politics Sports

Charles Barkley for Governor!

Charley Barkley doesn’t need my financial support, obviously, nor would I ever consider moving to Alabama to vote for him, but I sincerely hope Mr. Barkley does run for Governor of Alabama in 2014. Alabama, and the nation, could use the Round Mound of Rebound.

Campbell Brown: Uh, do you think…do you think that John McCain, do you think the Republican Party has used race as an issue in this race?

Charles Barkley: Oh, no question, and they’ve used cold1 words like welfare and things like that. When people pick on welfare, first of all when they use the word welfare, that is really swaying, trying to use that as a minority thing, because people assume — if they really knew anything about the numbers. There seven times as many white people on welfare as black. Because there’s more white people in America. But when I see a story on welfare on television, they only show black people. But most white people don’t know that sometimes there’s as many whites on welfare as black people. And they just use cold2 words, they use the terrorist thing now. You know, they try to use the Muslims thing. Those are racial innuendos, of course, and I’ve said it from the beginning, the only way with the economy in the situation it is — we’ve had eight terrible years under the Bush’s administration, with the war in Iraq — I’ve said it from the beginning. The only way they can win this election is make it about race. That’s the only way they can win. I wrote a chapter in one of my books about what happens in a race, when things are going bad, everybody kind of goes with their own tribe and the only way the Republican party can make this thing work is they get their tribe to get together and of course they use racial innuendo.

[From Transcript: Charles Barkley tells Brown ‘racism is a cancer’ –]

and Barkley echoes a frequently made point about the Christian Taliban aka fake Christians:

Brown: You, there has been a lot of polarizing rhetoric on both sides, frankly throughout this campaign. You yourself have called the evangelical base of the GOP fake Christians.

Barkley: Well, because they are so judgmental. And you know what is really interesting about that? I was actually defending John McCain when I said that, because they were saying when he first got nominated that he is not part of the evangelicals. You got to respect Sen. McCain. What I meant by that and I still stick by it — my idea of religion is we are supposed to encourage people to love other people. I am a big pro-choice guy. I am a big gay marriage guy and they are so divisive and that is not my idea of religion. My idea of religion is we are supposed to bring people together. We are not supposed to judge other people.

Brown: But aren’t you judging them?

Barkley: They judge me. First of all the notion that you would vote for a president because he is against abortion or against gay marriage is absurd. I think politicians have three jobs.

No. 1 they should fix our public school system, they should make sure our neighborhoods are safe and they should give people economic opportunity. I don’t care who is gay, I don’t care who is pro-choice. I really think that is the only three jobs that our government and our elected officials should have and we obviously got to do something about the health care and this situation. But to elect a president and vote for a president just because he is against abortion and against gay marriage is absurd.

  1. obviously a typo: should be code []
  2. sic. s/b code []

Moguls Steal Home While Companies Strike Out

Has Bill Moyers been reading our blog? Ridiculous question, but he comes to the same conclusion as us regarding the new Yankee’s stadium – it is a boondoggle.

Sunset at Safeco Field
[Safeco Field, Seattle, WA]

Yankee star Alex Rodriguez had a better year than [Babe Ruth or New York Governor Al Smith]. This season, A-Rod is making $28 million, just part of an annual Yankee payroll of $209 million, the richest in baseball. Their owner, George Steinbrenner, is among the Forbes 400, one of the country’s richest tycoons.

But when it came to paying for the new, $1.3 billion pleasure dome, the millionaires on the field and King Midas in his skybox came up with some razzle-dazzle plays to finance their new wealth machine – tax-free bonds, requiring ordinary citizens to subsidize the construction, and hundreds of millions more for new parking garages, a train station and parks that supposedly will replace the ones seized by the city to make room for the new stadium. The Little League games that used to flourish on sandlots just outside the old ballpark have been moved miles away, sent down to the minors on a long road trip.

That’s okay, you may think, there will be plenty of room in the new stadium for the tax-paying public to come root, root, root for the home team – even the Coliseum in ancient Rome had bleachers for the commoners. But, in fact, there will be 5,000 fewer seats in the stands. And while the Yankees reportedly promise that half of what’s left will cost $45 or less, those seats that used to cost $250, right behind the dugout, will now cost you $850. And if you want to be near home plate, you’ll have to cough up $2500 – per game.

Meanwhile there will be more luxury suites and party rooms where fat cats can gather, safely removed from the sweaty masses. Corporations and wealthy individuals will be able to rent the luxury suites for anywhere from $600,000-$850,000 a year – tax deductible – assuming they haven’t filed for bankruptcy this week.

Why aren’t the fans and taxpayers giving the Yankees a Bronx cheer? They did, but city officials rolled over them while making sure local politicians stay in the lineup. The pols are getting their own luxury suite at the new stadium for free – and first shot at buying the best available seats.

The new colossus will cast its majestic shadow across the South Bronx, one of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods. The residents will watch from the outside as suburban drivers avail themselves of 9,000 new or refurbished parking spaces. Never mind all the exhaust, even though in this part of New York City, respiratory disease is already so high they call it “Asthma Alley.”

Not that the well to do in the infield seats will have to hear the wheezing. They’ll have exclusive access to a private club, a private entrance and a private elevator, totems of this gilded age. Let the games begin.

[From Bill Moyers Journal: Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Moguls Steal Home While Companies Strike Out]

Owners of sporting teams should have deep enough pockets to pay for their own damn stadiums, and not depend upon taxpayers to fund their profits for them. We should nationalize the teams instead of insurance companies like AIG.


Yankees screw New Yorkers

Surprising to nobody, really, sports stadiums are one of the biggest swindles of the 21st century.

New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester, released a report Tuesday that said the city of New York played games with the assessed value of the new Yankee Stadium to get tax breaks for the team.

A legislative report says the public is paying up and getting nothing in return but higher ticket prices. City and team: It’s not true

The report, by the Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, which Brodsky chairs, also says the city promised the stadium project would create 1,000 permanent new jobs in order to win approval for massive public subsidies, and that the actual number of permanent new jobs being created is 15.

The report says the taxpayer price tag for building the stadium is somewhere between $550 million and $850 million. In exchange, Brodsky points out, the Yankees have raised ticket prices by orders of magnitude, something the city has made no effort to stop.

“The price of tickets to the new Yankee Stadium is a matter of legitimate public concern, given the enormous public subsidies involved,” Brodsky wrote.

[From Yankee Stadium shocker: Taxpayers fleeced? – King Kaufman’s Sports Daily – Salon]

The swindle works so well because there is always a second-string city somewhere who can be used as leverage (like when the Seattle Sonics got moved to BFE Oklahoma ). If city governments stood strong, the owners of the teams would end up financing the stadiums: the owners want to own a team, owners shouldn’t depend upon taxpayer largesse to fund the team’s building.

In this case, Mayor Bloomberg (and Rudy 9-11 before him) and the Yankees made all sorts of grandiose claims that the stadium would be a boon to the economy, and of course, it isn’t, and won’t be much different than the previous stadium, other than making more money for the owners.

Sin will find you out

[Sin Will Find You Out, somewhere near 54th Street, Hells Kitchen, who really remembers anymore. Scanned 35mm print, circa 1995]

I like this quote too:

Denny Hocking, who was an all-talk, no-hit utility infielder for the Minnesota Twins in 2002 when Forbes magazine published a report calling into question the claims of commissioner Bud Selig that Major League Baseball was losing money hand over fist.

“Gee,” Hocking said, “should I believe a magazine that spends 365 days a year researching finances, or a guy who has zero credibility?”

Some of the principals have changed in this case, but the principle is the same.

Chicago-esque Sports

Cuban and the Cubs, Redux

I am already on record supporting Cuban as the new owner of the Cubs, even though baseball bores me, and I haven’t watched a baseball game in Chicago since 2005.

Las Vegas Showgirls
[Las Vegas Showgirls at Wrigley Field]

Think of it: Mark Cuban as the Chicago Cubs’ owner, bonding with the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley Field, splurging for rounds of Old Style beer and screaming at umpires. The concept is almost Veeckian, as if Bill Veeck, the populist former owner of the Browns, the Indians and the White Sox, had had zillions of dollars.

Buying the Cubs is the latest project for Cuban, the owner of the N.B.A.’s Dallas Mavericks, but he is not alone in the expensive quest. Four other individuals and groups have given the debt-laden Tribune Company nonbinding offers of at least $1 billion for the team, its stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and 92-year-old Wrigley Field.

Cuban is reported to be the top bidder, at nearly $1.3 billion

[From Cuban Wants Cubs, but Will Baseball Want Him? –]

Richard Sandomir of the NYT keeps harping on the dollar amount of fines Cuban has gotten from the NBA, but there is a clear pattern of decline there, and Cuban has been less publicly inflammatory in recent years. I follow the NBA very closely, and Cuban has been a boon for the Dallas Mavs. The Cubs, and Chicago, would be well served to have an owner as activist as Mark Cuban.


Bulls Hire Del Negro

John Paxons Hand prints
[John Paxson’s Hand Prints, view large on black here]

Really? Vinny Del Negro? That’s the best coach the Bulls could get for coach number 17 in the franchise’s history?

Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, even Doc Rivers … they all had to start somewhere. The Bulls are hoping that Vinny Del Negro can start his coaching career and finish a Chicago rebuilding project that has hit a roadblock.

The team introduced their new coach on Wednesday. Del Negro had been the Phoenix Suns assistant general manager, but he has no coaching experience. He admitted that fact might be a challenge.

“I think that’s fair,” Del Negro said. “I haven’t coached before. … Winning builds confidence and there’s a young team here that needs a confidence boost, I think. I’m not a magician. I just can’t create things all of a sudden. It’s going to be a daily process. Those are fair questions, I don’t have a problem with that.”

The Bulls missed out on former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, who chose the New York Knicks over Chicago, and Doug Collins, the ex-Bulls coach who threw his name into the ring and then pulled out.

Coming off the courtship of two experienced coaches, the hiring of someone who hasn’t roamed the sidelines has created a stir in Chicago, but general manager John Paxson isn’t concerned.

[From ESPN – Bulls give Del Negro first coaching job on Wednesday – NBA]

I’m glad the Bulls didn’t hire Larry Brown, glad they didn’t hire Rick Carlisle, glad that Doug Collins decided to stay a middle-of-the-road television analyst spouting platitudes and not become a middle-of-the-road coach screaming platitudes. Avery Johnson would have been an interesting choice, D’Antoni would have been amusing (regular season victories are fun to watch too), Flip Saunders and his face-grimace might have helped the Bulls to the playoffs, and even to the second round. There were others out there with coaching credits, Terry Porter seems like he knows some things of use, but Vinny Del Negro? Really? We’ll see. If the Bulls don’t win 45 games, I wouldn’t be surprised if John Paxson got the boot.


Paul Pierce is a Tough Hombre

Rock Art Kells

Bill Simmons, Boston sports fan that he is, was amused by

the way the L.A. fans reacted to Paul Pierce, booing him for four quarters, shouting “faker!” at him and even carrying signs like, “Hey, Pierce, this is the Finals. Not the Oscars!” I’m starting to wonder if KneeGate is going to follow him for the rest of his career. Before it does, allow me to make two points in his defense since I have followed him for 10 years:

1. Before the 2000-01 season, Pierce was stabbed 11 times at a Boston nightclub, suffered a collapsed lung and nearly bled to death while staggering to the hospital. Less than two weeks later, he played in Boston’s first exhibition game. If the same thing had happened to Vince Carter, he would still be on the injured list seven years later.

2. During the 2002-03 season, Pierce got slammed face-first to the floor by Amare Stoudemire, breaking his two front teeth. Thirty minutes later, he was back playing with a mouthpiece. The following day, he underwent emergency dental surgery for seven hours. The day after that, he played against Portland with a mouthpiece and ended up hitting the game-winner.

In my opinion, he’s not only one of the toughest Celtics ever, he’s one of the toughest Boston athletes ever. Not counting Tankapalooza 2007 (when the team shelved Pierce with a knee injury for half the season even when he probably could have played), Pierce missed just 21 games in nine seasons and played through a variety of injuries and ailments for mostly horrendous teams. So for anyone to insinuate that he is either (A) weak or (B) someone who would milk an injury, is just insane. On top of that, for the Lakers’ fans to have the gall to question any other NBA star’s character is three times as insane. In retrospect, Pierce’s only mistake was not diffusing the Lakers fans before Game 3 by settling with his right knee out of court and buying it a $4 million diamond ring.

[From ESPN Page 2 – Simmons: You want answers? I think you’re entitled]

Before the playoffs had started, I predicted a Lakers-Celtics Finals (even as a Bulls/Spurs fan), and speculated if this could be a Lakers team I could root for, a first since the Showtime Lakers of the 80s. Ummm, no. Go Celtics!

By this stage of a playoff matchup in any sport, often one’s favorite team is out of the running, and to make the game(s) more interesting, one team gets selected as the team to root for, based on a myriad of minor factors, and not necessarily logic. I’ve never been a Celtic fan previously, and even though I don’t think much of Doc Rivers as a coach, enough of the Celtics have outsized personalities (KG, Pierce, Eddie House, Ray Allen, Poe, even Scott Pollard in a suit) that I am hoping for a Boston championship by Game 6. We’ll see.

Oh, and the rest of Bill Simmons article about Game 3 (and previous) is worth reading, I chuckled a few times, and so can you…

Precaution Hombres

Chicago-esque Sports

Cuban and the Cubs

Baseball and Beer
[Baseball and Beer – click for full version]

I am not a baseball fan (although I’ve been to a dozen or more games over the years), but I think the Chicago Tribune would do well to sell the Cubs to Mark Cuban.

Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, one of the Major League Baseball-approved bidders for the Chicago Cubs, expects to receive confidential financial data on the team any day now and said Friday on a Chicago radio show that it is his “job” to convince everyone he is the best choice to own the franchise.

Cuban also told WMVP-AM 1000 hosts Marc Silverman and Tom Waddle he “definitely would want Wrigley Field to be part of the deal,” despite the fact Tribune Co., which is parent of the Chicago Cubs, has considered selling it separately, either to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority or a private buyer.

[From Cuban says he will ‘pull out all the stops’ in bid to buy Cubs]

The genius of Mark Cuban is that he is sincere in his dedication to the improvements of his teams, and the city that supports that team. From all that I’ve read, Dallas has benefitted from Cuban’s ownership of the Dallas Mavericks.

“My job is to convince everybody involved that not only is it a good financial move to sell to Mark Cuban, but it’s also, you know, a good partnership move, that I can add value beyond just my checkbook to not just the Cubs, to not just the city of Chicago, but also to Major League Baseball,” he said.

“It’s about being a good citizen. It’s about contributing to the community, and to me that’s viewed to be just as important as Major League Baseball or the Tribune Co. You know, what can I do for Wrigleyville? What can I do for the community? And what are the ways that I fit in and add value? … There are a lot of things we can do communitywise that can enhance my chances, and so I’m gonna pull out all the stops.”

Asked if he believed he could rely on the support of Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who also owns the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Cuban said they “get along pretty well” and “we’re actually on the same side of issues probably 99.99 percent” of the time.

“If you talk to any of the folks in the NBA, they’ll tell you that I’m a great partner, that I bust my butt to try to do what’s best for the league,” Cuban said. “That’s not always what’s portrayed in the media. But those who know, know, and I think that will pay off. And if I can come up with a competitive bid for the Cubs, then I think I’ve got a shot.

“If talking to Jerry is something I need to do, then certainly I will and, you know, knowing Jerry he’d be wide open to it. He’s just that good of a guy.”

I hope it works out for Cuban and the Cubs.


Jury Decides Against Knicks

During the trial, testimony by witnesses made the inner workings of the Garden, which like the Knicks is owned by Cablevision, appear dysfunctional, hostile and lewd. The Knick’s star guard, Stephon Marbury, testified that he had sex with a team intern in the trunk of his car after a group outing to a strip club in 2005.

[From Jury Decides Against Thomas and Knicks Owner – New York Times]

What kind of tricked-out trunk does Mr. Marbury have anyway? Is there a bed in it? a futon? I’m curious.

update: ooops. As we presumed, just a funny typo.

An earlier version of this article misstated the location of a 2005 sexual encounter between Stephon Marbury of the Knicks and a team intern. Mr. Marbury testified that it took place in his truck, not in the trunk of his car.

Marbury Trunk


Fake Franchise

Hoops the Gym

There is actually a long line of fake franchise players – players conceited enough to think that because teams are foolish enough to over-pay for their services, somehow they are franchise players.

Peter Vecsey, everyone’s favorite acrid commentator, writes:

Bottom line: Kobe has evolved into a fake franchise player . . . same as Chris Webber and Tracy McGrady and now Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal. They’re not conceited; they’re convinced they’re bad to the bone, all commanding max money – a lot more in K.G.’s (grandfathered) case.

All of ’em repeatedly failed to carry their respective teams to the Finals sans another superstar; McGrady can’t even get out of the first round with Yao Ming, as opposed to Allen Iverson and LeBron James, who reached the Supreme Court surrounded by role players.

Right. A year ago we made a list of the All Overpaid Team (high contracts, no playoff success). Who would be on it in 2007?

Lets see, off the top of my head (salary data from hoopshype):

Kobe Bryant ($19.4 Million)
Jermaine O’Neal ($19.7 M)
Kevin Garnett ($22 M)
Allen Iverson ($20.1 M)
Stephon Marbury ($20.1 M)
Shaquille O’Neal ($20 M)
Tracy McGrady ($19 M)
Steve Francis ($16.4 M)
Antawn Jamison ($16.3 M)
Paul Pierce ($16.3 M)
Ray Allen ($16 M)
Michael Redd ($14.5 M)
Pau Gasol ($13.7M)
Joe Johnson ($13.5 M)
Mike Bibby ($13.5 M)
Zach Randolph ($13.3 M)
Lamar Odom ($13.5 M)
Rashard Lewis ($15.6 – not sure if this is his new contract. Still he was second highest paid member of a horrible team, the Seattle/Oklahoma Sonics)

plus as reserves:
Jason Kidd ($19.7 M – though Kidd might be worth max money, if only he could make a jump shot)
Dirk Nowitzki ($16.3 M)

Some of these fellas did make the 2007 playoffs true (8 of these 20, but none got further than the first round. Strangely enough, these are among the highest salaries in the league (20 out of the top 30 salaries). Wonder if having a more flexible payroll would have helped their respective teams?

The question is moot /Rev. Jesse Jackson voice, as you go to the playoffs with the team you got, not the team you wish you had /fake Donald Rumsfeld voice

Nowitzki might get a pass, Dallas is a good, balanced team, and probably would have advanced against any team besides Golden State. But on the other hand, Michael Finley got a ring with Spurs coming off the bench as the second highest paid player on the league, courtesy of Mark Cuban’s largess.

Oh, and I guess Flip Saunders gets to coach, even though he made it to the conference finals. George Karl gets to be his assistant, and Pat Riley ball boy.


Michael Jordan shaved head look

I’m watching a classic 1988 Bulls vs. Pistons game (first aired on April 3, 1988) on NBA-TV, and I figured out why Jordan shaved his head the following summer. In this game, Jordan still has his normal hair, but is rapidly thinning in front. Somewhere buried on the Bulls bench (and playing a few minutes in 1st Q/2nd Q) is a center Granville Waiters, who had an advanced state of male pattern baldness, as much as Bozo the Clown in fact.

I’m sure a young Jordan, razzing Waiters one day in practice suddenly realized that he might be next, and decided to shave his remaining hair off to avoid the embarrassment. Perfectly logical.

update, rewound the TiVo, and Waiters definitely was the guy that started the trend. See this photo. Nuff said…

Granville Waiters
Granville Waiters as a Rocket

Jordan’s Hair Trigger, as it were. Ahem