Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Knights after the Storm

It is a storm out there for our President. He has the Democrats protesting his every move and many of those moves are quite protestable. He has his own party sheltering themselves from him to secure their mid-term elections, the first since the Donald stormed DC. Many of these tempests are simply ignored by Herr Trump. When confronted with tough questions, he tweets them away with obfuscation. Then came Stormy Daniels, the storm no one wants.

 There is no doubt there were some hijinks between private citizen Trump and the porn actor. Her 60 minutes story was a marketing ploy to continue her rolling fifteen minutes of fame. Ms. Daniels has been at this game for a long time and at 39, she is in the tumbling downside of her career. The Yard would never defend Trump but the accuser and her attorney are not trying to enlighten America. Stormy is touring the country stripping in any nook and cranny for those that would pay $10 to see her nooks and crannies. Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, comes across as a noble reptile trying to promote judicial ethics like a modern day Mark Geragos. He has multiple lawsuits against him since his investment firm acquired Tully’s Coffee in 2013 among other notable mischief. All of it is a sideshow where the Donald is much more worried about Melania’s wrath than the citizens of the US. She checked herself into the hospital to get away from Trump.

In the wake of the Storm of Daniels, came Former FBI Director James Comey and his book A Higher Loyalty reportedly exposing the new President in his early days in office. Comey comes across as articulate, candid and sharp. The Yard is trying to determine who named the fired FBI director as the harbinger of our moral compass. This is the same James Comey who has lead the FBI to its lowest levels of morale and national perception in the 110 year history of the Bureau. J. Edgar is turning in his cocktail dress. Comey loves the attention and lives large, all 6’8” of him. This book gets Lurch back into the spotlight and a $2 million payout to enhance his multi-million dollar lifestyle. He lives in a $3 million home he acquired while earning $172,000 annually as the FBI director. Being legal counsel for a hedge fund paid well before Barry Obama called and asked him to lead the FBI in 2011. He is not the dilatant protector of the American people that he attempts to portray. The Yard does not look for Comey, Stormy Daniels or her legal shrew to illuminate the Trump administration for the nation. All three of them are profiting handsomely from their self-subscribed positions. The main thing that they have in common is the first four letters in the former Director’s name and the associated stain. There is probably not a happy ending for anyone.

USC assistant basketball coach Tony Bland was snared in the college basketball Adidas scandal. Head coach Andy Enfield claimed to have no knowledge Bland’s spurious actions. Andy seems like a standup guy but Bland’s actions definitely benefitted USC and Enfield by bringing in several top recruits in recent years. It is difficult to understand how such activities were going on with recruits without this smart and precise head coach’s knowledge. Coach Enfield has persevered and replaced Bland by hiring Eric Mobley. Mobley has coached in AAU ball the past eleven years with tremendous success. It is an interesting hire given USC’s current situation with potential NCAA violations. AAU is a largely unregulated basketball club sport for elite athletes before they enter college. Almost every major talent in the last 20 years has played AAU ball with other elite talents. AAU is the petri dish where the current college basketball scandals fermented. The shoe companies have unfettered access to the teams and the players. Agents are slithering around the perimeter using family intermediaries to negotiate while trying to ensure short-term college compliance…at least for one year. The Yard is not alleging that coach Mobley was involved in any of these improprieties but they have happened around him. USC highlighted his great success at the AAU level and how excited they are to have him join the Trojans. The press release goes on to mention that he is married with two children. The USC press release did not mention that his two children are 6’10” future recruits. There is nothing illegal or unethical about hiring a coach who is the father of two 6’10” talents. One might question hiring someone directly from AAU into the current college compliance maelstrom. Yard only hopes the NCAA is a little tougher on Pac-12 stalwarts Arizona and USC. The Bruins have a nice recruiting class who came for the college experience not the future shoe contract now. Bruins hoopsters wait at least until after winter quarter before risking their eligibility.

We can appreciate that USC has a lot going on with their athletics and Medical School at this time. The Yard was shocked to read that UCLA head coach Chip Kelly is making over $2 million a year more than USC head coach Clay Helton. Yard interns are searching furiously but cannot find a time where UCLA paid more and certainly not that much more for their respective football coaches. It does make sense on another level when the University begins to examine the financial calamity that will explode out of Dr. George Tyndall scandal. USC Medical was already on double secret probation after Dean Pulitano and his band of miscreants filmed themselves tweaking in his campus office. USC just watched Michigan State agree to pay $475 million in lawsuit payments in the Dr. Larry Nassar scandal. As in the Nassar scandal, allegations and complaints of serious violations of campus coeds had gone on for decades against the doctor. When the complaints finally gained traction with USC administration, Dr. Tyndall was allowed to resign with a severance package in June of 2017. Beyond the egregious nature of his alleged actions, he focused most of his attention on the growing influx of Asian students at the University. USC has gone to great lengths to promote the school overseas to foreign students. The good doctor ended up with a steady steam of young, naïve females who did not understand what happened in a gynecology exam. Dr. Tyndall gave them plenty of exposure and apparently took a few with his iPhone.

 In early April, I attended the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas. NAB is one of the largest shows of the year. I did plenty of meets and greets over the four days and I was shocked at how many people did not realize that Las Vegas had a hockey team. Questions ensued to determine what level of hockey our little team played. There were looks of disbelief when informed it was an NHL team that was entering the playoffs. How did this happen? Hockey in the desert? It will never work, look at Phoenix! Now most of the sports world knows about the Vegas Golden Knights who have stormed into the Stanley Cup Final. Some are saying it is one of the greatest Cinderella story in sports history. This is no Cinderella story although the clock could strike midnight without Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The Vegas Golden Knights was the vision, focus and execution of Bill Foley. Mr. Foley has been mentioned often in Yard posting and he should be applauded for the results. The team is far from done but what they have accomplished so far is historic for sure. Mr. Foley managed every detail starting with the team being the Vegas Golden Knights not the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The team name lead to logo that is now emblazoned all over the Vegas valley. Foley hired George McPhee to put together a team of unprotected players in the NHL expansion draft. The team built their training facility in Summerlin and incorporated a youth hockey program that is flourishing. The facility incorporated a restaurant and bar so fans could watch the team practice down below or on TV during their sold out games. They assembled a fast, athletic group of castoffs and have raced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. No one expected these results. The team went off as a 500:1 shot at winning the Cup. In late 2017, the Knights were still 80:1. Las Vegas is a town that a person can make those bets and many new hockey fans did take those bets. The Sports books are guardedly cheering the team even though their victory will be painful.

But before a single game was played in this remarkable season, Stephen Paddock gunned down fifty-eight people from a Mandalay suite just a few blocks away from the arena. The October 1st Route 91 Festival will forever be remembered for the horrific devastation wreaked over the adult fun capital of the nation. No one knew who the Golden Knights players were at this time. No one probably cared as the dead and dying were being counted. None of the players were from Las Vegas. They were unprotected expansion draftees exiled to the desert to play for a first year team. In the first days after this tragedy, Marc-Andre Fluery, William Karlsson and the rest of these unknown heroes, descended on the area hospitals to visit the over 400 people that were injured. The team set up photo and autograph kiosks around town where players helped the town begin to heal. First responders escorted each Knights player onto the ice during their first introductions to their new hometown on Opening night. Survivors were invited to join the ceremonial puck drop. Before the puck dropped, all 58 names of the killed were displayed on the ice in a tear soaked moment of silence with the 18,000 in attendance. Defenseman Erik Engelland addressed the crowd for exactly 58 seconds. The Star Spangled Banner was lead by victims and every voice in the house could be heard.

As the Knights started to emerge as a quality team regardless of their history, no one forgot their response in the beginning before there was a bandwagon to jump on. Las Vegas was a city of people mostly from somewhere else trying to unite and heal. The Golden Knights became the conductor of those signals. Professional sports are a byproduct of civilizations that have achieved enough wealth to pay the best so that we can watch them ply their craft. Mass shootings are another byproduct of the disenfranchised and delusional in these same societies. Sports at its best can help bring people together to overcome grief. The Yankees carried NY after 9/11 even if the Diamondbacks spoiled the party. New Orleans rallied around the Saints after Katrina. The Red Sox lead Bosox nation to a better place after the Marathon bombing. The Houston Astros carried the city during their World Series championship run last year after Hurricane Harvey. The Golden Knights had none of the historical equity with their chosen city as these franchises in those moments. They paid it forward. After the final home game this season, the team announced that they were retiring the number 58 for the rest of their history. They raised a banner to the rafters with the names of the victims surrounding the 58. A noble gesture and we sincerely hope it is not the last banner we raise this season.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Olympic Edition

The Winter Olympics have changed dramatically since their first games in Chamonix, France in 1924. The first Olympics of the modern era were summer games. It was nearly thirty years before the white people from the snow and ice got their first Olympics of the modern era. There was no ancient era for alpine events but their sports were modern. The Summer Olympics have remained fundamentally the same with the occasional juxtaposition of women’s softball for golf but running, jumping, swimming have been the mainstays of the Summer games for over 110 years. The Winter Games have always been more life threatening with events that hurdle humans with their frail ACL’s against the elements. The alpine events were never a strong suit back in the day for the United States. There was the occasional Phil Mahre moment where the US stole a medal. It was mostly an Ingmar or a Jean Claude taking home the heavy hardware. American fan could only pine away while waiting for women’s figure skating. God bless you, Scott Hamilton, also! In 2010, the Winter Games hijacked the X games business model without the snowmobiles. The American snow boarders who had dominated the X games for years stormed the games in Vancouver. Shaun White and his US compatriots slid, jumped and twisted to five medals and captivated our rebellious pedigree. Suddenly, the US had a winter sport we could dominate and it was entertaining. The boarders invigorated the whole US Winter Olympic movement. The rest of the world and NBC eventually caught up with the snowboard revolution but the US flame was lit. Now the US Alpine skiers are carrying the message, US men won their first luge medal in history on Sunday. Southern CA native Chloe Kim’s father started taking her to Mountain High in Wrightwood early on because he thought he might like the sport. His seven-year-old daughter was a required supporter of his efforts. Ten years later, she has become a Korean- American snowboarding superstar. She has never finished less than third in any competition and most she wins. She has scored the only perfect 100 ever recorded in competition. Shaun White blazed to his third gold while Chloe ignited the next generation of female champions. The specter of the North Koreans and South Koreans collaborating in Women’s hockey and overall goodwill for the games was surprising. It seemed after all of the intercontinental ballistic missiles and such fired over the land by Kim Jung that relations with his neighbors to the south could be strained. ICBM’s always seem to bring out the worst in a dictator and their surrounding borders. King Jung did send his hipster sister who sat right behind US VP Mike Pence. Pence never acknowledged her presence or sniffed her air. It was a reality TV moment where the Yard had wished that former US President Bill Clinton had been in the VIP box with Kim Jung’s sister. Billy Bob would have been all up in that business. His Arkansas drawl wafting about while cocking his head and winking. These Clintonian flirt hacks can cause many a woman, not Hillary, but others to swoon. Given an opening, he would have been turning around, changing seats, ordering cabernet with garlic fries and solving the North Korean missile crisis. If you have not heard about the evil wrought by Dr. Larry Nassar, you should have. It is a tragic tale of Olympic success hiding the dark secrets of a sexual predator. Parents were so eager for their little girls to be the next Mary Lou Retton that the Trojan horse inside the walls was blind to them. Since Kerri Strug vaulted and landed her gimpy ankle in the 1996 games in Atlanta, ambitious parents have foisted their pubescent daughters onto US gymnastics. Two premier and highly competitive gymnastics programs emerged as the place to go if your dreams included the Olympics. The famous Karolyi Ranch in Texas and the Twistars Gym in Michigan were those places and ground zero for lecherous Larry. While John Geddert of Twistar and Bela Karolyi whipped their young prodigies into Olympic form, Dr. Nassar soothed their pains behind closed doors. It was a classic bad cop good cop where the bad cop was a dictator but the good cop was a pedophile. Parents who were so excited to see their daughters take the next step towards stardom were dropping their daughters of at Nassar’s house at night for “treatments”. When some the girls balked or attempted to out the evil that loomed behind the door, parents pushed them ahead to reach their dreams blind to their daughter’s pleas. Nassar was sentenced to 170 years behind bars and many of these parents will spend a lifetime reconciling the horrors that their daughters endured under their guidance. The Baseball Hall of Fame is starting to lighten up on the alleged performance enhanced nominees. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are climbing into the target zone the past year years. Their coronation is anything but guaranteed. Sportswriters and other humans are starting to realize that you cannot penalize the unindicted for transgressions that were never proved at a time when everyone was transgressing. Roger Clemens may have had a PED laden curve ball but he was facing a PED enhanced batting order. It was strength against strength and Clemens was stronger and better. He piled up incredible statistics even if he was an arsehole. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also announced their Class of 2018. Every inductee has tried performance-enhancing drugs. It is a rite of passage in R&R. If you did not enhance your performance with drugs, you were not giving your all. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis, & Kurt never made their 28th birthday but made the Rock and Roll HOF posthumously because of their commitment to PED’s. They all pushed the envelope in the early, unfiltered days of these PED’s. No one was ever banished from the R&R HOF for doing PED’s. Look up Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers induction in 2002, bassist Howie Epstein is in the late throws of his PED addiction on stage. Not saying Baseball needs to encourage PED but get real about the history. Roger Clemens and Barry Bones did nothing that was illegal by baseball standards in their era. Was it unethical? Yes. Did they lie about it under oath? Most likely. Were they two of the best players ever in baseball during any era? Most positively. Were black athletes ready to play in major league baseball before 1947? Absolutely. Was Ty Cobb a racist? Absolutely. Does the Baseball Writers of America Association uses both B’s in their acronym of BBWAA…enough said. It is surprising with the #MeToo and Time is Up exhausting news cycle that Bill Clinton’s name has never come up. With the public takedowns of many alleged bad actors, that Bill Clinton is still bobbing above the treacherous waters is surprising. Being a former president provides some clemency. Jennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinski were the only victims that came forward when no one could. We learned about them in a time before camera phones and social media. They were all publicly ostracized with Bill defending every accusation with Hillary at his side. What the Clintons and their emissaries did to an innocent, 22-year old Washington intern named Monica is unconscionable even by today’s standards. Ultimately, Billy had to perspire through a national admission of his transgressions with Ms. Lewinsky. When the FBI confirmed Clinton’s DNA on Monica’s semen stained blue dress, our former president provided more evidence of his abuse of an employee than any of the currently accused. Hillary made her deal with the devil. Matt Lauer’s wife and Harvey Weinstein’s wives already hit the eject button. The Clintons operate with a degree of royal condescension and lack of transparency that is lost on our youth but memorable by their parents. The Bill Clinton proposed concentric circles of matrimonial fidelity while having oral sex with interns is one for the ages. Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer are waiting for Billy’s book on Surviving Sexual Harassment for Dummies. We were out of town at the USC UCLA basketball game a few weeks back. We had to leave on Friday before Tuesday’s State of the Union address had ended. We do not think we missed anything unless Nancy Pelosi never got whatever POS she was groveling about in her mouth during POTUS address out. It is not surprising that speech ran long or Pelosi’s dentures were acting up. Both events are to be expected. Trump’s breathy teleprompter laden speech was paced to eat the time slot so to allow for limited criticism as he butted up against Ellen DeGeneres’ Game of Games. Nancy the P just needs to get some dental floss and break that out next time she is on national TV. UCLA storming back to upset the Trojans was the best elixir for the nonsense in the east. The Yards went to see the hottest ticket in town on Saturday night, the Vegas Golden Knights. It was the best hockey game we ever attended although there were only six in contention before Saturday night. Hockey has never been in our top five sports but it made some recent leaps in our acquired city and mind space. The spectacle of a hockey game in Las Vegas is incongruent and amazing. Knight’s owner Bill Foley has put together a great product with tremendous support. The entertainment value alone does not require hockey expertise. All of the 18,882 people in attendance were having a great time even the 6,000 people from Montreal who were watching their historic Canadians get pummeled by an expansion team. With brilliant hockey and two halftimes, we witnessed nine goals, Cirque De Soleil and the Blue Men. Montreal on February 17 or Las Vegas on the same day? Not a tough call with a hockey game on Saturday and Monday and black 29 available all day long on every wheel in town.

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.