Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Genius of David Stern

So, it has become en vogue for absolutely everyone in the world to hate the hell out of NBA Commissioner David Stern in the wake of suspensions handed down to Phoenix Suns players Amare Stoudmire and Boris Diaw. In case you've been under a rock or in a coma for the past few days, a shoving match broke out when the Spurs' Robert Horry gave Steve Nash a hockey-style hip check into the scorer's table. Well, I'm going to go off the deep end and (gasp!) defend the commissioner.

This is very simple: the rule invoked by the NBA in the suspensions says that a player may not leave the bench area in the event of an on-court altercation. Both Stoudmire and Diaw...get this...LEFT THE BENCH. In fact, if you watch the replays, Stoudmire had to be held back at least twice in order to be kept away from the fight that took place. Now, in the replays I have seen, I did not see what Boris Diaw's involvement in the situation was, but I trust Stern's judgment on this one.

Now, people like Charles Barkley, Dan Patrick, and everyone in the world has been talking about this thing called "the spirit of the rule". Well guess what, princess, the "spirit" doesn't mean jack to this commissioner. What Stern considered was what the rule said, and handed down appropriate punishments. It doesn't matter what Stoudmire and Diaw were thinking of doing. It's about what they did do, and what they did do was leave the bench in the midst of an on-court altercation. Bring the hammer down and send 'em home for a day.

Now, everyone seems to hate the bejeezus out of David Stern at all times for being too (fill in the blank). Instead of complaining, though, they should probably look around at every other major sport and thank their stars that they have one of the best commissioners in all of sport. Let's look at the facts, shall we?

Bud Selig, Major League Baseball: Well, he has done some good things, but they aren't even close to the shortcomings of this guy. For one, he completely mismanaged the "steroid era", and only started investigating the problem when faced with a ton of media pressure. He called a tie in an MLB All-Star game when both teams ran out of pitchers (boo-freakin'-hoo. The third baseman has a good arm, put him out there). He made the All-Star game the decider of home-field advantage in the World Series, instead of...say...the accomplishments of the teams involved. Also, he presided over a strike period, which means he probably screwed up somewhere.

Gary Bettman, National Hockey League: Have you watched a regular season hockey game lately? Oh wait...Bettman screwed up the TV deal so you can't watch the game more than about 5 times a year. The lockout almost completely destroyed that league and Bettman played a key role in the ridiculousness that occurred during that period.

Roger Goodell, National Football League: Actually, Goodell is looking pretty damn good in his first year of commissioner-ing, so we'll move on to his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue. All in all, Tagliabue did a good job bringing the crowds into NFL stadiums and presiding over the biggest stadium-building boom in the history of the sport. However, when it came to punishments, the man was weak. Towards the end of Tag's reign, we saw some of the worst behavioral problems ever. The second Goodell came in, however, we saw a new league conduct policy and a one-year suspension to Pacman Jones to send a message to all of the league's bad boys. Things seem to be on the up-and-up in the NFL.

Mike Helton, NASCAR: One might look at the financial success of this sport and say, "Wow, Helton is doing a good job here!" Guess what. It's a lie. It's time for me to go all goody-goody on you and tell you that NASCAR is still firmly implanted in the 1960's. Think about it: pushrod V8 engines with those big airboxes and carburetors that you might remember from your grandparents' car, all driving a big, solid rear axle. In fact, 2007 is the first year -- THE FIRST YEAR -- that the cars have run on unleaded fuel. Do you remember when the US Government mandated unleaded fuel? Of course not, because you weren't born yet. Auto racing is a place where companies are supposed to come up with great new ideas for safety and efficiency for their road products (see: Audi V10 Diesel winning 24 hrs. of Le Mans, or the IndyCar series running on American-made Ethanol fuel, or brake and suspension developments from rally racing). NASCAR is using an old, retarded formula that has no use to the modern world so that they can make a ton of money off of some of the dumbest (not all of you...blame the guys who throw beer cans) fans in sports.

David Stern, National Basketball Association: Ridiculed for being "too strict" with the rules on numerous occasions, even though basketball contains some of the worst personalities ever to walk onto a field of competition. Instituted a dress code that, when first instituted, was ripped apart. Have you heard anything about the dress code since that first week or so? Neither have I. Brought a big, nasty hammer down on Ron Artest and the Indiana Pacers after Artest charged the stands in Detroit. Brought another big, nasty hammer down on referee Joey Crawford for ejecting Tim Duncan from a game for no reason. The only mistake he made recently was approving the technical foul for complaining, but that was mostly the fault of overzealous referees (like Crawford).

Listen up, NBA people. David Stern didn't ruin the Suns-Spurs series. Horry, Stoudmire, and Diaw did by breaking the rules. Don't like it? Shut up and deal with it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Quintessential Baseball Experience

This is very simple: If you care about baseball on any level -- die-hard fan, casual observer, your boyfriend is obsessed, etc -- you must make the trip to the north side of Chicago, IL and take in the majesty of Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs. There are probably only two (maybe three) places left in the entire country where you can show up and immediately think, "This is what baseball is supposed to be". Wrigley Field is definitely one of those places.

When approaching the ballpark, you definitely want to come in from the intersection of Clark and Addison Streets, where the first thing you see is:

It's one of the most welcoming sights in the world. The stadium looks really small from the street, and the quaint red sign is akin to one of those welcome signs you might see on your friendly neighbor's front door. Sure, the gates look somewhat small and uninviting, but you're not at Wrigley to look at gates. The real prize is what's inside:

Unlike modern 41,000-seat baseball stadiums, even the last row makes you feel like you're on top of the action. The exposed steel in the peaked roof, the green seats, the brick and ivy walls, and the hand-operated scoreboard will give any baseball fan the feeling of being home. One of the greatest aspects of the park is that, unlike the remaining cookie-cutters in Washington, Toronto, and Miami that were built 50 years later, Wrigley does not show its age. Instead of disdain for the age and condition of the stadium, the fan feels respect for the history and condition of this place.

It's hard to imagine for a 20 year-old what it might've been like to take in a game at Ebbets, Griffith, Crosley, Yankee before the renovations, or the Polo Grounds, but thanks to the devotion of the Tribune Company to keep Wrigley Field standing, us youngsters can get an idea of what real baseball looks like.

Other ballparks on my list to visit: Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, New Busch Stadium, PNC Park, Miller Park, Dodger Stadium. I'll be hittin' up Yankee probably next summer, but I have no idea when I'll get to the rest of 'em.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Went to Wrigley...details at 11

As you may or may not know, I saw my Nationals take on the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday. Since it's one in the morning on Sunday and I have to be up early to 1) go to church, and 2) go to opening day at Indy, I will do a two-for-one in the next 24-48 hours covering the ballgame and opening day. See you all later!