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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Best NBA Satire Ever!

I don't read a lot at espn.com because most of their stuff is behind their "insider" blocks and I refuse to pay for the same thing I can get at sportsline.com for free. But I do pop over there from time to time, and today I came across this piece, which absolutely skewers some of the horrific moves a number of NBA general managers have made in recent years. Just absolutely DOBA, brilliant stuff (even if it is almost a year old now). And really funny.

Favorite bit:
Simmons: So if you don't want to kill your team with bad drafting, what other recourses are there besides trades?

[NY Knicks GM Isiah] Thomas: Keep changing the roster -- you don't want any semblance of continuity. Once guys get used to playing with one another, they might start winning. Look at the teams that have done well over the last 25 years -- it's always been the teams that built around a nucleus. I even played for one in Detroit. That's why I like to keep mixing things up every six to seven weeks. Why chance it?

[Philadelphia 76'ers GM Billy] King: I'm also a big fan of giving out absurd contracts that tie up your cap space, for three reasons. First, it drives the fans crazy and gets them talking about the team. Second, your fans won't complain that you aren't making any big moves, simply because you can't make any big moves, your lack of cap space prohibits you from getting quality guys unless they have baggage. And third, when people look back and try to put your reign in some sort of historical context, those salary numbers will jump out even more.

Just look at what I've done in Philly: Since we made the 2001 Finals, I gave Mutombo a $68 million extension even though he could have been, like, 48 years old for all we knew. I gave $35.5 million to Aaron McKie. I gave $29 million to Eric Snow. I gave $18 million to Greg Buckner. I gave $40 million to Kenny Thomas and $25 million to Brian Skinner. I gave $25 million to Kyle Korver and $60 million to Sam Dalembert last summer. That's $300 million of contracts to guys who were either on the decline or never that good in the first place. Plus, I traded for other bad contracts, guys like Keith Van Horn, Glenn Robinson, Kevin Ollie, you name it. And then, last February, the pinnacle -- dumping three bad contracts for C-Webb, who everyone thought couldn't be traded because of his contract and because he ran with a limp. Now we have an aging team built around two past-their-prime stars and our cap space is killed through 2008. And we completely wasted Iverson's prime, when he was one of the best players of his generation.

(The crowd applauds.)

King: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Read the whole thing-- even if you don't like the NBA it is funny (though if you never watch and have no idea what the NBA is, it probably won't be terribly amusing).

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holy Free Agent Signing, Batman!

The Milwaukee Brewers in recent years have postulated their future sucess on a model like the one the Cleveland Indians and Oakland As have used very successfully-- build a strong minor league farm organization, build from within, and limit free agent additions to the one or two signings that will "put you over the top". They seem to have been doing pretty well with the first part of that equation these last few years, having built one of the best minor league systems in baseball and structuring their team around rising young talent like Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Tony Gwynn, Jr. What was missing was the second part-- the addition of a premier free agent or two to bring both his talent and his expectation of winning to town.

And then all Milwaukee Brewers fans received a Christmas Eve present from the organization, when it announced the signing of Jeff Suppan to a big-time contract-- $42 million over four years with an option for a fifth. Nice! Suppan more than adequately fills the hole left by the dependable but not overly exceptional Doug Davis, and provides the starting rotation with a proven veteran. Added to the mix of Chris Capuano, Ben Sheets, Dave Bush and either Claudio Vargas or Carlos Villanueva, Suppan gives the Brewers a group of pitchers that is certainly above average and may be one of the best in baseball.

This is excellent on so many levels. Most importantly, of course, it means that the Brewers pitching staff should be one of the best in the National League-- and starting pitching is the single biggest key to making the playoffs. Only somewhat less important, though, is the change in attitude the move signals-- under the Brewers' old management there isn't a snowballs chance in H-E-double hockeysticks that this deal gets done. The organization simply wouldn't open its purse strings that much-- and truthfully, even if they had there might not have been enough coin in the purse anyway. Mark Attanasio wants a winning team, and he's willing to spend some coin to get it. Not Steinbrenneresque spending, but smart investments in the right players at the right time at a not-too-exorbinant price.

Sweet. The fact that the Brewers got Suppan from their divisional rivals the St. Louis Cardinals is a bonus as well. With the rotation stabilized and several young stars returning from injuries, the Brewers seemed primed to have a better than .500 season and to make a serious run at the post-season. How cool would that be?


Friday, December 22, 2006

Dumbest Sports Poll Ever

There are a few iconic stadiums and arenas in pro sports: Fenway Park, Soldier Field, Madison Square Garden, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium all leap to mind. Several others are no longer with us: the Boston Garden and Candlestick Park. Hmm... am I missing any? Let's see... oh, yeah. How about this one:

Perhaps the most storied stadium in all of professional football, Lambeau field is named for the founder and first coach of the Green Bay Packers. Curly Lambeau and George Halas were, arguably, the two most important individuals in the establishment, survival, and eventual growth of the NFL.

Lambeau lead the Packers to their first four championships in the 1920s and the 1930s and established them as a permanent fixture in the National Football League. There wouldn't be a football team in a town the size of Green Bay (roughly 100,000 people) if not for Curly Lambeau. Appropriate, then, that in the 1960s the team renamed their stadium for Lambeau after his death.

Which brings me to today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel online poll:

Now, I'm a big Packer fan, and hence a big Brett Favre fan. He's been absolutely great for the franchise, helping to resurrect it from the horrible years of the 1980s, and establishing himself as a no-brainer first-ballot Hall of Famer. But, really. Rename one of the two most storied football stadiums, and one of the ten most iconic of any sports venues, after Mr. Favre? Not a chance. I'll grant you that Favre Field has a nice alliterative feel to it, but not a chance.

Fortunately, most of my fellow cheeseheads agree with me, as the poll was running over 86% against renaming the stadium when I cast my nay vote.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cheesehead Gets No Respect

As a Wisconsinite, Senator Russ FeingolD is one of my two U.S. Senators. Russ has his goods and his bads. Plus side, he follows his conscience far more than most of his senatorial colleagues and he's willing to buck the status quo. Minus side, he's one of the most liberal senators currently in office, and I disagree with him on the majority of issues. FeingolD is also, at least ostensibly, running for U.S. President.

If you are wondering why I keep capitalizing the D in Russ' last name, this is why:

Bad enough that he's ranked below Tom Daschle, but they can't even get his name right. Perhaps, if he doesn't become the Democratic nominee in '08, Senator Feingolf can get a sponsor's exemption on the PGA Tour.


Blair for President!

Pity it is impossible. Also rather sad that Tony Blair isn't even terribly popular in England. I can't help thinking that the world would be in a whole lot better shape right now if Blair, sans the accent, had been President and Bush, sans the accent, had been Prime Minister back in September of 2001. Blair has all the diplomatic and charismatic talents that Bush so completely lacks, yet Bush's bull-headedness would have made him a good ally to have in the War on Terror. If only....


At any rate, the inspiration for this post is here. Quite interesting. Sullivan's guests have a lively discussion of the current state of U.S.-English relations going on, and it is very interesting reading.


Can Iraq be saved?

Contrary to many on the left, I think there is still a chance. More importantly, people in Iraq think there is still a chance. If you haven't been reading Iraq the Model lately, than you should start doing so now. In particular, cast your gaze over Omar's most recent few postings, including this one. More boots on the ground, as John McCain has proposed, isn't sufficient in and of itself-- they must have a mission and a goal.

DOBA moment:
What I'm trying to say here is that the military component we need at this particular stage should be different from the routine military operations that US and Iraqi military had been conducting so far.The new military component should be designed to create a friendly climate where politicians can strike deals and reach compromise without coercion from radical extremists.And so if more boots are to be added on the ground then the mission will have to include freeing politicians and parties such as Maliki and al-Hashimi (the Dawa and the Islamic party respectively) from the ropes that bind them to Sadr and harmful elements in the Sunni political scene.
There are many elements in Iraq willing to work together, and tons more regular people who just want the killing and the dying to stop. If the U.S. is to salvage the situation in Iraq, and some of our reputation as well, it is of vital importance that we figure out what seems pretty basic-- how to make it possible for compromise to happen between and among different sects and tribes of Iraqis.

Hopefully, a new Secretary of Defense will improve the situation. Given the god awful performance of Donald Rumsfeld, the bar is set exceptionally low.

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What a Concept!

Determine who to vote for based on qualifications and experience? Not worry about "viability" or Q-rating, but rather focus on the ability to lead, mediate between adversarial interests, and work well with others. Radical! But this guest blogger has a good argument for just such a concept over at Andrew Sullivan's place.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holy Crap!

Rest in peace, Peter Boyle. You're "Puttin' on the Ritz" routine in Young Frankenstein remains one of the funniest bits I've ever seen. And Frank Barone was a classic.


That Pesky #6

tc has a post up regarding a new video game being peddled by evangelical Christians where-in you can kill someone if they refuse to convert to Christianity. In the article the president of the company that makes the game, Jeffrey Frichner, states the ultimate goal of the game is "to bring parents and kids together to talk about the Bible." tc wonders if any of the Religious Right even read the Bible any more.

Hmm... interesting question.

Okay, let's look at the Beatitudes, which form the opening to Jesus' Sermon on
the Mount:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Verse 3)
Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land. (Verse 4)
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Verse 5)
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. (Verse 6)
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Verse 7)
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. (Verse 8)
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Verse 9)
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. (Verse 10)
So, how do Evangelical Christians measure up? The first two are similar, and are generally interpreted to espouse humility and a recognition that we are all flawed and need divine grace to be saved. Hubris, self-righteous sanctimony, and inflexibility would all be no good then. Unfortunately, the game (and for that matter the books it is based on), seems pretty self-righteous and inflexible when you're only options are to convert or die.

#3 d/n really fit, though I suspect that there isn't a lot of mourning being done for those the "freedom fighters" have to kill. #4 could work, since you could say that justice is being done when you kill those who won't convert. Not quite sure that's what Christ had in mind, but you never know. #5 is a problem. Really not seeing a lot of mercy in the options of convert or die. #6 is ambiguous. #7 is right out. #8 could've worked, if say the game had allowed characters to matyr themselves when conversion didn't work, but that's not an option.

Overall, I'd have to say the game doesn't really get the spirit of the Beatitudes.

Okay, well how about I Corinthians 13: "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Yeah, not really seeing that.

Matthew 22:39, perhaps: "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'"


Okay, maybe it's a New Testament problem. Maybe the Evangelical Christian right is more old school, which is to say, more Old Testament. So, let's try out the 10 Commandments.

#1: No other gods before me (Well, killing non-believers seems a bit above and beyond, but certainly the game isn't putting anybody before God).
#2: No sculpted images or idols. (Haven't seen the game, but this seems okay)
#3: Do not use the Lord's name in vain. (See #2)
#4: Remember the Sabbath. (See #2)
#5: Honor your Father and Mother. (See #2)
#6: Thou shalt not kill. (Err... yeah, this could be a problem)
#7: Thou shalt not commit adultery (See #2)
#8: Thou shalt not steal (#2)
#9: Thou shalt not bear false witness (#2)
#10: Thou shalt not covet (#2)

Overall, not bad, but I do think that killing non-believers is really hard to jive with "Thou shalt not kill." Just seems to be... what's the phrase... completely and totally impossible to reconcile one with the other?

Anyway, I do wonder if many Christians even bother to read the Bible any more. Truly, and all snarky snidities aside, it doesn't seem like the Gospels, or even the writings of Paul, get looked at very often by many evangelicals.

Of course, it's just a video game. Plenty of those out there with much more graphic killing, maiming and otherwise objectionable in a "moral" sense. But then, Grand Theft Auto doesn't claim to be a Christian-themed game.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NBA Suckitude

My Milwaukee Bucks haven't been the gang busters I was hoping for, but they are showing signs of geling as a team. They've won 3 of 4 to move to 9-12, and they are starting to look more comfortable together. Terry Stotts continues to be useless, but that's another story. This story is about how My Milwaukee Bucks, at 9-12, would currently be leading the Atlantic Division of the Eastern conference.

Not My New Jersey Nets are currently leading that division with a scintilating 8-12 mark. That's right, win two out of every five games and lead your division. Of course, the NFL is bound to find itself in this position at some point as well, with eight 4-team divisions sooner or later one of those 4-team divisions is going to be won by an 8-8, or even a 7-9, team.

But this short story isn't about the NFL. It's about the NBA, where you're frequently better off being the #6 seed than the #4 seed. Where the commissioner requests that players not pack heat, and the players are hacked off about it. Where all contracts are guarenteed, so that once you sign your deal, you don't have to try-- the Benjamins are flowing regardless.

Okay, I just reread all that and it's not very coherent. So be it. It's early. All I know is that an 8-12 team should never lead anything, ever.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Scooby Doo Moment

There's a scene in Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders where a nutty old local tells the gang he has pictures proving that aliens are hanging out in the area. The "pcitures" turn out to be paintings the old coot has done of what he supposedly has seen. Faintly amusing in the manner typical of Scooby Doo for all but 5-9 year olds.

So, when exactly did Reuters lower their editorial standards to the level of Scooby Doo? Check this article out, paying particular attention to the image on the left "showing" the black hole eating the star. Note the caption:
Reuters Photo: An artist's concept chronicles the star being ripped apart and swallowed by a black hole...
Reuters Photo of an artist's concept? They've got Picshures!

Rat's right, Raggy.

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Bah! Humbug!

I was going to write a scathing, "You guys suck!" post in response to the total lack of response I got from my post last Wednesday. Then Mama H had to go and leave me a thoughtful and useful suggestion. Grumble, grumble. Well, the rest of you guys suck. Mutter, grumble.

Alright, alright. Please weigh in on my deathless prose if you wouldn't rather be eaten alive by ancient Egyptian scarab beetles.

In other news. Christmas seems to be making a comeback. Likely because of the frothing tirades unleashed by Rush and Hannity and the like over the last few Christmas seasons. And I will admit it always bugged me a little that Christmas trees were suddenly becoming Holiday trees, and Christmas parties becoming Holiday parties, but the "War on Christmas" concept was so dreadfully overblown it was laughable.

Of more concern to me is the increasing and neverending commercialism of Christmas. Certainly the joy and fun my children have with presents and Santa and flying reindeer and the whole ball of wax is a blessing, and I don't mind exchanging gifts with friends and loved ones. It's a nice thought at a joyous time of year, and why not? But stores had Christmas decorations on the shelves before Halloween!

Are you kidding me? Radio stations started playing Christmas songs before Thanksgiving. Non-stop! 24/7. Including that dreadful song about cancer and shoes. Could that possibly be any more maudlin and depressing?

So, I got me a "Keep Christ in Christmas" sign, and I talk with my kids about the real meaning of Christ's birth. And I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, the purest, sweetest, most beautiful Christmas show ever made. Linus' speech really does capture the true meaning of Christmas:

Charlie Brown: [shouting in desperation] Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you. Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus]
Linus Van Pelt: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'".

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.



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