Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Three Things

1. Marc is the new Pick Six champion! In a wild week that ended with everyone losing points, his intelligent selections propelled him to the top spot. Well done, Marc!

Marc, aka Mr. Intrigue



Final Standings:

1. Marc: 7

2. Craig & Tim: 5
3. John: 3
4. Tim B.: 0
5. Swetha & Sabreena: -13
6. Monty: -21

2. Last week, I had a soccer essay go up on Run of Play. The site is run by Brian Phillips, an unbelievable writer whose recent Wimbledon pieces are must-reads. A similar version ran in this blog previously, but I took it out once I knew it was going on RoP.

3. My second recap-style piece on Grantland went up yesterday. Give it a gander.

Have a great week!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX! Volume Four, WEEK SIX!

There's no turning back now!

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX


VOLUME FOUR, WEEK SIX


The Friday Pick Six is an original SCSD! game where six people make six sports predictions for six weeks. Along with their picks, they're allowed and encouraged to submit a 'sound-off' on any topic, sports or otherwise. When it's all done, the winner earns great honor among the people, while the two losers are exiled in shame and the three middle finishers go to purgatory, with the chance rescue their good name up to three times. To learn more about the rules, and about the current contestants, read below:

VOLUME FOUR

Here's how it looks:

The Last Chance Gals (3rd attempt, win or bust): Swetha & Sabreena
Purgatory Part 1: Marc, Monty
Newcomers: Craig & Tim, Tim B., John

-Volume Four Intros
-Week One
-Week Two
-Week Three
-Week Four
-Week Five

THE HALL OF ANGELS: OLD CHAMPIONS

1. Tom.
2. Mike
3. Patrick and Dylan

Current Standings

1. John - 26
2. Tim B. - 23
3. Marc - 20
4. S&S - 19
5. C&T - 17
6. Monty - 9

John came out guns ablaze in Week 5, vaulting to the top of the leaderboard. However, history doesn't favor him; the leader after Week 5 has never won a pick six. In fact, 4th-place seems to be the charmed position, and that's where S&S sit at the moment. It all comes down to week six, and that is as it should be.

Time for this week's docket:

1. Pick the finalists of the College World Series. By Friday, when picks are due, it'll be down to a final 4. 1 point each.

2. Mets - Rangers - weird interleague series. Who wins it?

3. Who wins the Gold Cup? US-Mexico.

4. Yankees against Rockies, Boston against Pirates...which team scores the most runs of all 4? The least? 1 point each.

5. Pick any other baseball series that you think will be a sweep. If it's a sweep, you get a point. No sweep, no points. No need to tell me the winner.

6. THE PICK SIX WEEK SIX SPECTACULAR!

Monday is the greatest day in tennis, with every round-of-16 match being played on both the men's and women's side of the draw. You may pick as many or as few Wimbledon quarterfinalists (Round of 8) as you wish. This is for men's and women's, so the maximum you can guess is 16.

Here's the scoring:

For every quarterfinalist you correctly pick, you get 3 points. For each quarterfinalist you incorrectly pick, you lose 5 points.

Exceptions: 1 point only for the following players - Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray. Sorry, but that's too easy. You can certainly pick against them if you so desire for full points.

Let's get it started with John the Destroyer. This is for every marble in the bag.

John


Here it is...moment of truth. I’m up a break and serving for the match. I have many years of knowing that tense feeling that comes with knowing that a tough match will not be handed to you...that you still have to go out there and serve and hit hard and win yourself this damn match! I’ve gotten better at this by learning a this: you play a lot better by realizing that a tennis match really isn’t that important. This of course is a false realization, because every loss stings for days. I don’t lose much, but I’m down 4-6, 0-3 right now in a match rain delayed yesterday for top place in a local ladder...I’ve been stewing for a day about it. I digress...if you can fool yourself a little, you can close the deal...that is my goal. Obviously all the marbles are on #6 this week since the others are small fries...tennis too...bittersweet since I know if I play conservative I can coast into at least a purgatory finish, while if I go all out, I risk it all...time to relax and tell myself(the false notion) that it really isn’t important...I mean I’m about to have a new daughter any hour now and you would think that that would be what I’m worried about, right?...this is just a game, right? Loosen up and pick’em! OK, if I win, I’m dedicating my Indian trophy to my as yet unborn girl...and naming it after her as well!

1. How can I pick against the winner’s bracket? I’m rooting for UVA and Vandy, but I have to pick UF and the Cocks...I’m pretty much guaranteed at least one of those.

2 I’ll go for the Rangers in Texas

3. I don’t really know much ‘bout dis. I recall some Mexicans getting kicked out for doping so maybe they are weakened…I see the final is in Pasadena so I’m expecting good ol’ USA to get drowned out by the bunch from East LA. I would be mildly ok with being wrong, but I’m going with El Tricolor (thanks Wikipedia)

4. I’ll go with the Yanks for most since they have the stupid DH this weekend. Least? Pirates.

5. Philly/Oakland

6. THE PICK SIX WEEK SIX SPECTACULAR!

Men: - Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Roddick, soderling, berdych

This is tough, I can’t even keep all Russians straight, and the women’s game has no order right now. I’m tempted to leave this section blank...seriously...but the women are for all the points...

Women: Sharapova, the Woz(niaki), Ivanovic, Serena, schiavone


Tim B.


1. It’s probably smarter to pick the two teams who only need to win once, but I’ll split the vote: South Carolina and Vanderbilt. The Commodores deserve my faith after beating UNC twice.

2. Are there any non-weird interleague series? Even though Arlington is, as all Mets fans know, where Jose Reyes made his big-league debut, it’s also where teams with power hit a lot of home runs. The Mets do not have power. Rangers.

3. It’s on U.S. land, but last I heard, Freddy Adu was actively involved in a slim win over Panama. Plus, and I don’t know if he still plays for them, but Cuahtemoc Blanco always had one of the best names in soccer. Cuahtemoc Blanco. Like an Aztec emperor. Mexico.

4. While the Red Sox have the best offense of the four, the Pirates have actually pitched pretty well, and Boston will be without Ortiz (unless they hilariously play Gonzalez in RF). The Yankees, meanwhile, will probably be better off without the albatross of Jorge Posada in the lineup, and they don’t face Colorado’s best starter (this year) in Jhoulys Chacin. New York.

5. I hate being bland, but the Phillies are so easy to take against the lackluster A’s, who won’t even toss Gio Gonzalez against them. Of course, if Oakland sweeps, I still win, right?

6. Has anyone ever considered multi-surface tennis? Not one court that contains all three, but like a match that takes place on all three. You could do a best-of-three-sets with each set occurring on a different surface, or (my preferred idea) a first-to-win-on-all-three-surfaces marathon in which you cycle through surfaces. Only then can we really settle Federer-Nadal. (Federer, I think, would win a best-of-three by taking grass and hardcourt; Nadal would win in the latter idea because it’s so tough to take even a set from him on clay.)

Nadal (what happened to Del Potro?)
Berdych
Murray
Federer
Soderling
Djokovic

Wozniacki
Ivanovic (a pick with my heart over my head)
Serena
Zvonareva



Marc, aka Mr. Intrigue


Well shit. The Bobcats once again prove to be the most inept organization in the NBA. Kemba Walker won't amount to shit in the pros and Bismack Biyombo is reincarnated Casey Sanders, but shorter. Hey Michael Jordan, you were supposedly good at basketball at some point in your career. I guess you spend too much time jacking yourself off with Air Jordan's to understand how to create a successful basketball team. Enjoy another year of apathetic fan support. How fast can we get a different NBA franchise in Charlotte?

1. Virginia and Vanderbilt going with the V's!
2. Rangers. These teams are singlehandedly responsible for the financial collapse. I wish they'd both collapse into a lava pit.
3. Mexico! We suck at soccer.
4. Yanks most, Pirates least.
5. Phillies and Athletics.
6. Nadal, Federer, Murray, Djokivic, Berdych, Soderling and the Williams sisters.



Swetha & Sabreena


Alright readers and fans (aka Jill and Carrie), this is our final Pick Six post ever. Ever! So if we don’t emerge victorious, this is goodbye.

1. Virginia’s mascot kind of looks like Antonio Banderas with a pirate hat. And Vanderbilt is good. UVA,VANDY

2. Texas forever. RANGERS

3. I wanted to make some sort of “tree falling in the woods with no one around, does it make a sound” joke regarding soccer and whether Americans would care. But I don’t know how to phrase it so it makes sense. MEXICO.

4. Most - BOSTON. Least - PIRATES.

5. Well, it doesn’t say we lose any points for picking incorrectly (we are holding you to the original email, Shane). So we are picking them all! BRAVES/PADRES, REDS/ORIOLES, ATHLETICS/PHILLIES, DIAMONDBACKS/TIGERS, RAYS/ASTROS, TWINS/BREWERS, NATIONALS/WHITE SOX, BLUE JAYS/CARDINALS, CUBS/ROYALS, ANGELS/DODGERS, MARINERS/MARLINS, INDIANS/GIANTS

6. The boring ones. NADAL, MURRAY, FEDERER, DJOKOBITCH, SODERLING.
The Americans. RODDICK, S. WILLIAMS, V. WILLIAMS.
The ones with names that sound like spies. IVANOVIC, SCHIAVONE, TSONGA, KUZNETSOVA, WOZNIACKI, PETROVA.



Craig & Tim


1- Florida and South Carolina. I have a dream that one day a team from the north of the Mason-Dixon line will compete for a CWS title. Alas, it is not this year.

2- Rangers over Mets. Mets are hovering near .500, I eagerly await their inevitable collapse in the second half of the season. No way they take two of three from the Rangers in Arlington. Jose Reyes may be in pinstripes come July. And with the Mets' financial situation and attending drama, I wouldn't be surprised if Fred Wilpon loses custody of the Mets to Kevin Federline in the near future.

3- Hey! Its another U.S.-Mexico Gold Cup match! The U.S. is coming off a gritty victory over Panama which featured the return of Freddy Adu to the international soccer scene. Apparently this is a good thing, since he was touted as the Next Great Hope in American soccer when he was 13. Even though the game is going to be played at the Rose Bowl, I think Mexico takes it. The US can't stop Chicharito even if he isnt flanked by dos Santos and Guardado.

4. The Red Sox

5. Nationals vs. White Sox. Will the sudden and surprising resignation of Nationals manager Jim Riggleman backhand slap the Nationals into a shock-induced losing streak? Will it result in a spite fueled winning streak? Either one would be fine with us.

6. It's time.

Gentlemen

Federer
Djokovic
Murray
Nadal
Soderling
Roddick

Ladies

Caroline Wozniacki
Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams
Petra Kvitova
Vera Zvonareva



Monty


1. The College World Series is all about the letter V, So I'm quite certain that Vanderbilt and Virginia will face each other in the finals. On the other hand, it's entirely possible that no one will reach the final, given the wild party nightlife in Omaha.

2. No one wins when the Mets play the Rangers. But if you mean which team will wind up having scored more points than the other in more games, I'm pretty sure that won't be the Mets.

3. It's not possible to win the Gold Cup. Winning is only a description of a way to achieve possession of the cup, and possession of material goods is an illusion, as are the material good themselves. That being said, the Mexicans have much more skill at soccer than the Americans.

4. The most likely outcome of both baseball series is that the stadiums are infiltrated by Thetans who perform weird group-therapy on everyone. In the off chance that Mr. L. Ron was wrong though, I'd have to pick Boston for the most points and the Rockies for the least number of points.

5. LA Angels at LA Dodgers. I have nothing odd or unwitty to say about this.

6. Nadal, Haase, Murray, Lopez, Ferrer, Federer, Soderling, Djkovic, Wozniacki, Sharapova, Lisicki, Williams, Schiavone, Petrova, Wickmayer, Williams

Everyone should prepare to feel supremely humbled when I come from this far behind to win everything at the last moment.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New News, Grantland Style

Hello my friends. Sorry for the lack of activity lately, but things have been in the offing.

First, I'm excited to tell you all that I wrote a piece for Grantland that was published today. I'll hopefully be doing more with them in the near future, and I'll be sure to keep everything updated here. Grantland, for those that don't know, is a site started by ESPN's Bill Simmons dedicated to sports and culture writing. It's been pretty great so far, give it a look if you're not familiar.

Second, and this has been a long time coming: please read The Fabulous Penguin's baseball blog. T Fab P has been a loyal reader for some time, and combined with his son Dylan to win the last Pick Six. I've been meaning to link his blog for like 2 months, and now the deed is done. No longer will I hoard this very enjoyable site. Check him out.

The Grantland stuff came as a direct result of this blog, and I can't thank everyone enough for the support you've shown over the past two years and change. Without you guys, I would've quit long ago. Because of the blog's vibrancy, though, especially during basketball season, I can't imagine doing anything else with my weekday mornings. It's always been a pleasure.

More later, pals.

Friday, June 17, 2011

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX! Volume Four, Week Five

Onward, brothers!

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX


VOLUME FOUR, WEEK FIVE


The Friday Pick Six is an original SCSD! game where six people make six sports predictions for six weeks. Along with their picks, they're allowed and encouraged to submit a 'sound-off' on any topic, sports or otherwise. When it's all done, the winner earns great honor among the people, while the two losers are exiled in shame and the three middle finishers go to purgatory, with the chance rescue their good name up to three times. To learn more about the rules, and about the current contestants, read below:

VOLUME FOUR

Here's how it looks:

The Last Chance Gals (3rd attempt, win or bust): Swetha & Sabreena
Purgatory Part 1: Marc, Monty
Newcomers: Craig & Tim, Tim B., John

-Volume Four Intros
-Week One
-Week Two
-Week Three
-Week Four

THE HALL OF ANGELS: OLD CHAMPIONS

1. Tom.
2. Mike
3. Patrick and Dylan

Current Standings

1. Tim B. - 15
2. John - 14
3. S&S - 13
4. C&T - 12
4. Marc - 12
6. Monty - 9

Week Four was an incredible one for pure scoring, as Tim vaulted up the leaderboard with 8 points. The others kept pace, giving us a tightly-packed top as we head into the penultimate week. Monty, who forgot to submit picks, paid the price as he went from first to worst.

Time for this week's docket:

1. Gold Cup Quarterfinals. This is the national soccer competition held roughly every two years for countries from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Saturday, the US takes on Jamaica. Normally this would be a formality, but the US has looked like shit and Jamaica has looked surprisingly strong. Plus, I'm throwing in a wrinkle. So, yes or no answer, will the US win by 2 goals or more?

2. US Open, golf. How many foreign blokes will finish in the top 20 of OUR FUCKING EVENT? 5 points for a direct hit, 3 points for best guess otherwise, 2 for second, 1 for third.

3. UNC takes on Vanderbilt in Game 1 of the College World Series. Patrick Johnson will be going for the Heels, and he's given up about 1 run in 30 innings or something insane like that. Jacob Stallings, the UNC catcher, is the son of Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin Stallings, and has been ridiculously clutch lately. So, which total will be higher: Jacob Stallings' hits, or the EARNED RUNS conceded by Patrick Johnson in his outing?

4. The Yankees play in the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Chewing Gum Field for the first time in what must be ages. We're earning our "Bombers" nickname over the past week, so how many home runs will the good guys hit over the ivy?

5. It was tough for all of us to watch the thugs from Boston punch their way to a Stanley Cup title, but perhaps the Brewers can extract a measure of revenge in Fenway this weekend. How many runs will the Brew Crew score against the woeful John Lackey Friday?

6. There's a weird tennis event going on in England right now which is a run-up to Wimbledon but isn't the famous Queens tournament. Try to pick who'll win.

We start with Tim B., the man who capture our hearts and imaginations in Week Four:

Tim B.


1. Two goals? The US isn't Barca. No.

2. Said it a few weeks ago. Euros are taking over golf, and they've been more competitive at the US Open in recent years (with McDowell breaking through for the win obvs). I'm going with 11 unAmericans.

3. I can't trust an athlete named Patrick Johnson, whom I merely see as a conflation of Blue Devil walk-ons Patrick Davidson and Steve Johnson. Earned runs.

4. Wind was blowing out Thursday, which bodes well for the long ball. Doug Davis pitching Friday night bodes better. Eight.

5. Lackey's been aight since coming off the DL, but he did allow 66.7% of the runs the Sox gave up in that Toronto series (and that was considered a good start). Milwaukee touches him for five.

6. Tipsarevic. Not because he's the only one I've heard of (I know Stepanek too, although I probably would have guessed he played hockey for the Rangers [that's Radek Dvorak, I guess]), not because he's the only one ranked, not because he almost beat Federer that one time and did beat Roddick that other time, but because his wife looks like this. Tennis allegiances can be fickle.


John


1. I think our team is currently falling apart and hasn't hit the bottom yet...still in denial stage. I say, No, we will not win by 2 or more goals.

2. 11

3. ER by Johnson. I hope I'm wrong.

4. 4

5. I'm assumming this is just runs against the starting pitcher (and earned runs since that is what is credited to the pitcher): 4

6: Tipsarevic



Swetha & Sabreena


I've been on a real "This is SportsCenter" kick recently, so we're going to use this docket as an opportunity to throw out some of the best commercials related to these topics since we don't really have any strong opinions about any of the questions. Also, we're aiming to finish this week in fourth place overall, because that seems to be the formula for winning the pick six.

1. Jozy Altidore tries to share, Landon Donovan gets owned by a copier, and America still kicks Jamaica's ass. USA BY 2+ GOALS.

2. Our favorite golfers either aren't in the field (please get healthy, Tiger) or now more famous for drinks than drives. TEN INTERNATIONALS.

3. This genre is kind of lacking in terms of college sports, so here's the only UNC video we can really tolerate, pretty much because of Danny Green's tongue gag. JOHNSON RUNS.

4. Derek Jeter gets peeved (while on the bench, of course), and the Yanks get homer-happy in his absence. SIX.

5. The Milwaukee Brewers are another team seriously underrepresented in the SportsCenter set. They're really not that impressive. THREE.

6. None of these four names are even remotely familiar. You'd have to imagine that if any of them walked around ESPN headquarters, something like this would happen. JANKO TIPSAREVIC.


Craig & Tim


Familiarize yourself with the concept of Qualia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia . Nothing I can say will ever be able to fully capture just how special this Boston Bruins team was...so I'm not even going to try.

Instead, I'll just state the obvious. Vancouver didn't win because you don't need a cup if you don't have balls.

1. The United States will be celebrating on Saturday, but it will be parade style in the storied streets of Boston...non soccer related. No, the US will not win by 2 or more goals. Yes, the US will show those clowns to the North how to gather together as a city without burning it down.

2. There will be 12 fuzzy little foreigners that finish in the top 20 of the US open. That's a Caddyshack reference for any of you who thought about getting angry since being castrated by the knife of political correctness.

3. The number of earned runs let up by Patrick Johnson will exceed the number of hits by Stallings. Metal bats are a joke, even a great pitcher can get tuned up within a blink of an eye.

4- "Good guys" is an inherently arbitrary term, as it implies that there is some universal consensus as to what is "good" and what is "bad". However, the term "good guys" should never be ascribed to the Yankees. Not in a baseball sense, not in a "they're good guys" sense. Jeter = womanizer. Posada = whiny little bitch. Teixiera pulled a LeBron before LeBron and took his talents to the Bronx, eschewing a return to his hometown Orioles for the bright lights and glamor of NYC. It is rumored that he plans on leaving his wife at the end of the season for the Olson twins. Nick Swisher? Unabashed tobacco-chewing enthusiast who displays a general lack of personal hygiene at all times. Russell Martin routinely pushes small children and old ladies out of the way to grab foul balls and then stares at them triumphantly. Cano steals the money from the collection plate at St. Patricks Cathedral and when confronted by the priests, he pretends not to understand English. A-Rod? I don't know where to start. Let's just say that he doesn't have a soul and it is unclear whether he can even be considered a human being.

That being said, the Yanks aka "Not Good Guys" face the immortal Doug Davis on Friday, Ryan "Dumpster" Dempster on Saturday, and some kid who won a contest to pitch for the Cubs on Sunday. I won't underestimate the Yanks and it could be a close race in the AL East all season. The Cubs pretty much suck, are near dead last in terms of team ERA and WHIP, and are close to last in BAA. Yanks hit 7 out of Double Mint Park.

5- Brewers score 3 off Lackey, who pitches into the 7th inning before his double chin starts wearing his face down.

And way to support America, Benedict. You'd rather see a group of traitors from Canada prevail over a hard-working, blue-collar, nitty-gritty hockey team that represents the best of America? In any sport? By the way, the Bs didnt need to punch their way to the finals. The 'Nucks did a pretty good job falling down on their own like a bunch of Euro-trash soccer players and drunken teenagers. And the Bruins couldn't punch a Canuck in the face because they'd get bitten or cheap-shotted. Plus, look what happened when Vancouver lost: Vancouver-ites trashed their city, creating a state of national emergency and forcing a massive increase in the nation's mandated sedative doses. In Boston? Only two arrests, for public intoxication. The Boston police didnt even have to shoot, maim, or kill a celebrating fan this year. See you at the title parade on Saturday.

6- So a Serb, Russian, Italian, and Japanese guy walk into a bar and start drinking...who is the last man standing? The Serb drinks beer, the Russian drinks vodka, the Italian drinks red wine, and the Japanese guy drinks sake. The Japanese guy passes out after his 8th sake bomb. The Italian follows suit, after his third bottle of
Chianti. The Russian is wobbly and cross-eyed after polishing off a liter of Stolichnaya...looks like the Serb is the last man standing! 18 beers later, the Serb succumbs to his beverage of choice. But wait! The Russian is back on his feet...and he doesn't even look drunk...AH HAH! The Russian tricked the Serb! The oldest trick in the book! After all, everyone knows that vodka courses though the veins of all Russians!

As a result of this possibly racist hypothetical, it can be said with confidence that the Russian, Igor Kunitsyn, will win the ATP Aegon International.


Marc, aka Mr. Intrigue


This past week was crazy. My apologies for lack of a rant. I'm going to have a short rant this week because Shane decides to send in the docket at the latest moment possible and some of us have lives Shane!

1. It was a few months ago when I stole into my friends house to watch their cable while I pretended to do push-ups on the floor. HBO On Demand is a wonderful thing. So many options, from shows to movies to documentaries. However, one choice on the television screen sparkled at me. Cool Runnings. Feel the rhythm, Feel the rhyme, Get on up, It's bobsled time...... COOOOOOOOOL RUNNINGS! The ending scene nearly brings me to tears every time. The only thing I've cried about in the past four years is the conclusion of Marley and Me (the book). Therefore, the answer is No.

2. I'm trying to navigate the US Open website but it seems the old white guys just discovered flash and decided to put as much of it everywhere on the site. Wild guess time! 12

3. This is tough, I remember your piece on the catcher, and it seems he has a lot of Jesus behind him. That's something to be feared. As we all saw, Jason Terry has a bunch of Jesus and look what happened. What about the losing teams? Don't those guys believe in God? Why didn't he ordain their victory? Regardless of your views on religion I think it's absolutely ridiculous when athletes praise God for their victory. If there is a God, he/she hopefully doesn't care about sports, but who knows. I'm going with Stallings.

4. At this very moment (4:44 on 6/16) the Yankees are going into extras with the Rangers. This might make them tired for the weekend. Baseball is a very tiring sport. All that sitting down and chewing gum (tobacco yeeeeehaw!). Maybe playing a little bit of grab-ass. I'll go for four homeruns because of those tired arms.

5. It seems Lackey's ERA is a billion and he has only pitched four innings this season. He's giving up four runs.

6. Wildcard question! Janko Tipsarevic!


Monty


Monty has yet again chosen not to participate. It's a bold strategy that he hopes will pay off in Week Six.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up

(Note: This blog post was written for a different site and is being posted here instead due to timing issues.)

This past Saturday, three friends and I went to watch Game 2 of the UNC-Stanford super regional here in Chapel Hill. We sat in right field under the direct, awful heat of the sun, where it was 117 degrees* by first pitch.

*This is an estimate - stadium security confiscated our thermometers.

The tough thing about sweltering heat is that it dominates your thoughts and emotions. In the bar beforehand, we were focused on Tar Heel baseball. By the time we finished the long walk to Boshamer Stadium, though, the only thing that registered was the very miserable hotness of our existence.

While the drama on the field played out, I tried not to discuss the weather. It's something I usually reserve for dead-end conversations with neighbor types, and only then as a last ditch effort. I can persist for up to ten minutes on meaningless formulations like, "hooo...man" before I'll resort to weather talk. It's one of my few principles- that, plus never fighting with the priest in church.

But when the weather is so extreme that it invades your personal space, you can't stay mum. Deep tragedy renders us mute, but a mere inconvenience? That spawns endless protest. During one of the lulls in action, I finally broke:

"Guys, it is really hot!"

Their reactions were some form of "we know, shut up." But they broke too, inevitably. To keep it interesting, we approached the topic in different ways. We treated the heat like a parent who keeps showing up drunk to PTA meetings:

"What is with this weather?!"

We sprinkled in profanity:

"Son of a bi*** it's hot!"

We reacted like it was a long line at the DMV:

"Come on, this is getting ridiculous!"

By the sixth inning, we were like punch drunk boxers, slack-jawed and swaying. But there's a weird kind of satisfaction in outlasting extreme weather. We didn't actually do anything besides sit in place and occasionally buy a snow cone, but it felt like we were persevering through something meaningful. It's the same way marathoners feel, if they're lazy and don't run marathons.

Carolina took a 6-1 lead, and it was all building to the glorious end when they would clinch a College World Series berth. By the top of the ninth, things had cooled down and we were in good spirits. The game mattered again.

Then the sky darkened and the unthinkable happened: lightning struck

Call me selfish, but I was hoping the teams would risk their lives and play through the storm, metal bats and all. I couldn't leave without a resolution, even if that meant death. The bureaucrats on the field didn't agree, though, and the game was postponed. We were long gone by the time UNC won. I saw "Super 8" with my friend Justin, which was great until we got to the important alien part and an earthquake destroyed our theater.

The weekend in sports was a bit more satisfying.

-The Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title with a 105-95 win against Miami in Game 6. A jubilant Jason Terry, pointing to his bicep tattoo of the Larry O'Brien Trophy, said, "when you do something as crazy as I did, you gotta back it up!" In the Miami locker room, meanwhile, a distraught Chris Bosh pointed to his Eastern Conference Trophy tattoo and said, "I should have been more ambitious!"

-Dirk Nowitzki won the Bill Russell Finals MVP award, averaging over 20 points per game in the series and leading three separate fourth quarter comebacks. In a related story, LeBron James finished 9-7 as the Chicago Bears in the Tecmo Bowl season he played during timeouts.

-Francisco Liriano was perfect through six innings Sunday before an error by third baseman Luke Hughes spoiled the effort. He lost the no-hitter in the 8th, but the Twins beat the Rangers 6-1 to win the series. Afterward, Liriano said he was slightly distracted when he received a fifth inning phone call from the entire Miami Heat team congratulating him on his perfect game.

-The Yankees won Sunday to sweep the Cleveland Indians, who, despite an impressive 34-29 record, continue to be a terrible baseball team.

-The Vancouver Canucks beat the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals Saturday to take a 3-2 edge in the series. The two teams play a sport called "ice hockey," a Canadian invention featuring 12 men in bladed shoes racing back and forth on a sheet of manicured ice while attempting to hit a vulcanized rubber disk with wooden stick implements. The game ends when somebody dies.

-Phil Humber pitched 7 strong innings and Adam Dunn hit a three-run homer to lead the White Sox over the Oakland Athletics Sunday. After the game, the two men finalized the marketing strategy for their latest clothing product- the "Humber-Dunn Cumberbund."

-The Seattle Mariners hit three home runs to give staff ace Felix Hernandez plenty of support in a 7-3 win over Detroit. After the game, local villagers wept and erected a shrine at the scene of the miracle. A mariachi band led a spontaneous parade, and the Virgin Mary's face was spotted in a tattered photograph of Miguel Olivo.

-The city of Dallas went into a state of shock Sunday night as the Dallas Baptist Patriots' dream of reaching the College World series fell short in the NCAA super regional. They were swept by the California Bears- or, as the Baptists call them, "The University of Gomorrah." Or, as the really old Baptists call them, "gold country!"

-Along with Cal, UNC, Vanderbilt, Florida, Texas, and South Carolina all punched their ticket to the College World Series. The winner of that tournament will presumably play the champion from the northern half of America.

That's all for now. Enjoy Bruins-Canucks tonight.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX! Volume Four, Week Four

Here we go...

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX


VOLUME FOUR, WEEK FOUR


The Friday Pick Six is an original SCSD! game where six people make six sports predictions for six weeks. Along with their picks, they're allowed and encouraged to submit a 'sound-off' on any topic, sports or otherwise. When it's all done, the winner earns great honor among the people, while the two losers are exiled in shame and the three middle finishers go to purgatory, with the chance rescue their good name up to three times. To learn more about the rules, and about the current contestants, read below:

VOLUME FOUR

Here's how it looks:

The Last Chance Gals (3rd attempt, win or bust): Swetha & Sabreena
Purgatory Part 1: Marc, Monty
Newcomers: Craig & Tim, Tim B., John

-Volume Four Intros
-Week One
-Week Two
-Week Three

THE HALL OF ANGELS: OLD CHAMPIONS

1. Tom.
2. Mike
3. Patrick and Dylan

Current Standings

1. Monty - 9
2. John - 8
2. Tim B. - 8
4. Swetha & Sabreena - 7
4. Marc - 7
6. Craig & Tim - 5

Week Three was WILD, as Monty shook off his early fatigue and busted out with 8 points, correctly guessing that there would be 6 sweeps in baseball. John and Marc also acquitted themselves nicely, and the three lowest in the standings are now the three leaders. It was a week of tragedy for Swetha & Sabreena, who only managed 1 point and are now in last place in their final Pick Six. Can they begin the comeback this week, or is it lights out for the ladies?

Time for this week's docket:

1. Heat-Mavs, GAME 6. Who wins?

2. Friday night: Bruins-Canucks!

3. Pick two weekend baseball series' (Fri-Sat-Sun) and tell me who wins. Get both: 2 points. Split: 0 points. Lose both: -2 points. Go 6-0 on games (as in, both are sweeps): 5 points.

4. UNC-Stanford in the CWS: 3-game set, who wins?

5. How many innings will Ivan SuperNova pitch Friday?

6. Who will get the most points in Week 6 of all the other Pick 6 players? You can't pick yourself.

We start with our new leader, the man who claims not to be British:

Monty


Monty has unfortunately not submitted picks this week, and will have to take a big 0. I blame myself- I sent the docket late, and that can't have helped.


John


No time for screwing around this week...to the picks!

1. Miami is warm this time of year: feel the HEAT

2. ? Bruins I guess. I watched the whole overtime to game 2. I admit it was an exciting period. I can officially handle 12 seconds of hockey if it involves a game winning goal.

3. Atlanta wins on the road and Philly at home

4. Good going shane, make people root for the Heels!

5. I had to google to find out who this was. I’m guessing a decent outing with 5.1 innings

6. Well...my unofficial count has Monty in the lead with 9 points with me pulling into a tie for 2nd with 8...since he doesn’t like hockey either, and because his name sounds like a funny Brit, I’m going with Monty the Python


Marc, aka Mr. Intrigue


1. Heat
2. Canucks
3. Phillies and Giants
4. UNC
5. I have no idea who this is. 6.
6. John



Tim B.


1. Series is going seven. Heat

2. Boston totes overconfident, ‘Nucks win it, perhaps big. This is like ’94, folks: Game 7s across the board. ‘Cept we’ll have a World Series, too.

3. That the Red Sox and Yankees are still playing throws a wrench into two of my secondary picks. I mean, everyone’s gonna take the Phillies over the Cubs, obvs. I’ll go with the Braves over the ‘Stros as well, as vengeance for Chris Burke.

4. Home-field. Carolina sinks the Cardinal's diamond...more so. I would sigh, but I don’t much like Stanford either.

5. 5 2/3. He will be replaced by Joba, oh, my bad.

6. Presented without commentary, Swetha and Sabreena.


Craig & Tim


1. Game 6 goes to the Mavs. Lebron James is a fucking douchebag and I'd rather get punched in the face than root for him to win anything...and I'm not joking. Anyone that loves them self that much deserves a bus to the nuts, not a championship. The people in the Gomorrah-esque coke-funnel known as Miami care more about the umbrella positioning in their mojito than they do basketball - so fuck them too.

2. Bruins win. I'm in full superstition mode right now so my commentary here is a bit bridled. I will however leave you video evidence showing what happens when arrogant Canadian based hockey teams try to get physical. NHL hockey teams often take on the persona of the city they play in. Montreal is the most European of North American cities, and their hockey team is a perfect reflection of this French, diving, pussy trapeze artist mentality. Vancouver - don't expect to win the Stanley Cup when you take on the attitude of a tweed-sweater wearing beatnik sitting in the corner of a solar-powered coffee shop flicking at an iphone oblivious to the world around you. Take your greenman costumes and put them to use at an environmental rally. Your blind faith in the global warming hoax is better served there than your blind faith in the regular season Canuck stat sheet. Go Bruins.

3. Rays and Red Sox.

4. Truth be told, I rarely watch college baseball. In fact, I've seen more American Legion and Cape League games than college games. And I think a big part of that has to do with the fact that they still use metal/composite bats. I simply hate that. So while it may be "fun" to see 12 homers a game and scores like 24-17 on the reg, I think the college game is lacking. Plus, there were some real douches on the baseball team when I was in college. Lax players generally seem to get a bad rap for being punks, but the baseball guys were worse. That being said, we're going with UNC over Stanford in this series.

5. Thank you for including this question, it allows us to take gratuitous pot-shots at the Yanks. First off, that was a very enjoyable series at Yankee Stadium. Besides being swept, the Yanks skipper made an ass of himself by trying to "protect" his young pitcher after Ortiz dropped a bomb and flipped his bat in Game 1. Sox are 6-0 at Yankee Stadium this year and the seats behind home plate are half-empty every game. Secondly, I'm convinced that A.J. Burnett is completely insane. After his most recent meltdown it was entirely conceivable that he went on a murder spree in the Bronx right after the game ended. Yet we digress...seeing that Nova has only pitched 7+ innings once in his last 10 starts, I don't see him getting there. We predict he lasts 6 1/3 after giving up 4 runs. Yanks lose to the Indians.

6. The most difficult question to date. Gotta go with the gut on this one, and we'll select Tim B., a/k/a Little Whiny Tim. He just seems like the kind of guy who scours the web on a friday night, looking for inside info on his pick 6 selections.


Swetha & Sabreena


Not really a banner week for us last time around. We’d like to think it’s because we threw a little more effort into the links than the picks, and that's not going to happen again.

1. No way Miami goes down three times in a row. Besides, this series deserves a Game 7, no matter how much we want Dallas to win. MIAMI.

2. Seems like Boston has gained control of this series, but we really have no idea. Maybe home ice means something now? CANUCKS.

3. The Phils have the dream team going (sorry, Hamels) and the Giants have a pretty good rotation this weekend, too. PHILADELPHIA AND SAN FRANCISCO.

4. Let’s be honest, we’re not going to put a whole lot of effort into college baseball. We are from Duke, after all. NORTH CAROLINA.

5. The Indians are good -- can’t imagine this is going to be a successful outing for SuperNova. 5.1 INNINGS.

6. Even if we could pick ourselves, that would probably be a bad idea. Ideally, we want the person in last place to get the most points. Unfortunately, not only is this unlikely, but we’re not entirely sure how the scoring broke down for the baseball sweeps last week, so it’s unclear who sits in last place. We’ll just choose the other Dukie in this group. TIM B.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pick Six coming soon!

Probably tonight, maybe earlier if fortune smiles...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Federer’s Tears: Why LeBron and the Heat Will Probably Win the NBA Title, and Why That’s Okay

(Editor's Note: This post was conceived before Game 1 of the NBA playoffs and written before Game 2.)

A couple years ago, I met my family in upstate New York for a weekend trip. My two brothers, 15 and 17, were joined by their friend, a German foreign exchange student named Malo.

Malo was different than your average teen. There was something calm about him, an easy style inherent to a dude with nothing to prove. He watched the aggression of his friends with a kind of amused half interest, but though he never participated, he still had their respect.

In essence, he seemed emotionally mature in a way that’s foreign to most teenagers. That relaxed quality manifested in almost every situation. He, my brothers and I were driving once, headed out to lunch, when the song “Take On Me” came on the radio. When Malo put his falsetto to use, I watched my brother’s face in the rearview mirror. First, the instinctual laugh, the pleasure of watching something fun. Second, the urge to participate, to let himself loose for a moment. And third, the stifling, corrective barriers of being a cool American teen.

There were times when I forgot that Malo was almost a decade younger than me. The reason I enjoyed him, mind you, was because I was older. My teenage days were not free of the humming angst I saw in my brothers, and if I met Malo as a 17-year-old, who can guess which of my neuroses would have interfered? I could relate only because we’d finished a maturing process at different points in life.

Anyway, Malo was a very good high school basketball player who wanted to become a professional, and his hero was Dirk Nowitzki. So when I see Dirk, I think of Malo.

And that’s convenient, because the contrast between my brothers and their German friend is playing out in the NBA finals. Dirk is the graceful, free-flowing entity that seems almost literally fluid in his movements. He’s elegant. He’s majestic. He’s almost wispy. He could have played one of the elves from Lord of the Rings, if he was into that kind of thing. If these were the 1960s, he’d be an inadvertent counterculture icon, like Bill Walton without the arrogance.

LeBron, meanwhile, basically lacks subtlety. He’s the bull-headed, relentless emblem of stubborn America, all muscle and rage. He wears his masculinity proudly, and we can witness the effortful assertion of self at every moment. While Dirk seems to exist in sync with his soul, LeBron is a striver. The machismo comes with its attendant egocentrism, which became embarrassingly evident during ‘The Decision.’

This is elegance versus power. Am I generalizing? Probably. Plus, rumor has it that the finals are being contested by two teams with full, functioning rosters of a dozen professionals.

Still and all, the NBA is constructed around individual battles. Two men will write the central narrative of this series, and the unabridged manuscript of the Finals will resonate with their disparate voices.

*

This is not the first time elegance has confronted power in professional sports. Far, far from it.

The first chronological example that comes to my mind is a little arcane; the 1954 World Cup Final. A team from Hungary, of all places, had recently revolutionized soccer. They were called the “Magnificent Magyars,” and they came into the World Cup unbeaten in 32 matches. They routed West Germany 8-3 in the group stages and outscored all opponents 25-7 on their way to the final. There, they met West Germany again, who switched things up by playing a slower, plodding game with an emphasis on punishing defense. With the help of the weather and a few questionable calls, they beat the Hungarians 3-2 and killed a strange, wonderful dream.

The Magyars played an attacking style that was a forerunner to the “total football” of the 1974 Dutch team, who some consider the greatest and most beautiful side of all time. Led by Johan Cruyff, they made the World Cup finals by outscoring opponents 14-1 in six matches. There, they met (who else?) West Germany, a so-so squad who had lost in the group stages to an East German team that presumably practiced with a ball made of old scarves knitted into a lumpy sphere. Despite that, the West Germans prevailed 2-1 against the Dutch, playing a practical style and negating the legendary offense.

(If it makes anyone feel better, the situation was reversed on Germany in the last World Cup when they played the most engaging style throughout the tournament but were beaten by the steadfast, defensive-minded Spaniards in the semis.)

Every sport has its examples. In professional basketball, the quintessential case study is Spurs-Suns, 2007. The Nash-led Phoenix team embodied the ideal of fast, sophisticated basketball. The Spurs were so stolid and ruthless as to be almost cynical, and this particular clash of styles turned on a cheap trick by Robert Horry.

In NFL football, Bill Belichick has been involved in destroying two of the greatest, most explosive offenses in history. In 1991, he had his Giants defense ‘accidentally’ kick the ball after the whistle to slow down the Buffalo no-huddle attack, and that tactic, among others, led to a hard-earned championship. In 2002, he may have illegally videotaped St. Louis’ ‘greatest show on turf’ to gain a defensive advantage before the Patriots’ eventual victory. In both cases, a stalwart defense and a competent, controlling offense took the air out of their spectacular foes.

In college football, last year’s national championship was just the latest example of an exciting, unique offense falling prey to a physically superior SEC team.

Baseball is harder to pinpoint, but what about the 1993 Phillies? There was a team of scruffy, oddball players who captured a kind of bizarre chemistry until the uber-corporate* Toronto Blue Jays beat downed them in 6 games in the World Series.

*This is probably an unfair adjective, but come on, baseball in Toronto?

You’re probably starting to see a pattern. In the cases I’ve presented- and, I would argue, in the broader history of sports, with notable exceptions- we routinely see the exquisite teams brought crashing back to reality by the efficient tough guys.

There are two ways to look at this. The first is to see it as a recurring tragedy, like an endlessly streaming YouTube video of Gandhi losing a fistfight to Sean Hannity. The rarity of the mystic geniuses actually winning makes them, I realize, more appealing. There’s an exciting, revolutionary flair that naturally attracts you to their side. As such, it can seem pretty shattering when they lose, like some kind of flat signal from the earth that nothing is divine.

But I’m here to tell you there’s another way to frame this phenomenon: you can appreciate it. The prosperity of the power game can be, believe it or not, a celebration of humanity. It can be the final hard-fought emergence of a resilient group who won by finding an absolute unity.

It can be, dare I say, a triumph of the will.

(Crap, I promised myself I wouldn’t accidentally use that phrase again.)

*

David Foster Wallace, a better writer than I, visited this contrast back in 2006. His famous essay about tennis for the Times treats Roger Federer as a sporting deity. The title of the piece, in fact, is “Roger Federer as Religious Experience.” In it, he discusses Fed’s “kinesthetic virtuosity” and capitalizes what he calls the “Federer Moment.”

The last line of the article is this:

“Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform — and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled.”

This was after Wimbledon 2006, when Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in the final. The “power and aggression” belong to Nadal himself, a subject of subtle mockery, or perhaps just philosophical dislike, throughout the piece. Wallace describes Rafa as “mesomorphic and totally martial,” cites his “passionate machismo” in contrast to Federer’s artistry, and notes that his style of dress makes it so that you “have to look at his muscles right away.” He makes note of how Nadal tugs at his shorts, and “his way of always cutting his eyes warily from side to side as he walks the baseline, like a convict expecting to be shanked.”

It served Wallace’s purpose well, but not long after that final, history took a different turn. The next year, in 2007, the two men met again in the Wimbledon final. This time, Rafa took Roger to a fifth set. The intensity affected both men, but particularly Federer, who seemed suddenly petulant and asked that the video review system be turned off because he thought it was malfunctioning. Still, Federer withstood the scare and won again. Then came 2008, and the greatest match ever played, when Nadal finally triumphed on the English grass and began the process of usurping Federer’s title as the world’s best player.

Full disclosure: Rafael Nadal is my favorite athlete. Period. I can get a little boring when I sing his praises, the way an obsessive person prattles on about trains or politics or lovers or babies, so I’ll try to keep this to a sentence: His work ethic, individuality, and humility are the three (clich├ęd, I admit) qualities that make him, for me, a transcendent athlete.

*

Like many of my peers, I feel ensconced in a lifetime battle for fulfillment and success that seems, so often, unwinnable. Maybe I see the small story of my struggle reflected in Nadal’s quest to beat Federer; the sheer, disgusting impossibility of the thing, the way you understand the amount of work required and the absence of any guarantee that your work will be rewarded, but do it anyway because that’s the fucking drill.

David Foster Wallace was, without a doubt, a genius. He became renowned, albeit in a kind of niche way, at a very young age. So did Federer. It would be too simplistic (and, in fact, wrong) to say that they achieved their fame without work. But Wallace’s gift with words was somewhat like Federer’s native brilliance, and though he would probably never admit it, he surely saw himself in the grace and ability of the Swiss star. He could understand the magic because he had a bit of his own. Though his facility with the language and his prodigious memory weren’t coupled with the prosaic elegance of a Fitzgerald or Nabokov, his style nevertheless reflected a congenital sort of luminosity.

But we’re not all like David Foster Wallace. In fact, I rabidly disagree with that closing line about inspiration. Beauty, to me, has always been merely an enjoyable abstraction- not something with which I could ever identify. But when I saw Rafa crumble to the court in the Wimbledon dusk in 2008, having overcome, at last, his historic obstacle…well, screw kinesthetic virtuosity, because that is when I felt reconciled.

*

To repeat myself: it’s possible to enjoy the ascension of power, of practicality. More, it’s possible to find it beautiful in a way that might not be initially obvious.

Which brings me back to LeBron. The way he guarded- nay, stifled- Derrick Rose practically gave me goosebumps. Rose was the MVP, the fan favorite, maybe the greatest symbol of dynamism in this year’s NBA. For LeBron to put a cap on that genie lamp seems, on its surface, like an act of great cruelty. We imagine a humorless Chinese soldier finding a Tibetan monk boy singing some gorgeous, lilting song, and responding by smashing him with the butt of his rifle.

And LeBron, as we know, isn’t very sympathetic. Still, if we force ourselves to focus on the court and pretend, like a juror at the trial of a celebrity, that we don’t know the backstory, how can we not be moved by that act of defense? To meet an electric force and render it basically immobile, with everyone in opposition, reflects an unbelievable body awareness and, more to the point, a pressing desire to win. It was by its nature a profound act of defiance.

LeBron is the man who stands in the way. He’s the muscular linebacker who lowers his shoulder and barrels into the lane. He absorbs contact and maintains his forward momentum. On both ends of the floor, his strength grinds, and grinds, until it breaks you down.

That’s what the LeBron style means; breaking the enemy down. It’s what the Germans did, it’s what the Spurs did, it’s what the Belichick defenses did, it’s what the SEC does. It’s what they’re all forced to do in order to win. And there, it seems, is the common thread: champions understand winning, and how it’s not a product of magic or rarified spiritual qualities, but a very practical and brutal act of repetition that becomes ingrained and habitual.

*

In his article, Wallace gives Nadal a brief moment of credit when he mentions that Federer “may be peculiarly vulnerable to, or psyched out by, that first man.”

This might have been a mere supposition in 2006, but by 2008 it was reality. After the 2007 Wimbledon final, when Nadal lost in five sets, he retreated to the locker room and wept. He wept for the missed opportunity, for the staggering loss, and probably for the idea that despite the endless work and his unwavering spirit, he might never beat Federer.

A year later, everything changed. Federer lost to Nadal in the French Open for the fourth straight time, and this defeat was worse than the others. When Wimbledon came around, he grew irritable and repressed, by turns, as the match wore on. His demeanor after the loss seemed to indicate that he’d been the victim of a horrible fluke, a king brought low by an unworthy serf.

But when they met in the Australian final the following January, the truth had set in. Despite barely surviving an epic 5-hour semifinal match in withering heat the day before, Nadal recovered to defeat Federer in 5 sets. If Wimbledon 2006 was Roger Federer as Religious Experience, Australia 2009 was Rafael Nadal as Iconoclast, sending a God tumbling from Olympus to dry land.

After the match, the two waited on the podium. The full weight began to bear down on Federer. He remembered Nadal’s topspin, and the relentless way the Spaniard sent the leaping shots to his backhand, time and again, hammering at a perceived weakness, and how it produced an unlikely mental and strategic advantage that chipped away, and chipped away, until Federer’s magic was ground into dust. Maybe he saw the future, too, and how Nadal would come to dominate the rivalry.

He stepped up to the microphone. He waved to the crowd. He even smiled. He held the second place silver plate by his side. But as the fans shouted their support, he stopped.

His voice caught. His shoulders shook.

“God,” he said, almost choking on the words. “It’s killing me.”

And then he broke down, weeping in that broken heart way you just can’t fake.

*

If Dirk Nowitzki leads the Mavericks to an NBA title, it will be glorious. A lot of people will feel vindicated for hating LeBron and the mercenary way he ended up in Miami, and the title will be the jewel in the crown of Dirk’s excellent career.

But the sweep of history tells us that we should expect the Heat to win. When they do, we should do them the favor of realizing that every championship requires a journey, that few of us are blessed by genius, and that in our gritty, imperfect world, most men have to elevate themselves.

Friday, June 3, 2011

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX! Volume Four, Week Three

Here we go...

THE FRIDAY PICK SIX


VOLUME FOUR, WEEK THREE


The Friday Pick Six is an original SCSD! game where six people make six sports predictions for six weeks. Along with their picks, they're allowed and encouraged to submit a 'sound-off' on any topic, sports or otherwise. When it's all done, the winner earns great honor among the people, while the two losers are exiled in shame and the three middle finishers go to purgatory, with the chance rescue their good name up to three times. To learn more about the rules, and about the current contestants, read below:

VOLUME FOUR

Here's how it looks:

The Last Chance Gals (3rd attempt, win or bust): Swetha & Sabreena
Purgatory Part 1: Marc, Monty
Newcomers: Craig & Tim, Tim B., John

-Volume Four Intros
-Week One

THE HALL OF ANGELS: OLD CHAMPIONS

1. Tom.
2. Mike
3. Patrick and Dylan

Current Standings

1. Swetha & Sabreena - 4
2. Tim B. - 4
3. Craig & Tim - 2
4. Monty - 1
5. John - 1
6. Marc - 0

Time for this week's docket:

1. Holy shit, greatest French Open semi-finals ever, Part One: Can Roger Federer do the unthinkable and end Djokovic's streak? Does the Djoker have more than just an Australian Open title buried in that soul? 2 points if you pick Federer, 1 point if you pick Djokovic.

2. Holy shit, greatest French Open semi-finals ever, Part Two: Rafa vs. Murray. Murray may have hurt himself in the third round, though you'd be hard pressed to tell, and Rafa is giving press conferences where he says he's not good enough. Which beleaguered star makes the finals? 2 points if you pick Murray, 1 for Rafa.

3. Sunday is Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Will Dallas defend their court?

4. Bruins-Canucks, NHL finals, game 2, Vancouver, Saturday. Who wins?

5. There are 15 series this weekend in MLB. How many of them end up in sweeps? 4 points if you nail it, 3 points if you're the closest, 2 points if you're second, 1 point if you're third. (I know some of them start on Thursday, so just be warned: the Thursday game doesn't count).

6. MIND BENDER: How many points will Swetha & Sabreena get over the first 5 questions? 2 points for the closest guess.

We begin with the gals who lead for the second straight week:

Swetha & Sabreena


While we still hold the coveted position atop the field (or at least atop the ranting list given that we are in a tie for first), we thought we’d give some shoutouts.

First, to the Giants for winning the World Series last year (never thought I’d say that) and giving the NL the interleague point. Yay for Ryder Cup rules! Although, that Posey injury is a real downer, even though one of us has a strange fascination with gruesome sports injuries.

Second, to Carrie and Jill for being an awesome fan base and making a chant for us. We’d like to think that was all we were missing.

And finally, to the Toronto Blue Jays, whose incompetence has left us hungrier than ever and still in the pursuit of perfection. Although I will never understand using a pinch-runner when said runner can’t score on a double from first--I’m looking at you, Mike McCoy.

Before we get to the tennis picks, in honor of the French Open, a video that will make you want to run out to buy Rosetta Stone - Bradley Cooper speaking fluent French. God is that a beautiful... language, yeah we'll go with language. If you’re only going to click one of our links, this should be it.

1. As much as we want Federer to win this one to restore our faith in tennis (those epic Nadal-Federer finals really were the good ole days), Djokovic seems to be on a roll. It’s okay though, this gives us a chance to make up more nicknames for him. Djokobitch? Djoko is Loco? Novak is whack? PS. His head is shaped like an eraser. DJOKOVIC.

2. We’re convinced that Andy Murray is never going to win anything significant and will forever be a part of whiny “oh pooey, an Englishman has never won Wimbledon so Murray is Britain’s only hope” features. Rafa and his wedgie picking are going to take this one. NADAL.

3. Miami definitely has the edge in hometown media, with our favorite child journalist superstar - Damon Weaver, but you gotta believe Dallas has the momentum after that awesome comeback in Game 2. DALLAS.

4. We really know nothing about hockey, and have successfully avoided it until now, so this question presents a real conundrum. As much as we hate Boston teams, these NHL playoffs have been really back and forth, so we see the series evening up in Game 2. BRUINS.

5. I tried to find some sort of stat that says how many MLB series end in sweeps, but the search proved elusive, so instead, we have called upon recent history. The number of sweeps in the last five weekends - 4, 6, 5, 2, 2.
So, essentially, there's no pattern. Here's our best guess. FOUR.

6. There is way too much pressure on this question, even though we’re flattered at being included in the docket. Brings back fond memories of Shane and Spike’s epic Scrabble clash when we learned that Shane has Scrabble ethics, but is not very good at Scrabble. SIX.


Tim B.


I wanted to tear into John for taking offense at my insidious use of quotation marks and for fulfilling his role as my foil, but then two weeks passed, and I kind of forgot about it, and I heard that Broken Bells song I really like about “The High Road” and, well, I don’t really know what it’s about, but it talks about a high road, so I’m taking it. Then I decided to just whine about Shane giving the tie to the NL and citing the Ryder Cup for doing it, in doing so latently praising the RC for the absolute worst part of it (if it’s tied, you play sudden-death match play with a captain’s choice; it’s what the President’s Cup does, and tell me this wouldn’t be the second-most captivating moment in golf history, behind only that brief second where it looked like Bob May’s putt on the 76th hole of the 2000 PGA* was going in), but I’m an NL guy at heart, and since the AL has the competitive advantage when it comes to the DH, I agree that ties should go to the Senior Circuit. So here’s some Shaq.

*The 2000 PGA Championship is the greatest golf tournament ever.

The only relevant moment of the last 15 years of the All-Star Game, there. I was reading somewhere this week that Shaq’s propensity to play the star off the court hurt him on it. Well, dude went 30 and 15 in two straight playoffs and won three Finals MVPs. Todd MacCulloch still has nightmares from guarding Shaq while he’s playing pinball. Watching Shaq destroy my Nets was the most helpless feeling in sports. With Kobe (and all great shooting guards for that matter), stopping them seems plausible. With Shaq in his prime, it never did.

1. Wow! You’re telling me this is the greatest French Open semifinal ever??? What incredible previous semis does it top? Surely it can’t be better than Gaudio/Coria/Nalbandian/Henman? Or Federer/Nadal/Davydenko/Puerta? Is it really a French Open without Juan Carlos Ferrero? Or Guga?* The point is, calling this year the best French Open Semis ever is like calling “Live the life you imagined” the best part of Walden. The competition doesn’t really register.

*That’s not being facetious.

At what point do we begin to wonder if Federer is hanging on too long? I know it’s not yet, but we’re getting there, aren’t we? Djokovic in straights.

2. Is Andy Murray, in his prime, that much better than Tim Henman, in his prime? I don’t follow this sport enough to know. Nadal in straights.

3. I’m trusting Shane on this one since I’m sending it in prior to the end of Game 2. With no analysis at all, I’ll go with whoever lost Game 2 to bounce back.

4. So, in preparation for these Finals, I did what I always do for championship rounds (for football and hockey), which is try to simulate the action on the old Nintendo game of my youth. Breaking out the “Blades of Steel” cartridge, I was saddened to realize the Bruins were not one of the eight teams in the game. Neither, amazingly, are the Red Wings. My sadness was immediately erased by the awesome “Blades of Steel” music, which is like 10 times better than the “Hockey Night in Canada” theme that those north of the border admire so much. Also, if Fox had made the players holding the puck glow, instead of just the puck, I’m pretty sure the lockout wouldn’t have happened.

Expect a cleaner game, which means more five-on-five, which means special teams don’t kill the Bruins, who bite back in Game 2.

P.S. I suck at that game now, just like I sucked at it when I was a kid. And I really wanted to pick the Canucks there.

5. Arizona and Atlanta seem the best bet, if only because the unbeatable Dillon Gee is going up against noted Met-killer Jair Jurrjens (who’s been killing a whole bunch of teams this season, although like 2009, his ERA and FIP are out of whack, so it probably won’t last. Sell high, fantasy compatriots). Philly or San Fran (the Giants and Rockies play some weird series) might slip in there, with a fourth coming out of the blue (like BAL over TOR or BOS over OAK, with John Lackey finding a way to beat Trevor Cahill on Sunday).

So let’s go with four, which I imagine will probably be the stock answer, but I had to pretend to arrive at it logically instead of “Well, four seems about right.”

6. Well, four seems about right.

(They’ll get the Djokovic and Nadal because they’re conservative when it comes to sports they don’t know, they’ll get the Heat because they’re good with sports they do know, they’ll go home-ice when it comes to hockey, and they will finish third in terms of sweeps.)


Craig & Tim


We plan on following up with a more elaborate reasoning behind these selections later on, but just in case something comes up…here are our picks for this week.

Question 1: Federer

Question 2: Nadal

Question 3: Dallas

Question 4: Bruins

Question 5: 2 sweeps

Question 6: 5 points



Monty


To start with - I'm going to pick the Mavericks to win game 2 in Miami. I think it should be obvious to everyone that Dallas is a team that will probably get down around 15 points and then storm back and win at the end. Older players are usually more explosive than younger players at the end of a game.

1. Jesus. This is the most unanswerable question ever. I kind of think that Djokovic is going to do it. But Federer has been playing really well and I think he really wants to prove that he doesn't suck. So I'm going to go with Federer.

2. This is not hard. Rafa is going to win. You don't beat Rafa on clay
unless he's hurt - and I don't think Andy 'choke in big games' Murray is going to be the one to set a new precedent here.

3. Yes. They will. (Dallas wins.) Hi Nowitzki. Zomg. I mean - who knew that the Germans were this good at basketball? (I mean, other than Mark Cuban, who has
held to the long-term strategy of keeping a team built around a tall German who doesn't fit any of the traditional superstar models. Of course, Mark has also invested in a chain of indie file theatres and the HDNet cable channel...)

4. Who cares? Oh - wait. I suppose someone is watching hockey. Um - let's say Canucks. I hear that they're Canadian - which means that they are inherently better than us at all forms of this sport that aren't this past year's olympics. Also, this is going to be a year when no Boston sports team wins anything. Just saying.

5. I did some math. In fact - I even wrote a computer program to do the complex mother fucking math I did. It's in the programming language scheme as interpreted by the GNU Guile interpreter. It looks like this:

(random 15)

This resulted in the answer of: 6.

6. I think that S to the S is going to pull down 5 points. I think they're going to be second closest on the baseball, are going to nail hockey and NBA, and Rafa, and are going to miss the first French question.

Also - I'm pretty sure that I'm hungry, but have no food in the apartment other than gummi bears - and even though I'm in a city with 24-hour delivery service, that's too much effort - so I'm just going to sit here and watch sportscenter loop and drink some water.


John


Time and wit is short this week...answers quick and little thought out, maybe that's for the best.

1. I'm pumped for some good tennis...wish I wasn't stuck at work tomorrow while these babies are going on. I'm going to try to to see the scores, but I always blow that. Anyway, man these two are both playing lights out tennis! Can NoDjok be stopped? i don't know, but I still don't like him much. I think RFed is playing solid tennis and has about as much chance as anyone at unseating Nole. I figure if I keep betting against the Serb, I have to be correct at some point, right? FEDERER (I could use the points)

2. Murray is a half step slow and is making up for it by slugging the ball, which could actually improve his game. However, Nadal on Parisian clay is not who and where you want to be experimenting on a new style with: RAFA

3. Heat are tough...the Cubans go down: HEAT

4. Is hockey still going on? Shane, it would be interesting to write an article about Americans and hockey, except that I couldn't stand to read a piece more than a short paragraph about this boring sport. If soccer is the most beautiful game, what is hockey exactly? I'm not a big futbol fan, but I'll take it anytime over this, but yet it's more popular in the US (I assume)...why?

I visited Vancouver last year and it is a great city...so is boston now that I think about it, but Vancouver is fresher in my mind...Canucks!

5. no time for my planned elegant simulations involving records, probabilities, locations, temperatures, humidity, etc. based on coin flips you'd expect 3.75 series to sweep. I'll round up due to previously mention factors causing this expectation to increase: 4. I wonder there will be some nonsensical Shanian tie-breaker if more than one tie for closest. Like "sorry guys, you know i don't like ties and since a low era is good in baseball, I'm taking the guy below the right answer rather than above it...arbitrary? Maybe, but logical!"

6. hmm, in their email S&S stated that they would be perfect over 1-5 for 8 points...I guess that tips their hand that they are playing rafa/djok in #1 since 10 points are possible. I don't know what that means exactly, but I'm factoring it in somehow for an advantage. 4


Marc, aka Mr. Intrigue


Holy bananas. Time for a comeback. This is Duke vs. UNC in Durham 2011. I won't be stopped, I can't be stopped. As I survey my competition I can barely suppress my schoolgirl giggles as I know they will soon be crushed. I hope everyone had a fantastic memorial day. Some people see it as a wonderful day off from work. Other people make commentaries on the people who only see it as a day off from work. I see it as a day where people crowd the wonderful beaches of southeastern North Carolina and make me road rage because it takes thirty five minutes to drive two miles. However, we must thank the troops. For without the troops we wouldn't be able to engage in such wonderful activities such as the Pick Six. Hopefully there will be a time when we won't need any more troops, but people are idiots so that ain't happenin.

Before I start talking about sports I must regale everyone with information they don't need to know about me. I have huge nipples. It's kind of ridiculous. I also like to surf. Recently the water has warmed up enough for us surfers to shake off our stinky neoprene and wear only board shorts. This past week we have had surf three out of four days. My surfboard is covered in rough and sticky wax. When nipples meet wax bad things happen. Nipples + Wax = Destroyed nipples. I have scabs covering 50% of my nipple area. I put neosporin on my nipples to try and heal them. To top it all off my girlfriend thinks it's hilarious to pinch my overly large nipples. The more you know....

1. I'm really up in the air here. I think I'm going to use my supernatural math abilities and run a statistical analysis to prove stuff about data. Remember when John did stupid nerdy stuff like that. See how well it served him. If you take the formula f(x) + 39.7 * Switzerland/London minus the bear = Dicks. Roger Federer wins.

2. Here comes another formula for sphincters like John: Take the square root of the elderly mortality rate in Sri Lanka then add the mortgage derivative of the Atlantis Space Shuttle. Now with that result add that to the standard deviation of Rafa's biceps and subtract the amount of teeth in a Red Eared Slider. Simple stuff, I know. I'm on the same level as Carl Sagan. Nadal takes this shit.

3. Everything is bigger in Texas. At this moment I'm watching Game 2 and it seems the refs really really want Dallas to win. Therefore Dallas will win Game 3.

4. God I hate Boston. However now when I think of Boston I think of "The Town." And when I think of "The Town," I can think of Blake Lively and her naked pictures on the internet. Blake Lively is probably the hottest girl in the universe. When I see her I get sucked into a boner black hole that I don't emerge from for at least three days. Shit, now I'm going to miss my weekend. Fuck you Boston. Go Canucks!

5. Three sweeps. I asked a baseball expert. Thanks Nolan Ryan, now go beat up Robin Ventura again.

6. Swetha and Sabreena, the most dangerous pair in the Pick Six. Not most dangerous in that they'll win, but they might lecture you on the validity of WNBA fundamentals. No one cares about that. Seriously. S & S showed me a four hour long powerpoint presentation on why two handed layups are more advantageous than one handed layups. Then they tried to prove the WNBA was awesome by showing Candace Parker "dunking." Remember when she won the McD's dunk contest with her "no-look" dunk. That was dumb. Just like S & S. Shit yea I'm talking shit. Bring it on what up. They will get three points over the first five questions.

Gloves are off now. I'm coming for everyone.