Josh Nagel’s blog

August 4, 2009

IPod odds are fun for everyone

My old buddy Lyle Colane is sort of a gambler’s gambler. If you simply want to hang around an action junkie, he’s your guy.

If you want to talk odds and edges and getting the best of it, he’s not your guy. Lyle doesn’t know or care much about the odds of any gambling exploit, which explains in part why he’s always comped the $4.99 “ham” and eggs special from the folks at Bob’s Terrible Casino, who are always happy to see him. 

This is a guy who once tried to convince me he had found an edge in Keno because he “always plays the same numbers.”

Do tell, I responded.

“Seeing as the house’s numbers change every time the Keno guy hits the button on the ball popper, exactly how does this work in your favor?” I asked. 

“Because if I never change the numbers, they are bound to hit eventually,” he said. “Everyone else says their numbers hit as soon as they change them … I don’t have that problem. I’m not a chaser.”

Nor does old Lyle have much of a bankroll, I digress. But so long as he never pays for Terrible’s terrible breakfast special, he has no complaints.  

Well, last week I heard from him again when he believed he stumbled across an oddsmaking epiphany of sorts. He told me had accidentally downloaded the Lady Gaga song “Poker Face” twice from Itunes the last time he logged on. (Once would have constituted an accident for me, by the way.)

First, he was furious that Apple would not refund him the extra $1 (this buck could have been either another 5-spot or his tip at Terrible’s, so he was pretty steamed), but then he was amused at the following discovery.

“So this song gets loaded to my play list twice,” he said. “Now, I notice, when I hit shuffle, it comes up way more often than all the other songs.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “Seeing as this song appears on your play list twice as often as all the others, I’m betting it comes up precisely twice as often?”

“Right! How did you know?”

Well, the math on that one sort of speaks for itself. But then I got to thinking about other sorts of IPod odds, and I realized there was something to it. I mean, there are times when I believe the shuffle gods are messing with my head.

For instance, if you have 1,000 songs on your play list and exactly two of them are Rod Stewart tunes, what are the odds of them coming up back-to-back during a purely random shuffle? Astronomical, of course, but the shuffle robot loves to tickle my oddsmaking sensibilities by doing this once in while. This one hits way more often than it should, which gets me thinking 10-team parlays might not be such a bad idea after all.

There are more simple equations, however. If your 1,000-song play list includes 25 Green Day songs, then the moment you hit shuffle there is precisely a 2.5-percent chance that Green Day will come up.

I got to thinking, a combination of boredom, beers and some shrewd oddsmaking could land me quite a windfall from Lyle and his friends if I played it right. At that moment, the game IPod Odds was on.

Keep in mind, this game works much better if you try it on stupid people. The key is, knowing the true odds, charging a substantial juice, and knowing the biases of your particular players toward certain artists and tastes.

The first step: Sync your play list to exactly 1,000 songs or the nearest even number from which you can make some easy, home-cooked odds. Place your IPod on a decent docking station with a remote control you can use in shuffle mode. 

The second step: Figure out the true IPod probabilities, then offer your friends prop bets that they can’t understand at a ridiculous level of juice for yourself.

Step 3: Enjoy the music and your newfound money.

Step 4: Be sure to remind your friends that it was all random. 

For instance, in the above example, let’s pretend your buddy is a huge Green Day fan. If you offer him a “one-timer” on the IPod – meaning you hit “play” once in shuffle mode – he’s going to be predisposed to believing Green Day will hit. Given that the true chance is around 2.5 percent, you should offer him about 45/1 odds. That is, if you played the game straight. You offer him 25/1 and he jumps at it.

Suddenly, “Poker Face” comes on – it was twice as likely to hit to begin with – and you take his $10. Happily.

Here are some other fun prop bets courtesy of yours truly from IPod Odds, for your entertainment (and hopefully business) purposes:

The over/under for song length: Set the number at 3:45 (the real average is 3:30, but people love betting overs) and give your buddies even money on the over. You’ll make a killing on the under.

Genre of the next random song. Ramp up the juice here. If the play list is 10 percent country, then you should be paying about 9/1 for this to hit. You’ll be giving your buddies 5/1. Well done, pardner.

The over/under for characters in a song title: Set this at 15.5 and give a break in the juice to the under. The over hits here more often than you’d expect.

Where will the next artist fall alphabetically? Offer odds on A-M and N-Z, just balance the juice based on what you know. If you are heavy on Springsteen tracks, adjust the price to get some action on the A-M side. 

Will the next artist be a band name or an individual? Again, the balance of the play list from which you are setting the odds needs to understood going in. If it’s about 50-50, then play off your opponent. The Green Day fan will be betting band name every time. Take his money.

Well, it goes without saying that IPod Odds is bound to become the next big thing for amateur bookmakers and the degenerate gamblers who love them. You don’t have to thank me now, but please remember, you heard it here first.

Good luck to everyone.

August 2, 2009

The old ball coach shows us a new trick

Leave it to the old ball coach to give Tim Tebow a new source of motivation for beating the crap out of the rest of the SEC. And while you’re at it, lay the points.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier made news last week when it was revealed that he was the lone coach from the SEC who failed to vote for Florida’s two-time national champion and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback on the conference’s first-team ballot.

So, if you liked the Gators last year when they thumped South Carolina 56-6 in the Swamp, you’re going to love them even more this season when they face the Gamecocks in a Nov. 14 road tilt.

For a guy who once thought leaving Florida (+300 at www.bookmaker.com to repeat as national champion) for the Washington Redskins was a good idea, and whose Gamecocks were drilled 56-6 last year by Tebow’s Gators, you might have thought Spurrier, by now, would have a better grasp of what was in his best interests.

Evidently, he doesn’t. There’s an irony to Spurrier’s scenic round-trip in the SEC that saw him go from mastermind of an unstoppable offense at Florida, to leading a South Carolina club that is noted for its solid defense, but panned for its inability to score with the conference’s elite clubs.

Like Florida.

As if the Gamecocks didn’t already have enough problems … now this. After news broke that one SEC coach failed to list Tebow on the first team, the media broke out in a frenzied search of the unwise culprit.

It didn’t take long for every SEC coach to claim innocence except Spurrier, who had to take a few minutes to get his story straight before coming clean. Then, the old, head ball coach claimed he let the director of football operations fill out his ballot, which he then signed without looking at it.

Which seems a plausible excuse before you realize …a) no way it happened, b) why would the Director Of Operations for Football at the University of South Carolina, or DOOFUS for short, be allowed to fill out the ballot and, c) why type of DOOFUS would pick Jevan Snead of Ole Miss ahead of Tebow?

One who is a glutton for punishment, is the best we can guess. Tebow and the Gators were going to slaughter South Carolina regardless, but now you can count on a real merciless-variety whipping.

Keep in mind that whenever a Tebow-led Florida club has been disrespected by an opponent, he ensures that they pay dearly. For instance, Hawaii was first on the guillotine last season after former coach June Jones had suggested Colt Brennan was a better quarterback than Tebow, whom he described as the product of a gimmicky system and offense.

Florida 56, Hawaii 10.

Then, there was the annual rivalry game with Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which has to be the greatest nickname ever for a sporting event), in which Tebow had a score to settle. The previous year, the Bulldogs had embarrassed Florida when the whole team rushed the field after Georgia scored the first touchdown. Tebow and friends remembered.

Florida 49, Georgia 10.

So when the news broke of Spurrier’s snub of Tebow, you had to think he must be looking to hasten his exit from South Carolina – evidently he didn’t try hard enough last year — and head back to the beckoning golf courses he so fancies.

He could have saved Tebow and the rest of the trouble and just resigned.

July 23, 2009

No ground control for (another) major, Tom

As Tom Watson strolled up the 18th fairway Sunday to the deafening roars of the faithful golf fans in Turnberry, Scotland, you had a feeling we were about to see history.

Sensing the gravity of the moment, as any sports fan might, a couple of words came to mind as I watched Watson (who was +600 in the field at http://www.bookmaker.com) line up his 8-foot putt for the win in the British Open.

Please choke.

Make that five words.

Please, please, please, please choke.

This was asking a lot, because I knew most of the sports world was against me, including a warm-and-fuzzy ABC commentator who predicted Watson would sink the putt and win his ninth major title at age 59.

Then, as if I had scripted the outcome, Watson approached the putt with that dentist-chair-in-sight squeamishness to which we have become so accustomed while watching Shaq step to the free-throw line. His stroke also mirrored that of Shaq; no touch, no confidence, no chance.

Mission accomplished.

Although Watson’s miss didn’t technically end his British Open run, we all knew it was over. Similar to Derek Fisher’s 3-pointer that tied Game 4 of the NBA Finals at the end of regulation, Watson’s playoff against Stewart Cink was a mere formality, similar to the Lakers’ overtime walk-through against the Orlando Magic. 

Whew. With all due respect to Watson – and a guy with eight majors to his credit deserves his share – the last thing the golf establishment needs is another reason to give more unabashed glory to an old white guy. The thought of this makes me more ill than all those close-ups of the blotched, faded skin on the back of Watson’s neck, to which ABC so regretfully subjected its viewers.

Golf already is bent on deifying the ghosts of its past without any legitimate justification, and a win by Watson would have taken this shtick to unprecedented lows. The sport’s silent majority was still rolling on the putting green with laughter at the fact that the really famous black guy in the tournament missed the cut.

This gave them a chance to celebrate the British Open’s winner as a master of the “old school” style of golf. Well, when perfectly true tee shots hit the middle of the fairway, only to be sucked into an abyss of a bunker 40 yards out of view, this isn’t golf. It’s the old Atari video game “Pitfall” brought to life on a grassy knoll.

Given the alternative, I’ll take Tiger Woods and Anthony Kim smashing their drives 350 yards and drilling 50-foot putts any day of the week. Call me “new school” if you will, but don’t call me on Sunday at 6 a.m. to watch the British Open.

Handing over the “jug” that is bestowed upon the winner to a guy who needs to change his Depends after nine holes – six or seven on some days, it depends – would have effectively rolled golf’s clock back at least 20 years, and the sport’s “purists” would have put a death grip on the hands of time to keep it there indefinitely.

Golf doesn’t celebrate its past — it lives off it, present and future be damned. Never has an entity honored dudes who have both feet in the grave – or at least one – more than the local funeral home and the assisted-care facility with which it contracts business.

Whenever you watch The Masters or the British Open, the coverage is flooded with highlights and homage to past champions. Not last year’s champion, mind you, but endless, grainy reels of guys like Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and the like.

Without fail, one living member of the boys club is trotted out to take part in the tournament; inevitably, our living legend limps through a round of 97, and his triple-bogey on No. 18 is met with a standing ovation, as if this were some sort of accomplishment.

Really, it isn’t. Such deeply grounded golf traditions only prove that Arnold Palmer is, in fact, old. Watson’s near-miss in the British Open – though his choke on the final putt was anything but near – is a much more meaningful feat, but that doesn’t mean it’s something we couldn’t have lived without.

For instance, I’d be willing to bet that Rick Barry could beat LeBron James in a free-throw shooting contest today, but I wouldn’t turn on the TV to watch it. I’d also bet there’s no chance Barry could beat James at one-on-one, though I might watch the first couple of minutes just for kicks.

I’d like to tell you how badly I feel for Watson, but I don’t. Frankly, he was a little too self-indulgent for my taste. When his performance became the story of the British Open, he did everything he could to keep it that way. When was the last time you saw Tiger Woods lead the crowd in the wave, or visibly cry as the other guy sealed a victory?

In the end, Watson’s putt just didn’t have enough ground control to win another major, Tom. Although to his credit, he didn’t go down without a fight. I could have sworn I saw him replace the ball at least two inches ahead of where he marked it on hole No. 18 (I’ve never understood why golf allows this, seeing as it is physically impossible to place the ball in the exact same spot from which it was moved), and I’m pretty sure I saw Watson purposely break wind during Cink’s backswing on the first playoff hole.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. So instead of the jug going to a past-his-prime champion who looks like a dead ringer for William H. Macy minus the goofy powder blue sweater vest and pants, it went to an underachieving first-time winner who has lookalike qualities of his own.

The 36-year-old Cink, coincidentally, is a dead ringer for the third-place finisher, 36-year-old Lee Westwood, save for the goofy neon green sweater vest and cap. This merits mention because the loud attire is the only way to tell the two apart.

That, and the fact that the Alabama-born Cink was the one holding the trophy at the day’s end. I would have preferred watching it go to Westwood, because the England-born golfer at least would have given the tournament a quasi-homegrown champion around which you can build a decent story.

Even so, watching Cink break through and capture his first major still strikes me as more relevant than Watson choking, cheating, farting and crying. While the latter made for an interesting side show for one weekend, the former will have a more of a say in golf’s future.

And it’s about time the golf establishment gave “new school” players their due.

July 18, 2009

Boxers Gatti, Corrales counted out too soon

Filed under: entertainment,Sports — jnagelreno @ 7:36 pm
Tags: , , , ,

There’s an old saying that suggests, to some degree, that our lifestyles ultimately will determine our “deathstyles.”

Rest in peace, Arturo Gatti and Diego Corrales.

Amid this bizarre recent barrage of celebrity and sports-figure deaths, the murder of Gatti in a Brazilian hotel room under mysterious circumstances seemed to grab only the back page of last weekend’s headlines.

What a shame because, if you’re a fight fan, you know Gatti deserves to be honored with one last 10-count, in a ring unobstructed by other sports news for a moment.

It’s also too bad because, if you follow the fight game, it’s a sick reality that we somehow saw this day coming sooner than later for “Thunder” Gatti. We just didn’t know it would come so soon.

As with “Chico” Corrales, who died in a motorcycle wreck two years ago at age 29, the 37-year-old Gatti stayed in the ring well past his prime, but got counted out in the game of life before his prime even started. The tragedy is that he and Corrales seemed to take pride in conducting their lives as recklessly outside the ring as they did inside it.

Such abandon is why we watched every time they laced up the gloves, and also why we watched their personal lives with that uneasy aura of a pending train wreck. You have to think the two would become fast friends and sparring partners if their paths cross in the afterlife.

Not that either boxer ever looked that far ahead.  

Gatti and Corrales were each former world champions but their boxing legacies will be cemented by the fact that they were champions of the people. Atlantic City boxing fans didn’t care if Gatti was, as his critics suggested, a blown-up club fighter with a more natural knack for drama inside the ring than a grasp of the sweet science.

Who could forget his memorable trilogy with his personal punching bag Micky Ward, that made-for-cable matchup that inevitably saw Gatti, both eyes shut and blood pouring down his face, get off the canvas to pound Ward into oblivion. Commentator Jim Lampley, for all his flaws, could get any boxing fan’s heart racing when he announced, “Arturo Gatti is bloody and beaten … but he just won’t quit!”

Corrales was noted for his epic battles with Joel Casamayor and a classic tilt with Jose Luis Castillo in May 2005 that might well still be the fight of this decade. Corrales came back form two devastating knockdowns in the 10th round to stop Castillo in one of the most thrilling 3-minute bursts in the sport’s history.

Both men faded toward the end of their careers, losing their high-profile fights and the big paydays that came with them. This wasn’t unexpected, but it was still sad, because you tuned into watch Gatti and Corrales always hoping they would win. Nor did it affect their legacies, at least in the hearts of fight fans. The type of courage each displayed bred an unusual sense of loyalty from strangers everywhere.

This isn’t to say either man was without flaws. Corrales served 14 months in prison earlier this decade for beating his pregnant girlfriend, and had a blood-alcohol level of .25 when he fatally wrecked his Suzuki sport bike in suburban Las Vegas.

In March, Gatti was charged with assaulting the woman who is now accused of his murder. Amanda Rodrigues, 23, has been charged with the slaying of Gatti, whom authorities say was found strangled with a purse strap in the apartment they shared.

The circumstances – or what we know of them – make you wonder how perhaps the toughest man to ever set foot inside a boxing ring somehow lost a fight against a petite woman yielding a purse as her weapon of choice.

However, many facets of the lives of Gatti and Corrales don’t seem to make a lot of sense. But when they set foot in the ring, all was right in the lives of both the boxers and of those who admired them.

This is how they need to be remembered.

July 4, 2009

Just wondering … again

Well, the debut of my “Just Wondering” musings last week seemed to be somewhat of a surprise hit with readers at www.covers.com.

So naturally, instead of leaving well-enough alone (read “Die Hard,” “American Pie,” etc.), I’ve decided to pen what’s bound to be a less-fulfilling sequel. So be it.

But given that it’s still sort of a dead zone in the sports world, a boring Friday before the 4th of July got my mind wandering and, thus, wondering …

Have you ever noticed that singer David Gray babbles on and on while singing his hit single “Babylon”? Moreover, have you noticed that Macy Gray (no relation) babbles on and on while singing, well, anything? Can’t make out her lyrics no matter how hard, you know, “I Try.”

Does the guy who finishes second in the annual hot-dog eating contest on the 4th of July feel like a real weiner? Moreover, does the first-place finisher earn this distinction? If the winner were to taunt his opponent, would it be considered hot-dogging? Will Limp Bizkit try to revive its “career” by showing up at the event and handing out copies of the CD “Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water”? Has anyone ever ate a chocolate starfish … or drank hotdog flavored water? Will anyone admit to buying this album?

Whatever happened to that Elian Gonzalez kid? Dude was all the rage back in the day, at least for a few days … though I can’t remember why. If he comes across the border again, would he be considered an Illegal Elian? Is it possible this is the same kid playing first base for the San Diego Padres, under the alias “Adrian” Gonzalez? I also seem to recall that Elian had a smokin’ hot sister, though I can’t remember what she looks like.

During a 9-hour drive, has anyone ever made his first stop for gasoline and a bite to eat at the 7 ½-hour mark? If not, then does the concept of the seventh-inning stretch in baseball make any sense at all? Doesn’t some time around the 5th inning seem more appropriate? (Good call, Stacy).

Roger Federer has a chance to make tennis history by winning his 15th major should he defeat Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final (he’s a -750 favorite at www.bookmaker.com). Lance Armstrong has a chance to make more cycling history provided he can, ahem, “sack up,” call upon some more doping-induced endurance and win his seventh Tour de France. Does anyone care?

Has anyone ever bothered to tell “comedian” Gallagher that smashing watermelons with a meat cleaver was sort of funny … the first time? Rhetorical question.

Peace out.

June 23, 2009

Pondering a few of life’s mysteries

Filed under: entertainment,General,Sports — jnagelreno @ 3:39 pm

On a boring Monday morning, I had to take a few minutes just to wonder why about a few of life’s mysteries …

Has anyone ever been surveyed by the Family Feud? And if so, what did the survey say?

Regarding that new, special yogurt marketed for women that promises to regulate your digestive system within 2 weeks or your money back … Is proof required in order to secure a refund? And if so, how does one go about proving that it didn’t work? … What would happen to a man if he ate the yogurt? … Is this really what Jamie Lee Curtis’s career has come to?

What is it that compels golf spectators to scream “Get in the hole!” when Tiger Woods whacks his tee shot on a 500-yard, par-5? Moreover, what are the odds of Woods holing out such a shot?

Why are pitchers automatically ejected for arguing balls and strikes, when batters and managers get away with it all the time? Has the ceremonial first pitch ever been greeted by a first swing? If not, why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this?

Why do basketball players go out of their way to high-five a teammate when he misses a free throw, but rarely seek him out upon a make? Can anyone prove that Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy are biologically related? Or, perhaps, that they are not?

Just wondering …

June 4, 2009

LeBron’s snub of Magic, media is OK by me

LeBron James has been the trendy object of ridicule in recent days from critics in every corner who would have you believe that his refusal to shake hands with the Orlando Magic showed a lack of maturity and sportsmanship.

I say, show me a good loser and … I’ll show you a loser. If you’re a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers, or just the King himself, James’s hand-shake snubbing of the Magic and subsequent media blow-off can’t be seen as anything other than a sign of progress.

It’s about time that he showed he cares. About winning and losing, that is.

For everything James has been criticized for, from posing after every dunk, to taunting the girlfriends of an opposing team (as he did in Toronto), to leading his team in a dance number set to a Rick Astley tune during a game (the choice of Astley as dance fodder clearly the more egregious error), most of the heat he has taken has come from those who believe James’s desire to have too much fun playing a kid’s game for his King’s ransom overrides his desire to win.

The nature of this line of criticism bothers me much less what we’ve seen since Saturday’s blowout loss to Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals. Not that anyone opposes a basketball superstar having a good time, but amid all the poses and (multi) million-dollar smiles, it became easier to question what James was made of at the core.

We’re beginning to find out, now that the King has discovered that he can’t always have it his way. Opportunities to reach the NBA Finals don’t come along every day, and particularly for his current Cleveland club, the window might soon be closing.

Cleveland fans should be more offended at James’s insistence at wearing a New York Yankees cap than his flag for unsportsmanlike conduct after being ousted from the playoffs. At least the latter shows some loyalty to the domain where his high-priced butter is constantly breaded.

Losing is supposed to hurt, and James’s actions showed that he understood the gravity of the moment. Pat Riley once said the NBA playoffs are all about winning and misery, and James was miserable.

This isn’t to say I condone a lack of sportsmanship, but let’s get real. What did we really miss without seeing James stumble through a half-hearted handshake line whispering “good luck,” then humbly utter to the media that the Magic were the better team and deserved to win? He wouldn’t have meant either sentiment and, by contrast, his bolt out of the corner door represented a refreshing change of pace from this time-honored exercise in insincerity.

For all I care, he could have walked toward Dwight Howard with his hand extended, only to pull it back and yell “Psych!” as Howard extended his, and had the same effect. (This gesture, popularized and long-believed to be better left behind at the grade-school level, can prove quite invigorating when pulled on an unsuspecting co-worker).

The token handshake-and-sound-byte routine is the definition of a sports cliché. That being, if the opposite makes no sense at all, then what you are about to say, hear or see might be considered on the trite side.

In this case, it was all too easy to envision James flashing his wide smile and embracing Howard as if he had just lost a game of HORSE to his opponent down at the local Y. This, or a version close to it, is what I expected to see.

That the opposite happened was a welcome disappointment, even if it threatened to put a dent in the fender of LeBron’s good-guy reputation.

Remember, some of the NBA’s most esteemed Hall of Famers are celebrated because they were great players, not great sportsmen. The relationship between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson is a prime example of this; their parallel careers were built on championship pedigrees and mutual respect.

If you’re waiting to see some display of love lost between them, check in another 30 years from now and see if anything has changed. This was never more transparent than a couple months ago during the Final Four, when a major effort was made to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Bird-Magic match-up in the national championship game that catapulted college basketball into the conscience of the sports-minded public.

In the days leading up to the 2009 Final Four in Detroit, Magic was all grins and memories as he recounted Michigan State’s historic win over Bird’s Indiana State club. Bird, long a reluctant interviewee on the topic, was all grimaces and misery.

He used the forum to lambaste the fraternization of professional sports as we know them, longing for simpler times in which running into an opponent on a pick-up court in the off-season came with the understanding that his ball would not be voluntarily returned should it end up on the wrong side of the court. No help asked, none given, and that was the way it worked.

Pressed specifically for his thoughts on that historic 1979 title game, Bird made it clear that his memories are far from pleasant. He said he didn’t play as well as he had hoped, and that the pain of the loss sticks with him to this day. If you saw the interview and the pain in his face, you believed him.

However, lest he be re-nicknamed the “Grumpy Hick From French Lick,” Bird awkwardly agreed to take part in a “commemorative” jump ball against Magic to celebrate the anniversary of their historic NCAA title game. But if you watch the replay, you’ll note Magic is the only one smiling.

May 28, 2009

NBA fouls up the flagrant calls

Filed under: General,Sports,Sports betting — jnagelreno @ 6:11 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Sometimes, things end up taking on the opposite of their intended meanings.

Take, for instance, the much-played recent beer commercial in which the middle-aged, Mediterranean cab driver not only sings along with his inebriated passengers to the chorus of that ageless Biz Markie ditty, but actually turns up the volume before doing so.

For a TV spot that purports to advocate using a designated driver, the whole scene just made me wonder precisely who, in that car, had really been doing the drinking. Just sayin’.

Some would call this irony, some might call it happenstance, others might see it as overanalyzing a beer commercial. Whatever your take, if you’ve been watching the NBA playoffs on any sort of regular basis, it’s fair to say that the NBA’s “rules” on flagrant fouls officially have reached the opposite of their intended purpose.

There’s no irony to the notion that the next person to be surprised by this trend will be the first. As with all other faux pas involving the NBA and its enforcement of rules and regulations, this one comes down to inconsistency.

The league’s application of flagrant foul interpretations, similar to the beer commercial, also makes me wonder who has been doing the drinking.

The NBA’s vehicle of judgment on flagrant and technical fouls this postseason has long left the land of Laughable, cruised through the friendly confines of Ridiculous, and is puttering on fumes as it approaches a roadside sign that reads “Welcome to Ineptitude.”

Really, enough is enough. Let me get this straight: Now, with the NBA Finals in sight and every game and every possession of paramount importance, we have otherwise well-behaved players – Kobe Bryant of Los Angeles, Orlando’s Dwight Howard — one step away from a suspension if they dare say another word to the refs during the heat of battle because of their technical foul totals.

Whereas others, such as Duke-softie-turned-wannabe-thug, Dahntay Jones of Denver, who got away with two potentially career-threatening fouls on Bryant without so much as being called for a flagrant, receives a warning along the lines of, “You do that again, and you’ll be in real trouble, mister!”

I had to laugh yesterday as the scroll at the bottom of the ESPN screen revealed that Jones’s deliberate and dangerous trip of Bryant in Game 4 had been, “Upgraded to a Flagrant 1 Foul.” Upgraded from what, exactly? The “Oops, we missed that one!” bin? There was no foul called on the play.

However, in the same game, Andrew Bynum of the Lakers got whistled for a flagrant for what amounted to little more than a peck across the arms of Denver’s Birdman, aka Chris Andersen.

By the way, all this Flagrant 1, Flagrant 2 business sounds more like a fart-rating convention than a good way to classify fouls. How about this idea as an alternative? Just get it right the first time, or at least do your best to make it right when all is said and done. Leave it to the NBA to overreact and under-respond when it comes to cracking down on physical play in the playoffs.

ESPN analyst Tim Legler was dead-on when he surmised that Jones deserved a severe punishment for his actions. Pushing a player while he is airborne for a layup, or tripping him as he races down the court at full speed – Jones did both to Bryant — could lead to a potentially devastating injury.

Yet, Jones gets a slap on the wrist, and Bynum draws a flagrant for slapping the wrists of Birdman. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

To get this thing right, all the NBA has to do is go back to basics. I used to officiate at the high school and college levels, and one lesson I never forgot is one they teach you the first hour of training day: “Anticipate the play, not the call.”

We all learned this one, at least once, the hard way. This happened the first time we watched a guy steal a pass and chug down the court for an uncontested layup, only to be chased down by an opponent with fire in his eyes and intentional-foul intentions in his heart.

At this precise moment, it was easy to envision the basketball hell that was about to break loose. This was all well and good, of course, until our villain astonishingly … pulled up and let the guy dunk.

No harm, no foul, no problem … except for the fact that we had already blown the whistle – then wanted to swallow it — when our hero went up for the basket. This “Wanna get away?” moment happens to all officials at some point, so we can’t hold NBA officials too closely to the fire just because they are human.

But it’s well within our rights to criticize them for consistently failing to do their jobs. Again, guys, anticipate the play, not the call. Judge each individual play without pre-conceived notions regarding the team or player involved, and you just might get it right more often.

And if this doesn’t work, the league should at least step in and mete out the appropriate justice upon further review.

However, I am betting that the cab driver in the beer commercial stands a better chance of scoring with one of the hotties in the back seat of his ride before we see the NBA get this flagrant foul mess figured out.

But before you throw your money down, be advised … I hear he’s just a friend.

May 21, 2009

Spike Lee’s new ‘documentary’ misses the mark

Filed under: General,Sports — jnagelreno @ 5:16 am
Tags: , , , ,

It’s about time Spike Lee did the right thing by NBA fans and stopped passing off shameless infomercials as high art.

“Kobe Doin’ Work” has about as much artistic appeal as the worn sole of an Air Jordan. By comparison, however, Lee’s classic spots for Nike anchored by His Airness packed more entertainment into 90 seconds than “Kobe” could manage in 90 painstaking minutes. That’s saying something.

On the off chance that you missed this blockbuster last weekend, here are a couple of thoughts. First, congratulate yourself for having something better to do, and second, make sure you do the same when the re-run marathon starts in full force.

For those of us who were less fortunate, make a concerted effort to stop the head scratching because it might leave a rash. But re-living a scene or two late at night might put that case of insomnia to permanent rest.

Now that his days of taunting Reggie Miller and drooling on Patrick Ewing are over, Lee has taken his quest for relevancy in the NBA to uncharted depths. If he sinks any lower, he’ll need a high chair to watch the Lakers from his court-side seat. But perhaps if he fouls out, Bryant will consider letting Lee sit on his lap.

Kobe Bryant is without question one of the most dynamic and polarizing figures the NBA, and perhaps all of professional sports, has seen in quite some time. Lee’s “documentary” makes an earnest effort to dispel this notion.

With ESPN’s cameras in tow and its precious air time serving as the media railroad for this train wreck, viewers of “Kobe” essentially were treated to a big-screen version of “Kobe miked up.”

Among the highlights: We see Kobe Bryant make a few jumpers. He also missed a few. We see him encourage his teammates. He also barked at them a couple of times. We see him make small talk with a couple of opponents. He also uses dialogue that borders on polite trash talk. We see him debate the merits of a goaltending call. He also disputes a foul call.

Last night, we called this an NBA playoff game (the Lakers won 105-103 over the Denver Nuggets), but with lots of hype and plenty of introspective commentary and manufactured self-importance from Spike Lee, ESPN called it a feature film.

Really, couldn’t Spike have just saved us all the trouble and just given Kobe a big, warm man hug to show his appreciation? Watching Bryant’s every move in a regular-season game against the San Antonio Spurs, full audio and all, tells us a little something about the NBA superstar.

Such as … he plays basketball. Very well. His teammates listen to him, his opponents respect him, and fans show up to watch him. Lee and ESPN make a half-hearted effort to disguise this information in visual form as something we didn’t already know.

What a shame, because they had the idea half-right. A true documentary on Kobe Bryant is something I’d pay to see if Lee or another filmmaker had the proper ambition, access and savvy to pull it off.

Forget the jumpers and pep talks. Let’s take an inside look at this iconic and sometimes controversial sports figure. How about the first conversation he had with his wife after the Colorado rape charges were announced? Now THAT’S a conversation I want to see (logical conclusion: She Hate Me). Short of something this dramatic, how about some perspective on how their relationship has survived this turmoil?

How about his first conversation with Phil Jackson when the Zen master was re-hired as the Lakers head coach? Or a no-holds-barred response to Shaq’s suggestion in a “rap” that Kobe sample a bit of the Big Buffoon’s back side?

In other words, how about anything other than the corporate-logo-encrusted garbage that Lee and ESPN threw at us under the guise of wholesome entertainment?

“Kobe Doin’ Work” could have been worthwhile, had only the architects been willing to do some work of their own. But it’s probably safe to say that Lee’s court-side season ticket will be renewed next year.

Someone find a high chair.

May 14, 2009

Doug Collins has the scoop … on Doug Collins

Filed under: Sports — jnagelreno @ 3:06 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Doug Collins is an outstanding NBA color analyst. Good thing he has this going for him, because his pursuits as an NBA head coach and a traveling salesman haven’t gone nearly as well.

But this hasn’t stopped him from giving it the ole’ Collins try.

Here we go again. In what seems to be emerging as an annual NBA playoff tradition, Collins is announced on TNT’s air as the leading candidate for high-profile NBA coaching job … right around the time Collins is scheduled to call a high-profile NBA playoff game on the network.

Good timing, no?

Collins then uses the network’s air time to “dispute” his candidacy for the job. The Los Angeles Lakers’ thrashing of the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night gave Collins the perfect platform, as he and play-by-play man Kevin Harlan had plenty of dead time to fill.

So … Dougy C. spent a good portion of the fourth quarter denying a report that linked him to the Philadelphia 76ers’ head coaching vacancy. But not before he could call Philly “a great city,” with a talented, young team, and oh, right, he still has family that lives there.

But really, he’s not interested. In fact, Collins was sooooo not interested that he chided the media for “always wanting to get it first instead of getting it right.”

To which I say, look in the mirror, pal. There, you’ll find the culprit of the “leak” of the former coach’s name to the Philly job, not to mention an active double-standard about the role of the media and specifically, his role in it.

Collins pulled similar shenanigans last year, linking himself on the air to the Chicago Bulls job. Turns out there was some legitimacy to the story, but again, he seemed more motivated about wanting to break and publicize his own story on TNT than to set the record straight about anything.

All the while, Dougy C. comes off as such an awe-shucks, your-next-door-neighbor-in-the-broadcasting-booth kind of guy, that it’s hard to hold much against him. I’ve got a lot of respect for Doug Collins and, as an NBA viewer, I’d rather see him stay in television.

As former-coaches-turned-broadcasters go, he’s nearly in a class of his own, and this includes all major professional sports. Collins has a natural knack for explaining the game in layman’s terms, and he’s spot-on in the moment when it comes to describing an important play in the game. He also tells some fascinating anecdotes from his time in the league.

It’s my belief that Jeff Van Gundy has supplanted Collins as the top NBA color man, but not by much. It’s just that Van Gundy clearly doesn’t care whether he’s ever offered another NBA head coaching job.

Thus, he’ll offer bold commentaries about the league, its policies, players or coaches, all without any fear of what it might cost him down the line. Van Gundy’s quirky, self-deprecating sense of humor also scores major points with me.

However, it appears Dougy C. is a coach at heart and a coach always. No shame in that, per se, I just wish the dude would come out and admit it … he wants another NBA coaching job.

Collins is shameless in using TNT’s microphone as his personal pogo stick back into the league. This stuff about denying where the story came from, and thus mentioning your own name with the opening, repeatedly, is akin to throwing the first punch then claiming you didn’t start a fight.

The last time Collins left the booth for a coaching job, to take over the Washington Wizards, I remembered counting the days until he got fired, so I could look forward to more of his keen analysis on the TNT airwaves. Looks like I might need to break out another calendar.

Good luck in Philly, Dougy C. You’ll need it. We’ll miss you in the booth, but you can take the dance-and-denial gig with you.

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