HKS Exclusive! The Ocho scoops itself, super mad.

Hey, you know that ridiculous special ESPN was going to run tomorrow to help Lebron announce where he’ll manage to not win an NBA Title be playing next season?

Maybe we don’t have to Tivo it after all.

I’m sure you’ve seen by now that The Ocho decided to screw themselves, but in case you haven’t, they just announced exclusively tonight that Lebron is apparently leaning towards forming a Super Best Friends team with DWade and Chris Bosh in Miami.  Oh, and I guess they’ll have like nine or ten other guys on the team, too.

I’ll hopefully have something more interesting to say on the topic later on, but for now all I can think is this:

Man, someone at ESPN is going to get FUCKING YELLED AT.  Even worse than this:

ZOMG Lebron to ???

So it’s July 1st, 2010, which means it’s the Summer of Lebron.

Yes, the guy who couldn’t carry his band of outsiders to an NBA title is now letting people come to him and court his services.  Seems like someone’s taking the “King Lebron” thing kind of literally.

But anyway, this super lame, manufactured story still strikes me as more interesting than 95% of what goes on in the NBA anyway.

So where might he go?

Chicago?  Sure, if you want to be known as the greatest ever sine Michael.

The LA Clippers?  Sure, if you want to fracture your kneecap upon stepping off the plane.

The Knicks?  Sure, if you want to be the next Patrick Ewing.

Stay in Cleveland?  Dude, it’s Cleveland.

Go for the ultimate team-up in Miami?  Everyone will say that you colluded to buy yourself a title or three.  And they’ll have been right.

New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets?  Sure you might win, and sure Jay-Z and you are homies, but if you win, it’s probably in the first couple years – while you’re still the New Jersey Nets.  And nothing screams “winner” like New Jersey.  By the time you get to Brooklyn, it’ll be too late.

Dallas?  Nobody mentions this as a serious contender, but don’t they have cap space and some savvy vets (J-Kidd, Dirk) who want a title of their very own?  He can bring it to them.  But also, I hear Dallas is in Texas.

Let’s face it:  Lebron is going to end up disappointing people wherever he goes, unless he wins like eleven titles.  Given all of this, there’s really only one move to make, and I believe the Chicago Sun Times mentioned it with their full-page faux-NBA logo with a dunking Lebron and the “LBA”.

That’s right Lebron.

Create your own professional basketball league!  Think about it.  The Lebron Basketball Association.  You can fill it with all of your bestest friends from Team USA.  You don’t even have to go to Cleveland, you can play in Akron!  People will come to you, because you’re Lebron.  And at the end of the season, you can win the championship!  Even if you only play mediocre and don’t deserve it like Kobe’s 2010 Finals MVP.

Because seriously.  Look at all this media coverage.  Of FREE AGENCY.  Clearly you are more important than the rest of the game.  Clearly you are the game.

Now time to take your ball with you and go home.


This post was originally going to be about how the referees in the World Cup have been the worst I’ve seen this side of Tim Donaghy,  about my swearing off the sport for good, and about how any sport that the refs have that much influence over I have no interest in following (hence also my general disinterest in the NBA, save for the occasionally exciting playoff stretch).

I was going to put together a lengthy discussion about how, when the first US goal was disallowed because of a bad offsides call (which, to be fair, does happen quite a lot in soccer, and I don’t honestly believe that the US was being singled out in any particular way – but combined with what happened against Slovenia, it certainly felt like there were nefarious forces in play), I was infuriated, outraged, but perhaps most of all, I wasn’t all that surprised.  It figured that the US would lose a perfectly good goal because of officiating.

I was then going to talk about the natural progression from that frustration to utter defeatism – when Dempsey went off the post, when Altidore and Donovan double-kicked that ball out of the stadium, when the US got called for a phantom hand-ball on the attack, and when the Algerians decided that they’d rather play for the tie than actually try to win the game and started intentionally pulling people down as they started breakaways – of course this is how the game would go.  Of course the bounces would go away from the US, and of course Algeria would be content to give up and play spoiler.  They were French-occupied, after all.

I was then going to conclude with a decision that, despite my feelings on the horrible officiating, the US dug this hole themselves.  Because we started slow in every game.  Played sloppy in the defensive backfield.  Even against Algeria they got off a great shot that went off the crossbar.  If the US knew how to play in the first fifteen minutes, maybe we wouldn’t have to blame the officials.

But all that will have to wait for another time.

Because of Landon Donovan and the 91st minute goal.

Because I screamed so loud, my neighbors thought I was being murdered.

Because finally, a bounce went America’s way.

Because now this is about why we watch.

The other day, my boss lamented the fact that he’s so into sports (and in his case, he’s really into the world cup) – because the highs are fleeting, but the lows you feel for a long, long time.  And even worse, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.  Your energy doesn’t change things . You can’t send good vibes and good karma through the television to the players.  You aren’t in control.  You are giving yourself up willingly to events that are outside of your influence, yet you are allowing your emotional well-being to be affected by this.

But moments like this – like Landon Donovan’s goal – are why we watch.  It’s why we’re fans.  Because the joy you feel in that moment of emotional release is almost impossible to attain elsewhere.  I won’t pretend to compare it to truly transformative moments – say, the birth of one’s child – but, like a drug, we chase that high anyway.

Because of the sheer joy it can bring.

Because it’s so rare.

Because it can erase all the bad feelings, all of the negative things that came before it.

It took 91 minutes.

But for me, it bought another four years of soccer interest.

One non-fan’s Game 7 experience

Note:  I am not a Laker fan.  I am not a Celtics fan.  But I wanted to have as good a sports experience as possible.  All times are Pacific Daylight Time.

5:30 pm – A friend of mine texts me, asking if I want to watch the game with him.  I decline – I have a class.

5:45 pm – I leave work for class.  My boss laughs when I announce that I plan to record the game and somehow get home from class without knowing the final score.

7 pm – Class begins.  Managed to get there without learning anything about the game.

8:30 pm – Break time.  I stay in the room to ensure that I do not learn anything about the game.  I tell everyone to please keep their updates to themselves.

8:35 pm – One of my fellow students begins looking at the score on his phone.  He says “oh wow.”  I am a little worried.

8:37 pm – One of the other students returns from the bar downstairs, having seen the score.  She doesn’t say anything.

8:39 pm – Other students are laughing at my futile attempts to keep from learning anything, as someone says “man if this happens this place is going to go NUTS.”  I tell them it’s fine, they didn’t actually tell me anything.

8:41 pm – One student who missed the memo says that it’s 66-71.  My face contorts into something humorous, because everyone starts laughing.  The student who announced the score asks what’s so funny – they tell her.  One student says “at least she didn’t say who was ahead…”

…to which she immediately replies “oh, the Lakers…”

8:42 pm – Everyone apologizes for the fact that I now know who’s up.  (someone else announces how much time is left).

9:05 pm – We start hearing sirens and loud honking of horns.  Which in this city can only mean one thing.

9:06 pm – 10:30 pm – I spend the rest of class wondering why I embarked on such a foolish journey, to attempt to watch the game without knowledge.  Maybe it was because I was yearning for a simpler time, when we didn’t actually know everything right away.  Or maybe I just though it’d be a fun experiment.  Either way, it’s over.

11:15 pm – I get home from class and look at my DVR.  Why not, I think.

11:16 pm – 12:14 am – I watch the game – pretty much just the second half.  I watch as the Lakers make their comeback.  I see the moment when the score was 71-66.  I see the moment that pretty much sealed it (although the Celtics kept fighting back, it was really when Fisher hit his big three that it was starting to lean into “it’s over” territory). Despite knowing what comes next, I watch through to the end, to the celebration, to see through to completion the event that sparked so much emotional release within the city (and oddly, in myself).

12:25 am – I realize that as cheesy as this sounds, knowing the final score didn’t dampen my enjoyment of what I watched.  Like anyone who loves the movie “Titanic”, I knew the fucking ship was sinking, but it was still entertaining.  It was still a hard-fought, tough game of basketball played with heart and grit, something we so rarely see in our professional athletes anymore.

12:27 am – I finally decide that maybe, this time, that was enough.

As long as nobody ruins whatever comes next for me.

A scary mental image for Boston fans…

Is this what you want to see in Game 7?

Win Forever

That was the most recent (and final) slogan that Pete Carroll coined during his tenure as the head of the USC football team.

Naturally, that came before the NCAA ruling on the school’s lack of “institutional control” when it came to athletics – spanning football, basketball, and apparently, women’s tennis.  Because of ties between Reggie Bush Student Athlete 1, his family, and a couple of shady guys trying to start a “sports marketing firm” – whatever that actually means – USC is being forced to vacate wins from Dec. 04 through the end of Bush’s career, since from that point on, he was no longer an amateur athlete.

This, along with a loss of scholarships (10 per season for the next three years) and a 2-year bowl ban, constitutes the most significant program sanctions since SMU received the “death penalty” in 1987.   And for those of you keeping track, yes, these sanctions are WORSE than what Alabama received in 2002 (2 year bowl ban and a loss of 21 scholarships over three years) – a case in which boosters were paying players to sign with Alabama.

Don’t misunderstand me – I believe that USC is guilty.  I believe that it is very likely that the coaching staff knew that Bush was ineligible, and turned a blind eye.  All of that is consistent with the circumstantial evidence as well as the sizeable egos of everyone involved – who are full of themselves to the point that they would certainly feel like they wouldn’t get caught.

But ultimately, the problem is much deeper.  The NCAA overreacted in this case (Bush was certainly guilty, and the school likely knew it, but there was at best tenuous evidence linking the outside investors to any members of the coaching staff) because, like Dr. Frankenstein, they’ve created a monster that they no longer control.

College sports (and in particular, College Football) is a multi-billion dollar industry.  One need only to look at the jockeying being done by the schools and conferences in an attempt to guarantee themselves the biggest possible TV contract – to see this in action.  But it’s also an industry built upon the backs of these amateur athletes, who see the money being poured into the hands of the schools, the conferences, and yes, the NCAA – while they get comparatively little.  Yes, they get a scholarship (maybe) and an education (in theory), but these are a big consolation prize.

But now that everyone’s getting theirs, are we to expect any different from the student-athlete or their families?  Yes, they broke the rules, and yes, they deserve to be punished (and yes, if they had watched “The Wire” and learned to use pre-paid cell phones, none of this would have ever come to light), but really, can we blame them?  They saw this big pie that they weren’t getting any piece of, and basically were given the opportunity to get a down payment on their son’s future.  It’s despicable and incredibly short-sighted and predatory.  But it’s also what we should be expecting.

When the NCAA rules that amateurism is to be valued above all else – but then makes millions off of them, what should we expect?

When the NCAA says that the student-athlete who comes from overseas is ineligible because he played alongside professionals (but didn’t himself get paid) – in a country where such leagues are the only competition available to a talented player – who should we blame?

When the NCAA rules that an olympic athlete can’t accept endorsements – endorsements that are vital to his fiscal survival within the sport – a sport that he wasn’t going to compete in at the collegiate level – where do we go?

In chasing the money, the NCAA has taught the rest of us that the ends justify the means.  That the rules they apply are arbitrary and occasionally unfair.  That it’s okay to make big bucks off the backs of others.  All under the auspices of preserving amateurism.

So as far as I’m concerned, the Bush era happened.  Just because his parents tried to make money off of him, doesn’t mean he wasn’t great.  He wasn’t being paid to play, or throwing games because of it.  He was just doing what the NCAA taught him – to go for the money, no matter the impact on those around you.

And all of us went along for the ride.  We accepted it.  And even knowing what I know now, I accept it.  Because it happened.  You can’t take those wins away from me.

Just like Pete says.

Win Forever.

Stephen Strasburg Human After All (but still a freak of nature…)

Saw some of Strausburg’s debut last night.  Filthy stuff.  Made the occasional rookie mistake – particularly locating his changeup.  Sure, it was against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but still impressive.  Let’s hope he can remain healthy and become the pitcher he seems capable of becoming.

Lost in the Shuffle…

Smile, shake your head, and go back to work.

In the midst of everything that blew up last week surrounding the perfect game that wasn’t, the game-that-will-probably-lead-to-expanded-instant-replay, one moment was lost in the shuffle, reduced to short descriptions.  I’m not talking about the outrage (of which there was plenty) or umpire Jim Joyce’s admirable job of manning up and accepting that he (out of everyone in the entire stadium and watching sportscenter later that night) blew the call.

No, the moment I’m talking about came immediately after Joyce called Jason Donald safe.  The moment when Armando Galarraga, the 28-year-old pitcher who took nearly 10 years to get to the majors, lost (statistically) what will almost certainly be the only perfect game he ever throws.

Because in that moment, when he saw the “Safe” signal, he shook his head and smiled.

As sports fans, we like the idea of fairness.  We want games to be decided by the players on the field, not by a bad call or a freak injury, not by an exterior ruling or a reliance on illegal substances.  This drive for fairness is what leads us to instant replay in football (where it’s fantastic) and now, no doubt, an expansion of it (beyond home run calls) in Baseball (where it really slows down an already, let’s face it, slow game).

I will admit, my first reaction upon seeing the call was that the umpires should be allowed, at their discretion, to use instant replay for such plays.

But then, we’re giving the umpires even more power to decide the game, because then they’re deciding whether or not to double-check.

Maybe the challenge system?  But do you really want to see managers tossing out the red hankie toward home plate?

Baseball is perfect in its imperfection – the Black Sox, the Steroid Era, the Spitball and Bartman and Buckner and everything else that I can’t think of off the top of my head.  Baseball is a game that is defined, at least in part, by the human element.  Remember Questec?  Do you want a robot calling balls and strikes?  If the answer is no, why would you want one calling safe and out?

Mistakes are a part of baseball.  And they’re a part of what makes baseball great.  And honestly, Armando Galarraga’s perfect game that isn’t will go down as MORE INFAMOUS than if he had become the next to throw a perfect game.

Which brings me back to that moment, where Armando Galarraga didn’t argue (admittedly, he had a lot of people arguing on his behalf) and promptly got the next hitter out.  Because in that moment, at that turning point in what will become part of the definition of his life, Armando Galarraga showed us why, sometimes, athletes can be role models.  That they can teach us about ourselves and what we should strive to become.  That we should all be so lucky to get that close to perfection, something that many of us will never be able to say.

And should we falter, or should a bad call in life go against us, we can only hope to be as mature as Armando Galarraga.

Smile, shake your head, and go back to work.

The “N” doesn’t stand for news…

Sometimes it’s tough to remember that ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network – the word news is nowhere in the title.  But let’s be honest, we all go there for sports reporting and general updates on our favorite teams and players.

Which is why, in true 24-hour-cable-network style, there are times when The Ocho has to create stories to fill all the hours of the day.  Or in this case, to fill all the spots on the website.  As of yesterday, the college football section of the interweb page began running a bracket to discover which college football program is the best pipeline to the NFL over the past 30 years.  Sure, they could have just written a single article on the topic, but why do that when you can have a bracket?  Brackets are always more fun.

Ugh.  It’s things like this that make me go over to Yahoo Sports.

But if you want to follow the epic May Madness, feel free to do so here.

Are You Not Entertained?

Those of you who know me know that I am an unapologetic Denver Broncos fan.  Those of you who know me know that my fandom has persisted through the lean years of my youth through the glory days of my adolescence to the current era of hey-let’s-almost-make-the-playoffs-and-then-blow-it.

Given that, a lot of people have asked my opinion of Denver’s ridiculous-at-first-glance decision to draft Tim Tebow.

I’ll admit, my initial reaction was shock, shock that the brain trust at Denver would be willing to put their reputations on the line for a guy many believe will never be a great NFL quarterback.

My second reaction was also shock, but not the same kind of shock.

It was shock that I was surprised in the first place.

Since Josh McDaniels arrived in Denver, the one thing he’s demanded more than talent, more than exceptional ability, more than winning, is fealty.  For better or worse, he wants good character guys, guys who will buy into his system and follow his lead.  Jay Cutler couldn’t handle that, and so he was shipped to Chicago.  Brandon Marshall thought he was bigger than the chief, and now he’s in Miami.

McDaniels’ team has wild swings in performance, but he’s been consistent about one thing:  buy in, or get out.  He’s gotten rid of the people who haven’t bought in.  And so the first round shouldn’t really surprise us much at all.

After all, why would McDaniels go after Dez Bryant, a guy whose talent is clouded by (real or not) questions about his character and judgement?  Instead he takes Damarius Thomas, a physical receiver who looked like a man among boys in single coverage… for a team who ran the ball almost exclusively.  We’ll see how he does when the defense is actually expecting a pass.

And so, when Denver moved again, to take Tebow, should any of us really have been that surprised?  Tebow is a high-character guy, he works hard, he’s willing to sit for a couple years to try and learn how to play quarterback at the NFL level.  And McDaniels is credited with helping, among others, Matt Cassel (who didn’t even start in college) and Kyle Orton, turning both into serviceable QBs within his offense.  Tebow is perfect:  he’s smart, he’ll listen, but most importantly, he’ll buy in.

Whether or not this works is another story.  But we have evidence of what might happen if it doesn’t:

Back in 2005, Mike Shanahan, believer in his offense’s ability to turn any RB into a 1000-yard rusher, used the last pick of round 3 to take Maurice Clarett.  Shanahan bought into his own hype.  It didn’t work out, and while it wasn’t the move that got the coach ousted, it was indicative of his inability to see past his own hype – a blindness that would ultimately lead Shanahan to fire something like fifteen defensive coordinators in three years and get him bounced out of Denver.

Now, in 2010, Josh McDaniels, believer in his offense’s ability to turn any QB into a serviceable passer, has taken Tim Tebow.  McDaniels is buying into his own hype.  But, much like in Shanahan’s case, it’s not this pick that will make or break him – it’s whether or not he can figure out a way to put a good defense on the field for an entire season.

Tebow is being called McDaniels’ legacy, and it’s only day one after the draft.  But really, Tebow won’t have even have the chance to contribute to it if Denver can’t figure out the defensive side of the ball.

But just remember:  Belichek demands fealty.  Belichek demands that you buy in, values it more than your talent level.  And Belichek begat McDaniels.

This is what we signed up for.  We should not be surprised.  This is what we wanted.

And I am entertained.

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