After his Penguins’ remarkable run to the Stanley Cup, life’s probably never been better for Pittsburgh’s young phenom Sidney Crosby. If only he’d move out of Mario Lemieux’s house.
(”Back in my day, this was what we used for a Me-Space!” “God kill me now.”)
So it seemed like a stroke of genius when his “If You See Crosby”* page on MySpace announced that he was helping raise money for a park… in Minneapolis… that was burned down… by gang members. If your BS alarm is going off like crazy, good, because it means you have a pulse.
Greg Mueller is not much of a household name, but he’s trying. And although he played professional hockey for nine years*, the Canadian is becoming more well-known in another area: poker.
(A sight for sore eyes for Mueller. On the left. No, really, on the left.)
Though he had six appearances at the final table (including two runner-up finishes), Mueller had never earned a bracelet, the prize that signifies a win in a World Series of Poker event. But at a Limit Hold ‘Em event in his native Vancouver, Mueller (known in the poker world as “FBT,” or “Full-Blown Tilt) got an assist from an unlikely ally.
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.
One of the most jarring aspects of the Stanley Cup finals, other than the ease with which the Red Wings dispatched the Penguins on Sunday night to push the series to 3-2, has been NBC’s hardball with fans in Detroit and Pittsburgh. For the duration of the playoffs, both teams have been able to hold massive viewing parties in and outside their arenas. It was such a wonderful, organic expression of the communal nature of fandom that it was basically destined to be ruined by business in short order.
(Thousands of fans watching the game with each other? Nope, can’t have this!)
A near-sellout of Joe Louis could shave a ratings point off the local television ratings measurement, and such ratings are used to establish advertising rates.
So to that, if the all-important ratings model can’t deal with 8-10 thousand people watching a show in one place on one screen, you know what? The ratings model is completely worthless. Seriously. How can NBC or Nielsen not figure out what to do with a giant honking party of some of the most hardcore fans all watching one screen? Is that really a deal-breaker?
And if so, if they’re really curious as to what the ratings would look like if everyone stays home, away from the shared community aspect from which most of the value of a ticket to a game is derived, there’s a really easy answer to all of this. You ready? Dick Ebersol, you taking notes?
All NBC has to do is announce that in exchange for showing the game outside both arenas, attending fans have to fill out a simple, anonymous survey about where they would otherwise watch a game (their place or someone else’s), with how many people, and whatever other information the network needs to most closely approximate what ratings would look like. Use that and Nielsen data to extrapolate what the final ratings would be with that many eyes on a TV, and adjust. That’s it. Easy.
This is a rare, rare opportunity for the NHL and NBC. At no other point are they ever going to be able to get this kind of a free pool of television watchers from whom they can mine valuable demographic information. Forcing them back into their homes and away from a group of thousands of like-minded, passionate fans for the sake of moving a needle one or two points does the city, fanbase, and team a disservice. It’s so easy to work around. Figure it out.
Kaka, a sensational striker from the one-word-name factory that is Brazil, will reportedly command a 6-year, $94 million contract. That’s enough to make it the most expensive in soccer’s history, barely beating out Zinedine Zidane’s 6-year, $65 million deal with Juventus from eight years ago. Meanwhile, David Beckham is running around for a crappy MLS team in Los Angeles for 30 cents on the dollar and going home to a bag of antlers with oversized sunglasses and the “I’m married, but still vain” haircut straight from Jon & Kate + 8. Sic transit gloria mundi: Glory is fleeting.
But as we (rightfully) focus on the three people killed far before their time, we should point out that one passenger in Adenhart’s car, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite,has, in fact, survived the crash that left him in critical condition (via the RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE). Wait, that doesn’t appropriately convey the gravity of what happened. He survived internal decapitation.
As MANOLITH explains, internal decapitation, which is exactly as horrifying and life-threatening as it sounds, happens when the skull detaches from the spinal column. It’s usually fatal. Wilhite somehow survived without total paralysis, which is unbelievably rare, and he’s now in rehab with the help of several major leaguers. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s on the right track.
This is Dahntay Jones, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Grant Hill, and Amar’e Stoudemire playing “The Team Mating Game” on JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE. Big ups to BALL DON’T LIE for finding the video, and yes, you are watching this with rapt attention. Don’t lie and say you’re not; yes, you are.
David Ortiz’s stupid excuse to blame his eyes on his slump didn’t work; they’re fine. Is Rafael Nadalgoing down the same road with his knees?
The Pittsburgh Penguins finally figured out what they hadn’t been doing very well the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals — cheating! Give the Pens credit for taking it to the Red Wings in the the third period (outshooting them 10-3), but there’s no doubt that the home team benefited from a few calls that led to a 4-2 win and a manageable 2-1 series deficit. Max Talbot scored twice, including an empty-netter to put it away in the final minute.
The most egregious no-call of the night came when the Penguins played for 21 seconds with six skaters on the ice — which four on-ice officials somehow failed to notice. Or did they? According to this MLIVE blog entry, Wings analyst Mickey Redmond said that the officials actually saw the Pens with too many men, and then told them to get a guy off the ice instead of calling a penalty. That’s a pretty serious accusation by Redmond, and an inexcusable show of judgment by the officiating crew if true. I know that linesmen will sometimes say something to guy who’s slow to get off the ice during a line change instead of whistling a penalty, but if there are six guys hanging out in the attacking zone (as there were last night), that’s supposed to be called 100% of the time. Soon after, the Wings were whistled for a penalty and Kris Letang scored on the power play to tie the game at 2-2.
(an approximation of the scene in front of Chris Osgood on Tuesday)
More pivotal to the outcome, however, was the questionable call against Jonathan Ericsson in the third period that led to Sergei Gonchar’s game-winning goal, while Pittsburgh’s Hal Gill has been doing basically the same thing over and over again all series long without getting called for it (This Finnish guy will tell you all about it).
Conspiracy theories abound that the league has had enough of the Wings winning and want to get Sidney Crosby in the winner’s circle to further secure his status as the league’s golden boy. It was Gary Bettman’s birthday yesterday, and there’s no doubt he’d like for this series (the highest-rated thus far since 2002) to go the distance. The DETROIT FREE PRESS even noted that Tony Kornheiser suggested on PTI that this is what Bettman would like as a gift:
“And now as a birthday present to himself, Bettman will instruct the referees to make sure Pittsburgh wins the next two games at home and Sidney Crosby gets a hat trick in each.”
If the Penguins can get another win on Thursday, they’ll at least ensure that this guy can “perform” to “Crazy Train” one more time this year:
Referee disputes aside, the Penguins were up to the challenge last night and the Wings have to be kicking themselves for not being able to convert on a 14-4 shot advantage in the second period. That was Detroit’s chance to seize control of the game and get the crowd out of it. And I’m sure Osgood wants the Gonchar goal back, as even though he was screened, he made a lackluster attempt to catch the puck when he did finally get a look at it.
Now, let’s move on to more important things. Like which professional sports team is going to be the first to be decimated by the swine flu.
• The possible secret weapon in negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea? How about Michael Jordan. The NEW YORK TIMES says that the reported successor to Kim Jong-il is his youngest son Kim Jong-un (as opposed to one of the many other Kim Jong-suffixes running around out there), who is a big fan of His Airness. That’s mostly because they’ve just finally received VHS footage of the 1994-95 NBA season in North Korea.
(Kim Jong-un just heard about this new band called Silverchair too)
• Want to know more about the man who motivated Jordan to become the best ever? Check out Leroy Smith’s official website (thanks to the SMOKING SECTION for the tip):
Yeah, I thought it was Eddie Murphy at first too. But it’s way too funny for him to be involved with, which is why it makes much more sense that this is Charlie Murphy, Eddie’s brother and “Chapelle’s Show” stalwart. Murphy’s playing the alter ego to the hilt, even doing an interview in character with Scoop Jackson.
• Speaking of the Nats, FEDERAL BASEBALL says they’ve axed pitching coach Randy St. Claire, a holdover from the Montreal days. The Nats are 14-36, and manager Manny Acta is rumored to be next to go. You know it’s getting bad when local TV analyst Rob Dibble can’t resist calling the Nats a “beer league softball team.”
As we mentioned this morning, the Stanley Cup finals are now set with a rematch of last year’s Detroit-Pittsburgh finals. Detroit won last year, of course, because the Red Wings always freaking win. Apart from always winning, another galling quirk of the franchise is the fans’ propensity to throw octopi on the ice during playoffs. Y’know, for good luck.