Tuesday, March 22, 2011

VCU Belongs! ... and 5,000 other topics crammed into the same column

Hi, I'm something named Paul Daugherty and I wrote a bad column for Sports Illustrated today where I commemorated the NCAA tournament by shoving 68 disjointed different thoughts into the same column and acting like it was cohesive. Can you count them all? Send a list to BWP for a free prize*! Feel the "madness"!

*No prize

Another year, another wild opening weekend in the NCAA tournament

This column is going to literally attempt to recap everything that happened in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

VC-Who?

At least he nailed the opening. VCU? More like greasy boobs! Alright, score one for the D-Man. (The D-Man is Paul Daugherty)

The Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University appeared out of nowhere, straight from the far-right edge of the office pool bracket. Damned if we saw them coming.

Nevermind whatever in the wide, wide world "the far-right edge of the office pool bracket" could possibly mean, but we're going to hammer this entirely original point home: Seriously, who knew VCU could win three games -- one of them even against a good team!

We could go on about the wonderful wackiness of the NCAA tournament's first weekend, but that is a given.

Wait, but -- you -- the headline -- only the third paragraph --

We could ask for a moment of silence for the officiating, which was fatally dreadful in crucial moments. But that's going to happen. The ceremonial bracket-burning took place slightly earlier than usual this year -- thank you very much, Texas -- but that's nothing new. We've been flaming brackets for decades.

I would gripe to a national audience about my bracket, too, if SI paid me. But that's because I'm a bad writer.

Let's just sum up the first weekend by offering some meas and culpas to VCU, superstars of truTV, validators of the First Four and all-around Madness poster-guys.

Is this supposed to come off sarcastic? "Congrats on your basic-cable wins, guys." I mean, I think G'Town was soft, and who gives a shit about USC, but Purdue was a top-10 team this year.

Oh, and in no way was VCU a "validator" (not a word) of the First Four, those games were still stupid and ruined the whole process of filling out the brackets.

The Rams persuasively dismantled a very good Purdue club Sunday to earn a Sweet 16 game with Florida State in San Antonio Friday. Afterward, VCU forward Jamie Skeen declared, "Look at us now.''

We are. We can't look away. It's like a wreck on the highway. The Rams could have us rubbernecking from here to Houston.

Yes, an 11 seed winning two tournament games is exactly like when cars going 70 miles per hour smash into each other on the highway. In every single imaginable way.

What's more, Richmond, the Southwest's No. 12 seed, plays top seed Kansas Friday. If the Spiders do the unlikely, we could have an all-Richmond regional final. The capital of the Confederacy and college basketball? Who knew?

Right, if Richmond does something that has never fucking happened, then there would be an all-Richmond final, provided that VCU can get past the nation's best defense. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to glaze over so we can get to a strange Charlie Daniels reference.

A nod to Charlie Daniels, boys: The South's Gonna Do It Again.

But don't think that this means D-Man thinks The South Is Actually Gonna Do It Again. In a minute, he's going to mention that he's openly rooting for chalk from here on out. He just said that to make an awesome and totally-not-36-year-old reference out of the clear blue sky.

"Anybody can beat anybody,'' said the aptly named VCU coach Shaka Smart, 33, whose name is suddenly on the speed-dial of all athletic directors seeking the Hot Young Coach of the Moment.

His name is smart, and his team won basketball games! SMART.

Smart's right. Four double-digit seeds will play on this week. Butler, an 8 seed, returns. The Big East is suddenly little: Only two of its 11 bids escaped the weekend, though it didn't help that the league cannibalized itself in two games: Marquette beat Syracuse and UConn took out Cincinnati. When four of your teams play each other, casualties are inevitable.

This is where we start getting jumpy. Keep in mind that we're talking about VCU and Richmond, but at the same time D-Man throws in this random, half-thought-out reference to the Big East. Despite staying on this topic for .03 seconds, he still manages to make an ass out of himself: Yes, the Big East did have two games they were bound to lose, but no mention of the obvious: Those two games were the only ones where a Big East team won.

Picking a champion looks to be as easy as picking who's Marcus and who's Markieff. The Morris twins combined for 41 points and 24 rebounds in Kansas' win Sunday over Illinois.

Mk is an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier, and when they're on TV playing basketball they wear different huge numbers on their shirts. Sorry to nitpick but that was such a lame reference used as a sloppy transition to Kansas.

A key to winning when you're not supposed to? Cherish the basketball. VCU beat Purdue when it combined 26 assists with four turnovers. Richmond has nine turnovers in two games. Contrast that with Syracuse, which exited stage early again, partly owing to 18 turnovers

VCU! Richmond! Remember the Big East? Kansas! Don't turn the ball over! I can't feel my face!!!

The elephant at half court is Ohio State. The Buckeyes are filing their nails and saying, "N-e-e-xt.'' They merely demolished George Mason Sunday, 98-66, with a thoroughness that makes them seem the best Shining Moment candidate going.

Whatever.

Their main perspirer, coach Thad Matta, barely offered a drip while watching his team go on a ridiculous, 50-15 run in the last 16 minutes of the first half. George Mason wasn't Kansas. But the eighth-seeded Patriots owned a history of slipper-wearing, having reached the Final Four as an 11th seed in '06.

Don't count them out -- they did really well five years ago! And everyone knows that there's tons of continuity for college basketball teams at the bookends of five-year periods. Like, no way a five-seed in the '06 tournament could have gone 13-19 this year!

Surviving a No. 8 seed isn't a given. Ask Pitt, which did not survive, and Duke, which blew a 15-point lead in the last 10 minutes, before beating Michigan by two. Ohio State has five players who can score, a load in the middle in Jared Sullinger, and coolness at point guard, where freshman Aaron Craft had 15 assists and two turnovers.

Pitt lost! OSU is good! Their point guard is "cool"! TOO MANY TOPICS FOR SNARKBOT3000 101011101010101010101

"If they play like this every day, they're a tough out,'' George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. "But you don't play like this every day. Every game is different. Every opponent is different. The next round, they're probably going to play a team with a little more size and a better matchup, physicality-wise.''

Hey, there's something we could do some analysis on -- could OSU get bothered by Kentucky's super group of freshmen? Or will it be UNC's size? Or will we just forget we even inserted that quote and change gears with no transition?

Physicality speaking, here's a question: When do UConn guard Kemba Walker's legs fall off at the thighs?

Knew it.

A grueling Big East regular season was followed by a grueling Big East tournament was followed by 74 grueling minutes in two games over the weekend. The Huskies and Marquette are all that's left of the Big East's 11 tournament invitees.

I don't blame D-Man for repeating himself; even he can't remember saying the same thing like 20 topics ago.

But, back to lesser-hyped teams that are still around. VCU shot 65.6 percent in the second half and scored 48 points in the paint against a Purdue team known for its defense. The Rams carry the classic boulder on their shoulder into the region.

We're switching topics too fast. I feel like I'm going to throw up.

Clichés are clichés because they're true. Nobody thought VCU would be here now. Certainly not the heathen media, which universally trashed the Rams even getting into the tournament. VCU tiptoed in through the back door, having lost five of its last eight then being shuttled off to Dayton to play in what the NCAA ingloriously termed the First Four.

Sorry, which part of this was a cliche? The media being "heathens"?

Also I have a lot to say in re: VCU getting into the tournament (namely that winning in the tournament doesn't magically make their regular-season profile better and prove they should have been here; I think unequivocally, Harvard, VTech and Colorado had a better case to get into the tournament) but I could literally harp on that all day. Suffice to say: this column is getting stupider exponentially.

The Rams weren't playing Broadway. They played on truTV. Until Tuesday, did anyone know what truTV was?

I don't blame D-Man for implying that the games on lesser channels were somehow less meaningful or important. I blame the NCAA for passing the rule that if you play on TNT or TBS, you have to give 85% effort, and truTV was a whopping 65%. I think it's criminal.

Column's almost over, let's not even pretend we know what transitions are any more!

Florida State is in the Sweet 16, even as the Seminoles' best player, Chris Singleton, lasted only 10 minutes against Notre Dame. Singleton broke his foot Feb. 12. Butler is back, thanks to Matt Howard's look-what-I-found putback against Old Dominion, and a head-shaking foul in the last second against Pitt.

These teams won too! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

By the way, it's nice that the TV can have NCAA supervisor of officials John Adams on for purposes of explanation and clarification. But the guy's not exactly objective when it comes to questionable calls. Over the weekend, egregious followed questionable followed infuriating.

Hard-hitting fact-finding from D-Man: The NCAA's supervisor of officials will tend to be subjective in favor of NCAA officials. Someone get this man a Pulitzer.

The ref in the Arizona-Texas game couldn't count to five. The guy in the Pitt-Butler game decided he'd decide the outcome himself. Washington lost a crucial second of time in its loss to North Carolina. And so on.

Wah wah my bracket's busted too.

But we digress.

A natural pause before we get to the height of this column's flagrant retardery.

At some point, we want the upsets to stop.

Wait, what? We do?

The Little Teams That Could are a fine diversion during the first weekend.

Wow, that's condescending and not at all true.

This week, we really need the big boys to hitch up their pants. Unless, of course, your idea of greatness is Richmond-Butler in a national semifinal.

That would be pretty cool. Better than the same shit we see every year, isn't it?

We don't visit the National Gallery of Art seeking graffiti.

Wow. Just wow. How many mid-majors can D-Man offend at this point?

No disrespect to VCU and Richmond and Charlie Daniels. But this weekend, we'd prefer the classics: Kansas, Ohio State and Duke.

Who the fuck are we? You don't speak for me, jerk. And I like that he spends a little while disrespecting the shit out of teams, calling them "graffiti" in an art museum, and touches it with a finesse "No disrespect."

The Southeast will give us the fly in our soup: Butler, Wisconsin, BYU or Florida. We'd prefer it be BYU, because you can't not root for the audacity of someone who calls himself Jimmer. Let's see Fredette go for 40 against the Brothers Morris.

Mmm, yes, yes. We normally reserve the fourth place in the national semifinal round for a "team of diversity." Let them have their little piece of luxury for once, don't you say? Mmm. Yes. [Adjusts monocle]

Finally, a spadeful of dirt to the No. 16 seeds, who stunk on toast, as usual. They lost to the No. 1s by an average of 28 points. They're now 0-108 all time. We'd call them Charlie Browns, but that'd be an insult to Charlie Brown.

Really?

And the NCAA thought it was necessary to add four teams this year?

Might as well finish with a non sequitur, right?

Oh, yeah. One of those teams was VCU. Never mind.

Yeah. And they don't deserve to win. But their coach is smart. Kansas. Also, the 16 seeds lost. Butler. Richmond and Charlie Daniels. TEXAS GOT BONED. WASHINGTON MICHIGANDUKECAROLINAWISCONSINMONTREAL[head explodes]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gene Wojciechowski attacks Barry Bonds, ends up looking really stupid

Spring training is in full swing and most baseball writers know what that means. It essentially means trying to find worthwhile information about their beats, in what is essentially a month-long practice, filled with useless information and statistics.

Most writers admirably fill the pages of their newspaper by digging for stories about hot prospects fighting to make the big league club or maybe stories about veterans trying to bounce back from a tough season.

But for everybody’s favorite moral compass, ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski, it means piling on Barry Bonds – who left baseball never to return in 2007 – because he was a miserable prick during his time with the Giants.

I would summarize Wojciechowski’s idiocy, but I think I would actually be doing Gene a disservice. So instead I will let him handle the idiocy, and I will cherry-pick his most idiotic parts so that I can make myself feel better.

Giants thriving in post-Barry Bonds era

Do you think it is worth telling Gene that there have been three baseball seasons played since Bonds retired and that the Giants have made the playoffs in just one of those seasons? Nah, let’s just move on.

Barry Bonds helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series last season. And he could help them win it again this season.

Dear Gene,

Barry Bonds doesn’t actually play for the us anymore. In fact, he hasn't played for us since 2007. Our point is that it is more than a little insulting to those of us who actually played in the games that you infer our World Series victory is a direct result of Barry Bonds' absence. Maybe, just maybe, if Bonds had left before last season, you could convince really stupid baseball fans that his departure allowed the Giants to play better baseball. But Bonds retired fucking THREE seasons ago. It also seems kind of counter-intuitive that you are trying to pillory Bonds while simultaneously giving him a completely unreasonable amount of credit for our World Series' victory. We are not happy, but Lincecum got us all stoned and we are too high to come to your mother's basement and kick your ass. Nice glasses. Dick

Love,

Your 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants

When Bonds and his toxic presence was finally removed…

In the interest of nit-picky grammatical fixes, that sentence should read “Bonds and his toxic presence were finally removed…” but I will look past that understandable mistake as long as you proceed to make sound baseball arguments using statistics and facts.

…by the hazmat people after the 2007 season, the Giants began to win more games. Not a lot at first, but enough to realize that Bonds' forced departure was like an emergency tracheotomy on the franchise's windpipe. The Giants could finally breathe again.

You know you are an excellent national columnist when you can barely write three paragraphs without making smart baseball people want to euthanize themselves.

In 2008, the year after Bonds left, the Giants went 72-90. That was one game better than the 71-91 mark the team had posted in Bonds’ last season. For most, that is a completely negligible difference. For Gene, it is “enough to realize that Bonds' forced departure was like an emergency tracheotomy on the franchise's windpipe”.

Another sign you are an excellent national columnist?

Compare a baseball-playing jerk’s retirement to an emergency surgical procedure often performed on people with tumors. No over-dramatization there. Let’s move along.

Lincecum isn't saying that Bonds' exit is partly why the Giants are world champions today; I am.

Boom! That right there is an excellent example of how a national columnist shows he has huge balls of steel while simultaneously telling his readers he knows more about baseball than a guy who plays the sport for a living and even played on the same team as Barry Bonds. Gene clearly brought his A-game.

But he is saying team chemistry matters in ways that can't be quantified from reading a box score. After all, it's hard to win games when you're dragging around a cinder block or two of Bonds-related drama.

Let me summarize Lincecum’s long and rather cliché quote for those who don’t want to read the actual column. “When I first got here, the veterans, led by Barry Bonds, were real dicks. Now the younger guys have been able to open up more. You know, burn down a few doobies, talk about how gross it was when that fat chick can squished bread under her toes on Tosh.O.”

Okay, so I made the last sentence up. But Lincecum isn’t talking about how team chemistry helped them win games. He is just talking about how the locker room isn’t filled with as many assholes. Also I am pretty sure no one else had to drag Bonds’ drama around. I imagine Barry had to do a lot of the dragging himself.

Bonds hit lots of home runs (thank you, flaxseed oil!), but nobody ever voted him teammate of the year.

This is a terrific example of Gene realizing that Bonds was actually super good at baseball, then turning it around on him because Bonds didn’t run around the locker room high-fiving people.

Yes, Bonds hit a lot of home runs, likely while using steroids. But from 2001, he also led the league in on-base percentage every season he played in, never hit less than .270, and never OPS’d less than .999. He won four consecutive MVP awards from 2001 to 2004 and was also worth at least 10 wins more than a replacement level player during that time as well.

In fact, some might say that, even though he was using steroids, there has never been a player in the history of the game who had a better offensive season than Bonds’ had in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Even after injuries and old age slowed him down, he was still reached base nearly half the times he was at-bat and had an OPS+ of 174, 156, and 169 respectively.

Of course, as Nike once taught us, “Chicks (and Gene Wojciechowski) dig the long ball”. Other advanced and telling metrics don’t mean shit because hearing that Barry Bonds had an OBP of .480 in his final season of baseball doesn’t make Gene’s dick hard.

He represented the Giants' old guard -- and the old guard won just 71 games and finished last in the NL West in Bonds' final season in the majors.

Gene would have us believe that the reason the Giants only won 71 games is because Barry Bonds and the rest of the “old guard” were soul-sucking, fun-hating, teammate-beating, assholes.

Proven statistics and calculations would have you believe that the 2007 Giants were among the shittiest of shit teams in all of baseball.

Only one player (Randy Winn) other than Bonds had OPS+ above the league average. Bonds was the only player with an OPS higher than .800. No one in their starting lineup was younger than 32. Their best two starters were Barry Zito and Noah Lowry. Their closer was Brad fucking Hennessey.

I could go on but I think the point has been made. GM Brian Sabean constructed an incredibly shitty team in 2007. Then, as Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez got more experience, and Sabean slowly phased out his oldest and shittiest players in exchange for younger and better plays, the Giants got better.

Hey I got an idea for a column!

A season ago, they won the division on the final day to squeeze into the playoffs, and then overpowered the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies and eventually the Texas Rangers. They did it with power pitching, timely hitting…

Woah! I wasn’t expecting that. I knew that pitching and timely hitting were what helped the Giants win it all, but I thought Gene would talk about how Barry’s evil aura was gone so the Giants could be cool and carefree ag-..

…and a cool, carefree clubhouse vibe that never would have been possible in the Barry era

Fuck.

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We need to have an editorial pause here as I explain what Gene is about to do now. After at least circumstantially discussing actual baseball factoids in the first half of his Bonds’ takedown, Gene decided that wasn’t enough hard evidence.

So Gene decided to take a casual stroll through the Giants’ spring training locker room, spending more than an hour playing “I-Spy”, or as it is more commonly referred to, “National columnist makes first trip to locker room in years and proceeds to wildly overreact and read too far into shit that probably happens in every baseball clubhouse everywhere.”

Let's dive right in.

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Postseason hero Cody Ross happily tell a reporter that he can't walk down a San Francisco block without being recognized. "And that's a good thing,'' the Giants outfielder said.”That's what you want. That's what you dream of as a kid.'' Just then, a teammate walked by and, without breaking stride, began singing, in a surprisingly decent Steven Tyler imitation, "Dream on … Dream on …''

It should also be noted that Gene is so fucking serious about breaking down the reasons Barry Bonds is an asshole that he is using bullet points now.

Here is Gene witnessing ultimate nice guy, Cody Ross, turning into a self-absorbed asshole by reveling in the attention he has received since becoming a star.

Oh I almost forgot! Gene also witnessed an unknown teammate who can walk and sing “surprisingly decent” at the same time.

Can’t you just imagine Gene thinking back to 2007 when Cody Ross wasn’t even on the Giants and the only one allowed to sing Aerosmith and not break stride at the same time was Barry Bonds.

Veteran outfielder Pat Burrell work almost the entire room, cracking wise with a dozen teammates as he collected money in an old bank pouch.

This is an example of citizen journalism trumping national columnizing. Everybody from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay to San Francisco knows that Pat Burrell is a renowned asshole. Girls in Philadelphia and San Francisco all have stories about one of their friends leaving to have sex with Pat “The Bat” and learning that his idea of foreplay is standing in front of a mirror, stark naked, practicing his batting stance.

Gene either willfully ignored all of these stories, or he is completely oblivious to the internet and has never read any of the thousands of sordid stories about Pat Burrell and his sexual escapades.

Just google "Pat Burrell sex" and you get this. These types of stories are EVERYWHERE. But I appreciate Gene's desire to see things for himself...and then make immediate value judgments that lead to retarded theories about why the Giants won the World Series.

Essentially what Gene saw is a douchebag player making jokes with teammates while collecting money for some unknown prostitute gangbang or Roman orgy.

Reliever Brian Wilson, who showed up at the first day of camp in a cop car, search the entire clubhouse for a blank USA Today crossword puzzle.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the point in the column where Gene realizes he has written a shitty column, but also knows he can’t backtrack and start all over, so he just starts pointing shit out he sees, like Brick in Anchorman.

Most important fact in this bullet point: USA Today is not a popular newspaper in baseball locker rooms.

Second most important fact in this bullet point: Barry Bonds fucking hates crossword puzzles.

Younger and older players squeezed around a table playing cards and dominoes.

Nothing says "Repeat Champs" to Gene quite like a friendly game. I have never visited a professional locker room or been on any team-chartered flight in any sport, so I may be wrong. But I am confident in saying that cards and dominoes are played by pretty much every professional athlete in every sport.

There is a lot of downtime and travel with professional sports, so people play cards. The game is also played by regular kids, regular adults and criminals. In fact criminals might spend more hours playing those games in prison than athletes do.

But you know who hates cards and dominoes? Barry Bonds.

I can’t wait for the next Michael Lewis book about how a national columnist becomes a baseball GM and is fired three years later when his strategy of having team practices replaced by long games of RISK failed to pan out.

Bonds' godfather, Willie Mays, a frequent visitor, hanging out in the clubhouse

Each time I read one of these bullets I thought there was no way he could get any dumber. But then he typed this sentence, and thought it was a salient point.

You know who else visits the Giants’ clubhouse to chat with players and even hang out with Willie Mays? Fucking Barry Bonds!

You know who visited the locker room as recently as last year's playoffs? Fucking Barry Bonds!

Let’s skip Gene’s next sappy story about Aubrey Huff and his budding bromance with a reporter and just skip down some because I am getting bored.

Fun is partly why the Giants won their first World Series since 1954. And fun is partly why they could repeat.

It can be argued that the Giants won their first World Series in a long time because their pitching staff logged 44 innings against the Rangers and only allowed 12 earned runs. It could also be because Edgar Renteria had seven hits in 17 at-bats. It is decidedly NOT because the Giants were having more fun than the Rangers.

There is more stupidity. But I am at work and it’s not worth over-analyzing. Go fuck yourself Wojciechowski.