Archive for July, 2008

Off to NYC

July 30, 2008

I’m on vacation, so this is going to be brief.

But I’m about to venture over to the Bronx to watch my Orioles go for a three-game sweep against the Yankees this afternoon.

Good times.

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Packers president Mark Murphy is flying in to try to keep Brett Favre out of camp.

His response, I’m sure, will be, “fine. Release me.”

Don’t hold your breath, Wrangler boy.

In the Army…

July 29, 2008

A sneak peek into next week’s column for Fort Bragg Life…

It was a story that made the back end of the NFL Draft as compelling as the first 10 picks.
It was a good story, a boy makes good tale, that had a good shot at a happy ending.
Now it’s a confusing story with a plot twist that might lead to death in a foreign land.
Caleb Campbell, a cadet at the United States Military Academy, was selected in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions in April’s draft.
Under the Alternative Service Option, or ASO, Campbell was eligible for the draft.
According to the policy, “Cadets accepted into the program, will owe two years of active service in the Army, during which time they will be allowed to play their sport in the player-development systems of their respective organizations and be assigned to recruiting stations. If they remain in professional sports following those two years, they will be provided the option of buying out the remaining three years of their active-duty commitment in exchange for six years of reserve time.”
In other words, go play football, help out with recruiting and serve your country that way.
Campbell was interviewed on-stage at Radio City Music Hall, where the draft was held, and came across like you’d think an Army officer should — humble, but confident that he could make a career in the NFL knocking passes out of the air as a defensive back.
Instead, after the Army suspended the ASO earlier this month, he’ll be trying to knock planes out of the sky as part of an anti-artillery unit, which is his assigned duty branch.
“It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean Caleb Campbell’s dream is dead. It just means it will be delayed,” Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb told the Associated Press. “We want to take care of soldiers and dashing their hopes is not what we intend. But it is what it is.”
Campbell isn’t fighting it.
“I’m going to work out every day like I’m training in training camp,” Campbell told “The Dan Patrick Radio Show” on Thursday, as he drove from Detroit back to West Point, N.Y. “It’s still a dream of mine, and if they’re going to give me that opportunity two years later, I’m definitely going to take it.
“It’s unfortunate that this happened, but there’s nothing I can do about it. So I’m just going to drive on as I’ve been told and as I’ve been taught the last four years at the academy.
“I would like to be angry in a sense, because it’s always been a dream of mine to play in the National Football League. But I also know that when I entered the academy that I was signing up to be an officer, so I’m more than excited to pursue this opportunity as well.”
It’s a tough call for the Army.
I’m sure he’d be valuable in the field. But I think he may have been even more helpful to the Army as an ambassador, much like David Robinson was to the Navy.
How much did Robinson help his branch of the military?
His nickname is “The Admiral.”
Campbell can apply for a release to resume his NFL dreams in 2010.
I’m still hoping for that happy ending.

If it’s in the game…

July 28, 2008

Here’s a look at what I wrote for Fort Bragg Life about NCAA Football 2009.

Yeah, they paid me for this…

It’s a right of passage.
Every summer, it arrives, bringing with it the hopes and dreams of a legion of devoted fans.
Some years, it’s everything people could want. Some years, it leaves them cold, wondering what went wrong.
Of course, for some people, the annual release of the latest title in the EA Sports’ NCAA Football series begs only one question:
When’s Madden coming out.
If you don’t want to wait for Aug. 12 for your pigskin fix, NCAA Football 2009 is in stores now.
Hopefully, by the time this hits the press, EA will have come out with a patch addressing the roster issue. Apparently, when you try to rename your players (NCAA rules prohibit the use of college players’ names in games), the game freezes.
Not cool. But let’s hope the patch fixes that.
The game itself is not all that different from the 2007 version on the PS3. (Note: The Wii version is dramatically different, as it is much less of a simulation and more of a fun, arcade-like experience.)
The dynasty mode, long a staple of this series, is back and deeper than ever. You can take LSU and try to win another national title or you can try to raise Duke from the depths of mediocrity.
And, in this year’s entry, you can play dynasties online with up to 12 people.
It’s a good thing that wasn’t possible back when I was in college. I may never have graduated.
Let’s break it down:
Graphics: 9 — The stadiums are spot on and the uniforms are detailed. I could quibble about some of the crowd and sideline animations, but those aren’t really why you buy a game like this.
Presentation: 8 — There are a lot of bells and whistles in this title, which makes getting around a bit of a challenge.
Sound: 7 — This would be a 10 if the game’s soundtrack didn’t bleed over the stadium sounds. Ditch the theme music, EA. The true gift of an artist is knowing when to put down the brush.
Gameplay: 9 — I haven’t yet mastered the new cutting and juking system for running plays, but it gives the game a good feel. The controls, while complex, are very responsive. I think it would be better if there was a way to tone it down some for younger players.
Shelf life: 9 — You can take one team and play for decades, you can bounce around like Bobby Petrino, you could become a campus legend or you can kill time with some side games. There’s a lot going on here.
Overall: 8 — I think this series is long overdue for one year of no significant changes. Just take what the game does well, fine tune it, test it so we won’t need a patch right out of the box and put out a great product
It’s close, but this isn’t it.

Now, it’s worth noting that this game is a little tougher than I’m used to. I played a season with Idaho, probably the worst team in the game, and finished 7-6 with a win in the New Mexico Bowl.

Full disclosure – I played it on the Varsity level…

Take me out to the brawl game

July 25, 2008

There have always been baseball fights. Most of them resemble something off of a third-grade playground – a lot of pointing and threatening without much actual violence.

Then, there’s the other kind, like this one last night:

Holy cow. The Peoria pitcher, Julio Castilla, threw a ball in the stands (by mistake, I hope) and hit a fan.

Who knew Class A ball was so competitive.

What would Heath Ledger say, if he were still vertical…

Before dawn

July 25, 2008

The sun isn’t up yet, but I’m at my desk.

Is it because I’m dedicated? Driven? Anxious to get my work day started?

Sure.

Or I could be learning to update our Web site in an effort to become more valuable to the company.

It should be a violation of federal law to be out of bed this early.

Exhibit A

July 23, 2008

I’ve long suspected that it takes a certain amount of lunacy to play and enjoy fantasy baseball.

Now, I’m sure.

Yesterday was an average day. I was having an average drive home, flipping around on the magic radio and checking out the latest on one of those ESPN SportsCenter radio breaks.

Then, I heard the news.

Jon Rauch, who was closing in Washington, was traded to the Diamondbacks yesterday for a minor league second baseman and a Heath Ledger poster.

“Crap,” I said aloud, even though I was by myself at the time.

Why is this news important? It’s simple.

Rauch is on my fantasy baseball team, providing me saves as I try to climb the ranks. Now, he’s on his way to Phoenix where his save opportunites might be limited to shagging loose balls in his shootarounds with one of the other 6-10 guys in baseball, Randy Johnson.

OK, maybe simple isn’t the right word.

So, having watched more Nationals games than is deemed healthy by the American Medical Association, I started racking my brain. I was about three miles from home, and I had to come up with the right guy to pick up.

I mean, the Nats are horrid, but saves are saves.

So I get home, wait for what seems like an eternity for my laptop to sputter to life and then cruise over to our league’s page.

I scan the recent transactions and smile, seeing that no one has made a play on the future Nats closer.

Maybe that’s because no one’s sure who that might be.

I scan the usual sources, ESPN, Roto Times, Yahoo! and come up with nothing.

So I took a guess. Joel Hanrahan is the guy in the pen I think has the best stuff. So I snagged him.

Turns out, I was right. He will be getting the save chances for Washington, for now anyway.

So, it’s official. I’m a nut job.

In other news, gravity is still holding me in my chair.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Internet browsing.

Bowling, special style

July 22, 2008

Check out my trip to a special ceremony today.

Better late than never…

July 22, 2008

I’ll admit it.

I’m behind the times.

The truth is that I wouldn’t own an iPod if I hadn’t won a new nano in a drawing here at work. So, I smiled atmy good fortune and took it home. Slowly, but surely, I’m learning the ropes.

It’s only been seven years since Apple put out the first iPods.

And, judging by the CDs I’ve been dumping onto iTunes – and by extension – into my iPod, it’s been even longer since I bought a CD. Sure, I’ve bought every Better Than Ezra album produced since the late 1990s, but other than that, my music purchasing seems to have stopped around 1999.

Considering I was a recent college graduate making $18,000 a year living in a trailer park in Shelby with my future wife and a cabinet filled with ramen noodles, the fact that I was somewhat lacking in disposable income really isn’t that surprising.

What’s striking is how bad some of the CDs I did buy actually are. There are a few in my case – Tracy Chapman, Cake, Kid Rock and Bush – that have one or two songs on them I actually like.

That’s like paying $12 for a song, which makes the 99 cents that iTunes charges seem like a bargain.

My wife has an iPod knockoff MP3 player, which was bought back in some of our, ahem, bleaker financial times. She now has a full-blown case of iPod envy, magnified no doubt by the fact that I’ve hijacked her ear phones and my uncontrollable urge to spout off the number of songs on my iPod.

It’s 397 as of this morning, with plenty more CDs to go.

It’s been fun to walk down memory lane with some of the CDs I still have. The emotions range all over: happy, sad, rueful, ashamed and funky.

I guess it’s like Better Than Ezra says in “Rewind:” Right then a song … became a soundtrack for … this space and time…

The point of this diatribe is that, here lately, I’m very much in touch with how old I’m getting.

So instead of having a mid-life crisis, buying a Corvette or running off to join the Peace Corps (do people still do that?) – I think I have a better idea.

Maybe I’ll just go buy a CD. I’m thinking “Vida la Vida.” Or I guess I could add to my husband of the year resume and get the misses her own iPod.

You just never know…

Conspiracy theory

July 21, 2008

I heard Steve Czaban suggest this morning that this “fracus” between Danica Patrick and Milka Duno was staged.

I laughed it off as foolish conspiracy talk.

Then, I watched it.

No one stepped in. No one looked particulary angry. The camera angle was perfect, and, based on the stability, on a tripod, which suggests that the shooter might have known what was coming.

Just looks a little too neat for me.

Tape delay?

July 21, 2008

As I sit here aching after my weekend of tennis, I couldn’t resist the urge to rip the four-letter this morning.

Don’t get me wrong. I know we as sports fans owe a lot to ESPN. They’ve grown from Australian Rules Football and lumberjacking competitions to the source for the best MLB, NFL and NBA coverage anywhere.

But I swear they get on my nerves.

First of all, the ESPYs are a sham. It’s a shameless, self-promoting awards show where ESPN gets to build its brand by handing our awards to the athletes it’s supposed to be objectively covering.

But I feel that way about all award shows.

My issue is two-fold:

1. Why do I have to watch Sunday Night Baseball at 6 p.m.? I don’t care about Candace Parker winning an award for playing a sport nobody cares about. I want to watch baseball until 11 and then go to sleep.

2. Why, if you’re going to force feed this silly event down the throats of the sporting public, not do it live? The ESPYs actually took place in the middle of the week and everything interesting – Favre’s speech, the award winners, etc. – has already been widely reported. Why bother watching it?

I didn’t.

I doubt I’m alone.