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Saturday, July 14, 2007

NASCAR – Do The Right Thing!

NASCAR please end all the suspense – what number will Junior race under next year?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is the face of NASCAR. He has been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver four years in a row and his car number 8 apparel and merchandising accounts for 30 percent of all NASCAR merchandise sold. With his leaving DEI Motorsports to join Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) in 2008, many fans are left wondering if Junior will race car number 8 with HMS or will he be issued a new number? There was been much written about DEI being open to discussions with HMS about the rights to the number 8. In fact, it has been reported that HMS has even asked DEI about buying the number 8. But the decision does not rest solely with DEI.

There is a little known yet long-standing numbers policy in NASCAR that NASCAR assigns and owns all the sports car numbers. DEI was assigned the number 8 in 2000 with the arrival of Junior racing in the Cup Series full-time. DEI has the right to keep using the number or relinquish the number back to NASCAR. Now, NASCAR could just end the speculation by working out a deal with DEI and HMS to keep the face of their sport in the sports car number that he requested. The car number 8 is significant to Junior since it is the car number that his grandfather, Ralph Lee Earnhardt, raced under in the early years of NASCAR. As an Earnhardt fan, I cannot imagine any other driver than an Earnhardt driving the number 8 and for that matter the number 3. NASCAR – you have been one sport sanctioning body that not only acknowledges but realizes the sport is about the fans. Do the right thing – let Junior keep the number 8.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chalupa's For Everyone!

Wow, 15 hits, 8 runs, 5 for 12 with runners in scoring position, 7 runs scored with two outs and the final run on a sacrifice fly by Reynolds that could have left the park. Offense, it makes a team look so good and fun to watch. Without it the Dbacks faltered into the All Star Break, and tonight they look unbeatable. Did you see the catch by Salazar? It was spectacular, taking away a home run by Giles and the Padres. Just an enjoyable game to watch and great to see against the division leaders. I do not expect Schu (new hitting coach) to experience this much success this quickly, but lets hope it continues. Go Dbacks!

Oh for god sake's...

Just when i thought it couldn't get any worse...

ESPN Brings Who's Now in for a tuneup.

The Worldwide Leader is going to make my head explode...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who's Now? Not ESPN.

I know it's a slow sports month and all, and really a slow sports season, but for the love of all that is holy... Are you kidding me with this 'Who's Now' crap? Are you serious? Is the World Wide Leader really pretending this is something important? This is a joke. A JOKE. I can't capitalize that last statement enough. IT IS A JOKE!!!!!!!

And the tragedy of it all is that it is ruining the credibility of two of my favorite personalities on ESPN: Kirk Herbstreit and Michael Wilbon. I have always enjoyed Herbie's take on College Football, unbiased and very informed. (And it doesn't hurt that he always shows respect to my Hawkeye's). And Wilbon has always been the voice of reason to Tony Kornheiser's sensationalism on PTI.

The sad thing is that you know they were roped into it. Nobody in their right mind would jump at the chance to marginalize themselves on something so completely contrived, overdone, and reeking of self-importance. ESPN has taken a lot of flack in some outlets for being too self-indulgent and pompous. I have always enjoyed their take on sports, and have been a defender in the past.

No more. I can't for one second defend the tragedy that is 'Who's Now'. It is a TRAINWRECK. It is everything that is wrong with sports and ESPN, all wrapped up in one conveniently digested 5 minute blurb on Sportscenter every night. And therein lies the problem ESPN, and sports highlighting/reporting in general, have come to represent. They are insulting our intelligence as sports fans.

I love sports. I watch almost nothing but sports on tv. I listen to sports talk radio, and sports websites are the first places i visit each day. But i am not a moron. I want the highlights. I want the stats. I want the story of the game. What i don't want is pop culture infused with my sports. What i don't want is someone being trumpeted because they are sexy, or popular off the field (Leinart and Beckham, i'm looking in your direction...). What i don't want is the cheapening of sports.

Sports is about the competition, the athleticism, and the fun. The almost political-type importance placed on sports these days is ridiculous. It is A GAME. It is entertainment. It is fun. It is not meant to be a barometer of the world in general, nor of democracy or world peace.

It is not important. It is not seminal to the world, or capitalism, or democracy, or anything else you can think of that doesn't involve your fantasy team. And that is where ESPN, and honestly most other sports reporting agencies, have gone wrong. They are placing far too much importance on sports. And it has culminated with the travesty that is 'Who's Now'.

Memo to ESPN: We as sports fans are not retarded. The sooner you figure this out, the better. Until then, don't expect me to be watching any time soon...

Going, Going Gone Kevin Seitzer

Kevin Seitzer, the hitting coach for the Dbacks, has been fired. I take this as great news and am very excited for the future. I am not here to bitch about KS, but I will, who had this talent laden team batting near the bottom of every major offensive statistic. KS was hired last October after running a very successful batting cage facility in Kansas City. With no major league baseball experience he was the new Dbacks hitting coach. In the spring, when KS has very little chance to impact the current Dbacks, they were leading spring training in most all offensive stats. As the season(April) began we started to hit less but we were still getting key hits to win many games and still managed to lead the ML in hitting % with runners in scoring position. KS has said many times that his hitting theory would not fit on paper, so as this long drawn out theory started to permeate the brains of our young hitters, the production steadily declined. The Dbacks started May in a hitting slump and struggled until a new double A hitter arrived and instantly brought his bat, and offense, with him. Mark Reynolds carried this team on a winning streak and vaulted the Dbacks into first place in late May and early June. Then KS started working on 'The Sheriff' with his biblical length hitting instructions and thus ruined him. KS has lowered the offensive stats for every single young hitter that the Dbacks have. They are currently hitting only .248 and getting lower by the week.

Que the music of the heavens opening - AhhhhLAAAhhhhhh

Let Rick Schu at them, the new hitting coach and the 2004 Dbacks hitting coach. Now that team will not be mistaken for the '27 Yankees, but at least he has some experience. The '04 team also had no talent, and I mean no talent. Payback for the '01 World Series. Anyway, Rick go get the hitters and do your magic. And by Magic, I mean vacuum every young hitters brain of any and all evidence of Kevin Seitzer. Let these kids hit, not think. They have consistently gotten worse throughout the year because they are thinking way to much. Let the talent flow. Tracy, Jackson, Young, Quentin, Drew, Hairston, and Callaspo all hit well over .300 in the minors and some in the majors. Do not let them think anymore, let them do. They have the know how, just let them hit. Rick Schu should have the easiest job of the year. The rest of the year we should see a gradual comeback of the offensive stats hopefully ending in a red hot September which would lead to an interesting October. Good riddance to Kevin and here's to Rick saying nothing but 'nice home run kid'.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Off Topic: US U-20 National Team

That's soccer folks. Stay with me here. The U-20 stands for Under 20 years old, as in teenagers. As in the future of American Soccer. And boy does the future look bright for the Americans.

The US Men's U-20 team is currently at the U-20 World Cup in Canada, and they are making quite a name for themselves. After a sub par 1-1 draw with South Korea in the opening match of the tourney, US came back strong with a 6-1 thrashing of Poland behind Captain Freddy Adu's hat trick.

In their third and final game of the opening round, played round-robin style, the US went up against a Brazil side that was 1-1 in the tourney. Always a tough foe, Brazil was also playing for perhaps it's tournament life, adding incentive for them going into the game. The US, however, played well and came away with a hard fought 2-1 win. Now to the meat:

This US U-20 team is good. I mean, scary good. I watched almost all of the Brazil match (with flip-backs to the Cubs game for my Chicago friends i was visiting, even as the Cubs were getting smoked), and i was impressed. This team is a Team, in the true sense of the word. Both goals, set up by Adu and finished by Jozy Altidore, were fantastic. Adu knew where Altidore was going to be, and Altidore knew where Adu would put the ball. They KNEW. Before anyone else did. Watching it reminded me of watching top-notch level soccer.

The other thing that i came out very impressed with was our ability to hold the ball in the midfield. Something the US National team has traditionally struggled with has been keeping the ball in the midfield and overall time of possession. This U-20 team was superb at it. The balls they played, the way they moved without the ball.... All of it was world class soccer. This team was better than the senior team we sent to play in the Copa America.

And it starts with our two forwards on the team, Adu and Altidore. Adu has struggled in the MLS at times, and quite frankly i have not been impressed when i have seen him play lately (not many have). But he looks at his absolute best at this level, gathering the ball in the middle, pushing it forward, and looking to make great outlets to streaking players either up the middle or down the wings, looking for Altidore in particular. I was surprised to see him carrying the Captain's armband for this team when i tuned in, but after watching him play i am all for it.

And Altidore... how good has he looked? He has been getting a lot of buzz this year, making waves in the US. It is justified. This kid has the potential to be scary good. He is a fantastic finisher, with a killer instinct inside the box, something the US MNT has been desperately seeking for, oh, forever.

Also, let's not forget another member of this team that is already making his mark on the senior team, Michael Bradley, son of MNT Coach Bob Bradley. At just 19 years old, Bradley has had an impact on the senior team, as well as holding the ship steady for the U-20 team.

There are other members of this team i could touch on as well, including Goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who appears to be the next great American GK, following in the footsteps of Meola, Freidel, Keller, and Howard. But the greatness of this U-20 squad, at least so far in this tournament, has not been about individual players. It has been about the team.

This team will make up a large chunk of the next senior World Cup, in 2010. We need to start getting behind these guys, and the time is now. In their own U-20 World Cup, they are into the second round, facing a Uruguay side Wednesday at 4:45pm Pacific Time. And while it is not easily accessible, being shown only on ESPNU and Galavision, you should be watching.

This team is the future of US Soccer. And the future is looking mighty good...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Good God

Jesus H...Are you kidding me with this crap? The Dbacks have lost 5 IN A ROW. 8 of the last 10. They've got one win this month! What the hell is going on with this team right now? The last few years it's been a slumping June. Apparently this year it's July.

I'm sitting in Atlanta's airport right now, having been in Chicago all weekend for a wedding. As such, i didn't see the Dbacks play at all this weekend. I didn't need to apparently. Doesn't look like i missed much. One run games have been their specialty this year, but we lost two such games against the Reds, with a blow-out thrown in for good measure. They've also now lost their last four series. That is called not getting it done.

I also heard that they FINALLY sent Carlos Quentin down to Tucson. I like the guy, but man he needed some work this season. His batting has been terrible. Hopefully he can get it together and make his way back up by the end of the season, when the Dbacks will need him.

For now, however, the Dbacks can be thankful it is All-Star Break time (kudos to Webb for getting on to the team). Time for them to rest up, and hopefully get their act together. Time for them to right their ship, because their is still plenty of time left in the season, and they're still in great shape.