Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stanford's basketball team was born in a test tube

Was looking through Pac-10 box scores tonight, and I realized that Stanford's basketball team has the most uncanny collection of common last names.

It starts with the top five scorers...


...And continues down the list:


Suppose it makes sense for a school whose name is a color (cardinal) and mascot is a tree.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Manifest Destiny? We'll take 5 bucks

Came across a mindblowing statistic today that really captures our current economic state. It's courtesy of MFS:

"As of 12/31/08, the market capitalization of the US stock market was $10.6 trillion, a total equal to 74% of the $14.3 trillion US economy. When the stock market peaked in March 2000 before the beginning of a 2 ½ year bear market that lasted until October 2002, the total market capitalization of stocks was equal to 190% of the size of the US economy, an all-time high for the 'stock-to-economy' ratio."

Wow. Looks like investors would rather have their money in just about any other place than the American economy.

Uncle Sam needs to take off his hat and extend it to others in hopes of collecting some spare change...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Making the case for hockey

Alexander Ovechkin is on another planet.

Every now and then, hockey players make you question your automatic dismissal of the sport...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

We knew what you were feeling, Brett

Brett Favre sat through what might be his final ESPN interview this week... although Favre has always been candid, there were moments during his chat with Ed Werder where you could really feel his emotions and honesty doing the talking.

The high point of the interview came after Werder asked Favre "How did it feel emotionally to be rejected by that franchise?"

"Very rarely do I get too upset," Favre answered. "But I was a little peeved, I guess. There was part of me that wanted to just stick it to them. Then I was like, 'That's the wrong reasons.' It was back and forth. My pride was hurt a little bit, I guess."

I'm still not quite sure how to handle any Favre news. I spent most of the past season being ambivalent about Favre's ongoings in New York.

What I do know is that Favre was the closest thing to a hero figure in my life, just as he was in the lives of hundreds of my peers. And it's difficult to know that part of him still feels contempt for the franchise that defined so much of my childhood identity.

The Packers are honest. The Packers are community. The Packers are blue collar. The Packers are loyal. Now, however, the Packers are also business-first and borderline capricious.

Yes, football is a business, I understand that, but the decision to trade Favre was certainly more complicated than the decision made by other teams to let their icons (Joe Montana, Emmitt Smith) go.

The longer I'm removed from the decision, the more I wish it hadn't been made.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bring on the Heat

Here's a Sunday game of Where's Waldo:

By "where," I mean Israel, and by "Waldo," I mean Davon Jefferson.

I wonder if he reads Hebrew better than he did English?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thought of the Day

It's been pouring for most of the day in Los Angeles, so much so that waves of water were splashing over the freeway median barriers on the way to work.

So here's a thought for you: Do you drive in absolute speeds or in relative speeds?

In other words, do you always drive 5 MPH over the speed limit, or is it really that you drive 5 MPH faster than the average car next to you on the road?

On days like today, the speed limit doesn't apply - everyone is driving underneath it - but yet I still find myself passing people at the same rate as I normally do.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

How athletes cope with the worst month in sports

Let's face it: The Super Bowl is over and now we have...

Nothing. Until March, that is.

Cue World's Strongest Man reruns!

My latest DT column here:

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I feel it’s an appropriate time to mention that February gets no love from the sports world.

January is witness to the NFL playoffs, the Bowl Championship Series, the perennial Rafa-Federer classic and for all intents and purposes, the Super Bowl.

February brings us the muscled behemoth Magnus Ver Magnusson. From every angle. Pure man.

The month of love also gives Kobe Bryant ample opportunity to wink at you, in hopes it will engender amorous feelings toward a regular season that displays less effort than Grandma playing slots.

No playoffs. No tournaments. No love lost.

So what to do?

A place like USC is stocked with sports-loving, sports-playing and sports-watching fiends. Club and intramural sports are among the most popular student activities, and USC football is the most unifying event on campus.

It seems the natural answer is to consult USC athletes themselves, who are as big of sports fans as you and I.

They can see true sport from a mile away; so I asked them to show us February through their eyes.

“For me, February is not at all a downer for sports fans,” said basketball senior and resident all-everything man Keith Wilkinson. “I don’t think the NBA is very exciting to watch during the regular season, but as far as college basketball, I watch every game I can because these are all teams playing for one goal, and that is to make the NCAA tournament.”

The “Great White Hope” has a point. With the Pac-10 being labeled as a four-or-five bid league, every game will matter down the stretch for Wilkinson and his teammates.

Last February, after all, was when Wilkinson went en fuego, quickly becoming a fan favorite and helping lead his team into the postseason.

Show us the love, Keith — Galen Center is ready for it.

But enough of the basketball — everyone knows it’s out there, because it’s ESPN’s one and only lifeline during February.

What ESPN doesn’t show (and what ESPN assumes fans don’t care to watch) is the beautiful game: soccer. Turns out the sports media giant might be missing the boat.

And by boat, I mean the 6-foot-5, 295-pound USC defensive tackle Fili Moala. Dude gives it up for the other men on the grass.

“They dribble with their feet and still juke people,” said Moala, who is currently spending seven hours per day training for the NFL Draft. “Madrid, AC Milan and all those guys — I appreciate everyone for what they do.”

Ronaldinho versus Moala in full contact soccer. You organize it, I’ll sell it.

Men’s water polo player Jovan Vranes echoes Moala’s sentiment and admits to checking the soccer schedule every day.

“There are a bunch of top-notch competitions going on in Europe or in South America right now,” Vranes said, adding that you can’t find much soccer on ESPN, which tends to favor more sophisticated competitions like chain saw log-cutting and throwing kegs over walls.

And about those World’s Strongest Man reruns — athletes watch them, even if they aren’t quite sure why.

“OK, I’ll admit I actually have watched the Strong Man competitions,” said women’s basketball guard Hailey Dunham. “I think it’s the ridiculous challenges like pulling a fire truck a certain length that grabs my attention. It’s amazing to see how strong these men have to be to perform such challenges.”

Vranes’ water polo teammate Matt Sagehorn watches the obscure sports for a different reason.

“The appeal to me is that watching people who cut wood really fast or run on a floating log or even throw a keg over a wall is absolutely hilarious,” Sagehorn said.

Magnusson versus Sagehorn in full contact water polo sans referees. Again, you organize it, I’ll sell it.

After all, that’s what February is all about — enjoying sports for the sake of competition. Because you certainly aren’t going to find the volume of quality TV programming associated with other months.

And most athletes are cool with that.

Or as Moala put it, “You can watch this little Asian guy pound what, like 50 hot dogs?”

Amen, Fili. Amen.

For the rest of us, we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by a campus full of great sports stories, even if you might not know they’re in the making.

Vranes and Sagehorn’s squad won the national title in December, finishing a perfect 29-0. Women’s golf is in position for its second-straight NCAA championship and third in seven seasons. Women’s basketball gives you all the bravery without the bravado.

ESPN is nice, but let’s face it — February is a month to celebrate live sporting events.

Start spreading the love.

Quote of the Day

"I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people's accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man's failures."

- Earl Warren, former Chief Justice of the United States
Sports Illustrated, July 22, 1968

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Super Bowl pick

Steelers 23, Cardinals 21