Saturday, January 13, 2007

Reminder for myself (1/13/07)

Boston at N.Y. Rangers (NHL), 2:00 on NBC
Indianapolis at Baltimore (NFL), 4:30 on CBS
Philadelphia at New Orleans (NFL), 8:00 on FOX

Advantage of being single - I can waste an entire Saturday watching sports.
Disadvantage - Where are the boobs?

Soccer? I barely punched her

Dave Checketts, former Knicks president and current owner of the Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer team (and also the St. Louis Blues NHL team), was on Mike & The Mad Dog today (sue me, I didn't want to listen to local radio harp on the Eagles). He was on to discuss the major signing of David Beckham, and the interview was rather informative. I couldn't listen to the end of it, and there were three issues they didn't cover (from what I heard) that I was wondering about.

1) Checketts claimed that 1 in 5 Americans 24 or younger have at least one parent born outside the U.S., and 1 in 8 themselves are immigrants. Therefore, they are soccer fans. By the 1930s, millions of Italians had immigrated to the United States, and in 1934 and 1938, Italy won the World Cup. Where was the big interest? No one in my family really cared, as far as I know, and it certainly wasn't handed down to me. Baseball, the American pastime, is what Italians followed. Granted, Italians tried to assimilate more than, say, Hispanics today, who are smart enough to try and retain their culture. Also, with television and everything else, it's easier to follow international sports. Still, you would think the Italians as well as the Irish and Germans would have brought with them some affinity for soccer that would have been shared with their children. Clearly this did not happen.

2) There are 13 teams in the league, and eight playoff spots per season. This is ridiculous. I cannot take the MLS seriously if most of the teams get into the postseason every year. (Lightning Edit: According to Wikipedia, apparently they reduced the number of teams by two. That's still nearly half the league).

3) The New York soccer team (which I don't care about as it came into existence after I left the area) was purchased by the Red Bull soft drink company. They are now known as the New York Red Bulls. That's terrible. I know we complain about stadiums having corporate names, and in Japan their baseball teams have financial patrons listed in their name (for example, the Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo), but to actually have the name be the corporate item, that's just too much. Sports team names should be fun, or at least generic. They shouldn't be advertisements.

Although kids seem to love it (keep in mind kids eat bugs), soccer has a long way to go in the U.S. As far as professional sports teams, besides the big four and not counting minor league hockey, Philadelphia has indoor and outdoor lacrosse, arena football, and arena soccer (as someone said, "the arena football of soccer"). Philadelphia, while dirty and violent, is still a major metropolitan city, and it has more of a lacrosse presence than a soccer presence. Lacrosse. The mutant child of badminton and hockey. There will probably be arena croquet before there's an MLS team in Philadelphia.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What's this? Rangers on TV?

I was flipping through the television channels when I noticed I got the Bruins game on NESN. "Vas ist das?" I asked myself, as German is my native tongue. I quickly flipped to MSG and saw that the Rangers game was not blacked out. I was able to watch the Rangers come back from a 5-0 deficit and nearly tie the game, only to lose 6-4 on an empty net goal towards the end of regulation. I then flipped to watch the Islanders and Bruins in overtime, and then watch the shootout afterwards. Baseball is my favorite sport bar none, and football probably comes in second, but I don't know if there's a more exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping sport to watch when the game is tight than hockey. Ice hockey, not that stupid field hockey.

Earlier, I complained that the NHL doesn't let me watch games on TV. I doubt they changed their policy, so I suspect that DirecTV Center Ice is offering a free preview of some kind, probably to advertise their half season special. Either that, or they screwed up. I'll take it, regardless.

By the way, their half-season special - not so hot:
Special Half Season Offer
Catch all the remaining 2006-07 NHL action for only 4 payments of $29.75, a savings of $50 off the regular season price. Just add NHL® CENTER ICE® to your base package when you order DIRECTV service. Offer ends March 25, 2006.

Wow, only $119 for half the season's games, and the longer I wait, the fewer games I get? Sign me up. Here's a tip for the marketing geniuses at DirecTV and the NHL - if it costs $169 for the full season, the half-season rate should be $84.50.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Minimum wage, minimum rage

The first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, and both the Senate and President Bush voiced support if small businesses get tax breaks.

Democrats, who control the House for the first time since 1994, pushed through the 41 percent wage increase on a 315-116 vote in a matter of hours. All 233 Democrats voted yes, along with 82 Republicans. Under Democrats, "the little guy's not going to be forgotten any longer," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

The measure would boost the wage, $5.15 an hour, to $7.25 over two years in three 70-cent increments. It would affect about 5.6 million people, or 4 percent of the workforce, and there would be ripple effects for about 7.4 million others.

The federal minimum wage was last increased in 1997, the longest gap since it was set at 25 cents in 1938. The $10,712 salary for a full-time worker has the lowest buying power in 51 years.
(source)

I am glad that the minimum wage is going up, hopefully, to $7.25 an hour. That amount is still ridiculously low, but it's better than what it is now. I don't even care if small businesses get tax breaks; after all, big businesses get more than their fair share of cuts. The idea that small businesses will suffer, though, is perhaps a misconception. The "I'm not a libertarian" libertarian Half-Sigma has explained more than once why he believes the suffering to be an illusion:
Whenever there is minimum wage talk in Congress, opponents will inevitably trot out some arch-conservative mom and pop business owner who says that he’d have to let one of his minimum wage employees go if the minimum wage were increased. I find such anecdotes extremely unbelievable. Because every single business owner faces the same salary increases, what happens is that prices are raised slightly and no one gets fired. Chances are that demand for whatever these businesses are selling doesn’t change much when the prices go up.

For those who simply don't want poor people to have money, Conservative commentator Steve Sailor notes:
Americans don't let other residents of America live on $5.15 per hour. Instead, we massively subsidize them. We pay to educate their children in public schools, give them free medical care at emergency rooms, and police their neighborhoods.

I'm not sure in what world we would or should have a private police force, and Sailer goes off on a route that even Sailer fan Half-Sigma disagrees with, but you get the idea. One way or the other, the poor have to get money to live. In a free market, shouldn't they earn that money and decide what to do with it on their own, rather than the rest of us taxpayers giving them assistance through specific government programs that inflate government bureaucracy? In the long run, a higher wage would probably save taxpayers money, and isn't that one of the goals of fiscal conservatives?

Do we call him Q-Rich or Quentardson?

Quentin Richardson missed 9 games with some kind of back problem. According to the New York Post, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas wanted to keep the same starting five for an extra game to make it an even ten. Richardson came back last night, and went 7-12 from the floor and 5-8 beyond the arc, with 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in 28 minutes. Not bad. Jared Jeffries, his replacement, went 1-3 (and missed his only free throw opportunity) with 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals in 29 minutes.

The starting five in last night's game looked like this:

Frye - 8 for 10, 17 points
Jeffries - 1 for 3, 2 points
Curry - 7 for 11, 20 points
Crawford - 4 for 12, 20 points (also went 1 for 6 with threes...stop that)
Marbury (almost wrote Starbury) - 6 for 9, 24 points (with 3 for 5 3pt)

Hmm, coach, I think it's safe to say the experiment is over. Put Richardson back in the starting five. Otherwise, you're probably going to be hanging from the MSG rafters next to Earl "The Pearl" Monroe's jersey by the end of the season.

Note: Please don't lynch black people.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

First they came for the boobies, and I did not speak out...

David Weigel over at the Libertarian blog Hit & Run caught wind of a judicial order banning YouTube in Brazil.
YouTube is being blocked by Brazil's second largest fixed-line telephone operator in response to a judicial order banning a steamy video of supermodel Daniela Cicarelli, the telephone company said Monday.

Brasil Telecom SA prohibited access to YouTube across a wide swath of Latin America's most populous country late Friday after receiving the order, said a company spokesman who declined to give his name because of departmental policy.

Wiegel's quip? "This is how freedom ends; not with a bang, but with a supermodel."

In honor of YouTube, here's a performance of my favorite anti-censorship song, Megadeth's "Hook in Mouth."

I love you Berry much

After writing my previous post, I was walking by the TV with baseball on my mind. The People's Choice Awards were on, one of the entertainment industry's many self-fellating awards celebrations, and I started thinking what I would do if I was given such a recognition (this would be if I was famous and people cared about giving me things besides bills). Maria Sharapova, quite possibly the world's hottest piece of ass, would present my trophy, and I would say, "Thank you, thank you. I'd like to thank the academy or whatever for allowing me the opportunity to have this little walk down...mammary lane." Then I'd pause to allow for applause, laughter, groans, or silence (if people couldn't understand my pronunciation; there's a very real chance I'd be slurring all of my words). "Seriously, though, I know I shouldn't judge a woman without getting to know her as a person, but with golden globes like those, why would I need to?" These jokes, of course, would be more amusing if Sharapova had large breasts.

Anyway, during this sting-laden fantasy sequence, the words X-Men drifted into my ear. Like a trigger word, I was bolted out of my dreamscape and into reality. There, Halle Berry was asking the people in the auditorium if they liked X-Men. She told them if they liked X-Men, they should write to Tom Rothman at Fox, and we would get X-Men 4, and she would be in it.

Now, this gave me something to consider. X-Men 3 was a horrible piece of crap, the worst movie I saw in 2006. There's no reason to think this would improve without someone like Bryan Singer at the helm for the next installment, although it's not like Superman Returns with the bastard child and the peeping tom Clark Kent was anything fantastic. On the other hand, while someone like Kirsten Dunst is trashing the Spider-Man franchise despite the fact it increased her bank account size, Halle Berry is showing love to the X-Men franchise and the fanboys that support it. Halle Berry wants me.

No, wait, that's not it. Nevertheless, if it was done right, hell yes I would want an X-Men 4. Explain away that crap with Cyclops - say, "I got lost in the woods" - and make the story not so damn stupid. The fourth movie would be a perfect set up for the Hellfire Club, or even going in an entirely different direction with a sentinel assault or something. There's 40+ years of history to delve into. They can find something (no Brood or Phalanx, as those are obvious ripoffs of Aliens and The Borg).

Another obstacle, besides the poor direction the franchise has taken, is that it is rumored that Tom Rothman hates the X-Men, or at least hates paying big name actors and directors.

The first X-film may have had some awkward fighting sequences, but it had a great science fiction plot and fine storytelling. They lost sight of that with X-Men 3, so if you want to know if I want a fourth X-Men film, my answer is "only if you make it worth watching." If it would make Rothman better to have cheaper actors, I could accept that. I don't care if they hire Mumbly Joe to play Storm (sorry Halle), just so long as the actors can, well, act, and they have a good script to work from.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

She's only seventeen (sev-en-teen)

The one thing I keep hearing about the Randy Johnson trade is how can the Yankees replace those 17 wins per year he earned. I see it in letters columns, in articles, on the radio, pretty much any format that covers sports. People are too hung up on wins. The only reason Johnson got 17 wins was because the team behind him led the Majors in runs, RBI, OBP and came in 3rd in SLG%. ERA is a bad indicator of success but it's much better than wins, and if you're asking how the Yankees can replace a FIVE ERA - that's 5.00 - they can do so very easily.

Granted, Johnson had a phenomenal WHIP - 1.18 over the two seasons - and he had a K/9 ratio of 8, which is pretty good. He had a BB/9 of 2.24 and a HR/9 of 1.25 (60 home runs in 67 starts), which is better than average. These are reasonable arguments in favor of Johnson, but his proponents are not savvy enough to figure this out, I guess.

He wasn't the ace he was in Arizona, however, partly because he's 90 years old with a bad back, and the Yankees got four players in return: RHP Luis Vizcaino (9.9 K/9, 1.22 WHIP in '06) plus minor league pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson, as well as minor league shortstop Alberto Gonzalez. The Yankees get younger and cheaper. No one can complain about that.

The Yankees rotation to start 2007 will be Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite, Kei Igawa, and an as yet unknown prospect, or even Carl Pavano should he have enough oil to make his parts work. That's not too bad.

Everyone is happy: the Yankees, Randy Johnson (closer to home), and presumably the Diamondbacks, although I don't know why they would give up so much just to get an old man, albeit a great pitcher. I guess they expect him to have a revival. Still, it's a lot for two years of one good pitcher.

P.S. - Arizona swapping their purple and turquoise colors for red and gray is stupid. Lots of teams have red as their primary or prominent color; only one had purple. On the other hand, I like the new arm patch.

Franz Lidz, SI, interviews Kei Igawa

Congratulations to Franz Lidz for writing one of the most boring and uninformative interviews I've ever read about an athlete.

Just so you don't have to waste your time, I cut out the most interesting parts, which were all on the last page.
SI: What do you like most about New York City?
Igawa: The energy. People are filled with pride.

SI: And dislike?
Igawa: No manners in driving. Lots of horns.

* * *

SI: What kind of hitters give you the most trouble?
Igawa: Fast-running singles hitters. They make me throw a lot of pitches.

SI: What kind do you most like to face?
Igawa: Free-swinging power hitters.

* * *

SI: Do you have a secret ambition?
Igawa: That's secret.

If you want to read the full piece, it's here, but you'll have to see such amazing questions as "[Who is] your favorite historic figure?"

In other Igawa news, GM Brian Cashman said that the team expects Igawa to "solidify the back of the rotation," and observes that "the fact that he took the time today to learn a bit of English -- I think that was just a small indicator of the work ethic that he possesses as he tries to transition over here." I hope so.

Peter Schorn, dvd.ign.com

The Matador - 5/10
Sin City - 10/10
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - 5/10
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - 10/10

I don't want to say that he's an idiot, as he presumably can tie his shoelaces and count to ten (although, can he do so at the time time?), but Peter Schorn is a terrible reviewer. I'm not going to link to his work, because IGN doesn't need more traffic (and really, I'm too lazy to go dig up the links to each review), but the scores speak for themselves. Occasionally he gets something right, as with Leon: The Professional (8/10), but I presume that's an accident, the same way Tony Womack sometimes hits a home run.

It continually amazes me how the incompetent find work. Of course, as longtime readers of Nintendorks know, IGN isn't exactly a well-respected site to begin with (via Gamepro #199).

Monday, January 8, 2007

Die Eagles, diiieee, on the road to misery

The Giants lost to the Eagles on a field goal with time expiring in the 4th quarter. I'm not sure which team played worse, except, well, obviously the Giants played worse because they lost. So, I am sure. Also, any team that keeps starting at the 50 yard line and can't score is stupidly bad.

Fortunately, I fully expect the Eagles to lose to a New Orleans team that looks pretty good right now. Although the Saints' wins came against crummy teams, the one exception was a defeat over the Eagles in Week 6 (they also beat Dallas and the Giants, but by then those teams were spiraling down). A lot has changed for the Eagles since then, but hopefully they will lose regardless. Go Saints.

As for the Giants, I'm not sure what's in store for next season. More inconsistent Eli Manning? Brandon Jacobs as our running back? An ancient Michael Strahan? Ah, well, I'll worry about it in August. Right now, the Rangers are contending for a playoff spot, and the Knicks...well, they play basketball. Surprisingly, they're only one game back of first place despite having a .417 win percentage. The Atlantic Division blows. At least the Knicks have been entertaining sometimes, winning a few overtime thrillers:

Nov 1: 118-117 over Memphis (triple OT)
Dec 18: 97-96 over Utah
Dec 20: 111-109 over Charlotte (double OT)
Dec 27: 151-145 over Detroit (double OT)

Granted, Memphis and Charlotte are actually worse than the Knicks, but Utah and Detroit are good teams. That's the Knicks in a nutshell - inconsistent.

The Rangers are second in their division and tied for fifth in the conference in points, and considering there are 8 playoff seeds, they should make the postseason so long as they maintain their current level of play. Lundqvist has had some poor moments, but overall he has shown a considerable ability to win games for the Rangers, or at the very least keep them in tough contests. That's more than the Flyers can say about their own youthful goalie, Niittymaki, who has been less than stellar despite his own quality rookie season last year.

When Lundqvist and Sweden beat Niittymaki and Finland in the championship game of the Olympics last year, it looked like both kids were on their way to dominating the NHL. Although Niittymaki is doing worse this year, Lundqvist has taken a bigger drop. Lundqvist went from a 2.24 GAA to a 2.90 GAA and a .922 S% to a .901 S%, whereas Niittymaki only went from 2.97 to 3.28 GAA and has maintained his .895 S%. Part of Lundqvist's success can be attributed to a superior team supporting him, but you'd also have to imagine that his better numbers last season would indicate he has a greater chance at surpassing Niittymaki this year. We shall see...

...Presuming the NHL stops being a bunch of clowns and makes more hockey games available on non-premium channels. The NHL has no fans, so obviously it makes sense to make the majority of games only available if you subscribe to the hockey package. That's the best way to increase interest in the league. Rangers games are blacked out on MSG, but I'm curious to see if they're also blacked out on the Versus network, which is some obscure channel (in the vein of ESPU). If not, I'm stuck watching Rangers games once a month on NBC, or watching Rangers highlights on MSG (presuming those aren't blacked out). Bastards.