Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God to Steve Johnson: You're such a twit!

A few years (or maybe weeks) from now, when Twitter is but a distant memory from a bygone error, we will fondly recall the greatest tweet ever twitted -- the beleaguered God-baiting wail of Steve Johnson, whose dropped TD pass in OT cost the Bills a victory against the Steelers:


This is beautiful on so many levels.

+++ Johnson believing God cares about the Bills, given Scott Norwood's wayward leg, Thurman Thomas' missing helmet and all that.

+++ Johnson actually thinking calling the Lord out publicly was a good idea.

+++ Johnson apparently threatening God (I'll never forget this!) before thinking better of it and thanking Him/Her.

+++ Johnson not being a hypocrite. For all the jocks who credit God for all things good, it's nice to see at least one rip the Lord when things go bad.

+++ Johnson using proper punctuation (more or less) in 5 of his 7 sentences.

And this just in: God's response ...


Note the correct punctuation and spelling. Even when twittering, the Almighty is infallable!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Even Sarah Palin hates the BCS (mostly, of course, because she can't spell it)

So now the major conferences are using BCS standings to determine their regular-season champions? Can college football get any more ridiculous?

I'd rather listen to a Sarah Palin lecture on the superiority of abstinence-based sex education than support the sham that sport perpetrates each December and January.

That's why, for the fifth straight year, I won't watch one second of any of the 549 bowl games.

This year, in fact, I'll celebrate my anniversary by not watching the Chick-fil-A Bowl twice!

Ah, don't you just love the fun benefits of a DVR?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How 'bout a Big Mac for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, so I'm back with my 13th edition of Turkey of the Year.

This tradition dates back to 1998, when Michael McCaskey had so mismanaged the Bears that his mommy took the team presidency away from him and sent him to his room without supper.

Since then, a veritable Who's Who of losers, lunkheads, dopers, dorks, bullies and boors have earned Top Turkey honors: Jerry Krause (1999); Bobby Knight (2000); David Wells & Frank Thomas (2001); Dick Jauron (2002); Sammy Sosa (2003 and 2004); Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry & Dusty Baker (2005); Aramis Ramirez (2006); Charlie Weis (2007); Choking Cubbies (2008); Milton Bradley (2009).

You'll notice that most of those fine folks had Chicago connections. Even Knight (Big Ten) and Weis (Notre Dame) were in the region. That's because I columnized and blogged mostly about Chicago sports during those years.

Now that I'm a man of the world (North Carolina is part of the world, right?), the 2010 Turkey Countdown has a much different look.

As always, I dedicate this tradition to my absent friend, Gene Seymour, my Copley columnist predecessor and one of the great guys I ever encountered in journalism.

So let's get to it ...

10. OMAR MINAYA. Architect of the most expensive losers in baseball. Hey, at least the Mets were champs of something during Minaya's run as General Mismanager!

9. BOBBY KNIGHT. Mr. I Hate The Media is now part of the media. And on this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that most members of the sports media are better at their jobs than Bobby is at his. The man is so awful as an ESPN analyst that I find myself wishing Dickie V were on the telecast instead. Really.

8. BRETT FAVRE. Seems the only thing he can make up his mind about is being a sleazebag.

7. MLB UMPS. I get that they have a tough job and that it's almost unfair to judge them based upon super-slo-mo replays. But these guys are so routinely bad that it's almost surprising when they get big calls right. And unlike Jim Joyce, most umps take no responsibility for their incompetence.

6. PETE CARROLL and REGGIE BUSH. They teamed up to do what no opponent could: bring USC football to its knees. They didn't even stick around to deal with the carnage they wrought, having bolted for the big bucks of the NFL. Makes you want to tell Reggie what he can do with that trophy.

5. BEN ROETHLISBERGER. Big Ben ... Good QB ... Bad Guy.

4. BRUCE PEARL. Years after he ratted out a dirty Illinois program, we learn that he's been running an even dirtier program at Tennessee. Wearing ugly orange blazers isn't punishment enough for this phony jerk.

3. LeBRON JAMES. Put on one of the most unnecessary, self-serving productions in the history of the world. But at least his talents have helped the Heat to an 8-7 start.

2. TIGER WOODS. Marriage? Over. PGA Tour victories? Zip. Ryder Cup? Back in Europe. New endorsement deals? Nada. No. 1 ranking? Now belongs to Lee Westwood. Talk about a rough year for the guy who had been the world's dominant athlete for more than a decade. I guess only bad things happen when a guy can't control his Eldrick.

And now ... drumstick roll, please ... the 2010 Turkey of the Year:


Big Mac finally admitted he spent years juicing - and spent years lying about it. But even his admission was full of misleading statements.

He claimed he only juiced so he could stay healthy enough to play but then said his juicing had nothing to do with his home-run totals. Uh ... hello? How do you get the HRs without staying on the field? It's hard to believe McGwire was too stupid to make the connection, so we'll just assume he was being his deceitful self.

He obviously came clean for only two reasons: One, to clear his conscience. And two, to get the job as Cardinals hitting coach for his Chief Enabler, Tony La Russa. McGwire then worked wonders with St. Louis batters, who finished in the middle of the pack in most categories. Remember: This is a group that includes the best hitter in baseball.

Redbird bats really slumbered down the stretch. And as McGwire's charges faded, the Cardinals handed Cincinnati the division title.

Sadly, Cardinals fans - who like to call themselves baseball's best - took every opportunity to cheer their beloved cheater, liar and fraud.

Turns out, they got exactly what they deserved in 2010.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Still houseless in Heel country

My wife and I made our first offer on a Charlotte-area home today. It was for 96 percent of the asking price. After keeping us waiting for 10 hours, the owner countered by barely moving off her price. So the search continues.

In Charlotte, as most is the case the most locales, it is a buyer's market. There is a lot of inventory, and prices have been depressed by the multitude of foreclosures. Charlotte is one of the nation's banking hubs, and when the banks went bust, so did a good chunk of the area's economy.

Many potential buyers are lowballing when they make offers. But we thought this was a relatively reasonably priced home in outstanding shape in a nice neighborhood. So we gave it our best shot with as fair an offer as we could.

When our realtor called to say the owner wouldn't sell to us, Roberta, who really liked the house, barely shrugged her shoulders. She thought all along that the owner wasn't very motivated and didn't think we'd get the house. I thought we had a chance, though, so I was a little sad.

Should we have ponied up a little more dough to buy this home? If we had, it wouldn't necessarily have been the "wrong" move. Sticking to our budget, however, definitely was the right move. In any kind of negotiation, one must draw the line somewhere.

After the holiday, we'll reassess where we are in our search and start looking at houses again. It's a slow and sometimes trying process. Yet I'm sure we'll find another place we'll like - maybe even a better one in a better location at a better price.

In this Thanksgiving season, I'm grateful for everything we've got - including a roof over our heads in our little apartment, and the financial means to at least be considering a home purchase.

Here's hoping you all have many reasons to give thanks, too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When winning equals losing

Wondering if the recent success of their favorite teams has the fine denizens of Bear Country and Illini Land happy or sad about the long-term implications.

After all, another win or two, and it's contract extension time for Lovie and The Zooker!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

At this rate, I'll be succeeding Coach K in 2024

Big win!

I am, of course, talking about ...

The Mighty Bucs of Charlotte Country Day trouncing Covenant Day 22-7 in the 7th-grade girls basketball season opener - and my debut as assistant coach.

I can say now what I wouldn't have admitted an hour before the game: I was so nervous, it was as if I had swallowed a box of pogo sticks!

Having seen the opponent play once, I knew we were the better team. And having covered sports at every level for three decades, I also knew the better team doesn't always win.

Sure enough, we led only 6-5 at halftime and two of our starters were in foul trouble. But the girls played superbly from then on, the final buzzer sounded ... and a feeling of happiness - and, yes, relief - washed over me.

This is 7th-grade basketball. For some of these girls, this is their first experience with an organized team. (Country Day doesn't have interscholastic sports at lower levels.) It's supposed to be about learning to be a good teammate and improving one's skills and having fun.

All of that is undeniably true.

But they do keep score, so you might as well be the team with the 22 instead of 7, right?

Hey, Evan Longoria: Eva's available!

I was going to write something terrific today but I'm too broken up over the Longoria-Parker breakup.

Oh, boo-hoo. Please forgive me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trying to stay sane ... one MLS listing at a time

My tummy is jumpy. My head and neck ache from the stress. I'm not sleeping very well. My attention wanes. The cause of these maladies?

Househunting Madness.

Mrs. N and I have ramped up our search for our next home - and our first in the Carolinas. It's been more than six years since we last shopped for a home, and things have changed dramatically.

The good part is that it really is a buyer's market out there. Inventory is huge. Prices are down. The Internet provides an avenue for endless research.

Which all adds up to the bad part: Too many houses out there, too many nice areas from which to choose, too much information.

I now find myself obsessing about finding the perfect house in the perfect location for the perfect price. The practical side of me knows that doesn't exist, but it's very difficult to be practical.

We are in the fortunate position of not having a house to sell. We have some cash to invest. And we have sellers begging for our business. It should be all good. And yet ...

I worry all the time about blowing my one chance to buy the right place at the right time. I mean, who knows what the market's going to be like the next time we're in this position? If we're ever in this position again, that is.

It's madness. Madness, I tell you!

Guess I just have to take two (more) Aleve and call my realtor in the morning.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Impossible that my little baby is 24!

Yes, you're a rising star with Starbucks, but everyone knows you're already Seattle's best!!

Happy 24th Birthday to our pride and joy! Mom and I love you, Katie!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Well, that didn't take long

After watching his Cubbies go into the tank in his first season as owner and then raising ticket prices for 2011 to astronomical levels, Tom Ricketts is asking Illinois - a state that is flat-broke, by the way - to give up tax revenue so he can make Wrigley Field more profitable for him and his siblings.

Even though Ricketts has more money in his sofa cushions than most of us have in our bank accounts, I can't say I blame him for trying.

That's the way the game is played these days: billionaires asking for public handouts to fund their sports toys.

Besides, he's riding a winning streak after successfully squeezing every last dime from the equally broke folks of Mesa to keep Cubbie spring-training in Arizona.

When it comes time to actually vote on Ricketts' request for $300 million in state bonds, it will be interesting to see how the politicians respond. After all, many of them balked every time Tribune Co. even wanted to spend its own money to improve Wrigley.

If all else fails, Ricketts can raise bleacher-seat prices to $150 for 2012 and let the lemmings/suckers/fans foot the bill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rex over D-Mac? D.C. soap opera keeps on giving

Political pundits haven't had all the fun in Washington. It's been a great two weeks to be a sports pundit in old D.C.

When the Redskins last played, Oct. 30 against Detroit, Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman in the final two minutes of a 6-point game. Why? Well, only Shanahan really knows ... or maybe he doesn't.

Shanahan has been flip-flopping like a Washington politician out of water, at first claiming that Rex has a better grasp of the 2-minute drill than Donovan does. The coach then called an audible, saying he actually was concerned about McNabb's sore hamstrings. Apparently realizing how ridiculous that sounded, Shanny cited D-Mac's lack of "cardiovascular endurance."

Shanahan and his minions also said they told McNabb during the week that just such a benching might happen. McNabb said that wasn't true.

That Rex fumbled on his very first snap - you miss him, Chicago, don't you? - made the whole thing even better.

Because the Redskins had a bye last Sunday, this silliness was the gift that kept on giving in Washington. Every day offered new nuggets of nincompoopness.

On his weekly radio show Tuesday, McNabb called it "hilarious" and "funny" for Shanahan to suggest he was either mentally or physically unprepared for the type of 2-minute drill he has been running since he started playing football.

I don't often get columnist envy any more, but I admit I'm a little jealous of my Washington colleagues these days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Plain and simple: Favre is fun

A flick of the wrist, a perfect delivery, another impossible victory delivered by the greatest gunslinger football ever will know.

And that, my friends, is merely the latest example of why sport is a better thing with Brett Favre than without him.

Whether you love him or hate him, whether you are thrilled by his on-field exploits or dumbfounded by his off-the-field foibles, whether you're a Vikings fan or a Packers fan or simply a fan of good soap opera ... you shouldn't wish he'd fade away.

The man is many things, but boring is not one of them.

Personally, I hope Brett Favre plays until he's 50.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sparky knew how to treat special jocks specially

The players would each remember Sparky Anderson's spring training speech a little bit differently in later years, but everyone recalled his main point. He announced that the Machine was made up of two kinds of players. First, there were the superstars. To be more specific, Sparky said, there were four superstars -- Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. Those four made their own rules. Those four had no curfew. Those four had special privileges. If Johnny wanted to go golfing every so often during spring training, he could go. If Pete wanted to blow off some steam at the dog track, well, Sparky might give him a few extra bucks. If Joe needed to come in late so he could attend college classes, that was all right by Sparky. If Tony needed a little rest, then Sparky would fluff the pillow. Those four were royalty. "The rest of you," Sparky said, "are turds."

That excerpt from Joe Posnanski's book about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds -The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series - highlights one of my favorite things about Sparky Anderson, who died Thursday.

Many fans get their undies in a bundle because the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Brett Favre, Alex Ovechkin and Steve Nash get "special treatment."

Hello! Wake up, people. Special athletes get special treatment. Always have, always will. Sparky, like every intelligent manager or coach in the history of sports, knew the score.

Bill Russell and Babe Ruth and Mario Lemieux and Terry Bradshaw got special treatment because their status merited it. If any teammate didn't like the Astros letting Roger Clemens skip certain road trips when he wasn't scheduled to pitch, all they had to do was say: "I'll tell you what; as soon as you win 350 games, you can skip road trips, too."

Phil Jackson treated Michael differently than he treated every other Bull. Then, he did the same for Shaq in L.A. Now, it's Kobe's turn. Phil Jackson wins championships.

The system works. In fact, it's probably the only system that can work.

And were Sparky still alive, he'd tell all of us turds the exact same thing.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Repudiate this! And other election silliness

Love the idea of the Tea Party. Really. As one of America's few TMs - True Moderates - I embrace anything that shakes up the business-as-usual partisan politics of the donkeys and elephants.

The notion of smaller government is a good one. I just wish more Tea Partiers had told me how they were going to make government smaller and cut my taxes while still funding everything that needs to be funded. They - like most of the politicians - were big on rhetoric, attack ads and scare tactics but small on legitimate ideas.

The easiest thing to do during campaigns is attack the incumbents. Offering actual solutions? There wasn't a whole lot of that. Now that a few Tea Partiers have gained positions of power, I will be very interested to watch how they proceed.

Will they spend most of their terms trying to get reelected? Will they pursue pricey (and ridiculous) earmarks for their constituents? Will they shake up the establishment or just become part of it?

Oh, and one more thing ...

Most conservatives, some right-leaning Dems and many pundits are saying the results of this election are a "repudiation" of Barack Obama and the first two years of his presidency. And they appear to be correct in many ways.

But that's not the only repudiation that took place Tuesday. It was a repudiation of dopey candidates, too.

The Dems can't nominate Alvin "The Chipmunk" Greene and expect to be anything but laughingstocks. And who knows what would have happened had conservatives not pushed Tea Party yahoos Witchstine O'Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada? With legitimate candidates, the GOP probably would have gained control of the Senate, too.

(That's good news for us True Moderates. We like a balance of power.)

Finally, a note to O'Donnell and other dopes like her: God gets really ticked off when incompetent wannabes constantly invoke His name as part of their cause - especially when those wannabes sound like imbeciles.

Holy repudiation, Batman ... Witchstine done got smited at the polls.