Sunday, July 29, 2007

Barry Bonds & The Simpsons

After years of anticipation, The Simpsons Movie was released and claimed the weekend’s box-office championship. Another long wait will soon end when Barry Bonds slams his record-breaking 756th home run. The most obvious link between the two events is the word “Homer.” While Barry and Giants fans will shout “Woo Hoo!” as the record falls, many others will scream, “D’oh!” Besides Homer, here’s how some other Simpsons characters relate to Bonds and those associated with him.

Bart: People always point the finger at him for doing something wrong.

Lisa: She’s better than her peers and isolated in the classroom. Barry’s better than his peers and isolated in the locker room.

Maggie: She’s known for not talking.

Marge: By batting .167 against Cincinnati in his first post-season series, Bonds delighted Marge Schott.

Grandpa: Abe can’t move around like he did in the old days.

Patty & Selma: The duo causes nothing but headaches for Homer, just like Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada for Bonds.

Mister Burns: He’s rich and the most hated man around.

Smithers: Like trainer Greg Anderson, he’ll do anything for the man he worships.

Ned Flanders: Barry could solve his endorsement shortage by appearing in ads for The Leftorium.

Moe: Like Victor Conte, he serves up powerful concoctions.

Barney: He’s a fat drunkard, just like the guy Bonds passed with his 715th dinger.

Lenny & Carl: In 1993, Barry beat out Lenny Dykstra for MVP – 26 years after Carl Yastrzemski won the award.

Chief Wiggum: Like Bud Selig, he’s a chief who’s inept at stopping lawbreakers.

Ralph Wiggum: He makes some absolutely silly statements.

Apu: The Kwik-E-Mart may not have the cream and the clear, but it does have ice cream and Clearasil.

Principal Skinner: He tries to take the fun out of everything, like opposing managers who intentionally walk Bonds.

Mrs. Krabappel: She was once hopeful, before her dreams began to slide. The Pirates were hopeful in ’92, before Bream began to slide.

Milhouse: He’s constantly tormented, like pitchers facing Barry.

Nelson: Springfield Elementary’s resident bully has a high slugging percentage.

Martin: He shares a name with the best player on Barry’s hated arch-rival Dodgers.

Groundskeeper Willie: Close, but with Bonds it’s Godfather Willie.

Otto Mann: He drives the bus and uses drugs, while Barry drives the ball and, ahem, allegedly uses drugs.

Krusty the Clown: Bonds is crusty with the media, but seldom a clown.

Sideshow Bob: There’s often a sideshow around Barry, who’s the son of Bob.

Mayor Quimby: Surely the philandering leader of Springfield has had mistresses pose for Playboy.

Kent Brockman: The newscaster would have a tough relationship with Bonds, since he’s media AND a guy named Kent.

Reverend Lovejoy: He preaches “Thou shalt not steal,” although Barry has stolen 514 bases.

Dr. Hibbert: He has lots of experience with needles.

Lionel Hutz: He’s been gone since Phil Hartman’s death, but Bonds could have used him during grand jury testimony.

Comic Book Guy: He’s arrogant and voiced by Hank Azaria. Barry is arrogant and linked to another Hank A.

Ken Griffey, Jr.: In his Simpsons appearance, he was a major league superstar who wound up with a giant head.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Pro Commissioners' Week in Limericks

As a fan it's the ultimate wish
To be a pro sport's big fish
But when scandal and shame
Overshadow the game
It's a tough week to be a commish

One who knows this is Roger Goodell
Dogged by cruelty in the NFL
He's dying to see
The Falcons' QB
Get mauled by a pit bull in hell

Of David Stern's fears in b-ball
A game-fixing ref's worst of all
While the mob turned vicious
The feds got suspicious
When Tim made a travelling call

Bud Selig is also quite sick
At the park that replaced Candlestick
In the shadow of 'roids
He cannot avoid
Watching Barry hit 756

But amid all the media fuss
Gary Bettman's no gloomy Gus
"This week's not so rocky"
Crowed the leader of hockey
"'Cause nobody cares about us!"

Sunday, July 22, 2007

British Open & Other Sports Connections

Sunday at Carnoustie, Padraig Harrington outlasted Sergio Garcia and won the British Open after a four-hole playoff. As a European collecting his first major, Harrington represented what Garcia was painfully close to being. Sergio now remains saddled with the “can’t win the big one” label, along with Alex Rodriguez and numerous other athletes. Here are some other ways in which the British Open corresponded to the rest of the sports world.

British Open: Harrington and Garcia battled for the top spot.
Detroit Lions: In 2005, Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia battled for the top spot.

British Open: Golfers hit balls into the 18th hole water, known as Barry Burn.
San Francisco Giants: Barry hits balls into the water, as Bud Selig burns.

British Open: Unfortunately for Sergio, he couldn’t win the title before a playoff.
Dallas Mavericks: Unfortunately for Dirk, you can’t win a title before the playoffs.

British Open: Harrington’s final putt was a “Claret Jug shot.”
Ohio State Buckeyes: Embarrassment resulted from Clarett mug shots.

British Open: Sergio and Padraig outplayed their American competitors.
Ryder Cup: Sergio and Padraig outplay their American competitors.

British Open: ‘99 flashbacks showed a Frenchman losing because he didn’t use his head.
World Cup: A Frenchman lost because he DID use his head.

British Open: Its high-profile Lefty didn’t play on Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons: Their high-profile lefty won’t play on Sundays.

British Open: Sergio missed a title-winning par putt on 18.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Their third baseman sounds like “No More Garcia Pars.”

British Open: A champion was crowned by the North Sea.
Anaheim Ducks: A champion was crowned in the OC.

British Open: It brought a victory to the Irish that was long overdue.
Navy Midshipmen: A victory over the Irish is long overdue.

British Open: Richard Green had the best round of the tournament.
Florida Gators: Taurean Green had the best team in the tournament.

British Open: Andres Romero looked great after 16 holes before self-destructing.
San Diego Chargers: They looked great after 16 games before self-destructing.

British Open: Competitors struggled with their drivers in Scotland.
Indy 500: Competitors struggled against a driver from Scotland.

British Open: Harrington was king after 76 holes.
Philly Hoops: Billy King can’t fix the 76ers’ holes.

British Open: Two-time defending champ Tiger was a non-factor.
American League: Longtime non-factor Tigers are the defending champs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vick Launches Pro-Dog Campaign

On Tuesday, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of sponsoring a vicious dogfighting operation. Three other defendants were named in the indictment, which alleges that dogs were trained and fought to the death at a property owned by Vick in Surry County, Virginia. Vick may be elusive inside the Georgia Dome, but shaking free of prosecutors and a dog-loving public is another matter. With those concerns in mind, the Falcons star has taken immediate action to enhance his image by launching an aggressive pro-dog public relations campaign.

The first step in his pro-dog efforts will surely be popular in Atlanta, as he expressed his love for the Georgia Bulldogs. Vick stated that he has no ill will toward UGA for beating his Virginia Tech Hokies in last year’s Chik-Fil-A Bowl. He added that he is excited to be a mentor to third-string Atlanta quarterback D.J. Shockley, a former Bulldog. Vick also expressed his relief that SEC member Mississippi State is not on Georgia’s schedule this fall, since he can’t stand to see fellow Bulldogs hurting each other. Vick even suggested a humane alteration to Sanford Stadium’s signature cheer of “Go Dawgs! Sic ‘Em! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!” Upon kickoff in Athens, he urges UGA fans to yell, “Go Dawgs! Treat your adversary with love and respect! Because I believe all Dawgs should be kind to their fellow creatures!”

The quarterback also enlisted his pro-dog policy to try to upgrade his receiving corps. Many have noted that Vick has been figuratively stuck with a bunch of dogs at wide receiver. In an attempt to turn around the situation, Vick lobbied for owner Arthur Blank to literally sign some canines to play wideout. At the top of his wish list were Snoopy, the most athletic member of Peanuts, as well as Buddy, the multi-sport star of the Air Bud movies. Vick conspicuously did not mention University of Tennessee mascot Smokey. Reportedly, the Peerless Price experience soured him on Volunteer receivers.

Vick emphasized that greater interaction with dogs would help his team toward its ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl championship. For inspiration, he referenced an Atlanta team that did reach the pinnacle. The 1995 Atlanta Braves won the World Series thanks to Cy Young Award winner Greg “Mad Dog” Maddux, as well as Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff. That entire 1995 season showed what dogs could accomplish on the field. Orel “Bulldog” Hershiser pitched for the American League champion Cleveland Indians, and Mo “Hit Dog” Vaughn was the AL MVP. Vick acknowledged that Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson could not win a championship in Atlanta, but as he remarked, “Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha couldn’t lead the Hawks to a title!”

The Falcon standout even plans to join dogs in sports other than football. Drawing inspiration from Chad Johnson’s win against a horse, Vick will put his speed on the line in a friendly race against a champion greyhound. Later, he’ll join forces with a team of huskies to compete in the Iditarod. Vick was not concerned about his lack of experience in the event. Indeed, he has proven that he can win as an underdog (pun intended) in a cold weather environment, having won a playoff game at Lambeau Field.

Vick also used his platform to encourage ESPN to pay more attention to dogs in sports. He was enthusiastic about the Worldwide Leader’s coverage of the Westminster Dog Show. In the next edition, Vick plans to enter his infectious Chihuahua named Ron, whom he purchased in Mexico. Although Ron does not have the statistics of a prototypical Westminster competitor, Vick feels that the dog’s freakish athleticism supersedes traditional stats and will cause serious matchup problems for his competitors. Vick did take ESPN to task for excluding canines from the World Series of Poker. As he remarked, “Come on, we all know dogs can play poker. Those paintings don’t lie!”

The charges against Vick are quite serious, and it remains to be seen what effect his pro-dog campaign will have. However, it cannot be argued that athletes and dogs are better off when they work together. That approach worked wonders for Scooby-Doo and the Harlem Globetrotters.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Phillies & 10,000

Sunday night in Philadelphia, the Phillies gave up six home runs in a 10-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. While the Phightins remained above .500 for the season, they reached a dubious milestone as the first sports team with 10,000 defeats. Over time, the number 10,000 has been significant in numerous other ways. Here are a few of those, along with their relevance to the Phils.

In 1964, Billy Mills became the only American to win the Olympic gold medal in the 10,000 meter run. If he had been wearing a Phillies cap, he would have lost a 6 ½ meter lead with 12 to go.

10,000 Maniacs hit the charts in 1988 with “What’s the Matter Here?” and in 1989 with “Trouble Me.” Appropriately, the Phils finished those years in last place.

10,000 square meters represent one hectare. In their history, the Phillies have been represented by one Hector (Mercado).

“Land of 10,000 Lakes” is a nickname for Minnesota. Unfortunately for Phillies fans, Minnesota was the only team with a playoff series win over Joe Carter.

The Army of the Ten Thousand was a group of Ancient Greek mercenaries put together by Persian general Cyrus the Younger. As a Phillie, Steve Carlton collected four awards named for Cy the Young.

Salmon P. Chase is on the $10,000 bill. That’s fine with the Phillies – they love guys named Chase.

There are approximately 10,000 species of birds. In Citizens Bank Park, there are approximately 44,000 species of boo birds.

There is no zip code 10000, but 10001 is in Manhattan. So in more ways than one, the next loss will have the Phils thinking about New York.

The most recent ice age ended about 10,000 years ago. The Phillies’ ice age ended 27 years ago, when Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson.

Alaska’s Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, after a 1912 volcanic eruption, was filled with burning ash. All-time, the most beloved Phil was Ashburn.

10,000 equals 100 times 100. 2 Phillie seasons resulted in “100 times winning.” 14 years saw “100 times losing.”

Dick Clark hosted The $10,000 Pyramid. He lived in Philadelphia for many years, and like Phillies fans, he’s seen lots of balls dropped.

The Egyptian goddess Isis was called “Isis of Ten Thousand Names.” Phillies fans have a lot more names than that for J.D. Drew.

10,000 is the square root of 100 million, which is about what Mike Schmidt would be making per year these days.

The phrase “live for ten thousand years” was used to bless emperors in East Asia. Hopefully, the Curse of Billy Penn won’t last that long.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Look Back To 1996

Tuesday night at AT&T Park, the American League edged the National League 5-4 in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The AL now has 10 wins and an infamous tie in the last 11 editions of the Midsummer Classic. The last NL victory was a 6-0 affair in 1996, a game celebrated by the slogan "Just 7 more years 'til it counts!" The venue from that matchup (Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium) was imploded years ago, and many other things have changed in the ensuing 11 years. Here's a look back at July 1996.

The Cubs were a mere 88 years since their last World Series title.

Notre Dame had a 13-game unbeaten streak versus USC.

Tiger Woods was two months from turning professional.

The Cleveland Browns did not exist - and I don't just mean their offense.

Bill Clinton was not having sexual relations with that woman.

New Lakers Shaq and Kobe couldn't wait to play together.

Mike Tyson was just really nuts, instead of really, really, really nuts.

Ken Caminiti was in the midst of an MVP season.

Dean Smith and Mack Brown were coaching at UNC.

Fortune Magazine's recent choice for "America's Most Innovative Company" was Enron.

John Elway couldn't win the big one.

"Junior" meant Griffey, not Dale.

National championships were won by schools other than Florida.

We were still sheltered from the greatest threat to American security: the Y2K Bug.

No one liked Billy Packer or Tim McCarver, but they kept announcing anyway. Some things don't change.

Bill Belichick just wasn't head coach material.

The current governor of California had just shot Jingle All the Way.

Lance Armstrong was a cyclist who hadn't yet been diagnosed with cancer. In other words, who the hell was Lance Armstrong?

Rick Pitino was a god in Lexington.

11-year-old LeBron James dreamed that 11 years later, he would be "Now."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Venus & Other Celestial Objects

Earlier today at the All England Club, Venus Williams captured her fourth Wimbledon singles championship, dominating Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1 in the final. Only Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Billie Jean King have won more. While she may be the lesser-known Williams sister, Venus has cemented her status as the top athlete with a planetary name. Perhaps she should branch out and bond with other celestial objects in the sports world. Here’s a brief look at how she can do so. And no, it's not just an excuse for a bunch of Uranus jokes.

Williams would be a natural fit for the WNBA, and not just because she’s one of America’s top female athletes. The league is completely overflowing with celestial objects. Venus could join the Phoenix Mercury, Connecticut Sun, Houston Comets, or San Antonio Silver Stars. With names like that and the Chicago Sky, the WNBA seems to want its fans to be fixated on the heavens. It’s a curious marketing strategy, since so few of its players can get high enough to dunk.

For astronomical inspiration from the men’s side, Venus can always watch the Phoenix Suns. Or she can view films of classic battles between Wilt Chamberlain (The Big Dipper) and Bill Russell, who, like Saturn, was known for having lots of rings. Darryl Dawkins can tell her all about the planet Lovetron, as he gets heckled by Knicks fan Mars Blackman. If Venus prefers college hoops, she can check out the 1985 NCAA championship, won by a Super Nova.

Venus can also look to the NFL for fellow celestial objects. To win tournaments, she needs to go undefeated, like Mercury Morris with the 1972 Dolphins. By winning consecutive Wimbledon championships in 2000 and 2001, Venus emulated Bart Starr in the first two Super Bowls. She can see Starr’s bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which also has enshrined Warren Moon. Rather than an Oiler, Moon would now be known as a Titan (Saturn’s largest moon). On October 28, Venus can watch the Titans against the Raiders – in Tennessee, not the Black Hole.

Baseball may not have as much relevance for Venus, unless you consider the sun’s future. In 4-5 billion years, the sun will enter a red giant phase. Williams can observe a Red Giant phase this Tuesday, if Ken Griffey, Jr. precedes Barry Bonds in the National League lineup. The sun will eventually fade into a white dwarf. As Venus and baseball historians know, the St. Louis Browns once used white dwarf Eddie Gaedel as a pinch-hitter.

Venus can also find astronomical objects in other team sports. The NHL, for example, has the Dallas Stars. However, her LA background and success in Britain will make her particularly interested in the MLS. She’ll be sure to catch up with David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

In Saturday’s music news, the Live Earth concerts entertained crowds around the world. Wembley Stadium was one venue where rockers pledged their support for Earth. But elsewhere in London, it was all about Venus.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Red, White & Blue of Sports

Today is the 4th of July, also known as the Poulan Weedeater Independence Day. Whether it’s fireworks, picnics, or Joey Chestnut gorging himself with 66 hot dogs, Americans are finding fun ways to celebrate the USA’s 231st birthday. The sports realm has a particular fondness for the red, white, and blue, even if the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Blues aren’t faring so well these days.

With the spirit of the day in mind, here’s a look at some Red, White, and Blue sports figures. Certainly, there are far more Reds and Whites to choose from in comparison to Blues. However, I’m giving equal representation to each color. Before proceeding, please rise, remove your hat and imagine that someone near your computer is playing the Star-Spangled Banner. If you’d also like to take a moment and wonder why you never hear the word “spangled” outside of a flag context, feel free.


Red Auerbach:
The Celtics mastermind ruled the NBA for decades, but things got tougher in the 90s. Worst of all, after Cigar won the 1995 Breeders Cup Classic, Auerbach tried to light the horse on fire.

Red Grange: The Illinois and Bears star was known as The Galloping Ghost, because he enjoyed making pottery with Demi Moore.

Red Holzman: He coached the Knicks to the 1970 and 1973 NBA titles and passed away in 1998. Holzman briefly came back to life at the funeral, inspired by the arrival of a limping Willis Reed.

Red Klotz: As the leader of the New York Nationals (formerly the Washington Generals), Klotz is in charge of a team that’s destined to lose every time. The same is true of Matt Millen.

Michael Redd: The Bucks’ sharpshooter will represent Team USA later this summer in the FIBA Americas Championship. He’s preparing for the experience by playing bad defense against guys from Argentina.

Red Schoendienst: Teammate Stan Musial claimed that the Cardinal second baseman had “the greatest pair of hands I’ve ever seen.” Clearly he never saw George Costanza before the tragic iron mishap.


Byron White:
Known as “Whizzer,” he was a Supreme Court justice and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. That dual feat was later duplicated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Charles White: As far as USC running backs go, he gets the edge over LenDale White. Charles won his own Heisman, while LenDale watched everyone around him get one.

Frank White: Frank gets the nod over Devon White because his 1980 Royals were kind enough to lose the World Series to my Phillies, unlike Devon’s greedy ‘93 Blue Jays.

Randy White: He was the Co-MVP of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl XII triumph. Don’t worry Randy - you don’t have to share this entry with Harvey Martin.

Reggie White: As we celebrate our freedom, it’s appropriate to mention one of history’s greatest Eagles. Another Philly icon, Ben Franklin, wanted the turkey to be the national symbol. So say it with me, in honor of Ben: “T-U-R-K-E-Y-S! TURKEYS!!!”

Shaun White: He’ll have particular relevance at 4th of July BBQs today, as food fights everywhere will begin with a Flying Tomato.


Forest Blue:
You’ve probably never heard of him, but he made four straight Pro Bowls in the early 1970s as an offensive lineman for San Francisco. Most importantly, his name sounds like a Crayola color.

Vida Blue: He won the American League Cy Young Award in 1971 – a year after Jim Perry and a year before Gaylord Perry. Blue narrowly edged Matthew and Luke Perry.

Blue Edwards: He had the first triple-double in Vancouver Grizzlies history. No, I don’t care, either.

Blue Moon Odom: An Oakland teammate of Vida Blue’s, Odom had a 1.07 ERA in 42 postseason innings. As is common with Blue Moon pitchers, bartenders served him with a slice of orange.

Blue, Don Cherry’s bull terrier: Sure, the hockey commentator and his dog are much more famous in Canada. But Sunday was Canada Day, so why not share some holiday love with our neighbors?

Blue from Old School: He sacrificed his life in the midst of athletic competition. So for Frank the Tank and sports fans everywhere, he’s our boy.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Other Reasons For Hargrove's Resignation

Today, the Seattle Mariners received some stunning news when manager Mike Hargrove announced his resignation. The club was on a seven-game winning streak, extended to eight with a 2-1 victory over Toronto in Hargrove’s last game at the helm. Bench coach John McLaren will now assume the reins at Safeco Field.

In explaining his unusual decision to leave a hot team at mid-season, the outgoing skipper said that he was finding it increasingly difficult to give the effort and commitment demanded by the position. Many baseball observers will surely look for something deeper. With that in mind, here are some other possible reasons for Hargrove’s resignation.

Seinfeld: Following the advice of Jerry, George Costanza triumphantly walked out of a meeting after cracking up his co-workers. With the winning streak still going, Hargrove similarly decided to leave on a high note.

Motivation: Managers sometimes decide to get ejected to fire up their players. If missing the rest of the game can have that effect, imagine what missing the rest of the season can do!

Supersonics: With Ray Allen being sent out of town, Hargrove figured that all the local teams were undergoing a youth movement. So the 57-year-old skipper gave way to 55-year-old McLaren.

Lack of Consistency: Including his four years in Baltimore, Hargrove had finished his last six seasons as manager in fourth place. With the Mariners in second, he had little hope of keeping his streak intact.

The Human Rain Delay: That was Hargrove’s nickname as a batter, due to his long, drawn-out routine between pitches. Given that deliberate style, it’s possible that his resignation actually started last month.

All-Star Selections: As a player, Hargrove made just one All-Star Game, going 0-1 for the American League in a 1975 loss. He is also the last AL skipper to lose the Midsummer Classic, dropping the 1996 contest. Despite winning in 1998, he still harbors ill will toward the game and decided to overshadow the announcement of this year’s rosters.

Adrian Beltre: He scored the winning run for Seattle today in the bottom of the ninth inning. Hargrove must be a Rocky fan, as he chose to end his career by hugging Adrian in celebration.

4th of July: Forgetting that his team would be in Kansas City, Hargrove invited lots of buddies over to his place to watch the fireworks. Canceling the party at this point would have been really inconvenient.

John Mc: In his first managerial job with Cleveland, Hargrove succeeded John McNamara. He came full circle as he ended his managerial career by turning things over to John McLaren. Preferred choices John McCain and John McEnroe were unavailable.

Apple: Now Hargrove finally has the time to go out and get an iPhone.