Silent Archimedes

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Why we still don’t like soccer and the World Cup

Posted by silentarchimedes on June 20, 2010

I really enjoy watching and playing soccer. I’ve been looking forward to the World Cup ever since the last one. And it’s nice to see that soccer has developed more of a following in America, and there seems to be more excitement this year. However, when you look at some of the things that has already happened in South Africa, you start understanding more why professional soccer still hasn’t taken a foothold (pardon the pun) here. In no particular order, here are reasons that can make a fan flabbergasted at soccer.

Vuvuzela

1. Vuvuzelas – Ok, seriously… I understand that if it’s part of a long tradition in South Africa, it’s fine, but it’s just not true. They became only popular in the 1980s, and introduce in the past couple years to international soccer play. It would be fine too, if it was a few vuvuzelas that provided added excitement and atmosphere, but it is soo loud that players have complained about how it affects their communication and concentration on the pitch. Watching on TV, I can’t even hear the typical sounds of competition, such as cheering, yelling, chanting, ref whistles, etc. It’s a continuous annoying buzz that drowns out all other noise. How is that a respect for the game? If you want to talk about African tradition, how about some drums or African music? That would a really nice atmosphere.

2. Low scoring games and draws – There’s nothing specifically wrong about low scores, but when clean sheets (shutouts) are more the norm than not, it gets a bit boring. Look at these stats for the first round of the knockout phase

– Only 25 goals were scored in the 16 games.

– An average of 1.56 goals per game.

– Thirteen times a team did not score, 15 times a team scored only 1 goal, 3 times – 2 goals and Germany scored four goals in their game.

Which leads to the abundance or high chance of a draw. Of the 16 games in the first round, six ended in a draw (two 0-0, four 1-1). That means 37.5% of the games ended in a draw.

3. Subjective refereeing – Due to the low scores of soccer games, so many issues that normally would be minor are magnified because they can affect the outcome of the game. There have been so many bad calls by referees it’s hard to really appreciate the game. Two that already stand out are the denied US go-ahead goal in the Slovenia game (not to mention all the other bad calls in that game), and the two missed handball fouls (on the same play) on Brazil’s second goal against Ivory Coast.

Bob Bradley – “There are times when a referee blows a foul and now thinks either he didn’t make the correct call on the foul or a previous play,” Bradley said. “Then literally, as soon as the free kick’s taken, he blows his whistle.”

Since writing this post, there’s been two other obviously bad calls by referees that have impacted the game. The phantom off-sides call on Clint Dempsey’s goal against Algeria and the disallowed goal off the crossbar against England’s game tying goal against Germany. Unbelievable.

4. Jabulani – The controversy over the playability of the ball every single World Cup is absurd. Just play the game! Imagine hockey players complaining about the puck, or NBA players complaining about the ball (ok, it did happen once), but stop being so sensitive. Either that, or FIFA needs to establish a standard ball, like in the NFL, and stop making everything a marketing campaign.

Dutch women - Guerilla advertising campaign

5. Orange mini-skirts – Ok, I had to throw this in there, even though I understand FIFA’s reasoning in protecting sponsors and making sure guerilla advertising campaigns don’t occur, but still, who arrests beautiful girls in miniskirts at a sports game?? Kick them out if you have to, but arrest? Go after the beer company if you have to, but to arrest the pawns of the campaign? All FIFA did was bring more attention to the guerilla advertising campaign, and show more the heavy-handedness of FIFA.

6. FIFA – The FIFA governing body reminds me too much of the International Olympic Committee – business suits with big egos and a lack of understanding and sensitivity to its fanbase. FIFA has always enjoyed the subjectivity of soccer because it believes controversy increases awareness and passion for the game. Well, not really. Not if you are trying to break into the United States market. Americans want fairness and want calls to be called right. The controversy surrounding USA’s third goal in the Slovenia game does not make casual fans follow soccer more, it makes them more skeptical of soccer’s fairness. FIFA needs to get off its high horse.

FIFA also hates technology in the game, but when the entire stadium sees the ball cross the goal line in the England-Germany game and the refs disallow it, it’s obvious that simple replay to determine if the ball crossed the goal line must be added. All these horrible calls by refs are ruining the sportsmanship and integrity of the game.

7. Penalty kicks – Penalty kicks are fine, if they were rewarded similarly to penalty shots in hockey, but they are not. They are given for hand balls in the penalty box, if the ref thinks there is any hint of intention. And the subjectivity of whether the hand ball denied a scoring chance is absurd. Even if there was going to be a scoring chance, the chance of a goal is so small. Usually a penalty shot in hockey is only awarded on an obvious breakaway. Of the 28 games through Sunday, June 20, five penalty kicks were given out (4 scored, 1 missed). Two of the five had an impact in the game, whether it was the winning or tying goal. Considering how low scoring the games are, it’s somewhat unfair that penalty kicks play such a big part in a soccer game.

8. Inaccuracy – Sometimes you wonder if the players are kicking a soccer ball for the first time in their lives. These guys are professionals and they practice kicking a soccer ball in all possible scenarios so often, whether it’s at the goal in or outside the penalty box, or a through ball to the striker. So why do so many balls sail waaaaay high over the crossbar or to the side of the goal? Why do so many corner kicks go so far to the other side and out? Why so many through kicks go either too far or too fast? I understand that many times players are trying to be too perfect or they are under too much duress, but seriously? So many of them are just pathetic.

When you look at the precision of other sports, such as Kobe draining a perimeter shot at the buzzer, or Ovechkin putting on evasive maneuvers to score a late winning goal, or Alex Rodriguez crushing a 96mph fastball into the seats for a walk-off homer or many other sports, it just makes soccer look somewhat random regardless of skill and experience. Especially to the casual observer.

Red card

9. Two yellows -> red card -> missed match – Just like the handball-penalty kicks, the way soccer handles yellow cards, red cards and automatic missed match has hints of unfairness. Once again the penalty is too severe for the foul. Not only do you get kicked out of the current match, but you also cannot play in the next game. Since yellow cards are already subjective, it seems so unfair if someone was to get a second yellow early in the game (the first one from the last game), that means an automatic red card, which means he’s ejected from the current game and the next game. For all intents and purposes, a foul in two separate games has cost him and his team two matches.

Oh, and not to forget, when he gets ejected, his team cannot replace his position in the game, which means his team must play a man down! Three penalties for two yellows on a player, and we know some yellows are pretty minor fouls. For reference, if you get a game misconduct in hockey, the other team gets a power play (man advantage) for a few minutes, and the player is ejected only for the current game. Umm, soccer might want to adopt a similar penalty system.

10. Racism – Unfortunately because of the passion, alcohol and whatever other reason, we still hear stories of players having to deal with raucous fans shouting racial and derogatory phrases at opposing players. There’s no place for racism in sports, especially in this day and age. Sports in the United States are more integrated and the population is more diverse than most international cultures. To read about this in soccer, the supposedly most popular sport in the world, it simply turns us off from the sport.

11. Too much passion – Americans are passionate about their sports, especially their football, but we don’t kill a player simply because they messed up. We might affect them psychologically to the point their careers and lives are destroyed, but we won’t take their lives away. There’s already been a couple instances of this occurring in soccer, and it just seems like the sport is a little over the top.

12. Egos – Players not wanting to train (French team this World Cup)? Player getting kicked off the team in the World Cup for cursing out the coach (Anelka of the French team)? That’s just the most obvious in this World Cup, but because the players are national and international heroes and they are one of the highest paid athletes in the world, their egos are also the size of, well, the world. Some of the players have more loyalty to their club team or themselves than their national teams. For example, there were so many questions of the Brazil national team because most of them play on the European club teams now.

13. Lack of sportsmanship – When flopping and diving is considered an art, something is wrong with the sport and the sportsmanship the players exude. Because the players know they can get away with it, sportsmanship goes out the window and they want that instant unfair advantage. What about the Ivory Coast player getting elbowed in the chest by Brazil’s Kaka, only to fall and cover his face as if his face is in pain? Seriously, is this sportsmanship? What about players diving in the ending minutes of a game to waste time only to see the other team drag him off the pitch? Sportsmanship, guys!! Have some! In football, if you waste time, you get a 15-yard penalty. No one wants to see that. Oh yeah, not to mention Zidane’s headbutt from the last World Cup.

14. Soccer is 90 min + ? – Another referee subjectivity. They determine how much injury time to add to each half, but they only have to tell the rest of the world roughly how many minutes it is. Only he knows the exact time the half or game ends. What the…

It’s unfortunate because the game is actually very tactical and requires a lot of teamwork and skill. However, because of the subjectivity, the rules and the commercialization of the sport, it has turned off the big casual market in America.

What other reasons do you guys think can turn off the casual fan from soccer?

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Why I think LeBron James will go to the Knicks

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 5, 2009

Here are the many reasons, in no particular order, why I think LeBron James should and will sign with the Knicks in the summer of 2010:

1. Madison Square Garden – He has said many times that Madison Square Garden is one of his most favorite places to play ball. Also, MSG continued to sell out and maintain the aura of a playoff game many times during this year (and the last few years) even when the Knicks (and Rangers) stunk it up. What other city has this atmosphere even when the team(s) has been horrible for 10 years? Most cities give up on the teams.

Madison Square Garden
Knicks playing at Madison Square Garden.
(source: Wikipedia)

2. NYC badly needs a basketball savior – Giants won in 2007. Yankees won in 2009. Rangers won in 1994. The Knicks have not won since 1972-3, and only reached the Finals twice since then. Everyone saw how NYC treated the 1994-5 Rangers when they finally won. Imagine how the city will treat whoever gets the Knicks to the promised land.

3. The Canyon of Heroes – There is nothing like going down Broadway and the Canyon of Heroes in a ticker-tape parade, being celebrated by three million+ fans. The history of the Canyon of Heroes goes beyond sports and New York. It is a big part of all that America stands for – valor, freedom, intelligence and bravery (Eisenhower, MacArthur, Glenn, Statue of Liberty, Einstein, Olympians, Lindbergh, Earhart, Jesse Owens, Armstrong, just to name a few of the 100+ parades). No other city comes close to offering that experience. None.


Apollo 11 astronauts honored in
Canyon of Heroes Tickertape parade in 1969.
(Source: Wikipedia, NASA)

4. Time to leave the nest – As much as people say he won’t leave Cleveland because he’s a hometown kid, that reason may also be why he leaves. All college kids remember having to decide between going to a state school versus going out of state. The visions and dreams of leaving the nest grow stronger as you mature. It is a natural process to want to leave the nest and prove you are capable of taking care of yourself. Many of those that were hesitant about leaving home, end up loving the experience away from home. LeBron will be 25 next summer.

5. It’s just a part-time job – People make it seem like if he leaves Ohio, he is naked and all out in the world alone. Basketball season is from October to April. He has 4 to 5 months each year to live back home with his mom and friends, if he wants. Additionally, there is so much traveling going on during the season, most players see the team city as a job location and not necessarily a family-nest location. It’s more important that the city and fans embrace you. He will be embraced like no other in NYC.

6. James Dolan – He might be one of the most incompetent owners in sports, but there is one thing that he has, money. And he’s not afraid to spend it on the Knicks. Now that the management is sound with Walsh, LeBron can come here knowing the management will do whatever it takes to surround James with whoever he wants to win it all.

7. LeBron as pseudo-GM – LeBron will have a lot of input in which players the Knicks sign or let go during his whole contract. The Knicks entire hope is that LeBron signs with them. You think once they do, they will go against his wishes in bringing in a supporting cast? With Dolan’s money and Walsh’s management, LeBron does not have to worry about the current Knicks players being bad.

8. Don’t forget 2011 – Too much is said about how the Knicks will only be able to get one max player (and recently cleared space for two!). No matter what the cap is and whether they can unload Curry and/or Jeffries, both contracts come off in 2011. LeBron is not signing for one year, it’s a multi-year investment.

9. Mike D’Antoni – Every player, including LeBron, loved playing for D’Antoni on the US National team. His style is almost playground style – open, fast-paced and focused on athleticism – which Lebron loves. You can see how the Cavs offense slows down when Shaq is stuck in the paint. versus someone more fleet footed like Varejao when he’s in the game. LeBron is taking more fade-away jumpers instead of driving to the net. Additionally, the Cavs don’t do many pick-and-rolls which would greatly increase LeBron’s ability. D’Antoni’s whole premise is the ability to efficiently do pick-and-rolls.


Mike D’Antoni coaching the Suns.
(Source: Wikipedia, Bobak Ha’Eri)

10. CC Sabathia, Arod, Jeter and others – LeBron’s friends on the Yankees and Giants will simply tell him there’s no other city to be a champion in. That’s gotta be at least in his head seeing his friends enjoying the glory of being champions and beloved by the city. Not to mention Jeter winning SI’s Sportsman of the Year. If LBJ brings home the trophy in NYC, good chance he will be just that.

11. New York Yankees – LeBron is a big Yankees fan. Yankees will be contenders for the foreseeable future. If he sticks around in the offseason, he can enjoy many games in the new stadium and watch his buddy Sabathia pitch to his heart’s content. Not to mention the playoffs.

12. Giants and Rangers – Don’t know if LeBron is a big football or hockey fan, but it’s always nicer to be in a city where all the sports teams are contending and supported by the city. The Browns have been a mess for a long time. The Indians seem to be in constant rebuilding mode, having let Sabathia and Cliff Lee go. Not to mention that the Cavaliers were nothing for many years before James.

11. Charity – Yes, it’s true that charity can be done in any city, but charity done in a big media city like NYC just means more exposure and publicity for it. Look at Jeter’s Turn2 Foundation or Joe Torre’s Safe at Home foundation which he has not moved to L.A. and he still flies back to every year.

12. NYC media – Which brings us to the media. James loves the spotlight. He is accommodating to the media. Seriously, what athlete entertains the hypothetical idea of going to another city for so long before finally saying no more questions until after the season? He understands being a true superstar means winning over the local media. Winning over the crazy media of NYC is another challenge I think he finds exciting.

13. Local marketing – People talk about how going to NYC will not make him a bigger global icon. They talk about how he is already as big as he can get in the world. They talk about how he is second in China and fourth in Europe in jersey sales. One thing they are all forgetting is the local marketing of LeBron. Yes, he is already an icon in NYC with large billboards, but he is seen as an icon like Jordan, but not an icon they can call their own. Big big difference. Imagine the marketing prospects of that of a metropolitan area of 18 million versus Cleveland or even Miami. Only Los Angeles, Chicago and possibly Boston can compete with that. The added local marketing revenue is something he can not get anywhere else. And don’t forget Wall Street and the many Fortune 500 companies there. Everyone assumed that just because Nike doesn’t have a bonus clause in the new contract LeBron just signed that it means they don’t prefer to have him in New York. It would be too obvious, but trust me, they definitely prefer him in NYC. If LeBron does sign with the Knicks, they can mutually tear the current contract up and sign a new one.

Think about it. Knicks have been horrible for many years. Yet they are fifth in Most Popular Team Merchandise and David Lee is 12th in jersey sales (and Nate Robinson is 11th!). It’s not little kids in the midwest buying the merchandise and jerseys, but the millions of fans in the NYC area. Don’t tell me local marketing doesn’t matter.

14. Basketball legends reside in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and New York – The stars from the big cities still command the most attention in basketball (and sports) history. Going back to sales rankings, 7 of the top 14 in jersey sales are players from the four cities, and the four cities are in the top 5 in team merchandise. An example is Tim Duncan. He has been such a consistent force for the past 13 years, and yet no one really cares or hears about him. I know he likes it that way, but if you want to be remembered, you have to go to the big cities.

15. It’s 5 players per team, not 9 or 22 – Unlike baseball or football where one player cannot take over a game day in and day out, in basketball, it can happen. Even a roster of 12 is much easier to improve than 25 in baseball or 53 in football. The Cavaliers is a perfect example. They were 17-65 the year before James was drafted. James single-handedly generated an 18-win improvement his first season, 35-47. What James wants to see is cap flexibility in the first and second years he is there, and also a willingness to spend by the owner. Knicks fit both.

16. This year’s Knicks record doesn’t matter as much as people make it out to be – People keep focusing on that LeBron says he wants to play on a winner. With the Knicks mired in the basement of the league, people wonder why LeBron would want to go to a loser team. Umm, most of the players are not going to be on the team next year. Even LeBron knows that the Knicks record is not reflective of the potential of the team next year. The key is seeing the players that are in the Knick’s long term plans play hard and improve. This is why it’s important D’Antoni plays the young core like Gallinari, Douglas, Hill, Lee, Robinson, and Chandler. (Umm, ok, let’s leave KryptoNate and Hill out of it)


LeBron James in a Knicks uniform.
Those crafty New Yorkers. (source: web)

17. LeBron’s personal attention to Gallinari and Robinson – I know LeBron occasionally will whisper advice to the young players on several teams, but he has done it very obviously with Nate Robinson last year and with Gallinari this year right after the only Cavs visit to MSG. Why bother? He knows it will only add fuel to the fire.

18. LeBron’s quotes about NYC and MSG – LeBron has given so many positive quotes about playing in MSG and NYC. Seriously, if I was a Cavs fan I’d be peeved that he speaks so highly of another city that way. Either he is a big tease or there is something there…

19. He’s not playing second fiddle to Dwyane Wade – Yes, Wade and James have mentioned how great it would be play on the same team, and how they would tear up the court. But this works best when both of them go to a new team together. That means the new team is both theirs equally. No second fiddle. Let’s be clear. The Heat is Wade’s team. If LeBron goes to Miami, he’s going to Wade’s team. Just like when Shaq went to L.A. It’s Kobe’s team.

20. Cleveland has no great rivalries – Kobe said it best on Christmas that there is no rivalry between the Lakers and Cavs.  Frankly, no team has a strong rivalry with the Cavs. They were so bad for so long. And the nearest teams in Chicago and Philly have more natural rivalries with other teams than the Cavs. Great rivalries are beyond current players, they are built over many years. The Knicks have rivalries. If Wade stays in Miami and LeBron comes to NYC, that’s a rivalry waiting to continue from the Riley days of the 1990s. Not to mention rivalries with the Bulls, Celtics and Sixers. And I bet Knicks-Nets becomes an interesting rivalry after Prokhorov’s purchase.

21. Lebron is not a Miami kind of guy – I just don’t see LeBron as a South Beach kind of guy. Basketball is a winter sport (unless it’s playground ball, of course). Wade, I see as a Miami person, so I don’t think Wade will leave the Heat.

22. If it’s only about money, how come he hasn’t signed an extension already – People talk about how the Knicks can’t offer him more money than the hometown Cavs and so they are not as attractive. If that is the case, why hasn’t he signed a max extension with the Cavs by now? It is apparent that LeBron, at a minimum, is excited by the possibilities of free agency. This can only help the Knicks. Plus, I think this hometown max contract being more than what other teams can offer is overblown. The annual max percent raise is 6% vs. 8% (or something like that). Yes, it makes a difference, but for someone like LeBron that can easily overcome that in external opportunities in NYC, I don’t think it’s an issue at all.

23. Winning, loyalty or immortality – Bill Simmons of ESPN said it perfectly, “It’s one of the greatest sports decisions I can remember: LeBron can choose winning (Chicago), loyalty (Cleveland) or a chance at immortality (New York) (ESPN link)”. I think if most of us had a chance at immortality, we would take the risk and go for it. It will be interesting to see which of these three traits he goes for.

“Let’s get this clear: I said the max contract doesn’t mean more than winning,” James said. “I didn’t say, ‘I don’t need a max contract’ or ‘I’m not going to get a max contract.’ All I’m saying is that winning is more important to me than money at the end of the day.”

-LeBron

“As big of stars as those guys are now, it would be even more magnified if they went there [New York]. You become a household name to everyone if you play in New York City. It’s a magical place that goes well beyond basketball. You’re up there with legends like Ali and Sinatra. A franchise can be rebuilt quickly through free agency and the Knicks might be one of those now.” (NBA Fanhouse)

-Bernard King (former Knicks great)

“They’re in the lead, they just have to make it [attractive] for him. LeBron will come to New York if he knows they’re gonna win. . . . So, if they sign a free agent first, that would probably seal the deal, I believe. They should have somebody else on their radar to make him want to come. He could really be a ‘King’ if he could revitalize the Knicks. You got some of the best basketball fans in the world, and now you could be responsible for bringing a championship back to New York. Now, it’s gonna take a few years, because you still gotta add more pieces. He’s got more talent in Cleveland, but he can do more incredible things in New York… If he said he wants to be a billionaire, or close to it, you gotta go to New York.(New York Post)

-Magic Johnson

And here are additional reasons why I think he will at least leave the Cavaliers.

1. He did not pick the Cavs, they picked him – People seem to forget that LeBron did not choose to go to Cleveland. The Cavs notoriously tanked the two season prior to the LeBron draft in order to get the highest chance to win the lottery. They needed him more than he needed them. LeBron had no choice. He would’ve simply gone to anyone that won the lottery. Now is his first chance to choose where he wants to go.

2. His loyalty lies with Akron, not Cleveland – It was interesting that at his MVP Award ceremony this year, he pledged his loyalty to Akron, not Cleveland and not Ohio. This might be a subtle choice of words in distinguishing where his ultimate loyalty lies. Additionally, he choose to have it at the University of Akron, instead of somewhere in Cleveland.

3. Cleveland had seven long years to give LeBron a title – As much as people say Dan Gilbert, the Cavs owner, has an emptyless pocket to surround LeBron with the pieces to win, the truth is all the moves have been more like 80% effort. Bringing in Shaq as sloppy fourths after the Heat, Lakers and Suns had a turn was not the wisest choice. Plus, the addition of Jamison was also suspect. Here’s a guy that has played for only Golden State and the Wizards in putting up his numbers. His age and lack of playoff heroics made him a risky addition, considering how much they gave up for him.

4. Mike Brown and the coaching staff – Brown’s a nice guy and all, but he really is way over his head. By the end of the Cavs-Celtics series, it was obvious LeBron just didn’t respect the guy and the coaching staff’s ability to get the Cavs to the promised land.

5. Kevin Garnett’s strong words on loyalty – I know this is just some other player’s words, but it’s hard to ignore the truth behind Garnett’s words. ”Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can’t get youth back” Garnett said.


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Book Review: The Yankee Years

Posted by silentarchimedes on April 29, 2009

The Yankee Years

Authors: Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

yankeeyearThere was a lot of pre-release chatter for this book. The snippets that were released led people to believe that Joe Torre, the Yankees manager during their 1996-2007 dynasty, was bitter about being let go by the Yankees and the book was his way of getting back at the team. There was also chatter of Torre breaking the unwritten code of leaving what happens in the locker room behind the scenes instead of revealing them to the public. The release of the book seemed untimely considering that Torre is still managing and most of the players he discussed in the book are still playing. Torre, in his defense, said he isn’t the only author of the book, and the book is actually written in third person. He also mentions that there’s really nothing new mentioned in the book that’s not already out there, especially about Alex Rodriguez.

As a big time Yankees fan, all the above reasons, in addition to wanting some insider analysis of the dynasty years, were enough to check this book out of the local library and give it a read.

THE REVIEW

This book is loooong. Considering that Torre says it doesn’t reveal anything new, at 477 pages, there is a lot of regurgitation of obvious in-game details. Maybe it’s because I came in wanting to read about things fans don’t get to read about in the papers, especially about what happens in the locker room and what does not. I was not interested in reading, “Chuck Knoblauch hit the first pitch of the game for a home run. Jeter doubled. O’Neill doubled. After a brief pause on a strikeout by Williams, Martinez singled. Darryl Strawberry hit a home run. After Tim Raines grounded out, Jorge Posada hit a home run.” (pp.46-7). I watched the game, I read about it in the newspapers and internet when it happened. I sure don’t need to read it again in a book. This type of detail was plentiful throughout the book. After awhile I started scanning those sections.

So what else is in the book, besides in game details? Let’s just say, the book makes Torre look like the most righteous guy in the world. His encounters with players always resulted in his favor. And there are plenty of little stories that demonstrated how adept Torre was at handling The Boss Steinbrenner. Now it’s very possible that all those stories are true, but it’s hard to fathom that there weren’t other stories that resulted in Torre being wrong. None were talked about in the book. Most bothersome was that all the stories do support the notion that Torre does have an inner circle of players he has an affinity to and everyone not really in this inner circle has issues. He definitely throws people under the bus. He talks about players (by name) crying. (I’m sure Roger Clemens was happy that this book revealed how he “cried uncontrollably” aftter the Mike Piazza bat throwing incident in the playoffs in 2000.) And this is where I think is over the line and breaking the unwritten rules. He analyzes players’ personalities as if he is an expert. It’s fine to talk about Kevin Brown punching a wall after a rough outing because it did happen and it’s a fact. But to really talk about how he was weak as a person, to me was unnecessary. He talks about how this player had these issues, or how this player is mentally weak. There are definitely some pretty mean things he says in there about players that couldn’t hack it in New York. And it always seemed like it was their fault and not Torre’s. Then he talks ever so glowingly about the dynasty years. The players that were in his inner circle. Of course, Derek Jeter. And Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams and David Cone. Finally, I’m surprised how often Torre curses, especially the F-bomb, in the book.

The problem with reading a book that has two contrasting authors is that it is hard to separate what parts of the book are Verducci’s and what parts are Torre’s. Since most of the book features Torre as the prominent character, it’s hard not to associate all comments and analysis to Torre. That might be unfair but there’s no other way.

Joe Torre

Joe Torre

After Torre talks about the 2000 World Series, the book becomes a slow explanation of the demise of the Yankees dynasty, from the management, the scouting, the players and the rise of the Red Sox and other statistics conscious money-managing teams. It’s not that fun to read as a Yankees fan, but it is worth reading once to really realize that the Yankees have become a very misdirected team for the past eight seasons or so. Once you get past the game details, the already public ribbing (especially about A-Rod, Clemens and Knoblauch) and the throwing of some players and people to the wolves, there are some interesting new information about this book. There are details about Clemens and Randy Johnson that the fans didn’t really know about. It was also nice to see the players and people that contributed quotes and information to the book. David Cone is frequently quoted in the chapters surrounding the dynasty years. Even Theo Epstein offers insight of the rivalry and the rise of the Sox.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed about the book. I wished that Torre was not an author of book because there seems to be a lot of self-serving stories in there. The writing of the book is also not as smooth as I’d expect from Verducci. A lot of quotes seem blunt, too direct and fake. I’m not sure if they are really a word for word quote of what happened. And Torre is right, there really aren’t that many new interesting mind-blowing things in there that aren’t already known. The whole chapter on steroids really seems like a collection of information from the Mitchell Report, Clemens-McNamee Congression hearing and other media stories.

However, as disappointing as the book is, it’s hard to argue that Torre was not a great manager. His personality and ability to handle Steinbrenner and troubled players were perfect for a baseball dynasty. That plus the combination of completely team-oriented win at all cost players like O’Neill, Jeter, Bernie, Brosius, Tino, Rivera, Cone, Pettitte, Posada and other bit players resulted in a 6 year span of baseball success that would be hard to duplicate in the coming years.

The Yanke Years: 6 stars

The Yankee Years: 6 stars

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Q&A on the baseball steroids scandal (FAQ)

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 13, 2009

1. What are steroids?

IUPAC recommended ring (left) and atom numbering (right) of the steroid skeleton. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

IUPAC recommended ring (left) and atom numbering (right) of the steroid skeleton. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are many types of steroids, and most of them are natural and required by animals, plants and fungi to survive. The scientific definition is a terpenoid lipid characterized by a carbon skeleton with four fused rings, generally arranged in a 6-6-6-5 fashion. Common steroids include estrogen, testosterone, and cholesterol. Technically, cholesterol is a sterol, which is a combination of steroids and alcohol. The former two are in a category called steroid hormones. These steroids include the sex hormones, corticosteroids (topical steroids are used for skin rashes, etc), and anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are the ones used by athletes because their main purpose is to increase muscle and bone synthesis. Because they are related to the testosterone sex hormone, they also have effects of maintaining masculine characteristics, such as growth of  vocal chords and body hair. Anabolic steroids were first identified and synthesized in the 1930s.

2. What is the legal status of anabolic steroids?

Most countries classify steroids as controlled substances, which means that they are illegal to produce, distribute, possess and use without written prescriptions from authorized medical officials. These countries include the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands (NL), and the United Kingdom (UK). However, they are readily available over the counter in Thailand and Mexico. Hence the underground availability of them in the U.S.

However, the status of anabolic steroids is recent considering its 1930s identification. They had no legal status prior to the 1980s and were common in many sports, including football and bodybuilding. It was not until the Ben Johnson controversial Olympic victory that they were placed under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States.

3. When were steroids banned in Major League Baseball?

1991. There is a huge misconception that steroids were not illegal in Major League Baseball (MLB) before 2004. This is completely false. The truth is that they were officially banned in 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo to all teams and players that illegal drugs, including steroids are illegal. [1][2]

This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs…

The exact same memo was resent by the MLB office in 1997. [3] The reason 2004 is used as the official year was because the rule was not enforced from 1991 until the pressures of Congress forced testing to become official in 2004.

4. Who is responsible for allowing steroids to become a problem from 1991 to 2004?

MLB Commissioner during the Steroid Era

MLB Commissioner during the Steroid Era

This is the ultimate question. Although guilty players have gotten most of the blame for the problem, logically they were only the end result of the problem. The commissioner and owners turned the other way because the lockout of 1994 had caused baseball to drop precipitously in popularity. An historic home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa seemed the perfect antidote for low ratings. The players’ union, in trying to protect their players’ privacy and rights, instead seemed like they were protecting cheaters instead of looking out for the interests of innocent players. The players who used were at fault because they cheated and lowered the integrity of the game. However, it is unfair to fully blame players who felt pressured to take PEDs after seeing a culture that created unnatural stars. It seems, at least for the moment, that Arod fell into this camp. Innocent players should also shoulder some of the the blame because almost all chose the silent route when questioned if their was a problem in the game. Instead of looking out for the interests of the game, they chose to stick to union lines and protect cheating players that indirectly hurt themselves. It’s hard to fault fans that wanted to see more offense, especially home runs, simply because baseball without all the hits and runs can be construed as boring. Finally, testing for steroids and especially HGH was simply not at a point yet that MLB was comfortable with.

5. What notable players have been tainted by steroids, HGH or other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?

Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettitte, Benito Santiago, Gary Sheffield, Lenny Dykstra, Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice, Mo Vaughn, Ken Caminiti, Matt Williams.

This is only a list of notable players. Tens of second tier players have also been outed by the Mitchell Report. Another 103 are on the list of 104 anonymous players who tested positive in MLB’s steroids survey in 2003. Alex Rodriguez is the first name to be leaked from that list.

6. Should players tainted by steroids allegations be allowed into the Hall of Fame?

This question won’t be answered for at least a decade. There’s a reason why retired players have to wait five years before becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame. This is to allow any attachments and emotions to the player to subside before making a more objective decision. However, the criteria for entering the HOF has always changed with the times and generations. As much as people question the statistics of the Steroid Era, baseball has always allowed questionable players into the HOF. Until the whole steroids influence is fully understood, statistics of all players who played during this era cannot be fully appreciated. At this point, the steroids players are simply the ones that have been caught. To assume someone is clean because they haven’t been caught is naive. It is getting to a point that either all players are treated equally in the Steroid Era (whether they were caught or not or were clean) or that no one gets into the HOF. However, this question won’t be answered for a decade and perceptions may change through the years.

7. What paths have players accused of steroids and PEDs taken when ‘outed’?

Ranging from complete silence or denial to complete admittance and regret, players have had a wide range of reactions when cornered by PEDs allegations. The ones that have been most apologetic have had most success in resuming their playing careers, even if it meant a tainted legacy. Those that have shown completely no remorse or have put the blame on non-believable entities have been vilified by the public. The paths taken by the most notable players include, from strongest denial to strongest admittance:

Complete denial and knowledge of taking steroids, even when confronted by overwhelming evidence and federal investigations, continue to stick to their stance (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens)

Complete silence and avoidance of issue (Mark McGwire)

Complete denial then silence when overwhelming evidence surfaced (Ralphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa)

Vague admittance and apology when caught (Jason Giambi)

Full admittance and regret but with excuses such as injury or peer-pressure (Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez)

Full admittance and then assisted officials with information about steroids, suppliers and other players (Jose Canseco, Jason Grimsley)

—–

Notes: This Q&A is not official and is simply my personal interpretation and understanding of the steroids scandal. I will add more questions and answers as they come up. If you would like to see a Q&A added on here, please add it in the comments section and I will gladly update the post.

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Bud Selig – Baseball’s incompetent commissioner

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 9, 2009

On the same vein as my previous article, an argument that greed is the root of the steroids scandal in baseball, the current economic crisis and global warming, there is one other commonality among the three problems, a void of  leadership.  One can even argue that greed becomes rampant only at the behest  or ignorance of the leadership. In the three problems stated, a lack of leadership for years is what has led to the current situations. Let’s look at the steroids scandal in particular.

BUD SELIG – BASEBALL’S INCOMPETENT COMMISSIONER

There is something special about baseball. Through all its scandals (Black Sox, race, recreational drugs, Pete Rose and gambling) it has always ended up doing the right thing and upholding the integrity of the game, even if it meant banning its all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, or several of its top players (Black Sox scandal – Shoeless Joe Jackson) for life. No player or players were above the game, and the commissioners knew this. The commissioners also knew they were not above the game and although they existed at the whim of the owners, they were supposed to put the interests of the game at the top.

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

Well, something happened in 1992. An owner (Milwaukee Brewers), Bud Selig, was unanimously picked by the owners to become the ninth commissioner of baseball. Since 1992, he has allowed baseball to fall into a steroid scandal by ignoring the ramifications of performance enhanced statistics on the game. Any stories about players juicing were swept under the rug because of increasing television ratings and attendance due to historical records falling every year. Instead of looking out for the interest and integrity of the game, Selig exchanged it for higher revenues. Even in the past 7 to 8 years when everyone knew of the oncoming collapse, he acted in a very condescending way, as if the problem was not bigger than the game.  (This sounds just like our past  president and administration on the Iraq War and the current economic crisis?) Consider these players that have now been tainted by performance enhancing drugs:

1. All-time leader in home runs in career and in a season, Barry Bonds
2. Expected future all-time leader in home runs and one of the greatest players in history, Alex Rodriguez
3. Considered best pitcher in the past 25 years, Roger Clemens
4. First to break Roger Maris’ decades long single-season home run record, Mark McGwire
5. Most seasons with 60+ home runs, Sammy Sosa
6. Other 400+ home runs, Jose Canseco, Ralphael Palmeiro, Garry Sheffield

The leader always sets the trail for others to follow...

The leader always sets the trail for others to follow...

That list is too remarkable to ignore. The leader must be held accountable. Selig has been commissioner or acting commissioner since 1992, about the time hints began about steroids usage. Although he might not be the cause of the problem, he allowed it to fester and grow and grow.  Players that would not have used steroids were eventually compelled to use it due to lesser skilled players on par with them now because of PEDs. This is simply human nature. It is now a scandal that won’t go away. As much as the players need to be held accountable for their actions, the leader also needs to be responsible for his lack of action.In any other institution where people are held accountable, the leaders are replaced by the board. The board of the United States, the citizens, overwhelmingly voted the Republicans out of office in the past elections. Even in corporations, strong board of directors have been known to push incompetent CEOs out. However, similarly to baseball, when the board is closely tied to the leader, this almost occurs too late. In baseball, when the owners overwhelmingly approve of an incompetent commissioner that was once an owner himself, then the checks and balance system fails. In my previous article, Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past, the popularity of baseball has decreased more and more as society’s attention has shortened. To compensate for such pressures, Selig’s actions were always for short-term gain (ie interleague play) at the expense of long-term interests.

Rickey Henderson

Rickey Henderson

It is time baseball cleaned itself by removing its commissioner and the players that have cheated. It is apparent that without the pressures of Congress, Selig would not have voluntarily instituted stringent drug testing. Even to this day he acts as if nothing is wrong and that history will view him as a good commissioner that brought baseball back from its dark lockout days (Sound familiar?) As a big baseball fan, until there is strong leadership that is interested in cleaning up the game, then the game itself has lost its allure, the allure that I used to have as a kid in the 1980s watching Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield…

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The need for greed. And they all fall. What Arod, recession and global warming have in common.

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 7, 2009

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

What is going on with the world today? Many of the institutions and systems we grew up with and believed in have crumbled faster than a crumb cake in front of Santa Claus. This morning sports fans were shockingly (or not) met with news that one of the few remaining baseball superstars to not be tainted by the steroids scandal, Alex Rodriguez, failed an MLB steroids test in 2003. Considering that this news was corroborated by four independent sources, and based on past evidence of such news, this story likely has meat behind it. As the Barry Bonds’, baseball’s all-time home run king, steroids perjury trial heads to court, we wonder if there is anything sacred anymore in sportsmanship and fair play. The list now includes Bonds, Arod, Marc McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Raphael Palmeiro. All were heroes and idols to millions and millions of kids and sports fans.

Bear Stearns

Bear Stearns

Sports is nothing, however, compared to the deepening economic crisis affecting the country. But, then again we need to ask ourselves how did this country fall into such a dire situation in the first place? With news of unemployment reaching 7.6%, worst since 1982, most Americans are sensing a pessimism in the country and its leadership they have never felt before. Corporations that have long been stalwarts have wilted after years of trustworthy service. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG, just to name a few. Even General Electric has fallen on tough times due to untrustworthy leadership expectations and financial exposure. Then there are the frauds of individuals, such Bernie Madoff, and corporations, such as Enron and Global Crossing.

Polar bear cub

Polar bear cub

Then there is the global warming and energy crises. Due to the  irresponsible and rampant use of oil and other natural resources, and the irresponsible output of chemicals into the air, river and ground, the natural balance of Earth has come under question. Dire predictions of sea levels, global temperatures, forestation, glacial coverage, droughts and diseases have left us wondering is there any hope left? Will there exist a viable Earth in 100 to 200 years?

It is truly amazing that all three of these problems have one major thing in common. Greed. Greed. Greed. What is most disturbing is that the situations did not become problems until the ultimate greed kicked in. Arod was already a once in a generation baseball player back in high school. It is fair to say that he did not do steroids as a teenager as his body structure was simply too small. Bonds was a skinny player with the Pirates but was already a five tool player on the path to the Hall of Fame. McGwire  was an amazingly talented rookie with the Oakland Athletics. Why did they feel the need to use steroids and become even better than they already were? Why risk already amazing career trajectories with such greed?

Similarly, the financial companies that have gone bankrupt or bought up were very viable and successful companies (some for over a hundred years) before the ARMs and hedge funds became en vogue. Why the greed to do such risky investments in order to raise the bottom line and stock price?  Was it all due to increasing stock compensation packages of executives? Was it all worth it? To dupe millions of unknowing citizens just for more personal money? What about Madoff? An already well-respected and wealthy investor; what caused him to risk everyone’s money (including hundreds of other wealthy individuals and companies), just to make more money for his firm?

Finally, the earth has remained relatively stable ever since the existence of man. However, since the Industrial Revolution and especially since the widespread use of combustible engines, there has been this disregard for the side effects of using such resources. Coupled with research in biochemistry and synthetic compounds, the effects of pesticides, mercury, lead and carbons have led to a precarious global balance. Millions of animal species extinct or on the brink of survival.

Progress?

Progress?

Are humans, the supposedly most “intelligent” species with opposable thumbs, in fact, the dumbest species ever? Just imagine outsiders writing about the history of man and what they would write about, especially the past 150 years. Just imagine what they would write about western civilization. Just imagine what they would say about the population numbers. Or about technology and medical research? Is this the final goal of evolution? We have reached the ultimate in special survival… our only enemy is ourselves? The whole purpose of natural selection is the survival of the strong. However, part of natural selection is natural balance. A species never wants to become too powerful because then their food sources and natural enemies would disappear. Humans have, in essence, overcome both these natural laws. Through natural selection (our brains and opposable thumbs) we are far and beyond the most powerful species. In a relatively short time, our population and power increased beyond control. Humans have no more natural enemies. The machines we have created are unmatched and only destructible amongst ourselves. So what does this all mean?

The human world does not have a checks and balance system. Nature and other species have always acted as the equalizers. The closest thing that comes to that is the United Nations, and everyone knows how ineffective it is. Additionally, idealistic political systems such as communism and socialism have proven futile. Even checks and balance systems, such as the one in the United States, has a limited efficacy, as witnessed by the politics, lobbyism and other issues. Nature is having a difficult time balancing the effects of human greed and power. Diseases and natural disasters are becoming minimal in damage due to medical research and better disaster predictions. Without any natural enemies, we are left to govern ourselves and our future. As exciting of a possibility that is, the track record of that has been phenomenally pathetic.

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Citi Field no more? Politics or bad use of taxpayer money?

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 4, 2009

Citi Field Rendering

Rendering of Citi Field

Due to the economic crisis affecting financial companies, the big corporations that have taken money from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) have come under scrutiny for their use of capital and list of expenditures. The latest salvo was by several politicians, U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ted Poe (R-Texas), who are questioning Citigroup’s $400 million stadium naming rights and marketing deal with the New York Mets. The deal includes calling the stadium Citi Field for twenty years. Citigroup, like many other financially strapped companies, has taken out about $45 billion from TARP.

At first glance, the concerns of Kucinich and Poe make sense. A company that is taking valuable taxpayers’ money because of its financial situation should not be spending $400M simply to put their name on a baseball stadium. However, is this politics as usual? There are several issues here that show that public perception is not always reality.

New York Mets

New York Mets

The obvious issue here is that the marketing deal is a legal binding agreement between two corporations. How can politicians force a company to renege on a legal business deal? Does giving $45B equate to complete scrutiny of the said company? Doesn’t the company still have some independence in fulfilling previous agreements and decisions? What about the Mets? They have made other business decisions since then based on having that revenue stream. Is it fair that politics might force a legal deal to be reneged?

The second issue here is marketing. As financially strapped as companies are, they still need to spend a portion of their budget on marketing. This is the case even if they are receiving money from the federal government. What do the politicians expect them to do? Use 100% of their budget on selling loans and improving the credit crisis? That’s unreasonable because marketing helps increase the financial business. Maybe Citigroup continues to decide that Citi Field will in fact have a positive effect on its financial business.

Citigroup

Citigroup

A third issue is the actual effect of the $400M. The number seems large but it is over the course of twenty years. That amounts to $20M a year. Now we know (at least with very high probability) that the economy won’t be in the doldrums for the next twenty years. That means the deal, as affected by the economic crisis, is in the range of $20-$60 million. This is chump change for a large corporation like Citigroup. More specifically, it is 0.04% to 0.13% of the $45B in assistance! When you look at the fact that Citigroup has revenues of over $19 billion and has a cash/debt ratio of $763B/691B then you start wondering is this worth the time to criticize over?

This reminds me of the grilling that the auto industry received last fall when they tried to get some assistance from Congress. The amount was tiny compared to the bailout received by the financial industry. Yet, politicians were focusing on politics as usual. They focused on these tiny expenditures that have bad public perception (such as private airplanes by executives) instead of worrying about reality and where the real money is going. The auto industry did not cause this mess. The auto industry also employs millions of hard working Americans. The financial industry and politicians caused this mess, and instead of them getting grilled, the politicians gave the financial industry a massive bailout without any public hearings. Talk about fairness. Now we have more politicans worrying about a stadium marketing deal that although has a bad public perception, when analyzed in further detail really has no financial bearing on the situation. It’s absurd and once again, politics at its best.

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Holmes catch, Steelers win not comparable to Tyree’s catch, Giants win

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 3, 2009

Holmes catch

Steeler's Santonio Holmes' TD catch

There shouldn’t even be a debate about which catch was better, the Santonio Holmes back corner dragging the feet touchdown catch to give the Steelers the lead or the David Tyree high in the air helmet catch to keep the underdog Giants alive against the vaunted New England Patriots. The only reason the Holmes catch is great is because it just looks so damn beautiful. Roethlisberger lasering the ball past three or four Cardinals defenders as Holmes catches and barely has room to drag his feet. The problem with the catch is that it is not unique; the dragging the feet catch is all too common in the NFL. Whether it’s in between the goal lines or in the endzone, many receivers have had one of those types of catches in their careers. Amani Toomer of the Giants had several of those just this past season and even in the playoffs last year. It’s just cool because it still looks so beautiful. However, the Eli Manning scramble to David Tyree catch is not something you see every season, let alone every decade. It is a play that you rewind and replay over and over again and still be in complete amazement that the play unfolded all the way through. Here is a list of reasons why it is such a better catch:

1. Uniqueness – Players practice the Holmes catch in practice. They practice the diving and dragging of feet to stay in bounds catch during the week. And you see this catch almost every week in some game during the season. There is no way to practice the Tyree on the helmet getting tackled holding the ball catch. That just happens in real-time… once in a blue moon.

Giants' David Tyree's catch (courtesy of Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger)

Giants' David Tyree's catch (courtesy of Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger)

2. Step by Step Drama – The Manning-Tyree catch had at least 3 instances in which the play should have died but somehow stayed alive. One, Eli was engulfed in a sea of pass rushers almost instantly as the play began. Two, as he tried to navigate out of the pile, some defender grabbed Eli’s jersey. Yet he managed to break free. Three, Tyree leapt to grab a catch that was almost over his head but he was able to get his hands on it. Four, Harrison had his arm inside Tyree’s arms and could have easily broken the play up. Five, somehow Tyree was able to keep the ball one inch from the ground as Harrison tackled him with their arms tangled. Wow. The Roethlisberger-Holmes didn’t have this same step by step drama. Roethlisberger had several seconds of safety before the pass rushers closed in, yet he didn’t feel the pressure that Eli felt. He lasered it to the back corner and luckily went through three defenders into Holmes hands. Great play but not too much drama.

3. Pressure situation – The Steelers and Roethlisberger had just won a Super Bowl a few years ago. Everyone expected them to win this one. Instead they let the Cardinals come back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. That means they finally played to their expectations on that last drive. However, the Giants were massive underdogs at the Super Bowl. They were playing against history, a vaunted team on the verge of going 19-0. Manning was a mediocre player before the playoffs and he stepped up majorly on that last drive. Plus, it was third down and without making that long play, the game was pretty much over. The Holmes catch was only second down, and even with a miss there, the Steelers still had two downs to laser it into the end zone.

4. Caliber of receivers – If you follow the Steelers, you have heard Holmes many times before. Although he’s the third receiver, he has been known to make some big plays before. He is easily a number two receiver on many teams. However, Tyree has only been known to be a good special teams player. He was way down on the receiver chart of the Giants and didn’t even play this year for the Giants (pseudo-injured reserve). He was definitely not the guy you’d expect to make such a big catch in the Super Bowl.

5. Where and when the play occurred – The Steelers were at the 6-yard line of the Cardinals. It was second down. Cardinal fans were already somewhat resigned to the fact that the chances were the Steelers would score a TD there. However, the Giants were in desperation mode. It was third and long and they were near midfield. As a Patriots fan, you’re tentatively happy at that situation that the chances of Eli making a first down there was against the Giants.

When you look at these four reasons, they not only validate that Tyree’s catch was more remarkable but that the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl was better than the Steelers-Cardinals game this year. Last year was completely David and Goliath, fighting against history. While this year, albeit a great game, was not a greatly played game. Cardinals should have had the lead at halftime, if not for that stupid intercepted pass, can’t tackle for 100 yards play. As a Cardinals fan, you gotta be pretty upset that you played so well against the Steelers except for that halftime play and the last drive. As a Steelers fan, you gotta be relieved that you were able to pull it out on that last drive after losing a big lead in the fourth quarter. All in all a great game to watch, but it still didn’t compare to all that last year’s game signified and the suspense and excitement of it.

As a disclaimer, I am a Giants fan. However, my second favorite team is the Steelers, so this article is not that biased. It was a great game, and the Steelers proved how great and respected the franchise is. They deserve to be called “America’s Team” instead of those sorry Cowboys. The Super Bowl should have been Steelers-Giants. Now that would have been an amazing game!

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My 2009 Predictions

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 22, 2009

Here are my 2009 predictions. None that are too far out there. Just a basic assessment of what I think might happen in 2009.

POLITICS

Barack the Celebrity

Barack the Celebrity

Obama’s approval ratings remain historically high but lower than the inauguration euphoria – Obama’s ability to inspire change and leadership at such a dour time in America gives him public leeway not seen since, well, 9/11. However, Obama’s pragmatism will help him keep the country on course and inspired throughout 2009. He has already made key changes in ethics regulations and state diplomacy in his first days in office. The only thing that will stop him will be… Congress.

Don’t expect much from Congress – Congress had lower approval ratings than President Bush in 2008, even with the Democratic majority and push for change. Expect the same from Pelosi and Reid, who are not strong leaders and have plenty of personal ambitions to prove Congressional strength to the Executive strength. Couple with the Republicans fight for relevancy, expect a 2009 of posturing and tit-for-tats. 2010 seems like a better year for Congress because the public will side with Obama over the frustrating bureaucracy in Congress in 2009.

ECONOMICS

The market moves sideways – There will be strong forces pulling the economy from both the recession side and the growth side. It is what I call the economic paradox. As the economy falls, oil prices drop and the US Dollar rises (somewhat surprisingly). However, as global growth resumes, oil demand and  commodity prices rise again and the US Dollar falls (since investors will begin investing in riskier assets instead of US Treasuries). Both are problems for America. Obama seems focused on passing bills and bailouts that will help light a fire under the economy, especially job market. However, the more he does the more inflation becomes a risk. Expect several major rises and several major slides, but by the end of 2009, the Dow Jones will still be in the 7500-9000 range.

Gold surpasses $1000/oz again – Because of the economic paradox, gold will continue to maintain its safe haven status in 2009. One of these days, gold will surpass $1000/oz again. In looking at the GLD chart, gold hit a low in mid-Nov 08 and has since built a nice rising linear resistance that it bounded in early Dec 08 and mid Jan 09. If gold breaks the upper linear resistance of $900/oz expect $1000/oz in Feb 09. If it does not expect a pullback. Aside from the technicals, 2009 is still a year of unforeseen economic strife and that will keep the price of gold high. Depending on where the economic paradox is at the end of 2009, gold will either be well above $1000/oz or testing it’s multi-year lows of $700/oz again.

Gold (GLD) prices from Jan 2008 to Jan 2009

Gold (GLD) prices from Jan 2008 to Jan 2009 (12-EMA green, 50-EMA red)

There will only be one viable American automaker by year’s end – The Big Three is already, in essence, the Small Two. Chrysler’s recent gift of 35% stake to Fiat for its access to technology and services is a desperation move to prove to the U.S. government that it has a viable plan to survive. However, the U.S. government is not going to perpetually support a half-foreign owned company at taxpayers expense. As for GM and Ford, 2009 will still be a very tough market. Any uptick by buyers will simply be for fuel efficient cars built by Toyota, Honda and even Hyundai. GM is effectively surviving on federal assistance, which runs out every few months. A radical solution has to found soon. Don’t fret though, because of the uniqueness of this market, hopes abound for small automakers that can make a difference in “green” vehicles.

SPORTS

yankeesYankees back in business – Sorry non-Yankees fans, but 2009 is appearing to be the Year of the Yankees. A new stadium, a team salary in excess of $200 million, a re-focused Arod with Mark Texeira pushing him, injury free Posada, Matsui and Chamberlain? It’s gonna be a great three-team AL East battle all summer. Yankees will win the division and make it to the World Series once again.

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Mad props to Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald – Leaping Larry’s amazing catches

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 11, 2009

Wow, another amazing leaping catch by Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Another amazing leaping catch between two close defenders.  There’s a reason they call him Leaping Larry. I’ve always been a fan of Fitzgerald because he played ball at Pitt. I usually root for Pitt because they are in the same city as the one I went to for college.  I don’t remember where but I saw some report about how Dennis Green, the Cardinals’ coach back in 2004 was a close friend of Fitzgerald because Larry was the Vikings’ ball boy back when Green was a coach in Minnesota. Green stated that he would probably draft him third in the first round. Well, that and the fact that Fitzgerald has a good head on his shoulders and is an amazing wide receiver. All he has done since coming into the NFL five years ago is have three years of 1400+ yards receiving. You never hear him complain, especially playing second fiddle to Anquan Boldin sometimes. You never hear him do stupid things. He is one of the reasons the Cardinals are doing well in the playoffs.

The two catches he has in this playoffs have been simply amazing.

TD catch against the Falcons – Wild Card Round, Jan 2009

TD catch against the Panthers – Divisional Round, Jan 2009

Well, Larry has been making unbelievable catches since he was a freshman at Pitt. Check some of these older catches by Fitzgerald:

Larry Fitzgerald insane catch – Insight Bowl, freshman year

Behind the head catch

And here’s a great compilation video that YouTube’s TheFreakShow81 made of Larry’s catches.

Larry Fitzgerald catch highlights

It’s amazing because most of the catches occur against multiple defenders in really tight coverage. This guy has crazy sticky hands, amazing body control and awesome speed. And you’ll never see him celebrate too much. When does he become a free agent so the Giants can sign him to replace Burress? (Larry signed a 4 year $40 million contract after the 2007 season, so looks like he won’t be a free-agent until after 2011. Oh well…)

Mad props…

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