Archive for December, 2007

28
Dec
07

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before

The “Evil Empire.”

At least, that’s what they’ve been called from time to time. You know, those guys who buy their way to the top of the league. They’re willing to overpay just to take stars away from their top competitors. Then, utilizing their position atop the food chain, they attempt to call the shots and feed the fire that, ultimately, just ends up making them more profit. And the entire cyclical process can begin again.

No, not the New York Yankees. Though I have seen them cast in a similar light. Where did I see that? Oh, that’s right, on ESPN. That’s where I’ve seen that whole “Evil Empire” label branded upon George Steinbrenner & co. I guess it takes one to know one.

A recent article in the New York Times by Richard Perez-Pena has revealed a bit more of the truth behind irony-SPN. A network which is never hesitant to cast the Red Sox and Yankees of the sporting world as the corporate giants who drop their giant boot of cash down upon the rest of the competition, may just be the biggest perpetrators of such activity in sports.

More than anything, it’s just kind of funny. Among all the journalistic work reporting on free agency and the tactics used by big spenders, the guys on the business end of things were obviously paying attention just as closely as Peter Gammons.

“The numbers they throw around are out of reach.”

Sounds like something you’d hear from Royals or Marlins management. But no, that’s Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, a sports editor at the Washington Post, talking about ESPN’s uncanny ability to lure top writers. And making moves like offering Rick Reilly (undisclosed) dollars not only gives ESPN another big (white, middle-aged, snarky) gun, but, perhaps more importantly in the “Evil Empire” agenda, it takes a big staple of the competition out of the lineup. Remember when the Yankees signed Johnny Damon? Anybody?

Oh, and it doesn’t stop there. The article also discloses that ESPN charges, “by far,” the highest subscription rate of any cable network and more ads per magazine than its competition. You’re kidding, the same providers of such hardcore investigative pieces as the Coors Light Cold Hard Facts and Six Pack of Questions, the Hummer Press Pass, the Budweiser Hot Seat have more ads per issue than Sports Illustrated? (That bit of sarcasm brought to you by rich, chocolaty Ovaltine).

But easily my favorite part of this article (aside from the goofiness of a sports media outlet refusing to releasing contract information) comes right near the end when we get the distinguished opinion of sports agent, and general slime of the earth, Scott Boras. “It’s like going from a guppy to an octopus,” says the shark.

You just can’t make this stuff up. But I have an idea of who could if they wanted to…

24
Dec
07

Back to Normal, Ohio

Browns blow itUnlike some other, lazier blogs, The FynalCut does not sleep – or break for egg nog and 24 consecutive hours of “A Christmas Story.”

Which is why we are able to bring you a complete wrap of NFL playoff “action” from Sunday – a day that seemed to crush more playoff dreams than it helped come true. (the photo to your left is about as symbolic as it gets).

Browns 14, Bengals 19: Well, no one knows better than Cleveland that it’s hard to shake a recent history of suck. The Browns (and Derek Anderson’s four interceptions) showed no team is better at being a perennial disappointment than that the one that hails from the Mistake By The Lake. A season that started with high hopes (51 points against the rival Bengals in the teams’ first meeting) is all but over. When the Titans beat the Colts next weekend (a Cut guarantee), things will be back to normal in Ohio.

Redskins 32, Vikings 21: You’ve heard it from the Talkin’ Heads for weeks – “You don’t want to play the Vikes in the first round.” Why? Because of that killer run game they hone up north. Turns out, all you need is a mediocre defense and a quarterback who’s been on the bench for the past decade. Washington held Minnesota’s Purple Saviour Adrian Peterson to 27 yards on the ground and can clinch a playoff spot by winning next weekend against Dallas’ B-Team — assuming Jessica Simpson doesn’t distract them.

Giants 38, Bills 21: Everyone knows Eli isn’t Peyton. He at times makes horrible decisions, worse throws and can be an inconsistent part of the Giant’s playbook (7 completions against Buffalo). But, all that said, the Giants are in the playoffs for the third time under the younger (and much better looking) Manning. What they do (tank) once they get to the dance can’t be put solely on Eli’s shoulders, but a first-round matchup in Tampa is about as easy as it’s gonna get this year.

So, as it looks right now, Jacksonville at San Diego in the first round is probably going to be the most intriguing matchup. If Cleveland wins next weekend and Tennessee loses, a Browns-Steelers showdown could also be pretty entertaining.

Once the playoff picture is a little bit clearer, we’ll hit you with our complete playoff preview. Until then, you can always try and figure out what’s going on here.

21
Dec
07

Watterson to Sehorn: “Stay away from Harmon”

SamNew York, N.Y. – Tensions on the already tense set of the television show “Law and Order” continued to rise Friday with senior cast member Sam Watterson calling out a co-star for a lack of effort on camera.

After filming a crucial judge’s chambers scene for the episode “Diagnosis: Dead,” Watterson stormed off the set, cursing.

The actor’s latest outburst comes just months after co-star Fred Thompson’s decision to run for president – a departure Watterson directly attributes to the “Sehorn effect.”

“It’s pretty clear she loses focus when that husband of hers comes around,” Watterson said of starlet Angie Harmon after filming the show’s 15,403rd episode. “We did a scene 14 times today, 14 times! And if he doesn’t stop hitting that ‘dun-dun’ button, I swear to God, I’ll kill him.”

Watterson’s accusations did nothing to ease the already strained mood on a set currently wracked by the Hollywood writer’s strike.

According to Watterson and other sources, Harmon’s husband – former NFL player Jason Sehorn – not only draws Harmon’s attention away from the script, but also detracts from the performances of other female actresses.

Sehorn is no stranger to on-set distraction. Formerly married to CNN correspondent Whitney Casey, Sehorn earned the nickname “Looker” around the newsroom for causing numerous female anchors to fumble through their lines.

“Eventually, someone has to step in and say something,” Watterson said. “We want to put out a good product, all of us do, but it’s a lot harder with Mr. Perfect Hair cheering from behind the cameras.”

When contacted for comment the day after Watterson’s outburst, a representative for the show said he was “simply joking” and that Harmon would have known what he meant. A young woman who answered Mr. Sehorn’s cell phone refused to comment on Watterson’s tirade.

Note: To all FynalCut readers…you will never, ever, read about any actress, starlet, no-talent blondes/brunettes/redheads on this site. Despite what you may hear, they have nothing to do with sports. If you really want that kind of “news,” we can redirect you accordingly.

19
Dec
07

I swear I didn’t do it, Mom… I mean, Mitchell

I never thought I’d be able to relate to a Major League Baseball player. That was, until I heard Fernando Vina recreate the same speech I gave to my parents when they found pot in my duffle bag.

“Oh no mom, I’ve never done anything more than a little weed” … “I pretty much just try some when it’s around at a party” … “I was carrying that for a friend” … “Somebody just told me it could help my creativity, you know, help me get a better grade in art class” … ” Bottom line. It was stupid. I’m embarrassed now, and it didn’t help, either.”

OK, so that last one was literally right out of Vina’s statement, but you can see the point I’m getting at here. All these steroid shenanigans are just childish. All we’ve really accomplished is managing to revert a bunch of washed up millionaires into pimple-faced teens, tripping over their words for some semblance of an excuse.

These guys are all putting makeup on pigs at this point. No matter how pretty and innocent they try to cast themselves, they still cheated. I would love for just one of these guys, just one, to come out and say, “You know what, I did it. HGH, steroids, everything that the report says is true and that shouldn’t surprise you one bit. These drugs were everywhere when I was playing, and anybody in the league could point you in the direction to get some. So when I felt backed into a corner, I did all I could to protect my future, and that led me to cheating. I’m sorry, but that’s what happened.”

And the funny thing is, while the media circus would come to town for all of a day, after that, it would pretty much be over for that player. No more prying questions, no more following him and his kid to school. Cuz that’s the thing about the media: Once they get what they want, they usually move on.

Instead, we have the guys who have already proved themselves as the most selfish in the sport once, continuing to put themselves and their “image” first. I’m sorry Fernando, but hardly anybody remembers you. You have no image to maintain.

You know who I would rather hear from? All the guys from the Triple-A teams in Texas, Baltimore, New York, and all these other teams riddled with juiced up starters. Those are the guys who never got to live their dream because some melon-headed outfielder cheated his way onto the squad. Those are the guys who lived in apartments when their counterparts had cribs. Those are the real losers in this entire ordeal. Not the fans, not the record books and certainly not the “integrity of the game.”

17
Dec
07

Fun with falling frozen water

It’s official: time to start getting really excited about football.

Once you start seeing images like this, and this, and this, and this… you know that special time of year has officially arrived. When football conversations bounce from topic to topic faster than a CNN Headline News brief.

So in that spirit, here’s some of the banter bouncing around this Monday:

One for the history books?That’s what the Miami radio commentators were saying as a simple slant turned into a touchdown that saved the Dolphins from infamy and may have sent Brian Billick searching for a new job. But the best part of this whole storyline is seeing the owner of a ONE WIN team in tears. Now that’s something for the history books.

Hardly Jaggin’ off, it seems as though Jacksonville is for real. Sure, they lost to the Colts a few weeks ago. But that was truly one of those games that could have gone either way. But after giving it to the Steelers, there seem to be few teams playing better football. And something to store away for the playoffs, this is the only legit contender in the AFC that New England hasn’t seen. In a cold-weather game, with crappy conditions, I’m going to go out and say it right now, this team would be better than the Patriots.

The return of Tony “Oh no.” After breaking Dan Marino’s all-time passing yardage record, Brett Favre said Marino was the kind of passer you use as a basis for teaching quarterbacks how to throw and Brett, well, not so much. And he’s the first to admit it. Well, Tony Romo proved those words to be true as the oft-compared quarterback had his worst statistical outing of his career. 13-36, three picks and two fumbles may have Cowboy fans wishing everybody had compared Romo to somebody a little less sporadic.

15
Dec
07

Struggling Cities

Irish loseWatching the overhyped and overexposed Bulls get off to a slower start than Brady Quinn’s career got me thinking about the downer of a year ’07 has been for Chi City.

To start it all off, after an up-and-down, first-second-then first-place again regular season, the Cubs got destroyed by a young Diamondbacks club in the playoffs.

The NFL season was supposed to bring relief (after a Super Bowl run), but instead has brought the agony of witnessing not only the destruction of two quarterbacks – but also the rise of the hated Green Bay Packers.

And if the Windy City suffered the biggest punch below the belt to its sporting pride, these cities did their best to steal the crown:

South Bend, Ind.: Granted, there is only 1 sport in South Bend (sorry, SilverHawks). Of course I speak of the legendary, holy and morally superior Notre Dame football program. The Irish suffered from a horrible coach (but he’s white!) and were unaware the surfer-boy-turned-QB thing only works in Disney movies. Sure, they’ll bounce back. But for now, all you Touchdown Jesus fans should be incredibly embarrassed. (Everyone point and laugh at them)

New York, New York: As far as legendary sports cities go, New York is probably tops. But 2007 was bad enough to have some of those Broadway Joes turning over in their graves. If a playoff exit at the hands of the Cleveland Indians wasn’t bad enough for the Yankees, the team’s roster comprised about 75% of the Mitchell Report. On top of that, the Jets have been incredibly inconsistent this season, with one of their 3 wins coming against the NFC North leading Pittsburgh Steelers. And then, there’s the Knickerbockers.

Miami, Fla.: I was considering limiting this list to cities with actual fans, but South Beach has had it pretty rough this year. After hosting XLI, Miami has seen the Heat tank amid inter-team bickering (hard to believe with Riley at the helm) and the Marlins trade off their two biggest stars. Well, at least the Dolphins are working on making history. Oh, it’s the bad kind?

13
Dec
07

I hear Prancer’s on the list…

The Mitchell Report is only hours away from being delivered by a fleet of juiced up reindeer flying down from the North Pole at Mach 3. Or at least, that’s the vibe I’m getting from ESPN.

Just yesterday, Sportscenter opened with “Christmas comes early for Major League Baseball, Thursday. If Christmas is a damaging report that could ruin the credibility of the game.” Um, actually, my Christmases usually had more G.I. Joes and Batman figurines. But maybe I wasn’t on the naughty list.

I believe what “that troll-looking younger guy who is an anchor now” (as my esteemed colleague at The Cut called him) meant to say was, “Christmas comes early for Major League Baseball writers.” Because, yes, to them, Christmas is a damaging report that could ruin the credibility of the game.

In fact, I can just picture the crew of Baseball Tonight huddled together with sleeping bags on the set, anxiously awaiting the big day — visions of Barry Bonds’ sugar plum-shaped noggin dancing through their heads. I just hope the report is sent to the media wrapped in a pretty little bow with some tinsel.

Stay tuned for more from The FynalCut on the Mitchell Report. Dwi Guy will lay out his plans for HGH Baseball 2008, the video game.