June 01, 2002

Final May results for the HR Pool here, or at the link below. Congratulations are due Mr. Bolkcom, who appears to be running away from the field. A special note of condemnation to yours truly, who finished last for the month.
It seems the week I decide to focus on non-political issues, below, the world decides to move a step closer to nuclear war. Well, actually, just the section of the world that contain the idiots who run India and Pakistan. If the planet gets blown up as a result of Kashmir, let it not be said that I failed to devote some attention to the issue, in between my posts on the Lakers-Kings and the World Cup.
Game 6 last night may have been the game that elevated this Laker team from the ranks of ordinary championship teams and into an historical elite, alongside the Bulls of the late-90's and the Lakers of the mid-80's (the Celtics of the '60's are in their own group). The team played with passion at both ends of the court, and sent a message that the Kings would have to physically wrest the championship away in Game 7. Perhaps no play better indicated the Lakers' intentions than the wrestling match in the final minute between Bryant and Bibby off the inbounds play. Although it appeared that Kobe gave a nasty elbow to the face of Bibby, in fact the whole sequence of events began when Bibby grabbed Kobe from the side and attempted to pull him out of position. Bryant's subsequent message (incredibly, neither player was called for a foul) alerted the Kings to the fact that at least one player on the Lakers was prepared to do whatever is necessary to win the series.

\Having said that, I am now more certain that the Kings will prevail than I have been before. The Kings have almost nothing beyond the seven-man rotation they use, but what a rotation !! They have been in control of the series since the second quarter of Game 1, and still have not received a significant contribution from Stoyakovic. Although CWeb and Bibby played inspired ball last night, the rest of the team seemed content with the knowledge that Game 7 was a safety net, especially Divac, who seemed resigned early on to the fact that he wasn't going to get his flopping calls. However, I saw nothing last night that would lead me to believe that the Lakers are going to get any significant contributions from Fisher, Shaw, George, etc. (although Fox has had his best two games in the playoffs this week), therefore placing the entire burden of Shaq and Kobe relief on Robert Horry. If the game is close entering the fourth quarter, the Lakers prevail. But I don't see that happening.

May 31, 2002

From the mailbag:

A long-winded Ohiander sends the following missive:

Smythe you are such a wimp! Are you rooting for the Lakers or not? I mean a true Lakers fan wouldn't sound the death knell so quickly would they? Or maybe you're impersonating Phil '"I have to actually coach in this series" Jackson and trying to play some psychological game to get the Lakers motivated. C'mon stop chasing after (name deleted) and come watch the game at Joxers. I swear you must be the only guy I know who is p****-whipped but hasn't had any p****!! Tell her to give it up or get out bed bud!

I hope you know I am just ranting and raving and giving you s*** just for the fun off it!

Seriously, tell (name omitted) I said hello. Hope to see you after the game at Joxers

GO KINGS!!!!!!!!!


Thank you, but I will be watching the game at Joxers tonight. I have indeed found out that the female individual above, who stars on a certain ABC spy show airing Sunday nights, is in fact married. We decided that it would be best if we simply let our feelings wither, no matter how painful it may feel.
And sure enough, in the opener, Senegal beats France, 1-0. Or to put it another way, Maryland loses to Hawaii.

May 30, 2002

Back when the World Cup was in the U.S., and was getting a lot more hype in the mainstream press, a sportswriter (I think it was Curry Kirkpatrick) tried to explain why the tournament not only had such international appeal but had developed such a cult-like following among a fringe minority of American sports fans, and came up with the clever idea of comparing it to the sporting event played on these shores that is closest to it in spirit, the NCAA basketball tournament. Although the analogy is imperfect, since the aspect that makes the NCAA’s so interesting is its single-elimination format, something that doesn’t arise in the World Cup until the second round, I happen to love both events, and both tournaments share a common thread. That is, since talent in both sports is so evenly distributed, it is almost certain that huge upsets will occur (at least until the semifinals start); Cameroon will beat Argentina as certainly as Weber State will beat North Carolina.

Anyway, since I happen to be watching the 1986 Cleveland St v. Navy battle on ESPN Classic, and feel insprired by the spirit of Mouse McFadden, I will now give you the college tournament breakdown of the World Cup:

France: Maryland (obviously, since they’re defending champs, and are favored to repeat)
Argentina: Arizona (perennial favorite; talented, but bland)
England: Kansas (oldest tradition in the sport, with a history of choking in big games)
Germany: North Carolina (technically adept, although going through a down period)
Spain: UCLA (no one gets less out of more talent, but at least they overshadow their neighbors)
Italy: Duke (always going to contend)
Portugal: USC (from out of nowhere; can either make a run at the title or get sent home early)
Nigeria: Gonzaga
Mexico: Tulsa
Cameroon: MAC champions
Saudi Arabia: Hampton
Croatia: Florida
U.S.A.: Big Sky champs
Sweden: California (good for a win, nothing else)
Brazil: Kentucky (great history, exciting style; can never be ignored)
Uruguay: Georgetown (were champs awhile back, but now dull)
Slovenia: Seton Hall
Costa Rica: Big West champs
Paraguay: Western Kentucky
Senegal: Hawaii
Russia: Syracuse
Poland: Mississippi State
Denmark: Mountain West champions
Ireland: Texas Tech
Japan: Pittsburgh (underrated team that gets to play its early games at home)
South Korea: Sunbelt champs
Ecuador: Oregon
South Africa: Big South rep
Belgium: Stanford (boring, mediocre and defensive)
Turkey: Wisconsin
China: America East champs
Tunisia: SWAC tournament champions

Obviously, some of the teams listed above weren't in the last tournament; I am more interested in the history of the event, and the teams, as a whole. And, of course, if you prefer to see Team U.S.A. as the UC Santa Barbara of world football, let me know….
For those of you who absolutely need to know anything and everything about "the Lions of Teranga" before their opener with France, check here. You should have a working knowledge of French, however....
As an attorney, by nature I have an appreciation for those who can tell untruths and attain great wealth, power, and/or fame doing so. I knew the country was in good hands when Bubba excaped the posse by declaring that the correct answer "depended on what the meaning of the word 'is', is". Unfortunately, my own weak talent in that area ensures that I drive an Eclipse, and not a Beemer. For the rest of you, check out an excellent article on the fine art of mendacity, and the current Minister of Propaganda. I get p.o.'d a lot more when the lies elected officials tell are about substantive policies, not about with whom they're sleeping.
On a similar note, perhaps W. could have used the reminder that Pele was Brazilian....
In less than 24 hours, perhaps my favorite sporting event, the World Cup, starts (click here for an excellent blog on the subject). Because of the time difference, the games are going to start in the early (that is, pre-dawn) hours of the morning here on the West Coast, so the only way to view the majority of the games is by tape-delay or VCR. Even if you're not what you Yanks call a "soccer" fan, the World Cup is still a kick (sorry) for the simple reason that it is the only authentic world championship in sports. Besides the Olympics, other sports have international titles; hockey has a World Championship (just won by Slovakia, by the way), and even basketball is going to have an event this summer that will be called the World Championship. But those events lack credibility because the sport involved is regional, and involves only a handful of countries with a chance to win (ie. hockey, rugby, baseball), or only one country (basketball). Because the competition is deeper in soccer (of all countries, Cameroon is considered a dark horse to make the semi-finals), and the talent more evenly distributed, the event itself is less predictable, and thus more exciting to watch. Or as exciting as any event that produces occasional scoreless draws, and allows penalty kicks to resolve playoff games.

In any event, Friday is setting up to be an epic day of frivolity once I can find an excuse to get out of the office. I'm hoping to leave the office by 5, watch the last two periods of Detroit-Colorado (Game 7), cheer on the Lakers in Game 6, then watch Ireland-Cameroon at 11:30 p.m. All of which shall be done behind the security of my home pub, Joxer Dalys, where the owner claims the World Cup games will be shown live (even the 4:30 a.m. games between Slovenia and Paraguay, etc.).

May 29, 2002

Barring any more unexpected developments (like having two different teams come from 20 points down to win on consecutive days), it appears likely that we will see the Kings and Nets square off next week for the NBA championship. This is probably the most one-sided match-up of the four possibilities; I could easily see the Celtics battling the Lakers and Kings deep into the Finals, and Jason Kidd is precisely the type of player who gives the Lakers fits. The Kings and the Nets, on the other hand, looks like a Sacramento sweep. Kidd and Bibby will fight to a draw, and the greater depth the Kings have (particularly with the return of Stojakovich) should set up a massacre.

Friday (or Sunday) maybe the last hurrah for this Laker team. Winning back to back titles has made the front office complacent, and other than the two stars (and occasionally Horry at the offensive end), there isn't much to say about this team. Fox, Shaw, George, Madsen, Richmond, and sadly, Fisher, are pretty much dead weight at this stage, and the one silver lining on the Lakers' ignomonious departure from the playoffs is that Mitch Kupcak will be more motivated to dump some of these carcasses before the start of next season.
Lets see, Shaq fouled out on what appeared to be anticipated contact, Kobe was terrible at both ends of the court, the Kings went to the line ten more times than the Lakers, and the Lakers still only lost by one. As I said before, winning Game 5 makes the Kings a prohibitive favorite, but the Lakers still have a pulse; which is more than should be said about the crooks who reffed the game last night.
Craig D. writes:

Everyone knows that Americans are a patriotic bunch and at this summer's World Cup soccer tournament you'll want the USA to prove to the world that they're no rookies when it comes to soccer.
Well here's your chance to do your bit for the USA by joining me in the Soccernet World Cup Fantasy League. This is the fantasy soccer game where you have to demonstrate your coaching skills to select a 15-man squad of World Cup soccer stars then battle it out for fantasy points and amazing prizes worth over $20,000!
However, it won't just be your player selection skills that are put to the test. Your allegiance to the stars and stripes will also be severely tested as you'll be looking extend your patriotism beyond Claudio Reyna and the first stage of the tournament. Can you select a team that's sure to impress The Boss (that's Bruce 'Arena' not 'Springsteen') and take you all the way to World Cup glory?
Your country needs you so come on, register your team today at: http://soccernetwc.fantasyleague.com

Thank you for the information. As many of you already know, ESPN also has a World Cup fantasy football league, but it costs 15 pounds to enter. Nevertheless, if I take part in a fantasy draft, I can assure you that I will not be looking to pick any Americans.

May 28, 2002

About ten years ago, I became a fan of a movie that was trashed by the critics, in large part because of its budgetary indulgence and the big names of its stars. I remember going with my family to see Ishtar at a theatre in Studio City, near the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura, and laughing my ass off. We weren't alone; I think the other two people in the theatre also got the jokes. My sister Cat, who has a much higher degree of sophistication regarding movies than I do, is even more of a fanatic about the film than I am. Every now and then, I will run into somebody who has also seen it, also believes it to be a great film; that person can be trusted, because he will never run with the pack. Quite simply, Ishtar was panned because of issues having nothing to do with the quality of what is actually on the screen.

In any event, although not nearly as good a film as Ishtar, I have to say, having seen the early (10:00 a.m.) matinee showing yesterday of Attack of the Clones, that a similar phenomena is taking place. The critics aren't wrong necessarily; Hayden Christensen is a stiff, the only actors who do anything more grade school line readings are Ewan McGregor (Obi-wan) and Ian McDiarmid (Palpitine), and the dialogue is often cringe-inducing. I may have also been more impressed by the film by having seen a digital print, which was the way the film was actually shot. But still, its a Star Wars movie, for crying out loud. Its a comic book version of mythology. It's fun, and its a hell of a lot better than The Phantom Menace (or Return of the Jedi, for that matter).

Besides which, who cares about the romantic dialogue, anyway. The film's core audience is single men (at yesterday's show, there were single men from ages 7 to 50, and I think I was the only one not still living with my parents). I'm not sure any of the ads or previews have done enough justice to Natalie Portman. I can't say for sure if she can act, but she's definitely a Judean princess capable of turning any Jedi to the dark side of the force. So who cares if this wasn't a chickflik.

Also, a more technical point. The character of "Darth Sidious" doesn't make an appearance until the very end of the movie, for a short but pivotal scene. Nevertheless, the actor who portrays this character was not given a credit. If anyone knows the name of this actor, please feel free to contact me with the information....

Good cartoon about the terrorist "warnings" we got last week from the Administration. By the way, for anyone who doesn't know about the reference to Dick Armey's support of ethnic cleansing, it has to do with his call recently for Israel to drive all Palestinians out of the West Bank and into neighboring countries.
In spite of looking like the proverbial "deer in the headlights" for much of the second half, the Nets finally pulled out a win at Boston Garden. Since Jason Kidd is getting almost no help from his teammates in the 4th Quarter, I don't see the Celtics ultimately losing.

May 27, 2002

Spent the morning watching the digital version of Attack of the Clones. To my surprise, I enjoyed the movie, although much of what the critics said about the film is accurate. More later....
There is nothing like the adrenaline charge after a dramatic, unthinkable win by the team you're pulling for. It had been awhile, but I remembered how it felt after the Gibson home run, or after Cal beat Duke in the '93 tournament, or after the Kings OT win in Game 4 last year against the Red Wings. And, of course, watching the game with the incomparably gorgeous, no longer dyspeptic, Ms. Deborah S., is also a treat; there ain't no losin' when you're boozin' with Susan. In any event, Game 5 probably decides the series. If the Kings lose, you better have Rico prepare the embalming fluid for the viewing next Friday. If the Lakers lose, although they won't be in the same difficult position, the odds of their winning a third championship become close to prohibitive.
At about 6:45 a.m. yesterday morning, I had prepared the following post for publication herein:

In spite of the ease of their victory Friday, Sactown appears to be vulnerable. With Stojakovic still hurt, they basically use a seven-man roster, which means late in the game, their starters are going to be more tired than the Lakers. I predict that the Lakers will start poorly, perhaps falling behind by as many as twenty points in the first quarter, than slowly creep back into the game. Kobe will become more of a factor as the game progresses, just as in Game 3. Don't be surprised if, in the final seconds, with the game on the line, Shaq hits his free throws, while Bibby and Divac brick. Fox and George will start to nab their rebounds, while Divac will ineffectually punch the ball out. Ultimately, I see the game coming down to an open trey by Horry at the buzzer. Then, in Game 5,

And then my computer froze, and I was unable to transmit the message. Damn.

May 26, 2002

I think a good way to tell if a gay baseball player would be accepted, by his teammates, fans, and/or media, would be to look at how players who have been rumored to be gay have been treated. Lets face it: not only are there gay baseball players, I would bet that many of their teammates know who they are. When Glen Burke was with the Dodgers, it was hardly a state secret on the team that he was gay; ultimately, his career fizzled not so much due to homophobia but to the fact that he couldn't hit a curveball. There are players for whom such rumors are a constant; Brady Anderson and Roberto Alomar come to mind.

Mike Piazza certainly fits that description; his sexual preferences were a topic of Internet gossip back when he was with the Dodgers; Brett Butler may have alluded to them when he made his now curious attack back in 1997 that Piazza was a "narcissist" who didn't care for the team. Those rumors surfaced at the time he was traded, at the time he failed to shove his bat down Roger Clemons' throat in the World Series, and again last season, when he made the unfortunate decision to dye his hair blond. Putting aside the truth or validity of the gossip, the fact is, Piazza has been talked about. Nevertheless, I haven't heard anything about his teammates refusing to play with him, shower with him, or do anything with him but play baseball.

Obviously, coming out of the closet would be different than simply confronting rumors about being gay. In the "macho world" (pardon the cliche) of team sports, many would resist dealing with the truth. Opposing fans would be merciless; religious zanies in and out of the dugout would protest. I believe it is self-evident that it would be far easier if a star comes out rather than a scrub; one scribe noted this week that if Sammy Sosa were to proclaim his homosexuality, the Cubs would have the most gay-friendly locker room in sports. But lets not pretend that it isn't already happening, or that baseball players (or other athletes) are complete neanderthals on the subject.
Please take note that yesterday's post about the Celtics was written at 8:24 a.m. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals didn't begin until 2:35 p.m. And this site remains free.