Sunday, January 1, 2012

I'm back for more cash ... wait, no one's paying me for this thing?

Happy New Year everyone.
As we bid adieu to 2011, I’ve decided to ring in 2012 with an actual blog post (my apologies for the layoff. I’m blaming it on Obama)
So my first resolution of the new year is to quit being a lazy son of a bitch and blog more, so here ya go. (OK, actually that was my second resolution. My first was to stop Tebowing in public. It’s become a problem)
And for those of you who know me and know my writing, you know I do my best work when I’m angry. So I figured it’s only appropriate to get back on the wagon by railing against some stupid people.
Giddy up.

ESPN laziness
I know it’s become fashionable of late to take shots at the Worldwide Leader. Deadspin has absolutely torched them in recent years, while ex-employees (i.e. Dan Patrick, Bruce Feldman), and a fabulous book (Those Guys Have All The Fun) have exposed the egocentric culture and unprofessionalism of the network.
Even though some things about ESPN annoy me (Sunday NFL Countdown, their MLB announcers, Doug Gottlieb), many other things I truly enjoy (PTI, 30 for 30, Jay Bilas). And I, like many, will rewatch the exact same Sportscenter 3 or 4 times every morning.
But many of their writers, mostly college basketball ones, have gotten increasingly lazy to the point where I’m not even sure they watch the games.
Dana O’Neil comes to mind.
O’Neil, who apparently has become the de facto Big East writer for ESPN.com, started the annual bandwagon of railing against Syracuse’s nonconference schedule this season. It’s become a tradition -- someone at ESPN (most likely Dick Vitale) crushes the Orange for not playing enough true road games.
There are two problems with this. Firstly, not a single team in the top 25 played more than two true road games this season. Secondly, everyone outside of New York assumes that Madison Square Garden is down the block from the Carrier Dome.
Sure, North Carolina State was Syracuse’s only true nonconference road game this season. My question is, does it matter?
According to O’Neil, Syracuse apparently is disrespecting the game of basketball by not scheduling November and December games in Boise, Idaho or Long Beach.
Well, here’s something O’Neil didn’t mention -- prior to Big East play, Syracuse’s nonconference strength of schedule was fifth best in the nation. Fifth.
This past week, O’Neil was back on the Syracuse beat, but this time she was paying credit to Fab Melo, who has made a spectacular leap from his freshman to sophomore year.
Unfortunately, O’Neil’s story (http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/7393208/the-education-fab-melo-continues-syracuse-orange-college-basketball) is both lazy and ridden with clich├ęs.
BREAKING NEWS: It’s cold in Central New York. It might even snow this winter. Way to go with that scoop, Dana. I'm sure the most interesting thing about Fab is that he purchased gloves this winter. Please.
The bigger news is that Fab has improved even without his former big man coach, Bernie Fine. To not even mention Fine in the story is actually offensive.
After Melo’s 12-point, 10-block domination against Seton Hall on Wednesday, the Hall’s coach credited the SU coaching staff for Melo’s transformation. Well, whether people want to admit it or not, most of that credit goes to Fine, who worked with Fab all summer and helped him get in playing shape.
I’ll give O’Neil credit, the stuff from his high school days was interesting and helped give some perspective. But there was nothing in the rest of the story that I didn’t already know, and I’m not even around the team anymore.
OK, I’m done with Dana O’Neil. Now it’s on to our favorite bracketologist, Joe Lunardi. Two weeks ago before the NC State game, Lunardi tweeted this gem: “When Syracuse visits NC State on Saturday, it will have been 1,092 days since the Orange last played a non-conference road game. Seriously.”
What Lunardi fails to mention is that during that span Syracuse played Kansas at Kansas City and Florida in Tampa. Those aren’t road games, but apparently traveling 3.5 hours to Madison Square Garden is considered a “home” game. Gimme a break.
I’m glad Syracuse played DePaul in Chicago on Sunday -- it was their first game outside the Eastern seaboard. Can’t believe Lunardi wasn’t all over that nugget.

Well, it felt good to get that off my chest. And as Syracuse continues its reign at No. 1, more people will be talking about and writing about the Orange, so I’m sure I’ll be provided with plenty more ammunition all the way through March.
It’s good to be back, my friends.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Syracuse basketball preview: Those aren't boos, they're saying ... oh wait, those are boos

“…with Scoop as the primary ball-handler, Syracuse cannot win the Big East tournament and cannot compete for a national championship.”
That’s a line from my final Syracuse basketball column in my previous life as a sports writer. It was written on March 23, 2011.
Unfortunately, seven-plus months later, my opinion of Scoop Jardine and of Syracuse’s chances this 2011-12 season haven’t changed.
Expectations for the Orange are as high as I’ve ever seen them -- a legitimate run at a national title is possible, and maybe expected.
And the pressure is deserved. Syracuse returns four starters from a 27-win team and has one of the best freshman classes in the nation.
The Orange may not be the best team overall, but they’re the deepest. And that’s something that will be highly beneficial in the rough-and-tumble Big East.
But Syracuse still has Scoop.
And that’s why I’m less-than optimistic about the season.
Look, I’d love to come on this blog in late March and eat a heaping plate of crow after Scoop guided the Orange to a national championship. I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong by the fifth-year senior.
I want him to play smart. I want him to be a facilitator, not a gunner. Mostly, I want him to stay away from “Hero Mode.”
But I don’t see it happening. He’s just burned us too many times.
Still, my cynical mindset has not diluted my excitement for the season. Syracuse is in the spotlight, and while I don’t foresee Jim Boeheim cutting down any nets come March, I think the Orange can be successful. And most importantly, I think they’re going to be fun to watch.
There’s a ton of fascinating storylines:
- Will Kris Joseph, clearly one of the most athletic players in the country, finally stop playing soft and vault to “elite” status?
- Will Fab Melo rebound from a dreadful freshman campaign and be a force in the paint?
- Will Dion Waiters’ innate scoring ability make up for his inevitable meltdown (I’m guessing that he and Jimmy B aren’t exactly Facebook friends)
- Will Brandon Triche develop some sort of mean streak? (Seriously, I’m not sure he has a pulse. He just might be a vampire)
- Will C.J. Fair continue his evolution as a taller Josh Pace?
- Will Boeheim find minutes for talented freshmen Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney?
- Will Rakeem Christmas, Melo and Baye Moussa Keita successfully fill the hole left behind by Rick Jackson?

My answers to the previous questions: No, Yes, Possibly, Hell no, Hell yes, He better and Nobody replaces “The Deer.”
There are several keys to this season, and one big one is how Boeheim will successfully navigate this team’s depth. It sure is a good problem to have.
I will tell you one thing -- MCW is too good not to get big-time minutes, and Waiters is too much of an offensive spark to keep him on the pine.
This puts major pressure on Scoop and Triche, I think justifiably. The veterans have had their chances over the years and they’ve played well at times. But they have lacked consistency.
So if either of the starters struggle, Boeheim shouldn’t be hesitant to pull the trigger and insert either MCW or Dion.
As for Joseph, I don’t see him ever developing into a Wes Johnson-like player. He’s not cut out for physical basketball. (If only he’d come along in a few years, he’d be perfect for the ACC)
Joseph will get you 14 points and 5 boards per game, but that’s just not good enough for someone with his skill set.
He’s visually much bulkier this year, so hopefully he’ll be ready and willing to take more hits and accept more contact when driving to the hoop. But much like my feelings toward Scoop, I’m not so confident.
Fair is a stud and was the surprise of the season a year ago. And it even looks like he’s developed a halfway decent 3-point shot, which would make him nearly unguardable.
As for Christmas, I don’t think Syracuse needs much out of him beyond rebounding and defense. In fact, the Orange roster is so littered with scorers, the big men -- Christmas, Keita and Melo -- really don’t have to do much scoring. As long as they crash the boards and defend the interior, they’ll be doing their job.
Melo has shown a nice touch, especially on those 15- to 17-footers in the exhibition games, but I’m not sure Boeheim wants him falling in love with that shot just yet.
I love this roster, and I love their chances. Syracuse is without a doubt a top-five team -- I’d love to see a showdown with either North Carolina or Duke this year. I really think the Orange will be a match-up nightmare with anybody.
And talent will get them far enough.
But it won’t get them to New Orleans.
Unless Scoop and Joseph become totally different players -- meaning Scoop has a brain transfusion and Joseph grows a pair -- Syracuse will remain a great team that sees its season come to an end earlier than it should.
Hopefully, they’ll make up for it with some really entertaining basketball.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Airing of Grievances



By Baby Joe

(A note from Ryan Day: This is the first contributor piece to be published on this blog. From time to time I'll be posting pieces written by good friends/sworn enemies of mine who have something worthwhile to say. Baby Joe, take it away)

The Airing of Grievances was the inaugural event in Frank Costanza’s Festivus holiday, which as you may remember also included the aluminum Festivus pole and Feats of Strength (“Festivus doesn’t end until you pin me, George.”)  Frank always struck me as a man who did not need a holiday to air his grievances, so I found it unusual that he needed to include it as a ritual in Festivus.  But in an attempt to make Festivus a year round tradition, I am ready to unload.  As such, to the following people on this list: “I GOT A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE, SO LET’S GET STARTED.”

The first on my list is none other than Pitbull.  Before I start unloading on him, he deserves congratulations for joining “The List of Hispanic Rappers that I Have Actually Heard of Since Big Pun Died,” which includes Daddy Yankee, Fat Joe, Lord Tariq, and that’s about it.  If you have watched football at any point in the past month, you are no doubt familiar with the assault on our ears that has been launched by Pitbull and Dr. Pepper.  In this commercial, Pitbull repeats the line “Let’s Have a Real Good Time” at least 7 times.  That’s the entire song!  It must have taken ten minutes to write, and yet Dr. Pepper has decided that he is the face and voice that will make me drink their swill.  If this were an isolated incident, I would let him slide, but if you are familiar with Pitbull, you have surely heard his ballad, “I Know You Want Me, You Know I Want You,” where, you guessed it, Pitbull repeats that phrase dozens of times to make sure you never forget it.  Recently, he released a song with Ne-Yo, “Give Me Everything,” which is actually very good, except for the parts involving Pitbull.  Despite this absolute lack of creativity, Pitbull has four platinum tracks, and doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.  Brace yourself for more real good times in the future.  I consider Pitbull to be a clear indicator of the decline of American society as we know it. 

Speaking of the delcine of American society, on to politics, where Rick Santorum proceeded to find a level below rock bottom.  Admittedly, criticizing Mr. Santorum is a bit like sandblasting a soup cracker, and I’m not exactly blazing a trail here.  Santorum is currently running for the Republican presidential nomination in the same way Eddie the Eagle was competing to win the ski jump competition at the Olympics, which is to say he has an excellent chance to win a “Try Hard” trophy when all of this is done.  Prior to this campaign, Santorum served twelve years in the Senate before losing his 2007 campaign by 18% of the vote.  And yet he is running for president.  As Don King would say, “Only in America!” 

In last Thursday’s debate, Santorum was asked a question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by a soldier named Steven Hill.  After the boos subsided from the crowd that had apparently just finished watching Jews get fed to lions, Santorum proceeded to give one of the most non-sensical, uneducated answers I have ever heard in a presidential debate.  In his rambling, incoherent answer, Santorum said, “I think this tries to inject social policy into our military.  And the military’s job is to do one thing: to defend our country…”  Unfortunately, Mr. Santorum, American history, as well as two of our country’s greatest presidents, do not back you up on this.  Have you ever seen the movie Glory?  I sincerely doubt that Abraham Lincoln approved of African-American soldiers like the 54th Massachusetts Regiment strictly to defend our country.  Similarly, when Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948 (which helped clear the path for the Civil Rights Movement a few years later), I don’t think it was because of a shortage of soldiers.  Put simply, the military has been a place for social policy all the way back to the Continental Army.  Almost as troubling as Santorum’s statement is the fact that no member of the media has called him on this.  Come on Anderson Cooper!  I count on you and your condescending remarks to set the record straight.  In other words, Mr. Santorum has earned the definition of his last name that shows up as the top site on Google (trust me, look this up if you haven’t already.  But don’t look it up at work.)  He treats homosexuality as if it was a weaponized chemical attack unleashed on the United States by Elton John and Wham!, and then uses his religion to justify it.  I will put this in a language Mr. Santorum can understand: rot in hell, you hate-mongering asshole.

I saved my next spot for the American movie-going public, which will surely make Real Steel the #1 movie in America when it comes out this weekend.  Don’t get me wrong – I love absolutely brainless movies.  I have seen Under Siege 2 more times than I can count, believe the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of Space Mutiny should be required viewing in our schools, and feel that the following scene is a timeless piece of American cinema: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMu2xNBpyQc.  With that said, I haven’t dropped $10 on a ticket for any of these movies.  Yet I will no doubt read an article on Columbus Day that talks about how a movie that appears to be based on Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots made $50 million.  Do you realize how hard it is to get a movie green-lit?  If movies as stupid as this are making it through, can you imagine the stupid ideas that don’t make it?  It’s mind boggling.  If this country wants to shake the image of mindless consumer drones, we need to raise our standards above anything involving CGI or Red Dawn remakes.  We need to demand better.

Finally, I need to include the city of Chicago on this list.  While watching the ESPN documentary Catching Hell, I realized that Chicago might be the worst city on the planet.  The documentary tells the story of Steve Bartman, who has basically lived in seclusion since Game 6 of the NLCS in 2003.  And why?  For trying to catch a foul ball, in the process doing the same thing that every fan in the history of baseball has done.  Unfortunately for him, Cubs left fielder Moises Alou acted like a pissy asshole even though he was a terrible left fielder who never would have caught the ball, shortstop Alex Gonzalez (the worse one of the two) booted an easy double play ball, Mark Prior blew up, and the Cubs allowed eight runs in the inning.  Chicago needed a scapegoat for such an epic collapse, but surely you couldn’t hang this one on any of the choking dogs wearing the pinstriped uniforms.  Oh no, let’s blame it on the everyman in left field, the die-hard fan who would have sold a kidney if it meant a  World Series win for his beloved Cubs.  Bartman, who attended hundreds of games in Wrigley Field before Game 6, has never been seen again. 
After the game, Cubs security had to sneak poor Steve Bartman out of the stadium while bloodthirsty crowds that looked something like the Deep South during Jim Crow searched all of Wrigleyville for the guy.  Even then-governor Rod Blagojevich piled on, saying, “If the guy needs a pardon, don’t ask this governor” (funny, Mr. Blagojevich, I think you would hear the same thing).  In the heat of the moment, this may have been excusable, but Chicago won’t let this guy show his face in public eight years later.  More people owe Steve Bartman a public apology than anyone in sports history.  I like to believe that even Boston and New York fans would be more understanding that maniac Cubs fans.  Perhaps success makes that easier to say, but losing doesn’t excuse what Chicago has done.  Until Mr. Bartman is given his life back, Chicago will remain a target for the Airing of Grievances.  Given the type of people who make up the Cubs population, though, maybe Steve is better off being excluded, or becoming a White Sox fan.

That’s all I’ve got.  Hallelujah, holy shit!  Where’s the Tylenol?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yankees post-mortem

Full disclaimer before I rail against the New York Yankees (or as my brother so aptly calls them, the Stanks), everything that I’m about to write I’ve expressed at some point during the season. Don’t call me Captain Hindsight, I’ve seen this collapse coming for some time. But it could have been avoided.
The Yankees biggest flaw comes at the top of the clubhouse -- Joe Girardi. He lives and dies by statistics. If his binder tells him to make a move, he does it. There’s no intuition. And I could argue, there’s no faith either. No confidence. Don’t let his hardened exterior fool you, Girardi is the master of panic.
You know why I love Jim Leyland? He could have used Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALDS. Verlander was undoubtedly the best pitcher in baseball this season, and could very well win the AL MVP.
But it wasn’t Verlander’s turn in the rotation. So Leyland said he wasn’t going to use his ace, even in the do-or-die game.
Many questioned this decision. But I loved it.
Leyland had real confidence in the starter he was throwing out there -- Doug Fister. He wasn’t going to have Verlander on reserve because he wouldn’t allow himself to think that Fister would fail. The Tigers were going to win or lose behind Fister. And Fister didn’t have to keep looking over his shoulder all game to see if Verlander was warming in the bullpen.
Girardi doesn’t have that confidence in anybody but CC Sabathia.
But what the stubborn Girardi does have is a loyalty to veterans and big-money, big-name players who continually fail in the clutch.
Mark Teixeira, who plays a nice first base and hits a lot of home runs, hasn’t had a big hit in his pinstripe career. If you want Teixeira to drive in a run, it better be the first inning or the Yanks better have a seven-run lead.
Did it surprise anyone that he hit two home runs against the Rays in game 162 -- a game that meant the world to Tampa Bay but was completely worthless to New York?
Teixeira should bat no higher than seventh.
And A-Rod? I’m finally over him.
He’s pathetic. Seriously, he should go back to the ’roids, because whatever he’s doing now, it ain’t working.
Yes, the Tigers have a pretty good pitching staff. But 79-year-old Jorge Posada was the Yanks’ best hitter in the series. You’re telling me that Tex and A-Rod couldn’t get one meaningful hit between them?
They’re big names with big contracts, but Girardi simply cannot afford to keep batting them in the heart of the lineup.
And speaking of the lineup, how can Girardi not give Jesus Montero more than two at-bats in this series? He’s a rookie, but he’s also a stud. He had two at-bats and had two hits against the Tigers, but as the Yankees clearly couldn’t get anything going offensively in Game 5, why not give him an AB? What have you got to lose.
Girardi, who couldn’t make enough pitching changes apparently, didn’t make one single change in his lineup during the game. Really? Except for Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Posada, nobody was swinging the bat well. So why not give Montero a shot? You gotta do something -- can’t just sit back and watch A-Rod continually strike out.
I’ve questioned Girardi’s managerial style since he took over as the Yankees skipper. It’s too National League for my liking.
But aside from his style, his decision-making is awful.
All you need to know is that earlier in the season, Ivan Nova get demoted to Triple-A. By the end of the season, he was clearly New York’s No. 2 starter.
When I heard Nova had been sent down, I nearly had a heart attack. Here’s a young kid who I thought should have made the postseason roster a year ago, and now a year later, Girardi still doesn’t understand how great he is.
He won 16 games as a rookie! And spent nearly a month in the minors!
Seriously, Girardi is killing me.
Look, I never thought the Yankees were going to win the World Series this year. I just felt they had too many flaws -- they relied too heavily on the long ball, the bottom of the rotation was inconsistent, CC struggled in August and September.
But to go out like this, to lay down offensively in the season’s final game, it’s inexcusable.
I blame Girardi. I blame Teixeira. I blame A-Rod.
All three have a lot to prove to me and to all Yankees fans. Because they all made the offseason a little bit longer and a little bit tougher to deal with.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My new best friend, Terrence Howard


Here’s the story of my first celebrity encounter in D.C.
I was going to meet some co-workers at the Newseum last Saturday around noon. I was walking the three blocks from the metro to the museum when two middle-aged ladies stopped me to ask where Eastern Market was.
Me, being a D.C. expert at this point, informed the lovely ladies that they’d be better off taking the metro to Eastern Market, because it was quite a lengthy, uphill walk.
At that exact moment, one of them point behind me and says, “He’s famous.”
I immediately turn around and see Terrence Howard walking toward me.
At that point I realize that I’m also standing in from of The Capital Grille, a swanky well-known restaurant, and I’m partially blocking the door.
Now, looking back I’m impressed that I even recognized the man. Seriously, when I rehashed this story with all my friends, the typical response was “Who’s Terrence Howard?”
And thinking about it, it’s a fair question? Mr. Howard is clearly thought of as one of Hollywood’s best actors, but what has he actually done?
He was in that rap movie (Which after a quick IMDB search, I found was Hustle and Flow). He was in Crash, but everyone was in Crash. He was in the first Iron Man, but was replaced by Don Cheadle in the sequel.
Other than that, he hasn’t been in much I, or anyone, has heard of.
So back to the story … Terrence Howard is walking toward me, and I’m kind of stunned at the moment but realize I’ve got to do something.
So I say the only thing that pops into my mind.
“You’re Terrence Howard.”
And his response: “Yeah.”
At this point I’m flustered. In hindsight I should have taken a picture with him, or asked him something of relevance. I mean, I used to be a reporter damnit. You’d think I could think up something clever.
Nope.
So, being a complete doofus, I hit him back with this gem.
“You were great in Crash.”
He said, “Thanks,” and literally couldn’t get away from me faster.
And off he went, disappearing into The Capital Grille wearing a suit worth more than I’ll make in a year.
That’s the story of my encounter with Terrence Howard.
It was short, not substantial, and I sounded like an idiot.
But it still fired me up.
Though I wish I had asked him a question, something good. Like, “Why did Don Cheadle replace you in Iron Man 2?” I’m sure it would have pissed him off, but it had to have been better than “You’re Terrence Howard.”
Oh well.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Head's up: Watch out for falling satellites

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-falling-satellite-20110922,0,1661464.story

Wait a minute ... so satellites are falling on us now? How is this not a bigger story? I like how NASA says the bus-sized satellite will land "most likely harmlessly." Makes me feel safe.

I thought the only thing I needed to worry about was earthquakes and hurricanes. Add falling satellites to my list of anxieties now. Thanks NASA.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

This is why I love John Day


This is (hopefully) the first in a series called "I'm Not Impressed," as I have a conversation with my dad, John Day, and relay his opinions about certain topics.

Today, obviously, John Day tackles Syracuse's inevitable move to the ACC. Below are my favorite quotes from our conversation:

"We’re not a football school. (Daryl Gross) thinks we can be Texas or Oklahoma. It ain’t gonna happen. Wake up."

"He’s gonna make a lot of enemies. I can’t believe some of the big alumni, some of the big donors are gonna be happy with this."

"I don’t give a shit what, we’re always going to be second fiddle to Duke and North Carolina."

"You think anybody’s gonna give a shit when Clemson comes to the Dome. You think Florida State is gonna sell out when SU goes down there?"

"(Syracuse) is cutting jobs and now they’ve got to pay a big penalty for leaving (the Big East). There better be a lot more money in this than we know."

"Ask Boston College how the ACC is. How did the move go for them? What the hell have they won lately?"