Paul Daugherty has been an Enquirer sports columnist since 1994 and has been chronicling Cincinnati sports since 1988. He has covered almost every major sporting event in America, as well as five Summer Olympics. Along the way, he has been named one of the country's top-5 sports columnists four times, and Ohio columnist of the year on seven different occasions. Last year, he was voted 2nd-best sports columnist in the country, by the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Flying and other tortures
Lotta time on my hands today...
I'm at the airport in Phoenix Sunday, waiting on a flight to Charlotte. It's oversold. They ask for volunteers. They promise a free round trip ticket etc. etc. Then the kicker:
"We'll be able to get you a seat on the first plane to Charlotte. . . on Tuesday.''
Mass laughter in the gate area. They come back and somehow find room to get the volunteers out on Monday. Knowing laughter in the gate area. OK, OK. We happen to have a few seats left on a flight later today. Do tell.
I have no idea how the airlines stay in business, except that flying for some folks is a necessity. Most flights seem to leave very early in the morning or very late at night. Most flights are jammed, because airlines have cut back on the number of flights. I had a center seat both ways to and from Phoenix. Sardines have it easier in the can.
And, of course, no food. Unless you want to pay for it. And airline employees have been so beaten down, they're never in a customer-friendly mood. I used to have the 5 Hour Rule: Anyplace 5 hours or less by car, I drive. That includes Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Indy, Nashville, even Chicago. I'm thinking of extending it to 7 hours.
Offering a free round trip if you opt to take a "later'' flight that's 2 days later. Right.
Reprising my bad (?) idea
It's 1:55 and the day looks like Edgar Allan Poe's imagination. Black and white is more colorful, it's something like 53 degrees, the start of the game is being delayed.What do you expect when you open the baseball season in March?
Here's an idea I floated last year at this time. Before you dismiss it, look out the window:
Start the season in Sarasota.
Play the first home stand at Ed Smith Stadium, or in 2010, in (ugh) Goodyear.
Crazy? Sure. Any crazier than watching an opener in weather like today?
You plan the week around a Fla. opener... ask tristate school districts to coordinate spring break, so everyone's off that week. Plan a family vacation to Florida -- who can't use some sun and warmth this time of year? -- and fit in a game while you're down there.
Upside: Great weather, cozy surroundings, golf, beach, Disney. Did I mention great weather? The tickets would have to be pricier, but imagine watching a real game in an intimate setting like that. Imagine hitting a game at 2:10 and sunset on Siesta Key at 730.
You feel me?
Second game, which is always at night and always draws flies: A day at the beach, a ballgame, a nightcap at the Daiquiri Deck. Moonlight and warm breezes instead of parkas and ponchos.
You could still have a parade and Todd Portune throwing out the first pitch, Just schedule it for the second homestand when, probably, the weather is improved.
You can argue it's a crazy notion. It is. What you can't argue is the appeal of it. Unless you like freezing and dodging raindrops.
I've always thought it was more pageant than baseball. You see people on OD you don't see the rest of the year, media included. Growing up in DC with the bad Senators, nobody I knew took the proverbial transistor radio to school, or blew school off entirely to go to the game. What the Redskins were doing was more important.
What about you? How special is today? Is it more the feelgood of tradition, of going to the game with dad and maybe now taking your kid(s)? Is Opening Day as much a state of mind as a ballgame? Why do you go? After today, how often will you go back?
For the first time since Junior's first year, you can look at this club and see potential. I still say the Reds are a year away. J. Votto isnt starting, J. Bruce isnt here. Neither is H. Bailey. Cueto and Volquez are, but about rookie pitchers you just don't know. It's a season-long shakedown cruise. That doesnt mean it won't be compelling, watching justifiably good prospects bloom or wither. And given the lousy-ness of the Central, a team close to .500 should keep us amused through Labor Day.
Anyway, share a few words about what makes OD special, if you like.
Not so Goodyear
Enquirer photographer E. Coleman and I took a spin out to the Reds' proposed spring home today. Kinda looks like a nuclear test site.
Goodyear is one of those new suburbs where they have lots of land and nothing else. It has to be a developer's dream. Completely flat, so no 'dozing. No trees to have to knock down. Cheap land, as far as you can see. They've already plunked a few developments down (you can get any exterior color you want, as long as it's tan) and, of course, a few strip malls. You can be a million miles from civilization, but you're never more than a couple minutes from a Starbuck's. At a time when gas costs the rent money, we keep building places like Goodyear that are 20 miles from anything and there is no mass transit in sight.
No town center, no sense of place. Soulless. Community is your family room, watching ESPN.
The Reds' portion of the place is just dirt. The Indians part had light towers up and cinderblock skeletons of administration buildings. The Tribe is relocating here next Feb, the Reds the year after, if everything goes well, which I hope it doesn't.
Other than that, can't wait for Spring 2010.
10 Feet in front of the UCLA cheerleaders
I wish they all could be California girls. There are cheerleaders, and there are. . . anyway, it's a very much a good-to-be-alive-and-sitting-right-here-right-now moment.
X... I really had them heading back to CVG at least 3x... Andrew Phillip Lavender was driving me crazy at the end of the game, what with waiting until he had no time to get up a decent shot, so he took bad ones. He did it three times as I recall, in the last few minutes of regulation. It happens all the time... guys wait too long to get the ball off... but we nit pick...
Xavier had one too many players for WVU. They could overcome 0 points in regulation from Raymond. They have enough other options, they can wait for him to get hot. Which he did. It did help that J. Alexander fouled out. Without the long arms of D. Brown entangling him, Alexander came up huge in the 2nd half... until he missed the FT...
1st glance at UCLA... big, aggressive, good defenders... my first house was smaller than Kevin Love..
and I can't wait to ask Sunderman how he's gonna say "Luc Richard Mbah a Moute''...
XU and bus rides
To escape the absolute zero that is downtown Phoenix, I paid $2.50 today for an all-day bus pass. Two buses and an hour an 10 minutes later, I was in Scottsdale. Buses are aliens in Scottsdale, Phoenix's version of, I dunno, Beverly Hills.
I love public transportation. One, because it's the most egalitarian way to travel. If you ever ride the El in Chicago, from the airport to downtown, you will encounter every walk of life. (And many limps of life.) The train/bus doesnt care who you are or how much money you make. It goes the same speed for everyone. I once rode the train in from Ohare in a crowded compartment with a bag lady, going from face to face asking for money. She told an incredibly sad story about her son who was killed in Vietnam. As she worked her way up the aisle, you could see the Suits ease their newspapers from their laps to practically on top of their heads.
One other time, I rode the Pacific Coast train from San Diego to San Juan Capistrano, just for the hell of it. (Highly recommend it; lots right along the ocean. Stop at San Clemente Beach.) Anyway, I'm a seat in front of this man and woman. They are strangers in San Diego. An hour later, they're arm in arm when they get off at San Juan Cap. I'll always wonder what happened.
The bus here is Latins, African Americans, street people and me. Some are going to work, some are killing time. "How are you?'' from one guy is answered "I lost my house, dude'' by another. "Where you living?'' is followed by "on the street.''
Scottsdale is very nice, in a rich-people kind of way. But I did find a hole-in-the-wall, honest-to-Dios Mexican place for lunch, which made 2 1/2 hrs on the bus worth it. Plus, it's 85 and sunny here and there's lots to look at, if youknowwhuttamean.
As for the game... X wins if they hold J. Alexander to his average (17), defend the 3 and break even on the boards. X loses if Lavender has a bad night and the refs let everyone play. I say X has too much talent for the U. of Huggs... 68-65...
OK, I'm sure Arizona is a wonderful state. In fact, I've been all over it, from Tucson to Sedona, Flagstaff to Bisbee, Superstition Mtns, Saguaro National Park etc. Also, spent many days around Phoenix. So I'm not entirely ignorant of the place. So I say this with confidence:
Downtown Phoenix makes downtown Cincinnati look like the Vegas Strip.
True Story: I spent at least half an hour walking around downtown this morning, looking for a place I could buy toothpaste and a disposable razor.The hotel had them, but I'm cheap and I felt like exploring.
Surely, there would be a CVS, Walgreen's, whatever they call UDF out here. Not one. Not one decent sports bar outside of Majerle's, not one place where you might hear some music, not one sign of life outside the hotels and office towers. For a place allgedly booming, the core is absolutely dead. Comparing vibrant DC last week with Phoenix is like comparing Caesar's Rome with Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park.
There's more: Lacking a car, I checked out the central bus terminal. I wanted to go to Scottsdale, which at least has a pulse, and Goodyear, the Reds future spring home, maybe, probably, we'll see. The ride to Scottsdale, about 20m by car, takes an hour by 2 buses. As for Goodyear, the lady behind the counter said there was no definite place to go there.
"Where you wanna go?''
"I dunno.City Hall would be good.''
She says she has no idea even if Goodyear has a city hall, and if does, she wouldnt know a bus that went close.
Welcome, Cincinnati Reds. Yikes.
When I'm 64
You know you're getting up there when the most appealing player in the tournament is the son of a guy you wrote about 20-some years ago. Wardell Curry, aka Dell, was a 6-4 shooting guard at Virginia Tech when I was a cub reporter in Norfolk, Va., covering the Hokies and UVA. (I also covered the last 2 years of the Sampson Era, kids. Ralph Sampson was a really tall player at Virginia in the early 80s. Virginia got to a Final 4 the year after he graduated.)
Dell Curry was taller and bigger than his son Stephen, with the same outside touch. He played 16 years in the NBA. Nobody much recruited Stephen, even with that bloodline. I was sitting next to XU asst coach Chris Mack on the plane back from DC Sunday. He said S. Curry was ignored "because he weighed about 130 pounds and looked like he was 12.'' True. Also true that the kid has scored 70 points in 2 tournament games, 55 in the second halves...
As for Chad Johnson... do the right thing. Show up, play hard, honor the contract your agent advised you to sign. This whole act about how his team blames him for 7-9, his coach doesnt call him (since when is that required?), my column hurt his feelings etc. is a front. He wants more money. He wants the Bengals to sweeten his contract for the 3rd time. He made 16 mil the last 2 years, in a front-loaded deal. In the next three years, he gets less.
He couldnt have been pleased to see L. Fitzgerald get 4yrs and $40 mil, because he's better than Fitzgerald. That's not the issue. The issue is, the harder he pushes Mike Brown, the harder Brown pushes back. The Bengals will keep a player until his problems exceed his production, aka Corey Dillon. Chad's still a great player, so unless he tanks it, he's stuck.
Nobody wants him out of Cincinnati. Nobody, either on or off the record, ever called him a "cancer.'' Everybody would like to see him grow up and be the leader he can be. His personality is important to the locker room. Chad's upbeat, so is everyone else. But there are those within those walls who are tiring of him, who would tell you that the charges of selfishness are true.
Only Chad can change Chad. Let's hope he does. You can choose to be angry and resentful. Or you can choose not to. Seems a simple decision.
Huggins, Xavier and UC fans
Something that B. Huggins doesnt get enough credit for: Taking the WVU team he inherited and not making wholesale philosophical changes, at least on offense. He liked the way Beilein's players passed the ball, how unselfish they were and how they thought the game. All Huggins did was give them a little more freedom, ask them to run fewer sets. Smart move, given the talent on hand.
On the other hand, R. Majerus had a tough year at St. Lou, because he tried to coach the talent on hand into playing his way.
Huggins has also worked some familiar Big Man magic, turning 6-9 perimeter player Joe Alexander into a guy who can play tough close to the basket as well. Alexander is a very difficult matchup. Derrick Brown might get the assignment Thursday.. Brown had a terrific weekend, providing offense v. Georgia and defense v. Purdue.
Now, a question: If you are a hardcore Huggins fan from his UC days, does it get much better than Thursday's game? Root for Huggs and against X: How great is that? Lemme hear from you.
Lots of animosity, still, over XU's success. How come?
Georgia, Baylor and UC
DC -- We got 2 glimpses here of what massive rebuilding is like, and how long it takes. Dennis Felton and Scott Drew were on the job 5 years before each got his team into the NCAA Tournament. At UGA, Felton came in after academic fraud resulted in sanctions that stripped the Bulldogs bare. "Ground zero,'' school AD Damon Evans called it Wednesday. At one point, Felton's team included 11 walk-ons.
Drew's situation at Baylor might have been worse. After Carlton Dotson murdered his teammate Patrick Dennehy, then-coach Dave Bliss tried to cover it up. Few players stuck around. Transfer rules were liberalized. Drew, with exactly 1 year of college coaching experience (at Valpo, where he took over for his dad, Homer) was below ground zero. Add the fact that Baylor isnt exactly UCLA. Stud recruits don't dream of playing in Waco, TX.
Point is, massive rebuilding doesnt happen overnight, even in basketball. You make inroads year to year, until you get the program back on its feet. The first few years, improvement is what matters.
UC improved, lousy finish and all. Mick Cronin's situation 2 years ago was comparable to Felton's and Drew's. As long as the upward trend continues, patience is the only realistic option. There's a reason Cronin's contract is 6 years.
Over-Under on Eggs-avier mentions
Georgia coach just said his team has "a tremendous amount of respect for Eggs-avier.'' At least he didnt say Eggs-avier of Ohio. Then we'd really have to fry him. Or scramble him.
For once, the Eggmen arent the sweetheart of a subregional. That's reserved for Georgia snd Baylor... Georgia wins one game between Jan. 26 and March 3, then wins 4 in 3 days in the SEC tournament... five years after one Baylor player murdered another -- and former coach Dave Bliss tried to excuse it by labeling the deceased as drug dealer -- the Bears are in the tournament, for the second time in 58 years.
Off-day press conferences at these events are among the most worthless in sports. Two or three players sit high atop a podium, get asked "is there pressure?'' questions and answer in cliched monotones. Coach comes up and either does the same or tries to apply some spin. The best way to find out anything worthwhile is to blow off the PCs and go straight to the locker room. Which I'm doing now. Goin' to talk to the Eggmen... goo goo ga joob.
It's Starting Again
As predictable as a Bob Knight sweater. If it's tournament time, someone is writing about college basketball players being used. This time it's Yahoo sports. Yes, the tragedy of kids getting a full ride and being shown the door when their eligibility is done. Or, in the cases of Mayo, Beasley, Love etc., choosing to leave early.
I tend to get a little worked up about this, one because it's a cliche and two, because I've known too many college kids not on scholarship working very very hard away from the classroom, who still have mounds of debt when they graduate.
Again: It's not the school's fault if a student chooses not to do the work. I wish when I was in college I had tutors helping me, study tables forcing discipline on me and a free ride so I could leave school debt-free. I also wish I had the forum to display my skills the way these guys do.
Schools have an obligation to a kid they give a jock scholarship to. That is to help him the best they can, with tutors, advisors etc. After that, if the kid wants to graduate, if he wants to put in that time, it's his decision. It is not a school's fault if a player doesn't graduate. That's on the player.
Personal responsibility matters. Except now, when we tend to blame others for everything unfortunate that happens to us.
Sad Story Only I Care About
DC -- The best pop Christmas song ever is Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) written by Phil Spector and performed every year on Letterman by Darlene Love. (Check it out on YouTube.) I played this song a few times in late December, on SportsTalk. One night, I got a call from a guy who runs a bar on Colerain Avenue. Says D. Love's brother is a regular, and that once or twice a year, the lady herself shows up at the place and, occasionally, sings. I gave the guy my home phone # off air, told him to call me the next time she was in town.
He called today.
Said she'd be there tonight.
I'm in DC, with Xavier.
This is my hometown, only where I grew up, Bethesda, Md., is barely recognizable now. I can go home again, though. It's 20 minutes from my downtown hotel, by light rail. The Metro system here is fabulous.
Those who oppose light rail I'm guessing haven't used it much. It cost me $2 to get from the airport to downtown, probably a 15-minute car ride, plus outrageous parking costs. Taxi? Probably $25. I've ridden light rail in every big city in America. Nowhere is it anything but cheap and (mostly) convenient.
Cincinnati probably isnt big enough, and IMO, needs to spend public money elsewhere. Too bad. Gas at $3.50 a gallon, I'd take it from close to my house to CVG, every time.
Fill a bracket, honor a memory
Katy Hines is honoring the memory of her late husband by raising college scholarship money with an NCAA Tournament pool. Army Pfc. Tim Hines, a graduate of Cincinnati Christian School, loved college basketball. Like l0ts of us, he spent much of March in front of the TV(s), watching the Madness.
Tim died in June 2005, on a Baghdad highway, the victim of a roadside bomb. He always wanted to go to college , but didnt have the means. He enlisted to help in that goal while he pondered what he wanted to do with his life. He never found out.
Katy is running the pool, to benefit the Tim Hines Memorial Scholarship Fund. 100 percent of the proceeds will be used as college scholarship money for one Cincinnati Christian student. I thought it was a great idea. I'd never heard of a Madness pool to benefit a charity.
Here's how to enter:
Go to www.netpick.net
fill out the bracket..
email it to email@example.com
by thursday at noon
write a $20 check, payable to the Fairfield Community Fund
send it to Jim Wessel, American Metal Fabricators, 5574 Wooster Pike, Cincinnati,OH, 45227...
1st prize is a $200 gift card to Best Buy...
I'm not crazy about cliches, but Madness is such a good description of what goes on the next 3 weeks, especially this Thursday and Friday, I'll keep using it. A few thoughts:
When I retire, among the first places I want to go is Vegas for the opening weekend. Been? What's it like?
The best 2 days in sports are Thursday and Friday of this week. The best activity in sports is bellying up to the sports bar at noon with your bracket(s) and taking in 4 games at once.
Why do they have to start the title game so late (9:21)? No other sport has this late a start time. Nobody wants to stay up until almost midnight on a Monday night.
Are you with J. Boeheim in wanting more (many more) teams in the tournament? Not me. I get that more schools are D-1 than when the Madness went to 65, and parity has become a (bigger) fact of life. But let's reward due diligence between November and March. The best event in sports needs no tweaking.
The only irritant in March (not including D. Vitale and B. Raftery) is coaches control-freaking so many games by calling timeouts every 5 or 10 seconds. Here's a thought: Trust the players you recruited, signed and coach. If they're down 1 with 15 seconds to play and get a rebound, let them play. Calling a TO allows the other team to set its defense, so the advantage gained is minimal in most situations. Sometimes, their playing is better than your coaching.
Nothing kills drama in these games like excessive TO-calling. What is it, 5 TOs a team, plus the 4 TV TOs? That's potentially 18 play stoppages a half. Ridiculous. Basketball is a game of rhythm and flow. Don't ruin it by playing puppeteer.
We'll hear, if we havent already, that players should be paid. We'll hear about the NCAA's $6 billion deal with CBS while the poor players can't buy a cheeseburger or do their laundry. Just stop. They get tuition, room, board, books, tutors for zip. The best get 4 years (or however long they choose to stay) of a pro audition. If you think they should be paid, run that by a regular student working 25-30 hours a week waiting tables while taking a full course load.
Here's what the NCAA should do, though. Pay the transportation costs of parents/guardians to the Madness. That'd be a great gesture and wouldnt cost much.
Don't go nuts with the upsets. The committee knows what it's doing. It gets better at it every year.
If you must, I advise these bracket-busters: St. Joe's over Oklahoma. Davidson over Gonzaga. Either WVU in Round 2 or Xavier in Round 3 over Duke. I think the only 1 seed not in San Antonio is Memphis, which will lose either to Pitt or Texas.
If all of this happens, I will gloat until the Fourth of July. If none happens, I will disavow all knowledge.
Here's a speech I wrote as the keynote speaker for an awards luncheon the other day, for a group called Advocacy In Media. These are folks who are trying to educate the press on the correct terminology when writing about people with disabilities. It's a subject near and dear to me.
"Thank you. I am honored to be here for the first Advocacy In Media awards luncheon. Because we are talking about 2 things I love very much: Words and my daughter Jillian. I have been writing sports columns for 20 years, the last 14 at The Enquirer. For better or worse, I talk for a living as well, on 700 WLW, weeknights 6-9. Call me.
Jillian is an 18-year-old high school junior, with Down Syndrome. Notice I didnt say she "suffers'' from Down Syndrome. If Jillian "suffers'' from anything, it's listening to me: Do your homework, clean your room, turn the music down. And make sure your boyfriend keeps his hands to himself.
She isn't "retarded'' either. At least no more than the rest of us. Heaven help the next person who refers to her as "Mongoloid.'' The next day, the paper will refer to me as "accused murderer.''
Words remain our most powerful weapons, good and bad. Words soothe and irritate, move and shake. Barack Obama might be our next president because, to many, his words have created for him an image his experience never could. People have called him the new JFK, because his words carry a message of hope and change.
What if, instead of being Barack Obama, presidential candidate, he was Barack Obama, child of a mixed marriage raised by a white mother? Might that change the way some see him?
What if someone looked at me and instead of referring to me as Paul Daugherty, sports writer and talk show host, they called me Paul Daugherty, bigmouthed white guy who writes a lousy column and talks too much. (OK, some people do refer to me that way. But you get the point.)
I wouldnt be living in a palatial estate with servants painting my toes.
My wife and I have spent years trying to break down barriers in school, barriers there forever, partly because the image of kids with Down Syndrome was inaccurate. Why? Because of words. Words create pereceptions. Perceptions harden into reality. If we can't change perceptions, nothing we do matters.
You are the first line of attack. Your words change the perceptions. They can shape a new reality. Better than before. My wife and I have spent 18 years feeling like Daniel Boone. There isn't a trail we havent blazed, a brain full of stereotypes we haven't tried to wash. We can't do it alone. Thanks for your words and your consideration. Thanks for helping create a new and better reality.
B. Knight in the studio
First off, I'm a Knight Guy, god help me. The good so far outweighs the bad, there is no adequate scale. But this isnt about that.
Every time another ex-coach or -player gets a media gig, it's one fewer job for a guy who spends at least 4 years in school learning the trade. And by and large, most of the ex's on TV suck sewer water.
Most are unwilling to criticize. Some are barely understandable. Some are unwilling to put in the time to do it well. They believe their status as athletes confers some special exemption from learning a new trade.
(The fabulous C. Collinsworth is entirely exempt from this rant.)
Some spent their careers either trashing the media or refusing to deal with the media. Which brings me to BK. Someone who so often belittled the Fourth Estate now will make his living in its heathen, unwashed midst. A bit hypocritical, no? Lump Knight with Sterling Sharpe, Bill Walton and, to a lesser extent, Marshall Faulk, as a guy who disdained the people he now so willingly joins.
Too often, the personality that attracted a network to an ex- in the first place disappears when the red light comes on.
That said, I'll watch Knight. I'll TiVo his first effort, as I'll be on the radio at 6. But only out of curiosity. If he's a Dick Vitale gusher, I'm done. If he's arrogant and condescending, I'm done. Knight's a brilliant guy. Let's see if he can be one of the few ex's to make TV sports better for having hired him.
Gotta love the blog. As much as I get PO'd at you guys, because I spend half my life moderating junk posts and venal attacks on my knowledge and ancestry (only I am permitted venal attacks on knowledge and ancestry) you always entertain, whether it's heated back and forth following a tongue-in-cheek post on G-g-g-global W-w-w-arming, or on a much more serious topic.
Such as beer.
I like beer. No, let me amend that. I love beer. I count a cold beer on a warm night on the back deck beneath the stars, listening to Marty and the Boyz, as among life's finest pleasures. In fact, if I were to leave earth tomorrow, I'd miss my family, my big-screen HDTV, my autographed copy of The Prince of Tides, Montreat, 18 holes... and beer. True that.
I don't understand the hostility toward my favorite brand. Keystone Light rocks. It's not hoppy, so no bitterness. It's not heavy, so you can drink a whole lot of it without feeling or looking like Bluto. You can drink it in the afternoon without getting a headache. And you can buy 30 of those bad boys for 12 bucks.
(As an aside, I converted XU play-by-play man Joe Sunderman a few years ago, while we played golf. Joe drinks nothing else now. Still thanks me. Being a West Side guy and all, his barley knowledge is to be respected.)
I have refined tastes. I know my beers. I drink 'Stones because I like the taste. It rocks.
But just for the fun of it, I'll rank my top 5... I welcome you to do likewise. Maybe I'll try a few, as long as you're buying.
1 -- Keystone Light. Prime swill.
2 -- Guinness, on tap... forget the bottles and cans, with that silly nitrogen widget.
3 -- Blue Moon. OK, cool it with the sissy-beer talk. It's great on a hot day. No fruit, though.
4 -- Negro Modelo... actually any Mex beer but Corona. When I lived in Dallas 20 years ago, you could buy a six of Corona for 3 bucks. Then it became a Yuppie fascination. Overnight, it went to 6 bucks. And outta my fridge.
5 -- Moerlein... it's pretty good. Gotta give some love to the locals.
5a... Caribe... because it reminds of a vacation to St. John, USVI, paradise on earth.
Beers I won't drink: Stroh's (headache in a can); Sam Adams (way overrated, all brands); any IPA (don't like hops...there's a worldwide shortage of hops, meaning Bitter Beer Face has a chance to disappear for awhile)... those stupid fruit beers they're making now...
Beers I'll always try: Stouts and Porters... anything brewed in Belgium, by monks, routinely great stuff... anything German..they know what they're doing. Home brew.
Long live The Party Source.
Volquez, IKEA and the US Mail
Very likely Volquez starts the year in the bullpen. Somewhat likely Cueto begins it in Louisville. Is either ready for the Reds rotation? Nope. Should it matter? Nope.
Was Jeremy Bonderman ready a few years ago in Detroit? Hardly. Was he ready a couple years later, when the Tigers made the World Series? Absolutely. By deciding not to deal kids for vets, the Reds have cast their lot with the future. Why not get it started? Put Cueto and Volquez in the rotation and leave them there. Is that any worse than winning 80 games with (pick two) Fogg, Belisle and Affeldt?
why are people camping out at a big-box store that sells dorm room furniture? It's not as if IKEA won't be open, you know, all the time beginning Wednesday. This isn't Opening Day or a Springsteen concert in 1985. It's not even Xbox 360. Supply is fairly unlimited.
Because I'm famously cheap, I drink Keystone Light (30 for $11.99) and, now, I'm mailing things to the Enquirer that I used to drive downtown to deliver. Think about it: I live 25 miles from 312 Elm. That's a gallon. Round trip is about $7. I just dropped something in the mail for $1.25. Not only that, I'm doing my little bit to save the planet.
Which prompts a question: You do anything different like that, now that a gallon of gas costs as much as a sixer of Milwaukee's Best?
Things that make you say Hmmm
The Drew Lavender Saga gets curiouser and curiouser. Sean Miller says Drew asked out of the game last night. That answers 1 question, sort of: The Xavier party line had been Drew's ankle could only get better by playing on it. They stuck to that logic in expecting Lavender to play Saturday. Though, to me, it's hard to understand how a bad ankle gets better when you run, jump and cut on it.
Lavender obviously feels the same way. Question: If he thought he could play, why would he opt out? There's money to be made. Missing games now equals missing auditions for NBA people. Why would Lavender want to do that, unless he felt his ankle was so bad, he couldnt perform well?
Why would he bring this team this far, then opt out?
The guy that Miller has praised for his toughness suddenly goes soft?
Makes no sense.
Until someone invents a Painometer, I'm not going to question an athlete's injury. Only Drew knows Drew's pain. And it has been obvious since the injury that he's not right.
Miller and athletic trainer Mike Mulcahey have made it clear they expect Lavender to play through whatever pain he has. In other words: We've handled the injury properly. You suck it up and go. The fact that Drew isnt playing is on Drew.
I'm not sure that's fair, for the reasons stated above.
Regardless, last night's W notwithstanding, this is only a decent team w/o Lavender, not the very good model and wild-card Final 4 group some of us believed. Another 10 days to get something straightened out.
Nothing to do
Now that the Storm of the Century is upon us, it's time to kick back and enjoy it. The great thing about especially bad weather is, there's absolutely no pressure to do anything. You can't feel guilty about not doing what needs to be done. No need to engage in the usual weekend activity: Running around like a madperson before Monday.
Too much snow. Can't get out. Darn.
It's a good day for logs and movies. I've got a couple episodes of The Wire TiVo'ed. I've got 2 Esquire magazines to read, and a Time. I just got this book out of the library -- The World Without Us (not a bad idea, most days) that I want to start.
I got one of those Ion turntables. I'm going to transfer some classic albums from vinyl to disc. (Hey, kids: "Albums'' are what old people listened to, many years ago. Very cool covers.) A few I'll do today: Stevie Wonder's Innervisions, The James Gang Rides Again, Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die, Van Morrison's great and highly underrated Into The Music.
Meantime, I need to write something for the Sunday paper. Was gonna go watch Xavier tonight, but, well, you know, Derek Beasley has declared martial law. So I'll just have to stay home and write. Maybe something on D. Baker's delightfully statistics-secondary style of managing.
Or maybe I'll call in sick and take a nap.
Let it snow. I've been doing entirely too much lately. I need to catch up on doing nothing.
Gotta love the competition
Great post from J. Fay re J. Cueto and the rotation. If Cueto makes it, I'm guessing it won't be with W. Krivsky's complete blessing. To me, Fogg is In, Affeldt is in the 'pen. If Cueto is In, that leaves 3 guys for 1 job: Bailey, Belisle, Volquez. Whom do you choose?
If Cueto is In, do you want Bailey, too? That's a lot of green for a manager not big on having players take their lumps in the bigs. Belisle? OK this spring, not lights out, but a vet. Volquez? Nope, not yet.
I havent been big on D. Baker bringing in Guy after Guy... Fogg, Affeldt, Patterson, Hairston. If you want the kids you refused to trade to play, then stop bringing in vets over top of them.
But I understand the logic... make players compete... perhaps w/Fogg, Affeldt, Cueto etc., H. Bailey is a little more receptive, shall we say, to sage advice.
With so many candidates and so few spots, everyone has to be a little more alive in March. Nothing wrong with that.
I believe we are insane
I'm listening/watching/monitoring the snow at my palatial estate NE of downtown. I am left with the impression that if I don't make the 15-minute drive from said estate to the radio station by noon, I'll need sled dogs and reindeer to get me there by 6.
For some reason, I believe the hype.
275 at Wards Corner... clear!
71 South... clear!!
Montgomery Road... clear!!!
I'm at the station by, um, 1220.
A few things about snow:
When you drive in it, assume everyone else driving in it can't drive.
Do not brake unless you have to.
Do not slow down going up a hill.
Do not stop going up a hill.
Do not listen to the radio or the TV before you go out, unless it's playing music or test patterns.
As for the Global Warming freaks... please deliver my pizza to the radio station at 9 tonight when, if warnings of the apocalypse hold, I will be spending the night, globally warmed by 10 inches of snow. I will be hungry. When you arrive, you can explain to me why it's called Green-land, what's bad about longer growing seasons in northern climates and open shipping lanes where there used to be impassable ice. Because I am the tiniest bit skeptical about melting icecaps, or at least about the catastrophically rising ocean levels guaranteed to drown us all, please show me the data indicating rising water levels in, say, New York harbor, or on the beaches in, I dunno, South Carolina. Then prove to me, beyond reasonable doubt, how all of it owes to greenhouse gases and such.
Meantime, be careful out there. It's heck handling a vee-hicle in all that Warmth.
Getting ready to deal with several inches of it. Think Ozone Man could wave his Nobel Prize at the Warming covering my driveway?
For XU fans only
What do you make of the loss last night? I see both sides of the coin, and when it comes to determining what this outcome -- and this performance -- meant to the rest of the season, you might as well flip it.
Hopeful, rationalizing side: Must win for St. Joe's, emotional night for the Hawks who were playing on Senior Night the last game at Memorial Hall for two years. Meantime, X has been grinding out conference wins for a month, had clinched the reg. season title, tough to win anywhere on the road, shouldnt hurt Madness seeding etc. etc.... all good explanations.
Concerned, stay away from sharp instruments side: The team of January is a shell in March. Might have peaked too soon. An ordinary D. Lavender equals an ordinary X team. Healthy Drew made the game easier for his mates. Gimpy Drew didnt penetrate once last night, that I recall. His contribution was limited to bringing the ball across halfcourt and giving it to S. Burrell.
What to do about Drew?
Nothing, now. It's too late to rest him, if you want him sharp in 13 days, when all are convinced X will open its tournament run in D.C. Xavier should have sat him as soon as he hurt the ankle, for as long as it took to get him right. Now, there are rumors that his Achilles is a bigger problem than the ankle.
It's an easy second guess, but just because it's easy doesnt mean it's false.
It's also a shame, because this is arguably Xavier's best team. If not, it's in the top three. But without a healthy Lavender, it could be a first-weekend tournament casualty.
A little something different
Because I sometimes tire of writing the same ol' about our Local Heros, I'm going to start using This Space, occasionally, for other things. Dude can only write the name "Joe Blanton'' so much before his head explodes. In that vein...
I got asked yesterday for about the millionth time "what are the players really like?'' I answered for the millionth time, "I have no idea.'' I mean, I can tell you the image they project. I can write what I observe. But often, that's only what they want me to observe. Stanley Wilson, standing in front of me, was quiet and humble. Stanley Wilson, in his hotel bathroom the night before the '89 Super Bowl, was someone else.
Eugene Robinson went from NFL man of the year to chasing hookers on Biscayne Boulevard, in a matter of days. And so on.
What's Griffey like? Beats me. I'm not in that circle. Never will be.
But just for the fun of it, for purposes of amusement only, here are a few glimpses, sideways and skewed maybe, but accurate from how they are in front of me, of current Reds. See if your image matches mine.
Kent Mercker: Guy I'd most like to have a Keystone Light with.
Dusty Baker: Blues club, table in the back, nods and silence as the music plays.
Adam Dunn: General disdain daily, would smash my face with a shaving -cream pie if he had the energy to put one together.
Scott Hatteberg: Sunday New York Times crossword, drinking a latte on his deck facing Puget Sound. Some guys (Dunn) you have to talk to. Others you enjoy talking to. Hatteberg is in the latter category.
Brandon Phillips: In the club, sitting VIP. Also, at home, just being with family. Guy most likely to "keep it real'' and stay true to how he was raised. I could be way off on this one. That's part of what makes covering sports so interesting. I hope I'm not.
David Ross: Next door neighbor, helping you move in. My daughter loves David Ross. He got wind of that (er, somehow) and called her, just to say thanks. Jillian will never forget it.
Bronson Arroyo: Big boat, blue water, guitar. Cool. Very cool.
Todd Coffey: Wants so much to do well, to please. Should develop an edge, please himself.
Joey Votto: Solid, physically and otherwise. Guy you call at 3 am from the lockup, and he's there. I'm waiting to see if September was a mirage. Lots of kids hit in September, often against other kids.
Jay Bruce: "Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States...''
Matt Belisle: Best friend from high school. Fun (does a dead-on Wayne Krivsky impression), with a streak of Texas mule. Can think too much. Needs to let it fly. Kinda like me on the radio.
Junior Griffey: A guy I've wanted to know better, who never let me in.
Not sure what was achieved, unless there is a trade brewing. Signing players you think will fit what you're trying to do is fine. Signing them because they're available, cheap, older and played for you is something else. How many flyers have to be taken? D.Baker says he values young players, was one himself etc. But to quote Chairman Marv, I see better than I hear.
You can't show faith in the young guys while bringing in people over top of them. Patterson is here partly because Baker isnt convinced Bruce is ready. Fogg is here to step in for H. Bailey. Affeldt the same. All of which is OK if you're thinking you can win the Central. But if that was the plan, they needed to add quality starters. Now, the plan should be to get the kids in the games and see if they're all right. Hard to do when Patterson is patrolling CF and Fogg and Affeldt are going every 5th day.
It's early, all subject to change etc. But if I could predict the future, I'd be in Vegas. Can only go on what's occurring now. And now, the signals are mixed.
Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes
Shaun Rogers isn't a Bengal. Not only is he not a Bengal, he's a Brown. He's taking his 360-pound self to the middle of Cleveland's D-line. The "historic'' deal Cincinnati supposedly had struck for a guy who'd have been the centerpiece of a revamped defense now will be elsewhere. Ya don't live in Cincinnati, ya live in Cleveland.
The Bengals and Lions -- not quite the beacons of NFL competence -- somehow messed this up. The trade wasnt reported to the league office, it violated some byzantine cap rule, it contained faulty language. Some damned thing.
Point is, the Browns front office had exactly zero problem swooping in quickly and decisively, to steal a very important player the Bengals apparently had been talking with for some time. How does this happen? Has Bengalization become so pervasive, it seeped across state lines into Michigan?
Rogers would have been relatively cheap. He's making $4.25 million this year, $5.25 next and $7 mil in the last year of his deal. He's a 2-time Pro Bowler and would have been perfect for the Bengals' 3-4. Plus, he had attitude issues and off-field problems. Great fit, all around.
Meantime, M. Williams leaves, J. Smith leaves, L. Johnson likely next, This great revamping of the D, to this point, is bringing back D. Jones, a Guy, who last September was surfing. Beautiful.
Can't wait for training camp.