Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday Night Observations

Time for Sweezy to get on the soapbox and opine on some of the events of our time...

- In the final year of Yankee Stadium, its fitting that it hosts the All-Star game. I am hoping though that this is the last great moment in the stadium. I'd find it hilarious if there was no October baseball in The Bronx this year so that we could avoid all the sob stories about Yankee Nostalgia. Hopefully the stadium and the Yanks will go out in the most painful way possible, and I can't think of a better way than a meaningless game between a Red Sox team that has already clinched the division and a Yankees team with no postseason hope.

- On the subject of the All-Star game, its time for fans to be eliminated from voting for the starters. Their idiocy is one of the major factors ruining the Summertime Classic. Simply put, marginal players like Dustin Pedroia and Kosuke Fukudome do not deserve to even be in the stadium, let alone starting for their respective leagues. MLB should do something like allow fans to keep voting, but rig the votes so that more deserving players get the nod, such as Ian Kinsler or Carlos Lee.

- Could it also be the All-Star game has been losing ratings because of the deplorable announcers in charge of calling the events? First up you have Chris Berman saying the same hideously annoying catchphrases he has for the last 20 years during the Home Run Derby, and then you have the smug Joe Buck and senile Tim McCarver calling the actual game. If MLB was serious about making the All-Star game relevant, it would replace these hacks with people who are actually interested in describing the game instead of hearing their own voices and reveling in their bloated sense of self-importance.

- Its amazing how Todd Jones is still a closer. Thats all i'm going to say after today's performance. He better not be seen in Athens, Georgia tonight or he's gonna get got.

- Another banner day for the NFL as another player, Matt Jones, gets arrested for felony possession of cocaine. I'd argue that this charge is much more serious than anything Michael Vick or Adam Jones have been convicted of, but racism still doesn't exist in sports right?

- If breaking news is considered to be Brett Favre sending a text message, then its going to be a long hot summer full of worthless Favre speculation. I don't know whats more unbelievable about this; the fact that news sources deemed this important enough to smother with coverage, or the fact that supposed country yokel Favre even knew how to text message. Maybe he learned how to in rehab.

- I'm calling it right now, Sixers in the NBA Finals next year. People are about to learn just how good Elton Brand is.

- This whole Brandon Jennings to Europe thing is pretty interesting, I'm just shocked someone hasn't done it before. There's really no language barrier in large European cities, the players will get paid handsomely for their services, and European poon is no joke (though still not close to SEC Poon).

- Its pretty hilarious to hear the things that Charlie Weis says. Earlier this week he commented that its possible for Notre Dame to be 11-0 heading into a game with USC in November, and in regards to winning that game Weis said "Anything's possible." This is coming from the (gaping) mouth of a man who could possibly be the most incompetent head coach in Notre Dame history. Seriously this man makes Bob Davie look like Tom Osborne. Weis has used every excuse in the book for his lackluster career record, I'm just waiting for the day that someone actually calls him out on the bullshit that is his coaching prowess and overall just his worth as a human being. At least it keeps Notre Dame a laughingstock for the entire country, which I guess is a gift i should be more thankful for.

- Its been a pretty good week for viewing entertainment in the life of the Sweezic One. First I saw Wall-E on Tuesday which was absolutely incredible. Its good to see creative and innovative movies get shine at the expense of the formulaic tripe that Hollywood has overdosed upon in recent years. Tonight is also the 2nd season premiere of Burn Notice. If you've never seen the show, you are missing out. Not only is it fun and entertaining, but it also provided awesome tips if you ever have the need to blow shit up, escape from evil people or just be a menace to society in general. Finally, next weekend will be the opening of The Dark Knight. This movie is getting a ton of hype, and with the actors and producers involved I have a feeling its going to be beyond justified after all is said and done.

Alright I feel sick to my stomach for including that disgusting picture of Charlie Weis. So I will leave you now with a glorious picture of SEC Poon to cleanse your mind with.

MLB Power Poll All Star Edition

We're just 5 days away from the 2008 All-Star game and I've got some opinions on the big week at Yankee Stadium. From the looks of it, the NL is more stacked than the AL. Year after year, it always appears that the National League has the bigger name players going into the game, but every All-Star game since 1996 has ended the same way...a Big W for the American League (save for the tie game in 2002). Could this be the year that the NL finally breaks through? My guess is no. I'm going with 7-5 AL with my boy Justin Morneau hitting a 2 run double to break the tie in the 7th inning. Many people think that it would be most meaningful to have Mariano Rivera start the game, but I think he should finish off the contest in the 9th. He's been a closer pretty much his whole career and it only makes sense that he's in there at the end while the Yankee Stadium crowd gives him a standing ovation.

As for the actual rosters, I think that for the most part they are pretty legit. I'm glad Matt Holliday will be starting for the NL. Even though he's missed 3 weeks this year, he's still been arguably a top 5 player in the game and already deserved the spot over Kosuke Fukudome (highly overrated). Carlos Lee, Brandon Phillips, Garrett Atkins and a trio of Mets (David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes) all got the shaft. On the AL side I think the roster is pretty much as it should be, although Ian Kinsler should be starting over Dustin Pedroia, but I'm sure he'll get a chance to shine. I also think Justin Morneau should have gotten the starting nod over Kevin Youkilis, but it's all good. Evan Longoria deservedly gets a slot on the team through the last chance fan vote. Alright, I'm off my soap box. Let's check out the poll.

1.) Chicago White Sox (53-37)- Are you kidding me, another new number 1 team? You better believe it! For the third week in a row we've got first timer holding down the top spot. The White Sox may not have the best record in baseball, but they are playing better than anyone in the game right now. It's the same formula they used when they won the world series in 2005 with a full team effort every game. They're currently on a 4 game winning streak including a huge come from behind 7-6 W over the Royals last night. With the division starting to get better, the Chi Sox have upped their play to counter the Twins and Tigers.

2.) Tampa Bay Rays (55-35)- The Rays fall off the top after getting swept by the Yankees. It looked like they couldn't be stopped after the sweep of the Red Sox, but since then they've looked mediocre at best. I'm still not worried about this team and in the end I think they are still gonna make the playoffs, but they can't afford to get complacent with the defending champs and the red hot Yanks in their rear view mirror.

3.) Chicago Cubs (55-37)- The Cubs continue to dominate the National League and it's not really even close between them and the next best teams (Brewers/Cardinals). It looked like they were going to have some major trouble in their quest to win the NL Central after Milwaukee picked up CC Sabathia. So what do the North Siders do? They go and pick up an equally dominant starter in Rich Harden. The fragile flame thrower will be a huge assett for the Cubs down the stretch if he can stay healthy. It looks like Carlos Zambrano has put his injury issues behind him as he's allowed just 1 run in each of last two starts after coming off the DL last week.

4.) LA Angels of Anaheim (54-37)- The Angels are still rolling along under the radar, but they could be in the public eye more if they could start putting a winning streak together. They're allowing the A's to stay right behind them because they can't put any kind of momentum together. They just dropped their past 2 to the Rangers both by 1 run. As good as the pitching has been, the offense has dissapointed big time. Poor Jered Weaver has gotten robbed of wins in his last 2 starts, pitching a 6 inning no hitter last week and giving up just 1 ER yesterday...both Angels losses. In the long run, I think they'll be alright considering the A's just gave up their best pitcher, but don't sleep on the high octane Rangers.

5.) Boston Red Sox (55-39)- It looked like the Red Sox were just about to go into tailspin mode after dropping 7 of 9 coming into this week, but they've bounced back in a big way with a sweep over the smokin' Twins. Tommorow they welcome back a fresh face in Clay Bucholtz. He'll be facing the team he no-hit last year, the Baltimore Orioles. This team is going to be scary once again when David Ortiz comes back.

6.) Milwaukee Brewers (50-41)- Milwaukee made the first big splash of trading period with their recent acquisition of CC "The Hamburglar" Sabathia. He looked very good in his first start with the cheese heads and should be a big piece of the puzzle for the Brewers if they end up going deep into the playoffs. He becomes a part of the 3 headed monster on the pitching staff with Ben Sheets and Manny Parra and in a playoff series, they are going to be quite a handful for their opponents.

7.) Minnesota Twins (51-41)- After getting swept by the Red Sox, the Twinkies just stuck a dagger in the heart of my Tigers with an 11th inning Homer off the bat of Justin Morneau. Big Poppa Canada went 5 for 5 in the game and has been on a tear lately with 11 hits in his last 4 games including 2 bombs. Like I said earlier, he should be starting in the All-star game and I hope he gets a slot in the Home Run Derby. Another plus for the Twins is the impending return of Francisco Liriano. He's been tearing up Triple A pitching and give a boost to a weak Twins pitching staff in need some fire for the second half.

8.) St. Louis Cardinals (51-42)- The Cards have yet to win a series this month after dropping two straight to the Phillies. They're still in the race in the NL Central, but for how long? If the red birds are serious about making the playoffs, they need to make a move. I suggest snagging AJ Burnett from the Blue Jays. As they say, birds of a feather flock together. I know it'd be kind of reactionary, but at this point, they are definitely trailing the Brewers and the Cubs in the talent department and with Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter doubtfully making an impact this year, it's going to be a necessity to add another arm if they don't want to get left by the wayside.

9.) New York Yankees (49-42)- Just when it looked like the Yankees were dead, they go and sweep the team with the best record in baseball. They're on a 4 game win streak and will look to make it 5 in a row against the hapless Pirates in a make-up game tonight. It's the last interleague play game of the year and I'd love to make the 3 hour trip down to PNC park to see it, but alas I've got work tonight. Has anyone ever been to the ballpark in Pittsburgh? I heard it's absolutely beautiful. Back to the Yanks, it's kind of surprising to see them only get 3 players into the All-star game considering it's at their park, but the quality of the trio (A Rod, Jeter, and Rivera) is hard to surpass. They combine for 30 appearances all time in the All-star game...that's more than the total of the rest of the AL Pitching Roster (11 players).

10.) Philadelphia Phillies (50-43)- The Phillies sneak back into the poll after a 2 game win streak. Chase Utley is back on top of the baseball world with 25 HR. I think it's safe to say he's the front runner for the NL MVP. Amazingly, they're still barely hanging on in the NL East after the Mets recent surge to crawl to within a game and a half in the division. They've gotta pick up the pace and a perfect way to do it is with a 3 game home sweep over somehow also division leading Arizona Diamondbacks (44-45) this weekend.

Also Receiving Votes: NY Mets, Oakland A's, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers

Don't Get Hosed

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tennis Wasn't Invented Yesterday....

While my venerable colleague Young Swole might have a man-crush on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer that's even bigger than Serena Williams' booty, he and others might be surprised to find out that there was such a thing as tennis before 2003. While many people, from the Swolemeister to Brad "I love myself more than anyone" Gilbert, were quick to annoint the Federer/Nadal Wimbledon final the Greatest Match of All Time...that simply is not the case. And even if it does somehow prove to be, saying so is reactionary at best, and fails to respect the illustrious history of this gentlemans game, at worst.

It's true that Federer has dominated the ATP for the past 232 weeks or so, but I would make the case that he has done so without a true rival to challenge him. Sure, Nadal won one Slam final against Roger the Great, but until last year he was little more than a clay-court specialist, the next Gustavo Kuerten, if you will. So while so many out there are eager to annoint him "The Greatest Player of All Time," I don't think that is the case. True champions become known as such because they elevate their game to a new level in the face of equally talented competition. Let's look at a few examples...

-Pete Sampras & Andre Agassi
Swole would make you think that the game has been dominated by one-dimensional players...hard servers with few other weapons. But that is simply not the case. Unless your memory has been burned by Amy Winehouse-esque drug use, you shouldn't have forgotten these two giants of the game just yet. Sampras might have had the best serve of all time (you don't get the nickname "Pistol Pete" for your Bukakke skills) but he could also play at the net and volley like no other. And as any true tennis afficionado knows, serve-and-volley is the purest playing strategy in the game. Little known fact: Sampras did all this with a racquet measuring only 85 sq/in, 10 less than any racquet used by today's players, and it was strung tighter than a...well there's too many good jokes there. Let's just say it was strung hella tight. And that is why Agassi was a supreme foil to the King of Swing...he had the best groundstrokes of his era. He was one of the only players in history who you could sense was MORE confident when returning serve than serving. Sampras and Agassi truly defined the game from the mid-90's to early 00's. Oh by the way....Agassi is the only man to win the "Golden Slam," by winning every Grand Slam tournament and an Olympic Gold medal in his career. (The only woman to do so just happens to be his wife Stefi Graf, a pretty good player you also might have heard of).

And let's not forget the epic matches these guys provided. Sampras' final match, the '01 U.S. Open final, was one of the most epic and emotional matches of all time. It was the final Grand Slam title won by the man who has won more than any other. There wasn't a single break of serve in any of the five sets.

What about Sampras v. Roddick in the semi's of the same tournament?
Agassi winning the Australian Open when he had been all but retired by the media and so-called tennis "experts?"
Sampras, unable to keep his lunch in his stomach due to the flu, yaking all over the court and STILL defeating Alex Corretja?

-Bjorn Borg & John McEnroe
The definative rivalry of the 1980's. Borg was an appropriate name for the big Swede. His approach to the game was just like the Star Trek machine: cold, methodical, and ruthless. He won five French Opens and five Wimbledons, an amazing feat when you consider the stark contrasts between clay and grass. He was only stopped from winning a sixth Wimbledon by the emergence of a complete contrast in styles: John McEnroe. The Brat was part of a new era of athletes, who lived their lives off the court with as much flash and noise as they did on it. Their 1981 Wimbledon final signaled the end of Borg's dominance and the dawn of a new era in tennis.

-Rod Laver & John Newcombe
This is going way back to dudes who played with wooden racquets. However, Laver won all four Grand Slams multiple times, once winning all four in a calendar year. His 11 Slam titles were a record for thirty years until Sampras topped the number. If you ever are lucky enough to catch footage of his game do not pass up the opportunity to watch the man who has what is universally agreed to be the most complete and technically flawless game in history. His longtime foe Newcombe was no slouch either, winning seven Slam's of his own (although, like Sampras, never capturing a French title). He, like Sampras, probably never won at Roland Garros because his game revolved around a huge serve and then volleying, which is difficult to do effectively on slow-bouncing clay. However, on hard surface and grass his cannon of an arm allowed him to hit second-serve aces with amazing regularity. The rivalry between these two was the first premeir rivalry of the Grand Slam Era.

And anyone thinking that these are the only great matchups or players, or that I've had to reach back to the 70's for examples, is sorely mistaken. Tennis has never been devoid of great champions.

-Gustavo Kuerten, who dominated the clay courts in the earlier part of this decade similar to the way Nadal now does.

-The early career of Vitas Gerulaitis, who never reached his full potential but could cover the court like no other.
-Ivan Lendl, the most perfectly-conditioned player ever to roam the baseline.
-Richard Kreijeck winning the '96 Wimbledon title with his arm held on by duct tape.
-Goran Ivanisevic winning Wimbledon in '01 as a freakin' wild card.
-People sometimes forget, but Lleyton Hewitt was supposed to be the next unstoppable champion around 2001-02, until he lost his mind on the court (but found it off the court, when he ditched ugly-ass Kim Clijsters).
-A fella named Arthur Ashe.
-Boris Becker, who won six Grand Slams and was the youngest-ever Wimbledon champ at age 17!
-Mats Wilander, another '80s powerhouse with 7 Slam Titles to his name.
-Jim Courier and Jimmy Connors, two of the most colorful and successful American men ever to play the sport.

While I could type till my fingers fall off about epic matches, I've already mentioned a few (Borg/McEnroe at '81 Wimbledon, Sampras/Agassi at '01 US Open, etc.), I will give you two of my all time favorites that everyone who calls himself a tennis fan must see:
-Andy Roddick v. Younes El Aynaoui at the 2003 Aussie Open (Roddick wins 5th set 21-19, no typo)
-Jimmy Connors v. Aaron Krickstein at the 1991 U.S. Open. Connors, at the ripe age of 39, came back from two sets down against the much younger Krickstein to win. Some of the insults he screams at the chair umpire would make McEnroe blush.

So for everyone so eager to get swept up by the Nadal bandwagon, first rub your ass because you probably just fell off of Federer's, then realize you are not seeing the greatest players ever. Someone has to win these tournaments, and these guys just happen to be the best players around right now. There are always two finalists and there is always a winner. And there always will be.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

In the Midst of Greatness

A couple of weeks ago, ESPN sportswriter Bill Simmons wrote a piece basically saying that the sport of tennis is dead ( He argued that the sport is no longer fun to watch, that there are no players who can compete with the greats of yesterday and that the rules and scoring of the sport were beyond arcane. To him, it is more exciting to watch an episode of "A shot at love with Tila Tequila (who is ugly as shit btw)" than it is to watch a tennis match.

Well as a fan of tennis and a witness to today's men's final at Wimbledon, I can happily say that Bill Simmons is a complete idiot.

I've seen a lot of great sports moments in my life time. I remember Tiger's first win at the Masters, all the great Michael Jordan moments, Michael Johnson at the 1996 Olympics and last year's Super Bowl. I can now add today's match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to the list. What I saw was two of the greatest tennis players of all time playing an epic 5 set match to the best of their abilities. There was action, there was drama, there was everything you could ever ask for in a sporting event. At times it seemed as if both players were so evenly matched that the match would continue on forever. There were no breaks of serve for over 40 games of tennis despite outrageous shotmaking from both players. Even when Roger Federer faced break and match points, he somehow found a way to continue on and force a final 5th set. And as the light faded at Wimbledon and Nadal finally broke Federer's serve and held on for the win, I knew I had witnessed greatness. In the awards ceremony, it was obvious how physically and emotionally spent both competitors were from the match. It was completely inarguable that both men had given all they could to try and win the match.

As the hours have passed since Nadal finally won the match, I've been thinking about how much tennis has going for it, and how stupid America is for ignoring such an exciting sport. Just in the past 2 days we've seen Americans Venus and Serena Williams vie for the women's title, and then today we saw possibly the greatest player of all time defeated by possibly the greatest clay court player of all time on his best surface. We've seen other incredible matches this year already, including Lleyton Hewitt against Marcos Baghdatis that lasted until 5am in the morning in Australia. The quality of play has also risen to a height not seen in a long time. For many years, losers who could simply serve hard had the rule of the game, which eliminated rallies from the game and basically made it a contest to see who could serve it hardest. Now we have players with vastly different styles in Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal forging the greatest rivalry in the sport since McEnroe and Borg in the 80's. There are also many great young players coming into the game, such as Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils, who have the talent to challenge the top two titans of men's tennis.

Women's tennis has also become much more exciting in recent years. We have amazing competitors in Venus and Serena Williams, brilliant young players rising through the ranks, and wide-open grand slam fields that promise tons of excitement and unpredictability at every tournament. It also doesn't hurt that so many of the women's tennis players are banging hot. I personally think Maria Sharapova isn't all that and a bag of chips, but i'm not booing those legs at all. As my boy El Drunko used to say, "She could wrap those things around me twice." Other babes in the women's ranks include Nicole Vaidisova, Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina and Ashley Harkleroad, who is gonna get naked in Playboy next month which makes her even more awesome. So even if you think women's tennis blows, you should still watch just for aesthetic quality alone. First of all, if you turn off hot babes playing sports that is wild homo. And at GDB, we are No Homo. Tennis also has no fat chicks.

At the completion of the match, we could hear John McEnroe exalting Nadal and Federer for their performances as well as basically pleading with America to pay more attention to such an exciting sports. Unfortunately, a lot of America has some sport of phobia towards more international sports. We shun soccer despite its worldwide popularity and excitement (See Euro 2008), and we shun tennis because it is somehow boring and predictable and is being dominated by Non-Americans. Well if today's match was boring and predictable, then sign me up for that. And if people are scared to root for foreign athletes then its time to grow the fuck up and realize that the sporting universe does not revolve around America. I feel bad for Joe Sports Fan who decided to watch a meaningless July baseball game, or a golf tournament without Tiger Woods and missed today's classic battle. For everyone who missed today's match because they feel tennis is past its prime, you took a biiiiiiiiig L today.

And Bill Simmons. If you can still say tennis is boring and antiquated after today's events, then you need to hang up your title as a sports guy, because you obviously missed the entire point of competition and sport when it being explained to you. But since you were probably busy jerking off instead to busted Asian whores on "A Shot at Love" anyway, we should probably take your opinion with guarded caution as it is.