The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Alien Autopsy

Never has the name of this site been more apropos than with regards to the Montreal Canadiens. After a strong start to the season, the bottom completely fell out in every possible area leading up to the inglorious sweep by Boston in the first round. By the way, the post subject relates to the fact that most male homo sapiens possess both guts and testicles, both of which are in short supply among the bleu, blanc et rouge.

So, let’s take stock of what we’ve got, shall we?

First off, I think a VERY telling stat is TOI/GA, or Time on Ice per Goal Against. This is how it breaks down…the numbers are Goals Against (when they were on the ice), total TOI for the series, and TOI/GA. By this metric,  Josh Gorges was our best defensive player.

D-men:

Gorges – 2, 95:02, 47:31
Weber – 1, 40:48, 40:48
Brisebois – 1 (1 EN), 16:07, 16:07
Dandenault – 6 (2 SH, 1 EN), 84:18, 14:03
O’Byrne – 2, 26:08, 13:04
Hamrlik – 10 (2 SH, 1 EN), 101:14, 10:07
Komisarek – 8 (2 SH), 76:00, 9:30
Schneider – 4 (1 SH, 1 EN), 37:56, 9:24

Forwards:

Tanguay – 0, 30:57, 30:57
Kovalev – 3 (2 EN), 79:35, 26:31
Latendresse – 2, 46:57, 23:28
A. Kostitsyn – 3, 56:59, 18:59
Koivu – 4 (2 EN), 71:01, 17:45
Higgins – 4 (1 SH, 1 EN), 70:18, 17:35
Metropolit – 4, 64:16, 16:04
Laraque – 3, 43:50, 14:37
Dandenault 6 (2 SH, 1 EN) – 84:18, 14:03
S. Kostitsyn – 0, 12:10, 12:10
Kostopolous – 5 (3 SH), 56:05, 11:13
Lapierre – 6 (3 SH), 59:42, 9:57
Plekanec – 5 (1 EN), 40:47, 8:09
D’Agostini – 5, 35:28, 7:06
Stewart – 3, 17:01, 5:40

While it isn’t a perfect metric (it does penalize a forward for being on the ice when an empty net goal happens miles away from them, for example), it does roughly map out the general performance of the team during the Boston series. Gorges doesn’t stick out in the mind much because, well, he didn’t fuck up in egregious fashion. Meanwhile, the gruesome twosome of Komisarek and Hamrlik are down towards the bottom…and I can’t say I’m drastically stunned, I’ll put it that way. As for the forwards, Lapierre had a nightmare (especially on the PK), as did the two kids (Dagger and Stewart). Kostopolous was also dreadful on the PK, and Pleks should really be dragged out back and shot.

Oh, and while Price wasn’t as at-fault as some of the mouth-breathing loons at Habs I/O and some other places would have you believe, a line of 0-4, 4.11, .878 is just not fucking good enough. I know he’s still a kid, I know he’s going to get better, but the truth is that either he or Halak has to go this off-season. I still believe that Price has the higher ceiling (if we haven’t already ruined him for life), and that Halak’s trade value may never be higher. For me, the only sensible course is to trade Jaro for whatever we can get for him, and bring in a solid veteran backup to mentor Price through this awful time, and provide insurance in case he melts down again.

Maybe this is more my heart talking, but I think The Captain has to come back. There is NO REASON why he shouldn’t retire a Hab as long as his contract demands aren’t too ridiculous. At this point, he’s a third-line checking center, and if he’s willing to be paid as such, then by all means he should return. If he still harbors the notion of being the No. 1 somewhere…then happy trails and thanks for everything you’ve done for us. The man is a credit to the organization and to hockey in general, and I’ll miss him badly if he goes. If only some of these other guys had the heart that he does…shit, some of them could use even one ventricle.

Believe it or not, I think Kovalev should return as well. He still gives us a dangerous scoring weapon on a roster that is quite short on those, and he always steps it up in the playoffs. We shouldn’t pay him the moon and stars of course, but anything reasonable means he HAS to come back. Maybe next season we won’t play him with GEORGES FUCKING LARAQUE on the first line in the playoffs.  *sigh*

Komisarek, Hamrlik, Plekanec, both Kostitsyns and Kostopolous really need to go. Having watched some of the other teams in the playoffs (which is the first I’m seeing of some of them, in all honesty), I look at even the 8th-seeded Ducks and ask myself if any of these guys would crack their playoff roster based on current form. I’m coming up with a huge NO. If the 8-seed wouldn’t go to war with them, why would Detroit or Boston or San Jose?

Brisebois is probably going to retire anyway. Schneider I’m cool with as long as he is here as the 6th/7th defenseman.

As for the rest of it, we need one or two absolute top-end scoring types (cough cough Lecavalier cough cough) and some 3rd-line types that don’t have giant hands of stone like Tom the Bomb. The defense drastically needs shoring up as well. I hate to say it, but this lot is probably 2-3 years away from being a serious contender, barring some kind of crazy Gainey miracle.

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April 24, 2009 Posted by | Montreal Canadiens | Leave a comment

The Single Worst Pay Per View of All Time

Macho Camacho Sr. vs. Yory Boy Campas, $30.

Dear God, this is boxing’s Heroes of Wrestling. Campas is 37, coming off of two straight losses to nobody and nobody’s cousin, hasn’t mattered seriously in years, and has over 100 pro bouts of wear and tear on his record. Camacho is 46 (!), is coming off a decade of personal issues including a burglary charge he pled guilty to, hasn’t been in a meaningful fight since 1997 (!!) when he lost to Oscar De La Hoya, and is best known as a waste of talent who was never the same after Edwin Rosario nearly decapitated him… in 1986 (!!!). How on earth can this fight even be happening, let alone be on PPV, let alone be for $30!? It’s insane. I first saw a headline for this which just said something like “Campas, Camacho to meet on PPV”, and thought “man, who wants to see Campas against Camacho Jr?” CAMACHO. JUNIOR. The worse possibility didn’t even occur to me. I’m going to stop now before I try to imagine the person who actually buys this show and my brain runs out of my ears. Absolutely zero buys.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Boxing | 1 Comment

No Clue About Anything

Uh oh

But how will you keep them down on the farm, once they’ve seen New York!? (Or Madrid)

It’s not like this is going to seriously change the hideous and sanctimonious sham which is NCAA basketball yet, but a little more mortar falls out of the wall. Best of luck to the kid in his development as a player. I’d say more, but, well, Dan Wetzel already wrote one of the best columns I’ve seen in a looooong time about it.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Other NBA | Leave a comment

Worked

I know MMA fans hate to admit that their sport is pro wrestling for real, but this is too good an example to pass by. Check the bottom.

Ooooh! Wanderlei Silva is talking about Anderson Silva! Putting him down, disrespecting him! This Sunday at the Greensboro Coliseum brother, it’s gonna be war…..

I mean, seriously, I applaud Wanderlei for this, but isn’t it obvious what he’s doing? He and the people in his camp are not stupid. His career’s winding down, he’s been losing as much or more than he wins for the last few years and being occasionally knocked out in horrifying fashion- he needs to make money quickly before time gets called on his career in the major leagues. Rich Franklin is a good waystation fight- the money’s good, it’s a main event, it’s not unwinnable, it’s almost certain to be exciting and has a chance to be a fight of the night. What’s more, it’s an explainable loss if things go that way: he was still adjusting to being smaller coming down from 205 to a 195 catchweight, this just proves he needs to move to 185, etc. You could write that interview yourself probably. But once the Franklin fight’s over, win or lose, Wanderlei needs something else; he sees an opening here and so he’s starting to beat the drums for a showdown with Anderson Silva, a title fight certain to be positioned at main or semi-main level. It’s certainly not an unreasonable fight on the merits- broken down or not Wanderlei’s a legend, and his style will make the Spider actually fight- but with Dana talking about A. Silva vs. GSP or at 205, it’s also not a slam dunk. How to help it along? Find a personal issue to hype up and increase its marketability and fan interest, and since it’s not as though these two are known for having long time bad blood, Wanderlei is creating it in his remarks to the press.

This is not new to legitimate(ish) combat sports: examples from boxing are many, with Junior Witter’s unsuccessful attempts to force Ricky Hatton into a fight coming to mind most readily as a recent one. But in its essence, it’s the same basic principle behind all of pro wrestling: find two big dudes with star quality, make people think they hate each other, then charge them to watch the guys settle it. I mean this in the nicest possible way and with nothing but respect, but Wanderlei Silva is basically working people right now as much as Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair ever did- the only difference is because the fights he’s selling are real, people don’t notice the work in the rest of it so readily. In reality, the principle isn’t even contained exclusively to combat sports: think of how many records Biggie and Tupac sold off of the tension between them (with battle tracks as the fight being sold), or how desperately 50 Cent used to look around for someone else to feud with. I’m a huge fan of Jamaican dancehall music, which has a tradition of dis tracks and face-to-face confrontations between artists on stage, and you can trace the history of that music through the line of famous clashes: Super Cat vs. Ninjaman, Bounty vs. Beenie, Movado vs. Kartel. Any business based on star power and confrontation has some of this in its DNA- Bird vs. Magic, Ovechkin vs. Crosby, Manning vs. Brady….

As a fan I pretty much consider all of this as an nearly unmitigated good. Humans are story telling creatures, and drawn to certain personalities and characters; supposedly Pure Sport has been tried many times, and while it’s admirable for what it is, it’s not mass entertainment- the BJJ Mundials aren’t on ESPN, neither the NCAA freestyle wrestling championships, nor a hundred other sports save for the Olympics when every 4 years when they get an hour on CNBC with the name “Olympics” as the draw. If Wanderlei can work an angle for his fight to get people excited for it, that’s nothing but a plus- it’s money for Wanderlei, money for UFC, and greater anticipation and enjoyment for the fans. It’s a story well told. But with that said, if you take off the fan hat for a second and try to be objective or journalistic (or whatever it is that MMA sites are going for), you should probably be able to tell when you’re being worked more often than not. Not being able to is one of the weaknesses MMA fans and analysts expose themselves to so long as they insist that their sport has nothing to do with pro wrestling or boxing; there’s the lessons of a hundred years or more of history going begging.

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Boxing, MMA | Leave a comment

Voting with my wallet

Andrei Arshavin scored four goals today at Anfield in one of the greatest single-game performances in Arsenal history. Single-handedly (well, quadruple-handedly since Song, Gibbs and Cesc were apparently the other Arse players to not embarrass themselves), the man gave us a point we didn’t deserve.

I winced at the price, but I bought the man’s shirt immediately after the final whistle. Upon seeing a link for a much cheaper t-shirt, I remarked that I wished I had seen that earlier so I could save 60 bucks. But, one of the real solid posters on the Arseblog forum pointed out that a spike of purchases all at once may convince our eccentric manager that people like Arshavin are who we want…and we’ll vote with our wallets.

Buy a fucking defender, Arsene, and I’ll buy his fucking shirt too. Promise.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the Other Hand!

I’ve ripped a few Yahoo articles of late; let’s look at a good one for a change: Kevin Iole on 1984 vs. 2009

I always love these articles (they’re compulsively debatable), since one of the great things about boxing is how long its history is, and how contiguous; not much has really changed in the last century or so, so cross-era comparisons make a lot more sense then they do in most other sports. Compare to MMA for instance: this is not a value judgment, but MMA is just out of its pioneer era and the stuff that worked even ten years ago in the octagon is ancient and outmoded now, so it’s not like anyone debates the winner of, say, Dan Severn and Randy Couture.

Let’s take a look at some of the matchups Iole came up with, and who he picked:

Aaron Pryor vs. Manny Pacquiao, 140 lbs. (Iole takes the Hawk): Well, this would be the greatest fight of all time, no? Both men are/were ridiculously fast and accurate, powerful punchers, both had great endurance, both had the proverbial warrior’s mentality and proved on many occasions that they were willing to fight through almost anything to get a win. The differences between them are all small and circumstantial things: Pacquiao was at his best below 140; Pryor had a much shorter prime than Pacquiao; the Hawk’s KO of Alexis Arguello was probably the most individually impressive win between the two; but he clearly and unquestionably cheated in the process of gaining it (an illegal liquid speculated to contain amphetamines was given to him by banned trainer Panama Lewis late in the fight). Ultimately I think if you ran 100 fights between these two neither man would win more than 60…but I actually give the edge to Pacquiao. If Hawk wins, his stronger chin allows him to trade with Pac and catch him, probably with a left hook- all the early wins would be his. But Pacquiao had his great endurance without chemical assistance (that we know of), and I think he was mentally stronger- the man who cheats is the man who fears finding out where he really stands. Pacquiao at this point at least has a very rare combination of quickness, footwork, accuracy and power, and I suspect that as the rounds wore on the amount of damage Pacquiao could inflict to body and head and the amount he could likewise avoid with superior technical ability would begin to tell. He wouldn’t stop the Hawk, but he’d slow him, enough so that he could probably get off the deck and take a decision 9 rounds to 6 or thereabouts (assuming 15 rounds).

Bernard Hopkins vs. Michael Spinks, 175 lbs. (Iole takes Spinks): This is one of those matchups where your pick depends on which discussion you think we’re having. The actual Michael Spinks who fought in his day at light heavyweight and the actual Bernard Hopkins who fought at light heavyweight in his would not be all that competitive a fight, honestly- Spinks was younger, had much more power at that weight, nearly equal technical skill, every bit as much grit and determination…I love ‘Nard, but Spinks would have walked through his punches and kept throwing until he hit a place where it hurt. He wouldn’t finish Ex because no one does, but he’d win easily. But…what if you had taken the best ever Bernard Hopkins (say, the one who abused Tito Trinidad, or the one who cleaned out 160 in the mid-late 90’s) and given him 6 months to bulk up to 175 for a meeting with Spinks? That’s a much different fight. Hopkins today is the smartest fighter in the game, even as he’s physically- for all his eerie fitness- not half of what he was in his prime; likewise, early in his career, he was physically stronger but mentally less well developed. But the Hopkins of the sweet spot between those two eras, the one who could figure out exactly how to beat a man and had the physical tools to execute any gameplan- that guy was a holy terror, and I would give him very good odds of defeating Spinks. The Jinx would still have been bigger and stronger, but Hopkins is able to solve men and find ways to beat them; I think he’d probably have found enough holes in Spinks- tiny ones- to keep it at least even.

Scary fact: Michael Spinks, in his prime in the early-mid ’80’s and retired by 1988, is only 9 years older than Hopkins- who began his pro career with a loss 4 months after Spinks retired.

Paul Williams vs. Thomas Hearns, 154 lbs. (Iole takes the Hitman): War of the Colossal Stick Insects!

Hitman absolutely would win; but he’d have a very, very bad day at the office in the process. Williams is in some ways a funhouse mirror version of Hearns, southpaw and trading in the awesome power for a much better chin and awesome workrate. The major difference between them, other than the power, is defense; Hearns was very good and using distance and picking off punches, and when he threw he usually did so from defensively responsible positions. Williams by contrast throws from all sorts of positions- you have to to throw 100 punches a round- and consequently makes himself much more hittable than Hearns ever did. The punches Winky Wright landed on Williams last weekend, many of them solid flush crosses, would have been devastating coming from the Hitman. But that said, Williams fights in such an uncommon style and presents such a strange physical puzzle that I think he’d have won rounds from Hearns before being figured out- and since we may not have seen the best of Paul Williams yet, how many rounds is an open question.

Chad Dawson vs. Dwight Muhammad Qawi, 175 lbs. (Iole takes Qawi): I highlight this one just to note that it’s a damn shame that Qawi isn’t better remembered. A two-time beltholder at 170 and cruiserweight despite only standing 5’6, he lived up to “Camden Buzzsaw” nickname by fighting an all-action offense-first style which made him a participant in some classic matchups of his era- including the last great 15 round world title fight, which he lost by split decision to the great Evander Holyfield for the legitimate cruiserweight world title. Chad Dawson is a good young fighter, but as much as I hate to say it, his being the best young 175 pounder today is a statement of how thin that division (and much of boxing) is- Qawi would have destroyed Dawson, getting in with head movement and sheer toughness past his jab and breaking down the younger man to the body, exactly as Iole says. It would be the sort of fight which demonstrates the difference between fighters and boxers; Dawson’s tough for a boxer, but Qawi was driven in a totally different way, which makes a huge difference.

Check out the rest of the article- good, fun stuff.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Boxing | Leave a comment

And Another Point

There’s been, inevitably, a lot of discussion on the internet today about the MMA pound-for-pound crown and who should hold it in the wake of a second consecutive bad performance from Dana White’s pick for that honor. What I’m not seeing is a lot of understanding of why White has made that selection, which is fairly simple actually. There’s only 3 guys at this point who are legitimate, defensible selections for that place: Fedor, GSP, and Silva. Fedor is not a UFC guy, so Dana as a promoter can’t pick him; GSP is a very big draw on his own both in general and specifically in the Canadian market, so from the promoter’s mindset he doesn’t need any added aura from the P4P discussion to help him; Silva, however, is not much of a draw at all and speaks almost no English, and thus needs as much help as the promotion can give him in creating interest in his fights. “Pound-for-pound” is a promotional hook, and really it’s the only one they have for Silva right now since he has no major rivals or serious challenges, and it’s not as though his verbal skills are going to break him through to the mainstream. In his private moments it’s anyone’s guess what White really thinks about this discussion, but publicly his comments correspond exactly to elementary promoter’s logic, so it’s best not to get incensed about them or take them more seriously then they warrant given the motivations for them.

For what it’s worth I believe Fedor is the guy at this point, and should probably remain so as long as he can continue to dominate quality opposition.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | MMA | Leave a comment

Absolutely Zero Buys

Hell of a main event to UFC 97, eh? There’s certainly other things to talk about from that card- the end of the Iceman and the resurgence of the Shogun for one- but with the night ending on one of the weirdest and most baffling notes since, well, the last Anderson Silva fight, it’s hard to think about much else. For those who missed it, Silva “defeated” Thales Leites via unanimous decision following a hideous fight almost entirely devoid of action or apparent interest and effort from either participant. Silva threw few strikes other than leg kicks, and refused to engage on the ground; Leites, who seemed scared for much of the fight, refused to strike and had no backup plan once his takedowns were stuffed. The result was a mess of a fight in which Leites mostly fell over and played possum trying to entice Silva to the ground, while Silva danced and shook his shoulders and tried wacky taunting strikes while doing his level best not to press Leites at all. There’s a lot to talk about from this one.

The immediate reaction of most fans, judging from the usual sites, was to try and affix blame for the putrid quality of the encounter. In general most seem to blame Leites more than Silva, though both men seem to be getting a share of it and rightfully so. Leites was obviously terrified of a standing encounter with Silva and lost all confidence once his takedowns didn’t work, retreating towards a frankly embarrassing pattern of falling over and hoping Silva would spontaneously decide to roll with him. For a fighter with only one loss on his record to come so undone in a world title match is uncommon, and while I always hate to judge a fighter too harshly since I’m not the one catching punches, difficult to understand or respect. The name of the game is prize fighting and money; Leites, by putting on such an awful performance, has moved himself in many fans’ eyes from a relatively less known fighter with youth and a good record, to a known quantity who’s clearly not world title level and whose defining performance is trying to survive at all costs in his big chance. If he had gone out there throwing hard shots and trying to win an exciting fight after he found out he couldn’t take Silva down, even a loss for him would have almost certainly meant more dollars in the long term; but after this performance, can you see UFC being too eager to book him in serious high-profile fights again? He won’t be cut, but he’s probably one more loss away from heading out the same door Fabricio Werdum did. Financially and competitively this was a bad night for him.

Silva, meanwhile, does not skate on this; no man walking around calling himself the best in the world should expect to after twice showing up looking bored with his own main events. People claiming that this was all Leites’ fault ignore this being the second straight fight (against radically different opponents) in which the Spider has looked like anything but the man whose run of dominance got him labeled the pound for pound king. Both the Cote fight and this one revealed a Silva more interested in dancing, taunting and throwing ridiculous soccer back-heel kicks than in actually finishing a fight, whose work rate and desire seem a fraction of what they were only a year or two ago. It’s hard to say why; Silva and Leites are both Brazilian and have trained at the same BJJ school at times, and there’s been rumors of “let’s take it easy on each other” deals between fighters in such positions before. But that wouldn’t explain the Cote fight. There’s speculations that Silva is staging some sort of protest over the quality of his opponents or demonstrating how bored he is with his own easy dominance, but given that he could easily advocate publicly for a move to 205 or for a showdown with GSP (which would both be huge money and thus viable from the UFC perspective) it’s hard to credit that as the sole reason. And as with Leites, this isn’t just a question of whether Silva somehow “owes it to the fans” to try and finish fights or not- the Spider has never been a big PPV draw, and as great as he’s been from a competitive standpoint he’s certainly not ever going to become a huge draw by having bad fights which he doesn’t take seriously. He also left money on the table last night and he and his managers and agents have to realize that.

My own hunch as to what’s behind this is that if you’re a boxing fan as well, you’ve seen this story before when Roy Jones was the star: a great fighter, long unchallenged and reaching his mid to late 30’s (Silva is 34 now; Jones was 34 when he went through this) bulks up to a higher weight (Jones to heavyweight, Silva to a 205 where he looked huge) for a new challenge, has difficulty coming back down (Jones has long claimed he was weight-drained back at 175; Silva has not looked good in his two fights back at 185 and weighed in at an odd 182 for Leites) and looks unimpressive at his old weight. Jones’ story ended when he ran into a very good Antonio Tarver and got destroyed; Silva probably doesn’t have an equivalent opponent in the UFC right now who’s unafraid of him and willing to press him standing, and so may coast on a bit longer depending on who gets brought in from outside. The parallel is strong enough to justify a speculation that part of the issue of late for Silva is simply physical decline- he’s not as young as he once was and is almost certainly past his athletic peak, he’s asked for a lot from his body in the last year or two, and now doesn’t seem to have the explosiveness and power he once had. “What’s wrong with Anderson Silva” may be the early stages of what’s wrong now with Chuck Liddel- only time will tell, really. If you get a chance though, go back and watch this fight and look for all the things Silva once did regularly which he didn’t do in this fight- he never really attempted to lock in the Muay Thai clinch, threw very few punches, never pressed Leites when he retreated to the cage, never pressed his ground and pound even when Leites was turtling with his gloves over his face, threw very few high kicks. I certainly don’t blame Silva for not going to the ground with Leites, but when a fighter considered the best striker in the world leaves 3/4 of his arsenal at home for two consecutive fights, something’s up.

Side note: Incidentally, when a fight’s defining characteristic is that one fighter doesn’t use most of his skills even though the other guy is barely competing, that’s probably your cue to recognize that it isn’t an “unappreciated technical fight”.

More on this card later, probably.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | MMA | Leave a comment

The Single Stupidest Thing Ever Written

Good. Gravy. I’m going to fisk this.

“NEW YORK – Let’s start with the popcorn. It is unfair to call it a tub of popcorn, as they do at the new Yankee Stadium. Perhaps a trough of popcorn, or a tank of popcorn, and, at 2,473 calories, definitely a gutbuster of popcorn. All around the newest theater of excess are such indulgences, culinary and otherwise, this particular caloric dirty bomb available for $12.”

I was in a restaurant a month or two ago where they had a really great buffalo burger with fries- absolutely delicious, totally irresistible, and a horrifying 1500 calories as I recall. My devilish plan of attack was this: I ate the burger, I ate the fries, I got a salad with that, I went out for a run that evening, and had soup or some such for dinner. 2200ish calories intake, minus what the run burned. SHOCKING FORESIGHT. I’m given to understand that I may not even be unique in my ability to plan my indulgences….

But of course the reality of what people do with that much popcorn and all those calories isn’t the point of this introductory paragraph. The point is YOUR POPCORN IS IMMORAL YOU GREASY PIGS, no? Bonus tonedeaf-and-tasteless points for getting a terrorism reference into an article about a New York team- we asked for it it, because we ordered the Large!

“That’s the thing about the new Yankee Stadium: Not only is it the biggest, the newest, the most expensive and the self-described best – the homage to everything that was America – it gets away with it, charm intact, for one simple reason.

The New York Yankees are unapologetic in their embrace of that culture. They are the canyon of popcorn and the 1,410-calorie plate of nachos and the 1,360-calorie bag of peanuts and the 1,341-calorie cup of cheese fries, and their fans are still begging for a heart attack.”

He really hates all that traditional ballpark food, doesn’t he? Keep that in mind. Note also that two paragraphs in, we’ve already degenerated into vast, nonspecific generalizations- “that culture”. Which culture? New York culture, rich elite culture, everyone’s favorite rhetorical whipping boy the “American culture of excess”? I’m going to need specifics here, because otherwise I’ll end up asking in what way are, say, financial malefactions on Wall Street linked to popcorn size at this stadium, except by vague geographic proximity? In what way does this have any more value as a connection, factual or rhetorical, than, say, my eating at a steakhouse in Texas and claiming that the size of the portions and the ready availability of red meat was a symbol of the bloodlust and overreach of the Bush presidency? Both are or would be utter non-sequiturs. Even the vaguely more defensible idea that the author is addressing some amorphous general quality of “American excess” makes little sense given that he’s trying to use this stadium as a symbol thereof- when anyone who pays the least bit of attention to the wider world can name you ten stadia in Europe at a similar level of opulence, starting with Old Trafford, the New Wembley, the Emirates….

“Which made the official christening of the $1.5 billion stadium Thursday afternoon an event laden with grins and excitement (and arterial plaque buildup), even as the Cleveland Indians stomped the Yankees, 10-2. More than halfway through April, the Yankees finally had their home opener, and any of the 48,271 present can attest that the team’s new dwelling lived up to its billing, good and bad.”

Which is why the only quotes in the article are from the dumbest person alive, who we’ll meet in a bit. Couldn’t be cherry picking, could it?

“It’s unclear whether Yankee Stadium wants to be a ballpark with killer amenities or a mall with a baseball field in the middle. The inside of the stadium is freakishly loyal to its predecessor, like twins who look identical but are actually fraternal. The differences are ornamental, and because of its classic look, the initial thought is: Really, $1.5 billion? And you didn’t reinvent the baseball stadium like Camden Yards in 1993? The toilet seats are definitely gold-plated, right?”

So the problem with the excess is that it’s not opulent and flashy enough? In their wild American excess, symbolic of the age, they preserved the appearance of a ballpark built in 1923?

“One trip around the concourse, and suddenly the cost makes more sense. It is a sea of goods, the free market through a Yankee kaleidoscope, a study in old-fashioned gluttony. It is a cheesesteak line 50 people deep, and a beer garden serving 14 sudsy favorites, and pink foam fingers next to pink hats with flowers alongside pink hats with glitter-covered NY logos.”

Gee, with 48,000 in a 52,000 seater, I figured there’d be no lines for anything. I mean, surely with that excess and opulence, there must be individual sedan chairs carrying patrons to individual vendors, no? Not just people waiting to buy lunch? All I’ll say about the rest is that if choices of beer makes you think of the fall of empire and pink hats terrify you, you need to get out of your treefort with the “no girls allowed” sign on it more often. I will also buy a pink hat for the first person to explain to me why the presence of shops explains the stadium cost; are they running at a loss?

“Next to the hat wall, where more than 100 styles are available, stood Kelley Rutkowski, a 23-year-old from New Jersey. She already had wrecked her diet for the day with the nachos and was inclined to do similar damage with her credit card, because her seat happened to be in the shade, and she was chilly. She found a hooded sweatshirt adorned with rhinestones. She looked at the price tag: $125. Rutkowski quickly summoned David Sidibe, a young salesman.

“Those are diamonds, right?” she said.

Sidibe’s eyes apologized.

“I literally can’t afford to keep warm at this game,” Rutkowski said. “Can I just tell you, David, this is a sin. I’m freaking freezing, and there’s no way I’m spending $125 on a freaking sweatshirt, because that’s how this country got into this mess.””

What. I just…what? How…how can….one person be this….dumb? How does this person get dressed in the morning and eat breakfast without drowning in the cereal or pouring coffee in their eyes? BRING A JACKET, you excruciating cretin. It’s been in the mid 50’s to low 60’s here of late, and common sense might tell you that if you’re sitting still outdoors in the breeze for 3 hours in that weather, maybe you should take a light wrap. Or, you know, sit there and shiver and complain about how American Capitalism has destroyed your dreams or whatnot. It’s like the definition of cursing the darkness instead of lighting a candle. And lest it pass without mention, the one idiot quoted in this article actually undermines whatever point the author was going for, since they are explicitly NOT participating in ruinous American excess or whathaveyou, they’re just whining about not being able to afford whatever goofy item they were looking at. Unless the stadium explicitly bans coats and sells 100 hat styles and one sweatshirt, this whole section is ludicrous.

“Never have $125 hoodies been mentioned alongside credit-default swaps and subprime mortgages. Indeed, a day of firsts, from that to Johnny Damon slicing the first hit into center field and Jorge Posada mashing the first home run into the new Monument Park in center.

“I knew that when I came here,” Rutkowski said, “I was going to spend a bunch of money I don’t have.””

And yet the core rhetorical gambit here is as old as sport, and specially associated with baseball: attempting to scry some special insight into the soul of the nation based on random occurrences from a single game of a single sport in a single city on a single day in a single stadium with a single crowd. You might as well read tea leaves or cast bones. Indeed you might be better off with such methods, since while all are equally bogus this particular sort of column about this particular sport is so threadbare and used up that virtually anyone with eyes to see can look right through it, and disregard the credibility of the author in doing so.

And also, if you’re spending money you don’t have, STAY HOME. I’ve been to one Knicks game this year because $80 a ticket is brutal. If I went to more and couldn’t afford it I’d be an idiot, not a bellwether of the national character.

“Rutkowski didn’t give in to the hoodie’s 74 rhinestones, principle preventing her from brandishing her MasterCard. Others did, and the Yankees reaped untold millions in merchandise and concession sales. Forget the competitive advantage given them by location and television rights; the Yankees’ revenues from the vendors and the tickets that range up to $2,625 for the front row will do plenty to cover a $200 million payroll.”

…so they’re spending on players and the stadium what they can afford based on revenues? This is the definition of wild excess?

“All because people buy into what the Yankees sell. It’s a lifestyle based around winning, and how doing so demands the biggest, newest and best. Depending on the perspective, either the Yankees are profiteers and the fans suckers, or both are willing participants in a time-honored waltz: pure commercialism.”

Or maybe both prices and incomes are much higher in New York than in most areas of the country leading to generally inflated prices and revenue figures, which fans are willing to pay because they can and they consider it a reasonable price to watch a game of baseball. If you’re selling out a 52,000 seater virtually every game, 81 times a year, it’s hard for me to buy the story that there’s something inherently wrong here. Really the only way this argument (if it rises to that level) makes the least bit of sense is if you assume there’s some specific “moral” price of a baseball ticket, where charging more makes you a profiteer and paying more makes you a sucker. At this point we’re trending off into elementary political economics which is a whole larger argument, so let me just say: if tens of thousands a week want to spend their money this way on this team in a metropolitan area in which there’s literally thousands of competing entertainments at every conceivable price point (including watching the games on TV!), I’m not really prepared to assume that they’re making a stupid or unwise choice. And further, if the intrusion of money into sport renders it “pure commercialism”, then sport has never been anything but since prizes were handed out among the Greeks. Get over it.

“Otherwise, the Yankees would still be at the old stadium, American sports’ truest cauldron of history. It remains standing next door and over the next few years will be picked apart by the atom and sold. And if the Yankees could split those atoms and peddle each for double, surely they would.”

That would of course be the stadium which the current one is apparently an eerie recreation of; but I suppose you can’t recreate “ghosts”, “aura”, “mystique” and “that stale urine smell in the bathrooms” or “that time in 1998 when a falling beam destroyed a section of seating and closed the place for two weeks”, right? Best not to mention the endless renovations over the old stadium’s 85 year run which completely remodeled much of the original in the mid-70’s as well, including full on demolition and rebuilding of some sections, enough so that some authorities consider the two to be separate facilities. Incidentally, a quick calculation reveals that the old Yankee Stadium cost about $300 million in 2007 dollars on its initial construction, with an additional equivalent of $610 million spent during the reconstruction in the 70’s. As we all know however, those were the days of history, whereas now it’s just pure commercialism as money infects the game. Right folks?

“Now, instead of the filth and funk of an 85-year-old stadium, the Yankees offer pears. Three kinds. And three varieties of apples, too. And tangerines and oranges and bananas, all for sale at the farmer’s market, which is near the Legends Suite Club, with its folded napkins, polished silverware and vases housing flowers. And, for Ruth and Mickey and Joe D’s sake, the Lobel’s stand that sells hunks of uncooked meat. In a stadium. Four ribeyes for $120.”

A pear mugged my grandma once, you know. Vicious things. Hey, remember a couple of paragraphs up when this guy was ranting about all that damn popcorn and cheese fries and such? I rather doubt he did by the time he got to this part of the article, because otherwise he might have wondered if being against almost all food items sold at baseball games might look a bit silly. So far as I can tell from this he apparently believes that it’s a moral point that only medium sizes of traditional ballpark foods be offered. An interesting hill to die on.

“It’s one thing to push an island of popcorn. But beef? Raw beef? Deep down, beneath the Yankees’ money-making behemoth, could there exist the slightest sliver of guilt for something as disturbing as seeing dry-aged beef on display in a ballpark?”

A challenge for all moral philosophers out there: please create a cogent argument as to why selling meat in a ballpark represents something for which a person should feel guilt; show your work.

Honestly though, we all know what the real argument here is: “Things are different! I feel uncomfortable and upset! Change frightens me! This is not my beautiful house! How did I get here?” And it’s a stupid, stupid argument. Indeed it’s among the most thoughtless a person can use, because it has zero intellectual content: it’s just emotion, badly expressed and incoherent in its nebulousness, sinister insofar as its lazily ascribes moral weight to simple differences of taste. If this author wrote politics instead of sports, I would bet good money on him being one of those goofballs who complains about America needing better immigration limits and border control because the imported salsa at his grocery store frightens him. What can you do with this sort of person?

“Nope. Not an iota. And it’s edifying, in a way, that the Yankees stayed true to themselves and their believers, responsibility be damned. It’s the American way, after all.”

I’ll just ask the same questions I ask whenever I see that word used: responsibility to who, for what, for what reasons? Any just moral claim can answer them very easily, most specious ones don’t even think they matter.

““This is going to stand the test of time,” Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon said. “The economy will one day get right. So in time, people will look at this and say it’s definitely worth it.”

They’ll look at the Great Hall, ultimately the stadium showpiece, a meeting place festooned with vertical banners of Yankees greats. It’s a long corridor walled with impossibly large pieces of limestone and granite, the sort that recall an opulent style abandoned long ago. Few are willing to spend the necessary money for such quality.

Why do the Yankees? It’s who they are. Another stop in the gift shop spells it out explicitly. A different hooded sweatshirt, one without rhinestones, is available for $70. On the front it reads YANKEES UNIVERSE, a friendly reminder for those who may have forgotten.”

Why do I suspect the reporter didn’t mention this sweatshirt to his quote, for fear it might ruin his story?

Folks, this article is dumb. Real dumb. In fact it’s a particularly fine example of its species of dumb, the Lazy Moral Scold Without Specifics. If there’s anything a psych degree taught me, it’s that in the aggregate people are fairly predictable; so one of the reasons I follow sports and the sports media is because the ways in which people are intellectually lazy or thoughtless about things and the worthless arguments they use tend to be the same from field to field. The ways people are dumb about sports are the ways they’re dumb about, say, bioethics or foreign policy in the middle east, more often than not. Think about this the next time you’re evaluating political or commercial appeals- it cuts through the clutter marvelously.

Incidentally, all facts mentioned here came from Wikipedia and a first page google search result for an inflation adjuster. Apparently that’s outside Yahoo’s research budget these days.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Book it, Joe

Federico Macheda vs. Lyoto Machida, #1 light heavyweight contendership and rights to use the name at stake. This is money.

April 5, 2009 Posted by | MMA, Other Soccer | Leave a comment