Monday, July 03, 2006

Catching Up and Moving Forward

First of all, please accept my apologies for my no show performances last Thursday and Friday. Trust me when I tell you that it was completely unavoidable. As I have bemoaned before, sometimes work, as much as I hate to admit it, takes precedence over The WAD. Now that’s behind us, let’s get back to the stuff that really matters. Since this is an awkward work week with the Holiday, I’m going to try to cover a lot of ground today so I can catch up and we can start fresh on Wednesday. Off we go…

“Entourage”

Well at least I think we are done with Dom. That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that this was yet another disappointing episode in many respects. Out of the first four episodes, we’ve only had one real quality episode. Sure, a .250 average would be a serious upgrade for the Braves lead off spot, but it’s nothing to write home about in the world of television….especially HBO. I’m not going to rehash all the frustration and concern I spewed last week, but suffice it to say, they have not subsided. I mean, four episodes in and still no mention of Sloane or Saigon? How is this even possible? On the bright side, at least Eric delivered the great “he has a worse tell than Malkovich in “Rounders”” line. Speaking of “Rounders”….

“Rounders”

I have probably seen this movie somewhere close to thirty times, but that didn’t stop me from watching it again last night. I only bring this up because I think it’s one of the most well done and intelligent movies of the past ten years. Not to mention that I think it is largely responsible for the poker boom over the past five years. Think about it, “Rounders” came out when we were in college, and every frat boy in America was a fan. Hell, before “Rounders”, every poker game at every frat house and dorm in America consisted of ridiculous match the pot “gut” games that consisted of more wild cards than chicks Matt Leinart “meets” in a week. Thankfully, after “Rounders”, those games quickly evolved into Hold ‘Em tournaments. Seriously, had you even heard of Texas Hold ‘Em before “Rounders”? I know I hadn’t, and I’m as big a gambler as I know.

So, in addition to being well done and intelligent, a case can easily be made that “Rounders” is one of the most influential movies of its generation. Sure, you can poke holes in the movie like Bill Simmons did in his recent interview with the writers (i.e. the check cashing place not charging interest for cashing the Professor’s check, Damon reading all the professors’ hands blind, and the aforementioned absurdity of KGB’s tell), but that holds true for every movie…even the great ones. The good, however, far outweighs the bad. For example, when was the last time you sat down at a poker table and somebody didn’t bust out a line from “Rounders” within the first ten minutes at the table? It just doesn’t happen.

The NBA Draft

I received no less than 12 emails asking me where the hell I was on Thursday, and why I didn’t run an NBA Draft recap. Truth is, I didn’t see one minute of the draft, and I didn’t even review the draft order until late Friday night. That being said, I’m really upset I missed it. By all accounts, the draft lived up to all the hype that it was going to be the most unpredictable draft in many years. The Blazers made six trades for God’s sake! My head was spinning just reading about it, I can only imagine how great it was as it unfolded live. Now that I’ve had time to digest everything, here are a few thoughts on who came out as winners and losers:

The Winners:

Memphis - I absolutely love what Memphis did in trading Shane Battier for Rudy Gay and Stomile Swift then picking up Kyle Lowry late in the first round. Think about it, they sent away a solid but not spectacular guy in Battier in exchange for a potential superstar (Gay), a guy of equal worth to Battier that still has untapped potential (Swift), and a guy with a solid handle that could turn into consistent guard in the League (Lowry). In other words, they traded $.50 for $1.00. Granted, there is a chance that both Gay and Swift miss the team bus and show up late for half their games, but I think it’s a risk worth taking. The Rockets, on the other hand, continue to spiral out of control toward the doldrums of the Western Conference. If T-Mac’s back can’t hold up, the Rockets might not win 20 games next year.

Minnesota - They ended up with my favorite player, Randy Foye, and one of the toughest guys in the draft, Craig Smith. Here’s why these guys are a great fit for the Wolves: Kevin Garnett is an absurdly competitive guy, and he has not time for guys that don’t care about winning as much as he does. Well, since he’s stuck in Minnesota, at least they got him the two most competitive rookies in the draft. I really believe that. I don’t know how many wins Foye and Smith will be worth, but at least K.G. probably won’t assault either one of them. It’s the little things that matter.

Portland - Not only do I love the fact that they made six trades in one night, but I actually love what they ended up with. At the end of the day, with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers very well may have ended up with two of the best four players in the draft. Sure, I hate the fact they had to give up Sebastian, but they managed to keep Blake and Jack. All in all, that’s a very good night for a franchise that hasn’t had many in the past few years.

Boston - Speaking of Sebastian, I’ll admit that I’m in the minority here, but I think the Celtics had a great night. One of these days, people are going to listen to me when I say that this kid is the real deal. His shot has improved, his defense can be relentless when he’s motivated, and he sees the floor as well as anyone in the League. Yes, I honestly believe that. And, when you put him in the backcourt with Delonte West, you put Ryan Gomes and The Truth, and young Al Jefferson in the post, I love their starting five. It doesn’t end there however. With Wally Szczerbiak, Theo Ratliff, Tony Allen, Brian Grant, and the young Gerald Green coming off the bench, I’m totally in love with the Celtics. With Pierce coming off a career year and truly entering his prime, I think the C’s can win the East next year. And no, I’m not drinking. All that being said, if they use Bassy to put together a package to get A.I., I will feel completely differently. I just like the feel of the roster they’ve put together, and it all revolves around Bassy. Laugh all you want now, but I just know I’m right about this one.

The Losers:

Atlanta - I don’t even have the energy to talk about this.

New York - I don’t even have a joke here. At this point, I don’t think there is a shrink in the world that could figure out what is going on inside Isiah’s head. All I know is it’s ugly. Very ugly.

New Jersey - A lot of people seem to like the Nets draft. I, however, am not one of them. I’m fine with Marcus Williams. Hell, I would have been fine if the Hawks had taken him at No. 5. He is a steady and solid point guard, and as long as the team gives him a laptop of his own, he should be fine. In the words of Bill Walton, Josh Boone, however was a TERRRRRRRRRIBLE pick. You knew somebody was going to take him, you just had to hope and pray it wasn’t your team. Well, no such luck for all six Nets fans. At what point in his time at UConn did you ever say, “boy, Josh Boone is really dominating this game”? The answer is NEVER. He’s one of these guys that has all the tools (size, athleticism, and length), but he can just never put it all together. If that didn’t happen in three years at UConn, how is it possibly going to happen in the League? Just a wasted pick in my mind.

Then, in the second round, the Nets took one of my sleepers, Hassan Adams of Arizona. I’m a big Adams fan, and I think he has an outside chance to be a Gilbert Arenas sized surprise. The problem, however, is that he’s simply a younger, less polished, and less experienced version of Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. He should have no problem getting minutes….for somebody else in three years.

Orlando - They took J.J. Redick with the 11th pick in the draft. I’m sure the season tickets are flying out of the box office in Orlando.


“The World Cup”

So, the Final Four is set in Germany. And with only three games remaining, it appears that we could very well be staring at Germany vs. France Final. This begs only one question: will the U.S. have to be called in to protect the French?

Well, from the better late than never category, Stats emailed me a preview of the Final 8 last Friday, but I wasn’t able to get it posted on time. So, I’m running it today. I would say that you could make fun of him for his bone head picks, but as you will see, he might have been the only person in the world to actually pick the Frogs to beat Brazil, and he damn near pegged the England vs. Portugal game perfectly, well, except for the winner. At any rate, here’s some much needed soccer knowledge courtesy of The WAD’s biggest soccer fan and most degenerate gambler:


And then there were eight...

Right now you're probably one of two, or maybe a little of both...
anxiously awaiting the climactic finish of the World Cup, or just hoping
the thing goes away so ESPN can relax with their bombardment of marketing.
While I love soccer, I can say having it shoved down my throat as much as
ESPN does is too much. It seems any goal whatsoever is gauranteed the
number 1 play of the day on SportsCenter. While I initially liked the idea
of impoverished Jose picking his dream team in the backyard, now I'm sick
of the little shit and am hoping one of the players cracks his leg.
Anyway...

First, a few editorial points. In regard to the United States play, well,
it sucked. There are no excuses. It's not that MLS isn't producing talent-
the players who actually showed up for the games are MLS bred and currently
employed. It wasn't entirely the coaching, which was miserable and
definitely deserving of change. It was the leadership that stunk most.
Landon Donovan is a headcase who believes being a star in America means
something to the world. Does he not remember his 2 failed attempts in
Germany, where he barely got any playing time? His pre-cup comments that a
quarterfinal loss to Germany in 2002 was not good enough for the US team
now look absurd. Perhaps a 1-point exit is better, Landon? So you wouldn't
feel fulfilled still playing in Germany this weekend as opposed to being
home? I believe despite players saying the contrary, the US team believe
their #5 ranking and that softened their anger and passion in being the
"underdog".

Second, the sportsmanship in this World Cup has reached new lows. It is
even unbearable to those with love for the game. It makes me sick to see
some of the best talents in the world resorting to diving and acting to
persuade the ref to make game-altering decisions. Time-wasting is normal,
and abuse of the "fair play" (unwritten) rule is awful. FIFA needs to take
a lesson from the NFL and have a ref watching the game in a booth. He could
communicate to the center ref via headset. The field ref can then change
his incorrect decisions. Far from perfect, but an improvement. As for the
"fair play" rule (kicking the ball out of bounds when an opponent goes
down), to hell with it. A one man advantage for a minute at most is rarely
a true advantage in soccer. Let it happen in the first half of a tied game;
when it's crunch time, teams should understand the rule is out the window.

On to the games. There are 8 teams remaining, 7 of which have a serious
chance of winning it all. I really hope I just jinxed the field against the
Ukraine and they pull off the miracle.

Germany vs Argentina

This is a gigantic clash of world powers of soccer. Surely, much camera
time will be given to two former greats who will be in attendence- Diego
Maradona of Argentina, and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany. This clash is like
the Redskins meeting the Raiders in the Superbowl, not only for the
enthusiasm held by each team's fans, but also because neither has been very
strong since 1990. But when they were good, they were really good. This
game will propel either team back into the world's elite few and rekindle
hopes of reclaiming past glory. Who could pick against Argentina, whose
talent is capable of miraculous goals like the one that knocked out Mexico?
Or Germany, the home team, who under Klinnsmann has seemingly scored more
goals than their last 3 world cups combined? This one is going to be a war.
I will say Germany prevails due to the 12th man.

Ukraine vs Italy

Ukraine was my pick to win the group, and I thought they would be nearly
out of the cup after a 4-0 opening loss to Spain. Somehow they've turned it
around, beat a miserable Swiss team in the round of 16, and now face an
Italian team that has looked both mediocre and fantastic at times. Ukraine
has the talent to win this game, but they should expect another refereeing
performance like the Seahawks got. Italy should move on. I'd be real
surprised if the refs don't have something to do with it. I'm not going to
say much more because I like living without my back to the wall all the
time.

England vs Portugal

England has looked average, but has done enough to advance. Portugal much
of the same. There are many big names in this game, but the best one is
Posh Spice. Please show more Posh during the game. I don't care who wins
this game at all. I'll say England in sudden death penalty kicks, after
they go 0-0 for 120 minutes and both miss their first 5. They've proven to
do enough to just get by, and I'd like to see more Posh Spice.

Brazil vs France

Brazil can't lose, can they? The media has already given them the
championship it seems. Yes, they are great- they are the best team on
paper. But all of us know, much like the Bachelor, the best rarely wins.
Did USC beat Texas? No. Did Duke win March Madness? No (ok bear with me I
know 99% of the WAD regulars hate Duke, just roll with it). Did Georgia
Tech win the National Championship under Joe Hamilton? No (c'mon, you know
Joe was the greatest QB in the history of college football- don't lie to
yourself!). And Brazil will not win this World Cup. I don't know if France
will beat them, but they have as good of a shot as anyone. Zidane is still
doing it like Roger Clemens, and my out-on-a-limb prediction is France gets
it done and knocks out the defending champs. Keep in mind, France on home
court in '98 beat Brazil 3-0 in the final.

Semifinals

Germany over Italy
England over France

Final

Germany over England in a game that might consume 5 years worth of Europe's
alcohol supply, end with 6 a side due to red cards, and start another war.

I hope you all enjoyed the World Cup at least a little bit. See you in 4
years.



Many thanks to Stats for all his insights. I hope everybody has an amazing Fourth of July, and I hope you all take a second while you are enjoying your friends and family to reflect and offer thanks to all the men and women stationed around the world diligently and courageously protecting our freedom. None of the things we talk about here on a daily basis would be possible if it weren't for these men and women. God bless them and God bless The United States of America.