Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Senator Kerry, Senator Kerry

I turned to the mid-terms with my own brand of sixth-year weariness. I had promised myself to immerse myself in the minutiae of the mid-terms once the Yankee season ended, but, yee Gods. Things looked bleak for the GOP--not reason enough to turn away, but enough reason when combined with polls that seemed to point nowhere in about a half-dozen Senate races (never mind the unfathomable House races), and, most important, a profound unseriousness in too many races. This mess was, in the aggregate, enough to make me turn the dial for succor.

Put it this way: I hadn't counted so desperately on "Monday Night Football" for escape so much since George Clooney asked "Are you ready for some football?" by way of promoting Three Kings. But, this fall? Heavens, if it became a choice between watching the Maryland Senate debate rebroadcasted on C-SPAN or the Patriots-Vikings game, well, come on, man, it was time to grab that beer and cheer on Brady and the guys.

There is such a profound unseriousness in this year's elections one wants to scream I don't care! Gay marriage? Fine, let 'em. Stem cell research? Let the science go where it goes; by all accounts, adult stem cell research holds the most promise, but I was a C science student in college and am hardly an authority. Fund all of it. Global warming? When I read that a Maine TV producer had ordered a cease-and-desist on all global warming pieces "until Bar Harbor is under water," I wanted to cheer out loud. Presumably for the last four billion years the world has, at all times, been either warming or cooling; there were once icebergs in what is now Texas and, later on, farmlands in Greenland, and the notion that human behavior can either accelerate or retard either warming or cooling is romanticism on a scale that Emerson would have laughed at.

But these issues were monumental when compared to the utter triviality of the George Allen-James Webb Senate race, a race I've come to think of as emblematic of the entire year.

Tell me. Exactly when was George Allen thought of as a GOP presidential contender, a worthy opponent to McCain and Rudy? And does anyone remember when James Webb's resignation as Secretary of the Navy in 1987 was seen as a principled move over a 600-ship Navy? After months of "Macaca," and who said the n-word to whom, and deer heads in mailboxes, and "the Cambodian twist" in somebody's novel, one could not agree more with NRODT, whose words could speak for the entire election. To paraphrase: Grow up, both of you. We have more important things to deal with, chief among them a world war.

I went through all my favorite blogs the past week, and thought of some opinion to have, and simply gave up, because hardly anyone (aside from Hewitt, Malkin, littlgreenfootballs, and the sainted Mark Steyn) seemed anywhere in tune with the world as is everywhere plain.

And the elections? The GOP would lose big. And for the most trivial reasons.

And then John Kerry spoke.

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

John Kerry: the gift that keeps on giving hope to the GOP. And the man who, as much as anyone, embodies the difference between the two parties.

Now, consider:

Did Kerry mean to imply that servicemen and -women are undereducated people?


Did Kerry reveal the utter condescension so present in his party?


Either way, those are the words that came out of his mouth. And now he’s stuck with them. And the folks that have been stuck defending a certain President’s sentences are lined up around the block to take their shot. As they should. After a day of gleefully running foam-at-the-mouth e-mails from veterans with PhDs, veterans with MDs, veterans who were valedictorians in their college graduating class, veterans who left their law practice to enlist, current soldiers and sailors who fit the above categories, and parents of soldiers and sailors who fit the above categories–after a day of this, NRO’s The Corner has at least energized the base. Kerry has no one to blame but himself.

What was revealed here was another instance of something far worse than malevolent convictions. What came out was of Kerry’s mouth was the robotic repeating of the loony left’s meme regarding military service. It is not enough for the Dem underground/Moveon/Rangel crowd to criticize the war in Iraq; it must (by way of raising the spectre of the draft) spout the “only poor/minority/undereducated kids are serving” line. And Kerry–who of all people knows this is not true, but further knows his only chance his pathetic (read: nonexistent) chances for the nomination reside in running to Hillary’s left and getting in bed with this bunch–repeats the meme in the most cynical manner. But being Kerry, the words come out in the clumsiest, most anti-Bill Clinton, most “My favorite player is Manny Ortiz” fashion. And when he’s held to his own words, his first instinct is to say, “It’s everyone’s fault but mine.”

So human. So Kerry.

John Podhoretz put it best: Who needs the Swiftboats when Kerry swiftboats himself?

The GOP may still lose.

But suddenly it's not so sullen.

Happy Halloween

And check out someone cosutmed as a Pac-10 ref.

Yes, the 20-dollar bill reads "USC," but still.

Brady is the new Larry Bird


1) Monday night game,

2) Against a strong defense,

3) Looking ahead to a big rival . . .

These are the games, for the first thirty years of their existence, the New England Patriots would tank on a regular basis.

Then came Tom Brady.

Monday, October 30, 2006


All weekend I thought of Red Auerbach.

I never knew Auerbach as a coach, only as a general manager attempting to configer coach after coach, player after player, into one team after another worthy of his legacy. As a coach--before I reached the age of reason--he won nine championships. As a general manager--after much of the league had caught up to his style of play, his emphasis on team defense, and his indifference to race--his Celtics won seven more.

Funny to watch the arc of a career.

The Celtics dynasty began with Auerbach's drafting of Bill Russell, who won 11 champioships in 13 years. It ended with his drafting of Len Bias, by all accounts the second-most talented player in the history of the ACC (behind Michael Jordan), a swingman who could shoot anywhere off the dribble and jump out of the gym, a talent who could run with the guards and block out with the forwards. Bias was talent who put a Hall-of-Fame career and maybe four NBA championships straight up his nose and into his heart, and was dead sixty hours after the draft.

People have their memories of Auerbach's career. Mine was at home, two days after Len Bias was drafted by the reigning NBA champs, all set to fit in right behind the Celtics' power forward, Kevin McHale, and their everything forward, Larry Bird. My brother Rob heard the news at a pool he was lifeguarding; he ran to a phone and called me and I heard the news and I got in one of my parents' car and just drove and drove.

I had lived through Thurman Munson's death and would one day deal with Corey Lidle's, but this--this was the worst, a death that impacted the history of an entire league. Without Bias, Bill Walton threw himself into Herculean efforts to get in shape to be the sixth man, and broke his ankle. Almost in sympathy, Scott Wedman ripped up his foot. Jerry Sichting, who had relied on his anonymity to throw up his uncontested jumpers, suddenly found himself guarded off the bench, and receded into nothingness. The Celtics' Fab Five (Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ, Ainge), pushed into extra duty, paid the price: McHale playd the season throw with a broken foot, Parish limped through the final two rounds, DJ suffered from four different injuries, Ainge had a bad knee. Larry Bird--"The Overrated Bird," as Isiah Thomas would have it--simply screamed for the ball at every opportunity, playing all 48 minutes of a Game 7 against Detroit in the conference finals, but pushed against his limits, in the end, playing one-against-five against the Lakers.

My point? Without Bias, without Walton, without Wedman, essentially without Sichting, with McHale and Parish on one good foot, Larry Bird and the walking wounded pushed the Lakers to six games.

And these were a great Lakers teams, never forget.

Lots of memories about Auerbach;s teams. That's mine.

Oh, shut up

On Monday Night Football it was trotted out (for the millionth time) that Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft choice. Also trotted out: how many late-round draft picks quarterbacked a team to a Super Bowl win. Bart Starr. Kurt Warner. Blah blah blah.

With his customary air of officiousness, Joe Theismann said, "What I'd like to know is . . . how many first-round picks have ever won the Super Bowl."

Hmm, Joe. Let's see. Joe Namath. Len Dawson. Bob Griese. Terry Bradshaw. Jim Plunkett. Phil Simms. Doug Williams. Troy Aikman. Brett Favre. John Elway. Trent Dilfer. Ben Rothslisberger.

That was top of my head. Did I miss Jim McMahon and Steve Young?


A Maine TV news producer has ordered his station to stop running global warming stories "until Bar Harbor is under water."

Story here.

Anyone catch the World Series last week?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Vince Young's revenge?

Vince Young, playing against the team that essentially went with David Carr over him, is rolling the Texans: one thirty-yard rushing TD from a busted play to go with his passing TD.

Meanwhile, Carr has turned the ball over three times and been yanked from the game. 21-3 Titans.

Young’s rushing TD was a burnt orange thing of beauty: a streak to the sideline, and then to the corner.

Update: Sage Rosenfels, in for Carr, throws a TD to Andre Johnson. 21-10. Next series: Vince Young takes it on the keeper, and is one ankle-tackle away from breaking it. One announcer calls it, "Shades of the Orange Bowl." Yeah, the Orange Bowl, whatever.

400th post


Arizona State 26, Washington 23 (OT)

Signs of life in Tempe!

5-3, with Oregon, Cal and USC in the rear-view mirror.

Of the four Big Six conferences structured more around football than basketball (sorry, Big East and ACC), the Pac-10 has consistently run fourth, behind the SEC, Big 12 and Big 10. This is part because late West Coast games don't start until 10 pm in the East, in part because USC has been so dominant, in part because of the second-tier (eg non-USC teams) have played so horribly in the second-tier bowls (come on down, Cal; take a bow, Oregon).

This is not to refute those who would put the SEC (featuring Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Mississippi State) or Big-12 (Colorado, Iowa State) about the Pac-10. Well, yes it is. Consider: USC beat, and beat quite handily, two teams (Nebraska and Arkansas) that may well play in their conference championship games (Big 12 and SEC respectively). In conference play, USC is 4-1, and none of their four victories were decided until the final few minutes--two on the last play. And now a loss to Oregon State.

So you do the math. USC beats Nebraska and Arkansas. Oregon (heh heh) beats Oklahoma. UCLA, for 59 minutes, outplays Notre Dame. The only high-profile stigma was Cal, who seemingly views non-conference games as extended Spring Training, being spanked by Tennessee. Aside from that game, what do we have in the Pac-10? Eight teams who could play with anyone, perhaps Ohio State and Michigan excepted.

Oregon State 33, USC 31

Saw the bulk of the game coming back from Galveston. I don't know if USC was looking past the Beavers to the Mount Rushmore of its season--Cal, Oregon, Notre Dame and UCLA--but I know I was. Perhaps I hurt the team. A few points:

*A major upset in college football usually involves a) home field for the underdog, and b) either turnovers, lousy officiating, or a crummy kicking game by the favorite--usually at least two of the three. The officiating wasn't bad by Pac-10 standards (though I would like a ruling on the play whereby the OSU defender caught Dwayne Jarrett in midair as Jarrett caught the ball, then literally carried him out of bounds: incompletion). For the Trojans, turnovers were enough to sink them, especially the gut-punch interception in the end zone and Chauncey Washington's two fumbles, one of which occurred for no particular reason (he wasn't hit or jostled, the ball simply spurted from his grasp).

*Such has been USC's dominance over the conference (even in the face of mounting evidence the past few weeks) that, right up until the instant Booty's final pass was batted away, I more or less assumed the Trojans would win. Yes, even when they were down 23 points. Even on fourth down on the final drive.

My gosh, this was the team that drove the length of the field in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus.

Except, of course, it isn't.

*As The Irish Trojan points out (among monay other odds and ends) USC is due to take a major hit in the polls. My prediction? 11.

*Employing a wide-angled lens, so ends an era that began three seasons ago: USC's hegemony over the Pac-10. I was there when it started, in the upper deck of Sun Devil Stadium, when an little-known sophomore named Matt Leinart took the field, facing a third-quarter 17-10 deficit and the ASU faithful in full meltdown mode. Leinart had thrown three interceptions in the loss to Cal and was hardly the successor to the sainted Carson Palmer; didn't Cassell deserve a look? But that game became the template for the next 2 1/2 seasons: dominance, and failing that, every crucial bounce, every close call, every fourth-and-close going the Trojans' way. This was true across the nation, right up until Lendale White took the ball at fourth and two . . . but we could reconcile ourselves that the Rose Bowl loss was Vince, Vince, Vince, and, oh yeah, Vince.

Today was something different. This was a loss at least a month in the making, a loss to an ordinary team, a loss that throws USC back into the conference pile with Oregon and Cal to begin with, and the Washington schools. This current cast of Trojans has been living off The Motorcycle Boy's rep for too long; this loss had a sense of clarification to it, of bringing the Trojans back to market value. USC is a very good team in an improving conference, but draw a line here and now.

An era ends. So let's go get Stanford.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Hewitt

On Sullivan.

Hewitt points out something I didn't consider: most interviewers of authors haven't read the book. Hewitt had. This, more than anything, seemed to burn Sullivan's ass.

Hewitt v. Sullivan

My two original blogging heroes square off. Hewitt's take here.

1. Sullivan came loaded with his two talking points, which seemed to boil down to:
*Hewitt was asking questions to which he knew the answer; and
*Hewitt supports torture, the suspension of habeas corpus, etc., so how dare Hewitt call himself a Christian.

To which one would respond:
*So what; and
*No, he doesn't, so never mind the second half of that.

Two months ago, when President Bush was, in Sullivan's words, attempting to "legalize torture," Senators McCain and Graham, with their objections, were held up by Sullivan and others as the conscience of the party, if not all of human history. A few days later, when the White House McCain worked out the language with McCain and sent forward the detention/interrogation legislation (just as the Supreme Court decision urged Bush to, just as the New York Times practically ordered Bush to, when such an eventuality was seen to help Democrats), McCain and Graham were sell-outs. Suddenly McCain, whose experience in the Hanoi Hilton had made him the supposed indisputable arbiter of all things torture was now Bush's water carrier.

The legislation polls at about 65% (with some dissenters thinking the CIA and military doesn't have enough leeway). The issue is dead, Sullivan can't stand it, and so he's going to drag "torture" and "habeas corpus" in at every opportunity like some drunk in the corner bar raving about "coloreds."

2. It was Andrew Sullivan who made me want to blog, if only for myself. His instincts were spot-on in the weeks after 9/11, when his postings became a kind of observance. And--give him this--he was first and loudest about the troubles in Iraq, when many of us (mea culpa!) took false hope from some signposts that, in retrospect, seem more cosmetic than cosmic (the taking of Fallujah, and to a certain extent the second and third round of elections). Beyond that, Sullivan has displayed a kind of petulant unseriousness. In the middle of a world war, he declared his opposition to Bush solely on the basis of Bush's opposition to gay marriage. His pre-occupation with "torture" approaches--sorry--a fetish, and overlooks the simple fact that Americans aren't stupid, and can distinguish between soul-killing nihilism for its own sake and the kind of interrogation that is one step removed from Andy Sipowicz in the station house.

3. It stands to reason, I think, that when you know a show's format, and agree to come on, it becomes your obligation to take part. Either that or don't come on. Sullivan appears to have borrowed a play from the Clinton playbook: take a perfectly reasonable question ("Are you a Christian?") as an excuse to fulminate. One cannot characterize Sullivan as a Democrat--he is the most unclassifiable pundit in America--but his Hewitt appearance is part and parcel with the Dem strategy in the home state:

*Stigmatize any right-leaning media person or body (Fox, Hewitt, Rush on Michael J. Fox);

*Scream about any GOP ad that scores a body blow (the "racist" Ford ad);

*Parade forth the most ghoulish victims possible, those supposedly immune to criticism (Yup, Michael J. Fox, come on down).

The sad thing is it may work. When, in 1995, Clinton ran rings around Newt Gingrich during the government shut-down, and effectively ended the conservative revolution before it started (all but what helped Clinton politically: welfare reform, free trade, defense of marriage, budget restraint), the GOP kept hoping and hoping that Clinton's shabby little scandals would lay him low. To which Rush Limbaugh responded: You can't beat nothing with nothing.

Now, with the nothing on the other foot, this election may prove him wrong.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What's with Kenny Rogers' hand?

See for yourself.

Ten years ago this autumn, in Game 4 of the World Series, the Yankees came back from 6-0 to defeat the Braves 8-6 in 10 innings. What is best remembered about that game is Jim "King" Leyritz's three-run homer in the eighth off of Mark Wohlers to tie the game 6-6, and, essentially, end Wohlers' career. (I have a framed photo of King's swing in my den.) What is less remembered about the game is how the Yankees found themselves down 6-0 in the first place. The main reason was Kenny Rogers, whose pathetic start was all but called gutless, point blank, by Joe Torre in Torre's ghostwritten book on the 1996 season.

Speaking for myself, I don't think I've ever seen a more exasperating start by a World Series pitcher. Facing the likes of Andruw Jones, Fred McGriff, and Brian Jordan, Rogers would attempt perfect pitch after perfect, even after it was clear that his control was subpar. Between innings, Torre all but begged Rogers to challenge the hitters more, and Rogers refused, shaking Joe Girardi off again and again until the bases filled. Then the Braves, knowing he now had to throw his fastball, would simply sit back and clobber him. After Rogers departed, the Yankees (these were the bad-ass Yankees of Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, and Tim Raines, in addition to rookie Derek Jeter) cut the lead in half. King tied the game, and then, in the tenth, Torre's pinch-hitter (Wade Boggs--the last man off the bench; it was either him or re-activate Zimmer) coaxed a bases-loaded walk from Steve Avery to take the lead for good.

There is a lot I remember from that magical 1996 season: the Yankees' unsinkable bullpen (Mariano Rivera as set-up man!), the emergence of Derek Jeter, Doc Gooden's no-hitter, Paul O'Neill playing through a wave of injuries, and David Cone visibly pleading, "Skip, I'll get him," to manager Torre on the mound during Game 3 of the World Series, the winning of which was the first of fourteen consecutive World Series victories by the Yankees through 2000. But what I also remember was the Yankees, again and again, rushing the breach to Rogers' rescue.

The Yankees won all three of Kenny Rogers' postseason starts in 1996. Rogers' post-season record that season? 0-0. Think about that. I certainly did last night, watching Rogers mow through a Cardinals team of Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, and David Eckstein.

It was one thing to watch Rogers go through the Yankees during the divisional playoffs (the Yankee team of Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, blah blah blah), then repeat his performance against an A's team (of Frank Thomas, blah, blah). But this is no mere comeback. This is no hot streak. This is a performance of historic proportions, a performance to place Rogers with the post-season giants of the game: Christy Mathewson, Lou Burdette, Whitey Ford, Mariano Rivera. And it is absolutely without precedent. Not only in Kenny Rogers' career but in the whole of baseball history. It is one thing for an aging slop-thrower like Howard Ehmke to set a World Series single-game strikeout record, or for a journeyman like Don Larsen to throw a perfect game (against Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, blah blah). These are one-game phenomenons. It is quite another for a 41 year-old journeyman with a post-season 8.85 ERA to throw three near-perfect games in a row against three of the best eight teams in baseball.

With no more than one start--and maybe no starts--remaining in 2006, Rogers' ERA stands at 0.00. Zero point zero zero.

I spent all yesterday thinking that the almost arbitrary, who's-hot-who's-not nature of baseball these days had cut into the enjoyment of the game. In the absence of a superteam (the 1998 Yankees, the 1976 Cincinnati Reds), can we even say there's such thing as a post-season favorite? When a single hot arm (Josh Beckett in 2003; Jose Rijo in 1990; Orel Hershiser in 1988) can be the margin of victory over overwhelming favorites, what is the point of speculation? If a career post-season flop like Kenny Rogers can suddenly resemble the man he claims is his idol, Sandy Koufaz, why have any expectations at all? Why not simply sit back and see who gets hot, who gets lucky?

And then I saw the gunk on Kenny Rogers' hand.

I say "gunk" because I don't know what it is, and I'm guessing nobody but Kenny Rogers quite knows, either. It's not dirt because dirt doesn't adhere to the skin that way. It's not rosin because it's too thick. It's not--I'm told--pine tar, because pine tar gives off a distinctive smell.

But it sure as hell is something. And--as Woody Paige, in his twice-a-month perceptive moment--pointed out, no way is it there, and staying there, by accident, not the way pitchers obsess over every square inch of their million-dollar throwing arms and hands.

There is something eerie about Tony LaRussa's passivity, both during the game and after. Is his friendship with Jim Leyland sot deep that he wouldn't even request to have Rogers' hand inspected? Billy Martin would have obtained a search warrant for Rogers' glove, cap, and pockets. Earl Weaver, up against Mr. Zero Zero Zero, would have fulminated for a half-dozen minutes, trying to freeze Rogers, and I mean literally. Even nice-guy Joe Torre would have asked for an inspection. For LaRussa, nothing. In the post-game press conference it was LaRussa, not Leyland, who seemed embarrassed.

Odder still were the umpires. Time was that suspicion in a late-August game between a fifth- and sixth-place team would warrant everything short of a cavity search. I can remember twenty years ago, watching Joe Niekro being ordered to empty his pockets while four umpires surrounded him at arm's length. (He had an emory board, and attempted unsuccessfully to flip it away when he drew his left arm out of his back pocket. Ten-game suspension.) In in a playoff game in 1988, Dodger reliever Jay Howell place pine tar in his glove, and probably would have gotten away with it, except the umpires forced him to pitch in a drizzle and the stuff ran off his fingers and onto the bill of his cap, discoloring it. Tommy John and Rick Rhoden weere searched so many times they started leaving notes on slips of paper for the umpires and then sticking them in their pockets and between the fingers of their gloves: "Warmer." "Right church, wrong pew." Last night, the umpires said nothing more than "Go wash your hands," as if they were calling Rogers to the dinner table.

Has Major League Baseball suddenly turned inward? Has eight years of a steroid cloud made cover-our-asses the default position of everyone involved?

I don't know. But now I want to. And I'm not alone.

And if Kenny Rogers thought he was under a spotlight last night, just wait until Game 6--if necessary.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Kenny Rogers v. Jeff Weaver--what?

If, in 2003, Jeff Weaver had pitched how he's pitching now, the New York Yankees would have won the World Series.

If, in 1997, Kenny Rogers had pitched the way he's pitching now, the New York Yankees would have won the World Series. (Of course, he then would not have been traded for Yankee October hero Scottie Brosius, so who knows how history would have played out.)

Still. Tonight Weaver and Rogers hooked up in a pitchers' duel in Game 2 of the World Series. Incredible.

One more thing. Rogers listed Sandy Koufax as his idol. Rogers was born in November, 1964. Koufax retired following the 1966 World Series, when Rogers was 23 months old. Idol?

Pelosi: "Impeachment is off the table"

Via The Irish Trojan.

I'll believe it when I don't see it.

Some thoughts:

A few thoughts.

*Calls for W’s impeachment are about nothing less than removing the stigma of President Clinton’s impeachment. I thought impeachment of Clinton was a bad idea, not because I didn’t think the legal case was there (perjury has to count for something), but because the whole exercise seemed so pointless. It was as if Otter had somehow been elected House Majority Leader, and announced it was time “a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”

(To which Henry Hyde would respond, “And we’re just the guys to do it.”)

I hate their organization, but at the time I thought, Yeah, if Clinton won’t do the honorable thing and resign, censure his ass and move on. Impeachment won’t help anyone.

But the House went ahead and impeached, the Senate did not convict, and now Clinton has his two-comma problem (”Bill Clinton, one of only two US Presidents ever impeached, died in his daughter’s best friend’s arms this morning”).

Thing is, Clinton’s impeachment will never go away. The only Dem response is to make it more commonplace.

*Timing is everything. Remember the rumble about Clinton’s impeachment first stretched across September and October, 1998–before the midterms–and by November the GOP had overreached so badly it was slapped down in the form of 6 lost seats. Should the Dems take over, with John Conyers (absolutely unbeholden to Pelosi) chairing the Judiciary Committee, they would have an entire year to run wild before it became part of any election year debate, and two whole years before an election. Anything that happened would be long over before Hillary or Kerry or Gore would be asked their opinion on the matter. So, (as seems likely) should the Dems take the House, they can adopt the mantra of their forbears: “If it feels good, do it.”

(Yeah, I’m aware of the Foley comeback here.)

So: Dem House. Hearings. Nothing brought to the floor. But (the Dems think) Oh what fun. We’ll see.

What we think we know

In college football, heading into the last week of October:

Ohio State all by itself.

Michigan is number two.

USC's undefeated record looks a heck of a lot more impressive in light of Oregon's loss to Washington State and Cal's near-miss with Washington. After both of USC's win with Washington schools came down to the final play, USC's record was seen as tainted, as both UDub and Wazzu were seen as part of the Pac-10's second tier. Now we know better. As we sit here, USC is still ahead of the pac: not by a mile. This is not the 2005 team, with 11 All-Americans; this is not the 2004 team, for which (to bring up two small footnotes) it their third-string quarterback was drafted by the Patriots (and stayed with the team); and, in Norm Chow's basic I formation, Reggie Bush, fifth place finisher for the Heisman Trophy, listed as second string. No: USC is, as we speak, just a bit better than the glop of Cal, Oregon, and the two Washington schools rounding out the top half.

West Virginia. Here is the BCS nightmare. Suppose West Viriginia, out of the Big East, finishes undefeated and (say) Texas, USC, Notre Dame, and Michigan all end up with one loss apiece? And UT's and Michigan's losses are both to number one Ohio State? The Big East was conceived primarily as a basketball conference. In its bastardized state (thank you, Donna Shalala) it remains one today. We may be moving toward a recognition of tiers between the Big Six conferences, with teh SEC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-10 up top and the basketball conferences (ACC, Big East) in BCS limbo?

I watched much of Texas's game with Nebraska, a game Nebraska had won with two minutes to go, and then fumbled away. Usually, a big upset in college football involves a road game and one of the following: the weather, turnovers, lousy officiating, and/or a lousy kicking game. In this case, the snow and swirling winds helped disrupt Texas's kicking game so much that the winning field goal was booted by a walk-on attempting the first kick of his college career.

So how good is Texas? How good is USC? That is a question that, at this moment, is impossible to answer.

It is astonishing that college football is the only sport in the world in which the pre-season polls play a role in the actual standings. More than any other sport, college football is a week-by-week unveiling of the truth. Nebraska nearly beats Texas, meaning USC's defeat of Nebraska is all that more impressive, only USC is overrated because it nearly lost to the Washington schools . . . only the Washington schools are better than we thought, because they played Oregon and Cal tough . . . so USC's narrow wins against the Washington schools become more impressive, and we know Oregon and Cal are good because of how they played against Arizona State . . . only, wait a minute, ASU is in a down year so how impressive do Cal and Oregon look?. . . but wait a minute, ASU very nearly beat USC!

You see what I mean.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Senate, today

By all accounts, the Senate has come down to eight races.

Six Republican, incumbent or retiring: Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennesee, and Missouri.

Three Democrat: Minnesota, Maryland, New Jersey.

These are the stakes. The Dems must win all six GOP seats and hold their own.

As Rocco Lampone said to Michael Corleone: difficult, not impossible.

The day-to-day business can be found in Slate. Looking over that and others, there is this:

The GOP may have lost Ohio and Pennsylvania--sad, because Santorum and DeWine have been good, effective Senators, and also because that strip of states between New Jersey and the Great Plains figure to be crucial in McCain vs. Hillary.

Losing Chafee in Rhode Island--as seems likely--won't be the worst of all possible worlds.

Ford (D), in Tennessee, seems vulnerable all at once. Corker has a fighting chance.

Right now, I have to think Talent will hang on in Missouri. I sincerely underestimated the man; of the freshman Senate class of 2002, Talent and Norm Coleman are the ones who continue to impress.

Which brings us to Conrad Burns in Montana. Good Christ. A Republican Senator in a state that George W. Bush (or McCain, or Romney, or Rudy, or even pathetic Frist) couldn't lose in a Presidential election if he tried. Hillary will not set foot in Montana in 2008. So what the f---? Yes, the ties to Abramoff, yes, the war. But, c'mon. This defies explanation.

As for the Dems.

New Jersey. Let's just assume another shoe will drop re Menendez. New Jersey and corruption: perfect together. GOP gain.

Maryland. Close call. Let's err on the side of caution and say the Dems hold.


52-48 GOP. Wildly optomistic now, it seems. Let's see.

Cardinals take Game Seven over Mets, 3-1

Right here.

And, how fitting that Cardinal-killer Carlos Beltran strikes out looking with the bases loaded.

What have we learned?

What the Houston Astros have known for three years. Division championships mean nothing. Home field advantage means nothing. The most important thing about the playoffs is getting in, and then hoping the ball drops your way.

The second most important thing is hot starting pitching, and--failing that--lots of good starting pitching. In 2004 and 2005, the Astros clinched the Wild Card on the last day of the season, went into the postseason, and let Oswalt, Clemens, Backe, and (last year) Pettitte take over. Over two seasons, with an anemic offense, the Astros played five postseason series and won three of them, losing one in Game 7.

And? Momentum means nothing--heading into the playoffs and during, both. Two teams surged into the playoffs: Minnesota and the Yankees. They went a combined 1-6 and were out by the Friday of the first round. Two teams limped in: St. Louis (which lost 10 of its last 12 and verged on becoming the disgrace of the sport) and Detroit (which was swept by Kansas City on the last weekend of the season, dropped to the Wild Card, and had to play its first two playoff games in front of 55,000 screaming freaks in the Bronx).

Gee, St. Louis and Detroit. Know anything those two teams have in common?

As for momentum in the playoffs, consider: Last year, the Astros came to within one strike of the World Series. Leading three games to one, with two outs in the ninth inning, with that year's new hot stopper, Brad Lidge, faced Albert Pujols. Lidge tried to end the series with a fastball. Pujols sent the ball flying over the train tracks at the top of the facade behind the left field Crawford Boxes. The Cardinals win, 7-5. And this was the moment when the momentum had shifted completely . . .

. . . except that it hadn't. When the teams repaired to St. Louis for Game 6, Roy Oswalt blew the Cardinals away, enroute to a NLCS MVP.

(Pause here for a moment. This is a strange time for pitching, something I haven't seen in thirty years, right when I began watching baseball. Right now, there is a sizable cluster of pitchers who are no-doubt Hall-of-Famers. Clemens, Redro, Unit, Maddux, Glavine, Mo, Smoltz, Hoffman, probably Mussina, possibly Schilling. This is the biggest cluster I can remember since the late seventies, with Palmer, Catfish, Sutter, Carlton, Seaver, Perry, Knucksie, Ryan . . . my God, maybe it's bigger. There is also a good group of maybe-we-can-start-counting-four-years-from-now types: Oswalt, Mulder, Carpenter, Willis, Papelbon, Zito, Sheets, Zambrano, Santana. What's missing are the tweeners, the official Hall-of-Fame watch types, the pitching equivalent to what Biggio and Bagwell have been subjected to the past half-decade. Two more good years, three more good years . . . who fits that category? Once again, maybe Mosse and Schiil. And? Pettitte? No. Pettitte is eighty wins from anything close to serious consideration. Won't get there. Beckett, Woods, Prior: undone by injuries. Just a thought.)

The best words on the above topic belong to Earl Weaver: "You take momentum. I'll take Jim Palmer."

Finally--and this has come from long inspection--baseball, though the greatest sport ever invented, proves nothing in the end. Only rarely--as in 1998-99, when the Yankees went 22-2, complete with two World Series sweeps--is post-season baseball any proof of real superiority. In 2000, the Yankees won 87 games (four managers who won 85 or more games that year were fired), nearly choked away the division championship by losing five games of softball mercy-rule proportions (13-2, etc.), and were extended to five games by the A's and six by the Mariners, but got hot, drew the brain-dead Mets and took four out of five.

For all that, the Cardinals. As Astorgirl said tonight: "I never loved Detroit so much as now."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Thoughts past midnight

James Lileks: "Will civilization be the death of civilization?"

Truly, I say yes.

I do not worry about nuclear bombs in the hands of North Korea or Iran. As Lenny Briscoe said on "Law & Order," "Crazy don't mean stupid. Look at my ex-wife."

I do not worry about North Korea or Iran setting off nuclear weapons. What I worry about is the sale of said weapons to other entities.

How to respond?

Napalm. Times a million.

With no response--with forceful civilization--the likelihood of a bomb in a major city, an event that would kill hundreds of thousands and reduce 9/11 to a mere forerunner, goes above fifty percent in my lifetime.

So what to do?

Civilization is what the UN gives you.

Survival is this.

President Bush: "Good evening. From this moment, any evidence that North Korea or Iran have a nuclear weapon, or are even close, will be considered an attack by said countries on the United States, and will be met with the full force of a military response. Yes, we were essentially wrong about WMDs in Iraq--not that Saddam Hussein did not deserve to be driven from office. Yes, if we erred, we erred on the side of safety. We will err on that side again, if pull comes to tug. But make no mistake. If we are wrong, let us be wrong on the side of safety. Thank you, and God bless America."

More Cardinal fallout

Rome just came on.

Dennis Green's post-game tirade is not to be believed.

And--as Rome pointed out--one only needed to look at Leinart's face last night to know what he was thinking: "Oh my God. How long am I stuck here?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

They're losing me

The only times otherwise-good movies or television series become seriously annoying is when they ignore their own reality. So right now, watching Studio 60 on DVR, I am watching the fourth Nancy Grace incarnation in two weeks.

I've seen Nancy Grace for real (beyond description), a Nancy Grace character on "Boston Legal" (inconsequential), Nancy Grace on "SNL" (pretty funny, actually), and now a sketch of a "Nancy Grace Sketch" on the "Studio 60" show which is part of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

The problem? This latest Nancy Grace, as presented on the show-within-the-show, is beyond not funny. And the entire cast and crew is laughing more pathetically than the cast of Fox's NFL pre-game show. They're telling me it's funny. I'm saying they left out the funny.

I'm watching the sketch, everyone is cracking up, and there's no funny.

Here's the Star Wars theory of life. Tell me a starship can travel at light speed, and I'm on board, the laws of physics be damned. But present Han Solo as a space stud and then have him act like a wuss, and I'm not buying.

Tell me something is funny, then present something un-funny, and I get off.

Liveblog: Twinkletoes vs. the Monsters of the Midway

Some Monday Night games seem designed to provide the answers to "What if?" questions. As in, "What would happen if the most ferocious defense of the last twenty years met A) the worst offensive line in the league, and B) A glamour-boy rookie quarterback that half the country would like to see knocked on his butt?"

Strangely enough, both A and B are in play tonight. Saturday night at Buffalo Wild Wings, I had two people notice my USC t-shirt and say, "I hope your guy is all right." Meaning, they were hoping not that Matt Leinart would win or play well or even not disgrace himself. They meant that that when those 11 two-legged meatgrinders known as the Chicago Bears defense put Leinart in the hospital, it was hoped that the stay would not be overlong.

What this Bears defense would do to Leinart was, it appeared, the theme of the weekend. During "Monday Night Countdown," Michael Irvin said, "I hope the Cardinals are ready to dial 911." During the preview to the start of the game, Mike Ditka said, "Matt Leinart better have that bronzed Heisman Trophy with him. He'll have to use it to beat off that ferocious Chicago front seven."

So, a liveblog.

7:43: Kickoff to the Bears, run back to the 47. On to the field comes Rex Grossman, the new, new thing.

7:46. Bears punt. First down: pass in the flat to Anquon Boldin. Five-yard gain.

7:76. Second down: Hand-off to Edge. Nothing.

7:47. Third and five. Pass to Jackson. First down. Kornheiser says the Cardinals should quit right now. "You've got the first down, get in your cars, drive home, say that you got a first down against the Bears!" Oh ho ho ho.

7:48. Nine-yard completion to Pope. Astrogirl asks me, "Is Kornheiser Joe Morgan's best friend? They're both such assholes."

7:50. Hand-off to Edge, first down.

7:51. Edge. Nine yards.

7:51. Edge up the middle. First down.

7:51. Leinart pass complete, first down. The sound you hear is Kornheiser backpedalling better than Champ Bailey in the flat.

7:52. Edge for five. Second on the Bears' fifteenth. Now Kornheiser thinks this game could be the "movie of Leinart's life." Mike Tirico asks, "Didn't you just say they should go home?" Kornheiser: "Well, nobody remembers what I say." We should live so long.

7:53. Leinart to Brian Johnson--who slips through the Bears' defense for a touchdown. Kornheiser is now officially Leinart's best friend. I mean, this is pathetic. 7-0 Cardinals.

8:03. Bears, three and out. Leinart, back on the field.

8:06. Third-and-two, Leinart makes the first inexcusable mistake of the night, trying to thread the needle. Matt, you can't do that. Ruled an interception, challenged by Green . . . and . . .

8:08. Joe Theismann, with an assist from Tirico, gives us the nine millionth rendition of the Coach's Challenge theme song--only with a twist: "Remember. The evidence has got to be conclusive."

Tiricio (nervously): "Uh, irrefutable."

Theisman: "Irrefewwwwtable."

This, apparently, is a big deal.

I always look forward to The Dissertation of the First Coach's Challenge, which thrills me as much as, in a game when John Madden is broadcasting, I always look forward to the first time a quarterback throws the ball away, because I know what will follow is Madden's windy, word-for-word-never-changes explanation of the intentional grounding rule: "See, he was outside the tackle box . . . what you call the tackle box is kinda the hashmarks . . . but he was outside the tackle box and he threw it while outside the tackle box and it went past the line of scrimmage, which is different from the tackle box in that the tackle box is kinda the hash marks." Really, my favorite moment in any Madden game.

8:10. The challenge goes the Cardinals' way. Punt.

8:16. Third down, Bears. Grossman's pass intercepted by Francisco, who runs it back inside the thirty.

8:18. Leinart passes to Boldin, who dashes through the Bears secondary. 14-0. Now Kornheiser announces that he wants to suckle Leinart's forthcoming child so they might "raise it as our own." Okay, I made that up.

8:33: Grossman throws the ball that Cardinal Hayes would have to duck to avoid. Interception.

8:38. Cardinals, third and long at the Bears' thirty. Charles Barkley, demonstrating the flair for the dramatically inopportune that is clearly the prototype of every booth-visitor in every sporting event ever broadcasted, seeks to interject himself at what, clearly, is the tipping point in the game. "They're going to score," Barkley says. Incomplete pass.

This is the state of prediction-making by a generation of Americans raised on "The McGlaughlin Group"--either directly or by osmosis. The key is to make the craziest, most outlandish prediction possible. If it comes through, you're a sage. If not, nobody remembers.

8:39. Missed field goal. Not to channel Barkley, but they can't let these opportunities go.

8:48. Rex Grossman is tackled and doesn't even come close to not fumbling away. Cards' ball.

8:55. Leinart goes three and out (including a stupid penalty). Field goal--which feels like a victory for the Bears. 17-0. Should be 21-0 at least, maybe 28-0.

8:59. Bears, third-and-short. Grossman, back to pass. He absolutely, postively not-even-close fails to not fumble. Cardinal ball, inside the thirty.

9:00. Theisman: "Cardinals need a touchdown right here. Seventeen doesn't do it. Twenty doesn't do it."

Kornheiser: "Hey, I've got your momentum right here."

(A slight pause, while we pay tribute to the most intelligent Kornheiser comment of the night.)

9:05. Third and long, inside the fifteen. Leinart throws underneath, complete,but not enough for the first. Barkley says, "Awww, he should have gone for the juggler." Then: "I'll tell you one thing. Twenty doesn't win this game."

I hate those comments, mostly because I agree with both of them.

9:10. Field goal. 20-0. Won't be enough.

9:25. Start of second half. Cardinals, three and out.

9:29. Third and short. Bear running back Jones makes the first down, barely, close enough for a measurement. "They did not make it," Theisman insists. "They did not make it. They are six inches short."

In what is already perfectly clear to anyone watching the game, first down. "Just like I said it," Theisman says, prompting the requisite fake laughter from all. As Phil Mushnick wondered this morning in the New York Post, what would all these fake-laughers do if anyone actually said something funny?

9:31. Bears, first and goal.

9:35. Three plays later, Bears, fourth and goal. And this is why I like college football so much better than pro football. With a 20-0 deficit, the Bears needed three touchdowns to go ahead. Anyone knows this. Now, with a field goal, how many touchdowns do they need to go ahead? Three. Somehow, the Pete Carrolls and Mack Browns and Tim Tesslers of the world are wired to the realities of a deficit; simply "putting points on the board" becomes subordinate to everything.

9:40. One Bear blunder after another (kickoff out of bounds, roughing the kicker on a Cardinal punt), but the Cardinals don't seem to make anything of it . . .

9:45. And with that, Leinart throws a seventeeen-yard completion to Boldin for the first down. Biggest offensive play of the half.

9:50. No, this is the biggest Cardinal offensive play of the half: complete for a first down to that old Trojan nemesis, Lavar Arrington. Inside the twenty.

9:53. Rackers field goal. 23-3, Cardinals. Back we're we started, 13 minutes ago.

10:02. After a good punt, Leinart is hit from behind, when Oliver Ross lets Mark Anderson proceed, unblocked and unnoticed, to Leinart's blind side. Fumble, Bear recovery, touchdown. 23-10.

Gentlemen, we have a game.

A few minutes ago, Theisman was talking about how this was the fourth offensive unit the Cardinals had deployed this season. Kornheiser said, "I think this is one unit they'll stick with." Yeah, and what I wouldn't give to be Ross on film day, listening to Denny Green go into full meltdown mode.

10:08. Okay, I confess. What is the point of the Levi's Stevie Wonder "Superstition" commercial? That the jeans have a mind of their own, or a life, or something? Is this a commercial based on the Jackie Chan's The Tuxedo?

10:10. Out of the time-out, a first-down throw, Leinart to Boldin. This was what Leinart exceeded at so many times at USC: waiting for a spot where Trojan fans would say, "Crap, we're in trouble," and immediately doing something reassuring.

10:11. Edge. First down. Vet that he is, he makes sure to stay in-bounds. Classy.

10:12. Wait. How many Bears defenders have been carted off? Five? Sixteen? Michelle TaFoya, give us a total.

10:17. Bears, third down. Grossman, incomplete, thanks to Eric Green going Jack Tatum on a receiver. Punt.

10:21. Hey, did you know that the 1985 Bears had a 12-0 record, then went to Miami to play the Dolphins, the only team to go undefeated, on Monday Night Football? And then the Bears lost to the Dolphins, in the highest rated Monday Night game ever? And then the Bears went on to win the Super Bowl that year? Thought I'd pass that along.

10:24. Bears, thirteen points down. Ten minutes to go. Bears' ball, Cards territory. This is the game.

10:29. Fourth down. Bears go for it. Grossman's pass . . . tipped, tipped, juggled, tipped, and finally brought in by the Cardinal' Darnell Dockett, who lands on a Bear, gets up, and runs for a touchdown . . . only the entire officiating crew realizes that Dockett was down by contact and moves to set up the extra point as slowly as road graders, hoping that Lovie Smith will throw the red flag and save them from themselves. Challenge, reverse. Cards' ball.

10:36. Quick three and out. Not good.

10:40. Second-down, Grossman's pass absolutely, completely, platonically, super-duper fantastically does not come close to not being intercepted. Six Bear turnovers.

10:43. Officially, the craziest game I have ever seen. Urlacher rips the ball from Edge, Bear Mike Tillman picks it up runs it in. Two touchdowns from the defense. Incredible. 23-17. Not happening.

10:46. A decent return by Arrington . . . who then gives it all back by spiking the ball and is called for "talenting." Fifteen yards. Talenting? This is a penalty?

10:48. Leinart throws, first-down to Boldin. Huge play.

10:48. Brian Urlacher has officially declared Edge his bitch.

10:52. Punt to Bear Devin Hester . . . who runs it back for a touchdown. 24-23 Bears. Unfreakingbelievable.

11:00. Leinart drives the bulk of the field. First down, USC at the thirty. Field-goal range.

11:02. Fourth down. Fifty-three seconds to go. Racker on for the kick. And . . .

11:03. Wide left.

11:05. And that's your ballgame, folks. 24-23 Bears.

I'm not a Cardinal fan. And I'm pissed.

Update: The morning after. I went back, fixed the grammar in a few spots, inserted some apostrophes, but let two blunders stand. First, my excoriation of the Bears for kicking the field goal when down 20 points, when all it did was help give Chicago the winning margin. The second was from Brendan Loy, aka The Irish Trojan, who pointed out that I wrote "First down, USC," instead of, "First down, Cardinaals," on the final drive. I wish I had done that on purpose. Consider where my head was at.

Leinart will have better days.

Update: Reader isuquinn writes: "The penalty was for TAUNTING not TALENTING. :) Talenting is not a penalty like you said." I stand corrected.

Election 2006: Are things as dark as they seem?

Is it all about Iraq, or is it something else? I just filled up my gas tank for a whoppping $1.96 per gallon. The stock market is about to crack 12,000. Unemployment is at 4.6 percent: basically, a job for anyone who wants one. The deficit is around 200 million, around the same as during Reagan, meaning--in real dollars--substantionally less. Inflation has been so low, and for so long, not one person in a hundred could tell you what the current rate is. (I just asked my office-mate, Aaron Knight, a smart guy, government professor, and chair of social sciences, if he knew the current rate of inflation. He didn't, I don't, and neither do you.) In other words, Absent Iraq everything points to the GOP at least holding its own, never mind six-year fatigue, never mind the scandals of DeLay, Ney, and Foley. The past two elections, the GOP has run rings around the Democrats, in part because of the perceived Democratic preoccupation with all things process in the War on Terror.

Up to about this past spring, every New York Times bombshell regarding this or that sleuthing technique was worth at least five points in the polls. Democrats looked so inept attempting to block President Bush's Supreme Court nominees that usually hapless Press Secretary Scott McClellan took to clowning John Kerry for announcing a filibuster "from the ski slopes of Davos." There was talk of a filibuster-proof 60-person GOP majority in the Senate. And now--what? Dean Barnett, currently blogging at Hugh Hewitt, shares the gloom.

If the election were held today, the Dems would hold all their Senate seats (if one categorizes, correctly I think, a Liberman victory as a "hold") and would pick up 5 seats with a minimum of difficulty: those held by Burns, Santorum, Chaffee, DeWine and the retiring Frist. That would make it 50-50, with Cheney as the tie-breaker. The troubles of Reps. DeLay, Ney, and Foley may make the Dems' 15-seat deficit a 12-seat deficit: a much easier mountain.

At this point, one of three things will happen. The GOP will fight to a stalemate and keep narrow control of at least one House. Or the Dems will fight and scratch for six Senate seats and 20 or so House seats and assume narrow majorities.

Or: napalm. Forty House seats, seven or eight Senate seats, in a landslide that results not from Foley (however Time and Newsweek would wish otherwise), but from a collective reaction to a dozen little things. Plus, Iraq.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

USC-Notre Dame, revisited

The The Irish Trojan, a look back on one of the great days in college football, and one of the great games in the history of the sport.

34-31, USC. Even now . . . wow. What I wrote to Brendan:

Historically, the only parallel I can think of is Borg v. McEnroe, Wimbledon men’s singles championship, 1980. This match–almost certainly the greatest tennis match in history–reached its moment of sublimity in the fourth-set tiebreaker, when Borg forced McEnroe to seven Champonship Points, only to see Johnny Mac impossibily, improbably, fight them all off, then win the tiebreaker, and hence the set, 18-16.

Honest to God, I was thinking of Borg a year ago today, of what Borg later revealed he’d been thinking as he took his place for the fifth set. Here was a man who hadn’t lost at Wimbledon in five years, who had walked astride the grounds as a colossus, but–by his own account–all he could say to himself as he took his place was, “Oh my God, I’m going to lose. Oh my God, I’m going to lose.”

But, of course, he did not lose, but instead pulled out the fifth set an impossible 8-6.

I go back to this because this was how I was in my den a year ago today, staring at fourth-and-nine and–I see where you come from, Brendan–almost at peace with the presumptive outcome, and yet saying to myself, “Oh my God, they’re going to lose. Oh my God, they’re going to lose.”

And then Leinart saw Jarrett in man coverage.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another close shave

Anyone betting on USC these days is slowly going broke.

Out at Buffalo Wild Wings tonight, I was there to see USC v ASU, Florida v. Auburn, Michigan v. Penn State.

More to the point, I was looking to see 1) an easy win by the Trojans before the true meat of the season; 2) a win by Auburn over Florida in the rock-paper-scissors world that is the SEC; 3) how long Penn State could ride the wave of the crowd and stay in it against Michigan.

Well, two out of three. No, make it two and three. The Trojans cruised out to a 21-0 lead and I was already thinking ahead: bye, then Oregon. Down the road, Cal. Then high noon against the Irish, Thanksgiving Saturday.

I was waiting for SC to score again. Up 28-0, it becomes an early evening, home to root for Auburn.

Then, a Sun Devil touchdown.


Then, a Booty fumble. ASU touchdown. 21-14.

Then, a few posessions later, the worst-executed play since the Paul Hackett era, a Booty pass straight at the numeral 8 of Sun Devil Keno Walter-White. 21-21.

But a late touchdown for the Trojans. 28-21.

Such a close win will probably guarantee USC stays number three, as Michigan becomes the fourth team to ascend to number two. And this is justified. Will this be the first time a #3 team finds itself behind three different #2 teams in three consecutive weeks?

Some thoughts:

1. Here is the tipping point of the season, a point whereby we find that USC is either a) a very good team working out the bugs before the meat of the schedule, or b) a team whose luck runs out. Any win against Oregon and Cal will be a plus, full stop. Any loss at home exposes a team living off the 2002-2005 rep.

2. We have sort of known as much, but we are four seasons spoiled at QB, and it is time for us to grow up. In 2002, Carson Palmer shook off four-plus years of injury and disappointment to finally mature over nine incredible games. Matt Leinart was sui generis, the greatest college quarterback ever, and his like will not happen by again. No, Booty is not “better than Leinart.” Nor, at this point, better than Rob Johnson. It became clear in the the fourth quarter that the only way USC would lose the game would be if Booty lost it for them. No way would ASU drive the length of the field against USC’s defense; no way would ASU’s D-line stop Washington and Moody. So Carroll did the only thing he could, the one thing nearly guaranteed to work: he went smash-mouth (translation: kept the ball out of Booty’s hands–fancy that!), and the game was over.

3. On a neutral field, either Ohio State or Michigan would be 10-point favorites against USC, minimum.

Now, as for ASU. To my most faithful correspondents, SundevilJoe, RobbieBoy and DesertRose: God knows I'm a Sun Devil fan 364 days a year. And I know how much everyone corresponds to Darryl Rodgers' dictum, "W's are W's, and L's are L's." No such thing as moral victories. But ASU has always been best when it was opportunistic: Mike Haynes, John Jefferson, Al Harris, Vernon Maxwell, Pat Tillman, and now Keno Walter-White. Their performance here is their best in a loss since the 2002 Holiday Bowl. USC is the team of the decade, and you guys had it scared to death. Build on it!

Snow in Buffalo

In October. Via > http://www.brendanloy.com/2006/10/buffalo-buried.html>The Irish Trojan.

Perhaps I'm only amusing myself, but I always do the same thing in these circumstances. I write, Well thank God for global warming, or it would be worse. This always prompts the same response: Global warming causes more extreme tempratures, blah blah blah.

Well, all right. We are just now coming out of one of the most benign hurricane seasons in recent memory. So perhaps things are not as bad as all that?

Well, of course not. Available information, if not proof of global warming, is to be discounted.

Look, is the world getting warmer? Porbably, just as--thirty-five years ago--it was cooling, and every available authority (including psychics polled in The Book of Lists #2) predicted an imminent Ice Age. Is there anything we can do about it? Probably not. Will it end in catastrophe? Maybe, just as icebergs carved out the Great Lakes and a meteor did in the dinosaurs. And maybe not.

Look, I feel guilty enough about the poor and the undereducated. I refuse to feel guilty about the weather.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The First Rule of the Loony Left Bloggers is as follows: as a thread lengthens, its likelihood of reverting to Bush hatred rapidly approaches one.

Every so often, I test the theory--in a story so (eventually) completely removed from Bush as to defy belief. Over at Huffpost, Cory Lidle's death 600-some posts later, we join the discussion in full swing:

How about this as a possible October Surprise -

Bush/Rove let the situation in Baghdad deteriorate so badly that they 'engineer' the Seige of the Green Zone, a Christian Masada, a New Alamo?

Ramadan ends Oct. 23 - Seige of the Green Zone starts Oct. 24.

80,000 Troops trapped 300 miles inside hostile territory will make the whole country worry.

Who will we blame? Iran, of course, and the battle lines of Bush's Plan to Cleanse the ME of 'extremeists' will be drawn.

80,000 Troops surrounded? Draft? No problem!

Desire to nuke Iran and North Korea? Goes way up!

Invade the oil fields of Iran (geographically concentrated into a relatively small area)? Of course, to deny the 'extremeists' their source of funds.

Noodle on that and see if it makes sense.

Maybe that's why the FUNDIES haven't voiced outrage over FOLEY - Rove revealed to them a more glorious ending - a biblical scale event sure to sound the rapture call and initiate the fight against the Devil on earth - 'Radical' Islam, of course.

All of BUSH's MIC stakeholders 'win' with his New Alamo Plan.

Don't fall for it!

Take Back America!

Out with the BUSH Poodles!

Posts such as the above--plus (surprise!)more Mark Foley stuff--prompt the following, almost a pleading, from a fan who remembered Lidle from his Oakland days:

I'm sorry, I'm going to try this one more time, because I really think you mean well, but YOU'RE MISSING THE POINT.

I didn't come here looking for empathy (and sorry you have such a limited supply) and I didn't come here looking for sympathy.

I posted a comment about Cory Lidle; this is the "Yankees Pitcher Cory Lidle Killed...." thread, it seemed appropriate to share a memory and comment that he was a very nice man. Then all this crap comes pouring out of the spamming trolls.

This is not the foley thread - you can go find that - I, personally, am still wishing the Lidle family and the other passenger's family all the best tonight.

Which prompts this reply:

Look, no disrespect to families of anyone who has been hurt or killed in this terrible accident, but isn't it a little out of proportion that this is the number one story on a day that the Pentagon announced that the U.S. military, which probably loses more than a couple Americans a day, will be in Iraq until at least 2010?

The story about the military wasn't even on CNN.com's front page. And thousands of Americans have died. Is it really more newsworthy when the person who died was a celebrity?

Note to self: Okay. Time to shake off Yankee failure and wade back into politics.

Cory Lidle, RIP

In an airplane crash into a Manhattan high-rise.

I've was just coming out of my post-Yankee fetal crouch, and was driving all around Houston as the story unfolded. All I can add is . . .

Fascinating. The last acting New York Yankee to die: Thurman Munson, 27 summers ago. In a plane crash.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Fallout begins

I said to Astrogirl yesterday: "If A-Rod doesn't produce in the eight-hole, Torre may bat him tenth."

Lupica, today: "You know why Torre batted A-Rod eighth? Because he couldn't bat him tenth."

More here.

Word is that Torre is out, Piniella in. As for A-Rod: never mind the money (never a consideration for the Yankees); the price, I think, would be a bunch of prime prospects, especially young pitchers.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Another big red-letter day for Pac-10 officiating.

Trailing by six, near the goal line, the Washington Huskies drive to a first down with two seconds remaining. As every person who follows college football knows, the clock stops on a first down then re-starts when the chains are re-set. The officials spot the ball, reset the chains, and . . . nothing.

One of the announcers says that Ty Willingham is claiming three more seconds on the clock (how he would know, I have no idea). But as the officials stand around as if waiting for a Red Car (I didn't even see them conferring), Willingham trots onto the field to confer with his quarterback. As the two of them talk and talk, and the clock stays frozen, as the officials look at one another, Pete Carroll, on the opposite sideline, is going bananas, making the windmill motion and clearly screaming, "Start the f---ing clock! What the f--- is the matter with you?"

Finally, the clock starts . . . only the Huskies aren't set to snap. Tick, tick, and the game ends before the hike. As Washington players plead their case, Carroll sprints onto the field ahead of his team and looks desperately for someone in purple to shake hands with.

Against all odds, the final score, 26-20, holds.


Saturday afternoon

A tale of two teams:

USC, leading Washington 14-10 and looking like world-beaters.

The Yankees, 0-0 versus the Tigers . . . oops, 1-0, Ordonez's homer, and looking dead. They took the field as if for a hanging.

Update: I was right, unfortunately. 4-0, fifth inning. I stopped watching two innings ago.

USC 23, UDub 13. Third quarter.

Texas 14, Oklahoma 10.

If anything could cheer me up, college football is it.

Update: Detroit 7, Yankees 0. Can't say I didn't see it coming.

Well, I always thought Lou Piniella deserved a third shot as manager.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Life in Hell

I'm not seeing this. I'm not seeing the worst call in maybe a decade, the throw-out of Pudge Rodriguez at third base that umpire wossname called safe; the call that probably cost the Yankees two runs; the call that ruins a night when Unit's performance (pitch-for-pitch) exceeds one's greatest expectations . . .

Let's not forget the offense, the $150 million starting nine that has gone scoreless for the past ten innings, who can't bring a lead-off double around to score.

Against Kenny Rodgers? You're kidding me. 3-0 through five?

Update: 5-0. I hate myself.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Yanks-Tigers, Game 2


Still feels funny. Not having the Red Sox in the playoffs is like . . . help me out here.

This what daytime baseball is like: Me, watching the game, juggling class preparations and facing a lecture at 2:30, two-and-half hours away. During the afternoons, the UH campus is a twenty-minute drive from here. Considering the length of Yankee games, I should have to leave at about the fifth or sixth inning.


Bottom one. Damon gets on with a bloop. Jeter puts down (or rather, up) an atrocious bunt that Pudge catches with ease. (TFT calls it an "Astro special.") Abreu walks. Sheff whiffs. Giambi walks. Which brings up . . .


A-Rod. Bases loaded, two outs.

Fastball up and in. Whiff. Another fastball, a foul. Then a sweet curve that breaks over the bag at the last possible second. Strike three.

The situation always finds you.

Update: Top two. Moose gets two almost effortless outs, then the Tigers go double-single for a run. Moose escapes further damage.

Okay, I really need to prepare for class.

Update: For this I raced home.

The only bright spot was in the fourth, when the Yankees put two men on basae with none out. It was about now that TFT announced that her new name was Astrogirl, "no matter how embarrassing that team was."

Fair enough. Astrogirl. Astrogirl asked, "Who's up?"

Me: "Cano."

AG: "Cano's a good hitter."

Cano made out.

AG: "Who's up?"

Me: "Damon."

AG: "Damon's a good hitter."

"Look," I said, "They're all good hitters. Are we going to do this all afternoon?", whereupon Damon hit a three-run homer. We celebrated for a minute or two, after which she said, "Told you!"

High point of the day, as it turned out. 4-3 Tigers, and the blame rests on the middle of the order: Sheffield, Giambi, and A-Rod, with their big fat 0-for-11.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Kent and Drew tagged out at home . . . on the same play

Tom Boswell has the details.

Yes, I saw it the last time it happened: 1985, Monday Night Baseball, Comiskey Park, Yanks-White Sox. Dale Berra (who was probably out of his mind on coke that night) and Bobby Meacham. Pudge Fisk kept his feet as Meacham crashed.

There are four basic rules of baseball. The game will always humble you. In the field, the ball will find you. At bat, the more you try to hide a batter, the more the situation will seek him out.

And mental lapses will haunt you.

Had Berra simply stayed at second (and the play was his fault--third-base coach Stick Michael wanted Meacham to stay but had to send him when Berra came roaring up, and then Berra ran through a stone stop sign), the Yankees would have had nobody out, bases loaded, with 1985 MVP and RBI leader Don Mattingly due up and in-his-prime Dave Winfield on deck.

Instead, they lost in extra innings by one run, when Ozzie Guillen (yes, him) scored from second on a wild pitch.

And they lost the division by two games.


Rain. Noon, my time, tomorrow.

The late innings will coincide with my lit class.

Back-Page Headlines

Daily News: "Mr. Perfect"

NY Post: "Big One"

TFT: "It should have been 'Big Won'"


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Smelly Lounge


Hmm. Feels funny without the Red Sox.

7:20: First pitch: Granderson fouls into the stands. Wang has the ball up! Danger! Danger!

Jim Leyland supposedly called the Yankee line-up "Murderer's Row and Cano." As they say, Nice, if true.

7:22: Granderson flies to Matsui. Okay, now I'm panicking. Get the ball down!

7:23: Comebacker to Wang. Okay, I feel a little better.

7:25: Sean Casey, Mr. Nice Guy, grounds to Cano. Easy inning.

7:25: Okay, I'm worried. No stupid Fox tie-in yet, no ESPN cross-promotion, not one reference to doing something completely useless on a Cingular cell phone. Where's Kiefer Sutherland? Where's the "War at Home" guy (you know, the chunky one who screwed things up with Martha Plimpton in Beautiful Girls)?

7:29: Jeter singles to left. I'm feeling foolish, knowing that, over on ESPN.com, Bill Simmons is doing this same thing much better, and before an audience of thousands. Astrogirl, SunDevilJoe, RobbieBoy, Cannil, Langston, Chumley Felix: Welcome. You too, John "Alan Trammell is God" Harvey. You notice I've gone for a smaller, more intimate room. One of the great losses of my life was missing out on those smelly old Vegas lounges where Redd Foxx would walk in and do a set at 3 a.m. for a half-dozen drunks, the one broke tourist hiding from his wife and the one guy trying to pick up the girl who looked like Peter Boyle. Gentlemen, welcome to the Smelly Lounge.

7:30: Buck gives us the obligatory "Melky/Phillips/Moose came through when Matsui/Sheff/Wright blah blah blah" rendition. Watching on MLB.com, on ESPN, and now on FOX, I've probably heard about 15 different broadcast teams perform it. Buck is nicely brief. And: Nice to get the refrain out of the way early.

7:35: Commercial. Tommy Lasorda pulls a pouty Red Sox fan out of the restroom by pointing out that she can root against the Yankees. LOL, as the kids say.

7:37: Ordonez doubles off the wall. Wang. Ball. Down. You. Now.

7:40: Is there any conceivable reason that Wang walked Guillen to get to Pudge? Anybody?

7:42: Pudge swings through; Posada comes up with the first big play of the night by throwing out Ordonez at third.

7:47: The Moment, part one of who knows how many. A-Rod at bat, runner on first . . .

7:50: . . . full count . . .

7:51: . . . And A-Rod hits a screamer that Polanco jumps to catch, nearly doubling Giambi off.

A-Rod now reminds me of what Jim Murray once said of boxer Floyd Patterson: "He's the employee who's always spilling soup on the boss's wife."

8:02: First and third, one out, Polanco at bat . . . and . . . YES! Double play, Jeter to Cano to Sheffield, into a split.

8:04: The commercial for Borat comes on. "Borat" finishes the ad by saying, "If my movie isn't successful, I will be executed."

The fair Tammie asks me, "What's that about?"

Me: "This new movie."

TFT: "Yeah, but what'd he say?"

Me: "That if his movie isn't successful he'll be executed."

TFT: "Oh. Then we'd better go."

Me: "No. I mean we can go, but that was just part of the movie."

TFT: "So who is he?"

Me: "He plays an Iranian, I think?"

TFT: "And he'll be executed?"

Me: "Only in the movie."

TFT: "So we'd better go see it."

Me: "We can see it if you want."

TFT: "So he doesn't get executed."

Me: "No, it's part of the movie he's executed."

TFT: "So we'd better go see it."

Imagine five more minutes of this.

8:14: Abreu doubles to right-center, sending Damon and Jeter home. I turn to TFT and say, "Wow! Nobody out! And here comes Sheff, Giambi, A-Rod!"

TFT: "A-Rod batting sixth? Wow. What did he do?"

Me: "Nothing. I've got it figured out. Torre's going lefty-righty, to throw off the kid."

TFT: "But why put A-Rod down?"

Me: "It was either sixth or fourth. Maybe Sheff matches up better. They may be trying to relax A-Rod."

TFT: "Is Torre giving him a time-out?"

Me: "No."

TFT: "Did he smart off?"

Me: "I really doubt it."

8:18: Sheff sends Abreu home on a single. 3-0.

8:19: Giambi . . . into the bleachers. 5-0.

8:21: A-Rod singles, in maybe the most gratifying at-bat of the inning. A city exhales. Two hard-hit balls, one hit.

8:35: Torre, from the dugout, goes into his, "Well, we're playing well and the guys are seeing the ball well, I like my chances," just as Jeter goes to 3-for-3. Torre resists the urge to laugh and say, "Christ, who am I kidding? Robertson? Next inning the grounds crew will have to drag the warning track."

The only good thing about Berman working the Cards-Padres game today is that he'll be far away from Bristol, and thus unable to say: "DEREK! JETER! MAYBE THE GREATEST CLUTCH PLAYER OF HIS GENERATION!"

8:38: On a hit-and-run, Abreu dives out of the way of a hit-and-run, hanging Jeter up. We've heard the Abreu-is-soft stories since he came over from Philly. Yah think?

8:45: Monroe homers. 5-1. I'm waiting for McCarver's dissertation on Wang's sinker and it's not coming.

8:50: Palonco doubles in Inge. 5-2. Reason for concern.

8:52: Casey doubles in Palonco. 5-3. Real reason for concern.

9:02: I love this stuff. As Leyland is interviewed in the dugout, Giambi is hit--and it requires every ounce of self-control fro Leyland not to turn and scream. God, but does he need a smoke. A-Rod is up . . .

9:03: And becomes Robertson's first strikeout victim. I'm not kidding; tonight seems to be designed for A-Rod's humiliation. First, Wendlestadt waits so long to ring A-Rod up that A-Rod is actually set in his batter's stance for the next pitch when the fist comes up. Second, Wendlestadt's ring-up seems one especially designed for tonight--literally, a punch directed at A-Rod's head, like something out of the Three Stooges. Right now, in the movie of this Yankees season, A-Rod is played by either young Ray Milland or young Tony Randall. (Just to round it out, Jeter is played by Cary Grant. Giambi is Alan Hale, Jr., the Skipper from "Gilligan's Island." Mo Rivera is Jack Palance from his Shane days. Wang is Bruce Lee. Torre is Gary Cooper. Cano is Denzel Washington. Matsui is Jackie Chan. Melky is Cantinflas. Sheff is . . . who? Marcel from Pulp Fiction. Jorge is Ray Romano. Damon. Okay, Damon has me stumped.)

9:10: Three-and-oh to Guillen, Wang throws a sinker that sinks to the middle of the plate, belt-high. Thankfully, Guillen is taking all the way. And then the ground-out.

9:19: More Rivera talk. Yeah. If Rivera can't work two innings at all . . . troubles.

9:20: Another Denzel shot. Damn, don't tell me he doesn't have something coming up on Fox! Does he guest-star on "Prison Break"? Sit down with Chris Wallace to discuss Mark Foley? Anything?

9:21: Jeter doubles, going 4-for-4 and sending Damon to third. A-Rod's single is looming bigger and bigger, if you look at it a certain way.

9:23: Two-run RBI by Abreu, scoring two runs. 7-3. Robertson leaves.

9:34: And now Wang leaves. My absolute favorite TV crowd shot: a standing ovation for a hometown pitcher as he leaves after a strong start. Yes, even better than the gallery shot at the Master's after a closing putt (think Nicklaus's eagle on 17 in '86, Lefty's birdie on 18 two years ago). It is amazing how many TV producers frame the shot from the crowd's point of view, and show only the player. Unbelievable.

9:38: I could see why Torre took out Wang--Monroe had hit a home run off him already. So Myers comes in . . . and gives up a home run to Monroe. Out goes Myers, in comes Proctor . . .

9:42: Base hit for Polanco. Wang had thrown ninety-three pitches. Now, 2-0 to Casey. You're kidding me.

9:44: Casey sends Polanco over to third. Tying run to the plate. Wang looks like he could come back in and pitch. This is potentially Pedro '04 in reverse.

9:46: Ordonez flies out, on the sort of chest-high-fastball-to-coax-an-easy-pop-fly pitch that Proctor had tried to get away with all inning. Wang unwinds by practicing flips off the parallel bars. And now . . .

9:47: The Yankees' tenth man, Ronan Tynan, comes in to freeze out the Tigers' pitcher by singing all 15 stanzas of "God Bless America." This is followed by "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." After 9/11 The Yankees' post-season seventh-inning stretch was stretched to such length, Ron Gardenhire of the Twins complained in 2003, saying his pitcher (Brad Radke, as I remember) stiffened in the chilly Bronx autumn. When the teams repaired to Minneapolis for Game 3 of the series, I half-expected the Twins to trot out "This Land is Your Land," followed by readings from The Best of Al Franken, followed by Garrison Keillor walking to home plate to say, "It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon . . ."

9:53: Lead-off walk to Giambi--but oddly, no pitch-runner. Preserving Giambi's bat, just in case? Or in recognition of Giambi's tippy-toe steal a few innings previous. And now, oh, A-Rod . . .

9:56; . . . hits his third hard ball of the night, his second straight at a Twins' defender. One for four. Thank God for that single.

9:58: Posada, a loud single. Matsui, who erased Giambi on a fielder's choice, goes to third. This batting order is something else.

10:02: Cano misses a three-run dinger by thismuch. On to the eighth.

10:04: Okay, are we supposed to pretend that William Shatner, with that thing on his head, is the same Captain Kirk from 25 years ago? No? Good.

10:05: In comes the start of Torre's Hands Team. Phillips to first.

10:06: And a big post-season hello to Kardiac Kyle Farnsworth. Hello, lead-off walk. TFT, with memories of last-season's five-run, two-home run, one grand-slam, late-inning Astro comeback against Farnsworth when he played for the Braves, thinks she recognizes a familiar face.

TFT: "Isn't he the one who . . ."

Me: "Yes."

TFT: "Who last year against the . . ."

Me: "Yes."

10:15: One on (his lead-off walk), two out. Pop-up to (who else) Jeter. Kardiac Kyle . . . a scoreless eighth!

10:20: Derek Jeter. I say, "You know, 5-for-5 would be cool," whereupon Jeter deposits the ball over the centerfield fence, some 415 feet away. Yankee Stadium goes into full meltdown. M-V-P. De-rek Je-ter. You know it's a good night when you start envisioning the next day's Daily News headline: CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS! No. M-V-POW! Maybe. CAP'N CRUNCH! Ah, been done.

10:30: Mo works a scoreless ninth, allows one hit. Actually, a crazy, 26-hit game. The Yanks should be happy they escaped. And that Jeter was on their side.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Frank and Pete

Moving toward the last day of the baseball season, Powerline has an appreciation of Frank Robinson.

I never saw Frank Robinson play and rooted against most of the teams he managed. But Powerline's appreciation brings me to a thought I had a few years ago: namely, that the inclusion of Pete Rose, instead of either Frank Robinson or Roberto Clemente, on Major League Baseball's 20th Century All-Star team, was a crime and a joke.

Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente were superlative five-tool players of historic proportions, and the records bear this out. Pete Rose was a very good singles hitter for a very long time, a front-runner and showboat who had no power, played lousy defense, and, for a lead-off man, was laughably slow. He was fortunate that, on the 1970s Cincinnati Reds teams in which he forged his reputation, he hit in front of a string of bruisers and bashers: Morgan, Bench, Perez, Foster, Griffey. (Morgan is another show-off, but at least he could hit for distance. As he's been known to mention.) Rose's award for "Player of the Seventies" by The Sporting News was patently ridiculous; never mind Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargell, Jim Palmer, and Catfish Hunter; at any given time Rose was never better than the fourth-best player on his own team.

What edged Rose into the realm of greatness was (give Rose this, at least) his longevity. Give him a .305 batting average and 3,000 hits, instead of 4,000, and you basically have a modern-day Al Simmons. Or a George Brett minus the home runs. Who can't field. Writers tip-toed aroudn the fact that, as player-manager of the Reds, he had free reign to pencil himself in day after day, right up to the point where his presence on the field was embarrassing.

I'm sorry to see Frank Robinson go. I'm sorrier that, on a certain October night in Atlanta, he didn't get his due.

Seems like old times

I originally typed "Seems like out times"

This was the game everyone feared, a throwback to the late 90s and early aughts, the three times the Astros motored into the playoffs with increasingly higher levels of expectation--only to run into the three-headed Hall-of-Fame goliath named Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz.

Between 1997 and 2001, the Astros played 10 playoff games against the Braves and lost nine of them. The top three reasons, far and away, were Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, who often blew threw the Astros' line-up with laughable ease.

If Jeff Bagwell is robbed of his rightful place in the Hall of Fame, his sub-.200, no-homer playoff performance against those three will be the primary reason.

So today was back to the past: six shut-out innings by Smoltz, the last remaining Brave from the HOF trio, to knock the Astros out of the playoffs. Everyone who remembered those late-90s Braves knew how the game would go, starting with Mike Lamb's opening error in the first (one run), to Jeff Francouer's solo homer in the second. What happened in the top of the third was vintage 'Stros: two on, nobody out . . . then, strike out. Then, a bullet of a line drive that Francouer stabbed, then threw to the plate to complete the double play.

As with Friday night, 2-0 might has well have been 20-0, and the names on the backs of the jerseys might have read "Berry" and "Gonzalez" and "Bell" as well as "Biggio" and "Ausmus."

In other news, as SunDevilJoe pointed out, manager Bernie Williams installed pinch-hitter Bernie Williams in the night for the Yankees, whereupon Williams demonstrated the wisdom of his manager and stroked a double. Williams's main concerns today were 1) Keep everyone from getting hurt, and 2) manipulate Derek Jeter's plate appearances to give him the best chance for a batting title. Williams managed the first and did as well as he could in the second; however, Jeter went cold after his first hit and finished at .339.

MVP? Probably, though Mauer, as a catcher, may be more deserving. I'm guessing that enough "It's his turn" sentiment will send the trophy Jeter's way.

Now. Bring on the play-offs.

And the midterms.

Heck of a ride, these past twelve days.


Some days are simply the best in sports:

Conference championship Sunday in the NFL.

Sunday at the Master's.

The first Thursday and Friday of March Madness. (I happened to be in Las Vegas on those days this past March; the line in the Bally's Sports Book went left, then right, like the Matterhorn line at Disneyland, then it snaked up the stairs, past the food court, and all the way to the lobby. I made money on George Mason, as I remember.)

And the last day of the baseball season, which dovetails nicely with a serious NFL slate.

Good times.