Saturday, March 31, 2007

If I'd Only Known

Dear NCAA,

Next year, when you decide in October who will be in the National Championship game, please let me know so I don't have to waste a whole season watching what I think is a fairly called college basketball season.

Utlimately, maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, but I think the decision the fact that they simply weren't going to let Arron Afflalo play meaningful role in the game was devastating.

Also, Billy Packer can eat a cock. He's a piece of shit, plain and simple.

Friday, March 30, 2007

So What's Gonna Happen Tomorrow?

Hell if I know. Of course, I actually did pretty well on my selections, getting three of the Final Four participants correct, and I may have been an Acie Law IV layup away from having all four. I also correctly picked U$C to beat Texas, and UNLV to beat Wisconsin, which were among the larger upsets I got correct (at least by perception).

But honestly, I'm not terribly optimistic about UCLA's chances versus Florida. Keep in mind, people who know me will tell you that I'm a pessimist by nature, and images from last year's game are still stuck in my mind.

There are two players that I see holding the keys for their respective teams. For the Gators, it's Corey Brewer. The Bruins have played enough teams with good big men that I think they neutralize Horford and Noah. But Brewer is a big time matchup problem with his size, quickness, and ability to play on the perimeter as well as slash to the basket. And while it may look like Horford and Noah just kill teams inside, it starts with the respect that teams have to pay to Brewer. Hopefully coach Howland has developed a strategy to prevent him from opening up the middle for the dunk fest that we witnessed last year.

For the Bruins, I think the X-factor is Josh Shipp, and seeing as how he's the only guy in the starting line-ups who played no role last year, I'm not really going out on a limb with that. But convential wisdom says that Brewer will guard Afflalo, and that leads Humphrey to guard Shipp. I think Josh Shipp can exploit that matchup. The question is, will he be willing to beat Humphrey and settle for mid-range jumpers. I think he can beat Humphrey, but Josh likes to go to the basket, and that's where he could run into trouble. I still have nightmares of the 2001 Illini losing to Arizona in the regional final, watching Frankie Williams and company getting swatted by Loren Woods again and again and again. If they had simply pulled up from five feet, the Illini would have rolled in that game. But I digress.

If Shipp has a good shooting game, the Bruins have an excellent chance to move on. Brewer is going to have to guard one of Shipp and Afflalo, and I think it give the other a big advantage that the Bruins will need to hammer.

I'm not going to pick against UCLA. I think this team can adapt to many different styles and still be successful. Witness their sweeps over both Arizona and Washington State this year. They'll play your game and beat you at it. But Florida is very good, and playing very well right now.

Either way, it should be a very entertaining game.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I Think This is Where I'm Supposed To Say "I'm Out"

After roughly two years of baseball blogging, this blog will more than likely be going, if not dark, than at least dim over the summer months. Despite what appear like fair offers from InDemand, and in the face of repeated requests from Senators to at least offer the Extra Innings package this season while continuing negotiations over the alleged 2009 launch of the Baseball Network, Major League Baseball's Deputy Douchebag, Bob Dupuy has all but eliminated any hope of digital cable networks carrying extra innings this season.
Senators spent two hours urging Major League Baseball and TV executives not to let the Extra Innings pay package land exclusively on DirecTV's satellite system. But despite congressional brush-back pitches — warnings of legislation and even the oft-repeated threat to review baseball's anti-trust exemption — MLB President Bob DuPuy didn't flinch.

Although he promised to continue negotiating through Saturday, the eve of opening day, DuPuy said baseball was willing to make an unpopular call — inconvenience about 230,000 Extra Innings subscribers on cable and the Dish Network satellite system — to get broad distribution of the league's planned Baseball Channel on DirecTV in 2009.

But DuPuy would not agree to extend the negotiations into the season, allowing cable and the Dish Network to carry Extra Innings while talks continued.

"We as a business matter view the Baseball Channel as critical to our long-term survival and the interests of our fans who want more baseball,'' he said during the two-hour hearing.
He left out "of course, the fans who want more baseball but either don't want to, or can't, switch to DirecTV can go fuck themselves."

You can certainly see where he's coming from. Nearly a century and a half of professional baseball, with record attendance and interest over the last few seasons, revenue through the roof. But dammit, if they can't get the baseball channel in front of 16 million DirecTV subscribers, 15.7 million of whom won't even know they have it, then baseball is doomed. Or, as Bender might say "DOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMED".

And let's get one thing clear about Dupuy: The man is a lying sack of shit. Baseball refuses to offer Extra Innings to InDemand unless they match the terms offered by DirecTV. Only, one of those terms was that baseball would give DirecTV a 20% equity stake in the baseball channel, a stake not offered to the other carriers. So in other words, InDemand and other dish networks need to match the terms that DirecTV gave to MLB, but MLB doesn't have to match the terms it gave to DirecTV. Or put more simply, pay us the same consideration as we got from DirecTV, and we'll give you a fair amount less than we're giving DirecTV. Like I said, the guy is a piece of shit.

So what does this mean for you (and by "you" I mean "me")? Well, it means that for the time being, I'm more or less done with baseball. I will not be switching to DirecTV (where rumor is there's a two month wait for HD equipment). I will not be purchasing the streaming video offered by MLB.TV (motto: For an extra $20, you can get the version that only kinda sucks!). I will not be purchasing the package that provides radio broadcasts. Baseball has essentially decided that it no longer wants my business. And that's fine. That's their prerogative. And I certainly don't expect others to join me. This is not a crusade. It's not a boycott. They've made a business decision, and I've made a business decision.

The natural next step, of course, is that unless a deal is reached in the next two days, I won't be blogging about baseball anymore. I don't like to blog about sporting events I haven't at least witnessed on television, other than to comment on some news item. And since I won't be doing that anymore, I probably won't be covering those events here.

It's not going to be easy, and I may completely relapse. It's like giving up heroin (or, at least what I imagine giving up heroin may be like, without the actual physical symptoms...OK maybe that's a bad analogy). I've been addicted to baseball for as long as I can remember, and I've been a pretty loyal customer over that time as well. But I imagine that if I can get through the first month or so, I'll be gone (from baseball) for good....or at least for the year.

So unless something breaks in the next couple of days, consider this a swan song of sorts, at least as it pertains to baseball. I'll still check in on the final four, the occasional concert, and when UCLA football gets underway again, it will probably be business as usual next fall (though I can't guarantee that - sometimes it's too easy to not blog).

Monday, March 26, 2007

He Has Landed

Jack Motherfucking Johnson is a King.

Hoodoo Gurus w/ Goldstar at the Abbey - 3/25/07

It's not often that you get to a see a band in concert whom you've been listening to for almost 20 years, especially when you thought they'd broken up about 10 years ago. It's also not often that I'm arguably the youngest person in the crowd. But lo and behold, my update email from Pollstar told me that the Hoodoo Gurus were playing the Abbey, and I felt obligated to get a ticket. I'm very glad I did.

Goldstar, who is apparently a local Chicago band led off the evening, and quite frankly, I found them to be pretty entertaining. I want to be delicate about this, but these aren't exactly spring chickens we're talking about. Throw in the matching shirts, and I'm sure one can be forgiven for underestimating them. But they played a very tight set, threw in some comedic banter between songs, and generally seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage.

The Gurus took the stage shortly thereafter, and after firing up with about a 20 second jam, they launched into "I Want You Back". They played an excellent mix of songs from across their eight proper albums, without too much focus on any one in particular. They hit all of the major tracks, though I would have loved to have heard Leilani, Death Defying, Desiree, or I Don't Mind, I can't really complain about the set list. I've tried to reproduce what I could remember, and this, like always, is not the order in which they were actually played:

  1. I Want You Back - Stoneage Romeos
  2. Dig It Up - Stoneage Romeos
  3. Kamikaze Pilot - Stoneage Romeos
  4. Bittersweet - Mars Needs Guitars
  5. Poison Pen - Mars Needs Guitars
  6. Like Wow, Wipeout - Mars Needs Guitars
  7. What's My Scene - Blow Your Cool
  8. Where Nowhere Is - Blow Your Cool
  9. Middle of the Land - Blow Your Cool
  10. Come Anytime - Magna Cum Louder
  11. Another World - Magna Cum Louder
  12. Miss Freelove '69 - Kinky
  13. 1,000 Miles Away - Kinky
  14. The Right Time - Crank
  15. Form A Circle - Crank
  16. Be My Guru - Stoneage Romeos (Bonus Track)
  17. At least two or three from Mach Schau
  18. At least two or three from Blue Cave
That's a pretty impressive grouping of songs. I usually expect about 15 songs out of a headliner. Anything on top of that is gravy, and they played upwards of 20 last night. They even tossed in a couple of requests.

Decent crowd. I'd guess the Abbey holds a couple hundred people (a little bigger than Schuba's), and it was more or less filled. I was about 10 feet from the stage, and it looked pretty packed behind me. If you're a fan, or even if you just have a passing familiarity with their stuff, do yourself a favor and check them out. It's called entertainment, folks. Not every song has to change the world.