Monday, April 30, 2007

A Golden (State) opportunity, or worldwide crisis?

Smash the glass, and pull down on the handle.

Sound the alarms and set off the sprinklers. Dallas is officially in the middle of a crisis situation. The league's best team (which I must now qualify as the league's best regular season team) is down 1-3 to the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

This is no longer a "fun series between two competitve teams." This series could shake the foundation of our society. No 1-seed has ever lost to an 8-seed in a seven-game playoff series in the NBA. If Golden State wins, the Internet will crash and computers will fail. All the cages at the zoo will open, allowing for a stampede through the streets of America's major cities. Pure water sources will face contamination. Tidal waves will surge inland, washing away any traces of society, leaving only the plains of the Midwest. Locusts will swarm. The sun will set only never to rise again. Remember what they thought Y2K might do? This would be worse. Much, much worse. If Golden State defeats the 67-win Dallas Mavericks, all civilization as we know it will simply cease to exist.

At least, maybe in Dallas.

The Warriors passed out T-shirts to their fans before Game 3 at Oracle Arena in Oakland with one simple message: WE BELIEVE. Now, basketball fans nationwide are starting to understand what they mean. Why wouldn't they believe? They're up 3-1 with two no-pressure games to close out the series. Even if the Mavs win Game 5 in Dallas, what in Games 3 and 4 make you think they can deal with that crowd up in the Bay Area?

I got into an argument of sorts (commenting back and forth on a post) discussing the Dallas fans and their loyalty when a fellow blogger, whom I always make sure to read, called out the Mavericks for turning in such a lousy playoff performance for their fans. But perhaps decades of apathetic crowds and leaving the arena early to beat traffic in Big D have caused the winds of karma to shift. She will smite the Mighty Mavs to punish their fans who only now that they are on top have flocked to the AAC for each game.

Dallas is in trouble. Dirk is M.I.A. (and I don't think it's a coincidence that MIA is also the code for the team that won four consecutive games in last year's finals to take the title from a Dallas team that was 6:30 away from a 3-0 series lead).

For Dallas, its options are clear:
  • Copy the heroics of the Phoenix Suns come-from-behind series win over the Lakers last season; or...
  • Become one of the more laughable statistics in NBA postseason history.

Choose wisely, Mavericks. The fate of the world rests in your hands.

1st round wrap up: Magic disappear

Do you believe in the Magic?

Neither did I, and with good reason.

No Joshin' pick: Pistons in 4
Series result: Pistons in 4

Detroit is not a big fish in the small pond that is the Eastern Conference. They are the armed guard watching over juvenile hall. Simply put: they're in charge. After dismantling an on-the-rise Magic squad, the Pistons have an opportunity to get some rest before what should be one of the best series of the second round: Detroit vs. Chicago. It's not Isiah and MJ, but the Wallace vs. Wallace match up will match the hype.

1st round wrap up: Bulls cool off Heat

I may have been a little off in my prediction for the Chicago Bulls/Miami Heat series.

No Joshin' pick: Heat in 7
Series result: Bulls in 4

Yeah, I was way off. Clearly Dwyane Wade's health was a factor. I thought he could have been saving himself for the postseason down the stretch, but in actuality, he was simply trying to fight through the pain while riding whatever momentum carried over from last season's championship run. Miami at times displayed flashes of greatness that made everyone remember why they hoisted the trophy last June, but those days are quickly becoming a distant memory in South Beach.

The Heat are clearly too old and this season too banged up to hang with the younger, faster "Baby Bulls" of the Second City. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are special players that can carry Chi-town deep in the playoffs. Their series with the Pistons will be a classic second-round battle that will remind everyone of last year's conference semis between Dallas and San Antonio.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

NCAA MVB Final Four Preview

The NCAA Men's Volleyball Final Four selections are in, so now it's out to Columbus, Ohio for the championships next weekend. IPFW, Penn State, UC Irvine and Pepperdine will have a chance to take home the title.

Don't worry, I won't take this time to rant about why the MPSF deserves a third spot in the final four. I'm just making my picks and going over the match ups.

Semifinal #1
(1) Pepperdine vs. (4) Indiana Purdue - Ft. Wayne
Thursday, May 3 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Pepperdine went more than three months without a loss. I wonder if Head Coach Marv Dunphy even remembers what it's like to lose. He got a harsh reminder of it in the MPSF championship game when UCI downed the Waves in a five-game thriller. Pepperdine still picked up the top seed, as they should. They'll face the MIVA champion IPFW Mastadons, who beat Final Four host Ohio State convincingly in the the conference final (30-22, 30-27, 30-26).

Mastadons setter Colin Lundeen ran an efficient offense to win the MIVA, as the team hit .344 against the Buckeyes. IPFW has kep the pressure on their opponents all season long, outhitting their opposition .306 to .197 on the season. To keep all opponents to such a low hitting percentage tells me two things: 1. They have an aggressive offense that keeps their opponents off-balance; and 2. They don't play any quality opponents in the MIVA. Call it west-coast bias if you want, but I'd still be suiting up and taking the court if I had gone to an MIVA school instead of USC.

IPFW took care of most of their opponents (14 of 22) in 3-game sweeps this season. Watching their match versus Ohio State last night, the Buckeyes couldn't seem to phase them. C.J. Macias gets the majority of the sets for this offense, and he's averaged 4.68 kpg on the season. Josh Stewart is a threat to block a few balls (1.52 bpg).

The Mastadons have Final Four experience - they faced eventual-champion UCLA in the semis last year - as they prepare for their 10th Final Four this season. This is a complete team that has dominated their opponents all season long, and I'm giving them absolutely no chance whatsoever to win this match. I don't think they can win one game versus Pepperdine. They'll be lucky to break the 20-point barrier in all three games.

Pepperdine is the Queen Mary and IPFW is the S.S. Minnow.

Outside hitter Paul Carroll will bring the thunder from down under to Columbus. He's averaging 5.57 kpg, and is the first option for setter Jonathan Winder (1147 assists this year). Winder has plenty of options though, as Greg Gaudino (2.09 kpg), J.D. Schleppenbach (2.74 kpg) and Jon Grobe (2.41 kpg) all have had big games this season. In the middle, big man Tom Hulse is often confused with an eclipse; he's capable of blocking the sun.

The undertow will grab hold of the Mastadons and pull them out to sea, allowing Dunphy and Co. to advance to the finals.

No Joshin' pick: Pepperdine d. IPFW, 3-0

Semifinal #2
(2) UC Irvine vs. (3) Penn State
Thursday, May 3 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

The Anteaters started the season 9-0 before being derailed by Pepperdine on their home court in a sweep, launching the Waves' 23-match win streak. They're a complete team. They don't have any gaps in their line up. Jayson Jablonsky can mash the Molten from anywhere on the court, and libero Brent Asuka just doesn't let the ball drop. Add in a healthy dose of Matt Webber and the efficient hitting of Aaron Harrell (.439 hitting %).

On the season, the Anteaters as a team hit .352 while holding opponents to .224. That's a big gap. Their block isn't as impressive as Pepperdine, but they can scrap for every single point. That scrappiness is why you can never count them out of a match, especially after coming back from the dead to defeat Pepperdine for the MPSF championship in Malibu this weekend.
I need to disclose a bias before I get into the other side of the net. Penn State outside hitter Alex Gutor and I played high school volleyball together and is a good friend of mine. His Nittany Lions have made the final four every year he's been there, and this - his senior year - is his last shot at a national title. We were the only two on our high school team to ever play DI volleyball, and I didn't last beyond a year and a half. I would love to see him bring home an NCAA title, and from a fan's perspective, that's the team I'm rooting for this Final Four.
Penn State is a difficult team to rate because they don't play any ranked opponents hardly ever. At least IPFW faced Ohio State in their conference final. The Nittany Lions dominated unranked Saint Francis (30-28, 30-16, 30-27) for their 19th EIVA championship.

PSU faced UCI back in March, when the Lions left Happy Valley for the OC. Both teams played very well, but Irvine pulled it out in four games. I was surprised by how much Penn State owned the blocking battle (17.0 to 10.0). Irvine's home court may have been a factor, but State didn't seem phased when they beat UC Santa Barbara at Santa Barbara just two days before.

Matt Anderson (4.37 kpg) and Alex Gutor (4.08 kpg) get the majority of the sets from Luke Murray. When it comes to blocking, the Lions take it to the Max. Twice. Max Holt and Max Lipsitz are averaging 1.17 and 1.04 bpg, respectively. However, the Lions only outhit their weak schedule .334 to .244 on the season. I would have thought they'd be able to have a more dominant offense while quenching the opposing attack a little better.

I want to pick Penn State to win this match. I really do. I want Gutor to get that championship. And I think this will be a much closer game than the one played in Irvine earlier this spring. But after Irvine knocked off Pepperdine in Malibu after trailing 0-2, the same team that ended their own nine-game win streak to start the season, I can't go against the Anteaters. Sorry, Alex, but four Final Fours is still pretty impressive. I'm proud of you, man.

No Joshin' pick: UC Irvine d. Penn State, 3-2

NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship
(1) Pepperdine vs. (2) UC Irvine
Saturday, May 5 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

This rematch of the MPSF championship match should draw some ratings for ESPN. This will be a closely contested match, just like yesterday's. Irvine has had a fantastic season. Four of their five loses on the season all occured against top tier teams in the toughest places to win (two to Pepperdine, one at UCLA, one at BYU). The fifth loss came at home to Pacific.

But Pepperdine will have revenge on their mind. If they are capable of getting up 2-0 on Irvine, they are capable of finishing the job without having to go to a fifth game. Marv Dunphy is a proven winner as a coach, and he'll bring home a sixth title to Malibu, and the Waves second in three years.

No Joshin' pick: Pepperdine d. UC Irvine, 3-1.

(See list of NCAA Men's Volleyball Champions)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Defense addressed

Dallas traded their 2nd round pick from Cleveland as well as their 3rd and 5th rounders for Philadelphia's 26th overall pick, and as a result drafted Anthony Spencer, a DE out of Purdue.

I like this pick because that's exactly what Dallas needs, defensive depth. Plus, it's always nice to see the division-rival Eagles go without a first-round selection.

(my thoughts on the Cowboys trading their #1 pick to Cleveland...)

'Boys trade 22

When Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry, the city of Dallas watched in disbelief. When he traded away the team's best player (Herschel Walker), no one quite knew what he was doing. When he decided to build a new Cowboys Stadium, it was clear why:

He needs a new trophy room after collecting more hardware by being a risk-taking general manager.

The Cowboys traded their 22nd pick in this draft to Cleveland for the 36th pick (2nd round) and the Browns' first round pick in 2008. In the words of Borat: Very Nice!

Jones' club has needs, but they can wait 14 spots. Last season the team that calls Texas Stadium home became known as the allas Cowboys. They had no D. I think they need a compliment player opposite of the very talented DeMarcus Ware, or get the next career-Cowboys safety to line up next to Roy Williams (after all, they still haven't replaced Darren Woodson).

But this move by Jerry will help the Cowboys continue to grow. The Browns should supply Dallas with an top-10 pick in 2008. And the risk-taking GM will once again be building his team to make another championship run.

How 'Bout Them Cowboys...

...and How 'Bout That Owner, too!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lakers-Suns series thoughts

Kobe opened up his beach bag, grabbed the bottle of SPF 45 [Phoenix] Suns block, and passed it around the Lakers lockerroom. This night, the Lakers avoided getting burned.

Bryant's 45 points led Los Angeles to a Game 3 win, 95-89, and back into their first round playoff series against Phoenix. More importantly, the rest of his teammates made a strong case for keeping the "s" at the end of "Los Angeles Lakers."

The police scanner buzzed with a Kwame Brown sighting - the first of his postseason career - as the former No. 1 overall pick dropped 19 points on Phoenix. He helped neutralize Suns big man Amare Stoudemire (24 points) while staying out of foul trouble (only one personal foul). Lamar Odom's double-double (18 points, 16 rebs) came when his teammates desperately needed it. His six offensive rebounds (as many as the entire Suns team) gave his teammates extra opportunities to block out the Suns.

In LA, it starts and ends with Kobe. He's taking the last shot when it counts. He should. But finally the cavalry arrived in stunning fashion. The Suns looked somewhat baffled, having to defend more than one Laker. Kobe didn't have to force shots. He just passed, and his teammates decided not to pass on quality shots.

The Suns are still a hot team. They've struggle on the road in the postseaon, but they clearly have the talent to beat LA at the Staples Center. Whether the Lakers remember to put on their sunblock again Sunday afternoon will be key.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hey, Beer Man!

John Daly's Maxfli golfball commercial is a beautiful drive off the tee on a long par 4. It's straight down the fairway. The wind keeps it away from the water on the right and the sand to the left. A nice roll brings it up over the fringe of the green and stops 16 feet from the cup. It's perfect. When you get to the green, you mark your ball and wait for the other guy to catch up.

Eventually, you put your ball back down. One putt later, this commercial is good for an eagle. -2. Very well-played.

Then an official comes over and says that you've incurred a two-stroke penalty for wearing an ugly shirt. The shirt is hideous, and the PGA Tour is embarrassed you're out there representing them in it. The only problem, this yahoo delivering the news of your penalty is dressed in a green and pink colored plad shirt with a white and biege checkered flap cap. You can't believe this guy is the authority! The greatness of that eagled hole is now nothing more than a "what could have been."

It's that absurd.


CBS has decided they will not air Daly's new commercial, according to an article in USA Today, because according to network spokeswoman LeslieAnne Wade, it violates network guidelines prohibiting ads "with direct, or implied, excessive consumption of alcohol," especially when the ad also "involves hazardous activity."

The real problem that CBS has is that Daly is shown in the video driving around in a golf cart, beer in hand.

This ad has apparently been airing on the Golf channel, but CBS apparently now has the moral authority to decide what gets on TV and what does not. The problem here is that the ad features Daly, who's not been shy about sharing his troubles with alcohol. Now that he's throwing a party on the golf course, CBS decided "Oh. Oh no. We certainly cannot have this. Inappropriate."

Perhaps CBS is worried that John Daly will have a wardrobe malfunction. Maybe someone from CBS Radio called the TV boys and told them Daly may start referring to the girls who drive the snack carts as "nappy-headed hoes," so the execs waited a week to see if this would affect the bottom line before pulling the commercial. Oh maybe, just maybe, it's because they have a grudge against Daly for supplying Dan Rather with a bogus report about George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.

Ah, now it all makes sense.

The real problem is that Daly is doing nothing differently than so many others worldwide who play golf every single weekend. They sell alcohol at the course. Beers and the little bottles of Jack Daniels and Crown Royal are all available from the cute girl on the snack cart. When someone finishes a round of golf, they go to the 19th hole for a drink.

And whether you drink or not, if you've played golf, you've seen people drink while out on the course. Does that really worry you? Are they going to get so smashed that they run you over with their golf cart? Are they going to let their three wood slip out of their grip from the tee box, and the club will sail through the air and hit you in the head?

Everyone is so worried about offending someone that as a society we can't have fun anymore. That's not right.

Now maybe the problem really was the fact that Daly is seen jumping on the back of a golf cart in the ad. Now that's not cool. My daddy specifically told me NOT to do that. Only golf bags go in the back of the cart. It's an aggregious violation of course rules. (rolling my eyes)

I don't see any good golf commercials on TV, and I do watch golf every now and then. Sure Tiger Woods has a few great commercials, but he has so many endorsements that they're all starting to run together. Daly's ad is a breathe of fresh air - well, okay perhaps this breath wouldn't pass a breathalizer, but CBS still shouldn't be banning it.

In the spot, Daly sings, "Go long or go home." CBS is opting for the latter. As for Daly, I can only imagine what he's feeling after seeing his ad pulled. I feel sorry for him. I wish there was some way I could cheer him up. Hmm.


NBA 1st round thoughts

Dallas Mavericks vs. Golden State Warriors
Series tied 1-1
No Joshin' prediction: Mavericks in 5

Perhaps Pam Oliver was wrong. Maybe Don Nelson isn't God.

Then again, maybe God is doing to Baron Davis what he did to the Pharoh in Egypt: hardening his heart. Davis received two technical fouls after jawing with the refs during Game 2 in the Mavs-Warriors series. He only had 13 points as the Mavs evened the series, 1-1. There were questionable calls going both ways, but this game came down to Dallas playing their style of basketball.

Erick Dampier started for Dallas, and the big men of Big D saw significantly more court time than in the disastrous Game 1.

The Warriors match up great with Dallas - at least they match up a lot better than any other middle-of-the-road team. But the Mavs look like they've regained their composure, and Golden State is losing theirs. The number of technicals don't lie. At times during Game 2, these teams seemed as if they were on the edge of going Miami-FIU.

The bad blood may boil over, but that's only because Dallas is getting hot. (And that's not just a homer pick). However it will be very interesting to see how Dallas handles the atmosphere at Oracle Arena this weekend. Oakland hasn't seen playoff basketball in almost a decade and a half. Think Black Hole but for basketball. Oakland sports fans scare me, but as long as they don't get in the head of the Mavs, the top seed will continue their winning ways.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets
Series tied 1-1
No Joshin' prediction: Spurs in 6

Uh oh. The sleeping giant of the post season woke up. San Antonio reluctantly let go of their walkers. They stiff-leggedly hobbled onto the court. They weazed and ached. Pants up to their armpits. Their grandkids sat courtside. But once the ref tossed the ball up in the air, the Spurs dropped 50 years ... and the Nuggets.

Denver had an eight-man rotation that included just seven points off the bench. But Denver didn't have any man that could match up with Manu. Ginobili came off the bench for 17 points (30 points off the bench for San Antone).

Duncan's team-high 22 points weren't nearly as impressive as his game-high five blocks. That's where the momentum came into play. Duncan's D reasserted the Spurs as the wiley playoff veterans they are. A.I and Melo can still take another game, but don't count on more than that.

Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
Bulls lead series 2-0
No Joshin' prediction: Heat in 7

I know, I know. The Heat are beating outplayed by a younger, faster Chicago team. The Bulls are up 2-0, and Miami has no chance. By the way, I've heard this story before. I heard it *ugh* last June in the NBA Finals.

If the Heat do in fact drop Game 3, it's over. And Tuesday's Game 2 turned into a Chicago route reminiscent of the season-opener in Miami.

Still, it's Shaq and Dwyane Wade in the playoffs. Riley is the coach. This is like picking against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Until I see them beaten, I have to go with them.

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Laker (no "s" necessary)
Suns lead series 2-0
No Joshin' prediction: Suns in 5

Phoenix proved too tough for Kobe Bryant, but when the league's leading scorer nets only 15 points, LA doesn't have a shot. Nor do they have a viable second option. That's why the Suns blew out the Lakers in Game 2.

It occurred to me that if one guy on the Lakers is going to take all the shots, the least the other four could do is box out and grab a rebound. Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom combined for 22 boards, but apparently it wasn't enough.

I liked what I saw from Kobe in Game 1, but I didn't see any of that git up in the Lakers on Tuesday. Bryant may still steal a game for them, but for the hopeful fans of the Southland, Game 2 should answer all your questions about just how good this Lakers team is: not very.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Unfair for Telfair?

After (soon-to-be former) Celtics guard Sebastian Telfair got arrested on a gun possesion charge, the franchise is trying to cut the cord faster than networks and Don Imus. The police stopped the 21 year old at 3:53 a.m. while he sped down a 45 mph road doing 77. When the cops came up to the car, they saw the gun sticking out from under the front passenger seat. Oh by the way, his driver's lisence is suspended.


Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck wrote the following in an email to the Boston Globe:
"I wanted to let you know that we have removed Sebastian's nameplate from his locker in Waltham. The facts and circumstances of his case have not been determined but he does not have a Celtics locker and we do not anticipate that he will."

That's a huge statement the organization is making. They know that all the facts aren't in, but they still decided to give him the boot. The Celtics are setting a new precedent for not only their franchise and the NBA, but professional sports organizations and leagues nationwide.

They've decided they want a locker room without any trouble-makers, and I happen to like this move. It's a dangerous precedent, essentially saying they are assuming a player's guilt until proven innocent. Then again, nothing good ever happens at 3:53 a.m. with a gun under the front seat!

In the wake of the NFL's season-long suspension on Adam 'Pacman' Jones, other leagues are clearly taking notice. After all, the NFL is the most-successful, most-watched sport in the country. Why wouldn't other's follow their lead? So that's what the Celtics are doing. They want to distance themselves from the type of people who will hurt the image of their league and their franchise.

To Telfair's credit, police say he didn't act out when they questioned him. That may be the only silver-lining for this young guard. Association commish David Stern is quoted by ESPN saying:

"Our players do have an obligation to conduct themselves in a way that demonstrates the appropriate respect for the game. It's fair to say that if the charges were to be true it wouldn't make me too proud to have someone I know speeding without a license and with a gun in the trunk, but I don't know what the ultimate decision will be, however."

Telfair has a past history with firearm troubles (he brought a gun on a team plane in 2005), which may play into the Celtics' decision to get rid of him. They're making an example out of him; that's clear. But wait til the next time a player gets arrested at nearly 4 a.m. while driving with a suspended lisence and gun in the car. It'll be interesting to see if franchises continue to steer clear of trouble-makers, or ignore the problems like in years past.

If Telfair was a bigger NBA star, he might still have a nameplate on a locker. Instead, he's heading to the waiver wire.

Hope he leaves his gun behind.

Tori uncorked

Twins outfielder Tori Hunter was feeling bubbly when he sent the Kansas City Royals four bottles of Dom Perignon last fall. The blue bottom-feeders of the AL Central swept the Detroit Tigers, allowing Hunter's Twins to win the division. The only problem is the gift - even though it was nothing more than a joke from the playful all-star - violated Major League Baseball's tampering rules, calling for a minimum three-year suspension.

This problem went unnoticed, and the champagne went unopened. Heck, the Royals had no reason to open the champagne. Lucky Tori. Had the KC Super Stars popped those corks, thus accepting the gifts, the Twins would be Hunting for a new outfielder. Minnesota asked the Royals to return the Dom, clearing Hunter of any wrongdoing.

This whole thing seemed to blow without any actual repercussions. Essentially this story is one giant "whoa, that coulda been bad!" but the thing I find most funny is the fact that the Royals went eight months without opening the champagne. I guess I'm not surprised though. They haven't had a reason to open champagne since the 1980s.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dimming Stars

The Dallas Stars 2007 postseason is over, and despite the great play of Marty Turco in the three Dallas wins, the overall roster is declining.

Sure the Stars have a lot of younger talent that is really hitting their stride. But the core of this team that has helped maintain their string of postseason appearances isn't getting any younger. Mike Modano, Surgei Zubov and Stu Barnes are all going to turn 37 this year. Jere Lehtinen, Eric Lindros, Darryl Sydor and Phillippe Boucher are all in their mid-30s.

Modano, the team's long-time captain, lost his C to Brenden Morrow, the team's new leader. It's a sign of changing times in Dallas. And another abbreviated postseason means the decline continues.

When the Stars arrived in North Texas in 1993, they began an impressive playoff run that the city became accustomed to. In the 15 seasons since the North Stars dropped their compass and because the Dallas Stars, the franchise has been to the post season 11 times. However the last three playoffs Dallas has been to (2004, 2006 and 2007) have all ended without a trip to the second round. At least coach Dave Tippett was able to guide the Stars to more than one postseason win this time around. That was more thanks to a hot goaltender, though.

Marty Turco, who turns 32 this August, saved the Stars series when he saved every shot in games two, five and six. His three shutouts in one series tied a postseason record. Hey, you know what, that's awesome. Good for him. However all this means is his critics will say, "okay, now can he win a series?"

Yes, Turco played well enough for Dallas to advance, but the fact is Vancouver is moving on. So that's great that he played well enough. Tracy McGrady has played well enough his previous postseason appearances for his teams to advance, but that NBA superstar has never been out of the first round (true that might change this year with the Rockets up 2-0 over the Jazz).

After speaking to my friend Vegas Dave about this subject last night, he said that Dallas is not even close to contending for the Stanley Cup. Obviously. But the point is not that they aren't close, nor is the point that they aren't close anymore. The problem is - with a few exceptions - they are going in the wrong direction.

This playoff season can be chalked up as a win for Marty Turco if you really want. Personally, I'd like to see a goalie advance before we declare his postseason successful. I know that's unfair with how well he played, but as the goalie it's his job to be better than his counterpart in the opposite crease. And Vancouver's Roberto Luongo shut down Dallas when he had to.

It's a stretch to say that this playoff series is positive for the younger talent on the Stars to get them experience. The only problem is there is no younger talent. The team is ready for it's collective AARP card. Modano doesn't need more playoff experience. Neither do Zubov or Sydor. Dallas would never have been the 1999 Stanley Cup champion without each of these guys and several other great playmakers of the day. And the Stars won't be Stanley Cup champions again until a new guard of Stars begins to shine.

Don't misinterpret this to mean I want the veterans run out of town. I don't. They are all fan favorites, and they're the reason people go to games. Mike Modano and the other's who were on that 1999 team are the face of the Dallas Stars. But it's time for them to take more reduced roles to allow any younger talent to develop. At this least way these veterans who know what it takes to win it all can mentor the new generate of Stars who'll have a shot at Lord Stanley's Cup.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Dwarf Basketball

This is sports-related I suppose. As many of your know, my former roommate Brad is now on the Mind of Mencia show on Comedy Central. This clip is from one of their episodes this season.

I definitely encourage anyone looking for a laugh to tune in to Mind of Mencia Sundays at 10pm.

Take me out to the (beach-)ball game

As I sat in the left field pavilion at Dodgers Stadium this weekend, I found myself enamoured with the ball game going on. Hearing the roar of the crowd. Experiencing the thrill of keeping the opponent powerless. Watching the ball take several awkward bounces, or seeing the wind carry it over the wall at the least opportune time.

And all this happened while the Dodgers were in the middle of their game.

When fans in the stadium break out the beach balls, spectators get to not only watch a major-league match up, but play in one of the more exciting games of keep-away since preschool.

I don't know how I feel about the security of Dodgers Stadium. Despite pat-downs and bag checks, they can't stop these contrabans from entering the gates. Hundreds of beach ball are smuggled into the gates each week. Perhaps the fan next to you is carrying one in. You'd never know.

For anyone who's never been to a game at Chavez Ravine, allow me to paint you a picture of what may appear like simply batting around a beach ball, but is in fact much much more. Fans cry out for other fans to hit the beach ball to them. Just one swing at this air-filled ball of joy can complete any child's (or adult's) visit to the ballpark. However, it's not a simple free-for-all of beach ball madness.

Ushers in the aisles are reduced to substitute-teacher authority figures. They get no respect and can only hope to keep the appearance of a controlled environment, all the while knowing they are powerless to ground the fleet of flying beach balls. Each time the ball is batted over the head or out of the reach of a desperately-grasping usher, a crescendo of cheers graces the bleachers. Allow an usher to capture the ball, and you'll be booed by your fellow Dodgers fans.

Getting the ball confiscated, however, is of little consequence to these diehard fans of bleacher beach ball. Out of the masses pops up yet another sphere of entertainment, and the game begins anew. Fans in the rest of the stadium pay little attention to this highly competative game unless a reckless beachballer commits the game's cardinal sin:

Allowing the ball to fly over the wall and onto the field.

Only Barry Bonds gets booed louder than the fan who either hits or fails to prevent the beach ball from falling onto the grass. Now an on-field usher must run an NFL-combine-worthy time in the 40-yard dash to retrieve the ball.

Fans sitting along either baseline and behind home plate now look down their noses at the irresponsible outfield fans who inappropriately and unnecessarily interrupted a perfectly good baseball game. It's beach ball interferance. Thus the necessity of the booing. If you allow the ball onto the field, you've not only lost a beach ball, but now you're making the rest of the fans in your section look bad.

The actual baseball game isn't even necessary. Thanks to this new participation sport, fans now have an opportunity to get involved at the game at Dodgers Stadium. So root, root, root for the Dodgers. If they don't win, it's a shame. But lose the beach ball out onto the field, and as far as your fellow fans are concerned, you're a cretan.

So next time you go out to a Dodgers game, feel free to bring your glove. Don't forget your pencil to keep score. And bring a beach ball tucked in your pocket. After all, when the jerk next to you slaps the ball right to the usher, you can keep the party going.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to see replays of it.

And either you know what I'm talking about or you just don't, but I don't feel like even acknowledging it. This is one of the most shocking and upsetting occurances I've witnessed in a while. This is USC-UCLA football from this fall. This is Edmonton Oilers run to the finals last season. I know how Yankee fans feel after seeing today's four consecutive Red Sox home runs. It's unbelieveable and disgusting all at the same time.

The taste in my mouth is pure vineager. This smells of rotten eggs. It's nails on a chalkboard, and I can't stop from cringing.

From a game play standpoint, my criticism is in line with Charles Barkley. Why did the Mavericks change things up to match up with Golden State. Dallas is the top seed. The Warriors should have to play to the Mavs tempo, not the other way around. Instead the Mavs went small-ball, and Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop became nothing more than glorified shadows. They were ghosts. Hell, they were outcasts tonight.

Now the best team in basketball faces an uphill battle to return to the NBA Finals, hell, to the second round.

Thanks to an unconcious performance by Baron Davis, the Warriors are leading this series. And Dallas is left wondering "what the #%$&!" As a Mavericks fan, so am I. I don't know what happened tonight. I don't want to continue thinking about what happened tonight. I just want to get some sleep tonight and wait for Wednesday's rematch.

K-O-B-E spells MVP

It's halftime of Game 1 of the Lakers-Suns series, and I had to boot up the laptop to issue the following statement:

Kobe Bryant is the single most clutch player in the NBA - and perhaps in any sport - since Michael Jeffrey Jordan. His three-pointer to end the first half while double-teamed is showing basketball fans across the country that the Lakers don't need to play a complete game to win. As long as #24 is on, the Lake-show is fine.

I know I picked the Suns in five games, and even if Kobe lifts Los Angeles over Phoenix in this game, that pick is still alive. I just don't feel confident in that pick anymore. These teams went to Game 7 last season - after the Lakers blew a 3-1 lead.

I still think the Suns win this series. They are clearly the better team. But there's no doubt who the best player on the court is at all times. For the Suns, their game plan is simple: keep scoring and hope Kobe gets lost on the way to the arena.

Now walk it off

Never in my life had I witnessed a walk-off home run. Sure I'd seen countless replays on SportsCenter of the ball blasting off the bat, soring into the night sky, and falling into a crowd of fans. The hitter rounds the bases, perhaps pumps his fist a la Kirk Gibson, and struts down the 3rd base line where he is promptly mobbed by his teammates after touching home plate.

How cool would it be to see it happen live?

Last night I got that chance. I went to Dodgers Stadium for their game versus the Pittsburg Pirates, and now I have to go back. Now I'm hooked. If there was any chance of me not spending as much time as possible at the ballpark this summer, those chances sailed out to left field along with any hopes Pittsburg had of winning the game on Russell Martin's walk-off grand slam.

As a student, now I must ask myself: study for finals? Nah, I'd rather see the final at bat.

I still can't get over the sheer greatness of the walk off grand slam. As a kid, you wear 'No Fear' t-shirts that describe this sort of situation. But no one actually does it!

I sat next to Ashley at the game, and she even mentioned A-Rod's walk off grand slam from a few days ago, saying how great it would be if something like that happened for the Dodgers. Yeah, that'd be great. It'd also be great if I could find a job for after graduation. It'd be great if the Mavericks would have held onto their 13-point lead with 6:30 left in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last year. It'd be great if Tony Romo had held onto the ball.

So, sure Ashley, it'd be great if someone hit a walk off grand slam tonight, but let's just settle for what we all know is coming. A 10th-inning one-out sacrafice fly that allows the runner on third to score.

The pitch.

The swing.


Every one of the 48,995 in attendance knew it was gone immediately. Pandemonium broke out in the left field pavilion where we were sitting. Music blared over the loud speaker. Martin rounded the bases on his first career grand slam, and the Dodgers captured a 10th-inning win, 7-3. You were right, Ashley. It would be great. And it was.

Now it'd be great if I could focus on anything else.

Spectacular Sports-Saturday

I never realized just how much I love April. From a sports standpoint, it's got to be one of the best times of the year. I know there's no NFL games on, and that's what's keeping April from being the best month of the year.

Here's a rundown of the all the games I watched in whole or in part Saturday:

That's a LOT of sports. And it's damn near every sport. Now here's the kicker: during commercials I was able to flip over to NFL Network and get updates about next weekend's NFL Draft. The only way to beat a day like the one I had yesterday is if you have DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket - and even then, you're still missing a lot of other great games that could be on because those sports are out of season.

I'm not a TiVo owner, so I don't have the flexibility to start watching something late and fast-forward through the commercials. But I don't recall having to sit through very many - if any - commercials yesterday. When the hockey games on NBC hit intermission, I flipped over to ABC or ESPN for basketball. When a timeout was called in the basketball games, I went to FOX for Yankees/Red Sox. Bringing in a new pitcher? I'll check out a pitching wedge on CBS. Who needs a TiVo? I just need April.

As a sports fan, I always assumed October was the best time of the year. The MLB is in the postseason. The NFL is hitting its stride. Basketball and hockey are about to start up. But even without NFL football games being played (don't worry, Arena Football is a great substitute), April is a great time for sports.

It's time to sit back, relax and enjoy because today I expect more of the same.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

New look, same blog

Hey yall,

I decided to switch up a few things here at No Joshin' to keep it fresh. I've scrapped the old template for one that's a little more me. Let me know what you think of the new look.


NBA Playoffs Preview

It's playoff time, baby!

16 teams being their quest for a world championship. The rest get ready to play ping pong and scout top draft picks. But would you rather have a #1 overall pick or be the #1 overall team?

Exactly. So instead of a draft preview, I'm taking a look at each first round playoff series.

Western Conference
(1) Dallas Mavericks vs. (8) Golden State Warriors
A lot of people are really enjoying this whole storyline of Don Nelson - the architect of this Mavericks team - now leading the Warriors against the best team in the Association. The only player on the current Mavericks squad that Nellie really got a good chance to coach is Dirk. The bigger story is the student-vs.-teacher coaching match up of Nellie and Avery Johnson. Nellie allowed Johnson to coach several games before finally stepping down and turning the team over to him.

From a match up standpoint, Dallas is clearly a better team. I know they lost the season series to the Warriors, but that was the regular season. In the playoffs, Dallas will be on a mission to get back to the finals and complete the championship run they let slip through their grasp last June. The Warriors may surprise the Mavericks by even winning a game at the American Airlines Center, but don't let that fool you. This series is all Dallas.

No Joshin' around, my pick: MAVERICKS in 5

(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers

A rematch of last year's first round match up. The Lakers had a 3-1 lead, but the Suns stormed back and made a run all the way to the Western Conference finals. Too bad the Lakers aren't equiped to enact any sort of revenge. This is the ultimate one-on-five series. Kobe has little help around him for the postseason. Who on this Lakers roster has demonstrated an ability to step up in the clutch other than No. 24?

Now perhaps that's because Kobe would rather take a triple-teamed buzzer-beater than pass off to Smush Parker (and, by the way, that's the correct decision by Bryant), but there isn't anyone else capable of draining the do-or-die shot. Kobe may have a few 50-point games in this series, but 50 points isn't enough to be a Suns team that averaged a league-high 110.2 points per game.
No Joshin' around, my pick: SUNS in 5

(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Denver Nuggets
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and the wisdom of Gregg Popovich. Do I even need to explain my rational with this series?

Okay, Nuggets fans, let me clarify something for you. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are great players. They are phenominal players. They are each capable of being the centerpiece of the team. And that's the problem. Who's taking the final shot when the game is on the line? When Iverson was traded from Philadelphia, I thought it was a great move for Denver. They have a great deal of talent, but that talent - other than Iverson - doesn't know how to win in the postseason. In Denver wants a chance to win, Melo should differ to A.I. as much as possible. I know this is an older Iverson than the one who led the Sixers to the NBA Finals in 2001, but he's still capable of dropping 40 in any postseason game.

The Spurs are going to be tough to be, though. Too tough. Forget the Alamo. They are remembering Ginobili's Game 7 foul on Dirk last year that sent Dallas to the Conference Finals. The Spurs are not a team that loses in the first round, and certainly not to Denver.

No Joshin' around, my pick: SPURS in 6

(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets
Thank goodness for Houston they finally have home court advantage in the first round. (They finished one game better than the Jazz to secure a home series.) The Rockets haven't advanced in the playoffs since the Charles Barkley days I believe. Yikes! Tracy McGrady has never been out of the first round. And it always seems that Yao and T-Mac play better when the other is injured (which is pretty often).

Utah has a big edge in the coaching match up. Jerry Sloan versus Jeff Van Gundy? Not even close. Sloan has been winning since T-Mac was in diapers. But home court will finally pay off for the Rockets, who went 28-13 in Houston. This may be ther first winnable series they actually win in a long time.

No Joshin' around, my pick: ROCKETS in 6

Eastern Conference
(1) Detroit Pistons vs. (8) Orlando Magic
Detroit is far and away the best team in the JV conference. Their 91.8 points allowed are the best of any team in the East. Orlando's Dwight Howard will get to showcase his talent on a national stage, but much like Kobe vs. the Suns, he won't be able to do any significant damage. The Pistons are a complete team, and the Magic won't have a healty Darko.

To sum up just how much trouble Orlando is in: they are going to be missing Darko. This is the same guy who sat the bench while Detroit cruised past the Lakers to win it all a few years ago.

No Joshin' around, my pick: PISTONS in 4

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Washington Wizards
This series may have been a great second-round series had Gilbert Arenas not gotten hurt. The Wiz certainly wouldn't be a 7-seed. Instead Washington is in a freefall. They don't have Arenas or Caron Butler - their two best players - and Cleveland has some guy you may have heard of named LeBron James.

This series will give James an opportunity to learn to make big-time postseason shots. We saw this year in the regular season he doesn't have the killer instinct of guys like Arenas or Kobe Byrant, but a series against a weak opponent may help him figure out how to be that buzzer-beating sniper.

Thanks to these injuries, fans are being deprived of a great series. And the Wizards are being deprived of any chance to move on.

No Joshin' around, my pick: CAVS in 4

(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) New Jersey Nets
This series will be one of the closest in the first round. A vetern Nets team led by Jason Kidd and Vince Carter will have to contain the younger and more explosive Raptors. Toronto's combination of Chris Bosh and TJ Ford are going to be tough to stop. Some argue that the Raptors' youth could come back to bite them, but in the first round of the playoffs, experience isn't as important as energy.

The Nets can get out in transition, and Richard Jefferson is always a threat to have a big game when opponents get too focused on Carter and Kidd. Toronto has home court, and that's important because this series is going to Game 7.

No Joshin' around, my pick: RAPTORS in 7

(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
The Bulls were a preseason favorite out of the East. That didn't seem to work out. They will have home court in this series thanks to a better regular season record than Miami. The home court won't matter as much, however. Miami is capable of splitting the first two games in the Windy City, and they are more-than capable of winning at home (see 2006 NBA Finals).

Once again, the focus will be on Shaq against Ben Wallace, who Chicago acquired specifically for the playoffs to stop the Diesel. Only problem is that Shaq has been unstoppable. Since the Heat were left for dead when Dwyane Wade got hurt, Shaq took over. He put this team on his back and led them from out of the playoffs all the way to the fourth seed.

In the Bulls pick up the pace and force Miami to run, the older Heat team is in trouble. And I've never been a big Antoine Walker fan at all, however if he does get hot it could be an unavoidable dagger to the Bulls. Walker will be a bigger factor in this series than people think. He will take a great number of shots, and his shooting percentage will help decide this series. If he's off, Wade will have to make the concious decision of passing to a well-guarded Shaq or even James Posey instead of a wide-open black-hole shooter like Walker.

The Bulls have a lot of talent, but I can't pick against Shaq in the playoffs. Not after all he did in the second half of this regular season.

No Joshin' around, my pick: HEAT in 7

Friday, April 20, 2007

Feel bad for A-Rod

Feel bad for Alex Rodriguez.

I can understand why you wouldn't want to. He makes $25 million a year. He's a Yankee. Perhaps you just live in Boston.

After watching A-Rod blast his 11th and 12th homeruns of the season (and of April), I can't help but feel for the guy. He's perhaps the best player of this generation. He's got two walk-off dingers on the season. But you just watch what happens to this guy when we flip a few more pages on the calendar.

As April becomes May, June and July, and slowly as August and September settle in, New York Yankees fans won't care about his 12 homeruns or 30 RBI this month (and tonight's game versus the Red Sox isn't even over, so I may have to update these numbers). Fans will care if the Yankees are heading back to the World Series.

While I hate how A-Rod was never able to lead the Texas Rangers into the postseason, I don't blame him for that. His record contract locked up too much money for Tom Hicks to go out and get anyone to pitch (except of course for Chan Ho Park). I believe he gave all he had in Texas. Heck, he won the AL MVP in 2003, and the Rangers were last in a weak AL West. However since he got to New York, he's faced nothing but the harshest of scrutiny.

I hope for his sake the fans in the Bronx don't complete forget just how much A-Rod is doing for them now. Sure it's early in the season, and guys can fade with a 162-game schedule, but sadly if he fades so will any chance of Yankees fans embracing him.

If he can blast a homer in late September to help secure the AL's best record, or if he can drive in the winning run in the ALCS this fall, then fans in New York might finally let up on him.

Instead all Alex Rodriguez is doing is setting an impossible standard for himself to live up to. Eventually things will even out, and he'll go into a slump at some point this season. He's currently on pace to hit 129-130 HRs, which would almost double the single-season record. No, he won't do that, and it's still too early to even mention 73.

When he does cool off, and he will at some point, pay close attention to the noise made at Yankee Stadium when he steps into the batters box. Are they booing or are they cheering? Knowing the fans of the New York Yankees, I think there may be a collective short-term memory lapse in the Bronx. These fans will turn on him once again as soon as the run production slows down.

He can hit all the April homeruns he wants, but until he has a big postseason, he still won't compare to the man 30 feet to his left.

A win for Dallas at the Cotton Bowl

As the wheels of progress continue to spin, some things get left behind. CD players. Toaster-ovens. A&W Root Beer.

For a while it appeare the Red River Shootout at Fair Park would join the list of victims to progress. After all, the Cotton Bowl won't even be at the Cotton Bowl when the decade is over. So when Dallas Mayor Laura Miller helped secure the most important game ever to grace the second weekend of October through 2015, it was a huge win not just for Big D, but for nostalgia.

The Longhorns and Sooners will continue their annual Texas two-step in Dallas. (Dallas Morning News) (

photo courtesy of

With the new Cowboys stadium set to open in the fall of 2009, many Dallasites feared the once-proud gem of Fair Park would be left behind for a newer, flashier facility. But much like a faithful husband who resists the temptation to cheat, the game has not decided to run out on those who have been there for it all these years.

Yes, fans from Austin and Norman would still flock to Arlington for the biggest rivalry game in the southwest and perhaps the nation. And I doubt either school would really have too much of a problem with a home-and-home series.

But this game has been played in Dallas since 1929. I-35 would be lonely. No wave of burnt orange crusading north into Dallas. No rush of Sooner Schooners on southbound I-35. No more *gasp* corn dogs! It's not worth having the State Fair without the Red River Shootout.

Everyone who's grown up in or around Dallas knows just how crazy things get when this game comes to town. Which Dallasite doesn't have their favorite Texas-OU weekend story? (Mine is undoubtedly when my friend Andrew and I sold some OU fans two tickets in the heart of the Texas endzone while stuck in traffic on Central Expressway.)

To take this game away would be to take away the last bastion of football hope the city of Dallas has left. Its lost the Cowboys to Arlington. Its lost the Cotton Bowl to Arlington. Lose the Red River Shootout, and you can take the city's liquor lisence with it. Instead of all these fears realized, Dallas managed to stave off the wheels of progress - albeit for now - and keep the fall classic.

Whether you sing The Eyes of Texas or scream Boomer Sooner, you've got to appreciate one thing: tradition is alive in Fair Park.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

NBA: Nothing But Anticipation

It's been a long 11 months. Finally, the NBA season is starting once again.

For Dallasites and Mavs fans nation-wide, the regular season has been fun to watch but nothing more. Hooray, the Mavs won the regular season. Awesome. If winning the regular season counted, the San Diego Chargers would be Super Bowl champs (and I think we all know just how likely that is).

For teams like Golden State and - well - the entire Eastern Conference, the regular season means a new opportunity. Yes the Warriors are in the playoffs, ending their postseason drought, but for the regulars (Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix) the last 82 games have been nothing more than a means to an end.

These teams all knew they'd be in the playoffs at the top of the Western Conference (and really at the top of the league), so they just had to put up with an 82-game schedule.

Now the fun begins. The NBA playoffs begin Saturday. At that time, every question about this regular season will be answered (including "Where's Joey Crawford?"; A: at home!). Every fan across the league who asked "how much does a December win over a team like Phoenix mean?" will see if their club can duplicate the same success.

So while other team's fans are now turning their attention to the city's respective baseball team (once again, the Eastern Conference), I plan to stock up on Dr Pepper as well as chips and guacamole. I'm ready to watch. I'm ready for the postseason. And nothing short of tickets to a game will get me off my couch.

On that note, if you know someone who has tickets to Games 3 & 4 of the Mavs/Warriors first round series in Oakland, please let me know. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No, YOU'RE outta here

Apparently David Stern has Tim Duncan's back.

After referee Joey Crawford hit Tim Duncan with two technical fouls - the second for laughing at calls while Duncan was on the bench - and ejected him from Sunday's game vs. Dallas, Stern took similar actions against Crawford.

He tossed him.

The NBA has now suspended Crawford indefinitely, and he will not be working the playoffs this year. Good. He doesn't deserve to work the post-season if he truly asked Duncan, "Do you want to fight?" With so many players having over-inflated egos on the court, there certainly isn't room for an official to get a big head.

I thought the second T was stupid, but the NBA's response makes up for it. If Crawford did in fact ref in the playoffs, there would be no way he could ref in the Western Conference. He has clearly demonstrated some harsh feelings toward Duncan, one of the classier (or at least one of the better behaved) players in the Association.

Crawford needs to sit at home and watch the NBA playoffs over the next two months. In doing so, he should take a look at all the refs who don't try to pick fights with players. I know it's tough for a ref to take so much heat and not respond back, but that's their job. And because Crawford couldn't do his job the right way, he won't be allowed to do it at all.

Now I know why Tim Duncan was laughing. A referee being ejected; now that's funny.

Monday, April 16, 2007

MPSF VB: More Playoff Spots For (a conference that's) Vastly Better

The Moutain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball playoffs kick off this week when USC travels to Cal State Northridge. Over the next two weeks, the nation's power conference of men's collegiate volleyball will battle for two spots in the NCAA Final Four tournament in Ohio. The two other spots in the Final Four will go to the winners of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association and the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. Sounds far, right?

Not even close.

The four best teams never make it to the Final Four in men's volleyball. Not ever. Never. Each year the winners of the MPSF, EIVA and MIVA get an automatic bid with one at-large team added in the mix. That one wild card is always the next best team in the MPSF (okay, technically the rules say it's to go to the next best team in the nation, but that team will still be found in the MPSF). It's the strongest conference in any sport in the entire country. Since men's volleyball became an NCAA sport in 1970, 37 national champions have been crowned; all but two came from the MPSF or its predecessor conferences.

(See results from 1970-2006 NCAA men's volleyball championships)

To give half of the Final Four to teams that have NO chance at a national championship is a disservice to the sport of volleyball. The NCAA should revise the format for qualifying for a shot at a national title in order to secure the most competitive match ups, not to make everyone happy.

The MPSF should have an opportunity for three teams to make the Final Four. The winner of the conference tournament will get the automatic bid. The MPSF tournament runner-up should be strongly considered for the second bid, and the best regular season team not to make the conference finals could earn the third berth.

The fourth spot in the national championship tournament would go to the winner of a play-in match between the champions of the EIVA and MIVA. These teams may never be labeled "wild cards" in the Final Four, but anyone who follows volleyball knows it's a great upset when the winner of one of these conferences advances past an MPSF team into the championship game.

A championship tournament play-in match between the winners of the EIVA and MIVA frees up space for another great volleyball program to compete for a national title.

This season Pepperdine is virtually guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament (they haven't lost since January). The "at-large bid" - which code for "second-best MPSF team" - will go to either BYU or UC Irvine, unless an MPSF bottom-feeder wins the conference tournament. If that's the case, one stellar program will be forced to watch the championships at home while two lesser-deserving programs play a farce of a match against a top west-coast program.

(Penn State, the best team in the EIVA went undefeated in their conference this season, but lost seven of eight non-conference matches, most to west-coast programs)

It's up to the NCAA. Do they want competitive volleyball, or do they want everyone to be happy? By trying to make everyone happy, they are in actuality ruffling the feathers of west coast volleyball.

What's so funny?

If I told you Tim Duncan got thrown out of a game by collecting two technical fouls, you may think he did something outrageous. And wouldn't he have to? The mild-mannered former MVP is a polar opposite to the typical loud-mouth NBA superstar. In fact the Spurs are often criticized as a boring team because they don't have a flashy star. Instead Duncan is consistent and workmanlike while guiding San Antonio to yet another successful season.

So when referree Joey Crawford T-ed up Duncan for laughing - his second technical of the afternoon - late in the Mavs-Spurs game, I was shocked. Duncan wasn't even on the court at the time. He sat on the bench when Crawford issued T2.

Sure I didn't mind seeing the Spurs without their best player (hey, I've got a home town to root for, here!), but I just didn't see what had happened. Did I miss something? It looked like he was just snickering at a call, and Crawford throws him out? What the heck?

I know refs have been more strict on limiting back-talk and arguments from players, but the drama of too-many-techs seemed to die down after the winter. Duncan was ejected for picking up two techincals for only the second time in his nine-year career. That should tell you something.

This is a guy who did nothing more than laugh at the call. And he wasn't even on the court!

On paper this game had little meaning. The Mavs have already clinched home court throughout the playoffs, and the Spurs were a long-shot to catch the Suns for the second seed in the Western Conference (Phoenix plays Houston then hosts the Clippers to end their season). The Spurs still had an outside chance, however, to move up from that 3-seed. Throwing out Duncan is a horrible way to strip San Antonio of that opportunity.

When these two teams meet up, be it November or late May, it's important. It's the biggest rivalry in Texas in all of professional sports (granted there isn't much else since the Oilers left for Tennessee). I don't want to see Dallas against a tossed-Tim. I was Dirk vs. Duncan in the battle for the Lone Star State.

Crawford needs to learn to swallow his whistle. It's not just Duncan who's laughing at him; I agree with the big man. Crawford is a joke.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Making the call one last time

It's not a major sport in this country outside of any beaches, but I've always been a big volleyball guy. I started playing when I was 12. I did used to be on the team at USC. Ever since I got cut, I've kept close ties with the program as their broadcaster.

Over the last three years I've been calling games for USC men's volleyball, I always tried to make sure I kept as much bias out of the broadcast as possible. Granted these broadcasts streamed online at, so it shouldn't come as a great shock to anyone listening that there would be some slant toward USC. But I never felt like a part of the team. I wasn't part of the team.

Somehow that feeling changed last night during my final regular season broadcast for USC men's volleyball.

'SC took on Northridge in a battle to host the MPSF Tournament Play-In match. USC had to win 3-0 or have a favorable point differential in a 3-1 victory to host the first match of the post season. I along with color commentator Brooke Bentley detailed not only the playoff picture but also a look at the seniors who were playing their final game in front of the Trojan fans. While going over the accomplishments of the team's seniors, I couldn't help but think about this being my own "senior night" as the team's broadcaster.

Calling these volleyball matches has been the one thing I've truly enjoyed at USC. I don't get paid for it. I don't care that I don't get paid for it. I love the game, and I respect this program. The hardest part of broadcasting for 'SC men's volleyball over the last three year was the fact that once the regular season ended, that was it. The postseason, heh, that wasn't happening. To give you an idea of how bad the team was in 2003 when I got to 'SC, I was on the team! That's a problem.

Last night, even though USC lost to CSUN in four games, assuring the play-in match will be held at the Matadome, the Trojans secured a post-season berth thanks to BYU defeating Pacific this weekend. At the end of a bittersweet night, USC's seniors were sent off in style: into the post season for their first and final time.

As for that tall guy on the sidelines wearing cowboy boots and a headset, well, I'll be at that match Wednesday. My mic will be on, my notes will be ready, and I'll clear my throat, crack my knuckles and hit the air waves one final time. I'll miss being the self-proclaimed "voice of volleyball" but getting to call just one postseason game for this team is reward enough for the last three years of work. The one thing that I've come to realize is that I may not be a part of the team, but I'm a part of USC volleyball, and I'm proud to say that.

USC plays Cal State Northride Wednesday, April 18 at the Matadome in Northridge. First serve is scheduled for 7pm. You can listen to the broadcast of the match streaming live online at

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus be crazy

The firing of Don Imus cannot be taken at face value. CBS fired the shock jock today, over a week after he first made his comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

Since that time, many people have been calling for his termination, but more importantly, advertisers and sponsors back-pedalled from Imus' show in the face of outside pressure. As a result, CBS had no choice but to get rid of him.

Had CBS really wanted to get rid of him because of what he said, they would have fired him a week ago. Instead they fired him today, after they realized they wouldn't be able to sell any commercial time.

Also I think firing Imus in the middle of his charity telethon represents either: a) just how serious CBS is taking the threat of advertisers pulling out; or b) a complete lack of judgment by CBS. If he had to be off the air as soon as possible, then they did what had to be done. If not, he should have been allowed to at least finish a fundraising event. At least give him a chance to go out on some form of a high note.

I don't condone what Imus said - I don't think anyone does - but I'm disgusted with how this situation has been handled. His termination is indirectly linked to his comments, but the true reason he is no longer on the air is money. Don't fault CBS on this one, though. This became a business decision, not a moral decision.

If this had anything to do with morals or ethics, Imus would not have been on the air this week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hockey shutout

Did you know the NHL post season began today?

I know hockey is still climbing back from when they hit rock bottom during the locked out 2004-2005 season, but the fact that I cannot find any playoff games on my TV isn't helping the situation.

Right now the Stars - my Dallas Stars - are playing the Vancouver Canucks on a channel known as Versus, which is apparently tougher to secure than NFL Network.

I don't pretend to be a big-time hockey fan. I'm a casual fan at best. I like the Stars, and I hate the Red Wings and Avs (who outside of Detroit and Colorado doesn't?). But that doesn't mean I wouldn't watch other teams in the post season. It's the playoffs. I want to see who makes it to the Stanley Cup Finals and how they got there.

Reading final scores online or seeing replays on SportsCenter doesn't cut it. If any of you hockey junkies know where I can get a quick fix for something on ice - whiskey works - please let me know.

Until then, I will aimlessly wander the dial looking for hockey while the rest of this apathetic-toward-hockey nation fails to realize this most exciting time of the NHL season is finally here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ghosts catch up with Pacman

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is in no way Casper. And there certainly was no room for him to be friendly in deciding the fate of Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones.

Jones will sit out the entire 2007 season as punishment for his off-field incidents. Bengals receiver Chris Henry is suspended for half the season as well.


In this case the other shoe didn't drop. It drop-kicked Jones to the curb. He needed to learn the consequences of his actions, and Goodell is making sure that lesson is taken to heart.

16 games. No pay.

For Jones, that's a reported $1,292,500.00. Henry is out over $200,000.00.

Make the argument all you want that these guys "can afford it" because they're making millions, but a year's salary is a year's salary. That's going to hurt anyone, especially guys who would most likely expect themselves to be rollin' in dough for the next few years. Perhaps Pacman can collect the $81,000 he was using to "make it rain" at a Las Vegas club to help offset his annual expenses.

This suspension is a blatant way for the commish to make an example out of two young stars. Perhaps they don't deserve the entirety of this punishment - which I believe they in fact do - but Goodell has effectively put his league on notice: CLEAN UP YOUR ACT or CLEAN OUT YOUR LOCKER.

For Jones to be interviewed 10 times by police demonstrates a pattern. Hypothetically, even if half of those incidents had nothing to do with him, that's still five times where he's been involved in some sort of police investigation. His actions in Las Vegas left a man paralyzed. He's lucky no one died.

His year-long suspension and Henry's eight-week suspension are a wake up call for the rest of league. They're both lucky to have an opportunity to be back in the league in the future.

Pacman better straighten up his act, or next time Goodell will send his a message straight from the arcade: GAME OVER.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Out to the ballgame

Play ball!

Baseball season is underway. Out here in the Southland, the Angels opened their season hosting my Texas Rangers. So, what the heck, I bought four tickets, invited some friends and went out to the ball game.

It's amazing how just one afternoon at the ball park can make you remember just how much fun the game of baseball truly is.

I've never been a huge baseball fan. Perhaps that's because my hometown Rangers have never been a huge team. But the game faded for me over the years. I stopped playing in middle school, and stopped watching during high school. Sure, I'll watch the playoffs, but that's just because I love sports, not because I love baseball.

Here I am in left field at Angels Stadium (upset at myself because I forgot my Texas flag to cheer on my home team - not the home team) as the teams take the field. It's an afternoon game with light crowd allowing my friends and me to put our feet up on the seats in front of us.

I sat there layin' back, eating peanuts and enjoying the afternoon. Sure the Angels beat down the Rangers, who started this season 0-3, but that didn't seem to matter. with 159 games left, nothing has been decided yet. Not even close.

That's the beauty of baseball. The relaxed environment. The ability to soak it all in and enjoy your time at the ballpark regardless of the outcome. It's just one out of 162, so there's no need to get frantic about it.

So kick back, relax and enjoy your summer. There's a lot of baseball left to be played and just as much time to enjoy it.

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