C, but terrorists did not warrant a capital T. Telling in and of its ownself.), responded with this:
Nick, are you saying that American Democracy is so weak, so fragile, that the sporadic actions of small, ill-equipped militant fanatics are realistically going to topple it?
So, if I answer "Yes" I'm granting that American Democracy is weak and fragile, and if I answer "No", then I'm tacitly admitting that Corporate media consolidation is more dangerous to American Democracy. Have I stopped beating my wife yet?

The basic premise is wrong, and therein lies the problem. No, I don't think that American Democracy is so weak and fragile that the sporadic actions of small, ill-equipped militant fanatics are realistically going to topple it. But neither do I think that the terrorists are ill-equipped nor their actions sporadic. 9/11/2001 should have driven that point home so hard and so painfully that nobody would ever be able to believe that terrorists with no compunction, no mercy, no regard for their own, much less others, lives could be dismissed as "small, ill-equipped militant fanatics".

And that was without true weapons of mass destruction.

In the DailyKos world, the Disney Corporation is a bigger threat to our existence than fanatics with designs on attaining nuclear weapons and no qualms about using them on as many infidels-- Israeli or American infidels, preferably, but Europe, Asia or Australia will do in a pinch-- as possible.

Now, I'll grant you that there is an awful lot of the same old same old on TV and in the theaters these days, and I'll grant you that it would be better if there were more media outlets available for disparate voices to be heard. But considering that The Daily Show, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, etc., etc. are still on the air, and considering that satirical shows like South Park and the Mind of Mencia are still poking fun at everybody and everything, I don't really think Corporate media consolidation is going to bring us down any time soon. By all means, monitor it, keep people aware of it, contact your legislators and voice your concerns.


Do I think that attacks on our soil or on the soil of other democracies and repulics, against people with no connection to anything military, political or religious, are a threat to our democracy? Yeah, I do. Do I think a few nuclear bombs detonated in New York, LA, and D.C. will threaten our democracy a little bit more than a screenplay written by a guy who knows Rush Limbaugh? Yeah, I do. Do I think that genocidal massacres in Africa, and beheadings in Iraq and suicide bombings in Israel are a threat to democracy? Yeah, I do.

And here's the ironic twist-- part of the reason that terrorists ARE such a threat to democracy is precisely because of a point that seems so near and dear to liberals. Near and dear to me, as well, for that matter. A natural reaction to terrorist activity is to crack down on individual freedoms-- to crank up the Big Brother aspects of government to increase security. Above and beyond the threat of death and destruction, terrorism breeds insecurity and fear, and a democracy does not do well under those conditions.

Which is why I think President Bush was right to take the fight to the terrorists, why I think he was right to attempt to plant democracy in the Middle East, and why I am appalled by the actual means he has chosen to accomplish those ends. Do I think that the current administration's reliance on fear is a threat to democracy? Yeah, I do that, too. But that does not mean that the terrorists-- you know, the guys that started this whole mess?-- are any less of a threat or any less responsible. It just means that we have to keep our own government in balance lest we lose many or all of the freedoms were purportedly are fighting the terrorists to keep as our own.

So, let me pose my own "Have you stopped beating your wife?" question to tc and all the other DailyKos people who are so terrified of Corporate media consolidation:

tc, are you saying that four hours of inaccurate television, that didn't even make the week's twenty most viewed shows and which was seen by less than 7 million Americans, is more of a threat to American Democracy than terrorist groups that have already killed thousands of your fellow citizens and whom are the direct cause of the Patriot Act, NSA wire taps, and the Iraq War?


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

FFL Week One Update

And so it begins. The NFL is back, and while the Green Bay Packers will be racing with the Oakland Raiders for the worst team in the league in real football, Libertarian Librarian's fantasy football team, Ackphblllt! began its title defense with a 74 to 67 victory over one of our three new teams, the Metal Mayhem, out of Philly.


The standings may be found here.

Game Capsules
Fearsome Canines Impressive in Debut
Eli Manning outperformed his big brother and lost, but he lead a balanced attack by the Fearsome Canines that helped Coach Scotty roll up the high score for the week, knocking off I Hate Favre 89-74. Six of the Canines nine starters recorded double digit point totals, while the I Haters were hamstrung by star QB Carson Palmer's lackluster 5 point output. Despite the loss, Coach Rafal was happy with his backfield of Jamal Lewis (11) and Chester Taylor (16), both of whom had major question marks associated with them before the regular season kickoff.

Konnichiwa, Bitches!!! Wins Despite Excess Exclamation Points
Libertarian Librarian would like to congratulate Coach Troy for the proper use of the comma in his team name, but I'm afraid a petition has been filed in Federal Court to force him to limit his exclamation point usage to the standard one per sentence. The petition is being made on the basis of the harm such excess does to grammar in general, and the period, question mark and semicolon in particular. In football related news, Konnichiwa rode the revived arm of that fine Irish lad Donovan McNabb and the relentless defense of the San Diego Chargers to an easy 88 to 56 victory over The TONY REALI Experience. REALI got productive games out of its backfield of Dunn and Green, but the vaunted wide out corps of Houshmandzadeh, Randy Moss, and Galloway totaled only 4 points all together. Eww. Plus his QB, Trent Green, was rendered mostly dead by the Bengals. No word at this time if legal action is being considered against TONY REALI for excessive use of capitalization, but rest assured LL will keep you posted.

Newcomer Wins, Needs Name
nate won. Yeah, that really needs a little punching up, doncha think? Dude, give your team a name, willya? I mean, seriously, you win the new owner lottery to get Larry Johnson for years to come, and you can't even take the time to change your team name? Wat up wit dat? Anyhoo, afore mentioned Mr. Johnson, Brian Westbrook and the Green Bay Packers... err... oh, sorry, the Chicago Bears' Defense helped the Team With No Name take down Troy is going to Die., 84-73 despite Kurt Warner's 21 point performance for Die. On a side note, LL has it on good authority that the Grammar Police are investigating Troy is going to Die. for improper usage of a period. Whether there are mitigating factors, such as the lack of exclamation points because of overusage by, ironically, Troy's team, remains to be determined.

Ackphblt! Opens Title Defense With Victory
Lamont Jordan and Sebastian Janikowski blew serious chunks on Monday night, but fortunately for defending champ Ackphblt!, the rest of the team had already secured victory. Lead by Frank Gore's week high 24 points, Ackphblt! held off the Metal Mayhem, 74-67. Both coaches left premier performances on the bench, as the Mayhem played the Panthers' D (1) over the Bengals (13), while Coach Nick didn't play Dante Stallworth (18), the week's top wide receiver. Despite the loss, the Mayhem have to be encouraged by the strong performances of Tatum Bell and Julius Jones, two question marks coming into the season.

Motor City Cheese Pull It Out On Monday
Ladanian Tomlinson blew away fellow top pick Shaun Alexander, 18-5, and the Motor City Cheese came from behind on Monday night to beat the Muff Divers, 70-62. The Muff Divers were perhaps doomed from the get go, as Ladell Betts' playing time was greatly diminished by Clinton Portis' surprising amount of playing time. That and the fact that Marc Bulger could not throw a touchdown pass despite being in the red zone pretty much the entire game. I fear for the Cheese's longterm viability, however, when I see that they voluntarily started Robert Ferguson. Yikes. Deion Branch getting traded to the Seahawks happened none to soon for Bill and his cheddar.

Stench Wins As Huge Logo Crushes Cheddar Heads
Crippled by the weight of their massive team logo, the Cheddar Heads couldn't hope to keep pace with fast Willie Parker and the rest of the Stench, falling 70-56. Inside sources have told Libertarian Librarian that the huge logo is a result of the swelling of Coach Frank's head following last year's division title and runner-up finish in the championship game. Only Fred Taylor (15) played like a division winner for Coach Frank, however, and Stench rode strong performances by Parker (12), Steven Jackson (13) and Marvin Harrison (11) to cruise to victory. Rumors that the enormous logo actually injured the bench warming Labrandon Toefield when it toppled over in heavy winds are at this time unconfirmed. Assuming that such is not the case, this may well be the last time this column ever again mentions Mr. Toefield.

Sea Bass Best Freakish Orc Dudes
Undetered by the tusks, and armor, and white palm thingies, The Ill-Tempered Sea Bass did just enough right to take down The Fighting Uruk-Hai, 64-52. The Bass, perhaps embolden by word that their arch-enemies, the sting ray, were being taken down by passionate, if misguided, Aussies, got strong games from Rudi Johnson and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Uruk-Hai, meanwhile, seemed somewhat lost without longtime field general Michael/Mike/Ron Vick/Mexico and mustered only 52 points, second lowest for the week. Or maybe its just that orcs are so yesterday's news.

Happy Scrappy Hero Pups Don't Fear the Reaper
You'd think with death on your side you'd be in good shape, but playing Duce Staley(0) and Jason Elam(4) over Drew Bennet(10) and Jeff Wilkins(18) proved to be too much for Mojo's scythe wielding crew to overcome as the happier of the league's canines pulled out an ugly 60-50 victory. The Baltimore Ravens' Defense accounted for over a 1/3 of the Pups' total, blistering the Buccanears for 22 points, Peyton Manning kicked in 14, and the rest of the team barely did enough to secure victory.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years After

Unsurprisingly, virtually every blogger in the U.S., and most of them elsewhere as well, have a post up about the 5-year anniversary of the attacks on 9/11/2001. Anniversaries are momentous-- a chance to reflect, to celebrate, to mourn, and to gain the perspective of time. It is not possible for people to "live every moment as if it were your last" as we are often enjoined to do-- we simply aren't wired to live at that intense of a level. Anniversaries allow us to look back and to remember the times when we did live as we wished we could all the time, and to, perhaps, reflect on how we can come closer to the ideal of living every moment to its fullest without burning ourselves out completely.

Five years.

It seems both much longer and like it was only yesterday. I remember the surreal oddness of the following several days when there were no jets tracking over our house (we live south of Milwaukee's airport, and have fairly regular plane traffic above us-- fortunately we're far enough south that the planes are not a nuisance), no contrails marking the otherwise perfect blue of a mid-September sky. The incredible pit in my stomach as the first tower actually collapsed. Commentaries on the TV about the need for 10,000 body bags. And the simple joy of my son playing with his toy trains and cars on the carpet near me while I was watching it all unfold.

He just celebrated his 6th birthday. 5/6ths of his life has happened since that day.

Weird. That's how it mostly feels. Weird. Surreal. Real and yet not.

I remember thinking, "This is only the first of many." And I remember thinking, "I wonder what we'll do in response."

Amazingly, it wasn't the first of many. No other shoe has dropped on U.S. soil, and even the attacks in Europe were, thankfully, pale imitations of 9/11.

And my question has only been partially answered. We counter-attacked where we could, and we attempted the first ever pre-emptive attack in U.S. history. We overthrew a vicious, fascistic government in Afghanistan, and we overthrew a vicious, fascistic tyrant in Baghdad. We made a strong start, and then, I dunno. We fell into a malaise or something.

It's hard to live life to its fullest-- we aren't wired for it. We need down time. Quiet time. Too much adrenaline will literally wear a person out. This war has been like that-- we need to stay focused on it, keep pushing against the bulwarks the terrorists have established, keep the edge on both the battlefield and the public relations field. But we haven't been able to keep that focus, because it's hard to maintain, and because our leaders have done a frightfully crappy job of making sure what's important is front and center.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condi, etc. should be taking every opportunity to stress that this is not a clash of religions, but a clash of world views. I don't care that virtually all of the terrorists are Muslim-- I care that virtually all of the terrorists want to kill me or convert me because I'm NOT. I care that they want to treat women like 2nd class objects at best, property at worst. I care that they blame the victims of abuse and assault and rape rather than the perpetrators of those crimes. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness-- most of that goes out the window for all but a privileged view under people like Saddam Hussein or under governments like the Taliban.

And I care that I think it quite likely that if any of them ever manage to get biological weapons, or worse, nuclear ones, they will not hesitate to use them to kill as many men, women and children as they can. Because we mean nothing to them.

But we don't hear much about that. Bush talks, seemingly endlessly and rather ineffectually, about safety and security. Rumsfeld feels those that disagree with how he has managled the post-invasion portion of the war are less patriotic than those who don't question him. The Republicans and the Democrats both use the war as a wedge issue instead of a consensus issue-- case in point, the fact that ABC is making a docudrama about the lead up to 9/11 and both the Dems and the Repubs are having a hissy fit over it. We wind up either fearful, angry or completely tuned out because those seem to be the only options available.

Five years.

I am happy that there have been no other attacks since 9/11. I am happy that people in Afghanistan and Iraq can live freer lives because of the brave young men and women of our armed forces. I am happy that in many ways we have regained much of what was lost on that dreadful day five years ago.

But I am sad that so many have died. I am sad that so much of our nation's politics are driven by fear and anger. I am sad that we are simultaneously mucking up the situation in Iraq and losing our focus on the really important bits at home.

And polls like the one in my previous post scare the bejeezus out of me, because those aren't stupid people who think that media consolidation is more dangerous than the terrorists. Nor are they bad people. But Bush and crew have muddied the waters so badly that a biased/poorly written docudrama scares them more than people who have already killed thousands, and who would undoubtedly kill millions more if they can acquire the capability.

There is a threat, my friends, a very real one. That doesn't mean we should live in fear, or blindly follow our leaders in hopes they will keep us safe from it. But it does mean that we shouldn't lose sight of it, nor lump it in as equal with whether the minimum wage will be increased, or the inheritance tax be repealed.

Five years after.

How is it that time can both fly and crawl at the same time?


Friday, September 08, 2006

I'm Stunned

There's a poll being run over at DailyKos in reaction to "The Path to 9-11" docudrama airing on ABC this Sunday. The post, from someone known as "theyrereal" maintains that the unflattering portrayal of Clinton in the docudrama is a direct result of media consolidation by conservative forces. This is dire threat to democracy. How dire? Well, here's the poll after I voted:

70% of the people reading DailyKos believe media consolidation is a bigger threat to democracy than the people who flew planes into the WTC five years ago, cut off Nick Berg's head, blow up Israeli buses with regularity, and forced kidnapped journalists to convert to Islam with the barrel of an automatic weapon.


Boggles the mind.


"It Smells of Intimidation"

That's what Tom Daschle said of CBS' decision to cancel a biography on Ronald Reagan in 2003 after there was much hue and cry from conservative/Republican voices that the biography was biased, inaccurate and unflattering. Daschle was the lead Senate Democrat at the time. He also said this, "Any time occasions arise when the essence of the judgment made by television producers is influenced by outside forces, we have to call into question whether that level of intimidation is appropriate," he told reporters on Capitol Hill. (Both quotes from the NY Times, Nov. 5, 2003, p. A11).

Fast forward three years.

ABC is set to air their docudrama "The Path to 9-11" about the run up to the WTC attacks. There is much hue and cry from liberal/Democratic voices that the docudrama is biased, inaccurate, and unflattering to Bill Clinton and his administration. Claims of history being re-written are being leveled and calls to boycott the show and it's advertisers have been made.

But that's just the fringe (well, okay, the Democratic National Committee), not the actual Congressmen. Surely they feel as Tom Daschle did back in 2003-- that such calls are ill-advised as they "smell of intimidation." Surely the 1st Amendment holds here as well?

Apparently not, and don't call me Shirley. The key bit is towards the bottom, after Clinton, Albright, and Berger all express their indignation:
In a letter to Iger, Reid said the reputation of ABC's parent company, the Walt Disney Corporation, would be "deeply damaged" if the film aired with those scenes intact.
Further details on that letter are mentioned in today's New York Post article:

Disney-owned ABC's move to quell the criticism came as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Charles Schumer and other Democratic leaders sent a letter to Iger, accusing his network of spreading "deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation."

"That Disney would seek to broadcast an admittedly and proven- false recounting of the events of 9/11 raises serious questions about the motivations of its creators and those who approved the deeply flawed program," they wrote.

Factually inaccurate misinformation? Misinformation is, by definition, inaccurate information. Wouldn't factually inaccurate misinformation then be ACCURATE information?

To be honest, I think all such "boycott" calls are spurious and completely misguided. They seem to inevitably lead to more people wanting to see the film/show in question, and quite frankly the 1st Amendment does apply, in equal measure, to both liberal and conservative views whether in politics, on the tele, or in cyberspace.

But I hate hypocrisy, and I have a hard time seeing this as anything but hypocritical.

Ditto for the bone-heads on the right, Rush chief amongst them, who had their undies in a bunch over the Reagan biopic's inaccuracies but don't seem to care that there are significant inaccuracies in a film they agree with. Pot, kettle and all that rot.

I am deeply, deeply tired of people wanting others to hold others to a certain standard while they completely and totally fail to reach that standard themselves.

And the political ads are only just starting.

Gonna be a long fall.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fall TV

Well, it's that time again, when the major TV networks roll out their fall schedules and pray to the TV gods, Comedy, Drama, Ambivalence, and Comfy Couch, that cable won't keep gnawing away at their market share. I don't watch all that much TV, but I do watch some, and there are some interesting developments rolling down the pipeline this year. So, what the hey.

New show I'm most looking forward to:
Studio 60. It has a fabulous cast in Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Bradley Whitford, Steven Weber, etc. and it has an impeccable writing/producing pedigree in Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme. The concept (behind the scenes at a live TV sketch show ala SNL) doesn't seem anywhere near as interesting to me as behind the scenes at the White House (ala, the West Wing), but I'm willing to give Sorkin the benefit of the doubt.

Returning show I'm most looking forward to:
House. Having caught up with this gem over the summer (on cable), I have to admit I was itching to see some new stuff from Hugh and the gang on Tuesday. I'm am still uncertain if I like the hallucination season-ending cliff-hanger leg no longer busted (or is it?) storyline, but the writing has still been tight, the medical mysteries interesting, and the acting fabulous, so I'm hopeful.

Change in an Existing Long Running Show I'm Curious About:
MNF moving from ABC to ESPN. I won't miss John Madden or Al Michaels, but Joe Theismann is terrible, Mike Tirico is about as bland as a breathing human being can be, and I've never liked Tony Kornheiser, so I don't have high hopes for the new guys, either. In a small dollop of encourgaing news, the concept of redoing the late season Monday night games to avoid yawners like last year's horrendous Packer/Raven match-up in December.

Are They REALLY Still On?
Yes, both the Simpsons and Law & Order (No initials) return for their 231st season. L&O will now be on Friday nights, otherwise known as the deadzone. I think that franchise is finally winding down.

Returning Show I Can't Believe is Returning:
CSI: Miami. Wow this show is dreadful. It was okay at first-- I like David Caruso, and the CSI schtick is one I enjoy. But the last season was just horrible. The storylines were stilted, the dialogue was even more stilted, and by the end, even the forensics side of things became forced and uninteresting. "Oh hey, a weird bit of sand-- only appears in one part of Miami!" Isn't that convenient. Die, Die, Die!

Cable Shows I'm Looking Forward to:
Monk. Psyche. Professional Poker Tour. South Park.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Just to reinforce Mojo's recent comment that the placement of certain stories, and details within those stories, is often just as important as the stories themselves in terms of judging editorial slant.

Rat Pack Hangout Nears Its End

Crud. They're going to close the Stardust down this November and tear it down soon thereafter. Pity. I really like the old place-- one of the few remaining remnants from the Sinatra/Martin/Davis, Jr. years, and probably the cleanest of what's left on the Strip. I stayed there once and liked it quite a lot.

Very nice poker room, extremely busy sports book, and it was the home of Wayne Newton for many years. Outside of Elvis, I'm not sure anything is more Vegas than Wayne Newton.

Time rolls on.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Stone and Parker: Don't Mess With Them

I hadn't really thought about this before, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been eeirely prescient on South Park. Saddam, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Steve Irwin....

You don't suppose they are actually orchestrating these things do you?

[Cue eerie Twilight Zone music]

Nah. Probably just a coincidence.

A big, multi-faceted coincidence.

But I'm glad I'm not Sean Penn. Well, okay, not just because of Stone and Parker.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Why Stupid People Shouldn't Be Allowed to Vote

No, not a partisan screed or even a lament on the sorry state of the "national debate" in this 21st Century world of ours. Just an observation that when you let people vote on things you never know what idiotic results you'll get. Fan voting in sports, for example. Jesse Ventura for another.

Anyway, remember way back in June of 2005 when I did a Friday's List of my top songwriters? Well, a local classic rock radio station did the same thing over the Labor Day weekend, allowing all their bone-headed listeners (I'm one of them) to vote online. This is their top-25:

25. Jimi Hendrix
24. Queen
23. John Mellencamp
22. Jackson Browne
21. Fleetwood Mac
20. Don Henley (Solo & Eagles)
19. Jim Morrison/The Doors
18. Billy Joel
17. Eric Clapton
16. John Lennon (solo)
15. Jerry Garcia/The Grateful Dead
14. Ian Anderson
13. Elton John/Bernie Taupin
12. Peter Gabriel
11. Bob Seger
10. Neil Young
9. The Allman Brothers
8. The Rolling Stones
7. Pink Floyd
6. U2
5. Bruce Springsteen
4. Bob Dylan
3. Tom Petty
2. Led Zeppelin
1. The Beatles

Is that dreadful or what? The full list of 40 is here.

Okay, first of all, what the hey is the deal with some artists (Lennon and McCartney) being listed both solo and together while others (Henley, Plant, Stevie Nicks) aren't? Could you make it any more confusing and, sorry, stupid?

And even granted that it's a classic rock station, sweet mother-0f-pearl how can the Allman Brothers be in the top 25, much less the top 10! Jackson Browne ahead of Pete Townsend, David Bowie, Ray Davies and Paul Simon?

Tom Petty THIRD?!? I like Tom's stuff (I had him at 16), but fercryinoutloud, THIRD? Ahead of Dylan, Springsteen, U2, and on and on? How is Bob Seger even on the list much less #11? My friend Russ is of the opinion that there are precisely TWO Bob Seger songs-- the slow one and the fast one. I'm not sure he's wrong and I'm bloody well certain Bob Seger is nowhere near the 11th best classic rock songwriter of all time.

AAARRRGGGGHHHHHHH! Were all of these people stoned out of their friggin' gourds when they voted?

Okay, I just had to get that off my chest.


Friday, September 01, 2006

My New Sports Hero

Marcos Baghdatis. I watched his second-round U.S. Open match against Andre Agassi last night and he completely won me over. Gutty, fun to watch, funny... well, let me give you the background, then I'll expound on why he's my new favorite sports personality.

For those unfamiliar with tennis, the U.S. Open is one of the four grand slam tourneys-- the biggest tournaments every year and the ones everyone wants to win the most. Agassi is 36, very old by tennis standards, and one of the games greatest champions, with 8 grand slam titles. In his youth he had a huge flowing mange of hair, was brash, abrasive, and often rather annoying. Over time he lost his hair and seemed to come to grips with the fact that he was very lucky to be playing a game he loved for a living and making a helluva good living doing it at that. He let his tennis do most of the talking, and by 2006 had become the elder statesman of tennis that John McEnroe will never be because John's just such an ass most of the time.

This years U.S. Open is Agassi's last tournament. He almost certainly won't win it-- he's simply too old, he's been battling a bad back for several years, and the skills that will rank him as one of the best ever aren't there any more. But 99.9% of the folks in the stands during one of his matches want him to win-- to make that one last run, ala Jimmy Connors' run in the same tournament in 1991. The 0.1% are the family, friends and coach of whomever Agassi is facing during that match. Agassi rallied to win his first match-- he dropped the first set-- to move on to the second round.

Okay, there's your set up. Fading champion, last tournament, 23,704 of the stadium's 23,712 spectators rooting vociferously for the old guy. Enter Baghdatis, the Greek player currently ranked #8 in the world, though I suspect he will soon move much higher than that. He was Agassi's opponent last night in the second round.

Tough place to be, huh? Everybody and their mother clapping, shouting, stomping and doing everything in their power to energize the other guy.

Right, so Baghdatis seems rattled by the whole thing at first-- who wouldn't be? He's making tons of errors, and can't seem to located his powerful first serve much of the time. First two sets go to Agassi, 6-4, 6-4. Now the crowd is really into it-- they came to say farewell to Andre (very few experts figured Agassi had much chance against the up and coming Baghdatis) and instead they were watching one last glorious effort by a champion.

In the third set, Marcos settles down. Only one break in the entire set-- but it's Baghdatis' and now it's two sets to one in favor of Agassi. The crowd has been quieted. Maybe Andre's tank is empty. Wouldn't be surprising-- adrenaline and the crowd's energy can only take you so far, can only keep you moving like a man 10-years younger for so long.

Does Agassi have enough left? Maybe, but you figure he's got to win the fourth set. No way does the old guy want to go to a deciding fifth set-- not with his 36-year-old legs and having lost all of his momentum along the way. Andre simply has to win the fourth set.

First game he holds serve. So far so good. The crowd is back into it, cheering loud and long between the points-- doubly so for the ones Agassi wins. Next game-- Agassi shows flashes of the return brilliance that has always been his trademark-- he breaks Baghdatis' serve. The crowd is going nuts. Third game, Agassi again holds serve. Crowd can sense it, Baghdatis looks beat, Agassi is moving with the agility of his 25-year-old former self. Fourth game, Agassi breaks again! Andre is up 4-0, just two games from the match, and Baghdatis is talking to himself and shaking his head.

Fifth game is later described by Agassi this way, 'It wasn't my back getting tight. It was my throat, my breathing.' Suddenly all the pressure was on Andre as he realized how close he was to a stunning victory. He played conservative and tight-- trying not to make a mistake instead of trying to claim the victory that was all but in his hands. Baghdatis broke his serve relatively easily and pounds his chest while looking to his coach and the four other people in the stadium pulling for him. There's still some heart in here, he seemed to be saying.

The crowd is edgy. Feeling that what seemed like a foregone conclusion-- a glorious fourth set thumping by Agassi-- is far more tenuous than they thought five minutes earlier. They too rally-- cheering wildly, perhaps a little manicly, for Agassi. Trying to will him to win those two games he needs to win the match. Baghdatis wins the sixth game easily-- he seems to have rediscovered his first serve, blistering aces and service winners at 120 mph+ and throwing in these gorgeous drop shots that Andre no longer has the legs to get to.

Agassi loses the next game and the next. His two service breaks of Baghdatis are gone, and his 4-0 lead is now a 4-4 tie. Oi! Agassi looks tired. He looks old, walking a little hunched over between points. Marcos is juiced, repeating his chest thumping gesture and urging himself on even as a few jags in the crowd actually start booing his tremendous effort to get back into a match that everyone wants him to lose.

Ninth game. Oh my what a game. Agassi has found some energy from somewhere. Baghdatis is still stoked from his four game rally. The crowd is nervous but still WAAAYYYY into the match and desperately trying to telepathically send Andre any boost they can. Back and forth, back and forth. Finally Agassi wins the game after several deuces. He does a little "Wow am I happy I finally won another game" dance. Phew. I'm tired just watching these guys go after each other for nearly three hours. But I'm grinning like a lunatic because this is great stuff-- literally the stuff legends are made of.

One more game.

But it's Marcos' serve, and he's not going gently into that good night (okay, he's not going to die, but you get the idea). Agassi fights back with the service return that has baffled many big servers during his two decade career. Duece. Agassi wins the point. Now it's match point for Agassi. Everyone is holding there breath. I was, and I was watching on tv, a 1,000 miles away. Big serve. Duece. Baghdatis eventually holds on, and it's 5-5. Agassi seems to be moving gingerly.

Marcos' breaks Andre failry easily in the 11th game, and Agassi's wife, former women's tennis star Steffi Graf, looks like somebody just punched her in the stomach. Baghdatis crushes several laserlike serves in game 12, and wins the fourth set. Two sets apiece-- we're going to a fifth and final set. And I'm pretty sure everybody in the stadium was thinking the same thing I was thinking, "Agassi is done. He played his guts out, but he's just out of juice. No way he can win a fifth set."

But you watch. Just in case. 'Cause you never know.

Baghdatis breaks Agassi in the first game of the fifth set. Crap. I guess I was right-- Agassi's tank is empty. Valiant effort and all that. But stick a fork in him-- he's done. At this point Jennifer woke up (she had fallen asleep on the couch with me about 2 hours earlier) and I decided it was time to go to bed with her. It was, after all, after 11, I had work the next day, and Agassi was clearly done.

So, I went upstairs and tucked in my wife, then came back down to brush my teeth. Figured, well, might as well watch the match while I'm brushing. It's 1-1 and Agassi is moving again. Hmm... you don't suppose? Nah... but what if? I finish brushing and keep watching.

Every now and then you watch a sporting event and it gives you chills-- even through the tv you can feel the energy, you can sense the impact of everything happening, you just know you're watching something special. Boy am I glad I didn't go to sleep early last night, because the fifth set was special indeed, and I had chills buzzing up and down my spine on several occassions before the thing finally ended, three and a half hours after it started. It was bizarre, fun, breathtaking and so full of drama that you could only nod your head in agreement when one of the commentators said, "This is incredible. If you took this to Hollywood as a script they would laugh you out of town because it would be so unbelievable."

It seems I missed a medical timeout while I was getting ready for bed. A medical timeout for Baghdatis, the 21-year-old. His left leg was bothering him. During the break, Agassi regrouped, channeled the crowd's energy. Channeled Jimmy Connors. I don't know, but he rallied back to break Baghdatis and the final act of the drama was under way.

The next few games were on serve-- but despite that fact the crowd was edgy. Baghdatis seemed to be holding serve easily, while every point Agassi won seemed to be a struggle. But it was still all even when it got truly surreal.

At 4-4 in the fifth, it was Agassi's serve. Again the points seemed to be a struggle for Andre and you wondered how much longer he could hang with Baghdatis-- especially given that Agassi had been able to do very little when it was Marcos' turn to serve. Duece. The next point Baghdatis rips a clean winner down the line to earn a break point. But wait. He's down near the linesman's chair on the side of the court, struggling to stand back up. He rolls on the ground, grimacing in pain and grabbing his right leg.

Cramps. Bad ones. Both legs we learn later, but worst in his right one. Baghdatis wants his trainer, but the new rules in tennis prohibit treatment during a game-- only between games. He must either play on or forfeit. He struggles to his feet and hobbles-- and I do mean hobbles-- to the baseline to receive Agassi's serve. Every step is clearly painful. Unbelievably, a few of the New York jags actually boo the guy. Because why? He's faking? On the verge of pulling off a stunning comeback and keeping his tournament alive he's going to fake cramps? Rigghht. Unbelievable jags-- simply getting up and walking over to the end line was a remarkable feat as anyone who has ever had a serious leg cramp can tell you.

Andre wins the point as Baghdatis can barely move toward the serve. But he's working out the cramps between points. Stretching, jumping, shaking. Anything to try and get his legs to work right. Yet it still seems he can hardly walk, much less chase down serves and ground strokes. Unbelievably, he hits a clean return of service winner on the next point. Duece. Andre wins the next point, working Baghdatis back and forth across the courth. Somehow the Greek seems to be able to move almost normally during the points even though between points it is clear that he is still in signifcant pain. He manages to force two more duece points, but eventually Agassi finishes the game off to move to 5-4.

Between games 9 and 10 Baghdatis gets some treatment for his cramping thighs. His first serve isn't even close. Neither is his second. He can't get his legs under him the way he's used to-- he's done. Agassi is going to hang on and pull it out with his 36-year-old body holding up better than Baghdatis' 21-year-old body.

Or not.

With each point Baghdatis seems to get a bit better, a bit smoother. The two exchange long ground-stroke rallies, sometimes painting the lines and with one gorgeous point where Agassi turned the tables on Baghdatis by hitting a drop shot just over the net. Fully rested I don't know if Marcos could have gotten to the shot, but over three-hours into the match and with his legs cramping he had no chance. Not that he didn't try. Baghdatis holds serve. Barely. 5-5.

Are we heading to a fifth set tie-breaker? That's what happens if both players win 6 games in a set. Starting to look that way.

But Baghdatis is still digging deep and moving a bit better. He's smiling in between his grimaces. Agassi is starting to move like he had at the end of set 4. Agassi serves in game 11 and this game was also a marathon. More tingles down the spine. More gritted teeth, more chest-thumping, more tension. Ye gods, what fun. I didn't even care that it was now nearly 11:30. I really didn't care who won the match-- truly it was a pity they both couldn't win. Agassi final puts the game away.

Serving at 5-6, Baghdatis seemed to be cruising to that tie-breaker, winning the first two points easily. But wait, he's not moving so well. Oh geez, the cramps are coming back. He double faults. He double faults again. Pulls out the next point, but Agassi crushes the return on the point after. Duece. Agassi wins the next rally, too. Match point. Baghdatis gets the first serve in, but Agassi returns it well. Baghdatis gets the shot back, but he's on the defensive and Agassi forces him to move and Baghdatis' next shot catches the top of the net and falls back.

Match over.

I was thrilled that Andre won-- late career runs are always fun. But I had to admire Baghdatis as he congratulated Agassi at the net-- very gracious and even managing a wry smile. I admired him even more when he gave a brief interview after the match-- on center court with the 23,000+ spectators who had rooted against him all night watching. Remarkably gracious, remarkably complimentary of Agassi. He said all the right things, and he actually meant them. He didn't carp about his cramps. He didn't whine about some of the calls he thought went against him. He didn't complain that he had to play not only against Agassi but also 23,000 of his closest friends. You could tell he was crushed to have lost the match, crushed that his balky legs had most likely kept him from pulling off a remarkable comeback, but he made no excuses and instead simply lauded Agassi for his great play and his great career.

My god it was wonderful.

Baghdatis showed heart, skill, grit, patience, and endurance during the match. After the match he showed grace, good sportsmanship and wisdom far beyond his 21 years.

And that is why he's my new sports hero.


Flame Outs!

Ye gods, the USA basketball team lost to Greece in the semi-finals of the FIBA World Championships. So much for Coach K inspiring better team play and more consistent effort from our boys. So much for putting together a team that shoots well, rather than just being able to drive to the hoop, to adjust for the format of international basketball competitions. Team USA shot a pedestrian 32 percent from the 3-point line and a pathetic 59% from the foul line.

Oh, and defense. Coach K was going to get the team to actually play some perimeter defense this time around. Greece shot 63% from the field. Now, part of that is just great shooting, but part of that-- likely a good-sized part-- is poor perimeter defense. It's a lot harder to drill long-range shots with a hand in your face than if you have time to set yourself and have a clear look at the basket. So, we pretty much blew that part of the equation, too.

Very sad.

But not as sad as my Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew is currently mired in a 7 game losing streak, firmly and completely ending any shot at the post-season and probably ensuring that they won't even do as well as last year's 81-81 record. Not coincidentally, the 7 losses have all come on the road. Milwaukee has proven themselves to be one of the worst road teams in the majors this league, with only the woeful Pirates, Royals and Devil Rays sporting a worse road winning perecentage this year.

I have hope that much of the current struggle is do to the complete ineptitude of the offense, which is in large measure do to the loss of not 1, not 2, but 3 starters on the infield plus the loss of slugger Carlos Lee via trade. Rickie Weeks, JJ Hardy and Corey Koskie should all be back next year, and Corey Hart and Tony Gwynn, Jr. look like they may be adequate replacements for Lee and slumping right fielder Geoff "I'm not Brett Favre" Jenkins.

Certainly the pitching, particularly the starting pitching, has been very good recently-- showing that if the starting five of Capuano, Sheets, Davis, Bush and Okha can actually all stay healthy for most of a season, the Brewers really will have a rotation that matches up with anybody. And the bullpen has looked much better of late, too.

Oh dear. I've been reduced to this. Sigh. Oh well, here it is then:



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