Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fantasy Draft Party Tips

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Hi Everybody. This post has been provided by my friends at FanDuel.com. Enjoy!

We are just weeks away from the start of yet another NFL season, and fans around the world are excited to say the least. Not only are they ready to root on their favorite teams, but a majority of fans are also preparing for fantasy football. More and more die-hard fantasy players are hosting actual parties for owners to officially kick off the season. What makes a fantasy draft party great? Here are a few tips.

The main thing any host should do is make this seem like an official kickoff party for the regular season. Maybe plan hosting the party during a key preseason game. Yes, it is preseason, but it gives a nice backdrop to the event. People can look over the 2015 fantasy football rankings while preparing for the season ahead. No one will really care if a bunch of third stringers are playing on the screen.

Obviously, this party is going to differ from a Super Bowl party, but they will share a lot of the same qualities as well. For starters, the fantasy owners are probably all close friends, so it is the same group. The food planning and layout will be similar as well. Remember, the more comfort food and seating, the better.

Finally, most fantasy owners aren’t afraid to be labeled a bit nerdy, so fully embrace the event to have the most fun. The host should have plenty of extension cords and outlets for people to charge their laptops, tablets and smart phones. After all, doing a couple of mock drafts right before the actual thing with strangers is totally accepted in these circles. Some hosts also encourage owners to allow their inner child to come out. Go ahead, wear that jersey of a player on your favorite team.

A person can look at all at the 2015 fantasy football rankings they want to, but at the end of the day this is supposed to be fun. Make sure the party is fun as well. Friends can argue about the real games during the actual season.
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Friday, August 7, 2015

Prez "candidate" Scott Walker: "I love you, honey, but my government now says it's time for you to die."

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Megyn Kelly:

"Governor Walker, you've consistently said that you want to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. ... Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion? And with 83% of the American public in favor of a life exception, are you too out of the mainstream on this issue to win the general election?"

Scott Walker:

"I'm pro-life. I've always been pro-life. And I've got a position I think has been consistent with many Americans out there in that I believe that is an unborn child that's in need of protection out there. And I've said many a time that that unborn child can be protected and there are many other alternative laws to protect the life of that mother. That's been consistently proven. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who has a radical position in terms of support for Planned Parenthood. I defunded Planned Parenthood more than four years ago, long before any of these videos came out. I've got a position that's in line with everyday Americans."

Wow. Where do we start with this?

So if the Wisconsin governor's own wife were on that delivery table and the doctor said, "Mr. Walker, we can deliver this baby but the process of doing so will in all likelihood kill your wife. What do you want us to do?" ... Walker would answer, "Well, she's been a pretty darn good wife and mother, but I pushed through and signed that law with no exception of the mother's life being in danger. So to paraphrase the crowd at the 2012 debate: 'Let her die!' Oh, and by the way, I'm proud of my stance!"

How about if, after 6 months in the womb, tests showed that the baby was badly deformed, had a hole in its heart and had a 95% likelihood of dying in its first week of life ... and that there was a 98% chance a normal delivery would kill his wife?

"Well, as you know, I fully believe all life is precious ... except, obviously, my wife's. I signed the law that says, 'Let her die,' so our hands are tied. As Rick Perry would say: 'Oops!'"

Talk about death panels!

How likely is either of the above scenarios -- not with Walker's wife but with anybody's wife? Obviously, highly unlikely in the second scenario, somewhat more likely (but still quite unlikely) in the first scenario.

But that's not the point.

The public perception is that this yahoo values the unborn child's life more than the mother's. More than that -- he would push for a federal government mandate telling every family that they also must value the lives of unborn children more than of mothers.

Let the mothers die! Not the best campaign slogan I've ever heard.

I've seen better politics, too. This guy won't be the GOP nominee, but if he is, this would be too damn easy for the Dems to attack. He'd handily lose the woman vote -- and the votes of most other folks who have ever had a mom.

I love that he's all about small government, too -- except for women's private parts. The government pretty much owns them.

As for Walker's position being "in line with that of everyday Americans" ...

Legal abortion has the support of about 50% of all Americans -- and that's with no exceptions at all. More than two-thirds favor exceptions for rape and incest. And, as Megyn Kelly said, more than 4 out of 5 favor an exception for the mother's life.

Walker isn't just out of the mainstream on this issue, he is out of the stratosphere, possibly the universe. Every doctor's group out there believes he is dead wrong on this, too.

Oh, and Walker has never expounded upon the laws that supposedly would work to save the mother's life even as his anti-abortion law would condemn her to die.

Apparently, Republicans haven't learned from the past that this is a losing issue. Compared to the real problems facing the world, the abortion debate -- especially these little nuances of it -- appears minor. But as many GOP candidates have learned over the last few election cycles, this issue can cost them dearly.

I guess I can admire Walker's consistency and honesty. He said what he believes even though he is toast as a presidential candidate.

---

As for the rest of the GOP presidential debate field (in alphabetical order) ...

++ Jeb Bush sounded likable and positive, and he stayed away from saying anything that could hurt him too badly. So even though he said little of substance and all-out avoided a couple of questions, he still emerged as one the night's winners.

++ Ben Carson ... um ... thanks for showing up.

++ Chris Christie actually made some good points, but he defended the NSA spying program a little too vigorously. And his ideas on Social Security will never fly with the huge senior voting bloc. His best chance is to have his "people" shut down the roads on the way into the next debate.

++ Ted Cruz ... Ugh.

++ Mike Huckabee will always appeal to a small segment of society and will never appeal to most people beyond that segment. His audition to get a better talk-show gig is going well, though.

++ John Kasich seemed like the grown-up in the room. He might be a little too openly religious for me, but I still want to see and hear more from him. The Ohio governor looked, sounded and acted "presidential."

++ Rand Paul's long-shot candidacy? Ka-boom. He was punk'd repeatedly by his fellow candidates and had no real comebacks other than, "Oh yeah?"

++ Marco Rubio also stumbled a little on the abortion question, and he was a little too "canned" in some of his responses, but you can see how he has built a political career. When he isn't guzzling water during speeches, he is smooth. Maybe too smooth.

++ Donald Trump opened with characteristic bombast but was quickly booed for suggesting he'd run as an Independent if he didn't win the nomination. Shortly thereafter, he was slapped down by Kelly for treating women like dirt. He then spent most of the second half of the debate looking bored. As usual, he offered no real solutions for anything. I do hope he stays on top of the polls because he is fun to have around -- even if Jon Stewart isn't around to mock and lambaste him.

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Word is that Carly Fiorina "won" the JV debate that took place earlier in the day. I admit that I didn't watch it. I was too busy doing important stuff, like picking lint out of my belly-button and counting how long I could hold my eyes open without blinking.

What I do know about Fiorina is that in six years as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, she ran that company into the ground and had a huge role in costing tens of thousands of people their jobs. So if the main thing on your resume is your business acumen and your main issue is jobs, and you ruined the biggest business you ran, well ... she has a slightly better chance of being president than my dog Simmie does.

Nevertheless, I'd like her to graduate to the varsity debate team next time just to see if she'll confront Trump half as effectively as Megyn Kelly did.
^

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Looking forward to a big Thursday: My anniversary (Robbie's too), the big debate, Stewart's finale -- WOW!

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Tomorrow -- Thursday, Aug. 6 -- is going to be quite a day. Fun at times, interesting at times, stupid at times, hilarious at times, sad at times.

Sometimes, it will be a combination of several of the above-mentioned emotions.

First and foremost, it is Robbie and my 32nd anniversary.



Hard to believe how quickly the time has flown by. 

I've tested her sometimes, and yet she's stuck by me. What did I do to deserve such a great wife, partner, friend and companion? (Not to mention such a great mom to Katie and Ben.)

Unfortunately, she will have to work all long day, and she already has told me she will be too tired when she gets home for us to go out and celebrate. So I will make her a nice dinner -- steak, shrimp, potatoes, salad -- and we'll go out to celebrate on the weekend.

That's fine with me. I missed many an anniversary during my working years because I was traveling. Robbie and I both agreed decades ago that "it's just a date," and we always enjoyed celebrating as often as we could on other days. 

It cracks me up when I hear about a wife or a husband who is furious at her/his spouse because the spouse had to make a living to put a roof over the family's head.

It's just a day, and people who love each other celebrate more than once a year!!

---

Tomorrow night, of course, is the first 2016 Republican presidential debate (not to be confused with the itty-bitty debate among the junior varsity earlier in the evening). 

If I'm Lindsay Graham or Bobby Jindal or one of the others who didn't qualify for the "Big Boy Debate," I'm saying something insane just for the publicity.

How about something like, "Mexicans are rapists and McCain is a loser for getting captured?"

Oh wait ... that one has already been used by some orange-haired mope -- and it was a smashing success among the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing crowd.

In the Big Boy Debate, will the other nine fine gentlemen let Donald Trump bully them as if he's Bobby Knight and they're a bunch of Neil Reeds? I'm looking forward to finding out! It should be about as close to must-see TV as politics gives us these days.

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And capping off the day will be Jon Stewart's final show. He has made me laugh so much over the years, and I am going to miss him. Heck, couldn't he have stayed around one more week just to poke fun at whatever dopiness takes place in the debate?

Stewart has been more than a comedian. He has been an important voice, especially for veterans, minorities, women and underdogs everywhere. 

I know I already used the cliche, "must-see TV," but if you missed Monday night's take-down of Fox News, go to The Daily Show's Web site and find it. It was fall-on-the-floor hysterical -- and, of course, it was dead-on true, too.

The Comedy Central combo of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert spoiled the heck out of viewers for years. After Thursday, we won't have either of them -- at least not as we came to know them.

Sigh. Stewart's departure will leave a major void in my daily routine.

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After winning the spring/summer championship in dramatic fashion (see my previous TBT post), the Sons of Pitches opened the fall softball season Tuesday night with a more ho-hum 8-4 victory. We didn't hit much, but we played our best defense of the season. I can't wait to get my shoulder fully healed and join back in on the fun!

---

I never had an 11-game hitting streak in softball, but I do have an 11-article streak of having my work on the financial site Seeking Alpha selected as an "Editors' Pick."

The latest is about my purchase of Apple stock. Read it here.

So that's another thing I'll be doing tomorrow: responding to the tons of comments that will be streaming in.

Ah, the life of a retired sportswriter.
^

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We are the champions, my friend! (Cuz we kept on fighting till the end!!)

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In the words of the immortal Johnny Drama:

VICTORY!

Yes, our bunch of old men -- The Sons of Pitches -- turned out to be the best bunch of old men in the Charlotte Senior Softball League. On Tuesday night, we won our semifinal game 5-4 and then followed with a dramatic 18-17 championship game victory. Both times, we came from behind late to prevail.

What's pretty freaky is that in 14 innings of play over the two games, we had exactly two leads -- when Jerry hit the walk-off, two-out triple in the bottom of the last inning of the semifinal ... and when Rick delivered his bases-loaded deep fly over a drawn-in outfield in the bottom of the last inning of the championship game.

Going into the bottom of the sixth inning of the championship game, we were trailing 17-12. Pat, our coach/pitcher, gathered us together and shouted:

"This is something we are gonna remember for the rest of our lives. And most of you mother-bleepers are only gonna live another five years, so let's go!"

OK, it wasn't Rockne ... it was better! And funny, too. Obviously inspired by our fearless leader, we proceeded to score four times to make it a one-run game. We shut out our opponent in the top of the seventh and then scored twice in the bottom, with Moe, the oldest Son of Pitch, knocking in the tying run to set up Rick's winning hit.

Then, merriment ensued -- complete with a champagne spray from Pat.




We Are The Champions, My Friend!

Back Row: Rick, Mike (a.k.a. "Good Mike"), Bob, Jerry, Pat, Moe, Rich, Gary.

Front Row: Joe, Doug, Wayne, Bruce, Yours Truly.


I'm trying to remember if I had ever previously won a championship game in any sport at any level, and I'm pretty sure the answer is no. I'd remember, right? (I did mention I'm old, though, and the memory ain't what it used to be.)

You'd think there would have been a rec league title or an intramural win somewhere.

My freshman year at Marquette, our floor won the dorm touch football championship ... but we lost a heartbreaker to the frat team for the overall title. I played center and because the league used "everybody eligible" rules, I caught a few TD passes and PATs during the season. After we scored our only touchdown of the night, I was wide open in the end zone for the extra point, but out very good QB simply overthrew me by a mile. (I'd be happy to poke fun at my vertical leap, but LeBron wouldn't have caught that one.) It was 6-6 after regulation and we ended up losing in overtime.

And I think that's the closest I got to a title of any kind. I was kind of the Ted Williams/Dan Marino/Karl Malone of overweight, undertalented wannabe jocks -- I couldn't win the big one. Until Tuesday!

I got close as a basketball coach just last season, as documented in The Baldest Truth back in February, but my Scholars Academy Eagles lost to our archrival in the title game. Katie and Ben won a few youth sports championships, but I don't think I coached any of those seasons.

Pat and I (as pictured below, with Pat holding the champagne bottle) joined the senior softball league the same year, 2012, and we have been together since -- on three different teams.



We actually won a couple of fall league titles, and I guess those count, but neither of those were won through a gauntlet of playoff games; we simply had the best record during the season, and fall league is less competitive than the spring/summer version.

So I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this was my first championship ever as a player or coach.

I thought it would be a bittersweet feeling because I wasn't active for the playoffs. I had shoulder surgery a few days before our quarterfinal victory last week and won't be able to play for at least another month. I was worried I wouldn't really feel like part of the team. But that wasn't the case at all. The guys were genuinely glad to have me (and our other injured player, Rich) at the games, and we did our part. I coached third base and first base, Rich provided in-game scouting of the opponents' at-bats. And we were vocally encouraging at every opportunity.

When Rick greeted me at first base after his title-winning hit, we high-fived. I bounded over to Pat for a quick hug before we went through the handshake line. And I definitely enjoyed my swig (or two) of champagne!

Counting four spring/summer league teams and three fall league teams, Pat and I actually have been together for seven seasons over these 3+ years. Although we really have been fortunate to have had great teammates every time, this is a particularly special group -- and I would have said that even if our season didn't have such a special finish.

Great guys to play with, to hang out with at the bar, to shoot the shyte with, and, yes, to celebrate with.

Here's to The Sons of Pitches -- a great bunch of winners!
^

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Big win for Sons of Pitches, big pain for yours truly

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With our come-from-behind triumph last night, the Sons of Pitches finished our regular season at 7-4. Our victory clinched the No. 3 seed -- and first-round bye -- for the playoffs. I chipped in with a couple of singles, and I also drew a walk as part of our winning 5-run rally; it's always nice to aid the effort.

Of course I wanted to win, but I admit that the victory was a little bittersweet for me. I am scheduled to have arthroscopic shoulder surgery on July 16, so the clinching of the first-round bye means this was my last softball game of the spring/summer season.

Hopefully, the surgery will be successful, I will rehab quickly and will be ready early in the fall campaign. The guys need me -- no, not on the field, but to lead the charge to the post-game libations!

+++

The surgery will be for an "impingement" in my left shoulder -- I have trouble moving my arm laterally or raising it over my head. Meanwhile, my right shoulder also is sore, but the doctor thinks physical therapy will fix that. I hope so -- because I'm tired of throwing like ... well ... I don't even know how to describe it. A spastic T-Rex, perhaps?

+++

I haven't touched a golf club yet in 2015, and I haven't played a round in almost a year. Those who know me will find that hard to believe ... but it's not easy to concentrate on the golf game while yelling "Owww!" with each swing.

+++

My shoulder ailments join an increasingly tight left hamstring that makes it uncomfortable to sit for more than about a half-hour -- so you can imagine how much fun I was on our drive to and from Chicago. Many gymnastics were performed when I was in the passenger seat. I have a feeling that one of these days, I'm going to be running to first base and the hamstring is going to snap like a guitar string that was tuned too tight. Sproing! Can't wait.

+++

And yesterday afternoon, I went to the doctor to try to find a cure for an infection on my left index finger, something that has been bothering me for more than a year. It was my third trip to this doctor, a general internist, and almost certainly my last. If I don't get rid of this infection soon, it will be time to go to a specialist -- something I probably should have done already.

+++

How did all of this happen? I'm only 54 freakin' years old!!

I guess I have to look at it this way: All of the aches and pains remind me that I'm alive, which is vastly better than the alternative.
^


Monday, July 6, 2015

Can anybody use a record player ... or 7?

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So much has happened in sports since my last post that I'm not about to try to play catch-up in that department. So ...

Robbie and I just got back from the Chicago area, where we spent a week cleaning out my 89-year-old father-in-law's townhouse (while he stayed with his niece in a different suburb). There are pack rats ... and then there is Frank, who merits a special category of his own.

Here is what we found -- AND I AM NOT MAKING UP ANY OF THIS:

++ 9 TVs, including what had to be one of the first gigantic projection TVs ever made, 3 TVs with screens so small viewers might have needed a magnifying glass to see the picture, and a TV/VCR unit designed to fit between the seats of a full-sized van. Ben got the newest TV of the bunch -- a 50-inch HD flat screen that Frank bought last year; Frank's niece's granddaughter got the small flat screen that was in his bedroom; and, aside from the projection TV that still sits in his living room (or, in Frank's parlance, his "parlor"), Robbie and I put the other 6 TVs by the curb with "FREE" signs on them. All 6 were taken by passers-by.

++ 7 record players. Again, my son took what appeared to be the best one -- which had a built-in 8-track player. Can't beat that! A neighbor claimed one of the others. We put the 5 others on the curb and 4 were snapped up. We ended up throwing away one that looked like it had been through several wars. Frank also has probably 5,000 albums -- 4,950+ of which he has never played. We haven't figured out yet how to get rid of those.

++ At least 100 flashlights, most cheap plastic ones Frank had gotten as freebies over the years. We threw out almost all of them.

++ Hundreds of batteries, most past their expiration dates and many corroded.

++ More than $1,000 worth of coins that Frank had collected in various desk-top banks and boxes, including $700+ in quarters alone. We took that to his credit union and got it deposited in his account. We then closed his account -- which had been paying him no interest -- and moved all of his money to an online account we had previously set up. The online account pays him 1.05% interest -- not much, but it's better than 0.00%!

++ Two orbital waxers that a UPS driver claimed from the curb, along with a huge bucket of car-care products. One waxer was still new in the box; the other had been used maybe once. Why did Frank need 2 orbital waxers? Because if he hadn't gotten the second, he would have only had one!!

++ A dozen or so heaters, fans and air purifiers of all shapes and sizes. These were popular items among the free stuff we left on the curb. Frank's house was so filled with dust, that he must have felt the air purifiers were a must.

++ An old elliptical trainer and an even older step-climber, neither of which worked. They sat for awhile but were eventually claimed. Frank was NOT an exercise guy.

++ Dozens and dozens of framed pieces of "art" -- if pictures of fake flowers, ducks and Dennis Rodman can be called "art." All the sports-themed stuff went to Frank's great niece, who is setting up a basement bar. The rest went on the freebie pile.

++ Tools, tools and more tools, most of which were claimed by family friends.

++ Bags and bags filled with clothes, many of which were still in their original wrappers. Frank wears a total of 2 pairs of pants and 3 shirts, so he doesn't need 200+ outfits. That clothing -- along with usable linens and kitchen dishes and utensils -- were donated to Frank's church for distribution to the needy.

++ Five boxes of self-help books, most of which were based on various conspiracy theories. Ugh.

++ Carpet-cleaning equipment and at least 4 bucket/mop combos. Frank used to be in the floor-cleaning business. Friends took some of the stuff, the worst junk got pitched.

I could go on, but I won't. Frank used to go to garage sales and flea markets and just buy crapola. I don't know if his goal was to sell it or what, but he must have done 100 times more acquiring than selling. He also was seduced by infomercials, magazine ads, etc. That led him to buy stuff like "exclusive Michael Jordan collector plates featuring genuine reproductions of the greatest player ever's autograph!" He was on every list, and he responded to far too many sales pitches. In addition to the needless stuff he bought, Frank had cases and cases of supplements, creams and other products that were supposed to ward off the aging process.

It's all a form of addiction. It gripped Frank and continues to grip many seniors like him. They are classic victims of those sales schemes.

All of the above referred to Frank in the past tense, even though he is very much alive. Why? Because his days of buying crapola are over. He no longer can drive and he is with us pretty much all the time, so there no longer is the opportunity. Thank goodness!!!

Although cleaning out Frank's place was extremely hard work -- I lost 5 pounds during the week despite daily consumption of a full breakfast, a nice dinner and 2 beers -- it did provide lots of laughs for me and Robbie. I'd be in one room and she'd be in another, and I'd hear:

"Why? Why? WHY? Why does he have 4 or 6 or 8 speakers in every room? Why? He never listened to music!!!!"

We dined three times with friends and twice with Ben and we always had plenty of fodder for conversation!

We are scheduled to go back in October as part of a whirlwind trip that also will take us to Philly for my brother's wedding. We will drop Frank off for an extended (4-6 weeks) with his niece and spend a day or two at his place -- maybe even get it listed with a realtor? Between now and then, I might go back for a long weekend, try to sell some of the furniture he has, arrange to have the rest of the garbage tossed, line up somebody to re-carpet and paint the place, etc. We'll see if I can swing it.

One thing for sure: This reinforced our resolve to NOT be collectors of crud -- so Katie and Ben don't have to go through this someday!!

++++

Upon our return to N.C., I had so much to do that my head was spinning.

One pleasant surprise: I have moved to No. 1 in readership "rankings" for Seeking Alpha's "Dividend Investing Strategy" category.

I'm long past needing my ego stroked for such things, but it's always nice to be No. 1 at anything!

++++

Right before our trip, I ran my week-long girls basketball camp at the school where I coach, Scholars Academy. Everybody had fun and improved a ton, and I might have a new prospect or two for next year's team!

++++

OK, I've got to run now and declare my candidacy for president. I mean, why should I be the only one not to do it?
^



Monday, May 11, 2015

LeBron throws coach under bus - then throws 21-footer into basket

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The Cavaliers would be better off with no coach at all. The same might be true for the Rockets. As for my old Marquette classmate Glenn Rivers (we didn't call him "Doc" back then), he is showing why he is one of the most respected basketball coaches on the planet.

For me, one of the most interesting things about the NBA playoffs is watching the coaches. How do they handle the stress? Are they good punchers and counterpunchers? Can they deal with the egos around them?

Here's some of what I'm seeing ...

DAVID BLATT

He is in so far over his head that he might as well be operating from the bottom of a grave --  which is where his Cavs would be had he not been saved from himself twice in the final 10 seconds of Sunday's victory over the Bulls.

With 9.4 seconds left, Derrick Rose scored on a drive to tie the game for the Bulls. Blatt immediately signaled for a time-out, which is normal procedure -- except that the Cavs had no time-outs remaining. Had the nearest referee seen Blatt's signal, the Cavs would have gotten slapped with a technical foul that very well would have delivered the game to the Bulls. Fortunately for Cleveland, alert assistant coach Tyronn Lue grabbed Blatt and reminded him of the situation before the ref saw the time-out call.

"Yeah," Blatt later admitted, "I almost blew it."

And then he almost blew it again.

LeBron James drove the length of the court for a layup but missed and the ball went out of bounds with 1.5 seconds left. As the refs watched the replay to make sure they were right in awarding the ball to the Cavs, Blatt drew up a play that had the world's best player inbounding the ball to somebody else.

"I told coach there was no way I'm taking the ball out," James said. "The play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told coach, 'Just give me the ball.'"

Matthew Dellavadova threw it in to James, who had worked himself free in the left corner. LeBron caught the pass, rose high over Jimmy Butler and drilled a 21-footer as the horn sounded.

Blatt almost surely will be fired if the Cavs don't win the NBA title. You don't bring in a Ferrari and let Mr. Magoo drive it.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the unlikely event that the Cavs do win the title, though. The guess here is that he'd still be canned, and for good reason. The coach can't lose his head when the game matters most. And when the best player totally and publicly disrespects the coach, the coach has got to go.

KEVIN McHALE

The Rockets' coach has turned the Clippers series into a farce with his Hack-a-Jordan strategy.

Did DeAndre Jordan miss 20 of his 34 free throws? Yes. But the Clippers still won by a zillion points because the strategy made McHale have to use his mediocre bench too much, gave injured Clippers point guard Chris Paul ample time to rest and ruined the flow of the game.

McHale said he wanted to "muck up" the game because the Clippers are an athletic, fast-breaking team. But the Rockets like to play with a certain flow, too, one that includes a lot of transition 3-pointers. The mucked-up game ended up hurting them.

The Clippers are 19-2 when teams try the Hack-A-Jordan. The strategy didn't work back in Shaquille O'Neal's day with the Lakers, either.

What the strategy does is make a game un-watchable. I'd be stunned -- and disappointed -- if the rules aren't changed to make it illegal before next season.

DOC RIVERS

Some coaches might have panicked and taken Jordan out of the game when he was missing free throws, especially when the Rockets took an early lead while using the hack strategy.

But Rivers just let the situation take care of itself. For one thing, he knows the strategy almost always eventually fails. For another, he knows Jordan is the league's best interior defender and the Clippers are better with him on the court.

All series long, Rivers' Clippers have been the more physical, more hustling and more prepared team. And hey ... Rivers even gets bonus points for having fathered -- and traded for -- his son Austin, who has come up huge with Paul being banged up.

TOM THIBODEAU

The Bulls coach always looks as though his dad just told him he can't borrow the car.

I guess I don't blame him for being permanently perturbed.

Despite wringing a fine season out of an injury-prone team, despite coaxing Pau Gasol into his best performance in years, despite helping turn Jimmy Butler into an All-Star, despite his team always playing hard and never giving up, Thibodeau is viewed by many as the guy who is holding the Bulls back from true greatness.

It's widely believed he will be fired unless the Bulls win the championship or at least advance to the Finals.

Maybe it would be best for both sides. Thibodeau certainly will get another job -- Cleveland could do a lot worse. And maybe the Bulls need a new voice in the locker room because NBA players do tend to tune out the coach after awhile.

Still, it's hard to say the scenario has been fair to Thibodeau, who repeatedly has overcome major obstacles to keep the Bulls in contention. And it's hard to envision the Bulls hiring anybody better.
^

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fun With Numbers

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Here are some of the more interesting statistics and numbers I've seen (or experienced) recently ...

0-for-39

Shaq Thompson, a linebacker from the University of Washington who last week was the Carolina Panthers' No. 1 draft pick, also once was enough of a baseball prospect to have been selected by the Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2012 MLB draft.

In his very brief professional baseball career, however, Thompson arguably put up the ugliest statistical line in the sport's history.

In 13 Gulf Coast (Rookie) League games, Thompson went hitless in 39 at-bats -- with an incredible 37 strikeouts. He did draw 8 walks ... so in 47 plate appearances, he put the ball in play in fair territory exactly twice. Twice!

No wonder he's now an ex-baseball player. Michael Jordan was Babe Ruth compared to this guy.

^^^

4-0

That's the record of the mighty Sons of Pitches so far this season.

I'm not hitting squat (although I've got more hits than Shaq Thompson had), and I'll blame my bum shoulder for that (gotta have an excuse, right?), but I'm still having a blast being part of this talented and fun group of fellow 50-and-overs.

Maybe we'll do what Kentucky couldn't!

^^^

13

In his first game at Davidson College, Stephen Curry committed 13 turnovers. Folks had to be wondering if Wildcats coach Bob McKillop had lost his mind offering the skinny son of Dell Curry a scholarship. Winthrop had been Steph's only other Division I suitor.

I guess McKillop's decision ended up working out all right for Davidson, for Curry and for the Golden State Warriors. Steph was just named NBA MVP.

Here's what I wrote shortly before the 2009 draft:

NBA teams are in love with the potential of Spanish teen Ricky Rubio, who is expected to be either the second or third player drafted Thursday. 
Well, he might be the goods. Or he might not be. Nobody really knows.
Give me Stephen Curry. He can handle the ball, he's an excellent passer and he'll be a big-time 3-point shooter.
A stiff breeze could carry Curry into the next county, true, but we know he has a lot of game.
Can anybody really say as much about Ricky Rubio?

When healthy, Rubio has been a pretty good NBA point guard. Much to the chagrin of the Timberwolves and their fans, however, he hasn't been Steph Curry -- truly one of the great shooters ever to lace up a pair of sneakers.

Hey, even I get one right every now and then.

^^^


$99.95

The amount of money I'm very proud to say I didn't spend to watch Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao paw at each other for 36 minutes.

For one thing, I wasn't going to give a serial woman-beater and reprehensible human being like Mayweather one dime of my money.

For another, I used to love boxing years ago but I can't get into such barbarism now. I guess I've gone soft, and not just in my belly.

^^^

26-14-13

That was Blake Griffin's box-score line in the Clippers' Game 1 playoff victory at Houston.

L.A. needed its all-star forward to come through big-time with Chris Paul being unable to play due to a hamstring injury, and he delivered as the Clips stole home-court advantage from the Rockets

Will this be the year Griffin and the talented Clippers finally realize their potential? I am rooting for them -- and my old Marquette friend, Glenn Rivers (we didn't call him Doc back then). I hope Paul gets back in the lineup soon.

Those who say they "hate" the NBA for whatever reason, and therefore refuse to watch it, recently missed an instant sports classic: Game 7 from the Clippers-Spurs series.

Playing on one leg, Paul was incredible. He scored 27 points, including a last-second circus shot to win the game (and the series) in a performance every bit as impressive as Jordan's "food poisoning game."

Yes, your average January NBA regular-season game can be a bore, but playoff basketball is often sensational. These guys very well might be the best athletes in the world. Add in the motivation of a possible championship, and it's pretty special stuff.

^^^

60,000

Thanks to good initial readership, and then to links imbedded in subsequent articles, my Dec. 17 piece for the investing Web site Seeking Alpha just passed the 60,000 page-view mark.

I used to reach hundreds of thousands of readers back in my sportswriting days, so I'm not getting overly excited about this milestone. Still, 60K is a pretty big number for a single article on most financial sites. It's almost twice as many as any other article I've written has received.

I get paid per page-view, and the money I'll get from that article will help fund the new siding I just found out our house needs.

It's hard to beat that for a fun way to spend one's money! But hey, at least I didn't give any of it to Floyd Mayweather.

^^^

0

The number of declared presidential candidates for whom I want to vote.

If these men and women are supposed to be our best and brightest, that's pretty effin' depressing.

^




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

THE JOY OF SIX: The Masters, the presidential race and the return of the Sons of Pitches

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6. How 'bout that Jordan Spieth, huh? Every time Phil Mickelson or Justin Rose or anybody else drew within a few strokes of him at the Masters, the 21-year-old Texan would birdie the next couple of holes and re-open a commanding lead. He ended up breaking a bunch of records and tying Tiger Woods' mark for best Masters score ever. Pretty impressive.

I know that I'm looking forward to many years of him dueling with Rory McIlroy, the reigning king who is only 25 himself. Then again, I remember Tiger and Sergio Garcia going toe-to-toe as youngsters in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah and thinking, "Wow, it's gonna be fun watching these guys go at each other for the next decade or two."

How has that worked out?

^^^

5. At one point, CBS showed a list of the last 10 Masters champions -- reminding me that the one and only Masters I ever covered (or ever will cover) was won by the "least good" (to borrow a phrase from former Bears coach Dick Jauron) champion in decades. Maybe ever.

Despite shooting a 75 in the final round, Trevor Immelman beat a field that never really showed up. Woods tried to rally but got no closer than 3 strokes. Immelman hasn't won since and, since 2012, he has missed the cut more than he has made it. In 10 starts so far this year, he has made the cut twice.

Trevor Freakin' Immelman won "my" Masters. But hey, at least the weather was perfect and I got to see a golf course that actually exceeded my very lofty expectations.

^^^

4. It seems almost impossible that the race for the GOP presidential nomination could top 2012 for sheer craziness, but the candidates are off to a running start.

Ted Cruz is an absolute loony, which is fitting because he was born in Canada (unlike our current Kenya-born president). Rand Paul is supposed to be a Libertarian but he already is sucking up to the far right. Chris Christie just came out with Social Security reform that looks suspiciously like a liberal re-distribution plan. Marco Rubio is backtracking from his compassionate immigration policy because to the party base, there is no room for compassion in an immigration policy.

I already miss Herman "9-9-9" Cain, Rick "Oops" Perry, Mitt "47 Percent" Romney and Newt "I Guarantee $2.50 Gas" Gingrich.

And isn't there anything anybody can do to get Michele Bachmann to run again? She just predicted that Barack Obama's Iran policy would result in the End Times and usher in Jesus' return to earth, saying: "I believe the Bible is true. And believe what the Bible says is  that our nation and the people of our nation will reap a whirlwind, and we could see economic disasters, natural disasters."

I don't remember any mention of the U.S. of A. in either testament, but I admit I'm no biblical scholar.

^^^

3. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton finally stopped delaying the inevitable and announced online that she would be running for the Democratic nomination.

She's a piece of work, too. She actually might be a bigger liar storyteller than her hubby.

It's gonna be a fun 17 months until November 2016.

^^^

2. The Cubs paid $155 million to a left-hander who gets the yips every time he thinks about throwing to first to hold the runner. In Jon Lester's last start, he threw one so far over the first baseman's head it almost landed in the stands. It's the damnedest thing. So Cubbie.

Fortunately for the Cubs, the right fielder chased down the baseball and gunned the runner out at third base.

Obviously, it was a set play orchestrated by Joe Maddon, the latest Savior Skipper who for sure will take the Cubbies to the pennant.

^^^

1. My over-50 softball league's season has begun and I'm thrilled to be back with the Sons of Pitches. Our manager/pitcher, Pat, traded for me because he knows I'm the ultimate softball stud. Either that or he just wanted to be sure he had somebody to drink with after games. (OK, I guarantee it's not the "stud" thing.)

Pat and I entered the league as teammates in 2012 and played one season with the Blue Thunder. He decided to become a manager the following year and traded for me. The Sons of Pitches capped a very nice two-year run by winning the '14 fall championship, but then in accordance with league rules, we (and all other teams) were broken up for the league-wide re-draft.

For the SoP's latest incarnation, Pat did a nice job of getting 5 of us back together, as Pat and I are joined by Bob, Spike (the other Mike) and Wayne. Our 8 teammates seem like great guys and fine players. Definitely a fun group. I'd list 'em all here by name but I'm still getting to know them.

Our season started Tuesday and we promptly gave up the maximum 5 runs in the top of the first inning. It was a delightful combination of booted grounders, errant throws, walks and other assorted miscues. We only managed one run ourselves and gave up a couple more runs over the next 3 innings to fall behind 7-1 going into the bottom of the 4th.

Pat, who fancies himself as quite the motivator, yelled, "Do you guys wanna win or what?" Duly inspired, we scratched out 3 runs to make it a 7-4 game. We held our opponent scoreless in the fifth and I led off the bottom of the inning.

While coaching third base earlier in the game, I had a brief conversation with the opposing third baseman. He had a great glove and a gun for an arm, but he told me he was having knee problems and wouldn't be able to move very well. I joked that I was going to lay down a bunt.

Now, bunting isn't allowed in slow-pitch softball ... but swinging bunts are another story. I took a mighty cut and the ball traveled all of about 15 feet down the third-base line. Using my cheetah-like speed -- I mean, there's nothing faster than a bald, slightly chunky, 50-something Jewboy -- I beat out the infield hit.

"Real" hits -- the kind that actually leave the infield -- followed, one after the other, and by the time the 5th inning was over, we had an 8-7 lead. The umpire's timer went off during the inning, meaning the 6th would be the last. Pat retired the first two batters before giving up a hit, but he stranded the tying run by inducing a come-backer. After he threw to first, it was time to head to the bar.

There's nothing wrong with winning ugly, because there's no such thing as losing pretty.

The Sons of Pitches are back, baby!
^

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mike's March Madness Mulligan

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Those who golf with me know I'm not a big mulligan taker. I mean, if I shank my drive into the woods, re-tee, hit one down the middle and make a birdie, who am I fooling? I know I didn't really get a birdie. So why bother? I'd much rather scramble after a horrendous drive and hack my way to a "good bogey" than pretend I got a birdie. But hey, maybe that's just me.

So even if I go 15-0 with the March Madness Mulligan I'm about to take, I promise I won't pretend I did anything special.

Before getting to the MMM, I'll allow myself a couple of back-pats ... but only a couple: Nice job on N.C. State and Wichita State. OK, that was quick. I'd have had more success with my bracket if I had let my pooch Simmie make predictions with tail-thumps.

Now, here goes ...

MIDWEST

Kentucky easily over West Virginia ... Notre Dame's luck runs out against Wichita State ... The Wildcats chew up overmatched Wichita State.

WEST

Wisconsin survives a challenge from North Carolina ... Arizona crushes Xavier ... Bucky Badger beats Arizona in a thriller.

EAST

N.C. State pulls off another upset, this time against Louisville ... Michigan State keeps getting better and beats Oklahoma ... Sparty goes to another Final Four after a narrow win over N.C. State.

SOUTH

Duke struggles but holds off Utah ... Gonzaga finally gets a second-weekend win, beating UCLA ... The Dookies have too much firepower for the Zags.

+++

So our new, improved Final Four is Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Michigan State. Three No. 1 seeds and a No. 7 ... but not your run-of-the-mill No. 7. It's kind of funny that Michigan State is suddenly an underdog darling, no?

+++

In one national semifinal, Kentucky and Wisconsin put on a sensational show, with Kentucky's superior interior defense prevailing. In the other, Duke has too much offensive balance for Michigan State.

One thing hasn't changed from my original bracket: Kentucky still ends up 40-0.

Translation: "Bet everything you have on West Virginia to beat Kentucky on Thursday night."
^