Rooting for Detroit, and Against My Husband
Published on October 14, 2011 by guest author: Ann Williamson

I love the Detroit Tigers.

My husband loves the Texas Rangers.

It’s been a difficult week in our little apartment in Topeka. We are both used to cheering for the other’s team, but this week, because of a twist of fate, we have actively cheered against each other.

One of us takes the cheering much more seriously than the other. I’ve learned through the years that yelling at the TV and pounding around the living room doesn’t really do any good. My husband, the sports professional, still thinks they can hear you through the glass. It’s not like I don’t cheer, but old age has taught me that I can’t control the outcome of the game from my couch in Kansas.

I do still flip my Tigers cap inside out and backwards when it’s time to rally, and because I was wearing a Ronald Reagan t-shirt last Thursday night when they beat the Yankees, I wore the same shirt this Thursday when the Tigers were on the brink of elimination again. Hey, it’s worked twice, so I washed it this morning to be ready for Saturday.

I’ve been in love with the Tigers since the 1984 World Series, when the Boys played the San Diego Padres and won. My mom is an Ohio native and grew up about an hour away in Toledo. She was the one who told me my fate of being a Tigers fan. There wasn’t another choice in our family.


NFL Picks, Week 6
Published on October 13, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 6 NFL picks.

Click here to see them.

Red Sox Blather
Published on October 12, 2011 by Sara Foss

So the Boston Globe came out with a grisly post-mortem of the Red Sox collapse today.

We learn many things about this team, such as: Starting pitchers John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester drank beer, ate fried chicken and played video games in the clubhouse on days they weren't pitching, and gained a lot of weight during the season. Which isn't really what you want from your starting pitchers, you know?

We also learn that Terry Francona was dealing with problems in his personal life throughout the season, and that questions were raised about his use of painkillers, and whether it was interfering with his ability to manage.

We also learn that Sox veterans such as Jason Varitek and David Ortiz failed miserably as leaders, and that Sox players whined so much about a scheduling change that they were invited to party on John Henry's yacht.

The article is filled with dirt, and it seems pretty clear that numerous people with axes to grind and blame to shift spoke with reporter Bob Hohler. Nevertheless, the article confirms what pretty much every Sox fan suspected was true as the season progressed: This Sox team was an unlikable, entitled mess, a far cry from the beloved idiots who won the World Series in 2004, or the resilient and talented bunch that won it all in 2007.

After reading the article, I decided it was time for Josh Beckett to come down from the Wall of Awesomeness. He's been there since 2007, but that was four years ago, and his photograph no longer deserves to occupy the same space as Prince, George Clooney, Bill Belichik and Indiana Jones. JLet's face it: Josh Beckett just isn't awesome anymore, and he hasn't been awesome for a long time. My colleagues seemed a little taken aback when I tossed his picture in the trash, but whatever. I've had enough.

The one person I'll defend is Terry Francona. I'm not saying he's a perfect guy, and that he didn't make mistakes. But the information in the article seems like part of a larger smear campaign, an attempt to discredit Francona after he suggested management didn't always have his back. Some have argued that the article represents ownership's attempt to blame the players for the collapse, and divert blame from the front office, but why shouldn't we blame the players? There's plenty of blame to go around, but I'm perfectly fine with blaming the players for at least 70 percent of the collapse, if not more.

Now we learn that Theo is going to the Cubs. I'm not particularly sad about this. I like Theo, but maybe the organization could use a change. I'm not of the mindset that there's only one person on earth with the talent and smarts to serve as general manager of the Boston Red Sox, and I'm fairly confident that the Red Sox will hire well. Right now, the leading candidate for the job appears to be fellow Lebanon High School alum Ben Cherington, which makes me proud. And I wish him luck cleaning up the mess Theo's leaving behind, because he's going to need to need it.


Championing Obscurity: Becoming A Brewers Fan
Published on October 12, 2011 by guest author: Tatiana Zarnowski

Talk about a high-pressure situation.

The Milwaukee Brewers are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship series. It's a make-or-break moment. I'm sure the Brewers are tense, and so am I. I'm nervous because last year at this time, I was barely conscious of the series, and now "my" team is one of the last four standing.

Right? I think what I just wrote is correct, but maybe I should have someone read it over, just in case.

I didn't ask to be a Brewers fan. I would have been happy to be left out of the discussion during baseball season. But my workplace is baseball crazed, and at the beginning of the season a Yankees fan co-worker asked me which team I favored.

"I don't really follow baseball," I confessed with a shrug. I figured that was the end of the conversation.

It wasn't.


Want To Own an NFL Team?
Published on October 11, 2011 by Sara Foss

I'm a Patriots fan, but I can see the appeal of owning a piece of the Green Bay Packers, the league's only publicly owned team.

This week, the team announced a stock sale; each share would likely cost $200 and include full voting rights. The sale will help fund $130 million in renovations at Lambeau Field, and it's refreshing to say a team raise money by offering people ownership rights, rather than threatening to move out of town unless taxpayers foot the bill for a rich person's vanity project.

According to the AP:

"The stock sale would be the fifth in Packers’ history. There are currently 112,205 shareholders who own a total of 4.75 million shares.

Just as businesses have to enter a quiet period before going public, the Packers say they can’t reveal much until regulatory issues are resolved.

'We intend to keep our fans informed of further developments to the greatest extent possible,' said Jason Wied, the team’s vice president of administration/general counsel.

If the team gets final approval, the stock sale could begin within weeks. Christmas shoppers take note, though: Shares of stock can’t be resold, and transfer of shares is generally limited to immediate relatives and heirs.

Nathan Bitzer, 36, is already a shareholder, but he plans to buy a share or two for his daughters, ages 3 and 4. The St. Paul, Minn., resident said being a part-owner is a fun privilege even if the share has no resale value.

'I put `NFL owner’ in my Facebook profile,' he said. 'It’s a pretty unique thing, even though I acknowledge it’s pretty useless. I mean, it’s not like I’m chumming with (Dallas Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones or (Minnesota Vikings owner) Zygi Wilf.'"

The Packers have been a publicly owned nonprofit corporation since 1923. The team held its first stock sale that year, followed by sales in 1935 and 1950 that helped keep the franchise afloat while other small-markets teams were going under."

Al Davis Was a Complicated Person
Published on October 10, 2011 by Sara Foss

One of the things I enjoy most when a person dies is the inevitable whitewashing of all their bad behavior. From reading the tributes to Steve Jobs, you'd think he was Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Jesus all rolled into one. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed reading about his enthusiasm for LSD so much. (Gizmodo has more on why Jobs wasn't perfect.)

The death of Al Davis, the extremely flawed owner of the Oakland Raiders, has inspired the sorts of tributes you expect when someone dies. But I enjoyed these tributes. In his later years (i.e., when I started paying attention to NFL football), Davis was a laughingstock and disgrace, a petty tyrant whose poor management had basically run his team into the ground. So it was nice to learn about Davis' generous side, his rule-breaking side, his willingness to take on his fellow NFL owners, and promote women and minorities. Nevertheless, I appreciated this Slate/Deadspin piece, because it has the temerity to ask if one of the things that made Davis successful was his "assholery."


NFL Picks, Week 5
Published on October 6, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer my week 5 NFL picks.

Here's an excerpt:

Philadelphia Eagles at BUFFALO BILLS — The Eagles are desperate, but the Bills are coming off a loss, and they’re really pretty good. I never thought I’d say it, but right now I have more faith in Ryan Fitzgerald than Michael Vick.

CINCINNATI BENGALS at Jacksonville Jaguars — The Bengals are not good, not by any stretch of the imagination. But the Jaguars are horrific, and I predict Cincinnati will shock the world by posting a winning record after Sunday’s game.

TENNESSEE TITANS at Pittsburgh Steelers — It’s probably foolish to bet against the Steelers at home, but I’m going to do it. I don’t like the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger is playing lousy and the team just isn’t quite right. The Titans look pretty good, though. And Matt Hasselbeck is kind of cool.

Kansas City Chiefs at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS — The Chiefs are coming off a win — quite possibly their only win of the season. But they’re a terrible team, and this is a golden opportunity for the Colts to pick up their first victory. They’ve put a scare into much better teams, and I expect they’ll stomp all over Kansas City.

Philip's Bike Commute
Published on October 6, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the Albany Business Review, my friend Philip Schwartz blogs about bike commuting. This week, he asks whether the bike commuting season is over.

Here's an excerpt:

"My spring-to-autumn bike commuting season has almost come full circle. Still, there’s plenty of ride time left.

Early- and late-season rides have a lot in common, mainly mornings that are darker and colder, whether it’s April or September. Once we change the clocks—daylight savings ends Nov. 6 this year—my bike commuting season comes to a close. As evenings grow dark around 5 p.m., my rides home are a bit unnerving (and who am I kidding, the cold isn’t that fun either).

But this still leaves more than a month and a chance to squeeze out another 400 commuting miles—miles that won’t be put on my car."

Tom Brady's Hair
Published on October 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

I like Wesley Morris as a film critic, but I have no idea why he decided writing about Tom Brady's hair for Grantland was a good idea.

Nevertheless, I'm posting a link to his piece because, well, because it's about Tom Brady.

NFL Picks, Week 4
Published on September 30, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 4 NFL picks.

Here's an excerpt:

"BUFFALO BILLS at Cincinnati Bengals — Is it time to believe in the Bills? Sure, why not. Of course, this could be a classic let-down game, in which the Bills falter after conquering the mighty Patriots. But I don’t think they will. They are playing the Bengals, after all.

Carolina Panthers at CHICAGO BEARS — Umm, no. I do not see Cam Newton leading his team to an upset victory over Chicago. Stranger things have happened, but my sense is that the Bears will destroy the Panthers.

TENNESSEE TITANS at Cleveland Browns — The Titans are playing a little better than I expected, while the Browns are playing a little worse.

DETROIT LIONS at Dallas Cowboys — Gutsy wins aside, the Dallas Cowboys are just not very good. But the Detroit Lions are. Why stop picking them now?

Minnesota Vikings at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — This might be the blahest game of the week. For woeful Kansas City, it’s an opportunity to beat another team. For the Vikings, it’s another chance to demonstrate profound terribleness."

Red Sox Gak
Published on September 29, 2011 by Sara Foss

Today at work someone asked me I remembered the Red Sox collapse of 1978.

"Not really," I said. "I was three-years-old."

Then my colleague asked me if I expected the Red Sox to make the playoffs.

"No," I said. "But what do you think?"

"I don't think they'll make it," he said.

We shook our heads sadly, and moved on.

I didn't have a lot of hope for the Red Sox, but that didn't make the end any less devastating. Or abrupt.

Most Red Sox fans, myself included, basically gave up on this team sometime in the middle of August. They weren''t really all that likable, though they had likable components, and if I wasn't a Red Sox fan, I'd probably be celebrating their totally deserved and completely appropriate demise. When I spoke to my dad tonight, he informed me that my mother was through with the Red Sox, and that his friend Dana refused to watch them again this season. Forget the national media, and the storyline about Red Sox fans being besides themselves with grief. This isn't 2004, when we were all glued to our screens when the Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees. We loved that team. This team is another matter. For some reason, we can barely stand them.


Malcolm Gladwell on the Economics of the NBA
Published on September 27, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at Grantland, Malcolm Gladwell takes on NBA commissioner David Stern and his claim that the NBA is about to fall to economic ruin.

Among other things, Gladwell argues that owning an NBA franchise is not a business, because teams are more like luxury goods, and that the economics of basketball teams are not actually about basketball.

Here's an excerpt:

"Earlier this year, NBA commissioner David Stern was interviewed by Bloomberg News. Stern was expounding on his favorite theme — that the business of basketball was in economic peril and that the players needed to take a pay cut — when he was asked about the New Jersey Nets. Ratner had just sold the franchise to a wealthy Russian businessman after arranging to move the team to Brooklyn. 'Is it a contradiction to say that the current model does not work,' Stern was asked, 'and yet franchises are being bought for huge sums by billionaires like Mikhail Prokhorov?'

'Stop there,' Stern replied. '… the previous ownership lost several hundred million dollars on that transaction.'

This is the argument that Stern has made again and again since the labor negotiations began. On Halloween, he and the owners will dress up like Oliver Twist and parade up and down Park Avenue, caps in hand, while their limousines idle discreetly on a side street. And at this point, even players seem like they believe him. If and when the lockout ends, they will almost certainly agree to take a smaller share of league revenues."


NFL Picks, Week 3
Published on September 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer my week 3 NFL picks.

Here's an excerpt:

"NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at Buffalo Bills — The Bills are a nice little story, but are they really going to beat the Patriots? We’ll learn a lot about both teams in this game, which could be pretty interesting. How good are the Bills? How will the Patriots respond to a feisty team with a smart quarterback?

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS at Cincinnati Bengals — This should be a close game. The Bengals have been surprisingly competitive so far this season, as have the 49ers. I'm going with the team that looks a little better on paper.

Miami Dolphins at CLEVELAND BROWNS — Sorry, Dolphins fans. It is going to be a long season.

Denver Broncos at TENNESSEE TITANS — Last week I suggested that Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck was done. Well, maybe I was wrong — he did pretty well against the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Broncos are a mess."

Click here for the rest of the picks.

And click here for The Awl's hilarious haiku picks.

The Red Sox Unravel
Published on September 21, 2011 by Sara Foss

Just checked the score, and the Orioles have taken a 6-4 lead. Why does this not surprise me? The Red Sox have dominated the Orioles in recent years, and now they're struggling to beat them in a must-win series. Anyway, I know I'm harping on the Red Sox, but I offer my thoughts on the state of the team (hint: It's not good) today over at the DG.

Philip's Bike Commute
Published on September 20, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the Albany Business Review, my friend Philip has been blogging about bike commuting. In his most recent post, he profiles local bike commuter Tony Filette, who commutes to work an estimated 70 percent of the time.

Here's an excerpt:

"For 48-year-old Filette, the numbers say it all. He has been bike commuting from his home in Delmar to Colonie for 20-plus years. In the last three years, he has put more than 34,000 miles on the bike.

I’ve probably put 34,000 miles on my car in that same period.

I have people like Filette in mind when I say I’m no die-hard cyclist. Everyone I talk to seems impressed when I tell them that I’ve logged 2,000-plus miles this season. Filette does that in two months."

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