Archive for February, 2006

The first autograph I ever received from anyone was from Minnie Minoso, a gracious ambassador for the White Sox and baseball in general.  A lot of Chicago baseball fans were hoping that he would get a call yesterday from a special committee of Negro League and pre-Negro League historians informing him that he would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for Minnie Minoso.

We can debate all day whether he deserved to be enshrined in Cooperstown (his Major League stats don’t seem extraordinary until you realize that he was deprived of his prime years at the top level of the game because of racial segregation).  One thing is clear, though – Minnie Minoso has handled himself with grace and class for the past seven decades with nary a word, complaint, or campaign about the Hall of Fame.  He put it best in a statement yesterday: “I know that baseball fans have me in their own Hall of Fame – the one in their hearts… that matters more to me than any official recognition. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, and I am truly honored to be considered. I’ve given my life to baseball, and the game has given me so much. That’s what matters the most to me.”

A certain broadcaster/former third baseman from the North Side of Chicago should take note.

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Super Tuesday and Fat Tuesday links to prep you for tonight’s Illinois-Minnesota game:

1) Hoosier Heaven Could Save Isiah – Please let this happen.  If Isiah manages to ruin both the New York Knicks and the Indiana Hoosiers in the same year, I’ll forgive him (mostly) for being such a bastard when he was with the Pistons.

2) The Big Man Still Reigns in Hollywood – Don’t let the hype over the triumph of “independent films” at the Oscars fool you.  With the exception of “Crash,” every best picture nominee was backed by a major film studio.

3) Supreme Court to Hear Ex-Playmate’s Case – Technical legal questions regarding jurisdiction generally don’t make for exciting Supreme Court cases… unless Anna Nicole Smith and $1.6 billion are involved.

4) Free Pancakes for Breakfast (And Lunch!) – If you’re reading this before 2 pm on Fat Tuesday, there’s still time for you to run to IHOP as fast as possible.

And finally…

5) Thomas Now a Pariah – Just Like Sosa – Solid connection made here by Mike Downey about how Chicago has absolutely no more love for the all-time homerun leaders of its two baseball franchises.

Enjoy your Tuesday and go Illini!

For anyone that needs to read something other than my rants, I’ve put up some book recommendations under “Books to Read” in the links section on the right-hand side of the page.  On to the links for Monday:

1) Smithsonian’s Permanent Hip-Hop Exhibit – 50 Cent’s piece is going to be displayed right alongside the original Star Spangled Banner and Jackie Kennedy’s inaugural gown.

2) Google “Asshole (video and sound) – To find out what Google thinks of our leaders in Washington, Google “asshole” and then press “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

3) Ask Bouncing Butler in Ambitious Makeover – Jeeves is headed to the unemployment line.

4) ‘He’s an Idiot’ – Did people actually accuse the White Sox of being a “boring” team last year?

And finally…

5) Siberian Baseball – Minnesota Red Sox has spun off his baseball posts into a separate blog.

Selection Sunday is less than 2 weeks away, which means you’ve got to start getting ready now.  Here are some links to bookmark:

1) March Madness on Demand – If Thomas Friedman were to publish an updated version of his 2005 book “The World is Flat” (which I just finished reading and highly recommend), he would argue unequivocally that the greatest moment in Internet history – if not in all of human history – will be when all NCAA Tournament games are shown live online for free for the first time ever this year.

The most important thing you need to do if you’re a hoops fan is register for access to the games right now so that you’ll have “VIP” status (i.e. priority to view the games over late registrants once the Tournament begins).

2) ESPN.com Bubble Watch – A comprehensive rundown by conference of all of the teams that are on the bubble to make the Tournament and what each of those teams need to do to get a bid.

3) Bracketology – Joe Lunardi from ESPN.com projecting the NCAA Tournament field with seeds and regional placements.

4) Projecting the Field – Similar to the Bubble Watch; Tony Mejia from CBS SportsLine runs through the bubble teams by conference.

5) Projecting the Seeds – Mejia’s view on how the field will look.

Minneapolis Red Sox post on the incomprehensible scoring system of figure skating the other day foreshadowed Sasha Cohen winning an Olympic silver medal despite falling twice yesterday.  That’s whack.  Anyway, here are some links to prep for the weekend:

1) Autistic Teen’s Hoop Dreams Come True – An autistic team manager gets to suit up for the final minutes of the last high school basketball game of the season in a blowout – sounds like another Rudy-type story, right?  The twist here is that he ended up dropping six 3-pointers and 20 points in three minutes of play!  There’s video here, too – this is what sports is all about.

2) Izzone Punk’d into Spelling Out “Go Blue” – I can’t stand Michigan, but I’ll give credit to a couple of their fans for making a valiant effort at a prank on their rival’s fans (even if it didn’t work out perfectly).  The Big Ten Wonk post links to even more successful feats in the past by students from Yale, MIT, and Caltech.

3) Cracker’s Old Label’s ‘Greatest Hits’ CD vs. One of its Own – Virgin decided to release a collection of Cracker’s greatest hits against the band’s wishes.  Check out what Cracker did to get back at their old record label.

4) No Joke! Blagojevich Took ‘Daily Show’ Seriously – Chicago doesn’t just produce the most corrupt politicians; it also breeds the stupidest.

And finally…

5) Banding Together for the Whole Ride – As inconsistent as this season has been, Dee Brown and James Augustine have presided over arguably the greatest stretch in the history of University of Illinois basketball.  Emotions are going to be sky-high for their last home game in Champaign tomorrow night.

Have a great weekend and go Illini!

It looks like Isiah Thomas is determined to have the greatest collection of overpaid underachieving players in the history of sports – and as a Bulls fan, this is the greatest situation ever. Thomas has now brought Steve Francis on board to the New York Knicks, meaning the wacky GM has added yet another bloated contract to the ridiculously high salary team. The Knicks are paying out $130 million in salaries this season, which is over $30 million more than the next highest team payroll in the NBA in the Dallas Mavericks. The difference is that the Knicks are 23 games under .500 while the Mavericks have the best record in the Western Conference. With the way that the NBA salary cap is structured, the Knicks are stuck with all of these underachievers and cannot take advantage of their superior financial resources to sign anyone from the bumper crop of free agents coming onto the market over the next couple of years

Statistically, it might seem like Isiah made a good deal by sending Penny Hardaway and Trevor Ariza to the Magic in exchange for Francis. However, Francis has a long history of being a selfish player that doesn't get along with his teammates and coaches. It's okay to bring in a talented but underachieving problem child to a team that has strong leaders to smack him into line. In the Knicks' case, though, they already have underachieving, lackadaisical, and overpaid players in Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, Quentin Richardson – actually, it's really everyone on the Knicks roster. Larry Brown is a stellar coach, but I can't see even him turning around this nightmare of a ballclub.

As Sam Smith pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the biggest beneficiary of Isiah's ineptitude could possibly be the Bulls. From the Eddy Curry trade, the Bulls get the Knicks' first-round draft pick for this year and then have the right to swap first-round picks with them in 2007. As the Knicks continue to tank, they could very well end up with the #1 pick in the NBA Draft for two seasons in a row – and the Bulls would get them both! That means we could end up with Adam Morrison after this season and then, even more exciting, the next great center in Greg Oden after that. If the Bulls have those two guys on the court with Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng with Ben Gordon and Tyson Chandler rotating in, we could have a new NBA dynasty in Chicago. Isiah Thomas is finally giving something back to his hometown after being our nemesis with the Pistons!

Links for your Hump Day:

1) Kid Rock Sues to Stop Sale of Sex Video – Is it really the best career move to try to stop this?  Didn’t he learn anything when he was with Pamela Anderson?  Take note that Scott Stapp doesn’t seem to care (the irony of Creed being such a religious band is killing me right now). 

2) Five Changes Needed to Improve Match Play – Some suggestions for one of the most underrated events in sports, the Accenture Match Play Championship, which starts today.  The thought of having stroke play for the first couple days is a solid idea in terms of having a more compelling field left for the weekend, but it would take away from the one-and-done nature of the event that makes it entertaining in the first place.  By the way, the PGA Championship would serve itself well if it turned itself into a match play tournament.

3) Catching Up With… Vanilla Ice (from the Sports Guy’s Daily Links) – Word to your mother.

4) Zoo Letting Chimps Put Hammer Down – Lincoln Park Zoo officials must have been throwing back a few while watching “2001” the other day.

And speaking of monkeys…

5) CareerBuilder Monk-e-Mail (submitted by Minneapolis Red Sox) – You can build your own monkey co-worker with sound!!!  The rest of my day is now shot.

A few thoughts on the 72-64 Illinois loss to Michigan last night:

1) Michigan Needed It and Wanted It More – I was worried that Michigan would come into the game more fired up than the Illini since they were playing for their NCAA Tournament lives and that proved to be correct.  The Wolverines played with a sense of urgency while we looked like we were looking past this game toward Saturday’s tilt against Iowa.  The way the Big Ten season has played out, no one can take any game for granted, especially on the road.  Coach Bruce Weber had this to say about his team’s performance: “I told them after the game that we haven’t grown as a team. And we have to grow pretty soon or the season’s going to be history.”  Ouch!  That’s true, though.

2) Opponents Continue to Rain Threes – After shutting down Indiana on Sunday, Illinois reverted back to its disturbing trend of allowing its opponents to get hot behind the three-point arc.  Last night, it was Daniel Horton’s turn to have the game of his life with 39 points and going 5-for-7 from three-point range.  The Illini strength from the first part of the season on holding down opponents’ field goal percentage has taken a serious hit in the last 5 games.  This team needs to get back to form on its perimeter defense now.

3) Big Ten Title Still in Reach for the Illini – I almost wish that last night’s loss was truly the death knell for our chances of winning the Big Ten title so I can stop worrying about it and just concentrate how we’ll perform in March.  However, despite Illinois’ best efforts to give away the championship, we’re still more than alive.

The Illini have a tough final stretch of the regular season with Iowa at home, at Minnesota, and finishing at Michigan State.  If we can win those three games (and that’s a substantial but not implausible “if”), consider the schedules of the teams ahead of us in the standings.  Iowa will need to play us at the Assembly Hall, so if we beat them, the Hawkeyes are back in a tie with us.  Wisconsin has to play at Michigan State and then at Iowa to finish the season (not to mention a trap game tomorrow night at Northwestern).  Ohio State has a road game tonight at Michigan State and then a home game against Michigan this weekend.

If there’s one thing we know about the Big Ten, it’s that no team has proven that it is unstoppable.  There’s a better than even chance that all three of the teams ahead of us are going to drop one more game before the end of the season.  We just need to take care of our own business in the meantime.

Links in preparation for tonight’s Illinois game against Muck Fichigan:

1) NBA Trade Machine – Amazing simulator where you can see if any hypothetical trade could legally work when taking into account the NBA salary cap for teams, specific contract provisions for individual players, and other league rules.  My conclusion: it’s hard enough just to get any trade through that would meet all of the league rules, much less taking into account the quality of the players involved.  It’s the polar opposite of baseball’s laissez-faire trade arena.  Anyway, I’ve been trying to find a way to trade Tim Thomas from the Bulls for a different big man (more on him in a separate post).  Let me know if you can find a feasible deal.

2) Explaining Ice: The Answers Are Slippery – It seems so basic, but scientists are still trying to figure out why ice is slippery.

3) All He’s Quacked Up to Be – In depth look at the AFLAC duck.

4) Risk of Robbery Raising Stakes of Poker Nights – Nothing is sacred anymore.

And finally… 

5) Welcome to the Black Super Bowl – Absolutely hilarious column by the Sports Guy on his experience with celebrities and ballers at the NBA All Star Weekend in Houston – great read regardless of whether you care about the NBA and the Michael Jordan story at the end is the kicker.

Links for President’s Day:

1) Bonds: I’m Done After ’06, Unless I’m Not – Could you please go away, already?

2) Davis: Angry, or Just Focused? – Only a guy from the South Side of Chicago would have a chip on his shoulder and be in a foul mood with Melissa Stark right after winning a gold medal.  I know how it feels: I have White Sox Fan Disease, too.

3) It’s Luck of Route with Tolls – An analysis of how much each of the tollroads in the Chicagoland area cost drivers on a per-mile basis.  A hint on what’s the most expensive tollway: I’ve really been screwed by having to drive from Naperville to the Woodfield area around Schaumburg for each of the last 3 weekends.

4) Brown Line Closings Begin Today – One benefit of being back in the suburbs: I don’t have to take the Brown Line anymore because it’s going to suck for the next three years.

5) A First-Time Oscar Host in Search of That Fine Line – I’m looking forward to Jon Stewart being this year’s Oscar host, but I’m also a little worried that it sounds like he wants to turn it down a notch from Chris Rock’s performance last year.

And finally…

6) Trump to Stewart: ‘Take Responsibility’ – Awww, snap!!!  Looks like there’s a major beef between the Donald and Martha.