Saturday, August 29, 2009

ESPN still doesn't get it...

Last year among a sea of backlash and talk of an "east coast bias", ESPN attempted to appease its viewers and sponsors by opening a studio in Los Angeles and telecasting their 10:00 pacific time Sportscenter, live from LA. Some of the anchors even joked on the air that this proved there was no East Coast bias on ESPN (which has been nicknamed the Everything Sox and Pinstripes Network - a pretty fitting moniker). ESPN has certainly done some wonderful things in it's more than 3 decades on the air. It has made sports more accessible to fans. It's spinoffs - ESPN the Magazine and are also wonderful mediums for fans to learn about sports. But, like with other things that become popular, ESPN has used its popularity to shove agendas down Americans' collective throats. If you asked 10 people what are the two most annoying sports stories going right now, I would venture to guess that 7 of those 10 people would say Brett Favre and Michael Vick. Yet, Sportscenter (and the dozens of other talking head shows that ESPN telecasts) not only tend to lead with these two stories on a daily basis, but we hear about everything they do. And nobody wants to hear it anymore.

ESPN claims that there is no East Coast Bias, and that they proved as much by broadcasting live from LA now. That's nice window dressing, but let's dig a little deeper. I pulled their TV schedule for the MLB game of the week this season - the game that they broadcast every Sunday night. There are 25 total games of the week - the game that is supposed to feature the most compelling story line. With 25 games, that means that there will be a total of 50 opportunities for teams to get featured. As it turns out, 18 of the 30 MLB teams will appear on Sunday Night Baseball this year. Out of those 18 teams, 8 of them play in the East, 6 in the mid west and 4 out west. Not a horrible imbalance. But it gets worse. The 4 West Coast teams are featured a total of 8 times. The 6 Mid West teams are featured 14 times. And the 8 East Coast teams are featured 28 times. That seems a little skewed. Additionally, ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball only features a west coast team playing another west coast team twice. By comparison, two mid west teams playing each other occurs 5 times and two east coast teams going head to head happens an astonishing 11 times (or 44% of all Sunday Night games feature two east coast teams playing each other). Also, the 28 times that any east coast team is featured on Sunday Night Baseball equates to 56% of the time, you are seeing an east coast team.

The Yankees and Red Sox is a nice rivalry. But as I said in a previous blog, it's hard to convince an intelligent fan that you are the best rivalry in baseball when there was a solid 15 year period that you couldn't sell out games against each other. Also, is it really a rivalry when one team had such dominance over the other for 86 years? A rivalry is when both teams win their fair share of the games, and when the fans show up out of pure hatred for the other team, regardless of win-loss records or who the media tells us is a great rivalry. The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is older and features a much more deep-seeded hatred. And the Giants-Dodgers rivalry? It is the oldest in all of baseball. It has spanned not one, but two coasts. The only reason the Dodgers even play in LA is because the Giants agreed to move to San Francisco and not Minneapolis in 1958. The Northern California- Southern California rivalry makes the rivalry between the cities of Boston and New York look like clam chowder. At a Giants-Dodgers game in 2005, a local San Francisco news team was interviewing fans gong into the ballpark. They stopped a woman in a Giants hat and asked her if she was a big Giants fan. She replied, "no. Not really. Actually, I hate baseball." The reporter was confused and asked her if she hated baseball why was she there. She quickly said, "Because I hate the Dodgers more." But do these things ever make ESPN? No. Instead, they shove the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry down our throats, much the way they do Favre and Vick. The Giants and Dodgers have yet to play each other on ESPN at all this season - on a Sunday Night game or any other day of the week. Part of this is because ESPN refuses to telecast any baseball games that start at 10:00 eastern time during the week. Meanwhile, the Yankees-Red Sox will appear on ESPN 6 times, including all 3 times they meet on a Sunday. Even the Cubs and Cardinals get 2 games on Sunday Night Baseball. Heck, the Braves and Philles get to renew their long standing rivalry (cough, cough) on three different Sunday Night games, including two times in a three week span. But no, there's no East Coast bias whatsoever.

This Sunday Night, ESPN could have televised a 72-57 team playing at a 70-59 team. Team B is trailing Team A there by 2 games in the Wild Card race. Instead, ESPN in its infinite wisdom will televise a team 74-52 playing a team 67-61. A team 8 games up in their division, playing a team currently sitting 4 1/2 out of the Wild Card race. And this is the second time in three weeks we will get to see the same two teams playing on Sunday Night Baseball. Why subject us to Phillies-Braves again, when the Wild Card's top two teams are going head to head (and if the Giants win on Saturday Night, they will be going for the tie on Sunday)?

ESPN may claim there is no East Coast Bias going on, but actions speak louder than words.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Muchas Gracias, Ochocinco

This morning, Denver Broncos Wide Receiver, Brandon Marshall was suspended by the team for conduct detrimental to the team. Basically, he showed up at practice yesterday, didn't run very hard, picked up a football and punted it across the practice facility and several times batted down balls during practice. If he was a punter or defensive back, these actions may not seem so bad. But he's the team's number 1 Wide Receiver. This is a problem. And it's not the first problem for Marshall, who was suspended for a game last season and has been arrested three times since 2004 for various indiscretions.

The Wide Receiver position in the NFL has become quite possibly the biggest prima-donna position in all of sports. Terrell Owens has left a trail of bad blood in each city he played in (don't believe me? Ask any fan of the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys what they think of him. Heck, ask a Ravens fan - and he never actually even played for the Ravens). He has burned enough bridges to light his way from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Randy Moss, who has admittedly cleaned up his act in New England, walked off a field during a game. He once sprayed a coach with a water bottle. And Moss is no stranger to run-ins with the law, either.

Plaxico Burress (rightly or wrongly) is serving two years in prison for illegally possessing a firearm in a New York nightclub. Donte' Stallworth killed a man while driving drunk (and allegedly high on Marijuana as well). And how can we possibly forget legendary Rae Carruth. This nut job will be in prison for the rest of his life (thank God) for killing his girlfriend and unborn child. And they say the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Really???

Meanwhile, in the age of Prima-Donna Wide Receivers and ESPN cramming some guys named Vick and Favre down our throats just a little too much, Chad Ochocinco tends to get his share of negative press. And all I have to ask is, why? Is he a little over-the-top arrogant? Sure. Does he have his antics? Absolutely. But through it all, he is a fun-loving, do-my-job, but trash talk when I can Wide Receiver. He has fun when he is on the field. Maybe a little too much fun. But he is getting paid millions, and he is pretty darn good at his job. So, why shouldn't he be happy?

He has his very flamboyant, and pre-meditated touchdown celebrations. And he once made a list of every cornerback on the opposing teams that the Bengals would be playing one year so that he could put a check mark next to each one that he burned. But it's all in good fun. His latest antic was to be a kicker for a night. And you know what? He made the extra point he was asked to kick and he booted a kickoff almost 70 yards in the air. In a pre-season game. So what was the harm?

Ochocinco's most controversial move was to change his last name from Johnson to the Spanish version of his number. He hasn't shot anybody, or run anybody over while drunk driving, or ruined locker rooms and then left. To my knowledge, he has never walked off a field during a game or even punched another teammate during practice (hello Steve Smith). He just enjoys his job more than most. And that is a good thing. Laverneous Coles is considered to be a very nice fantasy sleeper this year. One of the big reasons is because he is playing opposite Ochocinco in the Cincinnati offense. Ochocinco also makes players around him better.

So, he's a good teammate. He's a good Wide Receiver. He doesn't have any off-field problems. So, his biggest drawback is his name? The fact that he celebrates a little too much? Cut the guy some slack. As a 49ers fan still waiting for our Wide Receiver to sign - you know, the rookie who's never played a down in the NFL, but is demanding more money - I would take Ochocinco's antics over Michael Crabtree's any day. And twice on Sundays.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To Tell The Truth...

They say that a good lie is 80% truth. I don't know who "they" are and I don't know where "they" came up with that percentage. But it seems plausible to me. So let's go with that.

Six years ago Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino had sex with Karen Cunigan Sypher. Sometime after the sex, the married Sypher had an abortion. She wasn't the only one having an affair, Pitino was married at the time as well. Pitino and Sypher, like so many others, hid their affair from their families. I am sure that over the course of the six years, they each told lies to their spouses regarding where they were that day. I'm sure there were truths sprinkled in to make the lie believable. Now, some six years later, Sypher is charged with extorting more money from Pitino. She will be going on trial shortly for her alleged crime. Pitino? He'll be coaching the men's basketball team at Louisville again next season. She claims he raped her. He says the sex was consensual. She's going on trial. He'll be earning millions to coach 18-22 year old boys play basketball. The police said they didn't have enough to charge Pitino with rape, despite the alleged victim's statements. Why do we believe him and not her?

Pitino paid this woman $3,000 after having sex with her. According to her it was for an abortion. According to his lawyer, it was to pay for her to get insurance so she could have an abortion. To-may-to, to-mah-to. Either way, he paid $3,000 and all or part of that money went to her abortion. Her accusation was on tape at the local precinct recounting her side of what happened the night that had sex. Why isn't that enough to take to a grand jury?

Yesterday, Pitino blasted the media for playing this tape to the public. And I don't entirely blame him. If he's innocent, this tape sure paints him in a bad light. And if he's guilty, well then, he has a whole other reason for being angry this tape was leaked. But do we believe him? He lied to his own University (his employer) for 6 months after this woman allegedly tried to extort him. Then, when he realized his back was against the wall, he came clean. Isn't that how all criminals and liars behave? Lie, deflect, answer vaguely....right up until you absolutely have to tell the truth and appear contrite. Even yesterday, while blasting the media, he used a very common trick of liars - deflecting the attention off himself and his story onto another ongoing big media event. During his rant, he said, " Everything that's been printed, everything that's been reported, everything that's been breaking in the news on the day Ted Kennedy died is 100 percent a lie, a lie. All of this has been a lie, a total fabrication of the truth." Why bring up Kennedy's death here? How is it at all relevant to what was going on in Louisville, Kentucky?

And more importantly, how does Rick Pitino still have a job? He lied to his employer for over six months and managed to keep his job. He has a morals clause in his contract. I'm pretty sure having an extra-marital affair and paying for the woman's abortion- even if the sex was consensual - probably breaks that morals clause. You know, unless you just took your team to the Elite 8. I guess in the NCAA, winning trumps morality. But hey, at least Pitino's telling the truth.....well 80% of it anyway.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Surviving the Economy...

Earlier this week, it was reported that Michael Jackson's finances were in ruins at the time of his death. How could that be? He was the biggest Pop Icon of our generation. Maybe ever. Well, other than having to pay off millions to the families of his alleged victims, apparently he was spending billions, even though he was only making millions.

If you're like me, you are not a multi-millionaire. You are also not on welfare, feeding off of my tax dollars. Contrary to popular reports, the middle class in America is alive (albeit not well). There are the super rich and ultra poor. And somewhere in the middle, more than likely, lies you and me. We don't make millions of dollars playing a sport or acting in movies or TV shows for a living. We also don't sit home and let the Gov't take care of us. We go to work everyday, work hard, and try and support a family. Over the past 18 months or so, that has gotten increasingly difficult. Unemployment is way up. The housing crisis has made owning a home a giant risk, from an asset standpoint. Most people's 401Ks are in the toilet. And forget about the stock market. So how is a middle class family supposed to stay afloat without becoming a statistic?

I have developed a few ways that I have been able to not only stay afloat, but actually increase my net worth (albeit, it's peanuts) during these troubled times. My methods won't make me a millionaire, but hopefully, they will keep me and my family afloat and get us through these tough times and set my son up for success down the road. A few tips....

When your child is young, buy them a whole life insurance policy. It costs pennies. And, since it is a whole life policy, it matures and when they are 18, they have themselves a nice little savings for college. If times get really tough, you can even borrow against it.....though I would not recommend this unless it was a dire emergency.

In addition to having a short term savings account and long term savings account (IRA, Retirement Account, 401K, etc...) set up an "untouchable account". A short term account can usually be accessed without penalty and a long term account can be accessed with penalties in times of need. But set up a third account that you do not touch under any circumstances. In a few paragraphs, I will tell you how to build equity in this account.

Cut back on expenses. It's easier than you think. If you research certain bills, often times, you can save on simple things like your phone bill, cable, insurance, etc...Clip coupons. There is a lot of money to be saved if you do a little research.

Save in unconventional ways. Bank of America offers a keep the change program. Every time you use your debit card, the leftover change goes into a savings account. If you buy something for $37.28, then $.72 goes into a savings account. It doesn't sound like much....but how often do you use your debit card? It adds up. Trust me. And Bank of America matches your deposit once a year. So, if you have saved up $55.12 over the course of the year in the keep the change program, they deposit $55.12 into your savings account. That's a free $55.

The untouchable account. Making a monthly budget is great. Everyone should do one. But what is the purpose of the budget if you don't do anything with it? Your budget should include all of your monthly expenses, income, spending (fun) money, short term savings and long term savings. And here is where the untouchable account comes into play. Anytime you get unexpected money (the annual match from Bank of America's keep the change account, a reimbursement check, etc...) deposit it into this account. Anytime one of your expenditures comes in under what you budgeted, put the balance into your account (you budget $400 for monthly groceries, and you only spend $375. Put $25 into the account. And so on). ING offers a risk-free account that offers a small interest rate. But, it's better than the mattress.

None of these are get rich quick schemes. But once the dust settles on this crappy economy, hopefully some of these tips will help you and me keep our heads above water and come out better on the other side. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's a BLEEPING Miracle

In 1978, there was Bucky "Bleeping" Dent. In 2003, there was Aaron "Bleeping" Boone. Two unlikely players that broke the hearts of Red Sox fans. In 1978, following the Red Sox titanic collapse, Dent's Home Run came in a playoff game just to make it to the playoffs. The Yankees did....and they won the World Series. In 2003, the Red Sox collapsed in game 7 of the ALCS, and in extra innings, Boone's home run sent the Yankees to the World Series. Any time you mention either of these players to Red Sox fans, they are not referred to as Dent or are required to say their full names....Bucky "Bleeping" Dent and Aaron "Bleeping" Boone.

Well, next Tuesday, when the MLB rosters expand to 40, and Boone is called up from AAA to join the Houston Astros, everyone will be rooting for him. He would even get a standing ovation in Fenway Park.

This past off-season, after Boone signed with the Astros, he developed a congenital defect in his aortic valve. Basically his heart wasn't working right. He is only 36 years old. He underwent open heart surgery. And now, 5 months later, he is going to be playing in a major league baseball game. It's not about money. It's not about fame. It's not even about winning (the Astros are out of contention for a playoff berth). For Boone, it's just about making it back. It's about doing his job. One more shot. I don't know if he'll play past this year, but just for him to get to step on a major league baseball field again is a wonderful story.

And it also speaks volumes to the Astros organization. They could have turned their back on him. Technically, they owed him nothing. He had only signed with the team this past off season. They could have cut him loose after it was discovered that he would need surgery. But they stuck with him and allowed him to attempt to make it back, just one more time. He has batted only .158 in stops in AA and AAA. For most players, this would get them cut. But in 2009, Boone is not most players. He is going to get his shot. And quite frankly, it's the right thing to do. In an age, when a 21 year old pitcher who's never thrown a pitch past college held out until the deadline, just to make sure he got his $15 million dollar contract, Boone is the story worth celebrating.

I'm not sure if Boone will ever get rid of the moniker Aaron "Bleeping" Boone amongst Red Sox fans, but when he does step on that field again next week one thing is for sure, it will be a bleeping miracle.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Unanswered Questions...

Some unanswered questions from the weekend...

Since Eric Bruntlett was the one who put the Phillies in the jam to begin with, does he really deserve that much credit for the triple play? I mean, it's like an outfielder misjudging a fly ball then making a diving catch to get it. If you just would have done it right the first time (or in Bruntlett's case, the first two times), all the drama could have been avoided.

Did Jim Rice really lump Derek Jeter in the same sentence as Manny Ramirez and A-Rod when talking about baggy uniforms, dread locks and steroids?

Why people get drunk and get behind the wheel of a car still baffles me.

Does Brett Favre really make the Vikings any better?

How much do you think the White House pays Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann to spew their propaganda? (it's a fair question, since the Liberals accused the White House of doing the exact same thing from 2000-2008 with Fox News)

Why do players of yesteryear continue to be jealous of and judge today's players? (Jim Rice, Fran Tarkenton, et al) Different Eras. Different times. Let it go, fellas.

When the weekend started, I had 532 friends on Facebook. This morning, I had 529. What three people did I piss off this weekend?

What exactly is the over/under on number of weeks before Nate Davis the starting QB in San Francisco?

I love conspiracy theories, but if the NHL "conspired" to have the Penguins win the Stanley Cup so that the face of the league (Crosby) could have the Cup for better league recognition, then where has all the PR coverage been this summer?

I know the Yankee fans are gleeful after taking two of three from the Red Sox over the weekend, but can they really be that excited heading into the playoffs knowing their three best pitchers pitched over the weekend, and the Sox scored 29 runs in 3 games?

Kyle Orton looks like, well, Kyle Orton and Chris Simms is already hurt because, well, because he's Chris Simms. Whos' QBing that ship in Denver?

Who is Tom Brandstater? (see question above)

When exactly did insurance become a non-profit business? It's not like I get my health coverage from the United Way or Salvation Army.

Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are great pitchers. So is Dan Haren. But why isn't anyone mentioning Josh Johnson's name in the NL Cy Young race?

I don't understand the people that brag when their Football team wins a pre-season game (and you all know who you are). The Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the pre-season last year and we all know how that turned out. I have two words for the pre-season braggarts - Shut Up!

Other than the Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals and Angels, who is making the MLB playoffs? September's gonna be fun.

If Government officials aren't going to be subjected to Obama's new health plan, then can we really trust that it's going to be all that good? They don't trust their own plan on their families, but it's good enough for the American public? Not so sure I want to be a guinea pig.

Are you really baseball's best rivalry when there was a solid 15 year period (1980-1995) that you had trouble selling out games against each other?