Here’s my first SbB Powerless Rankings, which note the least influential prominent sports figures of the moment. The criteria is simple: The folks on the list would have no relevance if it weren’t for blind luck or undue support from their employers.
1 ) BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock: Most-despised man in sports, yet he has no power to do anything. Figurehead designed to distract fans from the actual, tiny cabal responsible for college football’s dark ages. Pie-in-the-face guy. Light a candle for him.
(‘Baghdad Bill’ Hancock)
2 ) Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio: Without relentless over-promotion by ESPN’s monopoly-enabled monolith, show wouldn’t exist. Perhaps the finest example of just how powerful ESPN has become as a sports marketing machine. Greenberg at least has a semblance of talent in a controlled setting - witness his SportsCenter performances.
3 ) The McCourts: The underfunded couple was handed the Dodgers by Bud Selig and MLB Owners to artificially limit payrolls in MLB’s larger markets and the NL West. Stole $120M from franchise to fund their personal lifestyles. Anonymous in L.A. outside the ownership suite - even despite the recent TMZ.com coverage.
4 ) Mark Cuban: Great at selling tickets and advertising but too enamored with his own, overrated basketball IQ. Needs to hire good basketball people and get out of the way. By alienating other owners and David Stern, doesn’t have nearly the influence in league matters that he should.
5 ) Jim Nantz: Rakes in millions in salary and perks from CBS gig, but would one less person watch a CBS sports telecast if he wasn’t calling the game? From local radio appearances, appears to have an interesting personality and provocative opinions, but once he’s national he goes dullard on us.
Wednesday was the 15th anniversary of the O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase, perhaps the most riveting low-speed pursuit of all time until James Harrison’s fumble return in this year’s Super Bowl. I wonder if someone baked O.J. a cake in jail? (I point this out basically so I can remind everyone that’s where he is right now - in jail. No matter how down or depressed I might get in life, I can now always remind myself of this and smile.)
Of course, someone reminded me that O.J. Simpson spent more time in jail over the double murder of his wife and Ronald Goldman than Donte Stallworth will for his DUI manslaughter conviction - and O.J. was found not guilty. Which, of course, is another reminder of just how screwed up the criminal justice system is, causing me to start grinding my teeth again. But then I think: “O.J.’s in jail, trying to fend off the advances of Stickpin Bubba,” and I start to feel better again.
It’s amazing to me that, in a pre-9/11 world, the question of “where were you when O.J. ran?” was basically my generation’s version of the JFK assassination. How gloriously naive we were back then. I was home on summer break from college, having just returned from playing some basketball with my friends and sitting slack-jawed with my Mom as the whole thing unfolded. Now the whole thing seems like some dated bit of pop trivia - except for when Fred Goldman pops up to remind you that real people died, and he’d really like to see O.J.’s stuff get sold so he can get some of his money.
Matt Millen’s reputation isn’t as far in the gutter as O.J.’s, but after destroying any shred of hope that the Detroit Lions might have had for winning in the next 20 years, it isn’t good. Which makes you wonder how much credibility he’ll have working as an analyst for the NFL Network this season. But don’t worry, Matt: Don Banks from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is here to help, with what I assume was meant to be a puff piece on Millen but turns out to be a master class in unintentional comedy.
First off, Banks’ main premise is that the stage is set for Millen to have a huge comeback - like Richard Nixon. Yeah, Nixon. Not Frank Sinatra or John Travolta or even Anvil, but Richard Nixon. A good rule of thumb: if you are comparing your interview subject to Richard Nixon in any way, you probably aren’t doing yourself any favors. At least he didn’t compare him to Hitler (that only happens in Detroit).
But it turns out that Matt Millen “admits to being something of a Nixon buff.” Of course he is. And much like Tricky Dick, Millen seems to see himself as the perpetual victim:
“I don’t go backwards,” Millen said. “I just don’t think like that. There’s nothing I can do about [Detroit]. All I can do is from here on out. I understand. In Detroit, they need a bad guy. I was a bad guy. I was to blame for the fall of the auto industry and the housing market. Somehow, I had something to do with [Detroit mayor] Kwame Kilpatrick [resigning], although I’m not sure what. But that’s what happens when you lose in this game. You give everyone a cheap and easy story to jump on.”
Right, because your gross incompetence in leading the Lions to the worst eight-year record in modern NFL history was “cheap and easy” and not at all deserved. Come on. I liked Millen a lot as an analyst, but to try and whitewash his awful tenure in Detroit is simply insane. But Banks seems to think that Millen’s career as an executive might not be over:
I’m intrigued with the idea that Millen, in this era of ultra-short attention spans and a 24/7 news cycle, can put his head down, go back to work at the TV and radio gigs he once excelled at, and re-emerge some day soon with a different reputation and image than he engenders today. I not only think it could happen, I’m convinced it will happen.
Don Banks is clearly off of his meds. Just hang tight there, Don: the men with the white jackets will be there soon to take you back to the funny farm. The idea that a team would be stupid enough to let Matt Millen anywhere near their personnel department is nuts. But then again, as long as Cincinnati is still in the league, anything is possible.
Finally, the Day of the Lakers wrapped up in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant appearing on the “Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” to discuss winning his fourth NBA title. Nothing earth-shattering happened (no Triumph the Insult Comic Dog coming on to ask about Colorado), but there were a few decent moments. And seriously, Kobe couldn’t be bothered to get out of his tracksuit for the interview?:
Congratulations to Ivan Rodriguez for breaking Carlton Fisk’s record with his 2,227th game caught on Wednesday night for the Houston Astros as they lost to his old team the Texas Rangers. Fisk was even nice enough to send a congratulatory note, although calling Rodriguez “the other Pudge” seems a bit like a backhanded swipe.
The Marines have been called to Bethpage Black to help with the U.S. Open. No, they aren’t there to take down anyone who shouts “You Da Man!” on sight (too bad): they are there to help keep track of wayward golfers as they leave the course during practice rounds.
There’s a new fighting style - supposedly gleaned from prison brawls and street fights - called “52 Blocks” that is on the verge of becoming the next big thing in martial arts. Here’s a training video from one of the guys mentioned in the NEW YORK TIMES story:
Arkansas used a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning to send their College World Series elimination game against Virginia to extra innings, and then won it with a double in the 12th. Their reward? A date with unbeaten LSU.
I didn’t watch that much of NBC’s pre-game coverage of the Super Bowl yesterday because frankly, the two weeks of build up to the game was enough for me. I didn’t need another five hours of hearing about how nobody expected the Cardinals to be there, or how Ben Roethlisberger was nervous during his first trip to the Super Bowl against the Seahawks a few years ago. That and I didn’t want to hear Tiki Barber say things like the Cardinals “are a team of density”.
I’m sure a lot of people in Detroit felt the same way, because everywhere they looked there were reminders of how bad the Detroit Lions suck. First of all, they were at a Super Bowl, something the Lions may not even know exists. Then there was Jerome Bettis, who is from Detroit and won a Super Bowl in Detroit, but not for the Lions. Oh, and then there was Matt Millen on the screen every few minutes pretending to know anything about football, when any Lions fan could tell you he clearly doesn’t. Dealing with Millen’s mug on the screen was probably more than any Lions fan could take, so thankfully Detroit’s NBC affiliate made sure to run a warning on the screen whenever he showed up.
Boston, Cleveland and Orlando were a combined 82-17 headed into yesterday. The North Carolina Tar Heels and the White Gritty Hearty Tyler Hansbroughs, a subset of UNC, were a combined 13-0. Andtheyalllost to the Knicks, Wizards, Raptors, and Boston College. A matching game might be fun, but sadly all winners and losers were listed respectively.
The C’s, Magic and Heels losses were all about the same; great teams had OK days and their opponents rose to the occasion. The Cavaliers game, though, ended in much controversy. Apparently traveling is a rule in the NBA, and an astute referee discovered this deep within the rulebook and called out LeBron James on this very infraction. Were the traveling not ratified and therefore whistled, James’ basket would have counted and tied the game. Perhaps a foul call could’ve made it a three-point play. But it appears ‘Bron got enough calls his way over the years against the Wizards. Call it magi-karma.
I wish I could tell you what the heck this thing is, but it was a float in the Fiesta Bowl Parade this weekend. (Ohbytheway, they do a parade for the Fiesta Bowl. D’ya know that?) Ohio State could probably tell us what that balloon name is — for now we’ll christen it Tortilla Flotilla — but for now we’ll just stare and wonder how the heck Ohio State will hang with Texas, considering the Buckeyes amassed a total of nine points against both Rose Bowl combatants. If there’s hope, it’s in opposing coach Mack Brown’s analysis of how the game will unfold:
“If the teams are even, the team that wants to be there the most and has the edge and is more motivated usually wins.”
Let’s see. They got pulverized by two SEC teams in two consecutive championships. They got nailed by USC and Penn State in back-to-back manhandlings. Todd Boeckman is getting the sentimental senior decision to see time in the game, despite Terrelle Pryor’s messianic performances throughout the year. Yep. I can’t imagine which team’s more motivated.
Just so I have this all straightened out, ESPN considers the above stories “news.” They also notate news as hinging on “sources,” which is information they receive that they cannot divulge. They are completely accurate and news-making. They also like to share “rumors,” which — if you click through — are stories that aren’t reported by ESPN, and since they hinge on someone else’s veracity, cannot be trusted as “sports news.” Jon Heyman said it? Watch out, loyal reader! You could get sourceroll’d!
Or “slapped silly” by Russian hockey players:
GUNAXIN isn’t very impressed with the Capitals’ Alexander Semin’s fighting technique. Nor are the broadcasters on the Rangers side: “I’m gonna slap you silly!”
You can read Joe Posnanski for his meandering thoughts on the baseball Hall of Fame, or on his tangential rant about Barry Manilow covering lame ’80s songs. The decision … is yours.
I saw this on Saturday, but so did DETROIT FREE PRESS’s Drew Sharp also saw Matt Millen on TV taking responsibility for the Lions’ miserable failures, making him pretty much the last guy to do so. Oh, he said it was his fault. I guess we’re all even. Play ball!
THE OREGONIAN drank enough coffee to last through Portland State’s win over Northern Arizona. It took four overtimes. Oh, they’ll sleep tonight!
Sorry to harp on this further, but this Jay Mariotti to AOL thing is still a little too surreal. The CHICAGO TRIBUNE talked with him about the move. From a man who said the future of sports journalism “sadly is not in newspapers”is writing for … AOL. Have I showed you the mousetrap-powered car I made in high school? Wanna know what I made the wheels out of?
Want to watch Tarvaris Jackson get flattened over and over again by Chris Clemons in the middle of his interception-TD? Go over to THE 700 LEVEL and knock yourself out.
The LONDON TIMES has a list of 2009’s most anticipated movies, and sure enough, no sports flicks crack the half-century group. No Major League 4: Julio Franco’s Last Stand?
Fun with hot stove stats! FIRE JIM BOWDEN looks at intentional walks and which managers incorrectly make the call to purposely have the pitcher throw four balls
And finally, life imitates Norm McDonald’s Dirty Work after a robbery suspect was apprehended, thanks to the trail of popcorn leading from the store to the perp’s living room. No word if Isiah Thomas is an abettor.
Now that we’re all done pillorying Brett Favre for having Matt Millen in his Fave 5 (and then blaming it all on Millen), it’s time to take off your rose-colored glasses and realize that this sort of thing goes on everywhere. All the time. Your favorite team is going to lose today because that guy on the practice squad they cut last year is now on your opponent’s team, and he’s told them everything they need to know to win, and cover the spread.
(The NFC North champions…if Brett has anything to say about it.)
At least, that’s what’s happening if this article in yesterday’s NEW YORK TIMES is to be believed. Which is a legitimate question, considering no one in the piece admits to sharing info about their old teams, or even names names when talking about players who did. You’d think the Times would have learned their lesson about unnamed sources by now.
• AWFUL ANNOUNCING intercepts Lou Holtzoffering a prescription for those who loathe his weekly “Dr. Lou” segment on ESPN:
(Just call him “Witch Doctor Lou”, ’cause he’s puttin’ a spell on you!)
“If you enjoy Doctor Lou, I hope you will show your support by driving during the day with your lights on. And if you’re unhappy with Doctor Lou, please show your displeasure by driving with your lights off at night. Have a great week.”
The Phillies lost, too, but even more troubling, as the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS reports, was this: the Philadelphia Police Department bomb squad blew up the hot dogs the Phillie Phanatic shoots into crowds between innings, after someone called in about a suspicious package. They were hardly a danger to the public, unless you count the nitrates, fat and sodium. But this is Philadelphia, the home of the cheese steak - when it comes to food leading to heart attacks, hot dogs are the least of their concerns.
Former Virginia starting QB Peter Lalich strikes me as a fan of cheese steaks. And hot dogs. And whatever else he can find when he’s hammered. Even though he was just kicked out of school for underage drinking, COLLEGE FOOTBALL TALK notes that it didn’t take long for him to land on his wobbly feet: he’s already enrolled at Oregon State, and will be eligible to play next season.
Why did Lalich choose the Beavers? Perhaps he thought that Dennis Erickson was still the head coach and he needed a new drinking buddy. Or maybe OSU wanted some advance scouting for their game against USC tonight, since he started against them the opening weekend. Although I’m guessing any notes he gave to Coach Mike Riley weren’t very useful:
“Dear Coach: Their defense hits really hard. It hurts to play them, especially when you’re nursing a wicked hangover from Dollar PBR night at Snooker’s.”
WITH LEATHER has designs on the world’s first underground stadium, currently being built in Qatar. No truth that the rumor that the Raiders’ home field of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is underground: it’s just the coach who is being buried six feet under.
CBS 4 DENVER has Broncos’ lineman Kenny Petersontrying to get a side mount on reporter Kathy Lee. Don’t get any ideas, creeps - they were learning Jiu-Jitsu for a story. Needless to say, he fared better against her than the black belt trainer.
WASHINGTONIAN.COM interviews Trader Joe’s cheese buyer turned DC SPORTS BOG writer Dan Steinberg, who gives his opinions on everything from Gilbert Arenas to Jim Zorn’s magic dust to beer.
Is Andy Pettitte done as a Yankee? The NEW YORK DAILY NEWS wonders that after the team announces he’s done for the season with a bum left shoulder. If only there was some way he could take something to help him get stronger and recover faster between starts…
The DALLAS MORNING NEWS reports about an ex-women’s basketball player at SMU who is suing the school and head coach Rhonda Rompola for pulling her scholarship after she complained about inappropriate comments and questions the coach allegedly made about her lesbian sex life.
MMA EXPERTS BLOG is ready to take Gina Carano to the mat for calling a press conference to complain about all the attention she’s receiving. Because posing for men’s magazines while wearing practically nothing and starring in American Gladiators while … well … wearing practically nothing is a great way to avoid being noticed.
MOUTHPIECE SPORTS notes that even though none of the players from the original RBI Baseball Nintendo game are still playing, seven of the teams are still playing in the same stadiums. Of course, every stadium in RBI Baseball looked like a more generic Three Rivers Stadium, so take that at face value.
The Oakland A’s haven’t decided to unveil new uniforms to court the alternative lifestyle crowd in the Bay Area: SF GATE reports that the rookies were forced to dress in drag for the team’s final road trip to Seattle. Almost but not quite as nightmare-inducing as the Padres as Hooters girls, but close.
Hot dogs plus the bomb squad might be a mess, but is the pinnacle of exploding goodness?
At long last, Matt Millen’s moronic reign appears to be over in the Motor City. Jay Glazer of FOX SPORTS reports that the Detroit Lions have finally given their much-criticized president & GM the heave-ho.
It’s not immediately known if Millen was fired or resigned, but the important thing for Lions fans is that Matt has been removed. Glazer describes how it all went down: