Friday, January 15, 2010

We're Moving...

I've upgraded to the big content will now be posted on the blog's new website:

Won't be posting here anymore so stay tuned on the new blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Update: Arenas Offically Charged

As expected, Gilbert Arenas was charged with felony possession of an unlicensed firearm. However, the charges were filed in D.C. Superior Court through a process known as an "information," which is apparently used to notice charges when a plea agreement has been reached.

Sounds to me like Gilbert has a plea agreement-- definitely the wisest of the limited number of options Arenas had.

Agent Zero, Not Licensed to Kill...

...Let alone bring firearms from Virginia to the District of Columbia. Word on the street is that Gilbert Arenas is in negotations with prosecutors for a plea deal relating to the gun charges that could be levied against Arenas soon. If I were Arenas's attorney I would get him to cop a plea, and soon. Want to know why?

1. He's going to be indicited by the grand jury if he doesn't plead out. Currently, testimony is being heard by a grand jury which will decide whether or not to indicit Gilbert Arenas on charges related to holding an ulicensed firearm (a felony with a max of 5 years in federal pound-me-in-the-ass-prison), which I might add Gilbert has allegedly done 4 times. For those of you that don't know about the way a grand jury works, it's basically stacked against the defendant. The prosecution gets to call all the witnesses it wants to try to prove to a jury that probable cause exists to indict the defendant on the charges the prosecution wants levied. The defense on the other hand has no ability to call witnesses or testify on their own behalf. Basically it's like a trial where the prosecution gets to present all its evidence and the defense doesn't. Wouldn't you convict if you only saw one side of the evidence?

2. If he gets indicted, there's a lot of evidence against him--he'll be convicted. Basically Arenas has admitted to the public through his last appology statement that he brought firearms into the Washington Wizards locker room. Those firearms were purchased in Virginia and weren't registered in D.C. Oops, you violated the law and told everyone in public you did it. Kind of an open and shut case.

3. If he gets convicted, won't be much mercy. If you are looking for mitigating circumstances to bring down Arenas's sentence, there aren't a lot. Although Arenas released several public statements appologizing for his conduct and saying what he did was wrong, his own actions have shown he doesn't think his gun possession was all that serious. In particular, Arenas tweeted making light of the fact that he got busted ("i wake up this morning and seen i was the new JOHN WAYNE. lmao media is too funny."), laughed about the incident and said that he pulled out the guns "as a joke," and was caught on camera using his fingers as fake guns in jest before a Wizards game after the gun showdown story broke. It's patently obvious that anything relased to the media by Arenas was written by some PR guy or an attorney and that he wasn't taking the charges seriously. A lack of remorse for your crime isn't a good way to get your sentence reduced. I bet the DA will throw the book at him if they can and make an example out of him like Plaxico Burress.
So Agent Zero, your mission is now to plead out as fast as you can, especially if you can somehow avoid jail time. Otherwise, your defense is mission impossible.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Idiotic Fans of the Week

Although it's easy fodder, every week the neighborhood will spotlight one particularly egregious moment of fan idiocy per week. This week's award goes to Philadelphia Eagles fans, who aren't exactly known as the brightest or least fickle bunch on the fan spectrum.

Why you ask? Well, according to a poll on the Philadelpia Inquirer website, more Eagles fans prefer bringing Michael Vick back to play for the Eagles (33.9%) than Donovan McNabb (32.6%). Now while support for either of these guys isn't very high and the poll sure isn't scientific, that the "approval rating" for Donovan McNabb is even low, let alone lower than Michael Vick is about as idiotic as Tiger Woods thinking he could get away with sleeping with 15+ women and never get caught.

Let's break down the stats this year alone:

McNabb: 3553 yards, 60.3% completions, 22 TDs/10 INTs, 92.5 QB rating, 37 attempts/140 rushing.
Vick: 6/13, 46.2% completions, 1 TD/0 INTs, 93.7 QB rating, 24 attempts/94 yards rushing.

First of all many teams would KILL for a QB with numbers like McNabb's. Vick on the other hand worked on 37 plays all year for the Eagles and spent all last year in prison. Vick is by no means the dynamic player he was with the Falcons-- a dynacism that made up for the fact that he was not an accurate downfield passer (see the career QB rating of 75.9). McNabb on the other hand has been playing at a Pro Bowl level for years. Philly fans have hated McNabb from the time they (once again idiotically) booed him at the NFL Draft. Philly has a bad playoff game this year and suddenly McNabb is done and no one wants him back. Hmm...maybe its because this is coming from a fan base that mercilessly boos their own team at every opportunity and loves the chance to have a knee jerk reaction about something. While McNabb isn't in his prime anymore, its crazy to think that he isn't worth bringing back to a team whose offense was clicking during the season in favor of keeping a man who's been in federal prison for a few years or a QB who played in the run and shoot during college.

Eagles fans, you are the idotic fans of the week. If you don't want McNabb, I've got a bag of magic beans I can trade you for him...

NFL Under Review

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League, the first case to be apply the Sherman Act, the U.S. antitrust statute, to a professional sports league in quite some time. In this case the NFL hopes to obtain immunity from U.S. antitrust laws, which in turn could have a sweeping impact on the NFL and other professional sports organizations.

The plaintiff, American Needle, used to produce hats for the NFL before the NFL gave Reebok the exclusive rights to produce official NFL team memorabilia such as T-shirts and hats nine years ago. American Needle sued the NFL, claiming that the agreement among the league's 32 teams allowing only Reebok to produce NFL apparell is unfair collusion that restricts competition in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The trial court found the Sherman Act inapplicable to the NFL, which the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, claiming that the NFL was a "single entity" and therefore incapable of constraining trade.

Interestingly, both parties appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court-- American Needle hoping to reverse the ruling of the 7th Circuit and trial court banning it from bringing suit and the NFL hoping that the Supreme Court would expand upon the 7th Circuit's ruling that it is a single entity and basically solidfy an exemption for the NFL from antitrust suits into federal law. So why the big deal on both sides? Well, if the NFL's interpretation takes hold, the NFL argues that it will both avoid costly lawsuits and cement the ability to make agreements like those with Reebok that maximize league profits. The NFL Players' Association argues that such a broad antitrust exemption could then spill over into other areas, such as player compensation and ticket prices, increasing costs for the average NFL fan and lowering player compensation. The end result of such a lack of competition, according to Drew Brees in an Op-ed "written by him" in the Washington Post could be greater labor unrest and increased prices for NFL fans.

From a legal perspective though, I doubt the NFL succeeds in making its single entity argument. First, the Supreme Court seemed highly skeptical of the NFL's argument and with good reason. As Justice Sotomayor pointed out during oral argument, only the MLB has explicity gone to Congress looking for an antitrust exemption. The NFL appears to be trying to backdoor its way into something that had to be explicitly approved by another professional sports league with a similar business model. The NFL may in fact be a single entity for purposes of competing against other professional sports leagues in the way it schedules games and promotes its product in some respects, but not in others. Teams compete not just against the MLB, NBA, NHL, and UFL, but also against each other for ticket sales, coaches, and the best players. Although the league shares revenue, it is more like a hybrid joint-venture than a single entity-- one that bands together in ways to promote its product, but also has distinct entities that compete internally. This doesn't seem to be the type of "single entity" that the courts have made an exception for it its previous rulings on the Sherman Act.

Additionally, the NFL's argument that the marketing agreement is necessary to promote the league's product on the field is tenuous at best. As Chief Justice Roberts noted, the marketing of NFL apparell seems closer to selling a product unrelated to the league, like houses, rather than promoting the game of football. As such, it is at least debatable as to why the NFL needs antitrust immunity in this area, since the Reebok agreement is unrelated to the product the NFL actually sells.

My guess at the end result is that the Supreme Court reverses the 7th Circuit immunity decision, holding that while the NFL may be exempt from antitrust law in some instances where it acts cooperatively to promote its product, it is not blanketly exempt from the Sherman Act. The Supreme Court would then send the case back to the trial court, to hold a trial on whether or not the marketing agreement was essential to the sucess of the legaue (known as a "rule of reason" analysis). What does this mean? The NFL is likely in the same position it was before the case was brought-- liable for antitrust litigation in areas not essential to the sucess of the NFL and exempt in others. So fear not fans, a seachange in the business of the NFL is unlikely to come.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Newsflash: Lane Kiffin Named USC Head Coach

That didn't take long. Word is that Lane Kiffin is leaving Tennessee after one year to become the head coach at USC. Kiffin served as the Wide Receivers Coach and Offensive Coordinator at USC before becoming the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders.

This seems like a good fit: a guy who knows USC football, but more importantly a guy who is brining a staff with serious heft with him. Kiffin has reportedly managed to pull away Norm Chow from UCLA to be his offensive coordinator, and brings his Dad, Monte Kiffin, longtime sucessful Tampa Bay Bucs Defensive Coordinator, along with him. That's a strong staff that sounds like bringing the old Pete Carroll band back together minus the head man. No one thought USC was going away without Pete and given how many faces are the same on offense from the Carroll days, and now with a great Defensive Coordinator, I doubt SC misses a step. The only question is if Kiffin can recruit as well as Carroll, which will be hard given Carroll's affable and electric personality. But Lane's got a pretty strong argument that things look as good at USC as they did before Pete left and that's bad news for the rest of the Pac 10.

The Pac 1 Conference?

Something very interested happened in today's Bracketology by the (in)famous Joe Lunardi on According to Joe, only one--count 'em --ONE Pac 10 team will make it to the big dance this year. (The great Cal Golden Bears, in case you were wondering.) Even more embarassing is that the Pac 10 has ZERO teams ranked in the top 25 of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll this week for the first time since the poll's creation and has ZERO teams in the top 25 of the AP Poll either. As if it could get any worse, basketball powerhouse HARVARD currently has more votes than any Pac 10 team in the AP Poll at ONE. That's right-- no Pac 10 team even got a vote in the AP Poll this week. This begs the question: Is the Pac 10 that bad this year? Will it really only get one automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament?

Well, that Pac 10 isn't as good as it has been historically, and it certainly isn't a good conference by any objective measure, but there's no way the conference only gets one bid come March. The favorite right now in the conference looks to be Cal, sitting at 10-5, has no great wins out of conference but explainable losses (to Ohio St., Syracuse, then undefeated New Mexico, Kansas, and UCLA in OT). Cal has had injury problems too, with Theo Robertson previously out and point guard Jose Gutierez currently injured. Bascially, it's a team that has a chance to gel and perhaps make a run at respectability in the tournament. Cal's RPI sits at 32, well within tournament respectability.

Washington also has the potential to be respectable and make it in. Washington started out strong at 10-2, but has lost 3 games in Pac 10 play. Washington has a good core who plays fast, and just needs to right the ship. Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas could easily get things together and put a run together at seasons end.

USC has been playing well, including beating recent- number 1 topping Tennesee , but will be unable to enter the tournament due to self imposed sanctions by the University for recruiting violations realted to OJ Mayo. While that may deflate the number of teams that can make the tournament in the Pac 10, it means the conference isn't as bad as the voters think.

However, all that being said, the rest of the conference is pretty damn lackluster. The nonconference schedule was brutual for the Pac 10. The conference's best win outside of USC's beatdown of Tennessee is Washington's victory over Texas A&M, ranked 35 in the current RPI. That's not pretty compared to years past. While the Pac 10 undoubtably looks way worse than usual, I'll guarantee that at least 2 teams end up in the dance, with at least 1 in the sweet 16.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Non-Revelation of the Day

Mark McGwire finally admitted today that he used steroids throughout his baseball career, including the 1998 season when he hit 70 home runs. I think this qualifies as the non-shock of the century, but at least it's out in the open now. Interestingly, McGwire apparently wanted to come clean in 2005 when he was called in front of Congress, but was denied immunity. That denial led to McGwire's infamous declaration that he did not "want to talk about the past" at the steroid hearings that amounted to a defacto admission of steroid use and invocation of his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The interesting part of this story, however, is what McGwire is saying about his steroid use. McGwire's excuse echos what Andy Pettitte told reporters when he came clean about steroids-- that he used it to heal from injury and not to increase his power output. McGwire went so far today as to deny that steroids really helped him hit more home runs, but instead attributed it to his God given gift to hit the long ball.

While McGwire is a talented hitter and steroids can't help hand-eye coordination, its is absurd for McGwire to claim that he only used steroids to recover from injuries and not to hit home runs. McGwire hit a home run every 10.6 at bats-- better than anyone in history. Just looking at the evolution of McGwire's body over his career combined with the accelerated rate at which McGwire hit home runs at the time in his career where he should have been on the decline seemingly defeats McGwire's argument. Also, the rumors about McGwire that have been circulating are much more vicious than his story. It's been alleged that McGwire used the kinds of steroids that body builders used-- testosterone, drugs used by horses-- not stuff to simply heal. It's hard to dismiss these rumors given the accuracy of the previous rumors swirling around McGwire.

It's great McGwire came clean. There's a good argument he should be in the Hall of Fame despite his indiscretions. But I've got a feeling he's coming half-way clean in an attempt to salvage his image. The only person who knows for sure is Big Mac, but if he still isn't telling the full story or is in denial about the implications of what he did then its unfortunate for McGwire and baseball fans everywhere.

Chalk It Up

Pete Carroll is officially becoming the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. This makes me 1 for 1 on predictions made on this blog. Booya. This obviously means I should test my luck and make more predictions, so here we go:

1- USC stands for University of Scandal Coming.

As I said earlier, Pete Carroll leaving USC guarantees the NCAA is going to drop the hammer on the football program. Given the number of times Pete Carroll scorned NFL teams in favor of remaining at SC, the best reason to make a jump now is that something is wrong at USC. It's not like the Seattle gig is something special, at least more so than the Falcons or Dolphins. Although Carroll says the Seattle offer was "too good to pass up," it's not like the offer was that much better than what was on the table in the past.

Plus, there is more evidence piling up that the NCAA is about to come down on USC. In particular, rumor has it that USC apparently asked for some self-imposed sanctions on its football program that were rejected by the NCAA. That really only happens if the NCAA doesn't think those sanctions are hard enough and wants to investigate more itself. Also some are questioning the harsh sanctions SC put on their basketball program (no postseason play), arguing maybe they are a way to deflect criticism of the more popular and lucrative football program. It's also not like there haven't been rumors about SC for a while now-- including hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly given to Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight driving a Land Rover that didn't belong to him.

It seems like it's all coming to a headway...and I predict some kind of sanctions against the USC football program.

2- Pete Carroll Doesn't Lead Seattle to the Promised Land.

Pete Carroll is an excellent college coach, but I doubt he can lead a team to a Super Bowl. He did take the Patriots to the playoffs twice-- but came up short each time. Bill Belichick took that same Pats team and won a Super Bowl a year after Carroll left. It's never all the coach in a situation like that and Belichick is pretty damn good, but it just illustrates Carroll wasn't in the category of coaches that can lead a very capable team to the Big Game. That's a pretty strong indictment.

The reason is simple- as Tony Dungy said, Pete Carroll has the perfect attitude to reach 19 year old kids, but not to reach 26 year old millionaires. Being a nice guy with an upbeat personality can motivate college kids, but isn't the best attitude for controlling some of the ego-inflated players in the NFL. Carroll is a player's coach and being a player's coach in the NFL is dangerous when you are dealing with players like Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens, and Deangelo Hall who think they run the show and want all the attention, fame, and fortune. No amount of Will Ferrell visits and singing "Lean on Me" will get guys like that into shape. The charisma, stunts, and "keep it loose" attitude generally don't work in the NFL.

Playoff Power Rankings

Now that the Aaron Rodgers Show (aka Green Bay Packers) are out of the playoffs there's a big shakeup in the playoff power rankings. Here's how I rate the remaining teams in the playoffs and why:

1. San Diego Chargers: Winners of 11 straight games makes them the hottest team in the NFL. Phillip Rivers is tossing the ball all over the field and the defense looks revitalized. Plus, with Darren Sproles in the return game they're a threat in all three phases.

2. Indianapolis Colts: Yeah, they're on a losing streak, but I'll chalk that up to Curtis Painter and not playing the starters. This team could be undefeated and would be number one if they didn't take their foot off the gas at the end. Defense is fast, and they've got this guy named Peyton Manning. He's pretty good.

3. Dallas Cowboys: 2nd hottest team in the NFL, dominated a pretty good Eagles team two weeks in a row. DeMarcus Ware scares the hell out of me and I'm just watching the game on TV. Tony Romo looks sharp and Dallas has 3 legitimate starting running backs on the roster. Clicking on all the right cylinders, but can they overcome their previous playoff failures?

4. Minnesota Vikings: Although they didn't finish strong, they looked good in the last game of the season. Their defense is getting Pat Williams back at tackle, and they still have a potentially dominant defensive line-- although the secondary has been getting pushed around a bit. The offense has one of, if not the best, running backs in the NFL, and Brett Favre is still tossing it around. But the looming question is can Favre prevent the gunslinger in him from throwing 3 INTs in the near future?

5. New Orleans Saints: Lots of weapons, but struggling over the last 3 games. 3 weeks ago I'd have them ranked second, but the inexplicable loss to the Bucs and the thrashing by Dallas really makes you wonder. The defense is a big question right now, but with all that firepower and a bye they could put it back together.

6. Arizona Cardinals: The Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde factor means they have to be ranked lower. When their offense is clicking they are SCARY good (see 51 points vs a good Packers D). Kurt Warner is at the helm, which always gives this team a shot. But can the defense stop anybody?! Sometimes yes, sometimes no...which is why you never know what you're going to get with the Cards.

7. Baltimore Ravens: Getting back to their old school ways of running the football, Flacco hasn't had to do much lately (see 4/10 passing Saturday). Their defense can get pumped and get it going and if they play like they did against the Pats again they are scary. But again, this team has been inconsistent all year, so who knows how they come out against Indy.

8. New York Jets: The Sanchize didn't hurt them last week, but that's the big risk with this team. The defense is dominant and they can run the ball to win-- IF, and that's a BIG IF, they don't turn it over.

Also, this doesn't mean I think one of these lower ranked teams won't win-- that's about the matchup, which I'll be talking about later in the week, and this is about momentum and talent in a vaccum.

Mike Leach Got "Swift Boated?"

There's an interesting little twist to the Mike Leach firing story out there-- apparently the same PR firm that was responsible for the sketchy "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" campaign against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election was hired by the James family before they went public with the accusations against the Pirate. The issue then is whether this political connection somehow calls the accusations against Leach into question.

The answer--don't think so. The founder of Spaeth Communications, the firm in question, indicated that Craig James called the firm to help figure out what to say publicly about what happened to his son Adam. The fact that Craig James hired a PR firm to help deal with disclosing the allegations to the public probably just indicates that he feared a backlash and media war over Adam James's complaint. That's understandable given that Leach was an extremely popular coach down in Lubbock (although apparently not with all the players). Also that feared backlash did happen despite what the James family said to the media--Adam James was mercilessly booed Alamo Bowl by Texas Tech fans.

While the firm choice may seem questionable given their history, there was still an abundance of evidence that Adam James was in fact locked in a shed and electrical closet with a concussion for hours on end. If any of the kids who levied accusations against Mark Mangino in Kansas or Jim Leavitt at USF had the resources the James family has, I have no doubt they would have tried the same thing.

Bascially this doesn't say anything about whether Leach's firing was legitimate or not. Leach may be right that Texas Tech wasn't happy about the amount of money they were paying him and found an excuse to get rid of their eccentric head coach. On the other hand, you don't mess with concussions and basically imprison 18-21 year old kids alone in the dark to treat them and then refuse to appologize for it. This story is far from over as Mike Leach is suing Texas Tech for defamation and wrongful termination. But so far, it doesn't look like Leach was "Swift Boated."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pete Carroll Deal "Going Down"?!?!

ESPN's reporting that a deal to make Pete Carroll the coach of the Seattle Seahawks is "going down" according to a USC source. Carroll is supposedly gathering a coaching staff that includes Jeremey Bates, the former Broncos QB coach who's also been linked to the Bears offensive coordinator vacancy. Since Pete Carroll always seems to pop up as a coach this time of year (see, e.g. Dolphins), here's some reasons it could be for real this time:

1- That's a pretty quick hook for Jim Mora, Jr (not to be confused with his "Playoffs?! PLAYOFFS" father), who was tapped as Mike Holmgren's sucessor in February 2008 and signed a five-year deal that would make him the head coach. How do you not give this guy a year as head coach unless you have somebody lined up ready to go? Given how fast Carroll popped up as a name, and the general surprise over Mora's firing, it seems possible Carroll is in fact ready to go. In fact, it's being reported that Carroll was stealth interviewed by the Seahawks under the guise of a trip to LA as part of the Seahawk's GM search earlier this week. Sounds fishy to me.

2- If there's a time to leave USC this is it. No BCS bowl appearance, no top 10 finish, Reggie Bush can't keep the alleged recruiting violations surrounding him at USC under wraps through mediation much longer....seems like a good time if there was one. If Carroll leaves, I guarantee a big SC football scandal is to follow, why else leave being on top of the college football world and the warm Southern California weather? Unless...

3- Carroll still wants to prove himself in the pros, and Seattle will give him what he wants, which is total control. Seattle doesn't have a GM currently, so why not let Pete run the show and have final say on personell decisions. Also people talk about Carroll like he was a bum in the NFL with the Jets and Patriots, but he has a winning record (33-31) and made two playoff appearances. He can shut up all the naysayers and doesn't even have to leave the West Coast to do it. Plus you could do worse than start with a Seattle team that still has Matt Hasselbeck (although over the hill), TJ Housh, John Carlson, a fiesty Justin Forsett, and some playmakers on defense like Lofa Tutupu and Aaron Curry.

Plus, getting Pete out of the way will help Aaron Rodgers' former team, the great California Golden Bears. I say Pete's gone, and happy trails.