Monday, December 31, 2007

The 2007 Arizona Cardinals awards show bonanza

Note: This column appears in the 1/3 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 1/4 issue of the Peoria Times

Because I am not above such literary gimmicks as handing out fake end-of-the-year awards to professional athletes who don’t give two craps about what I have to say anyway, I think it’s time to do just that! So brace yourselves, Arizona Cardinals, because it’s award time…

Biggest Surprise:
Kurt Warner. From his valiant effort in replacing Matt Leinart against Baltimore in Week 3, to his 369-yard, three-TD performance versus Atlanta in Week 16, Warner pretty much saved the Cardinals from yet another embarrassing season. And he did it all with one elbow, an ever-graying beard, and while being sacked 20 times. Even Kurt Warner was surprised by Kurt Warner.

Best Season That Wasn’t That Great: Edgerrin James. Many (for example, Edgerrin James) will point out that James now has back-to-back seasons of rushing for over 1,000 yards, the first Cardinals’ RB to do that, since...I have no idea. Ever? Sounds good. But James displayed no game-breaking ability, and broke the 100-yard mark just three times this season, which were all Arizona victories. If James could have had just four really good games instead of three, the Cardinals might still be playing.

Best Injury: Matt Leinart. Remember him? Pegged as the face of the franchise heading into 2007, Leinart’s season-ending shoulder injury was ultimately a blessing for everyone involved, allowing Warner to shine, and giving Leinart the opportunity to have women sign his cast. Win, win.

My collarbone hurts...let's go back to my place

Worst Injury: Adrian Wilson. Before their standout safety went down, the Cardinals allowed more than 26 points in a game just once. Post-Adrian Wilson, they did it five times.

Best Win:
Arizona 21, Pittsburgh 14. In handing the Steelers their first loss of the season, the Cardinals made the rest of the NFL take notice. (The rest of the NFL was unimpressed, but still…)

Worst Loss:
San Francisco 37, Arizona 31. This game had it all -- missed chip-shots, bad coaching, turnovers galore – and it all happened at home, at the hands of one of the worst teams in the league, and in the middle of a playoff push. But other than that, it wasn’t so bad.

Best Upgrade: Ken Whisenhunt. In a move reminiscent of Justin Timberlake shedding Britney Spears for Cameron Diaz, the Cardinals went from Dennis Green to Whisenhunt, and watched as virtually the same team went from 5-11 to 8-8. He was far from perfect, but Whisenhunt exuded the confidence of man coaching a Super Bowl contender, and the Cards followed his lead.

The ‘Achy, Breaky Heart’ Memorial One-Hit Wonder Award: Antrel Rolle versus the Bengals. M.I.A. for much of the year, Rolle broke out against Cincy for three interceptions, returning two of them for scores during a crucial road win. Having filled his forced turnover quota, Rolle went back into hibernation.

Best Stat:
Cardinals hold Detroit Lions to minus-18 yards rushing. By the way, that game was the beginning of the end for Detroit, the first of a six-game losing streak. So if nothing else, the Cardinals ruined Detroit’s season. That’s almost like going to the playoffs, right?

Worst Ongoing Storyline: Penalties. In 2007, the Cardinals did their best Oakland Raiders impression, killing their own drives and sustaining their opponents’ drives with costly penalties throughout the season. Whether it was a brain fart, unwarranted machismo, or inexperience, almost no one was immune to the yellow flag in 2007. It was Ken Whisenhunt’s biggest failure as head coach.

And the Cardinals take the field...wait, there's a penalty flag

Worst Recurring Commercial Not Involving John Mellencamp: Dennis Green’s Coors Light Commercial. Nice job opening fresh wounds for Cardinals’ fans during game breaks, Coors Light. Oh, and it could have been much funnier. I’m just saying.

Best Player: Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards’ lone Pro Bowl starter had another outstanding season, and did so while battling injuries throughout. 100 catches for 1,409 yards and 10 TDs…I mean, wow.


Best Coverage:
The Glendale Star. Hey, what can I say?..the fake voters have spoken. (Runner up: Peoria Times.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Classic card of the week

Louis Lipps, 1992 Collector’s Edge

Louis Lipps did not exude the confidence of a man who caught passes for a living. Take this card for example. This looks like the “before” snapshot of an extremely bad dropped pass. There is too much concentration going into this feat. Louis Lipps is attempting to catch this pass as if his life depended on it, and that is just too much pressure to place on oneself as it pertains to the pure simplicity of catching a football. If this were Randy Moss, he would casually be reaching down to catch this pass with his right pinky finger (or, ya' know, his ELBOW!) while simultaneously staring at a cheerleader and contemplating what he was going to do for his touchdown dance. Meanwhile, Louis Lipps doesn’t even have his chinstrap fastened, there’s not a defender anywhere in the picture, and it looks like he’s one second away from pooping his pants. Even his positioning doesn’t make sense! His back is to the freakin’ endzone, and he looks like he’s fielding a line-drive punt instead trying to catch a pass. (Then again, that pass was most likely thrown by Neil O’Donnell, who didn’t exactly catch Louis in stride with this one.) Whether or not he caught this pass is mostly irrelevant, considering that Louis Lipps broke down NFL barriers by becoming the first player in league history to rock the receding hairline flattop. This eventually paved the way for Jerry Rice’s receding hairline cornrows, which was the fashion equivalent of an extremely bad dropped pass.

Did you know?*

Yes, I am aware that Louis Lipps also returned punts – quite well, actually – but his hands would be more underneath the ball if that were the case. I am also aware that this picture could be from warmups and not during an actual game. However, both of these scenarios ruin my original intent, which was to make fun of Louis Lipps. In other news, I am running out of football cards.

*longest “Did you know?” ever.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Classic card of the week

Latrell Sprewell, 1997 Upper Deck

When there’s a minute and 10 seconds left in the game, and you’re playing in a half-empty black-and-white arena against a team that refuses to wear numbers on the back of their jerseys, there’s few people in the NBA that you want with the ball in their hands more than Latrell Sprewell. To wit:

In a game vs. the Los Angeles Clippers, Sprewell became the difference in a 97-91 victory. With 1:10 on the clock in regulation, Sprewell shaked and baked his way to a three-point play and sealed the win at home.

Did Walt Frazier write this little tidbit? That will remain a mystery. And apparently in California, 1:10 left on the clock equals “crunch time,” regardless of the fact that those final 70 seconds probably took 23 minutes to play out. (Not mentioned is another “crunch time” play by Sprewell during this game, when he sank one of two free throws midway through the second quarter.)

When asked by a reporter after the game how he managed to be so clutch against the NBA’s elite Clippers, Sprewell stressed that he was only trying to feed his family, and if feeding his family meant draining jumpers over miscellaneous opponents with 1:10 left on the clock, then so be it. When the reporter asked if his family could eat the 20” spinning rims on the wheels of his Bentley, Sprewell choked him.

Did you know?
While it can often sound like a cliche, it nevertheless rings true: You don't want to barf on Latrell Sprewell's yacht.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It could be worse for, seriously

The Christmas season is a time for joy, and also for perspective. Arizona Cardinals fans throughout the Valley are left lamenting the fact that their team will, yet again, miss the playoffs.. To this I say, “Who cares?” For now is the time of the year to appreciate what we have, so as the Cards face-off against them this Sunday, I think it’s time for everyone to be thankful this holiday season that the Arizona Cardinals are NOT, in fact, the Atlanta Falcons.

For all the disappointment inherent in rooting for the franchise that is the Arizona Cardinals, it can be argued that those twenty years of general ineptitude cannot match what the Falcons have accomplished in a mere six months.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? The Falcons’ star quarterback -- and, to the casual NFL fan, their only recognizable player -- was suspended for the season as a result of being indicted on charges of heading a dog fighting ring. Two weeks ago he was sentenced to almost two years in a federal prison after being found guilty of those charges. So there’s that.

Not foreseeing the possibility that their starting quarterback would go to prison for dog fighting, the Falcons shrewdly traded their backup QB, Matt Schaub, to the Houston Texans before the season began. Said Falcons’ GM Rich McKay, “My bad!” (He didn’t really say that, but still.)

"It looks like this whole 'dog' thing is gonna pass...So we got rid of Schaub"

During the offseason, the Falcons hired head coach Bobby Petrino away from the collegiate ranks of Louisville, awarding him millions of dollars in the process. Petrino’s reputation as an offensive mastermind was supposed to help Michael Vick turn the corner on his career (oops!). Petrino lost control of his team approximately around Week 1, and subsequently resigned after the teams’ Week 13 loss to the Saints, and was introduced as the new head coach at Arkansas later that week. Petrino’s legacy in Atlanta will be refusing to play Jerious Norwood (their potentially game-breaking running back), for being publicly berated on the sidelines by defensive back and famed nut job DeAngelo Hall, and for making Nick Saban look like Mike Krzyzewski. But other than that, it worked out great!

DeAngelo Hall: Backing up his cockiness

Then there’s Joey Harrington. Astonishingly frustrated with Harrington’s performance, the Falcons picked up gimpy QB Byron Leftwich, who somehow managed to play worse than Harrington, forcing the Falcons to awkwardly hand the starting job back to Harrington, who repaid their confidence by playing even worse than before. As of last Sunday, Chris Redman (?) was the starting quarterback, who turned in this stellar line: 4-of-15 passing, for 34 yards, two interceptions and a lost fumble. And yes, he played the entire game.

Arrggghh! Put your hands down...I can't see!

Oh, and the Atlanta Falcons are 3-11, good for last place in the NFC South.

Now, many of you may be saying to yourselves, “Yeah, okay…but do they have Neil Rackers?” And that is just not fair. The fact remains that the Falcons have no coach, no discernable talent with the exception of a few guys who are either crazy or who have yet to fully emerge, and are in general shambles as an organization. When the Cardinals suit up on Sunday, and look across the field, they should have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season, and that is all that really matters.

Now 20% less embarrassing to stick on your tree! Call now!

Of course, this is not to say that the Cardinals should gift wrap a victory for the Falcons simply out of sympathy. On the contrary, that would be really, really, really bad. No matter what the outcome however, the Cardinals are not going to the playoffs, which definitely stinks. But hey, things could be worse.

They could have hired Bobby Petrino instead.

If this all works out -- and I have no reason to be believe that it won't -- I think this will be the most successful fourteen weeks in Atlanta Falcons' history!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Classic card of the week

Brad Davis, 1990-91 Skybox

The easy joke here would be to say that Brad Davis was flaming. Or, at least, his balls were flaming. But I am not going to go there, because that is not how I roll. “But how does Brad Davis roll?” you may be asking yourself. That, I cannot answer. All I can do is show you the back of the card,
(check the “Brad” in the lower right-hand corner of the picture…that’s class!), remind you that Brad Davis played for a team whose symbol was a cowboy hat resting on top of a giant “M,” and then ask you to look at the front of the card again. Says Troy McClure, “Yes, Smithers IS Mr. Burns’ assistant.”

Of course, I am joking with these implications and innuendos. Brad Davis was just a product of the times, a times that just happened to involve short shorts, mustaches, flaming basketballs, and cowboy hats. Let’s face it – we were ALL a little gay in 1991.

Anyhoo, I perused Brad Davis’ Wikipedia page, where I discovered that Brad Davis was not a good basketball player. This seems contradictory to what the front of this card would imply, because Brad Davis is obviously about to skool some mo fo’s. Nevertheless, says Wikipedia:

Davis was an average NBA player, averaging less than 10 points per game for his career, but his drive and love for the community made him a fan favorite.

After games in which Brad Davis would miss a game-tying layup by tossing it over the backboard, many of the die-hard Mavericks fans could be overheard saying things like, “Man, Brad Davis really sucks. But he’s got such a love for the community! I just can’t stay mad at the guy!” Also according to Wikipedia, “Davis became the first Maverick to have his jersey retired when his #15 was raised to the rafters of Reunion Arena.” There may be no better indictment of the pre-Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks than the fact that a guy who couldn’t average 10 points a game had his jersey retired because they had to get something up there. Then again, be careful what you wish for, because Dirk Nowitzki totally hates the community.

Did you know?
When the Mavericks moved to the American Airlines Center in 2002, Brad Davis' retired jersey was left behind, with the reason being that "nobody could reach it."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cardinals must cover up Warner’s inevitable mistakes

Note: This column appears in the 12/13 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 12/14 issue of the Peoria Times

If this past Sunday was, in fact, the biggest game in almost a decade for the Arizona Cardinals, then let’s hope that they don’t react the same way this Sunday, which will definitely be the biggest game in almost a decade for the Arizona Cardinals.

Now to the hard part.

As good as he has been this season, the fact that Kurt Warner is the starting quarterback has been the elephant in the room. Warner has never been adept at taking care of the football, and if not turning the ball over has become a football cliché, then Kurt Warner obviously did not get the memo.

The Cardinals failed in every aspect of the game against the Seahawks. The defense was terrible, and could never manage to stop the bleeding. Special teams was, at best, a non-factor. And the rushing “attack” was on par with what it’s been for most of the season, which is to say that Edgerrin James was, yet again, nowhere to be found. That said, Kurt Warner’s five interceptions are what ultimately decided the game, and, more importantly, put the spotlight on the Cardinals’ Achilles Heel as they attempt to make a playoff push.

Anyone who has watched the Cardinals play this season cannot deny being impressed with Warner, yet can also not deny holding their breath every time he drops back to pass. With the exception of a ball he just threw up for grabs at the end of the first half, all of Warner’s interceptions on Sunday were terrible throws. They couldn’t be blamed on bad route running, tipped passes, or the sun in his eyes – they were overthrown, underthrown, badly thrown, or all of the above. Every pass Warner threw on Sunday seemed to hang in the air for twenty minutes, stubbornly biding its time knowing it would land in the waiting arms of the opposition.

And these are just the times when he was able to get off a pass. Let’s put it this way: When Kurt Warner gets sacked, I am shocked – shocked! – when he manages to hold onto the football. So it was a pleasure to see Warner retain possession during each of the five times he was sacked on Sunday, although the interceptions more than made up for it.

Not shocking

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Kurt Warner is 37. The man is not changing. He obviously doesn’t want to turn the ball over, he just kind of does. As Dennis Green might say, “He is who we thought he was!” And what Kurt Warner is is a pretty good quarterback with a penchant for turning the ball over. So there.

I was confused! You guys wear red too!

Now that this reality has been exposed and thus, accepted, it’s the job of the rest of the team to outplay Warner’s weakness. If Warner throws a pick, the defense has to get it back. (Which, with the exception of Sunday, they’ve been able to do.) If Warner gets sacked and fumbles the ball away – and by “if” I mean “when” – then Steve Breaston can make up for it with a big return. If Warner has nobody to throw to because his two best receivers are either inactive or playing hurt, somebody should find Edgerrin James and let him know that the game started.

As the Cardinals attempt to win at least two of their final three games in their quest to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years, I’d prefer not to hear Ken Whisenhunt stress how the Cardinals cannot turn the ball over, which is exactly what he did on Sunday evening. No Ken – you WILL turn the ball over. Kurt Warner is your starting quarterback, and that’s kind of his thing. Instead, tell me about how the rest of the team is going to make up for it.

Because if the Cardinals want to make the playoffs, they’ll have to.

Edgerrin James: Because just standing there is almost as good as 3.5 yards per carry

When keeping it full goes wrong

Dramatization: "Before"

This morning I was filling my car up with gas -- yes, in Arizona you have to pump your own -- and I was, as usual, watching the money counter, and making bets with myself on where it was going to land. Keep in mind that, as any professional gas-pumper will advise, I was not actually holding the pump. Instead, I had it set in its little pump crevice. “Let the pump do all the work!” is my motto. So I was watching the digital money screen with my arms folded, looking pretty cool, if I might add. Now, I had expected it to land at around the $25 mark, so when it passed that with no signs of slowing down, I said to myself, “Huh, that’s strange.” Then $27…$29…$30…

As it’s going through the 30s, I started to hear a funny noise, like it was raining outside, but only next to my car. When I looked down, gas was splurging everywhere. Apparently, the pump had failed to click and deactivate. At this point, gas is spewing all over the car and on my shoes, the money counter is still going, and I’m trying to get the pump out of the freakin’ pump hole (it’s called a pump hole, right?). Eventually, I get the pump out, and now I’m trying to corral it like it’s some kind of wild, spewing beast. (I don’t look AS cool at this point.) My total now reads “$31.01,” and it’s asking me, as if to taunt me, “RECEIPT YES?” Yes, you asshole machine. I would like a receipt.

The receipt printer isn’t working. “PLEASE SEE CASHIER.” Fine! I was going to do that anyway.


What follows is a dramatization that includes both my actual words and thoughts as they related to my conversation with the cashier at the local gas station:

“Ummm, yeah. I was just at Pump #2, and I think something’s wrong because it never stopped, and gas went everywhere.”

“Oh fo real?”

“Uh, yeah. For real.”

“You know dem things is s’posed to stop when they full…”

“Yes, I am aware of how the gas-pumping process works. What I am trying to say is that it didn’t stop, and gas went all over the car, my shoes…everywhere.”

“Fo real? Was it a lot of gas?”

“Yes. It was a lot of gas.”

“Aiiight…(now looking at the register)…what would you say, like, a half gallon? A gallon?”

“Ummm, I’m not really sure. It was difficult to get an accurate measurement on the gas flow, as it was spewing it 80 different directions at the time. Maybe if I ring out the bottom of pants into a measuring cup, I can make a guesstimate.”

“I’ma say a half gallon.”

At this point I’m thinking to myself, “Okay, she’s obviously working on getting me some type of credit on my gas purchase. And that’s nice, because I’m not asking for a credit, I just want to inform her that I think the pump is faulty.”

“Was your total $31.01?”


“Aiiight, here ya’ go.”

She hands me the receipt, her voice trailing off as she says something that kind of sounds like “Have a nice day,” and then she leaves from the behind the counter. I look down at the receipt and, of course, it reads $31.01. So, not only did she not give me a credit, she also gave me no indication of there being a solution to this problem, nor voice any concern whatsoever for my unfortunate incident. Frustrated, confused, and about to be late for work, I went back to my car.

As I’m pulling out of the gas station, I notice the cashier walking out towards Pump #2, holding one of those Big Gulp-style cups. I realized that the cup is probably filled with water, and she’s going off to rinse the ground of the surplus gasoline. I imagine that her question about “a half gallon or gallon” must directly relate to size of the Big Gulp cup of water they use to clean it up. (Half gallon = 32 oz; Gallon = 44 oz.) Awesome. Don’t worry about my entire body or automobile, lady -- just make sure that the concrete ground gets the attention it deserves.

Now I am at work, and people are walking by my desk and saying, “Hmmm…what is that smell?” And I say, “Oh that? That’s just me. I showered in gasoline this morning!”

And the moral of this story is two-fold: 1) The service in Arizona is just as awesome as it is in New Jersey, and 2) you should always hold the pump, because the pump cannot be trusted.

What I should have worn to work this morning

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Classic card of the week

Kevin Willis, 1992-93 Stadium Club

Kevin Willis is arguably the last link to those legendary Atlanta Hawks teams that were pretty good, but not really. It is impossible to think of the late 80’s/early 90’s Atlanta Hawks without immediately seeing a visual image of Kevin Willis in the background of a Dominique Wilkins poster. Or, possibly, you see this very image instead. Or, even more unlikely, you rarely think about the late 80’s/early 90’s Atlanta Hawks, in which case you can go to hell.

Kevin Willis was famous for his humongous biceps, which were on par with those of David Robinson. In fact, the only difference between the two men was that David Robinson had a small face, and Kevin Willis had a huge face. And they played for different teams. And David Robinson scored more than seven points per game.

But Kevin Willis could rebound his face off! So to speak. For statistical proof, let’s check the back of the card:

Remarkable rebounding season, finishing 2nd in NBA…Had as many as 33 boards in one game…

"As many as?" Not sure why that is there, but 33 rebounds in one game has to be some sort of Hawks’ record. Even more amazing was that all 33 boards came off of missed Kevin Willis shots. In addition, the famed “Sporting News Skills Rating System” clocks Kevin Willis’ “Intimidation” factor at a 4.5. This means two very important things: 1) I sure as balls never want to see a 4.6, and 2) intimidation is, in fact, a skill. So there.

Kevin Willis also perfected the “triple-threat” position, as evidenced by this photo. With this particular pose Kevin Willis could a) throw a chest pass to Dominique Wilkins, b) crush the basketball with his bare hands, or c) dribble through his legs as many as 33 times. If you cannot put yourself in a position to do all of these three things, then you might as well not play basketball. Any coach will tell you that.

But you may be saying to yourself, “This Kevin Willis card is okaaaay, but I’d sure love to see a different Kevin Willis basketball card.” Well then, today is your lucky day, because this particular set of Stadium Club cards included a picture of another basketball card on the back (as evidenced by this), because that is what the people wanted, apparently. So please, enjoy!




Did you know?
Uh oh. I found a 4.6.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Classic card of the week

Jim Les, 1992-93 Fleer

Asked to describe Jim Les in three letters or less, Jim Les replied, “’Good.’ No wait, that’s four. Ummm, give me a second here…” After approximately ten minutes, the light bulb went off for Jim Les. He leaned back slowly in his recliner, flashed his famously cocky smile and said, “Me.”

Jim Les rocked #33 as an obvious homage to his idol and career rival Larry Bird. Also like Bird, Les rocked the lethal combination of curly bangs and a short mullet, to the delight of no one in particular.

And also like Bird, Jim Les did his lovemaking behind the three-point line, so to speak. In fact, let’s find out what the back of the card has to say:

Les is more if you are talking about three-point shooters.

Hey, is that a mispri-…Wait, I get it! JIM Les is more, like the phrase “less is more!” Ha, ha! Back of the card, you’ve done it again! Wait…that makes no sense. Whatever! What else ya’ got?

One of the NBA’s most feared long-range missile launchers, Les led the league in trey shooting percentage in 1990-91.

And the back of the card is not lying. When asked during a 1990 interview with the Mormon Gazette to name the NBA’s most feared long-range missile launcher, Karl Malone replied, “Oh, Jim Les. No doubt. He’s the best long-range missile launcher I have ever seen. Honestly. Without hyperbole, I can say that Jim Les is the best long-range missile launcher this side of Saddam Hussein. I mean, his trey percentage is through the roof! We’re talking about three-pointers, right?”

Jim Les was such a lethal long-range missile launcher, that he made the finals of the NBA’s Long-Range Missile Launching Contest in 1992, only to lose by one point to Craig Hodges. In fact, the contest was so scintillating, that both men would go on to star in a buddy-cop comedy whereas Craig Hodges was the black cop who didn’t play by the rules and shot three-pointers, and Jim Les was the white cop who played by the book and also shot three-pointers. It was called, “Freeze, Asshole!’ and it went straight to VHS. Many people blamed the title.

Did you know?
Jim Les is now the head coach of his alma mater, Bradley, and he led them to the Sweet Sixteen in 2006. I realize this is not funny, but it warrants mentioning nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cardinals ruin Thanksgiving, add “kicker” to holiday wish list

Note: This column appears in the 11/29 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/30 issue of the Peoria Times

I came home this past Sunday from a nice, long holiday weekend, ready to watch the Cardinals move closer to an NFC playoff spot. Here’s what happened…

-After 10 weeks of suffering through the likes of Vince Young and Jason Campbell, Kurt Warner has somehow become my starting fantasy quarterback. And good thing, because he is dealing on this first drive. Warner to Fitzgerald, touchdown! Looks like both the Cardinals and myself are headed for the playoffs.

-(That was foreshadowing...the bad kind.)

-Trent Dilfer is starting for the 49ers today. My friend Rashad and I like to use the term “Dilfered” to describe a bad loss. For example, if Rashad were to lose a round of golf to an 84-year old woman, I would say he “got Dilfered.”

-Frank Gore goes down awkwardly, and is now limping off the field, which leads the announcers to say that this game could turn into “the Maurice Hicks show.” I have seen the Maurice Hicks show, and I think I would rather watch “The Singing Bee.”

-Gore is back in. Ankle is okay. Season is not.

-The 49ers score their first touchdown in 12 quarters -- no, that was not a joke -- Dilfer to Vernon Davis.

-Somehow it’s 17-7, San Francisco. The 49ers have just outscored their season.

-Warner leads the Cards down the field, only to be removed in favor of Tim Rattay at the 49ers’ 1-yard line because Warner only has one working elbow, and cannot hand the ball off correctly in those situations. Yes, my starting fantasy quarterback gets removed deep in the red zone because he only has one elbow. I have no idea how I am in the playoff hunt. Anyway, touchdown Marcel Shipp. Man, did the Cards need that. 17-14, Niners.

-Frank Gore is running all over the place. What happened to the Cardinals’ D?

Frank Gore played against the computer on Sunday...on easy mode

-The Cardinals luck out big time after a roughing-the-kicker call goes against San Fran. They capitalize by doing nothing.

-Roderick Green sacks Warner, and then does a long, strange, celebratory dance. Umm, hey, Roderick Green -- you’re team is 2-8, and you just sacked a 37-year old man with one arm. Maybe you should relax a bit.

-Warner throws into quintuple coverage. Interception.

-Trent Dilfer is apparently under the impression that all of his receivers are 12-feet tall. If it weren’t for Frank Gore, the Cardinals would be up by 30.

-Oh. My. Lord. Warner throws a Hail Mary pass at the end of the half, and Larry Fitzgerald brings it down for a touchdown. Roderick Green does not dance.

-The second half begins, and after a stalled drive, the Niners fake a punt, except Michael Robinson steps out of bounds before reaching the first-down marker. After that and the Hail Mary, the 49ers contemplate forfeiting the rest of the season.

-Kurt Warner just got creamed. I think he might be dead. By the way, this is the second time today a 49ers’ player sacked Warner untouched.

-Arnaz Battle just scored on a 57-yard touchdown, and it’s 24-21 49ers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again -- you HAVE to account for Arnaz Battle.

-I never said that.

-The Cardinals go for it on fourth down at the 49ers’ 1-yard line, and it works! Touchdown, Rattay to Ben Patrick. Tim Rattay-to-Ben Patrick is the Cardinals’ answer to Trent Dilfer-to-Arnaz Battle. Watch out, Patriots!

-It’s all Frank Gore, all the time for the 49ers. We then find out from the announcers that “this is the old Frank Gore!” Frank Gore is 24, by the way, and this is his third year in the league.

-The Cardinals might want to think about stopping Frank Gore. He just scored on a 35-yard touchdown run. 31-28. 1:15 left. Here we go.

-The Cardinals drive down the field and get a Rackers field goal to tie it. Overtime!

-I just deleted everything I wrote about overtime, assuming that by the time this hits the paper, nobody will want to be reminded of it. Let’s just say that Ken Whisenhunt + Neil Rackers = getting Dilfered.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go outside and put up some Christmas lights.

Happy F'in Thanksgiving.
Love, Neil.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Classic card of the week

Sedale Threatt, 1992-93 Stadium Club

I KNOW you ain’t lookin’ at Sedale Threatt.

-- Sedale Threatt

When not just chillin,’ Sedale Threatt could be found leading the Los Angeles Lakers in various statistical categories. Or, making babies. One of Threatt’s former lovers accused him of having “as many as 14” children. Said Threatt in response, “Accused? What, is it a crime to reproduce?” Sedale Threatt would later find out that, yes, it is a crime to reproduce, as he was sentenced to six months in prison back in 2000 for failing to pay child support. Nevertheless, one of Threatt’s offspring, Sedale, Jr., plays quarterback at Leigh University. As for the others…do they play sports? Then who cares?

But such is not the legacy of Sedale Threatt. For he was much more than fertile. History will remember Sedale Threatt as the man who replaced Magic Johnson as point guard of the Lakers in 1991. So there’s th-…wait. Wait a second. I’m sorry…that is incorrect. History has actually forgotten about that, which is weird (and very unlike history, if you ask me). This is embarrassing. Let’s move on.

Also earning Sedale Threatt notoriety was his physical likeness to that of Nick Van Exel, who would ironically replace Threatt as point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers. Before that happened however, Sedale Threatt became the greatest Lakers player ever, which is obvious from the scoring system on the back of this very card. According to “The Sporting News’ Skills Rating System” -- which is a complex rating system of “out of 5” that utilizes unofficial statistical data and the opinions of Tom Arnold -- Sedale Threat earned high scores in every category, including a 4.2 for “Ball Handling” (he could dribble through his legs…multiple times!), a 4.1 for “Leadership” (not as leadery as Magic, but more leadery than Mike Dunleavy), a 4.3 for “Shooting Range” (only weakness was over-the-backboard shot), and, of course, a 4.5 for “Defense” (minus .5 for his defense during child support hearings). Basically, if this were “Dancing With the Stars,” Bruno would be telling Sedale Threatt that “he moves like a cheetah with the ferocity of a jam dunk, and the sexiness of a piping hot pizza pie!”*

Did you know?
Sedale Threatt taught Carlos Boozer how to have chest hair.

* For the record, I do not watch “Dancing With Stars” (for the most part). But I do watch “The Soup.”

Monday, November 19, 2007

Say Coyotes, ‘If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em…senseless’

Note: This column appears in the 11/21 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/23 issue of the Peoria Times

On November 10th, in what would eventually become a 2-1 Sharks’ victory over Phoenix, former Coyote Jeremy Roenick became the third American-born player to reach 500 goals.

On November 12, the Sharks’ Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi each scored twice as San Jose shutout the Coyotes 5-0.

Excited at the prospect of watching the Coyotes potentially turn the tables on this one-sided “rivalry,” I went to this past Thursday’s game, which was Phoenix’s third straight against San Jose. And, at the risk of ruining a week-old surprise, the Sharks won 6-0.

For those scoring at home, last week -- a week that started, mind you, with Phoenix on a very modest two-game winning streak -- resulted in a 13-1 loss, mixed in with some milestones for the opposition, a 2-7 home record, and a last place showing in the Western Conference.


Admittedly, I am no hockey connoisseur. But this was the third time this season I have watched the Coyotes play live, and to me at least, it doesn’t appear that they have much of a game plan. I get the impression that if I could actually skate, and handle a puck, even I could fit into the Coyotes’ offensive scheme, which seems to be, “Skate around, see what happens, whatever.” So that may need a little work. The good news? The Coyotes are far from unwatchable, because they’re kicking the crap of people.

Not metaphorically, of course. Literally. One thing that this young, impressionable Coyotes’ team does not lack, as far as I’m concerned, is aggression. During last Thursday’s game, Coyotes’ defenseman Nick Boynton sat out due to a suspension he had earned from instigating a fight during the last five minutes of the previous game’s loss to San Jose. That game was marked with physical play, mostly on the Coyotes end, including a Shane Doan hit that sent Milan Michalek to the locker room, a scuffle involving Derek Morris, and a chop on the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski.

Hey, nice!

As far as last Thursday’s game was concerned, the crowd came to its feet three times during the game, which is approximately three more times than a crowd should come to its feet during a 6-0 loss. They were 1) after a vicious hit by Keith Ballard that sent Setoguchi over the boards and into the Coyotes’ bench, 2) after an altercation involving Ed Jovanovski and Daniel Carcillo beating up on some Sharks, which resulted in a four-minute roughing penalty for Carcillo, and 3) when goaltender Alex Auld, who had given up three goals, was replaced in favor of Mikael Tellqvist (who subsequently gave up three more goals).

Many crowds would have come their feet a fourth time, to leave, after the score reached 4-0. But Coyotes’ fans stayed, booed a little bit at the lack of any offensive cohesion, but ultimately waited for that next big hit.

Stop SCORING on us!

And ya’ know what? I’ll take it. Maybe Phoenix is not going to win the Stanley Cup this year, but at least they’ll hurt somebody who might. And isn’t that what hockey is all about?

(No, really. Is it? I don’t know much about hockey.)

Anyway, near the end of one of the two Coyotes’ home victories this season, a 5-2 win over the Stars on Nov 7th, Shane Doan knocked a Stars’ player to the ice in retaliation for a check the guy had just issued to one of Doan’s teammates. Not only did it bring us all to our feet in enjoyment, but it was also a sign of what the Phoenix Coyotes could be in time, which is to say, very physical and also, ya’ know, good at hockey.

In the meantime, the Coyotes will continue to remind me of the bumper sticker that reads, “My kid just beat up your honor student.” And I for one urge the Coyotes to keep the hits, if not the wins, coming.

What were you DOING out there?! It looked like you had a PLAN!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Classic card of the week

Elmore Spencer, 1992-93 Fleer

Elmore Spencer is confused. What the hell play are you calling coach? Princeton? X? What is the ref doing? I can’t see! Did he just say I have eight fouls? WTF? Besides being perpetually confused by the intricacies of his role in the NBA -- rebound, outlet pass, stay out of the way, repeat – Elmore Spencer was also famous for being the first player in NBA history to wear eye black during a game, as a result of the glaring sun that often crept its way into various indoor arenas throughout the league. Spencer also chewed tobacco during games and once tried to break up a fastbreak by sliding into Sherman Douglas, tearing Douglas’ ACL in the process.

When he wasn’t busy pretending to play a different sport, Elmore Spencer spent most of his time being fat. Says the back of the card: Spencer, the consummate widebody, led UNLV to a 26-2 mark last year as a senior while averaging 14.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Consummate widebody? Really? In the context of sports, the term consummate is always followed by “teammate.” That’s it. It’s like having a “u” after a “q.” There is no such thing as a consummate widebody. “Token lardass” would have been the appropriate term. Anyhoo, there’s more: Spencer may be the perfect backup center for the Clips, providing an effective shot-blocking and rebounding presence in the middle similar to that put forth by Duane Causwell of the Sacramento Kings. Hey Clippers fans, rest easy! Your team may have found its perfect backup center! And he’s fat! So just sit back, relax, and gear up for the championship run that is sure to ensue! And as hyperbolic as it may have sounded at the time, Elmore Spencer did not take the comparisons to Duane Causwell lightly! Said Spencer in a 1993 interview with Ferret Magazine: Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Duane Causwell is an honor, and I’m truly humbled by the comparison. I mean, what kid growing up in the inner city, shooting hoops at the park until the sun goes down, doesn’t envision himself coming off the bench with three minutes left in the third quarter, with the sole purpose of acquiring three fouls and maybe a rebound? That’s Duane, baby! Every kid I knew growing up wanted to be like DC, man.*

*He said none of this

Did you know?
In order to suit Elmore Spencer during his tenure at UNLV, the team changed its famous “run-and-gun” style of basketball to “jog-and-eat.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big plays, big playmakers define Cards’ ‘D’

Note: This column appears in the 11/15 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/16 issue of the Peoria Times

Before the start of the season, I wrote, regarding the Arizona Cardinals, that “not one player stands out on defense. Not one.” Now more than halfway through the NFL season, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I was correct.

After all, there are at least five players that stand out on defense. Not one.

See? I just italicized the wrong word! Of course, I’m lying, and once again, an idiot. Granted, at that point in time it seemed, to me at least, that maybe only Adrian Wilson had the potential to affect the outcome of a game on his own. So maybe it’s not that my idiocy has been exposed, but rather that several players on this defense have stepped up to, well, stand out. (In my dreams, I like to imagine that my critical statements provide bulletin board material for the Cards. One scenario has Ken Whisenhunt walking into the locker room, and slamming down a copy of The Glendale Star on the table, screaming, “So...Mike Kenny thinks this defense has no playmakers. What do you guys think about that, huh?” Then I snap back to reality, and remember that nobody cares what I say.)

The latest player to stand out? Karlos Danby, who returned from a knee injury this past Sunday to intercept two passes and force a fumble against Detroit, making one of the league’s feel-good stories revert back to the bumbling Lions that everybody has come to know and love. Oh, and two of Dansby’s forced turnovers led to Arizona touchdowns. Weird, because that sounds like the type of defensive player that just affected the outcome of a game on his own. (So that’s one.)

Then again, Dansby did have some help. He and the suffocating Cards’ “D” held Detroit to an unheard of minus-18 yards rushing. This was actually the second-lowest rushing yards allowed total in franchise history, since the Chicago Cardinals allowed minus-24 rushing yards to those same Lions back in 1946. Coincidentally, that was the same year that my grandfather insinuated that the Cardinals had no defensive playmakers in the weekly Chicago Star. (Just kidding. Hi Pop!)

Not be outdone, Calvin Pace recorded seven total tackles, had one and a half sacks, and forced a fumble. (That’s two.) Darnell Dockett (three) was his usual disruptive self, and Rod Hood (four) and Eric Green (ehhh, not yet) managed to contain one of the league’s most feared wideout tandems. Amazingly, this was all accomplished despite the absence of Wilson (five) himself, who recorded just one tackle before having to leave the game with a leg cramp.

Yo, Darnell! Let's text Mike Kenny on my new iPhone and make fun of his inaccurate predictions!

Standout defensive plays have defined each of the Cards’ four wins. There was Dockett’s fumble recovery of the botched handoff in the Seattle game, the four sacks -- three of them by Dockett -- and two picks -- one by Wilson -- of Ben Roethlisberger during the defeat of Pittsburgh, Hood’s clinching interception return for a TD versus the Rams, and everything that happened this past Sunday. Apparently, this team is built on defense, which is something I failed to notice back in August. Can you blame me?


Regardless, the Cardinals are going to need that defense to step up once again this Sunday against an explosive and desperate Cincinnati team. Hopefully, they can still find the motivation, now that at least one of their preseason skeptics has officially become a believer. If the Cardinals are looking for bulletin board material these days, they’re going to have to turn to my grandfather, who still claims that nobody’s tougher than Merlin Olsen.

Hear that, Darnell?

Dear Mr. Dansby, You suck! Now prove me wrong. Love, Mike.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Classic card of the week

Stephon Marbury, 1998-99 Upper Deck

Let’s update the paragraph on the back of this card, shall we?

Over the course of the two too (many) seasons which Stephon Marbury has spent with Minnesota New York, the club has taken on the look of one of the league’s premier young teams this. Building upon Regressing from a rookie season which saw him earn NBA All-Rookie First Team honors (Second Team honors that year? Kobe Bryant) and carry the Timberwolves Knicks(‘ interns) to their first-ever playoff back-seat-of-a-truck appearance, the second-year rate point shooting guard racked up the NBA’s fourth-best highest assists turnover total* in 1997-98 2006-07 and placed his (self-imposed nick)name (Starbury) alongside the game’s history’s premier playmakers franchise killers, such as Isiah Thomas. Marbury’s improved decision making (“Are you getting in or not?”, Dogfighting is a sport too!) and blinding quickness forehead also combined to boost the former Georgia Tech star’s Phoenix Suns player’s scoring output ego enough to declare himself the “best point guard in the NBA.” Rising to the challenge against Western Conference champion Utah expensive basketball sneakers, the 2130-year old tallied a career-high 38 points and 10 assists on November 24 of started selling his discounted line of Starbury shoes last season. (Dogfighting sneakers sold separately.)


Did you know?
After testifying during Isiah Thomas' and the Knicks' embarrassing sexual harassment trial -- which they ultimately lost -- Stephon Marbury showed restrained remorse.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Some quick “facts” about Cardinals and Lions

Note: This column appears in the 11/8 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/9 issue of the Peoria Times

On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals take on the Detroit Lions. Many people may be confused as to the details surrounding this matchup, and by “many people” I mean “no one in particular.” Nevertheless, that is why I am here. Below are some fast facts about this Sunday’s matchup. Keep in mind however, that my “fast facts” are similar to “Snapple Facts,” in that no one is really certain whether or not they are actually true.

-The Cardinals and Lions first faced each other in the year 1776, with the winner earning America her independence, and the loser forced to move to Detroit. Kurt Warner was but in Kindergarten.

-Many in and around football are describing this matchup as “a poor man’s Colts versus Patriots.” However, they are stressing that the man in question is very, very poor. And also dead.

-In Kurt Warner and Jon Kitna, Sunday’s quarterback matchup will feature two of the most outwardly Christian QBs in the NFL. The early line has God favoring Warner, as evidenced by Super Bowl XXXIV and the timely injury to Matt Leinart.

-This Sunday’s game will be played in Glendale, which, contrary to what the ratio of Lions fans to Cardinals fans will suggest, is not in Michigan. Coincidentally, there is a Glendale in Michigan, but nobody cares.

-Cardinals’ owner Bill Bidwell once placed a bid to purchase the Lions, but his offer of $75 and the first born of Timm Rosenbach was ultimately rejected.

-Lions’ wide receiver Roy Williams, after admitting in an interview that he does not tip pizza delivery men, recently delivered Pizza Hut pizzas around the Detroit area as penance. (This is actually true. Really.) Williams ran out of pizzas after delivering to the house of Michigan native and famed documentarian Michael Moore, whose “tip” was incessant ramblings about George Bush. (Not true.)

-Last season, Lions assistant coach Joe Cullen was arrested after going through a Wendy’s drive-thru naked. (Again, true.) When asked if his assistant coach, Russ Grimm, would ever do the same, Ken Whisenhunt passed out.

-Sunday’s matchup will be the first game of the 2007 NFL season that features only fantasy football disappointments.

-Lions’ offensive coordinator Mike Martz used to be the head coach of a St. Louis Rams team quarterbacked by none other than Kurt Warner.

-That previous fact was false, as the other quarterback was Marc Bulger, who took Warner’s job.

-The Detroit Lions are 6-2. No, seriously!

-Since Barry Sanders’ retirement, the Lions have not employed a running back. The Cardinals are generally adept at stopping the run. Something’s gotta give! I think it will be the run.

-The Cardinals game plan is to convince everyone that this Sunday is Thanksgiving, which is a holiday synonymous with Lions’ losses. Anquan Boldin will be passing out turkeys before kickoff.

-This game will feature the much-anticipated matchup of Calvin Johnson versus Levi Brown, the Lions’ and Cards’ respective 2007 first round draft choices. Their personal rivalry has remained fierce, even though they never have and never will occupy the field at the same time. They have also never met. And Levi Brown probably won’t play. It should be exciting!

-The Cardinals desperately need this game if they want to remain in the NFC playoff conversation. And while I can’t speak on behalf of any of the aforementioned statements, I know this one to be true: The Cardinals’ season will be saved or lost on Sunday.

And that’s a fact.

Is that Kurt behind me? Pretend like we're talking...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Classic card of the week

Gaston Green, 1992 Collector’s Edge

“Oh, snap! Gaston Green ‘bout to poop in his knickers!”

This is almost certainly what was going through Gaston Green’s mind at this particular moment, although there is no concrete evidence to back that up. What is for certain however, is that this card marked the first time in NFL history that an opposing player showed visible fear of the Chargers’ defense. (This is before, of course, Shawne Merriman began injecting himself with rhinoceros tranquilizer.)

In 1987, an up-and-coming hip-hop artist named Rakim grew a thicker mustache and decided to secretly join the NFL, under the simple alias of Gaston Alfred Green III. Makes sense. Anyhoo, after toiling in Los Angeles with the Rams for three years, Rakim was informed by his hip-hop partner Eric B, that, “Yo! I heard even hip-hop pioneers can thrive within that Denver running system, kid!” Word. And with that, Rakim Gaston hauled ass for Denver, where he immediately rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1991 and made the Pro Bowl. After missing a practice during the following season’s summer mini-camp thingie because he was performing live at SOB’s, Gaston Green was kicked to the curb, and the Broncos picked up someone else who could rush for 1,000 yards. (In 1999, that annual search was turned into the reality show, “So You Think You Can Play Running Back For the Denver Broncos?” thus turning Olandis Gary into a latter-day Kelly Clarkson.)

Also, none of this is remotely true, and just serves as a ridiculously long and drawn-out way of me saying that I think – at least on the back of this card – that Gaston Green looks exactly like Rakim. Because when people look like other people, I think that is funny. I have nothing else to add, and I hope I haven’t wasted your time.

Did you know?

“Knickers” is hip-hop slang for “toilet after the game.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cardinals have played on expectations…to a draw

Note: This column appears in the 11/1 issue of the Glendale Star, and the 11/2 issue of the Peoria Times

This Sunday marks the beginning of the second half of the season for the Arizona Cardinals. If I were asked to sum up the first half of the season, I would probably say, “Ehhh,” and then shrug my shoulders. The first seven games have provided a constant mix of good news and bad news for this team. Everything seems to be evening out -- the Cardinals are suddenly Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, let’s recap, shall we?

Bad news: Matt Leinart is playing like crap.
Good news: Here comes Kurt Warner!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news: Here comes a quarterback controversy.
Good news: Leinart got hurt! Controversy over.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news
: Warner is hurt.
Good news: Wait, no he’s not!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news: We are 3-4, under .500.
Good news: Three of those four losses are by a combined eight points, and the 15-point loss to Carolina came with Tim Rattay at quarterback. This team is in every single game.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news: I can’t believe we’re rolling with Tim Rattay! He wasn’t in the league two days ago!
Good news: I can’t believe they’re rolling with Vinny Testaverde! He wasn’t in the league two days ago!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news: We are 1-3 on the road. We have a long way to go to earn respect.
Good news: We have shown amazing chutzpah on the road, making valiant comebacks against Baltimore and Washington, only to fall short at the end. We have earned everyone’s respect.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news
: Levi Brown is out.
Good news: Elton Brown is in!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news
: We lost to the 49ers.
Good news: We beat Seattle!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Now let’s reverse it…

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: We beat Pittsburgh!
Bad news: We lost to Vinny Testaverde.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: Neil Rackers nailed a 50-yarder to win the game!
Bad news: Neil Rackers missed a 50-yarder to blow the game.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: With a slate that included two of the first three games against 2006 playoff teams, and then an undefeated Steelers squad, the Cardinals should be thrilled to be sitting at 3-4 right now. Any sane person would have signed up for that on September 1st.
Bad news: That easy second-half schedule ain’t looking that easy anymore. Games at Tampa (4-4), at Cleveland (4-3), and against Detroit (5-2) don’t appear to be the cupcakes they once were on September 1st.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: Ken Whisenhunt is a genius! His original insertion of Warner into the offense was brilliant, and his game plan against the Steelers was the stuff of legend. He should run for President!
Bad news: Ken Whisenhunt is an idiot! What is he thinking having Anquan Boldin throw a pass into traffic with the game on the line? He should be fired!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: You go, Rod Hood! Your interception return for a touchdown against the Rams won us the game!
Bad news: Stupid Rod Hood! Your blown coverage of Steve Smith cost us the game!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: We beat Matt Hasselbeck!
Bad news: We signed Tim Hasselbeck.

At this rate, the Arizona Cardinals are staring straight down the barrel of an 8-8 season, which wouldn’t be so bad, actually. Or would it?

I caught a fish!
I should throw it back.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Classic card of the week

Dennis Awtrey, 1973-74 something

With the start of the NBA season just around the corner, I figured now would be as good a time as any to take a look back, and acknowledge how the NBA has changed. Not much, I say! In fact, on almost any day of the week, you can spot current Chicago Bull Ben Gordon, happily dribbling a basketball in the carpeted hallway of United Airlines Arena, or, at his old high school, on career day. Why? Because what the hell else are you going to do when you’re dressed in full uniform, standing in a carpeted hallway, and someone hands you a basketball? Frown at it? Not likely. Sure, maybe Ben Gordon doesn’t wear his underwear as an actual uniform, and maybe he doesn’t rock the curly white-afro mullet combination. And yeah, he probably wouldn’t be caught dead looking like this under any possible circumstances. In fact, maybe Ben Gordon is bad example. But still, not much has changed! Seriously!

As for Dennis Awtrey, if that name rings a bell, then you must be Dennis Awtrey a die-hard NBA fan! If it doesn’t, then you may be asking yourself questions like, “Was Dennis Awtrey aggressive under the boards? And if so, how would they capture that attribute of his game in cartoon form?” Well then, I think the back of the card can answer both questions for you:

Dennis Awtrey was so famous that he was portrayed by Sean Penn in the 1993 film “Carlito’s Way.” For identity’s sake, Awtrey’s name was changed to Dave Kleinfeld, and instead of playing center for the Chicago Bulls, Penn is a corrupt Jewish lawyer mixed up in gang activity. And he wears glasses. But everything else was pretty accurate, including the emotional scene where “Dave Kleinfeld” is dribbling a basketball in a carpeted hallway. Before being shot.

Did you know?

Dennis Awtrey was unable to attend VH1's recent "Hip Hop Honors" awards show, due to a prior engagement.

Thanks for the card, Bill!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coyotes, you had me at "giant flying taco"

Note: This column appears in the 10/25 issue of the Glendale Star, and the 10/26 issue of the Peoria Times

I’m not going to lie -- I am not a big hockey fan. In fact, at the Coyotes game this past Saturday night, I went to get a beer with my friend Rashad at one point during the first period. When we tried to go back to our seats, there was a cluster of people waiting to do the same. Of course, I tried to push my way through the crowd with a bunch of “excuse mes” while Rashad waited behind me, pretending like he didn’t know me. Yep, I didn’t realize you had to wait for the whistle to go back to your seat. You know you’re not a hockey fan when one of the three black guys in the arena is telling you how to act.

So yeah, I don’t know much about hockey. But ya’ know what? If I’m going to have the type of time I had this past Saturday night, then there may be hope for me yet.

At the risk of having this come across as some type of corny, “Hey Glendale -- if you haven’t been to Arena, then what the heck are you waiting for?” column, I nevertheless have to say how impressed I was. One thing you have to remember here is that I’m from the East Coast. The only hockey games I’ve ever been to have been Rangers games at Madison Square Garden, where I paid $55 to sit, literally, in the very last row of that cavernous arena, and could only tell that something happened by the crowd’s reaction, because my chances of seeing the puck were as good as my chances of not sitting next to a drunk raving lunatic on the train ride home. (By the way, that would also account for my ignorance when it comes to waiting for the whistle -- there were never any ushers where I was used to sitting, because I never had to worry about blocking the ceiling’s view of the game.)

I honestly had no idea that Arena was more than just a hockey stadium. I didn’t realize it was contained within the Westgate City Center, which features a slew of restaurants, a fountain ( I love fountains!), a concert stage, and a bunch of happy people walking around everywhere. It was just like Madison Square Garden! Except the exact opposite. (However, another thing you wouldn’t see at MSG would be a surplus of people walking around wearing Red Wings jerseys with nary a concern about getting punched in the face. But we’ll get to that later.)

The arena itself was fantastic, and I really don’t think it features a bad seat. (My only complaint? Cup holders on the arm rest instead on the back of the seat in front of you. Weird, but I’ll let it slide.) So needless to say, we had a great time. I especially enjoyed the giant remote-controlled flying taco that drops tickets down to the crowd after the first period. (I love giant flying tacos!)

But most importantly, I was also able to peak inside the psyche of the average Arizona sports fan. I arrived at the game as an indifferent observer, but found myself pulling for the Coyotes amidst the sea of annoying Red Wings fans. I don’t know how the true locals here deal with that -- so many transplants rooting against the home team. That would drive me absolutely crazy. Of course, I’ll be doing the same thing whenever the Yankees play the Diamondbacks, or the Giants face the Cards, but I’m just saying -- I understand your pain.

Hey, that guy grabbed my taco tickets!

Oh, and the Coyotes lost, 5-2. They’re not very good. But keep in mind that’s coming from someone who, during the pre-game introductions, only recognized Chris Chelios because I remember him from NHL ’94 for Sega Genesis. And Wayne Gretzky. I have also heard of him.