Friday, August 25, 2017

October Dreaming

The Dodgers historic bludgeoning of the National League has given the Yard pause while we bask in the grandeur. There is not any more gloss we can splash on this canvas at 89-35. The Dodgers are 21 games up in the best division in the National League. At this time, both Wild Card teams plus the Dodgers would be in the playoffs. The Yard has nothing more to add because the 2017 Blue Crew has transcended the sport. What they are doing is getting national attention beyond baseball. It is all the rage but nothing matters if they do not win 11 playoff games this fall. It has been exciting to watch even from the LA suburbs of Nevada. The Dodgers slips and slides in October are the fissures in our ulcers. We have them abated for another few weeks but we have endured too many Prilosec moments. We still feel unsettled while glowing with the daily successes. As a distraction from our post-season stress syndrome, we have been closely following the tight race for 4th place in the NL West. The Giants have been pulling out all of the stops. They have recently brought home prodigal son Pablo Sandoval to try to salvage their fading championship pedigree. When your team is always a proverbial 4-6 in the last ten games stat for months, it is hard to rally in late August. This Giant ball club has an excellent chance of catching the 1985 team that went 62-100. They are going to have to have some bullpen meltdowns, timely strikeouts and the rest of the misfortune that has plagued this team for over a year. And we are confident that they can sink to the challenge. The Padres have opened up almost an eight game lead in the race for 4th place. Their magic number is down to 30 to clinch. This was not to be a rebuilding year for the Giants. The Giants pushed all of the chips in to win. The core lineup for their three titles was still intact and they just needed pitching. Well they got the pitching while taking on the largest payroll in team history on route to matching their worst season in team history. It is going to be a yard sale after the season if possible. However, all of their maladies are keeping Yard interest high. The Giants have $179 million committed to 2018. That nut is for the 11 players currently under contract for next season. Of those, Bumgarner is a free agent and he is not going cheap next time, not for this team. Of those players under contract, the youngest is 29 and most of the starting pitching is over 33 years old. The Giants are looking at rebuilding without the dollars or the draft picks. They look down I-5, they see a young powerhouse with tons of resources and draft picks. It could be a return for the 70’s and 80’s for the Bay Area. No one seems to care since the Warriors are winning titles and is there still an NFL team? The College football season will soon be upon us and Sam Darnold and USC Trojans are on the cover of Sports Illustrated and USA Today. The Yard loves and supports the media attention for the great state of Troy. Last summer, Sudden Sam did not earn the starting QB job. After the Trojans lost of to Alabama like a JV team and Stanford pasted them at the Farm, Darnold emerged as the starter. He led the Cardinal and Gold to nine straight wins and became the latest Aryan USC Poster Boy. Matt Barkley had an SI cover in August 2012. He had a breakout year in 2011 and had “some unfinished business” while announcing he was coming back for his senior year at Troy. Barkley was a Heisman candidate and potential first round draft pick. Apparently, the unfinished business was losing to UCLA and Notre Dame in back to back weekends while stumbling to a 7-6 season and a 4th round selection. Today, he has turned all of that into a third string QB roster spot on one of the worst teams in the NFL. Sam, it is easier to find the light than be in the light. The lights are on bright this season, Sammy. Yard staff always thought USC to be quite stodgy and elitist. Then Dean Carmen Puliafito comes along and knocks the cover right off that ball. Yard youth was adept at creating heartburn for my parents. But we were poseurs compared to USC’s former Dean of the Keck Medical School. He led groundbreaking research and earth shattering charitable donations as Keck soared to the second best medical school in town. But who knew he was taking Ecstasy while putting on his tuxedo to hob knob with Martin Short and Gwyneth Paltrow. He looks like an aging School Streeter at some of these events and he was. He was partying in his USC office and boutiques hotels with hookers, blow and meth. And I was worrying if I had the right IPA for the tailgate. As previously reported the Mayweather McGregor fight is coming down this weekend in Las Vegas. The faithful are already arriving and filling the local watering holes. Mayweather is still a 6:1 favorite but the majority of the tickets are on McGregor. The public either wants to support the underdog or hates Mayweather or both. The sharps are laying large on Floyd but the tickets for $10-100 bets are on all on McGregor. The son of Dublin could score the upset and splay the books like a Stark. The pair are fighting at 154 pounds and McGregor looked like he had not missed too many Happy Meals in training camp. He is going to sweat down to the weight by Friday night on Show Time but probably be back up close to 170 by fight time. McGregor hopes to leverage this 10% body weight advantage to his advantage in the ring. He will not. This is a scheduled 12 round fight. Conor McGregor has only fought the full five rounds in a UFC match once. Thirteen of his fifteen wins were in round one. Mayweather has a fought 12 rounds to a decision 21 times in his 49-0 record. He has fought the best toe to toe for the full 36 minutes more times than any boxer in history. Nobody workouts harder than Mayweather and he is in punishing shape. McGregor carrying an extra 14 pounds of mush will not carry the day. McGregor wants to lure Mayweather into a street brawl. If he does not get that done, he will fight dirty. If not, he is done by round four. McGregor will fight dirty and pull out all of the stops but he is fighting history and his is on the wrong side of it. It will be the highest grossing sporting event in Las Vegas History. Until the Raiders get a Super Bowl in the next decade. It is NFL policy that each new stadium built is awarded a Super Bowl. 300,000 fans come to Las Vegas every year for the Super Bowl. The NFL does not even let Casinos and Tavern call it the Super Bowl but they come and spend. It is $400 million weekend in town. What happens when we have the actual game? Quotable: Floyd Mayweather will be at his strip club Friday night and Saturday night after the fight. It will be $50 to see Floyd in a roped off area while naked beauties pester you for $25 lap dances so I have heard. He does not appear overly concerned about the fight in between these promotional events. Mayweather told Jimmy Kimmel he got in this business because “Because I know that breasts, vagina, music and alcohol will never go out of style.” I think Floyd will go out in style this weekend. Fun Fact: ESPN announcer Tim Kurkjian is covering the Little League World Series. It was determined by his colleagues that the 5’5” Kurkjian is shorter than 50% of the 12 year olds in the LLWS. He hosted an interview in the booth with a 6’1” and 5’10” twelve year old so he was a sport. Watch the Mayweather McGregor press conference from Tuesday last. The showgirls on each side are towering over those two. It is looks like a high school event.

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Years Greetings from the Yard

And just when it seemed that there could not be another seminal person from our legacy who would pass away in 2016, Robert Hulseman ghosted on us all. Having already lost several rock stars of our youth, pop stars of other people’s youths and Princess Leia, there was meager bandwidth to filter additional melancholy. We try to keep things lively rather than somber. Seber men are criers and it was almost too much to take. When the inventor of the iconic Solo Red Cup goes down one night before millions will reign in the New Year with his signature creation it is a travesty. One last toast with the cup hero of our generation streaming live would have been better than Mariah and the ball. There is nothing that exemplifies our underage drinking more than The Red Cup. We wonder whether there would be beer pong or flip cup without the Solo? College kids everywhere would have struggled to establish quality drinking games while frittering away their youth. The cup is a staple at every tailgate we have ever attended. Master Robert Hulseman thank you for your insight and by creatively adding in the fill lines for our favorite backyard beverages. The twelve-ounce fill line for beer was smart but adding in the five-ounce mark for my date was genius. There will be many toasts to your greatness in the coming year. This past year was not one of great joy for our aligned teams. The Dodgers failed to reach the World Series for the 28th consecutive year. The Lakers appear headed to the lottery for their 4th straight year. The Bruins football team hosted the Jim Mora divorce malaise and the Rams moved back to Los Angeles. With all of the ignominy of our chosen teams, USC has to go and turn their football season into a historic Rose Bowl victory. The only bright spot was a scheduling conflict which allowed me to miss the USC holiday roasting I suffer most seasons. USC and UCLA basketball seem to be the best game in town this spring. The Rams returning to Los Angeles was a big deal for about two home games. This team looks very similar to the disappointing team that emigrated to St. Louis in 1995. The Rams moving back to the city was big news because Pro Football had not had an LA home team for twenty years. The young Yardiot loved the Rams of the 1970’s. We watched in annual horror as Roman Gabriel went down to the Vikings in the snow. We gasped and groaned while another freaking Viking Fran Tarkenton ran wild in the rain while destroying the Lambs at home. Vinnie Ferragamo had a 1979 Super Bowl lead over the historic Steelers before failing miserably at the end. Since their LA departure, legions of Los Angeles’ imprinted youth have chosen other NFL franchises to torture them for the rest of their adult lives. This youth was huge Ram fan while they were playing in the moribund Coliseum. We are not so much of a fan as they return to play in the same moribund Coliseum. Twenty years ago seems just like yesterday with the product the Rams are trying to sell to the “we only support champions” Los Angeles fan. The Dodgers won the World Series almost upon arrival in Los Angeles in 1959 with four more to follow. The Lakers followed the Rams to Los Angeles and won 11 NBA Titles. Even the home grown NHL Kings have won two Stanley Cups after decades of futility. But it has been fallow fields for the Rams have who never won any titles for the City of Angels in nearly fifty years of playing before paying customers. At least, they were never the Los Angeles Rams of Anaheim. At the end of the tunnel, in their eighty years, nearly fifty of them in the LA Market, the Rams have won two NFL championships, one in Cleveland and one in St. Louis. Go figure the Rams trace their DNA to Cleveland. The current Cleveland Browns are a recent expansion team; the Rams just play like one. Alabama secured their third consecutive BCS Championship game. Alabama is all in on football. Math, science and poli-sci are all on the curriculum but what happens between the goal posts is where the University’s legend lies. The cure for what ills America can be found elsewhere. The Crimson Tide are looking for All-Americans. Nick Saban has become the Darth Vader of the SEC. His Crimson death star has run off every coach in their path. Les Miles should have taken the Michigan job in 2011. LSU rewarded his loyalty by firing him this season. Former USC assistant Ed Orgeron finally rid himself of the interim name badge and got a head coaching gig. It probably also helped that he signed for $750,000 a year to coach in the SEC. He is taking assistant coach annual pay and the payout multiplier when he eventually gets terminated. Every other SEC coach has nine zeroes in their pay plan. But the state of Louisiana needs to pay Les Miles $9 million to go away so there if Ed wants the job, he has to go cheap and go away cheaper when needed. Tuscaloosa has also become a home for wayward USC former head coaches. Defeated USC former head coach Lane Kiffin has been on his redemption saga governing the Tide offense for the past two championship seasons with a third on the front burner. Lane has been on Saban’s whipping boy for all of those seasons. Being the offensive coordinator for King Nick is like being in the Revenant where you are Leo and Saban is the grizzly bear. Kiffin was well paid and he is so thrilled to be leaving. Yard pundits think he still wanted to coach on Monday night. When the LSU flag was dipping and there was word the Tigers were talking to Steve Sarkisian, Alabama immediately hired him on in some obscure consultative capacity. A school can only have a certain amount of football coaches but if your school’s budget the hiring of additional allows football analysts instead of chemists, have at it. Alabama squirrelled Sark away in the VIP lounge while Saban bitch slapped Kiffin on the sidelines. Nick the Terror was not doing this to humiliate Lame, although he did. He was showing Stevie what belies him if he misbehaves in the house of Saban during his own redemption tour of duty. From heralded offensive coordinator for Pete’s Trojans, to the hung over head coach former Trojan head coach, it had been a fall into obscurity. Installing a new offensive coordinator, the weekend before the national championship game seems a risky move. Making the move with a freshman quarterback could be disastrous. For Saban, he has two titles, he wants more but if the Tide loses Monday and they could, his reputation is untarnished. Kiffin was the problem. For Sarkisian, this is high pressure, nothing to lose, much to gain. We are sure a couple of Manhattans can help calm his nerves. The parade of USC All-American quarterbacks this century has been remarkable. Carson Palmer started the largess with his Heisman winning career and an AP national title with the dismantling of Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl. He was followed by Matt Leinart, JD Booty, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley. All of these QB’s were in the Heisman discussion with Leinart following Palmer to the podium. It was Leinart’s last relevant football stat. Barkley is still playing albeit for the Bears. Sanchez is somewhere off the radar. JD and Matt L are long gone from any NFL acclaim. Yet, there is creaky old CP, still taking snaps for the Cardinals. To say he is not mobile is an affront to non-mobile people who get around better than Palmer. He was hit an astounding 116 times during the regular season. So one out of five times he shuffled back to pass, he got hit. The 37-year-old was sacked 40 times. He was the first, he might be the last but he is the most accomplished of all of the QB lineage from Troy. The best rivalry in town in UCLA-USC basketball. UCLA has dominated the series for all of my reader’s lifetimes. Trojan hoops have a had few moments in the sun but their best years where when they could not wrestle away the PAC-8 Title from John Wooden’s Bruins. Back then, only one team got a ticket to the dance and it was never the Trojans. The 1970-71 men of the Cardinal and Gold hoops went 24-2 and were ranked number one for half the season before finishing number 2 to UCLA. There would be no ticket to the dance for the Trojans only conference champion UCLA. Last year, the upstart Trojans, thoroughly thrashed the Bruins in all three of their meetings. The games were not close let alone the fact that USC had never beaten UCLA three times in any season. The 2016-17 Bruins are a much better example of UCLA athletics. Lorenzo Ball has gotten all of his well-deserved hype. He is a 6’6” one and done point guard who can pass, shoot and rebound. He is not Russell Westbrook athletic but he makes everyone else better in a way Westbrook never will. One of the players he has made better is TJ Leaf another heralded freshman. Ball has garnered all of the attention but Leaf is quietly leading the charge for a team that has already more games this year than all of last year. The first matchup is January 25 at the Galen Center. The Yard will be at the second game at Pauley on February 18. Go Bruins! Happy 2017 from the Yard.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The World Series Edition

This is a World Series that is by the numbers. Baseball has such a long documented history from its earliest gestation to the adolescence that it entertains today. Everyone knows that it has been 108 years since the Cubs last won a title. Some baseball fans know that it has been 68 years for the Indians since their last title. Cub fan had morphed into the lovable loser mentality within the Chicago Bulls era and the White Sox year. Cleveland as a city that had morphed into the mistake by the Lake with the Browns, the Indians and the Cavaliers all sustaining long stretches of futility. Wrigley was becoming a tourist attraction not home to a major league team. The Cubs have barely challenged to even get into the WS since 1908 with one visit in 1945 during WW2 when many MLB stars were still serving the military. But that storied series did give the Cubs the Goat story. It is hard to imagine a hex based on a goat not being allowed into the fall classic but it just shows how furtive Chicago was for an answer or at least some better voodoo. The Indians have not won a title in 68 years which is the second longest drought in the majors behind the Chicago North Side. But the Indians went to the WS twice in the 90’s. If you have time to see the 30 for 30 on the 1997 World Series, it is the most snatched from the jaws of victory losses ever recorded. The champagne was out, the shirts and caps were out, the trophy had been wheeled into the owner’s suite and the Indians were two outs from the first Cleveland title in forever. Those two outs never came and the freaking Florida Marlins won a title in their fifth season of baseball. Cub fan has never had that kind of Deer Hunter gun to the temple roulette options until now. When the Red Sox won in 2004, it had been 86 years since the city had won a title. The coach of that ended that city’s futility is the same person coaching the Indians. Terry Francona seems to be the hex buster as he opposes his old GM Theo Epstein. It will be emotional on all sides of the diamonds as they fight for theirs encrusted on the long awaited ring. With another win tonight, there will be pall that will fall over the Windy City that took over a century to render. 1988 was the year of the last baseball championship for Los Angeles. The Anaheim Angels who think they are in Los Angeles won in 2002 over the Giants which we enjoyed but that does not count for most LA sports fans. 1988 is also the last year that the NBA Champion and MLB Champion were from the same city. The Showtime era was winding down but the Lake show still vanquished the hard charging Pistons to win the title. So there is a chance that for the first time in 28 years the NBA and MLB champ will be from the same city. There is no chance LA will see this scenario in a long time with the Lakers. It has been a long time for the Dodgers without winning a championship. Longest drought since moving to Los Angeles which is remarkable. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the Los Angeles Dodgers each have played in nine World Series. The Brooklyn bunch only won one once in 1955 with the Boys of Summer. Brooklyn fought for mindshare in the city of Yankees fans and their 20 titles. And their loyal Brooklyn fans waited for over 50 years for their first title from the hated Yankees. They got out their party outfits eight times only to do down in defeat. They finally crack the champagne and then moved the franchise to LA three years later. That is heartbreak Yard youth mildly endured when the woeful Rams moved to St. Louis. And here they are back in LA during our lifetime and still woeful. It never seemed the Dodgers were going to make it interesting this year. With all of the injuries, with Kershaw out for three months, with the sketchy starting pitching, it just seemed like a next year kind of year at best. Then they bitch slapped the Giants back into the Wild Card, won their first deciding playoff game in nearly a generation and took a 2-1 lead on the Cubs going into Game Four on their way to their first World Series. We threw our playoff trepidation just in time to throw up in playoff misery for the next six days. After the Dodgers clinched in our nation’s capital, they were off to Chicago and won a stunning game two with Kershaw exorcising his October demons. The rout in game three had Cub fan in a deplorable place. All of the playoff maladies manifested themselves in Game 5. Dr. Phil and son were able to join myself and first daughter to watch Kenta Maeda try and stem the hemorrhaging. He is not the Dr. Phil but I like him better and he is married to my sister. He is a massive Cubs fan but was exceptional in his muted thrill of watching the Cubs maul the Dodgers again. As the game progressed, we regressed into the bitter funk that has emanated from this storied franchise for 28 years. The Dodgers got pummeled in those last three games and even Clayton found time for one of his traditional post season meltdowns. It would be way more painful to be leading by three runs going into a decisive game and give up four to lose and get bounced out of the playoffs in an even numbered year. That is real pain. Getting beat down 26-6 over three games is not a fun thing to observe for sure but the dripping defeat is easier to take than the gripping one. Overtime: The Ryder Cup this past month was brilliant. The US team finally pulled together like a real team with the required underlying individual performances. They pulled together the right mix of up and comers with experience. The Ryder Cup used to just be a US beat down of Great Britain which was not so great back then. The US dominated 18 of the first 21 official Ryder Cups. Then in 1979 it morphed into US versus Europe and it has been game on ever since. I can imagine the Brits, Scots and Irish had a hard time. twelve teammates to combat the American invasion. And oh how it has turned. Before 1979, the Ryder cup was hardly even televised and it was not front page of the sports page news. Now it is like the Olympics of golf every two years. It seems to well attended, TV everywhere, merchandise, players do not get paid, so who gets the money? Patriotism over Benjamin’s how benign.