Friday, November 16, 2007

Truly the National Pastime

It seems as though “America’s pastime” has really become America’s pastime. With the federal indictment of Barry Bonds and the Alex Rodriguez free-agency soap opera, baseball has devolved into probably the most tabloid-like sport in America. It’s pretty sad, because even though I’m not a huge baseball fan, I hate to see something with such a long and detailed history that is already struggling with modern popularity fall farther behind the glory sports of football and basketball. I’ve always enjoyed going to the ballpark and watching afternoon games, and I’ve come to appreciate the slower pacing of the game and the minute details to the game that make it interesting. Bonds and Rodriguez have turned baseball into tabloid-fodder where the biggest interest lies, not in the game, but in the foolish acts perpetrated by those who are supposed to represent the game.

The Barry Bonds’ indictment on four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice on Thursday, November 15 could cost him up to 30 years in jail. Bonds’ history of claims that he “never knowingly” took steroids and the fact that there is no positive proof that he took steroids is well-documented, but it’s both satisfying and dismaying to see that somebody finally got him on something. It’s the idea that you won’t get caught all the time, but somebody will catch you at least once, eventually. Honestly, I’m glad to see that Bonds’ might get what’s coming to him, given that he seems like an ass with no appreciation of anybody or anything beyond himself. It’s sad, also, that one of the greatest players, if not the greatest player, of his generation is caught up in a federal case like this. I would imagine this is what it was like when the “Shoeless” Joe Jackson / Black Sox scandal of 1919 was discovered.

As for Bonds’ Major League home run record, I don’t really know what to think. On one hand, it should have an asterisk with it, but so should almost every record from the last fifteen years. Bonds most likely got help staying healthy and strong with steroids, but so did a lot of other Major Leaguers (we won’t mention Sen. George Mitchell’s steroid investigation that may have 10-15 current free agents mentioned in it), and Bonds still had to actually hit the ball. Some people are calling for his record to be stricken from the books if he is convicted, but as far as I know, Pete Rose still owns the all-time hits record and he’s still banned from baseball for betting on games. I suppose it should stand and history will judge it the way people will want it to. And if the record is broken again by Alex Rodriguez, won’t that still be tainted?

Speaking of A-Rod and his ridiculousness, I agree with what I heard on the radio the other day: Alex Rodriguez makes people not like him. He already had the biggest contract in baseball history (10 years, $250 million), then opted out of his contract with the Yankees to pursue free agency, supposedly because 1) there was too much pressure and scrutiny on him in New York and 2) the Yankees dumped manager Joe Torre earlier this year. Then, he says that he won’t even talk to the Yankees unless they offer a contract of 10 years and $300+ million. Eighteen days later, A-Rod goes to back to the Yankees, asking to return to the club, and now we have an “outline” of a contract for 10 years, $275 million. This guy is an idiot.

Yes, A-Rod is the best player of his generation, but he hasn’t produced in the post-season, already said it was only about the money when he signed his original $250 million contract with the Texas Rangers, announced that he was opting out of his contract during Game 4 of the World Series, taking a lot of well-deserved press from the Series, the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies, and whines too much for a guy who gets more money to swing a bat than anybody else in history. He better believe there’s pressure to win a World Series and produce if he wants the fat contract. Stop whining and start playing. By the way, I love that the Bonds’ indictment has left A-Rod’s contract talks in the dust as the biggest baseball story in America. Heck, even in the New York Daily News, the contract headline is in a tiny corner of the sports page.

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In other wacky news, how about Arizona taking down No. 2 Oregon in the latest BCS upset? In case you missed it, the Wildcats defeated the Ducks, 34-24 on Thursday night to pretty much end Oregon’s hopes of a BCS title and the Pac-10 title. I think it’s the fifth time in eight weeks the No. 2 team in the nation has been taken out by an unranked opponent. Hopefully current No. 3 Kansas (10-0) survives the weekend against Iowa State to move to No. 2, and can win out against No. 5 Missouri and No. 4 Oklahoma in its last two games to give them a shot a the BCS title. The only disappointing thing about that is that they are still a Big 12 team, and not a mid-major like Boise State or former No. 2 University of South Florida.

Monday, November 12, 2007

On Trek

I feel the idiotic need to post something, but since I’ve been bogged down with work, I’ll just give you the latest update on J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie. Actor Bruce Greenwood (above) has been cast as Captain Christopher Pike, the first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The rumors had been that Abrams was looking at either Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, Glory Road) or Tom Cruise for the part. Greenwood is a character actor who has most recently appeared in the cancelled HBO series “John from Cincinnati,” Déjà Vu (with Denzel Washington), and Capote (with Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Greenwood will reprise the role originally played by Jeffrey Hunter in the never-aired original pilot to Star Trek, “The Cage.” The Pike character was scrapped and William Shatner’s James T. Kirk was born when the series was picked up and Hunter was unavailable. The footage from “The Cage” was worked into the episode “The Menagerie,” which, coincidentally, airs on select movie screens Tuesday night, November 13 in a promotion of the original Star Trek series’ release on HD-DVD.

In other Abrams Star Trek news, the role of Spock’s mother has been cast as well. The new movie covers the beginnings of the Star Trek universe as we know it, and Zachary Quinto has been cast as a young(er) Spock (Vulcans live for several hundred years). Spock is the offspring of a Vulcan father, Sarek, and a human mother, Amanda Grayson. The role of Sarek has not been cast yet, but the role of Amanda Grayson goes to…

Winona Ryder.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Billy Gillespie Job Watch: Day 1

To be honest, I’m not following college basketball a ton right now, being more absorbed in producing the 2007 Big West Women’s Soccer Tournament for the Big West’s video streaming initiative, BigWest.TV. However, with the first shocker of the college basketball season coming last night, I have to chip in my two cents.

No. 22 Kentucky lost to Gardner-Webb last night, 68-84, the first time that Kentucky has lost to a mid-major program since 2001 (Western Kentucky). It’s also the first time since December 3, 2005 that the Wildcats lost a non-conference home game to an unranked team (North Carolina). The loss was in the regional “finals” of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic, which was set up to pit Memphis, UConn, and Oklahoma against each other in New York next week. So just like Butler did last year, Gardner-Webb crashed the party.

So this would make today Day 1 of the Billie Gillespie Job Watch. Gillespie took over the UK program this year from former coach Tubby Smith, who “decided” to move on to Minnesota. Kentucky fans are notoriously fervent, so losing to Gardner-Webb is a major step on the way to having the fans want your head (and I’m sure that some of them are already questioning Gillespie’s hire). See, I’m a big fan of mid-major basketball, but even I have to admit losing to a team that was 9-21 last year and seventh (SEVENTH!) in the Atlantic-Sun Conference (Belmont, Campbell, East Tennessee State, Florida-Gulf Coast, Jacksonville U., Kennesaw State, Lipscomb, Mercer, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina-Upstate, and Stetson) is like trying to commit suicide with a dull spoon. Even if Gardner-Webb improves to finish in the top three of their conference (you generally don’t go from seventh to first), it still looks bad.

Now, I’m also a supporter of coaches in general, who aren’t out there to lose, so I have to say that it’s early in Gillespie’s tenure as the Wildcats’ head coach. Also, mid-majors are getting better with good athletes who stick around for four years and learn to play the game while top programs have athletes that defect after two or three and can rely on their athleticism to get things done (brains vs. brawn, in a sense). So I wouldn’t go throwing rocks at Gillespie’s house or key his car just yet. He turned around a Texas A&M program the last few years, and before that, made a splash with UTEP. I’m sure Kentucky will continue to challenge for the SEC title (except for Tennessee is pretty good) and have to deal with “only” getting to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight in March, I just thought I’d jump on the media bandwagon and put some pressure on Gillespie right away. Heh.

Oh, and that picture at the top? That’s the new Billy Gillespie wallpaper from the UK website.