Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Genius is in the Stupidity

Phillies president David Montgomery is a genius.

Only a genius with the best marketing skills imaginable could have come up with this one. The public won't know what hit them. Montgomery devised the most clever of plans to cover the $94 million payroll that Phils have this season.

Before we get to the genius part, let's recap...

In 2001, the Phillies made a bit of a surprise run at the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. They were in the race until the last few days of the season and it was fun to watch specifically because it was unexpected.

Ever since, the organization has been, one would think, trying to improve upon that team to make it to the playoffs.

By the way, just about everything has gone wrong with that plan- in case you forgot.

Gone are Scott Rolen, Kevin Millwood, Jim Thome, Larry Bowa, and, of course, Ed Wade. Remember, Wade was the guy who shouldered much of the blame for the underachievement- especially for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. So Montgomery fired him and replaced him with Pat Gillick, a man with general mangagerial success in the past.

"Hooray," said the fans of Philadelphia. "Maybe this guy can turn things around!"

Since his hiring, Gillick has made several strange moves and comments. The Ryan Franklin thing still confuses me. He tried to move Abreu, but just this week said he didn't try to do it.
I, for one, have become confused. This guy sounds like Ed Wade! Wade was the problem. Gillick was the solution. How is it that they are sounding so much the same?

Let's also recall that the Phillies drew 600,000 fewer fans in 2005 than they did in 2004. They drew 600,000 fewer fans when they were in the playoff race until the final day.

Yes, Matt, you say, but where is the genius in any of this?

How do you get fans back in the seats, given all that occurred that is listed above? Do exactly what David Montgomery is doing this year. Put Chris Wheeler on the television broadcast for all nine innings every day.

That's right. Nine innings of Wheels each and every game covered by the local networks. How many innings of Harry Kalas will you get if you tune into a Phillies broadcast? Six. How many innings will you get of Scott Graham? Three. How many innings will you get of Larry Andersen? None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

"This is crazy! Wheeler is terrible! Kalas and Andersen are the best! They're the best anywhere! Why would they do this?"

All valid questions indeed. On the surface, it may appear as just another mindless move on the part of a team president who has done very little to remember during his tenure. But think about it a bit deeper. You are a Phillies fan. You go to a couple of games per year. Mostly, however, you like to tune in on the tube when you get the chance. But now, you are subject to more Wheeler, less Kalas, and no Andersen. It'll drive you insane. You'll turn off the game. You'll think that you will find other things to do with your time. But after a while, you'll start to wonder how those ol' Phillies are doing. Perhaps you give the television broadcast another try. Perhaps you don't. But what will inevitably happen is that your interest in the team and your loathing of Wheeler will come into conflict. How do you solve this problem? Hey, if you just go to the game, you won't have to listen to Chris Wheeler! There it is! There's my solution!

So more people feel compelled to go to games that to watch them. And ticket sales are on the rise...

Again, it takes a true genius to devise a plan such as this. David Montgomery should be commended. He has passed all blame for the franchise's failures onto Larry Bowa and Ed Wade. He already has Pat Gillick looking like he is confused. Now, this.

Only once in a lifetime does one get the opportunity for something so complex.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bryant Gumbel or Rush Limbaugh?

"Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t like them and won’t watch them ... Because they’re so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something’s not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what’s called a kiss-and-cry area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won ... So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin."- Bryant Gumbel on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel


Thank you for your opinion concerning the Winter Olympics. I must agree that the ancient Greeks probably didn't spend much time ice skating or skiing. True enough. It is probably also true that the ancient Greeks didn't have a kiss-and-cry area. I wish we didn't either. (To be fair, those who were the earliest developers of football didn't know what hashmarks or the forward pass were, either, but let's not confuse the issue here.) Sure, there are some events that aren't all that interesting. I don't like any event that relies on judges to decide the outcome. So, there are some events I don't watch.

But let's get something straight. Most of the athletes in the Winter Olympics are not black because most of them come from countries that don't have too many blacks as their citizens. According to the CIA Factbook, most countries that send athletes to the winter games don't even have a percentage of black people listed in a breakdown of their ethnic groups.

So, Bryant, I ask you: if a country doesn't have black people living there, how are they possibly supposed to include them on their Olympic team?

But I suppose it would be more to the point to talk about the United States instead of the world in general since I suppose your comments were directed more at us than anyone else. Do you really think that the US Olympic team discriminates against any ethnic group? Do you really think they would sacrifice a chance at a medal just so their could be one more white face in the games? C'mon, Bryant. That's just dumb. The Olympics, at least in my lifetime, have always been about making political statements and inclusion more than anything else.

Remember Rush Limbaugh and his comment about Donovan McNabb? All he said was that he thought McNabb was overrated but the media gives him a pass because he is black. Wow! What an outrage! Fire the guy! Rush was hired by ESPN to stir things up. When he did, ESPN fired him. Your comment is more inflammatory than his, yet I doubt HBO is pushing you out the door. I wonder why?

But I digress. If you were trying to get people riled up, if you were hoping to boost your ratings/coverage, then kudos to you. The time I spent writing this piece is the most time I have thought about you or any show that you are/were on since you got caught mouthing the f-word about a conservative guest you interviewed on the CBS morning show a few years ago. But if your opinion about the Olympics and their ties to the GOP is you actual opinion, then you're an idiot.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tip of the Iceberg?

A story broke today that former Flyer Rick Tocchet funded a lucrative gambling ring that included a New Jersey state trooper and Wayne Gretzky's wife Janet Jones. According to the story on foxsports, New Jersey police found that the ring had processed in excess of 1000 wagers totalling over $1.7 million. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the ring also had ties to the mob.

Tocchet is currently employed as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, so it is important to get to the bottom of this. The reports indicate that hockey players involved in the ring (and Tocchet) were not involved betting on their own games of fixing games.

What are the ramifications of this unearthing? It would be naive to think that there aren't many other athletes who are involved in gambling- whether it be legal or illegal. But the key for hockey- or any other sport- is that no links are found to betting by athletes on the games in which they compete (or coach). Anything else will be forgotten by fans. But if this leads to more athletes betting on a great many games and if there is any connection found to betting on their own games... well, this might just the tip of the iceberg. It's hard to imagine that the public at large would stand for evidence of game fixing, point shaving, or the like.

Athletes gamble? So what. A lot of us do and a lot of us like it. But if someone on my team bet either for or against his own team? Now there's a great deal more at stake than what he is letting on. I paid good money to watch this team and I want an honest game. The same would hold true if it involved someone on the opponent of my team.

I hope this is the end of it. But something tells me that with all of the pro athletes out there, the amount of gambling that occurs in our country, and the "nobody can touch me" attitude that many of these athletes now have, this just might be the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Time To Get Those Trade-Winds A-Blowin'

Maybe McNabb wants out of Philly

I was going to write a column about how, now that the dust from the Eagles' worst season in six years has settled, the team should try to work through the issues with Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb and figure out a way to keep Owens and return to 2004 glory. But, instead this column is about why the Eagles should keep Owens and trade golden boy, Donovan McNabb.

McNabb is living a lie and the worst part about the lie is that he is lying mostly to himself. McNabb is not only a divisive force on the Eagles, but he is self-destructive and the Eagles should cut their losses now by trading him immediately. If you didn't see the McNabb interview on ESPN, you can read it right here--provided you're able to follow him aimlessly wandering from first-person point of view, to second-person and back to first-person. Granted, this is clearly another case of ESPN stoking the flames of disdain between Owens and McNabb to generate ratings, but try to see through the all of the propaganda and hear what McNabb is actually saying.

About the distraction that T.O. allegedly caused the Eagles this season, McNabb claimed it didn't bother him, but it negatively affected some of his less focused teammates. Hello! That's a back-handed, passive-aggressive criticism of his teammates. Yet the media portray McNabb as the model teammate. If McNabb has a problem with the way his teammates handled things this past season, he should have taken some of his own advice and spoken to those individuals face to face.

About the infamous Brett Favre comment (remember--T.O. didn't even make the comment), McNabb said that because Owens agreed that Favre (a white quarterback) would be better for the Eagles, that was some sort of black-on-black crime (a gross misnomer) and it was tantamount to McNabb having said that the Eagles would be better off with "Steve Largent or Joe Jurevicious." McNabb is wrong on so many levels it's difficult to decide where to begin skewering him. First of all, Largent has been retired since 1989. So, if Largent were actually a better player than Owens, then McNabb is still living in and commenting on the wrong decade. Apparently, in McNabb's twisted reality, it's politically incorrect to compare or contrast Donovan McNabb with a white quarterback. When the race card is played by someone else, McNabb is great at playing the poor little victim, but, McNabb has now conveniently used the issue of race, rather poorly I might add, to further his own agenda against Owens. His assertion, aside from being hypocritical, is preposterous.

McNabb goes on to divulge the details of a phone conversation he had with Owens in 2004. McNabb claims he told Owens, "I brought you here for a reason, for people to understand the chemistry that we have and the things we can do, which will lead us to winning a Super Bowl.'" Look at the tremendous ego McNabb has, all of a sudden thinking he is QB, coach and GM all at once. Get over yourself, Donovan.

McNabb is arrogant, insecure, passive-aggressive and (worst of all) an over-rated quarterback. It's no wonder a player of Owens' caliber couldn't get along with McNabb or deal with having to constantly defer to a player that shows up to camp portly from all of that Campbell's chunky soup his mom feeds him. If the Eagles have any desire to remain competive, in what is now a much stronger NFC East than the division they dominated for four years, they will keep Owens and trade McNabb for a quarterback who is a more accurate passer and who isn't nearly as self-absorbed.

In the interview, McNabb goes on ad-infinitum about how if you have a problem with him, go talk to him, face to face. I wonder if McNabb will have me over for a delightful little, face to face chat. Unfortunately, that's about as likely as the Eagles shipping him out of town.