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.”