Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Graves and Cardinals forced to battle NFL reality

Note: This column appears in the 5/1 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 5/2 issue of the Peoria Times

Poor Rod Graves.

While Cardinals’ general manager Rod Graves is certainly enjoying the newfound expectations that have come from the improved situation he helped create, there remains one man inadvertently trying to hold him back from future success. That man has slicked-back hair and once held a press conference on Terrell Owens’ front lawn.

That man is Drew Rosenhaus.

What?! That contract is a week old! Stop living in the past!

Just when the Cardinals seem on the cusp of a winning season, the sports agent du jour has arrived to remind the franchise just how difficult it can be to turn a corner. Two weeks ago, linebacker Karlos Dansby -- whose agent, coincidentally, is not Drew Rosenhaus -- signed the tender offer that acknowledges his “franchise tag,” and thus will earn over $8 million this season. (Graves says a long-term deal is on the horizon.) This reminded defensive tackle Darnell Dockett that he would like a new deal. Dockett signed a five-year contract extension in late 2006, but now -- and please remember, the 2008 season has yet to start, so feel free to use your fingers to do the math -- he would like a different contract. For more money. Dockett’s agent is Drew Rosenhaus.

Back in March, the Cardinals worked out a four-year, $40 million deal with Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. (It should be mentioned that Fitzgerald’s agent is not Drew Rosenhaus.) Everyone was happy. Including Rosenhaus, who had waited on the deal to get done as leverage for his own client, Anquan Boldin, who now, oddly enough, would like a new deal. As of last week, Boldin’s situation has led to rampant trade rumors.

No, no, I would never suggest harming another human being. All I'm saying is, if he were to go missing, I wouldn't ask any questions.

Graves has remained steadfast that both Dockett and Boldin are currently under contract, and that no new deals for either player will happen this year. Rosenhaus has remained steadfast that he is Drew Rosenhaus.

Far be it from me to criticize an NFL player for trying to get paid, especially in a league where a career-ending injury could happen any day, and where non-guaranteed contracts rule the landscape. It’s easy to portray the team as the victim in these situations, when that’s not always the case. And while it’s easy to hate on him, if I were an NFL player, I would want Rosenhaus on my side. Okay, that is completely untrue, but still. (I’d probably use my equally ruthless lawyer uncle.)

Nevertheless, the timing of these new contract demands can’t please Graves, what with voluntary workouts underway and the team’s focus shifted on signing their draft picks. It’s also the “Look at what he’s getting…I want THAT” nature of Rosenhaus negotiations that are such a turn-off to the average fan. Fitzgerald’s deal -- while great news for Cardinals fans -- also serves as a template for what Rosenhaus wants for Boldin, and as a reminder that the Cardinals aren’t exactly notorious for throwing money around.

And hey, it’s not like the Cards are the only team that has to deal with this crap. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Rosenhaus is trying to drag wideout Chad Johnson out of town because Johnson -- who is also under contract by the way -- is, well, sad. The Bengals, like Graves, aren’t budging.

Thankfully, Rod Graves was able to push aside the drama for enough time to make a few draft picks this Saturday, all of whom, he hopes, have lawyer uncles. One of those picks -- fifth-round selection Timothy Hightower -- is a running back. If and when the Cardinals eventually sign him, that should remind Edgerrin James -- who is represented by Drew Rosenhaus -- that his current contract only has two years left. That is unacceptable.

Rod Graves, you’ve been warned.

Would I be standing here if I truly believed that my client caused a distraction? Next question.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Classic card of the week

Jeff Kent, 1996 Topps

One of my favorite things about Jeff Kent -- besides the fact that, by many accounts, he can be a total dick -- is his ability to drag the glam of the late 80’s/early 90’s straight into 2008, as if every progressive fashion trend that occurred during that time was just a passing fad. There is virtually no difference between the Jeff Kent of 1992 and the Jeff Kent of 2008. That’s probably why, according to the bizarre last line of his Wikipedia page, “he is often mistaken for Jeff Foxworthy.” Apparently, white + mustache = Jeff Foxworthy. (Although, Jeff Kent DOES have his own line of beef jerky, which is a strange coincidence.) I am working on getting this line changed to: “He is often mistaken for Rance Mulliniks, who is often mistaken for Jeff Foxworthy…by nobody in particular.” I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

But enough shenanigans -- let’s check out the back of the card:

Kent’s knack for out-producing his athletic abilities made him a favorite of Manager Dallas Green

Question: How does someone out-produce their athletic abilities? Honestly. How do you do something better than your own ability allows you to do it? You cannot, as this is impossible. What the author of this tidbit, who is racist, meant to say was:

Jeff Kent has a mustache, and is also white, and probably, I would guess, not very fast. So it is strange, to me and only me, and maybe to Dallas Green, that he is so adept at playing baseball.

The idea that Jeff Kent is successful despite having limited athletic ability (being white) is so freakin’ absurd, it actual gets me a little riled up. He’s a PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER, and not just that, but a future Hall-of-Famer as well, and arguably the greatest second baseman ever. He has plenty of athletic ability, thank you. But what does Dallas Green have to say about Jeff Kent’s knack for out-doing what Jeff Kent can do?

If everybody had his insides, they’d be something special.

I am confused. If everybody had Jeff Kent’s insides, they’d be something special, but that would mean that everybody is special, thus, by the very definition of special, rendering nobody special. I would not want to live in that world, where nobody is special, because everybody is walking around with Jeff Kent’s insides. However, it could be that Dallas Green was acknowledging that it is impossible for everybody to have Jeff Kent’s insides, but if somebody could manage to obtain Jeff Kent’s kidney, that person would be special, like Jeff Kent himself, who is special, because of his knack for out-doing what Jeff Kent can do. It’s pretty simple, actually.

Did you know?

In 2007, the normally reliable Vin Scully called the first six innings of a Dodgers game under the impression that Jeff Foxworthy was playing second base.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cardinals’ ’08 schedule is a land of opportunity

Note: This column appears in the 4/24 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 4/25 issue of the Peoria Times

It’s been rather slow on the local professional sports scene around here lately now that spring training and the Coyotes are finished. But the NFL threw us a bone last week by releasing the schedule for the 2008 season. As everyone knows, the NFL landscape can change pretty dramatically in a year’s time, so looking too much into a team’s schedule four months before the season even starts is fairly pointless and presumptive. But it just so happens that my whole style is pointless and presumptive! So that’s what we’re going to do – look too much into the Arizona Cardinals’ 2008 schedule four months before the season starts. Because, it seems to me, if Matt Leinart can put the beer bong down for two seconds, that the Cards have a chance to do some pretty special things this year.

For starters, after two consecutive seasons in which the league put the Cardinals on national television -- with both games ending very badly, by the way -- the NFL has yet again placed its faith in the up-and-coming Cards, giving them a prime time national audience not once, but twice! In the same month! And not only that, but one of those games is a Thanksgiving night game in Philadelphia against the Eagles. If it’s anything like last year’s Thanksgiving night game, the 13% of the country that gets the NFL Network should totally enjoy it. But still. Thanksgiving! The Cardinals! There aren’t enough exclamation points to express my shock.

The other national game is a home Monday nighter against the 49ers (11/10). This is weird to me. The NFL must be under the impression that the Cardinals and 49ers have some sort of Michigan/Ohio State rivalry going on, as for the second consecutive season they’ll face off during a Monday night game, and open the season against each other. Of course, if these teams do have a rivalry, the 49ers have the obvious edge, as they beat the Cards twice last season, ultimately costing Arizona a playoff berth. This was bad, as the 49ers were horrible last year. The Cardinals might want to fix this. I’m just saying.

Please set your Cardinals' time pieces to "Prime time"

In looking at their schedule, the one thing that sticks out the most is how the Cardinals open the season. Before their October 12th home game against the Cowboys, they will face only one playoff team from 2007, the Redskins (9/21), who weren’t even really that good last year. In that five-game span, Arizona will also face three of the worst overall teams from ’07, including the 49ers (9/7), the Dolphins at home (9/14), and the Jets (9/28). The Cardinals should be 5-0 when they face Dallas. They won’t. But they should be.

If they are fortunate enough to be battling for a playoff spot come midseason, the Cardinals can be thankful that four of their final six games are at home. One of those is a Nov. 23rd matchup with the Giants, which will be New York’s first trip back to Glendale since pulling off the greatest win ever in the history of the world. I doubt the Cardinals care about this. But I am going to try my darndest to be there. And I am going to cry.

I have stared at their schedule for over thirty consecutive seconds. My conclusion is this: The Arizona Cardinals have a totally legitimate shot at 11 wins this season. Totally. Legitimate. 11. Not a joke. Seriously. 11. Of course, this is under the assumption that the Cardinals will be a good team next season. However, I have no reason to believe that they won’t be, because, as I understand it, their starting quarterback has been rigorously rehabbing in the steam bath.

THIS guy is in charge...what could go wrong?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Concert review Friday: Bon Jovi

One of the cool things about my job is that I oftentimes end up getting tickets for stuff. Like Jimmy Buffet. Or a monster truck rally. Usually, these are events that I probably would not attend were it not for the fact that I have free tickets. However, a musical act came around recently that I really wanted to see. This musical act is called “Bon Jovi.” They are a “rock” band from New Jersey, and my wife and I prefer to call them “the Jov.” Lucky for us, we got tickets through my work.

Let me first say this: I am aware that there are many (some?) people out there who like Bon Jovi on a serious level, and consider them as legitimate a rock & roll band as say, U2. I am not one of those people. I don’t even really like them that much. I liked them when I was a kid -- it took me a few years to grow out of naming “Living’ on a Prayer” as my favorite song, and I distinctly remember “Bad Medicine” coming in first on Z100’s “Top Five at 9” for approximately 829 straight days. Then I became old enough to start appreciating better and more influential music -- like Cyprus Hill -- and I never took the Jov very seriously ever again.

My wife hates Bon Jovi. In fact, she forbade me from putting any Bon Jovi songs on our wedding playlist (I really thought “Livin’ on a Prayer” would get the crowd bumpin’!). This is most likely because, after being dragged out of Brooklyn as a teenager and into New Jersey, my wife has, more or less, despised anything associated with the Garden State from that moment forward (with the possible exception of me). I’m not even entirely sure that it’s the Jov’s music, per say, that she doesn’t like, but in her eyes, Bon Jovi cannot hold a candle to accomplished artists such as Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond (both, coincidentally, from Brooklyn.) However, over the past few years, my wife has softened on the Jov, and was very much excited to see them live.

All that said, we did not attend this show to make fun of the Jov. No, we would never disrespect the Jov like that. I mean, we knew it was going to be at least a little cheesy, but we both also genuinely like a few of their songs. At least I do. We were excited! So much so that we decided to tailgate an hour or so before the show started. We -- my wife and I and four of our friends -- were, literally, the only people tailgating in our parking lot. People around here just don’t know how to act when it comes to the Jov.

Then it was show time! Our seats were high up and behind the stage, and our best view was of the drummer’s head. I was debating telling everyone that we were backstage at the Bon Jovi concert, but I decided against it. Most of the time, I watched the humongous TV screen in front of us.

Daughtry, of American Idol fame, was the opener. I realize that it’s definitely not cool to like Daughtry if you’re not a 12-year old girl, but I’m sorry -- he’s pretty good. For one thing, his voice sounds great live, and he’s got a few really catchy songs. I’m not going to sit here and hate on Daughtry, and if you think that’s what I’m going to do, then you’re reading the wrong blog, mister! Daughtry rules! Not really, but still.

The Jov then came out to much adulation. I forget what song they opened with, but it was an old one that I knew, and I was pumped! Bon Jovi himself was wearing a sleeveless leather vest -- standard -- and, I can say this because I am comfortable in my sexuality, was looking rather flawless. Honestly, this is why I can’t take them seriously as a band. A really great rock band that’s been around for over two decades would have a lead singer that’s either dead, or who looks like Keith Richards. (Or -- in the aforementioned U2’s case -- who’s curing disease in Africa.) Bon Jovi looks like he just stepped out of a freakin’ Kohl’s catalog.

Anyway, for the next twelve hours, Bon Jovi performed all of their new songs. Of course, by “new songs” I am referring to anything they may have released since 1990. (I was mostly under the impression, until last Friday, that their last album was the “Young Guns II” soundtrack.) Holy crap is their new stuff cheesetastic! Did you know that many of their more recent hits were not recorded in a studio, but in a cheese factory?! That is a fact. To wit:

When the world gets in my way, I say…Have a nice day!

Wow, Bon Jovi -- you really told the world whose boss on that one! I doubt the world will be coming around anytime soon to get in your way, based on your sarcastic wishes that the world have a nice day! How did this song get past the sensors?!

My heart is like an open highway, like Frankie said I did it my way

My heart is also like an open highway, and I just exited at the left ventricle so I could attend a Bon Jovi concert, and it was well worth it! That guy does it HIS way! Just like Frank Sinatra would -- in a sleeveless leather vest. There was also another song about living in a small town, and how it’s great to live in a small town, and how small towns are great, and also small, and very town-like. This also included a picture montage on the giant television, which featured pictures of Sayreville, NJ -- represent! -- and horses, and firefighters, and open roads, and miners, and other aspects of small town life that Bon Jovi apparently now represents twenty years after wearing loads of makeup and hair spray. During this montage, my wife -- who was sitting behind me -- tapped me on the shoulder and said, “When did the Jov turn into Cougarpuss?” By the way, we call John Cougar Mellencamp “Cougarpuss,” which is a name my cousin Steve made up, and which is a whole ‘nother story.

Bon Jovi, being all blue collar in rural Manhattan

Hey, told you I wasn’t going to make fun of Bon Jovi! Seriously though, they are really good live performers. Like Daughtry, Bon Jovi’s voice sounds great in person, which is not something every singer can claim. (I’m looking at you, Jimmy Buffet!) And when they did their old stuff, they rocked. Hard. One of the best moments of the night was when Daughtry came out and sang “Blaze of Glory” with the Jov and nearly brought the house down. That was awesome. They tried to end the show without doing “Wanted Dead or Alive,” but the crowd wasn’t having it. So they came back for an encore, and rocked that one out, and then followed by performing three more songs from the new album. Oh well.

Overall it was a good show, and we had a great time. Afterwards, since we still had beer left in the cooler, we finished our tailgating party. I ended up urinating in between two cars in the parking lot, and if any cops were to approach, my plan was to tell them to “have a nice day!” And then run. But they never came. Which was probably for the best.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Classic card of the week

Anonymous, 1990 Upper Deck

There are four reasons why a baseball player’s name would not appear on his own baseball card: a) that player is so well-known that it is actually unnecessary to include that player’s name on the card, b) somebody just straight-up forgot to include the player’s name on the card, c) this player simply does not exist, and everything you are seeing is an illusion, or d) you are in a movie, and this player is your father, and you have to go back in time and save him from going into that building that was on fire, and then his name will appear on the card again.

So, if this is a player who is so well-known that his name goes without saying, then I’M the moron. There is only one player I can think of from the 1990 Houston Astros that trancended sports and became an international superstar, and whose name was not required to print on a card because everyone already knew who he was, and that man was Franklin Stubbs. This is not Franklin Stubbs. Trust me. Upon further review, it seems as though somebody at Upper Deck just made a boo-boo, and I will now turn the card over in order to reveal who this player is…

Okay, this is getting strange. Every relevant piece of personal data is included -- from this person’s weight, to the number of stolen bases he had in 1987 -- except, ya’ know, his name. Why are you messing with my emotions, Upper Deck? My interest is now peaked, and there is no going back. Not to brag, but I am an expert in Google searches, so if you’ll excuse me, I am now going to get to the bottom of this mystery…

“Astros + white dude + 6-2 + shin guards + outfield + Canada + opposite of Franklin Stubbs + 234 at-bats in ’88 + mustache-less + pants + lefty stroke + 1990 + penchant for taking modest lead off of third base”






Google sucks.

Did you know?
It's Terry Puhl. This has been a colossal waste of time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hanging with Jimmy Buffet down at Margaritaville

Note: This column appears in the 4/17 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 4/18 issue of the Peoria Times

When my editor handed me two tickets to go see Jimmy Buffet perform live at Margaritaville, I asked her if I could write about it, since ya’ know, I usually write about sports (poorly). She joked with me that I should try and find a sports angle for the column. At least, I hope she was joking, because after much contemplation -- I think I may have heard “Cheeseburger in Paradise” during halftime of a Nets game back in the ‘90’s! -- I have decided this is too much of a stretch.

So, screw it. I’m writing about Jimmy Buffet this week. Not sports. You’re welcome.

No. 1 album on iTunes last week

I should preface this by saying I am not a Jimmy Buffet fan per say, which is to say I do not consider myself a Parrothead. (This should thoroughly annoy all of the die-hard Buffet fans who couldn’t make this show, as tickets could only be won, not purchased. Or, in my case, handed to me by an editor.) In fact, because I didn’t know until the day of that I was going to this event, I showed up in my work clothes while also talking on my cell phone, which is pretty much, by my own estimation, the antithesis of everything Jimmy Buffet stands for. In an attempt to fit in, I immediately downed a 16-oz beer. Then another. See, I can relax, darn it! It worked. I think.

The event served as the official grand opening -- though it’s been up and running for a few months now -- of Margaritaville in Westgate. And who better to kick things off than Buffet himself, the sole reason a place like Margaritaville even exists. My friend Ryan met me there, a real estate agent in need of a break. We figured, as the Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet duet goes, “it’s five o’clock somewhere.” In our case, it was five o’clock here. We got another beer.

The stage was set up in the center of Westgate, outside and in front of the fountains, but the party started inside Margaritaville. I had never been there before, but I really have to say, the whole environment just forces you to leave all your cares behind. It’s impossible to think about work when you’re standing next to someone with a balloon animal on top of his head, and a guy on stilts is bringing you a plate of nachos.

The crowd was amazing. For starters, tailgating for the show began at noon – the actual showtime was 5:30 – so virtually everyone inside of Margaritaville was, well, wasted away again. (Thank you, thank you.) It was tough to spot anyone not wearing a Hawaiian shirt, a shark hat, a parrot hat, or all of the above. You could sense the anticipation. The TVs inside Margaritaville showed the stage outside, and when Jimmy Buffet walked out onto it, five minutes earlier than expected, the woman behind me grabbed a hold of her friend, and said, “No {bleeping} way,” as if she just happened to be there, and had no idea Jimmy Buffet was performing. The crowd subsequently rushed outside as if the place was on fire. We followed.

There he was, Jimmy Buffet, with his guitar, a microphone, a beach-themed background, and one other guy that served as his band. He played his songs while everyone in the crowd sang along, and we stood there, beer in hand, feeling pretty content. We marveled at the life this guy has forged, a life defined by relaxing and having a good time. Pretty darn cool. He finished with, of course, “Margaritaville,” and right after that I said to Ryan, “Man, not many people can say they saw Jimmy Buffet play ‘Margaritaville’ in front of Margaritaville!” Then we both looked out onto the crowd, and Ryan said, “Yeah, except for the thousands of people right here, right now.” What a jerk.

It should also be mentioned that Jimmy Buffet loves sports. I have no evidence to back this claim, but really -- who doesn’t love sports? Speaking of sports, stay tuned for next week’s column, where I will discuss, in detail, the nachos at Margaritaville.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Classic card of the week

Tariq Abdul-Wahad, 1998 Skybox

For the past several years, this blog has been flooded with requests to post a Tariq Abdul-Wahad card. Also, this is not true. Also, here is your freakin’ Tariq Adbul-Wahad card, you heathens! Now leave me alone!

The front of this card is rather unspectacular, even though I do love me a good montage of the same pose. As far as the random “A” is concerned…I only discovered that it signified the “A” in “Abdul-Wahad” by looking at other cards in this series. Knowing this, however, does not diminish the fact that this makes no sense. As if the letter “A” is an easier means of identifying Tariq Abdul-Wahad:

Me: Yo, my boy A was off the heezy last night?*
Other person: Oh, fo real? You mean Ala Abdelnaby?
Me: What? Pfftt! No jerkoff! I’m talking about Tariq Abdul-Wahad!
Other person: True, true.

But again, this is nitpicking. The real fun exists on the back of the card, where we have this interesting little nugget with regards to Abdul-Wahad:

Tour de France?

I didn’t bring up the Tour de France? Did you bring up the Tour de France? Hmmm. Okay, did anybody here bring up the Tour de France? Please raise your hand if you brought up the Tour de France? Nobody? Okay. Continue.

How about Tour de Force when you bring your baguette fresh game.

How about, what in the freaking hell does that even mean? I wish I could have been a Sacramento Kings television announcer in the late 90’s, just so I could have listed this as one of the “Keys to the Game:”

Will Abdul-Wahad bring baguette fresh game? If so, could be a Tour de Force.

Let’s move on.


I think this says rate. It’s hardly legible. It could be “Fate?” It could be “Late?” It doesn’t matter. The point is that, no matter WHAT this reads, the sentence that follows neither answers the question, or makes any semblance of sense whatsoever.

No…we’ll just admire your peace and poise.

Listen. I love to make fun of stupid sports cards. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Oftentimes, I’ll take a tidbit on the back of a card, and say that it makes no sense, when in reality, I can sort of tell what the tidbit is trying to state, but it’s just…stupid. For example, I earlier stated that the “A” on the front of the card makes no sense, but it does, kind of. It’s really just stupid and pointless. THIS however? This little tidbit? This literally makes no sense. A person cannot make sense of any of this. There is no sense to be made here. In fact, let’s look at this again, in its entirety, just to make sure. Keep in mind, also, that these words are supposed to tell us something about a basketball player named Tariq Abdul-Wahad:

Tour de France? How about Tour de Force when you bring your baguette fresh game. Rate? No…we’ll just admire your peace and poise.

This makes no sense. But here is your Tariq Abdul-Wahad card. I hope you’re happy.

Did you know?
An anonymous NBA scout once said that Abdul-Wahad was “not a great basketball player, but has an admirable amount of peace.”

*I would never say anything like this.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Classic card of the week

Zane Smith, 1989 Score

When Zane Smith was in the zone -- and this was, pretty much, all the time -- his face tended to reflect the extreme focus with which he pitched. A contemporary equivalent would be the face that Dave Matthews makes when he is jamming out to a particularly jam-worthy Dave Matthews song. (Ed. note: White people be crazy!) Besides, it’s not like Zane Smith made that face all the time:

Do the chickens have large talons?

Regardless, let’s find out more about Zane Smith, the athlete:

Zane, a southpaw, side-arming sinkerballer,

Interjection: This tidbit won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for “Best Use of Alliteration in the Category of Zane Smith.”

was one of the better lefthanders in the league in 1988 despite his losing record.

Granted, I understand that wins are not an accurate reflection of a pitcher’s performance. (Shout-out to FJM!) Still, after reading this, one may be inclined to say to himself, or even to herself, “Okay, I’ll buy that. So what was he like, 11-13 with a 3.85 ERA in ’88? Sounds feasible.” If you were to assume that, however, you would die of embarrassment. For Zane Smith was 5-10, with a 4.30 ERA and an astoundingly terrible 1.34 K/BB ratio in 1988, which apparently placed him in that elite category of “one of the better lefthanders in the league.” Other left-handers in the National League during that season included Felix Heredia, Frankie Muniz, and Ned Flanders.

In 1995, Zane Smith was run out of the major leagues by a herd of beat reporters and columnists who, in their constant quest for an angle, became fed up with his lack of zaniness.

Did you know?
Zane Smith's focused face is eerily similar to his "O face."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cardinals’ standout switches sports for Marshall Ranch

Note: This column appears in the 4/10 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 4/11 issue of the Peoria Times

Last Monday, pictures showing Cardinals’ quarterback Matt Leinart partying with some co-eds, a beer funnel, and a hot tub were discovered online. Regardless of your opinion on the matter -- those passing judgment from afar in such instances can become rather tiresome, if you ask me (which you didn’t) -- it’s pretty safe to say that these pictures did not necessarily provide the Cardinals with good press.

Last Wednesday, the offensive captain of the Arizona Cardinals was doing something a little bit different. Anquan Boldin was at Marshall Ranch Elementary School, playing basketball against some seventh and eighth graders.

This was the second year that Boldin -- widely considered one of the toughest wideouts in the league -- took part in this game, which is an event orchestrated by Marshall Ranch boy’s basketball coach, and former baller himself, Scott Shaver. Basically, Shaver recruits some Marshall Ranch alumni who have gone on to bigger and better things, and brings them back to play ball against his 7th and 8th grade team, which, by the way, is annually one of the best teams in the district. Boldin, who is not a Marshall Ranch grad, met Shaver at a couple of functions a couple years back, and was convinced to take part.

The whole school, as usual, came to watch the show. They even had a DJ. (And, as if the whole scene didn’t already bring me back to my own grammar school days, the DJ inexplicably played Bel Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.” I almost broke out the “running man.”)

One former Marshall Ranch grad who came back to play was Christian Polk, who starred at Deer Valley High School, and who recently announced he is transferring from ASU. Polk wowed the kids with his skills, and, when he came back to the bench for a quick breather, was instantly surrounded by a group of youngsters that peppered him with questions -- “What kind of grades do you get? I get A’s and B’s!” -- and autograph requests. One boy had a pen, but nothing to write on, so Polk signed his forearm. Something told me that kid wasn’t going into the shower quietly that night.

But the star of the show was most definitely Boldin. (When Polk first came to the bench, the first question asked of him was, “Do you know Anquan?”) Half of the kids in attendance were wearing their “81” Cardinals’ jerseys, and Boldin certainly didn’t disappoint. No, he came to play. A star high school basketball player himself, Boldin showed little remorse in blocking a few shots, throwing down a dunk or two, and nailing countless three-pointers. He did it all with a smile though, while the crowd called out his name, so the beat-down was easily forgiven.

The final score read 199-108 in favor of the teachers, alumni, and Boldin, and that was only because the scoreboard didn’t go past 199. (The impressive Marshall Ranch team did hold their own, though.) After the final buzzer sounded, all of the kids rushed the court and swarmed Boldin, seeking autographs and pictures. He happily obliged.

As the crowd slowly and reluctantly dispersed, Anquan Boldin sat there on the bench, changing his shoes. Struck by the contrast of the week’s events, and because he seemed like a cool guy who could take a joke, I asked him if he’d been to any parties at Matt Leinart’s house lately. He smiled (whew!) and said, “Nah, man. I don’t do that stuff anymore.

That’s not me.”

No, no it’s not. But Scott Shaver and everyone at Marshall Ranch already knew that. So, apparently, did the Arizona Cardinals.

I mean, hey, maybe that’s why he’s their captain.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Classic card of the week

Brian Giles, 2001 Stadium Club

Few things in the history of civilization generated as much pure joy as playing for the 2000 Pittsburgh Pirates. Just ask Brian Giles, who scored the winning run during Game Seven of the World Series -- a day game -- to give the Pirates the title, and celebrated by opening his mouth to catch the popcorn that the fans were joyously tossing in his direction as gratitude, and also by pulling Kevin Young’s batting helmet over his face. That, or Brian Giles was being chased by a bee.

Also, after dissecting Dean Palmer’s, I am in the mood again for some ANALYSKILLS, and luckily for me, Brian Giles has them as well. Let’s take a look:

Drives the ball where it is pitched…

Giles led the major leagues in 1999 with 179 hits into the catcher’s mitt.

Level, quick swing that produces line-drive home runs…

One of Brain Giles most renowned ANALYSKILLS was his ability to hit majestic, line-drive home runs that would often injure fans that did not bring their gloves to the park that day. During the Home Derby of 1998, Chris Berman became extremely frustrated, as he could only generate one “Back” during Giles performance, instead of his usual “Back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back,” which never gets old. Giles also hit four doubles that day, a Home Run Derby record.

Sturdy build, like a young Pete Rose…

Another one of Giles' ANALYSKILLS was the fashion in which he was physically constructed by God, which was short, white, and compact. Not many players have the skill -- or analysis for that matter -- to be built sturdily, but Giles obviously did. A player who was built similarly to Giles was a young Pete Rose. Not an old Pete Rose, who, as we all know, lost many of his ANALYSKILLS with age, and expanded to a robust 435 lbs and grew seven inches in height. In conclusion, Brain Giles = young Pete Rose.

Did you know?
Pete Rose was denied entry into “The Sturdy Build Hall of Fame” because his bowl haircut, according to voters, diminished his sturdiness.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Somebody pinch me – Glendale adds to its sports resume

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

I’ve barely recovered from the Super Bowl.

Now this.

Last Friday it was announced that the University of Phoenix Stadium will host its first ever basketball game. (The game will not, as I had assumed it would, be between the University of Phoenix Online Cougars and the Harlem Globetrotters.) It will be a doubleheader event that will take place sometime this December, with one game pitting national power Louisville against the University of Minnesota, and the next game featuring Brigham Young against ASU.

Not as good as THIS, but still...

First question: Why? Well, for one thing, the Stadium has already been awarded the West Regional’s of the 2009 NCAA men’s basketball tourney (where, by the way, I already have Gonzaga losing to whoever they’re playing), and these games will be, at the very least, a trial run for that. Second question: Why else? Well, the games will also serve as a showcase with the hope that Glendale, in the very near future, will play host to the Final Four.

I really don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this. Two months ago my favorite NFL football team came to Glendale and won what was arguably the greatest Super Bowl ever. A couple of weeks after that, I started going to spring training games in Peoria, where I would sit in the sun and drink beer and watch baseball and wait for lightening to strike me because what the heck did I do to deserve this?! In between all of that, I somehow became a Phoenix Coyotes fan, which is convenient, because they also happen to play in Glendale. Weird!

Wait, I’m not finished. Next year, Glendale will cut the ribbon on a brand new facility that will serve as the spring training home for one of the premier Major League Baseball franchises in the country. It just so happens that the manager of that team, Joe Torre, is like, my favorite manager ever, and another coach on that staff, Don Mattingly, is like, my favorite baseball player ever. Zoinks!

...and another reason I prefer Glendale is because everyone in Vero Beach has arthritis, like this...

Wait, I’m not finished. Next Friday night, Bon Jovi is performing at Jobing.com Arena. Now granted, Bon Jovi is not technically a sport. But still. Bon Jovi, like me, and like the New York Giants, are from New Jersey. And like me, the New York Giants and Bon Jovi have left the comfort of New Jersey to come and rock Glendale to its very core. Rock out!

And now, after all of the things that I have previously mentioned, the city of Glendale is essentially saying to me, “Oh yeah, one other thing -- the NCAA tournament will be here next year, and we’re trying to get the Final Four here as well eventually. Hope you don’t mind.” I mean, is this for real?

I moved to Arizona despite having to leave my favorite sports teams (and, of course, Bon Jovi) behind, and I have been rewarded by living in one of the most up-and-coming sports scenes in the nation -- a sports scene that has included or will include, both directly and indirectly, the very sports team that I left behind. All I’m saying is this: If Glendale does somehow get like, the 2012 Final Four, and that National Championship game features Rutgers versus Loyola College of Maryland, I’m going to grab a golf club, stand out in the middle of the desert during a lightening storm / monsoon, and see what happens. Because I sure as heck don’t deserve this.

I wouldn't mess with the Jov if I were you

And just for old times's sake...this