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.


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