Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sink Floyd

Floyd Landis has officially lost his title as the winner of the 2006 Tour de France, according to the three man arbitration panel who found against him in a 2-1 ruling. Currently Landis has one appeal available to him before everything is final - however, it is unlikely that the next panel will rule in his favor.

Now that the ruling has come down, the World Anti-Doping Agency is tooting its own horn and calling this a great victory.

While it is a defeat for Landis, it's no victory for WADA. They were one vote away from a Landis win and were severely chastised and warned should another case like this present itself before the arbitrators, then the ruling would likely go against them.

The panel cited what can pretty much be called the general incompetence and inability of the labs to follow WADA standards and procedures in their warning.

Interesting to note that the panel found that the labs in question were unable to perform the testosterone to epi-testosterone tests in a competent manner, but found that the lab was reliable on the more difficult carbon test. It makes one wonder how clean the arbitrators were.

A quick look at the first two weeks...

But it just me, or are the Sons of Tito trying their hardest to make this feel a lot like 1978?

Now...on to pigskin matters...

I'll comment only on what I have seen enough of to be able to comment on...

The Jets have played precisely a quarter and a half of good football out of eight total quarters played. They might want to consider worrying about playing football rather than what's happening on an opponent's sideline, or what an opponent's snap count is - as it seems that simulating Baltimore's snap count didn't help NY win.

Don't be surprised if other coaches through the course of this season accuse Mangini's team of cheating. There are things that all coaches do that are against the rules, but it's an unwritten rule as a coach that you don't talk about these things. Mangini crossed a line that may even make it difficult, not impossible, just difficult for him to garner another coaching position in the league. Don't believe it, check out Peter King -

"If he wasn't before, Mangini's dead to Belichick now," says one head coach.
"What Mangini did is a disgrace. He wouldn't be a coach in this league without
Bill, and this is how he repays him."...It's widely believed that New England
has stolen signals in this manner for years, but officials from various clubs
acknowledge that the Pats are not the only team that does it - PK, Sports

This weekend they'll have a chance to climb out of the AFC East's long as they can manage to beat the Dolphins.

I feel bad for Joey Harrington. I've seen chunks of the Falcons games and that offensive line would make Peyton Manning look bad, yet Bobby Petrino is blaming Harrington for the team's offensive woes. So instead of trying to fix the line for a reasonably mobile QB like Harrington, Petrino goes out and gets his old college QB, the less than sterling Byron Leftwich.

If Leftwich had issues behind the Jaguars line, he'll be toast in Atlanta. Hope you have your cemetery plot picked out Byron, it'll save time for your next of kin.

The Chargers are looking very mortal right now. They struggled against the Bears, really having to work to beat an offensively challenged Chicago squad, and then were absolutely thrashed by the Patriots. If there's anyone out there other than AJ Smith that believes Norv Turner can lead a team to a championship, please raise your hand. Anybody?

I've watched a fair amount of every team in the NFC East, and the only one that looks good is Dallas...and I don't really buy that they're going to do this consistently.

Other quick observations -

The Steelers look good, the Seahawks do not, nor do the Saints.

I think the jury is still out on the Colts. The Defense looks better than expected, but I want to see it against a real powerhouse before I really make a determination about how good Indy is on that side of the ball.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Objects in Mirror may be Closer than they Appear...

Is it just me, or is Francona managing the lead away with the handling of the Red Sox pitching staff?

The Yankees have shaved three games off the Sox lead because -

  • Francona brought in Paplebon too early (bullpen error two in that game, by the way)
  • Left Schilling in too long
  • And expected Gags to hold a one-run lead
In spite of months of evidence that he should do the contrary, Tito did the above and it has cost the Sox three games.

This now makes, I think, four games that Gags has cut off the Sox division lead. Do you suppose he's somehow on the Yankees' payroll? I want that investigated.

Say it ain't so, Rod, say it ain't so...

By now most out there know about the report that has hit about when Rodney Harrison was first doping. I think paraphrasing the final lines from Bernard Malamud's great baseball novel, The Natural is somehow appropriate.

Not necessarily accurate...but appropriate.

For those of you who have never read the book, it is the novel from which the movie was adapted...and it has a decidedly different ending. The character of Roy Hobbs was inspired by Shoeless Joe Jackson, and what happened to him during and after the Black Sox Scandal.

At the end of the novel, after Hobbs has refused to take the Judge's money, he strikes out at the plate anyway. Overcome with emotion over blowing his chance, he falls asleep on a clubhouse bench.

After he comes to early the next morning, he is greeted by a paperboy selling newspapers with the headline that Hobbs was bought off and the paperboy imploring him to, "say it ain't so, Roy."

The fallen hero imagery of the reference spoke to me.

Get well....

Joe Andruzzi. You're fighting your toughest opponent yet.

Get Walking....

Kevin Everett. It's good to hear that you have motion in your hands and legs.

One final comment on Vick until sentencing...

So, as I am sure many that have followed the Vick dogfighting case will recall, a number of athletes such as Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith gave some form of defense of Vick's dogfighting - based on cultural differences (ie: it should be considered okay because culturally, he grew up around it in the South).

Whoopi Goldberg engaged in the same defense just a couple of weeks ago. She said, "He's from the South, from the Deep South ... This is part of his cultural upbringing. For a lot of people, dogs are sport. Instead of just saying (Vick) is a beast and he's a monster, this is a kid who comes from a culture where this is not questioned."

Boy, that's just lovely. I can't wait for the next Ku Klux Klan member who gets charged with murder and hate crimes to start talking about hating non-whites as part of his/her "cultural upbringing," and warning us to not call him/her a monster because he/she comes from a culture where that just isn't questioned.

If Vick were picked up for snorting or dealing cocaine, would she have claimed the same "cultural" defense because he came from a poor black community where drug dealing and use is part of the "culture"? Of course not. Because it's commonly understood that the act is illegal.

And let's face it - if he didn't know it was illegal, why go through great pains to create a set-up where he can at least try to deny involvement?

Let's face it Whoopi, your "cultural" defense is indefensible.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Quoth the Raven...

A couple of things to address...

Hey, San Diego...welcome to the Norv Turner era. I wonder what the over/under will be on when AJ Smith gets whacked for replacing a hall-of-fame coach with football's version of Rain Man.

From Don Banks this morning -

"I know the truth and I know what I believe, and that's all that's really important,'' said Brady, when asked about the perception of the Patriots' tarnished legacy. "Hopefully everyone who follows us realizes that. But if you don't, then who really cares? We've been proving it to people for seven years, and it's been the same thing. We're not changing what we do.''
Sideline cameras aside, no, they're not. Not one bit. Critics be damned. Two games into another season, and despite the tumult of the past week, they're still the same old Patriots. Maybe even better. For the other 31 teams in the NFL, I can't think of anything that could possibly rate as a worse piece of news.

So, on the second Monday of the season, here are my questions -

If the Patriots had an unfair advantage in the first game of the season, then what was the Jets' excuse for that performance in Baltimore? What, then, is the Chargers' excuse for losing to the league's most scrutinized team yesterday? Belichick manage to replace Philip Rivers with a pod-person?

Let's face a couple of incontrovertible facts here -

For all the talk about the Pats offense - and it has been impressive - the defense has been just as impressive in spite of missing two of their key starters.

The Patriots might be the deepest team in the NFL. Without defensive stalwarts Rodney Harrison or Richard Seymour, New England has done the following on defense through the first two weeks -

Given up a league leading 214 yards per game
Given up 56 yards per game on the ground (2nd in the league) while facing Thomas Jones and reigning league MVP LaDanian Tomlinson (Tomlinson averaged a mere 2.4 yards per carry against the Pats)
Given up 158 yard per game through the air (5th) and have sacked opposing quarterbacks 8 times (4th)
Achieved an average margin of victory of 24 points

All this while playing two of last year's playoff contenders and last season's consensus "best team in the NFL."

Did the Pats have an unfair competitive advantage over the Chargers last night that made a big difference between last night and last season's narrow playoff victory? You bet. Any team that thinks Norv Turner is a better coach than Marty Schottenheimer is automatically giving its opponent an unfair competitive advantage.

Now for the weird question of the week...

Belichick did something mind-bogglingly stupid and against the rules and deserved punishment for it. He got it. He also, in a season in which many pundits have already claimed they are the team to beat, managed to create an "us against the world" situation for his team. So...was he hoping to get caught in order to give his team that extra impetus?

Gone for the last two seasons has been (even the ability to claim) the mantra of "no one thought we could do it." So...was this done to give the team a rallying cry? How do we defend one of our own, how do we defend our legacy?

I think it's unlikely, but I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility.

Nine is a magic number...

I wasn't thrilled with the Red Sox performance this past weekend. They screwed the pooch on Friday, and spit the bit on Sunday...both faux-pas a result of Terry Francona doing a piss-poor job of handling his pitching staff.

I understand that Schilling was pitching a good game and had a low pitch count. But this whole season he has had trouble holding a lead. He should never have been around to face Jeter. I won't even get into Friday's debacle.

Now for the good...

With twelve games left, the Sox magic number is down to nine. It could have been lower, but this isn't bad.

Eric Hinske will never pay for another drink in Boston. He may have been thrown out in the play at the plate (props to Jorge Posada for holding on to that ball), but he was responsible for the run scored by Jacoby Ellsbury later in the game. The ball clearly beat Ellsbury to the plate, but the gun-shy Posada braced for the collision instead of getting the tag down.

I almost think that Hinske should have been given an RBI for that.