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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

DVD Mini-Reviews: Primer/Solaris 

Primer: There's a great line in Jurassic Park where Ian Malcom chides John Hammond, saying, "you were too busy thinking about whether you could, you didn't stop to think if you should." A similar principle exists in this award-winning indie film. A group of engineers build a machine that they soon learn can transport them back through time, which not surprisingly leads to a tangled confluence of events. Primer's complex story sometimes confuses, and it leaves questions unanswered, but it's refreshing in its imaginative, ambitious reach. 8/10

Solaris: Two things stood out to me while watching this film: (1) If you're going to make a movie that consistently pays homage to 2001, then why would you throw away ninety minutes of ambiguously engaging story telling to hold your audiences hand during the climax? (2) George Clooney was born to play Daniel Ocean... and little else. 5/10


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Texas: Remember the Alamo! 

On this day 169 years ago, in the span of just twenty minutes, the Texas army avenged their brethren and won independence from Mexico on a battle field in San Jacinto.

Silently and tensely the Texas battle line swept across the prairie and swale that was No Man's land, the men bending low... As the, troops advanced, "Deaf" Smith galloped up and told [Sam] Houston, "Vince's bridge has been cut down." The General announced it to the men. Now both armies were cut off from retreat in all directions but one...

At close range, the two little cannon, drawn by rawhide thongs, were wheeled into position... Then the whole line, led by Sherman's men, sprang forward on the run, yelling, "Remember the Alamo!" "Remember Goliad!" All together they opened fire, blazing away practically point-blank at the surprised and panic-stricken Mexicans. They stormed over the breastworks, seized the enemy's artillery, and joined in hand-to-hand combat, emptying their pistols, swinging their guns as clubs, slashing right and left with their knives. Mexicans fell by the scores under the impact of the savage assault.
The Republic of Texas may have been conceived at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, but it was truly born on April 21. Happy San Jacinto Day, everyone! God Bless Texas!


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/21 

Replacement-free hockey: Here's a suggestion for the NHL's official 2005-06 slogan -- "No scabs, just scars." Rather than use replacement players this fall, the league won't resume play until there's a collective bargaining agreement, which means they might not resume play for another season. Remember that time the government shut down for a few days during the Clinton Administration? If congressional Republicans could compromise with their arch-enemy, then how has it taken a year to make absolutly no progress between the NHLPA and the owners?

NBA Playoffs: LeBron and KG are out, yet the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies are in. I don't know a lot about the NBA, but that's a little odd, isn't it? ESPN's Marc Stein ranks the contenders, and per his crystal ball the Spurs enter as the favorites. Meanwhile Houston and Dallas square off in Round One, which for the rest of Texas is as miserable a series as is possible. It's bad enough hearing these two cities snipe at each other when there isn't an actual competition in progress. A playoff series? This is going to be brutal.

Championship Chez?: Things looked bleak for the home team last night. We trailed The Outlaws, 7-0, after three innings. But once again T.D. Sanchez showed the heart (and beer gut) of a softball champion. Four runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth tied the game, and after a scoreless sixth The Outlaws scored twice in the seventh to regain the lead. No worries. Our lead-off man walked, and then the bats hammered out a double, a triple and a single up the middle to complete the come-from-behind win, 10-9 -- our third straight one-run victory. Team Chez finishes with a 6-2 record, and if The Outlaws lose their make-up game to the Cryco Psychos, we'll all finish in a three-way tie for first. No matter, it was by far the most exciting softball season I've had in my year-and-a-half on the team.

Arizona unveils new unis: Here's the difference in great franchises and crappy ones. When Dallas or San Francisco struggle for a few years, they go out and hire a new coach like Bill Parcells to turn things around. When the Arizona Cardinals sturggle, they change their uniforms. "I think it's an example of how we're trying to turn the corner and change things up," new quarterback Kurt Warner said. "I think the uniform is a great way to start on it." No, hiring Dennnis Green was a great way to start on it. Drafting a RB would be another great way to continue it. Forget the uniforms. There's a reason the Cardinals are a minor-league organization.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Movies: The Dark Side 

One month from today... the saga concludes.

In what will surely be a whirlwind, month-long barrage of Star Wars mania, leading up to the release of Episode III -- The Revenge of the Sith, MSNBC contributor Erik Lundegaard kicks off the stretch run with a look at cinema's greatest bad guy.

I have little to add, as I agree with his premise:

Why did Darth Vader appeal so much? In a time of detente, of nuance, there was a purity about “Star Wars,” and no one was more pure than Darth Vader. He was the biggest baddest man on the biggest baddest ship in the galaxy. He wore black. He was evil, but a cool kind of evil, not like the other men of the Empire, pasty white British guys with bad haircuts and flared nostrils who bickered needlessly and couldn’t pronounce “sorcerer’s ways” correctly. No, Darth got it. The movie was about spirituality over technology, but only three people were really aware of this spirituality enough to control it, and one was wise but old (Obi-wan Kenobi), and one was idealistic but young (Luke Skywalker), while the third, Darth, was just right. You believed him when he told Obi-wan, “Your powers are weak, old man.” If “Star Wars” is the first modern super hero movie then Darth is the only one who seems super in it. He even has the cape.
I'm not sure where the Star Wars generation begins and ends, but I do know that I'm a part of it. And even as an impressionable youngster that always cheered for the good guy, I couldn't help but love Darth's evil genius. He was a villain unlike anything else -- articulate and savvy, yet unflinching and brutal.

Next month long-time fans of Vader finally get to see his real genesis. The last time he graced the silver screen it was as a defeated, dying old man. Now he emerges as the greatest warrior in the galaxy. I'm not the only one who's excited at the prospect.


Austin: Smoking Ban to be Decided 

Texas Tommy looks at Austin's proposed smoking ban, which the city will put to a vote on May 7. Austin currently bans smoking in public places, but a loophole in the provision allows bars and similar businesses to purchase a special permit that gets around the law. This new proposition would completely ban smoking, even in bars and music clubs.

I'm torn on this issue.

The part of me that supports a business owener's right to decide what's best for his or her venue thinks that the ban is an example of governmental over-reach. But the part of me that enjoys going out and not having to Febreeze my clothes wouldn't mind seeing the ban pass.

I probably won't vote in the election. On principle I'd have to vote against the ban, but my poor lungs sure would enjoy a night downtown where I didn't wheeze through half of the following day.

As a sidenote, I wonder how many of these anti-smoking zealots are among the masses that decry the "religious right's" attempts to legislate morality?


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/19 

ESPN grabs Monday Night Football: I really hope this doesn't mean that Joe Theisman and Paul McGuire will supplant Al Michaels and John Madden in the broadcast booth. Other than that the move doesn't bother me. In fact I look forward to the transition straight from Monday Night Countdown to the game. People without cable are upset, but if you're a big enough sports fan to even notice this switch then how do you get through football season without cable in the first place?

Armstrong set to retire: So 2005 will be the final "Tour de Lance." What a relief. It'll be nice to drive the streets of Austin without having to avoid the hordes of Lance wannabes once he hangs them up.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Personal: Happy LM Day! 

Twenty-eight years ago today, halfway across the country from each other, two events occurred simultaneously that would forever change the course of our great nation. In hospital rooms in Los Angeles, Calif., and Temple, Texas, two mothers gave birth to sons that unbeknownst at the time, would eventually dominate the United States of America.

We still have time to make it happen.

Yes, today is the 28th birthday of both myself and sometimes-contributer Matt. I've heard it called the last good birthday, though I somehow think that happened a few years ago. Anyway, I don't feel older. But ask me again tomorrow after I've had a day to dwell on it.

Happy LM Day, everyone!

ADDED: April 18 is also a big day for two of my favorite blogs. Happy Birthday to Karol at Alarming News, and Happy 1st Anniversary to the gang at Dummocrats.Com.


Friday, April 15, 2005

Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/15 

Sox-Yanks scrum: Gary Sheffield goes to field a ball near the fence, a fan takes a swing at him, Sheffield swings back before throwing the ball to the cut-off man. He did the absolute right thing and I hope the instigating fan gets banned for life from Fenway. When are these jackasses going to learn that they are not part of the action, and as such need to remain outside the playing arena. A ticket does not give you carte blanche to join into the action. In fact, any fan that interferes with a play should -- at the least -- receive a season-long ban from the ballpark. That means reaching over on fair balls down the line, as well as robbing home runs. As a side note, Sheffield showed remarkable restraint beyond the initial reaction. It makes me think that if he ever juiced, as was alleged, he no longer does. An attempted sucker-punch like that is the type of action sure to incite a 'roid rage.

Pre-draft chat w/ DJ: Derrick Johnson fields questions on ESPN's chat. Pretty run-of-the-mill. DJ likes 50 Cent and Beyonce, and he wants to buy a candy red Hummer when he gets his first paycheck. I always wonder why people ask such lame questions during these chats.

Bonds less popular among teens: When has Barry Bonds registered a high level of popularity among any demographic? Sixty-two percent of 8 to 15 year-olds like Bonds less now than they did before the steroids "scandal"? Who cares. Per the article 25 percent of those surveyed like baseball less as a whole. If someone stops caring about baseball because of steroids then I question how much they ever really loved the game. In any evet, good riddance. I doubt Bonds will miss those kids. I sure as hell won't either.

Michael Vick aka Ron Mexico: The NFL doesn't find Vick's alias humorous? Too bad. I, for one, can't wait to see all of the "Speedy Gonzalez" references next season when Vick yanks the ball down and scrambles.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/14 

ESPN baseball rankings: Atlanta tops the list; Houston checks in at No. 16. "Here's hoping rookie Chris Burke gets a chance to eventually play on a regular basis this season." He's played regularly the last four games. And with Craig Biggio taking a pitch on the arm last night (I didn't see it, but I heard it left a brutal lump) Burke will likely play more.

Cardiac kids: T.D. Sanchez triumphed in yet another thriller last night. A back-and-forth game went into the 7th tied 12-12. Then we put up a five-spot, including a clutch two-run single from your humble correspondent. In the bottom half of the frame, the Outhouse Flys smacked a 3-run HR with two outs to cut it to 17-16. The next batter then singled but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Look for a replay on ESPN Classic next week.

Super Bowl in Big D: Football's biggest game is likely headed to Dallas (actually Arlington) in 2011 or 2012, once "Jerryland" is in full operation. Cowboys fans are hoping the team is back in contention for the game by that time. If not they'll just have to polish up the existing five Lombardi trophies and have them looking nice for the fans.

Willis tosses second goose-egg: The Marlins hurler has pitched eighteeen scoreless innings to open the season. Stop and think how amazing that is. In this day and age of set-up men and pitch counts, two complete game shutouts in a season is a good feat. Throwing them in your first two starts just doesn't happen.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/13 

Stop me if you've heard this before: Mike Tyson promises a "train wreck." Opponent Kevin McBride promises to "shock the world." Two questions: (1) When did Mike last give us a fight that wasn't a train wreck? (2) Is there anything that could happen in this fight that could shock us? (Barring twelve rounds of clean, entertaining action).

Soccer player hit by flare: In Scotland they boo the Pope. In Italy they love the Pope, they just evidently hate the players. In Detroit they throw cups of beer at hated players. In Milan they love their beer, so they throw flares at hated players. Could someone please tell me where Europeans get the nerve to call Americans uncivilized? And if the rise of soccer in America means we have this kind of crap to look forward to, then I pray the sport never ascends above its current minor league level.

12 Games in '06?: Twelve regular season college football games could become a reality in 2006. I cheer now, but come September of next year, when I'm shelling out $60 to watch Texas beat up on SMU or some other patsy, I might think differently.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Random: Stupid People Everywhere 

A conversation I just overheard:

Moron 1- Have you seen that movie Napolean Dynamite?

Moron 2- No.

Moron 1- There's a part where the main guy, Napolean, draws a cat and says it's a "liger" -- half lion, half tiger. I was thinking that it would be funny to register that as a trademark and then ding them for all of the times they mention it in the movie.

Moron 2- That would be a great idea. You should totally do that.
Hey dumbass, Ligers exist.


DVD Mini-Reviews: Amores Perros/The United States of Leland 

Amores Perros: Director Alejandro González Iñarritu's title translates as "love's a bitch," and for the characters in this film, it proves true. Set in Mexico City, Amores Perros follows three separate tales that intertwine around a central event. It's a gritty tale of relationships and determination. Love is found for some and lost for others, but in the quest lies also redemption for those who look beyond themselves. 8/10

The United States of Leland: This angst-ridden melodrama is part-Good Will Hunting, part-Catcher in the Rye, but without the intangible qualities that make those stories so endearing. It's an exercise in selfishness that paints a half-empty world in strokes way too broad, so as to induce more apathy than melancholy. Like the title character, you're left unfulfilled and numb, wondering what the hell was the point. 5/10


Astros: One Week Down... 

During the course of a baseball season you're going to see a lot of highs and lows. Few things are as annoying as the baseball fan that leans to one extreme or another before at least August.

So I'm not going to let yesterday's meltdown against the Mets bother me, just as I didn't celebrate too much after the weekend sweep of Cinci. Was it a game that Houston could have (should have?) won? Yes, it was. But we'll get that back at some point.

After one week the Stros sit atop the NL Central with a 4-2 record. Though four percent of the season schedule represents much too small a sample to make any real inferences, 4-2 is undoubtedly better that 2-4. There's plenty to be positive about right now, save for the schedule quirk that has the teams taking a day off today during the middle of the series.

For now I'm content. Let's see what happens in week two.


Monday, April 11, 2005

Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/11 

Tiger fact and fiction: What a Masters! For all of the anti-Tiger sentiment the past two years, I'm surprised to see little to no negative coverage of his fourth green jacket. The gang at ESPN debates Tiger's future. Will he win another Major this year? Will he break Nicklaus' record for Masters' victories? Major championships? Does anyone really want to bet against him.

Arena tragedy: Al Lucas of the LA Avengers died yesterday from injuries sustained in an Arena Football League game. My prayers are with his family.

Bo knows lawsuits: A SoCal newspaper retracted a steroids accusation made against Bo Jackson. Bo on the juice? Say it ain't so, Bo. I don't belive Jackson took steroids. Despite what cynics and the media say, there are athletes that dominate simply due to their God-given abilities. Now if you believe Bill Simmons' assessment that Bo was the best video game athlete ever, then perhaps his Tecmo Bowl character was on the juice (I still maintain that Kordell Stewart in Bill Walsh '95 for Genesis was as good as, if not better than, Tecmo Bo.

Scots jeer Pope at soccer match: Maybe they were jeering because soccer is so incredibly boring?


Friday, April 08, 2005

Baseball: Steroids, Asterisks and Denying Admittance to Cooperstown 

So two-thirds of Americans think steroid users in baseball should be denied entrance into the Hall of Fame. Has anyone stopped to think how ludicrous that is?

I'm so sick of hearing about steroids that I want to watch ballgames with the sound off. In a sport that has seen a fixed World Series, multiple strikes/lockouts, and institutionalized segregation -- for the better part of a half-century, no less -- you want to tell me that Barry Bonds is the worst thing to ever happen baseball?

The quest for a competitive advantage has always hung as a skeleton in baseball's closet. Steroids might take that to the next level, but juicers aren't the first group of ballplayers that have sought an edge on the diamond.

How many pitchers doctored the ball on their way to Cooperstown? Gaylord Perry is the most glaring example, but it would be naive to think he's the only one. And how many HOF sluggers ever used a corked bat? According to Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, the greatest ballplayer of all time probably did. Yeah, Babe Ruth, as good as he was, most likely cheated on occasion.

Anyone want to remove Perry or Ruth from the Hall?

Besides, Bonds and Mark McGwire were HOF-bound before they broke home run records. And even if they used steroids to help reach loftier heights, there's nothing conclusive that says they wouldn't have amassed those numbers anyway.

Then there's the equally asinine argument that steroid-aided records should include asterisks. MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman dismisses that notion.

But while we're on the subject of the asterisk in the record book, there are some records that I would like to see accompanied by asterisks. Those records would include every one set before the year 1947.

This is how the asterisk would go in the record book:

*This record was set when only a portion of the population was allowed to play Major League Baseball.

I like that. It's clean, it's crisp, it makes the point. While we're going over the records of anybody and everybody who might have juiced, we ought to take a longer look at an era when injustice was an everyday occurrence.
Damn straight.

You want to talk about cheating? The real victims of cheating are the Satchell Paiges and Josh Gibsons, not Joe Sixpack, who rails against ballplayers with his houlier-than-thou indignance.

Steroids aren't a scandal. They're an ugly by-product that stems from a will to win -- the same will that has reared its head time and time again in game's past. Sure baseball would be better without them, and hopefully their influence will wane under the new steroids policy. But the incessant moaning about steroids has gotten out of control. Juicing is no bigger a balckeye in this game's histrory than a half-dozen other problems, and it's time people realized that.


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/8 

Augusta tames Tiger: El Tigre struggled in The Masters' opening round. First he putts into the water at 13, then some fan calls in to report a putting violation at 14. I don't know which is more unbelievable? Hey armchair golfers: Put down the phone and just watch the TV. Imagine if we could do this in other sports? You'd have an army of dorks holding dog-eared rulebooks watching games with their fingers on speed-dial. No penalty was assessed for Tiger's alleged infraction.

Spring wardrobe must-have in NYC: I guess this is the next best thing to those "1914" signs, though not as deliciously coarse as their rivals' "Jeter Has AIDS" t-shirt.

Best college football finishes: Fiending for football? The CFN gang has the Top 100 finishes in college football since 1970. After seeing their #14, I'm re-thinking what I said two posts ago. Maybe fans should be able to call in and report egregious officiating errors.

49ers narrow list to four: Antrel Rolle? Braylon Edwards? How can they not take a QB? Who would Edwards take passes from? It's Aaron Rogers or Alex Smith. Flip a coin if you must. If these clowns use the entire allotted fifteen minutes on Draft Day, I'm going to throw something at my TV.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Televison: I Love 'The Office' 

I came across AA-S XLent blogger Sarah Lindley's post about "The Office," and it made me realize that I had not yet mentioned the new NBC sitcom.

Calling it "new" is actually a misnomer. "The Office" is an American translation of the cult BBC comedy. To tell the truth, when I first heard of its debut, I had -- much like Lindley -- mixed feelings. But after seeing a few episodes I think it's probably the best comedy since "Seinfeld."

Like its British counterpart, "The Office" is an irreverant look at life in the workplace, and all of the awkward day-to-day situations we find ourselves tip-toeing around in real life. Except no one tip-toes in this show.

Though not as crude or coarse as the BBC version (the FCC would have a field day with the Slough crew), characters in the NBC "Office" are just as honest, confrontational and non-PC as the blokes across the pond, and you know what? Except for Steve Carell as Michael Scott, Dunder-Mifflin's division manager, I like the Americans better.

Last week's "Diversity Day" episode was by far the funniest thing I've seen on television in years. After that I feared that the show might have peaked in its second episode, but the Scranton bunch put my fears to rest with a laugh-til-your-sides-hurt jab at insurance plans.

Diversity? Insurance? It doesn't sound like much, does it? Then you see Carell "quote" President Lincoln ("Don't be a racist, or I'll attack you with the North") before having his employees place notecards with ethnic groups on their heads and act out stereotypes to learn about racial sensitivity. Or you'll watch underling Dwight (the American version of Gareth) demand that the others disclose their diseases when he sets out to slash the medical plan ("Who wrote 'hot dog fingers?'").

Unlike formulaic themed sitcoms and goofy family shows, "The Office" puts the characters at the forefront, and like "Seinfeld," lets their interactions guide the way. It might not be wholly original, but it's far above most of the crap on TV.


Astros: One in the 'W' Column 

Last year Andy Pettite made his much-hyped Astros debut a day after the Stros lost their season opener. It mattered little to the Giants, who made quick work of Pettite to drop Houston to 0-2.

Yesterday AP find himself in a similar situation, but he refused to let history repeat itself. In six innings of work, Pettite worked smart and looked as sharp as a guy coming off arm surgery can look. Through three innings he only threw 25 pitches, and by the time he left after six he had allowed a single run.

That's the AP Houston fans wanted to see.

Speaking of history repeating itself, the Astros slugged their way to 15 hits in AP's debut last year -- all of them singles. For a time yesterday it looked like Houston would once again slap their way to 15 hits in a losing cause.

Willy T's afterburner and Mike Lamb's clutch stick changed all of that. Lamb's pinch-hit triple in the 8th to break open a 1-1 game no doubt resonated among Astros fans, who have watched Lamb's third-base counterpart, Morgan Ensberg, take pitches and punch singles in his first two games.

What can you really take from two games? Not much, except to say that:

a) Biggio looks comfortable at second. The pro-Chris Burke faction will have to pipe down for a while.

b) There's no substitute for speed. Willy Taveras has it. He's not going to collect two hits in every game, but the added dimension that he brings sure can make us all dream about the potential this young man possesses.

c) Mike Lamb is going to make the most of his playing time. At some point I get the feeling that, unless Moberg steps it up, Lamb is going to push him out of the everyday lineup.

d) The bullpen doesn't look like the weak link. No David Weathers, no Mike Gallo, and we have an established closer from the outset. The 'pen doesn't have to be the best in the league, but for a team that needs to take advantage of every opportunity, it's crucial that they hold leads and bide time for the offense.

e) We're still not watching the Astros: Lance Berkman brings a different dynamic to this offense. He adds power and provides protection. Yeah, we all know that, but it's an important thing to remember as we await his return, especially for those that are already looking over the cliff.


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/7 

Masters wash-out: Rain has delayed the opening round in Augusta. I wanted to pen a Masters preview for today, but then I thought, what could I possibly say that someone else hasn't said already? Then I thought I might make a prediction, but predictions in golf are pointless. Say I pick Tiger? You'd think, "wow, really going out on a limb." Same with Lefty, Ernie Els or Vijay Singh. But if I went outside that group and picked, for instance, Padraig Harrington, you'd think I was crazy, because he's not going to outlast the big four. Here's my only real prediction: If Jack Nicklaus makes the cut, everyone in the field will say that it's the best moment of the weekend.

Baseball millionaires: Average baseball salary: $2.6M. Median baseball salary: $850K. Both are up from last season. Says Marquis Grissom: "That means we're going in the right direction. When [salaries] go up, it's always good." Is it? As long as attendence and revenue figures increase as well, I guess. But for all the union solidarity and such, the only people really benefitting from salary escalation are the few at the top. Your average fifth starter, long reliever or utility infielder isn't collecting the lottery-like paychecks, yet as often than not those are the guys that ultimately decide a team's success. Baseball is a funny game.

NHL GMs mull changes: The NHL hasn't folded yet? Damn. In a classic example of placing the cart way in front of the horse, GMs plan to meet and discuss how to jazz up hockey. Isn't this like the Libertarian Party meeting to discuss decorative ideas for the West Wing?

Vick rot: Life imitates football. Michael Vick shuns his protection on the field, and if allegations of him spreading genital herpes to an Atlanta woman are true, then he also shuns protection off of the field. On the bright side, Vick could be for Valtrax what Rafael Palmerio is to Viagra.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Astros: Shades of October 

Taken at face value, yesterday's season opening loss to St. Louis might look like a disaster. But I think there's a lot to build on, despite the 7-3 score.

My Opening Day thoughts:

- Ed Montague's strike zone was consistently inconsistent. Both pitchers looked baffled at times, not knowing if and when they'd get the call on the inside corner or at the knees. St. Louis' Chris Carpenter did a better job than Roy Oswalt of dealing with it (though he obviously faced a less potent lineup).

- No one's ever going to accuse Larry Dierker of being a homer. Somebody pour Larry a few Budweisers before this afternoon's game.

- Jim Edmond's three-run homer in the first shows he hasn't lost anything. Roy threw him a good pitch -- low and away (though not as low and away as it could have been) and Edmonds reached out and punched it the other way into the Crawford Boxes.

- Speaking of punch, it would help if Morgan Ensberg brought a little to the cleanup spot. Yeah, the pitches were low, Moberg, but when you have guys in scoring position and you're down four runs, you have to swing the bat.

- Rookie watch: Willy T had a few nice swings, showed a cannon in center, and played with confidence. Luke Scott seemed tentative, but it was his first game in the Bigs, so there's no point in piling on.

- You always wonder what-if when comebacks fall short, but what if AE finds a way to get on base in the bottom of the ninth? Then Bidge comes to the plate as the winning run, and he hit the ball well last night. I can't blame Adam for attacking the first pitch. Isringhausen has a tendency to groove first-pitch fastballs (see: Game Five, 2004 NLCS). AE just didn't connect on it.

- All in all, the guys kept scrapping even when they trailed 7-1, and they put themselves back in position to make a run. That sounds like a typical Astros effort. Until Lance Berkman returns, this team will struggle at times to score runs, and give Chris Carpenter credit for pitching a solid game. There's no shame in losing to the defending league champions. Regroup today and try to make things happen against Jason Marquis.


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/6 

Baylor wins women's NCAA: I could make so many off-colored jokes here, but I can't seem to pull the trigger (oops). I despise Baylor and the self-righteous attitude they employ when looking down their nose at the other Texas schools. I hope they don't intend to pimp this "title," though it's by far the most significant accomplishment in the history of Baylor's third-rate, inferiority-complex-having athletic department. That actually tells you all you need to know about them.

Lakers out of playoffs: I hear Kobe's already watching scouting tapes to prepare for the June NBA Draft.

Dickie V eyes Uconn: With players jumping to the NBA after a season or two, and with so many freshman making an instant impact, how can anyone, no matter how closely they follow college hoops, make an honest assessment of next year's title favorites, a mere ten minutes after this year's Final Four has ended?

Phil the "phavorite"?: CNNSI's Gary Van Sickle is apparently stuck in 1998. He props Phil Mickleson up as one of golf's best (you think?) and tells us to "get used to it." Even the biggest Mickleson detractors (read: me) don't still consider him a "one-Major wonder." And comparing Lefty to the L.A. Clippers is laughable. I'd rather read about Mickleson's menu choice at last night's Masters reception than another "woe is Phil" piece.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Longhorns: The Color of Obsession 

The Arkansas Razorbacks are apparently still upset about their loss to Texas last season.

Pink is out and burnt orange is in as the color a Razorback defensive player loathes to wear at practice.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt made the switch Monday after receiving comment from many involved with the Race for the Cure, scheduled April 23 in Fayetteville as a fund-raiser to help beat breast cancer.

Last week with Nutt’s approvel, new defensive coordinator Reggie Herring ordered those on defense graded with six or more "loafs" for consecutive practices be garbed in a pink practice jersey over their regular white defensive jersey. "I got a few calls from the Race for the Cure cancer survivors," Nutt said after Monday’s practice. "That was the last thing on our minds to discredit people who have shown a lot of toughness. I’ve had members of my family who had cancer. If pink does offend them, that’s the last thing we want. I know how strong and how brave they are. We’ll mix up the colors and hopefully won’t offend any of them."

Using burnt orange as the current color of scorn might offend the Texas Longhorns, but the Razorbacks won’t play their old Southwest Conference rival this season unless matched in a bowl game.
Poor piggies. If Nutt wants to not discredit people that have shown a lot of toughness, then his "loafers" should don the colors of whatever SEC school Arkansas has managed to own.


Astros: Opening Day 

It doesn't feel like six months have passed since St. Louis scratched out a Game Seven win, denying the Astros of a trip to the World Series.

A lot has happened since then. Carlos Beltran took his power and speed to New York, while Jeff Kent took his moustache to Los Angeles. Wade Miller relocated to Boston General, while Dan Miceli relocated to the land of the Rising Sun. And Roger Clemens told Drayton McLane to "show me the money," while Lance Berkman showed his church congregation why he plays baseball, not football.

Add it all up and you're left with a club that most talking heads say can't compete for a return trip to the postseason. It's true that the question mark could replace the star as Houston's official team logo this season...

Can Andy Pettite's arm hold up? Will Morgan Ensberg's power numbers bounce back? Can an outfield of two rookies (Willy Taveras and Luke Scott) and an unproven guy (Jason Lane), whose finally getting a shot, hold down the fort until Berkman returns in a few weeks? Will Roger Clemens come close to repeating his 2004 magic? Has Roy Oswalt's groin finally healed? Is Brandon Backe the answer in the rotation's four-spot? What about a fifth starter?

...but some of these questions have to have positive answers, right?

As the curtain lifts on 2005 I'm reminded of the 1992 Astros. A rookie-laden team that few thought would win 70 games surprised the baseball world with an 81-81 season. Jason Lane and Luke Scott don't have to be the next Biggio and Bagwell for the Astros to similarly surprise folks this year. Good pitching and minimizing mistakes should keep the team at least withing striking distance. If they're still in contention come July, then who knows what GM Tim Purpura might pull off to bolster the club.

Meanwhile the euphoria of last year still lingers, at least for me. There's a lot of baseball ahead in the next six months, and I, unlike some of the Chicken Littles in the Astros fanbase, look forward to it. Play Ball!


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/5 

Going, going, gone: Detroit's Dmitri Young blasts three Opening Day taters. Cinci's Adam Dunn swats two, as does Chicago's Derek Lee. Before we commence with silly projections of Young to 486 bombs and the others to 324 each, remember that the last player to open with three homers on Opening Day, Tuffy Rhodes in 1994, went on to hit only nine on the season. Lee and Young should both reach the mid-20s, but Dunn is the only real contender for the home run title.

North Carolina wins: Good for them.

Nicklaus to play The Masters: I'd love to see the Bear make the cut at Augusta. Sure he's not going to win another green jacket, but he reportedly shot a 74 in a practice round last week. A couple of those could keep him around at least until the weekend.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/4 

First steroid suspension: And the steroids "scandal" grows bigger with the first suspension for steroid abuse -- a light-hitting outfielder, whose services are unlikely to be missed in Tampa Bay. He claims his is a false pisitive. I really don't care one way or another.

Yankees win opener: For all the hype about this series' renewal, the game proved less-than-enthralling. Between the Alex Sanchez babble and constant resets of the teams' recent playoff tilts, Randy Johnson owned the defending champs. If Johnson doesn't win 22 games I'll be very surprised. He could probably win 25 if he catches a few breaks.

UNC-Illinois clash in final: I guess everyone whose bracket still has a chance to win money will tune in to see tonight's NCAA title game. The rest of us will turn our attention to MLB's opening day or 24. I hope UNC wins because I've always liked the Heels, and I've always disliked almost everything about the Big Ten.

Fat Phil defends title: It's Masters week, which means Phil Mickleson will be preparing for a title defense like no other the next few days. On the Golf Channel last night a panel debated the chances of either Lefty or Tiger's chances to win if each plays his best this weekend. Tiger's game has looked good lately, but as much as it pains me to admit, Mickleson poses a formidable threat as he seeks to repeat with another green jacket.

The best available: Gil Brandt offers his 32 best overall players in the upcoming NFL Draft, along with ten "radar" guys and three "wild cards." This year's draft looks stronger than the field in 2004.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 4/1 

More Armstrong doping allegations: These aren't going away. They don't prove he was guilty, but the more people continue to come out with these stories, the more you have to wonder.

Can Jim Thome "save" baseball?: He's the man in Jayson Stark's eye. I don't personally think baseball needs saving. Keep giving us postseasons like the one we witnessed in 2004, and the greatness of the game will save itself.

Sox and Cubs: I couldn't get beyond the first few graphs of Bill Simmons' latest column. If there's one thing that's more tired than the Red Sox self-congratulatory lovefest it's the pathetic pity-party Cubs fans continue to throw themselves. The Cubs aren't loveable -- they're just losers. They whine and blather and think that baseball owes them something. Enough, already.

Junior ready for 2005: Baseball's biggest enigma seems optomistic about the upcoming season. Can Griffey finally make it through an entire season in Cincinnatti? If he does, and is anything close to the Griffey of old, the Reds can hang around for a while. I can't stand Cinci, but Griffey's always been good for the game, and I hope he can stay healthy this year. He still has the sweetest wing in the game.

Clarett runs again: His improved 40 times might get him back in the draft, but it's going to take a lot more than that to get him above practice squad fodder. Chracter issues don't go away overnight, and right now Clarett is Lawrence Phillips without the temper or the upside.


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