Monday, May 28, 2007

Notes, or A bunch of old men are yelling about a kid

Hello. Today we'll look at Utah's meaningless Game 3 win, and I ask everyone to leave Lebron James alone.

Now, for my minute-by-minute breakdown of the Champions' League Final. Okay, I'm kidding.

But again, in my defense, I didn't get to see any good soccer for months. And that's my sport. Believe me, if you took Peter Gammons off baseball for a couple months, then put him back on for the World Series, he could give you 5,000 words on the condition of the first baseman's glove.

I kind of took the weekend off, but I'm back with just a couple notes, and a preview of what I'll be looking at next.

- First, to the NBA playoffs. A lot of people got really, really charged-up by Utah's Game 3 win over the Spurs. And not just the fact that they won, but the way they won.

The Duncan-like effort of Boozer, the ascendance of Deron Williams, Ginobli-Finley-Barry going cold, Duncan's offensive woes and foul trouble.

People are raving. After that win, the Jazz fans flooded the streets and partied until 11:00 p.m.

Look, Deron Williams is a great talent. I see the J-Kidd comparison, because they're both big strong point guards. But Kidd is faster, and a better passer, while Williams seems to have developed a unique talent, where he stands 15 or 20 feet away from the hoop and actually just throws the ball directly into the basket. Too bad Kidd never learned this skill. Hopefully Deron never learns some of Jason's other interests.

I don't want to belittle this win. I don't.

But here's who doesn't think Game 3 was such a big deal: the Spurs.

Their core players have been through the fire over and over again, and they know that the only "big" wins come in Game 7. A two-point win is the same as a 20-point win, except a 20-point win against a great team only leaves that great team really pissed off.

The Spurs rely on their ball movement to get to their shooters, and their shooters missed. There's no systematic problem here - sometimes you go cold. Their misses got contagious here, just like makes can get contagious, and just like they will in Game 4 tonight. And the Spurs will win in five games.

By the way I like Utah. I wish they would win. But my head, still furious with my heart about taking Phoenix, will be making the rest of my playoff picks.

- Now, to Cleveland-Detroit.

For the purposes of this blog, uh, forget Detroit. I've mentioned them in passing once or twice. They do what they do, they're very workmanlike and professional, and I respect them. But there's nothing about them that I really root for. I'll go into this in better detail at some later date, but the Pistons - like several soccer teams - are not a team that I like. But I like the idea of the Pistons. 'Sheed, Prince, Billups, Hamilton, C-Webb... I'm not drawn to them as a group, but I like knowing that they're out there.

Much easier to pull for are the Cavs.

Larry Hughes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have recently suffered unimaginable tragedies - Hughes, Z - and neither of them seems particularly dislikable, though they probably have liscence to be. Then there's Varaejo, who every opponent hates to play against and his teammates love to play with, and Sasha Pavlovic. Sasha has been getting better and better as the year went on, and if you missed their series against New Jersey - and you did - he had a full-on Tayshaun Prince moment in Game 1.

By the way, Pavlovic is from the former Yugoslavia. So, while he seems like a really nice guy... just don't say anything bad about him, okay? Who knows who this guy knows.

Now, to Mr. Dr. Rev. Lebron James. He is quickly developing into the most interesting American sports figure not named Barry Bonds. But while Bonds is completely self-absorbed and hateful to the media, Lebron is interesting because he's exactly the opposite.

He seems totally accessible, funny, bright...

I might have said this once here before, but it's worth repeating. A good friend of mine thinks that many of the best athletes, in all sports, are either so dumb or so arrogant that they don't know any better than to perform in the clutch. The immensity of the moment either doesn't occur to them, or it does occur to them, and they know that they'll rise to it because they know that they are the greatest talent in their sport - even when they're not.

It's an interesting theory, and I believe it to a degree. But Lebron seems to be neither of those things. He's not dumb. And, looking at the skill set that he has, for Lebron to overstate his ability, for him to be arrogant... he would basically have to tell all of his teammates and coaches, "Don't talk to me, I am Lebron James. Don't even look at me." But that's not the case.

With five seconds left in Game 1, Lebron infamously passed-off to Donyell Marshall, giving Marshall a shot for the win instead of going for the tie on his own. Earlier, with 15 seconds left, he dished-off to Big Z for a wide-open 20-footer. Marshall and Ilgauskas missed, each of them shooting from their favorite spots on the floor. (In Game 6 against New Jersey, Marshall hit four threes from the corner.)

Lebron got crushed by more than a few people for these decisions. How could he not take the last shot? This is his team! I want him to be Michael Jordan! Now!

By the way, we seem to remember MJ at the end of his career, where he - and his team - seemed to hit EVERY big shot, and make EVERY big play down the stretch. And that's why he goes down as the greatest - because it never really worked like that for anyone before him, at least not as often.

But I know that when MJ was younger, that wasn't the case. I know this because they didn't win 82 games a year and they didn't win the NBA Finals every year.

But back to Lebron. One of the things people held against him was that Marshall admitted post-game that he wasn't ready for the shot, because the play was drawn up for Lebron. Donny's standing in his favorite spot, sees his guy leave him, sees the best passer under 25 since Magic Johnson with the ball, and it doesn't occur to him that he might get the ball. And this is Lebron's fault?

And I don't want to be too harsh on Marshall, nor Big Z. They got their shots, they missed, you move on.

But after Lebron got nailed, Game 2 came down to the identical situation. Same score, even.

And Lebron drives, and he spins, and Tay Prince collapses in, and as Lebron spins he must have seen - and felt - that there, in the same corner, was Donny Marshall.

And if Mr. Dr. Rev. James was too dumb or too arrogant to care, he does the same thing as Game 1 and passes to the open player. Instead, he spins and shoots a highly-contested shot. He misses, and there's a part of me that believes he missed because he was psyched-out by the idea that while he was taking a contested shot, his open teammate was sitting in the corner.

But he's not that guy. Apparently, Lebron's on-court awareness is nearly equalled by his off-court awareness. (Although he obviously has a punk agent.) Simply put, Lebron reads his clips. He knows people are talking about him out there, and he seems genuinely concerned what they're saying. So he did what everyone screamed he should do, he forced a shot, and it didn't go down.

So I'm going to ask everyone in this disgusting news-analysis-replay-replay-replay-analysis-replay-final judgment-society to do something that, I'm sure, is impossible: shut up. Leave this damn kid alone. He's not Michael. He's not Bird. He's not Magic, though that's a closer comparison.

He's got a few things about him that will remind you of each of those players, but he's not any of them, and we didn't quite know who those players were until they retired.

But what those guys got was attention. Everybody watched them, wanted to see what they could do, and then appreciated them for what they were. Oh, fans booed when they were on the road. But after the game was over, they backed-off.

None of those three had to face the 24-hour news cycle, the 24-hour sports news cycle, the blogosphere, 15 columnists on and 50 more on the national circuit. We are a bored country, and when someone underperforms, we want to see them cut into ribbons by midnight, and if nothing new happens tomorrow, just keep cutting until there's nothing left.

Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune wrote a book called "The Jordan Rules," which chronicled MJ's struggle to get past Isaiah Thomas's Pistons. Finally, with a much-improved roster, Mike overcomes them. And Sam writes a book, and I'm happy that he did it.

But I wish that Sam had, you know, read his book. Especially before he recently said that Lebron James is less like Mike-Magic-Larry, and more like, and I'm quoting here, "Vince Carter." I'm sure other, dumber columnists said worse things.

Now, if you're too dumb or too arrogant for any of that to sink in, then you're fine. But if you're Lebron...

Well, thank God he hit a "NO WAY" fadeaway 3-pointer and a stop-on-a-dime-and-twist jumper to win Game 3. Otherwise, Lebron would have been so far inside his own head that all he could see was grey matter.

Back off, everybody. Before we decide who this kid is or isn't, let's see game four.

Of the 2010 NBA Finals.

That'll do. Back soon with my new thoughts on athletes and drugs.

Good day.

Thursday, May 24, 2007



Finally found a good highlight package from yesterday, and I'll be linking to that with the score at the top of my last entry.

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I'd point out that I'll be making a few edits to yesteday's re-cap. I know this goes against my previously-stated policy. But, you know, I'm telling you about it here, so I don't feel so bad. I'll give you a list of things I left-out that will heretofore be included: Ratings for Zenden and Reina, more detail on Kaka and Gerrard from this match, and a couple more Youtube links to help you with my player descriptions. Also I'll be ditching a few commas and comma-related phrases. Do I always write like that? You must think I stutter. I think I write like I talk, and when I talk I often use pauses to enhance my point. But in writing it just drags everything along, and if I'm already doing twenty five HUNDRED words on one soccer match, I could at least make it go as quickly as possible for you.

Also, a defense of that decision. As stated previously, I had Fox Soccer Channel for some time, and it was a benchmark of my day. My weekend mornings - previously non-existent - revolved around the live English matches. Goals of the week, saves of the week... these were very important to me. I understand that 100 percent of the people reading this are American, and that most Americans don't care. That's why I've made numerous efforts - (1), (2), (3) - to draw you Yanks in, and I will continue to do so. If you're not interested, skip that stuff to the basketball and football. But your kids like this game a lot more than you do, and someday soon you will be the old people who don't get it. Now's your best chance to start paying attention.

Coming up soon, my latest thoughts on Jason Giambi, the NBA playoffs... probably something else. That's all for now.

Happy birthday Robert Zimmerman.

Good day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Liverpool-AC Milan, UEFA Champions League Final

Milan 2, Liverpool 1

Okay, it's way over by now. I'm not going to go minute-by-minute recap here. That might kill us both.

This, what happened in Athens, Greece on 5-23-07 was the game you might have expected in Istanbul in 2005. Instead, '05 was a circus - the kind of circus where the elephant rider falls off, into the lion's den, and the lion tamer grabs a juggler's flaming baton to help her, when suddenly an acrobat falls on the baton and immediately catches fire, and just then the ringmaster says, "That's it folks, goodnight!" and they close the tent - and this, on this night, was a football game. And one man can be found responsible for its outcome. Well, maybe two.

- Full discretion: I missed the intro. And the first five minutes. Deplorable, I know, but I was taking a shower. Besides I knew all the pre-game. I'd seen every game leading up to it. And, lemme guess, Athens... Couple shots of the Parthenon? Night shots? Coupla' outdoor staduim shots? A blimp shot? Couple statues with no arms, couple with no legs? I'll be fine.

And the only way anything important happened in the first few minutes is if someone walked onto the field, pulled out a gun, and shot Liverpool's left winger in both legs.

- In my preview I focused only on Gerrard and Kaka, because they are the players I want to see most. I left out the following players, whose names are followed by match ratings (out of 5, with half-points, mostly because it seems more European) and descriptions of their game.


Dirk Kuyt (4.0) - Big Dutch striker, strong, lefty hits a hard shot and a good header, not a fan of subtlety. He doesn't make anything look easy, but he makes himself a target, and he doesn't give the ball away easily. THIS MATCH: Can't play alone up front, not against top-level defenders. Kuyt was reduced to constantly fighting for position, and he would use that position to... poke the ball back where it came from. Not a bad idea, but eventually it just looked too negative. He scored, though.

Xabi Alonso (3.0) - Spanish playmaker. Operates on ball-striking and creativity more than speed or dribbling. If you're getting open, he's great. If not he's just an effective distributor. Defensive liability. THIS MATCH: Again, no good with one striker. He needs the guys in front of him moving and popping-up, so he can either find them or fake a pass and shoot. Nothing significant from him all night, and he fouled to lead to the first goal.

Jamie Carragher, Steve Finnan (3.0, 3.0) - Defenders. English, Irish respectively. Everything else is mostly the same. Dark-haired, short-haired, hard workers, hard tacklers. Watch your ankles and knees. Neither of them fast enough to catch or keep up with strikers, so they like to hover near a forward and then pounce when he's weak. Carragher more consistent. THIS MATCH: Carragher okay, Finnan okay. But Inzaghi wasn't even looking that dangerous, and I seem to remember him jogging in alone late in the second half.

Jermaine Pennant (3.5) - One of 6 British stories that have gone like this in the past 8 years: midfielder, great speed, all the offensive tools. Once put together all of these skills in five or ten games in a row, media instantly names him a fixture on the national team for the next decade... had an equal number of bad games and was immediately written off as done, career over, forever. All this, and he's only 24. But it's hard to tell how good he is when he doesn't get a lot of run. Fact is, he's still got all the tools. (Kieron Dyer, Sean Wright Phillips, Aaron Lennon, Nigel Reo-Coker, Jermaine Jenas, Keiran Richardson... that's seven). THIS MATCH: Very effective going forward first half, but never got back into it in the second half. Maybe he put it all out there in the first 45, and on another night, he could've come off at the hour mark for crazy Craig Bellamy.

John Arne Riise, Daniel Agger (3.0, 3.0) - covered Riise in a previous post. Take that, make him younger, and Danish instead of Norwegian. Now take 10 miles an hour off his left-footed shot. That's Agger, who's also starting for 'Pool. Both are big, capable defenders, but if they expend too much energy chasing and sliding, their left-footed powers are wasted. THIS MATCH: They got forward a little bit, and Riise hit a good one in the first half. But in the second half they resigned themselves to shooting behind the crowd. 'Pool needed a few more good balls zinging across the box. Neither of them had much spark, and there defense wasn't enough to make up for it.

Javi Mascherano (4.0) - New arrival, thick legged-Argentinian whose main task is to block up the middle of the field. When Riise, Agger or Finnan range forward, he picks up their slack. A big part of how Mascherano plays is how he looks. I'm not gonna' say a guy's ugly. But Mascherano looks like he's taken 5-10 serious elbows to the mouth every week for, oh, 15 years. He defends like he has nothing to lose, and he hates you, though he may in fact be a nice guy. THIS MATCH: Best defender they had. Seems to have something on Kaka, which, worldwide, makes him one of the one players who can say that. Fearless. If he could just get the ball to half, and then give it to Stevie G, maybe...

Bolo Zenden (1.0) - Left-footed Dutch winger. I failed to mention that among the "great players" in this match, there was also this impostor. I assume he was effective somewhere along the line of the five top-notch, world class teams. But he never stayed with any of them for long, and that should be a blinking, smoking red flag. I've seen Zenden play a few times this year, and, although he's not an exciting dribbler, he seems to do everything well except run, pass and shoot.

Harry Kewell - Left-footed Australian winger. Maybe best overall Aussie talent ever. Smooth, fast, graceful. Probably was the way he always tied his longish hair behind him, but I always thought he looked like a karate guy who decided to kick the ball instead. He carried himself that same way.

- Side note: If you can belive it, Bolo was a martial arts prodigy. By contrast, he carries himself like a giant, dying, flightless bird. An albatross, if you will. Liverpool's albatross. He stinks. We'll be back to him for more in a bit.

Peter Crouch - Already covered him a couple weeks ago. To my eyes, by far - by far - Liverpool's best offensive target. So tall and long, and coordinated enough that he's got a better chance at controlling a nearby ball than almost anyone marking him. And the finishing - HELLO - is there. THIS MATCH: I thought he contributed very poorly while he was on the bench the first 75 minutes. I hardly even noticed he was on the bench. He's got to learn how to score from the bench. SEV-en-ty-FIVE MINUTES!

Jose "Pepe" Reina (3.5) - Streaky Spanish goalkeeper. Athletic, good feel for the action, good shotstopper. Special, unteachable skill of guessing the right way on penalty kicks. THIS MATCH: Not much he could do on either goal. A top three or top five keeper in the world might get a paw on one of those. He is neither top three nor top five, and he didn't.


Quick note on Kaka: his real name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite. So, I'm not sure where you get Kaka from, but, I don't think it took long for people around him to realize, "He's really great. We need something less than eleven syllables.

Andrea Pirlo (3.5) - technically perfect Italian midfielder. Free kick, corner kick specialist. Top level ball striker. Plays a ton of promising balls in front of his attackers, makes few mistakes. Good defender. THIS MATCH: Too much defense for my liking. It looked like he constantly either wanted to get fouled or quickly roll it to Kaka and then just say, "Go." Gets + 0.5 points for pinpointing his free kick to Pipo's shoulder.

Clarence Seedorf (3.0) - Streaky Dutch midfielder. If he's drawn into the offense early, can make game-changing plays. Otherwise, can completely disappear, and be reduced to a highly-skilled cog. Low center of gravity, strong hips and legs - not going to be pushed anywhere, anytime. Erratic defense. THIS MATCH: No big mistakes, no big nothing. When did he get subbed? 69 minutes? What? 89? Who knew?

Ivan Gennaro Gattuso (3.5) - See Javier Mascherano. Make him Italian. THIS MATCH: Big-time nuisance. Handful of fouls that disrupted Liverpool's flow.

Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta (3.5, 3.5) - Former superstar defenders. Since surpassed by fellow Italians, but, even at 38 and 31 - 38! - absolute lockdown guys. They know what foot you want to shoot with, they know what's going to happen if they put an elbow in your back or a foot to your shin. You've got to come at them over and over to get both of them to make a mistake on the same play. THIS MATCH: Got an easy ride in the first half when Kuyt was all alone, and allowed Pennant and then Stevie to get through, though neither of them with much of an angle. Other than that, they kept their midfield organized and behind the ball, and did their best to defend against long shots.

Fillipo "Pipo" Inzaghi (5.0) - Classic Italian goal-poacher. Never runs too far too fast. Doesn't need to. Stays near the ball, stays near the goal. Eventually a midfielder finds him, or the ball finds him, but at 33 he's well past the days of making things happen for himself. Or anyone else. THIS MATCH: Quick note on the shoulder goal - can we at least get a smile out of this guy? Does he have to dash off, shouting, like he in any way wanted that to happen? I've seen Inzaghi react like this to flukes before, and I've also seen him try to claim other people's goals and own goals. Now THAT, my friend, is an Italian goalscorer. But Inzaghi, who ran about 100 meters all night long and looked lost at times, saw his spot, broke through, and scored. That's all you want out of a striker in a big, hunker-down defensive match - score on your best chance.

Nelson Dida (4.5) -Brazilian goalkeeper. One of the best. No one, anywhere, makes a save that he can't make. Concentration and positioning lapse at times, but he's so quick - and so, uh, 6-foot-5 - that he's always got a chance to bail himself out. THIS MATCH: Not too many real tests. Two, to be exact, that he could have stopped. Pennant, and then Gerrard. No goal. That's all you want.

That's it for them. Marek Jankulovski and Massimo Oddo both do one thing, just on opposite sides of the field. Marek on the left, Oddo on the right: get to the corner, kick it towards the front of the goal, try and keep it high. If anyone gets near you with the ball, try and foul. Thanks, your check is in the mail. One of them is Polish, one's Italian. Figure it out for yourself.

I would've liked to find some great insight into this game while I was watching it, some thing that often clicks when I watch basketball or football and, increasingly, soccer.

The best thing that came to me is that you can start three lefties from goofy, northern European countries - but not FOUR.

But my only real insight was this. When you look at those lineups, if my descriptions are accurate, Milan is older but more talented in the middle, at the back, and in goal. You - normally, mind you, normally - give the wings to Liverpool, and the forward battle probably goes there way, too, because Gerrard was all over the place playing just behind Kuyt. Kaka was very good at moments, and he timed his pass to Inzaghi perfectly. But Gerrard was called upon to do everything, and he impressed, moreso even than Kaka.

So, reading what you've read (you read this?), the two guys who decided this were Dida and Inzaghi, right?

No, not unless you're in Milan tonight. The most valuable men in Athens for AC Milan were on the Liverpool side. One was wearing a suit, and the other was dressed like a giant, dying bird.

Rafa Benitez is not the kind of manager who would give a shit what I think, and in a way I like that about him. The English press is so ruthless, so presumptive about managers. When he names his lineups, reporters probably try to immediately come up with desparaging headlines.

"Raf-a-el: BLOOD-Y HELL!"


Headlines is all they do over there. Headlines and Kate Moss pictures, and Kate Moss headlines.

So Rafa does whatever he wants. Here's a great, great story. He didn't name the same starting lineup for two consecutive games for his first 99 games at Liverpool. There was always at least one change from the previous game. Then, his 100th lineup was identical to his 99th. That's what you call a professional wink, or maybe it's a finger to the press.

However tall Peter Crouch is, he hasn't figured out how to lean in for a header while he's sitting ON THE BENCH. The first goal was a fluke, and maybe Rafa didn't think they would need more than one goal. Maybe he was assuming an overtime.

But Bolo Zenden was, in Athens Greece, a disaster. I must think that, on some day in some city, he knew how to play this game. Not today, and not the times I saw him before that. The ESPN Gamecast called him "ineffective." Ineffective? How about "morbid"? "Cancerous."

Zenden was the 800-pound gorilla on the left wing. He was the statue with no arms and legs.

And yet, he played 58 minutes. Harry Kewell, though an improvement, didn't look too good either. So, there's your two favorite options on the left, neither looking very helpful to you. What do you do?

I don't know. They don't pay me to figure that out. They don't pay me anything. No one does.

But Rafa's got a job. And he didn't do it tonight.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Notes, or Just gun


Coming up, the NBA playoffs, a couple leftover thoughts, and one of the strangest things I've ever heard.

First, a couple corrections.

- In the second graph of the last "Notes," I wrote "lately-roped-off," which was a case of over-hyphenation, which I've been guilty of once-or-twice before.

- My baseball paragraph should have included the sentence, "Jason Giambi used them, too, and is not a dick."

- I wrote last time about how one of the potential youtube home movie entrepeneurs is named "smosh." Unfortunately, that was correct.

Okay, now to the crazy thing, which I'm not going to make you wait for.

I learned from the Animal Planet the other day that there is a tiny parasite that invades the brain of ants and takes over. The ant acts erratically for some time, and eventually finds a blade of grass, which it bites and holds onto. It may do this for as many as eight days, until it is eaten by a passing rabbit. At this point the ant ceases to be, but the parasite takes root inside the rabbit. Its eggs pass through the rabbit, whereupon they are picked-up by snails. Stay with me. The snails coat the eggs in slime, cough them up, and another ant comes along and eats that.

Do you actually believe any of that? It was Animal Planet, so I wanted to believe it, but how could there be something like that out there and I never learned it? I think something like that should come up-front with a high school education. We should all be aware if that kind of thing is happening on our planet.

Okay, now to the NBA, where I've got a lot to say.

First, Chicago and Golden State went out. Let's take the easy one first.

- Chicago and Detroit are the same team. They've got dynamic guards who can score, experienced muscle down low, and a swing man that can spark, and even take over a game for short bursts. But in every matchup - Hamilton-Billups v. Hinrich-Gordon, McDyess-Wallace-Webber v. Wallace-Brown, Prince-Deng - in all of them, Detroit is better. Chicago winning Game five was so incredible because it was so odd. I don't have Detroit losing another home game until the Finals.

- Now, to Golden State. And I should mention Utah here, and I will, but somehow Golden State seems like the story here. When the Warriors went up 3-1 on Dallas, a large portion of the sports media adopted Golden State as their own. I was not a part of this movement. The Warriors home page today looks like this:

"Another Magical Oakland Night"
-ESPN The Magazine

"Simple and Fearless"
-Sports Illustrated

"Warriors Fever Spreading Fast"
- San Jose Mercury News

"This is the game I wanted to invent"
- Dr. James Naismith

"I don't recall any of their games"
- Alberto Gonzales

Okay, the last two I made up, but, that's my evidence. The picture on the intro page shows two huge fireballs shooting up off the court in Oakland, which we can assume were started by Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, who are totally insane as soon as the game tips off, and sometimes before or after.

By the way, SI, it's easier to be "Fearless" when Stephen Jackson is packin' heat.

Others praised Don Nelson as a basketball genius. I was not one of them. But David Dupree and Bob Ryan were.

First, to Nelson, I don't know whether or not he's a genius. I know I loved watching his Dallas teams, and rooted for them. But - and he was general manager at the time - I can see now that the all-offense teams he put together were just ridiculous. Fun to watch, but, come on. Nash, Finley, Nowitzki, Antawn Jamison, Antoine Walker, Nick Van Exel... how many points does Nellie think you need to win? 160?

I still like some of those players, but when Nelson moved to the Bay Area, I didn't follow him. I found the Warriors that closed the season so well and stunned Dallas to be more of a nuisance to watch than they were a thrill.

Baron Davis ranked himself in the top 20 players in the league with his play, and everyone else had their moments. But for every second of every game I saw them in the playoffs, they looked like they were playing pick-up ball at the gym. Guys moved, and dribbled, and shot - oh, man they shot - but no two players ever seemed to have a real idea, or even an interest about what any other player was doing. They dribbled, tried to get free for a shot, if it didn't work they passed and the next guy immediately shot.

This wasn't run and gun. Phoenix is run and gun. Golden State was just gun. And the number of times I saw this pay off over the course of the Dallas series seemed, off the charts, I guess, given the level of talent on this team. And the number of times one of them shot and missed, only for a long rebound to bounce to a Golden State player who had been standing still also seemed unreasonably high. In the Utah series it balanced out, thanks a little to Kirilenko and Deron Williams chasing, but mostly because that's just what happens.

19, 24, 25, and 27. Those are how many 3-pointers Golden State missed in each of its four losses here. That's hard to watch. It's not "Live by the three, die by the three." It's just die by the three.

Golden State also had meltdowns and temper issues throughout the playoffs. Like, as a group, they had hideous shot choices and moments of thuggery that brought on numerous flagrant fouls and technicals. Just like Dallas, I don't know if you can point the finger at any one player, but there's one guy who's in charge of all the players.

How does any of this make Nellie a genius? I'd believe he went the whole playoffs without a clipboard. What discussions could he be having with his assistants on the bench?

Assistant coach: "They're not shooting enough."
Nelson: "No, they're shooting enough. They're just not far enough away. Did we bring a clipboard?"
Assistant coach: "Clipboard, yeah. But no markers."

Those words I made up. These ones, and I'm paraphrasing, were real. They came from the post-game press conference.

(reporter): "What does this team need to do to get over the hump?"
Nelson: "Over the hump? (laughing) I think we got over the hump--"
(same reporter): -- "to get deeper into the playoffs, then?"
Nelson: (talking over him) "Next question."

This is it, Don? The second round of the playoffs? They knocked off Dallas, which was great for them, but what was this magical run that everyone saw? This team won five games in the playoffs. It lost six of them. They'll go down as the first 8-seed to win best-of-seven games against a No. 1, but in five years, will we be harking back to that golden time when the Bay Area got basketball fever for a week and a half?

It now looks like Don, 67, might be on his way out, by choice. From what I saw, he probably okay'd the trade for Jackson and Al Harrington, handed the ball to Baron Davis, and checked-out in late March.

- Now another note. Wouldn't you have liked to see Mehmet Okur and Andris Biedrins just trade teams? Biedrins maintains Utah's quota of "Eastern European White Guy With Spiky Hair," and Okur joins the shootaround on the Golden State end. I think Jerry Sloan is playing a long game of "Red Light, Green Light" with Okur. Once a night, he says, "Green light," Okur shoots four threes in 90 seconds, and Sloan says "Red light." It either works or it doesn't, and he won a couple of games for them.

Speaking of those two, I want to make a point about foreign players.

I'm not going to shock anyone, except Isaiah Thomas and Danny Ainge, but foreign players are here to stay and they seem really important.

San Antonio - 5, Phoenix - 4, Utah - 4, Cleveland - 3. That's the number of players on those teams that either start or play significant minutes who were born outside of the lower 48 states.

Five of the last 6 NBA MVPs fit the same description. The other MVP was Kevin Garnett, who was created in an American lab, but using mostly international parts.

This trend will not end any time soon, and while teams can't continue to add foreign players at the same rate, we can assume those teams that haven't drafted outsiders soon will. Anyone who fights this, or fails to see its importance, is like the 1960's music fan who heard the Beatles and thought, "Well, that'll be the last time rock and roll comes out of the UK."

It's already over.

Now, to Ginobli and Barbosa, who are the best South American players. Ginobli's from Argentina, and, as a soccer fan, I can tell you that for all he is, he's not in their Top 10 athletes. Barbosa, from Brazil, who is as fast and slick as anyone anywhere in the league? He's not in Brazil's Top FORTY. If this game really takes root in these countries - and in Italy and Germany - believe me, these countries have got brilliant young athletes with free time. If you set up camps, if you send coaches, if you build hoops, if you make sure it's on the TV...

Very soon, my friends, this game will no longer belong to us. We will see the NBA's first all-foreign starting five. That team will make the playoffs. Either get in on it, or get out.

- And now, since I've gone long, as always, I'll try to make this quick. Phoenix 2, San Antonio 3. Tonight's game in SA. Horry's bump on Nash, Stoudemire and Diaw leave the bench, get suspended, Phoenix loses game five. My thoughts:

- David Stern is getting nailed on this. Everybody says he needed to do something to keep Phoenix from losing this game for this reason. Let's think of what we're asking for here.

You want David Stern, who has for years been criticized for doing whatever he wants as comissioner, to make a personal judgment call on a rule. How could he possibly put himself in that position? There are already a hundred conspiracies about how Stern wants this team to make the finals, this team to do that, etc. And now he's supposed to rise up and say, "You know what, fellas? Forget the rule. I'll handle this one."

This rule is what's on the books. The people hammering Stern now are the same ones that have for years said he had too much control. Now we want to open it up for him to revoke, on a case-by-case basis, any rules on the books? It's just stupid.

We're ready to give one guy that much power? I think Alberto Gonzales is about to be unemployed. Maybe Stern could take him on as a secretary.

If the players union wanted this changed, if the owners wanted it changed, they should have been on the phone with Stern and Michael Wilbon every day since it happened 10 years ago.

But those were the rough-and-tough Knicks and Heat in a series no one watched, because Michael Jordan wasn't in it. But now, in the marquee series, we say this rule has to go, TONIGHT. Stupid.

Just to float an idea, what if Horry was a more volatile person, felt someone coming, fast, on his blindside, and Kermit Washington'd Stoudemire's goddamn eye? Given the on-court fights we've seen in the last couple years, I don't think this is something you can just write off. "Oh, but this time..." If players thought they could leave the bench, thinking they were acting in self-defense...

Earlier this season, Stephen Jackson's self-defense involved firing several gunshots outside of a nightclub. That's not even run and gun, that's just gun.

I'm just making the point that what's reasonable to Amare Stoudemire might be different than what's reasonable to someone else.

By the way, I admire the instinct in Stoudemire, who went much farther than Diaw and seemed like he actually had something in mind. I'm not sure if he wanted to get to his teammate Nash or the offender Horry, but seeing that happen to Steve Nash made Amare Stoudemire think, "I gotta' get there," and there's a big part of me that likes that.

And, according to the rule, he had to sit. If you want to change the rule, you do that in the offseason, not in a 36-hour window between playoff games. Stern had no play here.

Now, to the basketball itself. Game five was a really draining loss on Phoenix. Without Stoudemire to pick up a handful of dunks and layups down the stretch, they didn't have it. Nash got decent looks in the last minute and he missed them.

By the way, I just saw that Nash has played the most NBA games without playing in the Finals. It's getting to the point now where, for all the great things he does for his teams, you need to see those kind of results. Dude's got a bad back: how many years does he have left?

Earlier in these playoffs, I picked San Antonio to take the whole thing. I liked their depth, I liked that their best player always shows up and is incredibly low-maintenance. Everyone on the team seems just icy and professional down the stretch, except Ginobli, who runs way hot and way cold, and doesn't hurt them enough to lose many games.

Now, Phoenix has lost home court, has pretty much burned itself out in Game five, and Nash missed his big shots.

I will now, in the interest of some kind of blogging integrity (copyright Mike Mullen), change my pick. While my head has been so far in the San Antonio tent to this point, my heart was in Phoenix. I love everything they do. They seem to be enjoying the way they play, and the only other person having fun on the court, in the entire league, is Gilbert Arenas.

And don't tell me they don't play defense. Raja Bell, Marion, and Stoudemire all contest shots and board up. And Nash and Barbosa fly around and dive at everything on the ground. And they all take charges and flop, except Stoudemire, who is so strong it would just look silly for him to ever hit the deck.

So I'm switching. With Phoenix down and beaten up and needing to win in the Alamodome, I'm going to pick them to do it. My head fought it, but I want them to win so badly, and I like so much what they do, I've won it over.

I've got Stoudemire scoring a furious 35 tonight and Nash making a play in the final minute. I've got Ginolbli going cold one night. I've got two close ones. Classics. Maybe even an overtime.

I'm taking Phoenix in seven.

Good day. Back soon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Notes, or Steve Nash is bleeding all over the NBA playoffs


We'll start with the non-sports, and this is just one more note, this one on youtube. You'll notice I've lately-roped-off the internet and sports as what I'm talking about here. That can and will change, but for now, those are the things that just seem most obvious to me.

The following two stories ran one on top of the other in the New York Times:

- Youtube is going to start paying ad revenue to some of its most popular independent video producers. If you haven't seen much of youtube, "independent video producers" are people who are young and, probably, at home. In the article it mentions how Metacafe, a similar site, has already been doing this for some time. Some of Metacafe's producers have earned more than $10,000.

I get a lot of stuff in my e-mail about working from home, and I don't put much stock in it, but these kids are making decent bank making home movies. And most of them will probably be hired somewhere, and good for them.

I don't watch many of these videos. It's not what I go to youtube for, and honestly I don't trust many people to entertain me. So I can't speak much to the quality of these videos, but I know one of the people who stands to make tens of thousands of American dollars goes by the name smosh.

- The second story told about two companies, one of them England's premier soccer league, that are suing youtube, claiming that the site "encourages vast copyright infringement to attract attention and bolster traffic." It was the second such suit filed against youtube to date. Expect more to follow.

I have a lot of problems here. Youtube isn't "encouraging" much of anything. The site's main page is pretty blank of verbal instructions, and I've never seen anything say, "post your illicit soccer highlights here."

Also, "attract attention." To what? Your product? If you're NBC, the NBA, the NRA... any video that draws attention to you or your show or athlete or gun is an unpaid advertisement for you. You should be thanking youtube.

Now, if these companies, which I assume have a literate staff, would read the story that ran above their own... if they knew that 20 million people watch youtube every month... smosh wouldn't be the only one making money here.

-Now to sports, and you'll notice "sports" tends to mean "basketball" here. Look, I love soccer, I sometimes love basketball, and then I like a lot of different sports. So, if I feel like writing about baseball or football or skiing, I will. But if you want your football fix right now, check the NFL Network.

The Draft is probably just finishing up.

As for baseball, let me save you the trip around the blogs and websites and ESPN. Here's your baseball news: BARRY BONDS! ROGER CLEMENS! THE YANKEES! JOE TORRE! BONDS! CLEMENS!

Really, the news is, Bonds is going to break the home run record and is a dick. Clemens is back for an incredible amount of money and is probably a dick. Joe Torre is a good manager and might not be a dick. Bonds used steroids and is really a dick. Clemens probably did and probably is. Enough. More baseball updates coming in July.

But here, we begin of course with the NBA.

First, I was wrong on Dallas, and wrong on Dirk.

Let me make clear, I don't feel like I was big-time, long-term wrong. Dirk's non-game was startling to anyone who'd seen him play more than 10 times. I've never seen him stay that far out of the rhythym for that long.

But let me say this. At halftime, Dirk had four points. He had missed four threes, and been to the free throw line only once. It is during this halftime, that I believe Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry, Erick Dampier, or, I don't know, Avery Johnson needed to grab Dirk by that goatee and say, "Can you believe we're still in this game after that dud of a first half? Now, we're going to get you to 25 points, and 10 or 12 of them are coming at the free throw line, where you shoot NINETY PERCENT."

Instead, Dirk shot once - once? - in their disaster of a third quarter. Dirk missed one 3-pointer, and by the way, Devan George, Stack, Terry, and Josh Howard missed two each in the third quarter. That's how you score 15 points in one quarter folks. It looked like Dirk didn't want the shots, and his teammates didn't look for him. I'm not sure who's at fault, but there's only one guy in charge of all the guys I just mentioned, and that's Avery Johnson.

- A lot of talk is going on about who's not in the NBA playoffs, and that list now reads Kobe, D-Wade, Shaq, T-Mac, Yao, Iverson, 'Melo, and Gilbert Arenas, who by the way would have emerged as a personality-and-talent juggernaut this playoffs save his damn knee. By the way, let's add Kevin Garnett to this list just for posterity.

Now to the casual fan, this is problematic, and they might not be interested in some of the incredible high drama of Utah-Golden State and Phoenix-San Antonio, and that's fine.

But this is an interesting thing, as a basketball fan. You could argue that the best players in the league, save Nash and Duncan, are all watching the playoffs. I know this makes some of them very angry. Other than Shaq, Iverson and KG, all of the guys I just mentioned are under 30. (Shaq's 35, the other two are 31.) All of them will be seeing each other for a few years now, and I want them all to come back this year meaner and hungrier, and then one of them wins, and the rest get very angry.

I'm not sure if anyone can afford to be fat and happy right now. Look what winning one championship did the Heat, or even reaching the finals did to the Mavs. They came back to the playoffs like they were owed something, and they got mercifully bounced.

And another point about the lack of stars present in these playoffs. If you're in the West, how many times do you think you'll get a good look at the Finals in the next five or eight years without going through Dallas and/or Houston? Or in the East, to know that D-Wade was already out? For all the teams left to look around and realize there's no Shaq still on the board?

Again, I like this. San Antonio and Detroit are still playing, but the other six teams must be thinking, "This is our best chance to win, maybe our, maybe my only chance to ever win." And that kind of energy seems to be running throughout the playoffs, except for Chicago, which looks scared of Detroit.

- Quick note on Detroit-Chicago: in the first quarter of Game 1, with Detroit already up a dozen, Detroit threw the ball away when it looked like a Piston player was pulled down or tripped up. As the crowd complained, the ball bounced to a well-dressed fan in the first row, who proceeded to stand up, SPIKE THE BALL and get on the ref. With the Pistons up 15 points, in the first quarter. If that's your swanky front row fan... look, nobody wants to play in Detroit. Nobody.

I have a theory that Ron Artest took on the little guy - the wrong guy - in that Detroit crowd because everywhere else he looked there were people saying, "What? You want something?"

- Now to Suns-Spurs. Game 2 was the Suns-at-home blowout, which is a built-in feature of this series. Look for the Spurs-at-home blowout coming soon, which will be 105-89 in Game 3 or 4.

Much more interesting was Game one. For about 45 minutes, this was perfect, perfect playoff basketball. Then the Nash-Parker face-to-face collision happened.

On a quick side note, in my experience, your forehead is tougher than your nose. In fact, I thought the principle of the headbutt was to hit someone's nose with your forehead. So when Nash and Parker hit nose-to-forehead, and Parker goes down for a while, and Nash takes the nose shot and stands there and goes, "Are you okay?", I think we can set odds on which of these guys is tougher.

So Steve gets a gash on his nose, which is something I've actually had myself. Mine, under cold running water, took 5-10 minutes to stop bleeding profusely. So when I saw his cut, which was identical to mine, and thought about what his heartrate would be trying to play, I knew it would be impossible to stop the bleeding soon enough.

Another side note: my best remedy would have been the glue, which they used, then cold pressure right until the timeout is over, then a last-second towel to wipe excess blood, then two quick bandages. That should have bought a couple minutes of minimum blood flow. As soon as the bandage went on, it started filling up.

Instead, we got some of the most dramatic sports moments I've ever seen. I will never forget Nash coming on to hit a three, miss another one, then make a lay-up, each progressively bloodier than the last.

I even won't forget Nash dumping water on his face to get blood out of his eye, or running past an uninformed D'Antoni, checking himself in on the fly and trying to keep playing. Just incredible scenes, more theater than sports really, but the end result left a bad taste in my mouth.

This incident clearly cost them the game. Barbosa is probably one of the most effective subs in the history of the league, and he should be on the floor for the last three minutes of every quarter. But he's just a kid. He can't be called on to close a game, and it seemed like no one knew that more than Nash.

Barbosa, 24, missed a stupid three in the final minute, and shortly afterward fouled Ginobli when he didn't need to. I can't fault him for these things: he's a kid. But neither of them would have happened the way they did with Nash out there.

So, instead of saying, "Shouldn't we do this?" or "Why can't we?", I'm going to make a prediction. During this offseason, a new NBA rule will be put in place that allows the officials to confer with team trainers and call an extended official timeout. Call it either an injury timeout, or a recovery timeout.

It states that a trainer may indicate to an official, "This player is injured, but we believe he can be back on the floor in 300 seconds." It covers cramps, mild concussions, and bleeding, like Midol.

But seriously I think this will happen. It will be heretofore called the "Nash rule." And to anyone who says, "A rule, just for one thing with one player?" My response would be I think Nash is about to win his third MVP, and the rule that kept him off the floor while bleeding is called the what? The - you guessed it - three-time MVP "Magic Johnson Rule." By the way, totally legit rule, and so is this one. I can't believe that anyone would want another game decided this way.

- And finally, and I buried this on purpose, I was way, way right on Kirilenko. He's been great. For periods of time in each of the five games since I last wrote, he's been the best player on the floor. And down the stretch, he's not hurting them on offense, and his defense has won them at least two games.

By the way, if his rebound numbers look low, it's because of this weird thing he does on defense. When someone has the ball, Kirilenko chases the guy around and then jumps at him when he shoots. It doesn't leave him close to the hoop, but it really pissed off McGrady and then Stephen Jackson and Baron Davis. I think this tactic will revolutionize defense if it ever catches on.

But, good for AK, good for me. Thanks for reading and good day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Notes, or The 2008 NFL Draft is on the clock


Seems like "Notes" is all I do lately, and I really ought to get one of my big project entries out soon. I'm sure you're all waiting for a 2,000-word monster, and the sad thing is it's probably coming.

For now, just notes.

We'll get the non-sports one out of the way first, and this is another iTunes tip. The New York Times does a "Front Page" podcast, which is free to download from the iTunes store. It's a brief (4-5 minutes) description of the stories one would find on the front page of that day's paper. You can set your subscription to automatically update the newest podcast, and could, ideally, use this preview every morning to decide whether or not you want to buy that day's Times. It's a good idea in theory.

One thing I like about this is that one late night I was looking through iTunes and found out that it becomes available in the middle of the night, at what time I can only assume the paper has only recently gone to press. Given the sometimes lazy habits of other news outlets (Washington Post, ESPN) in updating their podcasts, this punctuality is a great achievement.

Here's what I don't like. The guy doing the description sounds like the NPR weather guy on a couple painkillers and six shots of Nyquil. I fear that sometime I'll listen to this guy, and one or both of us will be rendered indefinitely comatose.

My other problem is that what this fellow does is summarize the stories, and in a rather bland, bare-bones way. This might be what some people want, but those people could get the same kind of coverage from nearly every radio or TV station, website, or newspaper. The reason why anyone would buy the NY Times is because they have the best reporters, who get the best details, and most of them are brilliant writers. And none of that comes across here.

My boy, Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post, always says his radio show is not about the front page. But when something big happens, or when a certain story in the Post catches him, he simply reads the story, on the air. And it's great. It's great writing, read by someone interested in the story.

This is what the Times should be doing. Hire someone, or bring in the authors themselves, and have them read the first three or four graphs of a couple stories, verbatim. Then you do headlines on the other stories, and say, "If you want more, buy today's Times." First of all, the podcast popularity (which is already good) would multiply, and you could sell a very expensive ad. Second, it would give people a reason to go to the Times and not somewhere else: because the words are so, so much better.

Now, to sports. Quite a few things to cover here, so I'll try to be as brief and dull as possible.

- Instead of doing a big entry on Kevin Garnett, I'll offer two things. One is an inside fact, the other is an opinion, and they come in that order.

Fact: A friend of my sister's recently got a job waitressing at an ultra-swanky Minneapolis restaurant. She told me that Garnett and a couple of other players ate there recently.

"But actually one of them said he was a rapper," she said, at which point I described Ricky Davis, and she said, "Yeah, that was him."

This comes as no surprise. I'm still doing facts here: I saw Garnett settle for more long jumpers early in the shot clock this season than I ever have before. Also true is that on a couple of occasions I saw Ricky Davis call the five players on the floor into a seperate, post-timeout meeting. And it didn't seem to work well.

Another true story: when the Wolves went to an overtime once this season, the sideline reporter contributed that in the huddle before OT started, coach Randy Wittman told his players that they were going to "move the ball like never before." While she was giving this report, KG passed to Ricky, who IMMEDIATELY shot. Then Ricky got the ball and went right to the hole, got fouled. Also in the overtime, he shot a short jumper and two threes. The fact that Ricky took these shots, and even the fact that his second three went down for a game-winner, aren't much of a surprise...

But for Garnett to miss three shots in the same OT, two of them from 19-plus feet?

Now, the opinion: when I watched Garnett a couple years ago playing with Cassell and Sprewell, and I watched a lot... he was, for that year tied with one person (guess who) as the best player I've ever seen. If Cassell's back didn't go out and Sprewell wasn't, I guess, insane, they might have won the championship that year or another.

Now, Ricky Davis has been involved in a couple of desperation trades in his day. And I think we can all imagine what Kevin McHale's phone bill might look like over the summer.

- Now, to the curious case of Dwyane Wade, a player whose name is spelled incorrectly, but seemed to have everything else going for him until a couple weeks ago.

In my last blog I said that Shaq was "fat," and I want to retract that here, but I can't. I saw a picture of Shaq on where the skin folded-up on the back of his neck looks like a couple Bud Light bottles. He was way out of shape.

But in last year's championship run, Shaq was never the most important player on the Heat. Wade was the beginnging and the end of that team. And in this season's playoffs, Wade showed flashes of that same dynamic ability. I would think that should go the other way: flashes one year, then you put it all together for a title run.

In Wade's defense, he's really, really young. And we shouldn't expect him to repeat that performance.

But they got SWEPT out of the playoffs, soundly beaten. They got outscored in the second half of every game against Chicago. They joined Orlando and Washington by getting swept, and Orlando and Washington are playoff teams in the same way North and South Dakota are states: by definition only.

I understand Wade sat out a bunch of games with a dislocated shoulder. But it was his non-shooting shoulder. And, it was his shoulder. What was holding him back most were his legs, which looked like they aged ten years, and his head. He couldn't get past something, or, as some say he couldn't get "outside his own head."

Full disclosure: in most sports, I myself am a complete headcase. But no one pays me to play.

Wade is also going to have an MRI taken on his knee. And let me say this: they have to find something. There must be something wrong with his knee. Either that, or he's not the player I thought he was.

I would be much, much easier on Wade if he hadn't taken a shot at Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk made a self-effacing comment about how badly Dallas played last year, and it was true. But Wade turned the screw, and put it all on Dirk's shoulders.

And, when I check the papers, it says both players brought back their entire rosters, and only one of them is still playing.

As far as Dallas, it seems like Nellie and Golden State know exactly how to play them. And yet, Dallas won a game last night they shouldn't have. Not only did they take it away, but Golden State gave it up willingly.

And Dirk hasn't exactly been sterling for this entire series. But let me mention this: in Game 4, Dirk tossed-in 3s with 14 and then three seconds left to at least give Dallas a chance. In Game 5, as we all saw, he again hit back-to-back 3s, then he hit the free throws to tie, take the lead, and then seal the result. Throw in a soul-crushing block against Matt Barnes, and Dirk won that game by himself. And again, he's still playing.

And I've still got Dallas winning, obviously in seven games. Also, my San Antonio pick still looks good, so no need to mention that.

- Now, to football.

The NFL draft was last weekend, and in case you missed it, it's probably still going on. Check the NFL Network for coverage.

Honestly, the first round of the draft was six hours long. It's as bloated as, well, as any number of my blog entries.

Six hours? This is an OUTRAGE. Every team got 15 minutes to make its pick, and (32 x 15 = 480), they all used ALL FIFTEEN GODDAMN MINUTES. What the hell are these teams doing? Are they taking Calvin Johnson to the parking lot to run one more 40? Do they want to ensure that their pick doesn't get arrested in those 15 minutes? Is there any team that looks up at the clock with 10 seconds left and goes, "Oh, Christ, we're on the clock. Quick, just take somebody. Anybody!"

Are there any GMs thinking, "I can't decide. Call both of them, see who answers first."

Here's how the draft should go. The night before, the No. 1 team submits its pick in writing. This pick is immediately announced. The next team is then given two minutes, during which they will decide whether they want to pick, or want an extended period (10 minutes, say) to option the pick as a trade. Teams that are not intersted in trading are encouraged to hand in a written list of players, ranked in the order of their desire. This guy, if he's not available this guy, etc. Let's get this thing over with.

By the way, 15 hours in two days is an incredibly long time for anyone to do TV. I'm amazed when newsmen do all-night election coverage. And on those nights, we're electing the national government. And this is the NFL Draft.

I only watched one or two of those hours. Kornheiser was good, but he's obviously holding back. If he ever did what he does on his radio show for ESPN, he would shred for a couple minutes, then be escorted out of the booth and have his contract bought-out.

Steve Young was good on the main stage, and provided the sole highlight of the day. When Brady Quinn was sitting forever from picks 9-21, they eventually started talking about character, and what this might be doing to him personally.

At this point, Mel Kiper - who could do the entire draft by himself, without blinking - chimes in, "If the Green Bay Packers didn't draft Aaron Rogers a couple of years ago, Brady Quinn would be headed to Green Bay to back-up Brett Favre."

Then Berman kicks it to the studio, but it takes a while to cut away. And we see Steve Young turn to Kiper and say, "Where did that come from?" Funny stuff.

Kiper has kids, and let's say he has a boy and a girl. I think if you asked him how his kids are, he would say, "They're good kids. The boy, he's tall, he's strong, big hands, he's gonna' be a good son for 10 or 15 years. Now, my daughter, she's a bit riskier. She's got five pounds to lose, she has no upper-body strength - there are a lot of issues there. I don't see anyone taking her anytime soon."

That's my time for today. You've been great.

If you do get or have iTunes, subscribe to This American Life. Otherwise, just go to the website ( and listen to "Habeas Schmabeus." When it's done, realize that these people have been doing this, a top of the line, one-hour audio documentary, every week for 12 years. And if you can listen to streaming audio (and you can), they're all free on the website. (By the way, this was Charles Barkley last night: "I been thinkin' about gettin' a computer. I really am.")

I love it when critics or other people try to pinpoint why the show is so good, and why the intro by host Ira Glass is so good. These people are wasting their time coining phrases, or comparing formats.

It's just the reporting. And for the intro, it's the writing. That's it, that's all that matters.

I suppose at this point we've come full circle, which seems like a good way to end.

Good day then. I'll be back soon with something real.