Archive for March, 2005

March 29th, 2005

Blogger Interruptus

Today was the first weekday I didn’t blog in a while — and it felt pretty good.

So, I’m going to be stepping away for a little bit, get a little perspective, and decide if there isn’t anything different I might want to try with Off Wing. Barring any unforseen circumstances, I’m taking the rest of the week off.

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for reading.

 
March 28th, 2005

The Perils Of World Cup Qualification

As if we didn’t need another reminder of just how difficult it remains to qualify for the World Cup, Team USA’s 2-1 loss to Mexico at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City should serve as a relevant marker.

Now, there isn’t any shame in losing an away match during World Cup qualification, and Azteca is notorious for being one of the toughest home pitches in the world — its combination of heat, altitude and 100,000 raucous fans present a daunting challenge to any visiting side. Further, the Americans managed to score a goal, something they hadn’t done in Mexico since 1984.

But the conditions on Sunday didn’t provide a convenient excuse. Mexico was just better on Sunday.

 
March 25th, 2005

NHL Files Labor Complaint Against Players Union

I know I said I’d stay away, but I had to post on this news:

The conflict between the NHL and the players’ association has reached a new level.

The league filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the union with the National Labor Relations Board earlier this week regarding the subject of replacement players.

Should no new collective bargaining agreement be reached between the sides, the NHL could choose to begin the 2005-06 season with replacement players. But according to reports, the union told its members any player electing to compete during the labor dispute would have to give back to the NHLPA all benefits the player had received during the current work stoppage.

Players are getting an estimated $10,000 per month from the union in the absence of the 2004-05 campaign.

Not that there was any doubt the league was planning on replacement players, but I guess this serves as confirmation. If I were one of the league’s higher paid players, I’d be working the phone with the fourth liners to keep them off the ice.

I think the union is going to crack.

 
March 25th, 2005

Happy Easter

That’s it for this week. I’m off to New York for the weekend to spend the Holiday with my family.

See you again on Monday.

 
March 25th, 2005

Disabling Trackbacks?

The spammer are back — but now they’re all into Trackback spam. It’s not nearly as onerous to deal with as the comment spam from last Fall, but it’s still annoying. And since I normally use Technorati pretty often anyway, I’m thinking of shutting things down — any ideas?

 
March 25th, 2005

Still No Answers On Victoria Snelgrove

It’s been better than five months since Victoria Snelgrove, a student at Boston’s Emerson College, died after being struck in the head by a pellet filled with pepper spray in the immediate aftermath of the Red Sox’s Game Seven victory over the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

Five months and counting and we still don’t have an autopsy.

Five months and counting and we still have no explanations.

Five months and counting, and all we’ve seen is two re-assignments in the Boston Police Department, a threat of a law suit from somebody caught in the crossfire, and some allegations about the accuracy of the weapon that fired the lethal shot that killed Snelgrove.

Why? Is somebody hoping the world isn’t paying attention?

For a look at Off Wing’s Snelgrove archive, click here.

 
March 25th, 2005

On The Air With Vin Scully

Here’s Eric Neel on Vin Scully:

I was at a game at Dodger Stadium in the early ’80s, I think, and it was souvenir-baseball-radio night. The first 10,000 fans or something got baseball-shaped transistor radios. And there we all were, holding the balls up to our ears, watching the game with our eyes, and listening to Vin describe it with his words. Every radio was on. The open-air stadium was like your living room, rich with his voice. And I remember thinking then that it’s Vin who unites us — culture, class, and race be damned. I’ve been at stop lights and in unfriendly bars, restaurants, gas stations, gyms, and liquor stores where Vin’s name — or the sound of his call on a radio — has been nothing less than a shibboleth.

The past several years, I’ve had the MLB Extra Innings PPV package, and each of those years I’ve made a point of staying up late to catch at least a few innings of the Dodgers from the West Coast. It’s worth it every time.

Thanks to Matt Welch for the link.

 
March 25th, 2005

Born To Blog

The NBA is letting Phoenix Suns benchwarmer Paul Shirley blog his way through the season. The results are pretty hilarious. Here’s his entry from early yesterday morning after a game with the Charlotte Bobcats:

We started off like a ball of fire, making up for our errant shots in Atlanta several fold. The Bobcats, on the other hand, were flailing away at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. They looked like a CBA team

 
March 25th, 2005

Steroids And The NHL

Jes Golbez did a good job of outlining exactly how steroids can help a hockey player in a post on Wednesday. And click here for a post I wrote last December taking NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to task for his claim that weight training won’t make you a better hockey player.

 
March 25th, 2005

Bleacher Thieves

When mens rea meets sheer stupidity:

Fans looking forward to watching boys and girls play ball this season for the Medford American Little League had better pack their lawn chairs.

Two sets of bleachers at the six-field Bear Creek Park complex were dismantled last week by thieves who drove their vehicle over a city-owned sign in the middle of the night and made off with about $2,000 worth of aluminum benches, Medford police Lt. Mike Moran said.

I have to admit I’m a bit puzzled. While knocking down a sign while driving through it is the mark of a dumbass, I could understand how it might happen in the course of an out-of-control joyride.

But taking apart a set of bleachers? You really want to have to do that, and not care a whit about the consequences.

Think about it. You have to get a truck, some tools, and probably a few friends, and then convince them to come out in the middle of the night to help you. In the end, it probably took someone without much brains, but who posessed some impressive organizational skills. That, and a couple of pals dumber than him.

And then, you have to figure out a way to dump the stuff. Something tells me they didn’t think that far ahead.

 
March 24th, 2005

NHL Cancels Draft . . . What’s Next For Sidney?

The NHL announced that the 2005 NHL Entry Draft is kaput — and Colby Cosh is asking some questions about what happens next, including where uber-phenom Sidney Crosby might wind up.

Back in January, I asked my friend Michael McCann, Professor of Sports Law at the Mississippi College School of Law, what Crosby’s options were:

However, from a practical standpoint, and assuming the NHL lockout continues, I think the sensible resolution is for Crosby to negotiate a buyout of the contract, and then sign a more lucrative deal in Europe. His legal avenues for breach seem somewhat quixotic.

That’s Crosby’s contract with his junior team, the Rimouski Oceanic, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Presumably, that buyout would allow Crosby to eventually sign with any NHL team he wished, and given some of the potential complexities Colby points out in his post, that actually sounds like the most fair outcome.

 
March 23rd, 2005

“And by that time, I was past caring . . .”

On Monday, I missed Kevin Maney’s lengthy USA Today piece on the precarious financial position the NHL finds itself in these days, and I couldn’t help but be struck by a feeling of “been there, done that”.

Not that it isn’t a good piece, because it is, but it just seemed as if the hockey blogging collective had chewed this topic piecemeal over the past two years with some ferocity. Which begs the question, just what sort of NHL story would be worth reading these days?

Here’s Steve Ovadia:

The finances of the NHL are interesting enough, but I’d love to know exactly how Bettman took hockey from success to lockout in just 12 years. What went on behind closed doors? What were people telling him about hockey? What was his strategy? That’s a story I’d link to.

Looks like we need a Michael Lewis of our own to get the real story from inside the NHL. But it probably won’t happen, as there’s just not enough commercial appeal in taking a year off to write a book about a league that isn’t even playing any games.

POSTSCRIPT: Can anybody name the song that inspired the title of this post? No cheating with Google.

 
March 23rd, 2005

The Return Of Legovision

While I missed the Congressional hearings on steroids in baseball, Bat Girl didn’t.

Instant classic.

 
March 23rd, 2005

Morning Links

The Barry Bonds Meltdown

Red Sox To Stay At Fenway

Summit Breaks NCAA Win Record

Pats’ Tedy Bruschi May Be Out For Next Season

Will A New Ride Aid Ferrari?

The $340,000 Punch

CBS, Fox May Split Sunday Night NFL

 
March 23rd, 2005

Stop By The Carnival . . .

As in the 131st Carnival of the Vanities, hosted today by Dr. Thomas Boyle of CodeBlue. Dr Boyle was kind enough to feature my post on Title IX from the wee hours of yesterday morning. But there’s plenty more on top of that, As the good doctor features content from all sorts of great blogs. Check it out.

 
March 22nd, 2005

Title IX Earthquake

This is huge:

The Education Department has given universities a new way to prove they offer women equal sports opportunity, triggering some criticism the Bush administration is undermining a landmark anti-discrimination law.

The federal government has created an Internet-based survey that schools can use to show they are accommodating the athletic interests and abilities of women on campus. Schools have long been able to comply with the Title IX law by proving they have met the sports interests of women, but never before has the government endorsed and promoted a way to measure that.

Education Department leaders say the new survey will allow schools to scientifically gauge whether they must expand or create women’s teams to meet demand. But critics contend the tool opens an enormous opportunity for schools to avoid responsibility.

This is the decision that Title IX critics have been pushing for years, and has to be considered a major victory for them. Click here for the actual announcement from the Department of Education. As you might imagine, supporters of the law are crying foul. Click here for a statement from the National Women’s Law Center:

New guidance released Friday by the Department of Education makes it easy for schools to escape their responsibility under Title IX to provide equal athletic opportunities for women and men, the National Women

 
March 22nd, 2005

What’s The Problem In Spain?

While America will always be dealing with issues concerning race and racism, I’m grateful we don’t have to deal with the bald-faced racism on display at sporting events in Spain.

I’m at an absolute loss. What the heck is going on over there?

 
March 22nd, 2005

Dominating Duncan

From today’s New York Times:

Malik Rose is not one to brag, but press him and he will tell you he has dominated Tim Duncan.

Duncan is an All-Star, a 7-foot forward with splendid moves and shooting range, and Rose is merely a hard-nosed journeyman of much shorter stature. But cyberspace is the great equalizer, and there are nights in the virtual battlefield when Duncan stands no chance.

The game is Socom II, a Navy Seals simulation played out over the Internet. It is where Duncan and Rose, close friends for seven-plus years, continue their friendship – and their competitive rivalry.

When I read stories like thiis one, I can’t help but wonder how my life might have turned out if the Internet and all of its associated technologies had been in full swing back in 1985 when I showed up at college. Might I have stayed in closer touch with friends I no longer see, and are beginning to fade from memory?

 
March 22nd, 2005

Edgerton Hartwell To Atlanta

While I wasn’t too sad to see Travis Taylor leave Baltimore, the departure of linebacker Edgerton Hartwell for Atlanta is another matter entirely. Playing beside Ray Lewis, Hartwell became a fan favorite, and he will be missed. If, and when, Ray Lewis decides to retire, his absence will become all the more glaring.

In other Ravens news, the team decided to match the offer sheet that backup running back Chester Taylor signed with the Cleveland Browns.

How does Ozzie Newsome keep finding players like these?

 
March 22nd, 2005

And On The F1 Circuit . . .

Ferrari and defending race champion Michael Schumacher find themselves in an unfamiliar position:

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

 
March 22nd, 2005

A New Addition To The Blogroll . . .

50 in 39. Anybody understand the reference?

 
March 22nd, 2005

Pats-Raiders To Open 2005 Regular Season

The NFL announced today that the 2005 NFL season will open in Foxboro on September 8th when the New England Patriots will host the Oakland Raiders.

Think Randy Moss is going to be looking to make a big splash? And there is any other team in the league better positioned to shut him out than New England?

And for those of us who follow the Baltimore Ravens, we’re going to get Peyton Manning and the Colts on Sunday night on opening weekend.

Too bad we’ll have to wait more than five months to see it.

 
March 21st, 2005

The Wire Lives!

Season four is a go!

And the congregation says Amen!

Thanks to Nick Sylvain for the link.

 
March 21st, 2005

Exit Chamique . . .

And the Washington Mystics just traded the player who was once the biggest talent in Women’s Basketball.

For the rest of Off Wing’s Holdsclaw file, click here.

 
March 21st, 2005

Showdown At Azteca

Next Sunday the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team will take on Mexico at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in the final round of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. Team USA has played 22 matches against Mexico at Azteca, and boasts a record of 0-21-1 over that span.

Here’s Team USA head coach Bruce Arena:

“You don’t play on a level playing field in Mexico,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said Saturday after the Americans beat Honduras 1-0 in an exhibition match that served as the final tuneup for the qualifier next Sunday at Azteca Stadium.

“The biggest advantage the Mexico team has is its home field in Mexico City,” Arena said. “You’re playing at 7,000 feet. They have a great tradition at home because of the altitude. That’s a big factor, plus they have a very good team.”

“I don’t get all hung up on the Mexico-U.S. rivalry,” Arena said. “Anytime we play a game in World Cup qualifying in our region, that opponent is our biggest opponent then. I don’t place Mexico ahead of anybody else.”

When Arena says something like that, I believe him. But the Mexicans don’t feel the same way. And it hasn’t helped that it appears that Uncle Sam is beginning to eclipse its neighbor to the South when it comes to the beautiful game — that was never more clear than when Team USA defeated Mexico in the first knockout round game at World Cup 2002. On that day, when Team USA took down Mexico 2-0, it was Cobi Jones who bore the brunt of the rage of the Mexican side.

With Team USA holding a second half lead, it was Jones’ job to take the ball deep into Mexican territory on the right wing and essentially take time off the clock. And every time, Mexican defenders made him pay a horrible physical price. It was a heroic effort, and one that typically doesn’t get noticed on the scoresheet.

Memories are long. Expect some brutality on the pitch next Sunday.

 
March 21st, 2005

And In Case You Were Wondering . . .

Yes, all of my brackets are in a shambles. UW-Milwaukee I actually saw coming in one of my brackets, but Vermont, Bucknell (credit to Digger Phelps, he called it on Selection Sunday on ESPN) and West Virginia have all done considerable damage, as well as a host of others.

 
March 21st, 2005

AFP Sues Google

And the bone of contention is their Google News service:

Agence France Presse has sued Google Inc. (GOOG), alleging the Web search leader includes AFP’s photos, news headlines and stories on its news site without permission.

The French news service is seeking damages of at least $17.5 million and an order barring Google News from displaying AFP photographs, news headlines or story leads, according to the suit filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“We allow publishers to opt out of Google News but most publishers want to be included because they believe it is a benefit to them and to their readers,” Google spokesman Steve Langdon said of the AFP lawsuit. The attorney for AFP was not immediately available for comment.

AFP sells subscriptions to its content and does not provide it free. Google News gathers photos and news stories from around the Web and posts them on its news site, which is free to users.

“Without AFP’s authorization, defendant is continuously and willfully reproducing and publicly displaying AFP’s photographs, headlines and story leads on its Google News web pages,” AFP charged in its lawsuit.

I’m not going to comment on the law in this case, but I will comment as a blogger. I use Google News every day to track down story leads I’d have trouble finding any other way. AFP is making a huge mistake here, as they’re essentially turning their backs on the acquisition of new customers.

There was a time when I linked to plenty of UPI sports stories, but then the wire service pulled them from UPI.com. I think I can get them from other sources now, in partiucular at their corporate cousin, the Washington Times, but quite frankly, once I got out of the habit, I never went back.

I think there’s a lesson there.

 
March 21st, 2005

Cheap, Convenient And Unsecure?

Apparently, there are some vulnerabilities in VOIP products. And just when I was ready to ditch Verizon for Vonage.

 
March 21st, 2005

Viewer Mail

I got a few emails and comments over the weekend that I thought I should share.

Turns out some folks didn’t like what I had to say about Megan Hanson’s letter to the Washington Post where she complained about the paper’s coverage of the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament: Here’s Devin McCullen:

I think you’re being a little over-the-top here, Eric. I’m sure if you asked the Post, they’d say it’s their goal to provide their readers with the total sports coverage they want. If Megan finds them wanting, there’s no reason she shouldn’t criticize them. (Although the Mrs. Lovejoy approach is just as annoying as when it comes from Congress.)

And what about high-school coverage? Women’s Hoops doesn’t handle that (and can’t be expected to), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Post’s coverage is just as unbalanced at that level. If a newspaper (or website) isn’t covering as much as they purport to, it’s not unreasonable to criticize them. Your advice is good, but I think your criticism is stronger than the offense deserves.

Here’s another reader:

1. She could do both.

2. She could use the long traditional method that newspapers have for registering disagreement with their stories. Oh wait, that’s what she did.

3. In what part of the free market hand book does it outlaw a customer complaining to management in hopes that the particular business will change?

Points taken, but maybe I should go back to Megan’s letter to the particular passage that set me off:

But I also hope that in the future Post editors will consider the message they are sending to budding female athletes by keeping coverage of women’s basketball minimal and relegating it to the back pages.

This really got my goat — she’s seems to be arguing that female athletes are a bunch of shrinking violets, something I found out wasn’t the case first hand when I first dove into sports writing 20 years ago when I covered the Women’s team at Catholic University. Does she really believe that young girls are going to give up playing basketball because the Post gives the Women’s NCAAs short shrift? That argument was simply ridiculous, and deserved to be treated as such.

And if you’re looking for more extensive high school sports coverage, read the Washington Examiner, where high school coverage is as prominent as anything else in the sports section. One other note: Some readers seem to think I’m an unabashed fan of the Examiner — and that’s not the impression I meant to convey.

Marc Hoff thinks the NCAA gave the short stick to his alma mater, Cornell, when it came to the seedings the the Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Tournament:

All righty. What does the NCAA ‘Frozen Four’ committee have against (my alma mater) Cornell?

#3 in the current uscho.com Division I poll, ECAC tournament champions, yet they do not receive a No. 1 seed. Their reward for not losing in 18 consecutive games is a No. 2 seed … in the MINNEAPOLIS region. Why is that bad? Only ’cause the University of Minnesota is the No. 1, only playing on their home ice!!!

Meanwhile, the hated Hahvahd Crimson, who my beloved Big Red dispatched 3-1 last night in Albany, get to ride the bus to their regional, and play in front of lots of home snobs, er, fans in Amherst, Mass., as a No. 3 seed.

Apparently we need Gary Bettman, Cornell ’74, to get a job on that committee once he’s out of work.

Hmmm. I wonder who on the selection committee owed Ted Donato a favor?

Here’s Beau Dure on my Harlem Globetrotters post:

Two things about the Globetrotters piece

 
March 20th, 2005

Michael Vick And The Five Finger Discount

Here’s something that I missed last week:

On what he considered to be an unusually slow afternoon at a Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport security checkpoint last October, security screener Alvin Spencer passed the time by placing his watch on the X-ray belt he was monitoring.

“Curiosity got the best of me, I guess,” said Spencer, a federal employee of the Transportation Security Administration, “and I put my watch on the X-ray machine, just to see what it would look like.”

A few moments later, the watch was gone. It would find its way into the hands of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, one of the league’s biggest stars.

It took six days for Spencer to get the watch back. The tale of its disappearance would involve charges of a police coverup and the allegation of a $20,000 extortion attempt and pits the TSA against the Atlanta Police Department.

Interesting. Then again, what in the world was this guy thinking when he put his watch through the X-Ray machine on a whim?