Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Ohio State/College Football Preview! Neat-o!

I tried to try on Monday, but I was fooling myself.

Tuesday showed promise from the outset, but Tuesday morning quickly turned into Tuesday night, and this particular Tuesday night revolved around observing the oddities of karaoke culture (of which there are many). This happened in Henderson, Nevada.

I was unstoppably ambitious on Wednesday until I was sucked in to playing about eighteen games of heads-up poker with my roommate (a gentleman who was once sponsored by an obnoxious poker website; I lost $70).

And now it's Thursday morning on the west coast (hey, if every other dipshit on the planet is going to call Nevada the west coast, I may as well conform), and I still haven't written an Ohio State/college football preview.

Should I be ashamed? Probably.

Am I? Actually, yeah.

Considering this is my first post in 90 days, is there any chance it will be worth a crap? Let's give it a whirl...

First, the Ohio State stuff:

1. If I hear another effing word about Terrelle Pryor's "extraordinary performance" against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, I'm going to throw away my sister's My Little Pony collection and laugh in her face while she cries.

I get it: He played pretty well. But a 23-37, 266-yard performance (72 rushing yards, sacked 4 times) doesn't tell me that the light has come on or that he's finally living up to his superstar billing.

(Again: Pryor played a nice game in the Rose Bowl; unquestionably his finest hour with the Scarlet and Grey. But completing 62% of your passes -- and needing 37 attempts to gain 266 yards -- is cause for optimism, not promotional campaigns)

Pryor is getting better, and he's clearly the best quarterback on the team, but to think he's presently one of the top 50 players in the nation at this point -- or a genuine Heisman contender -- is patently ridiculous. The guy is so inconsistent, has no accuracy or timing on those all-important 20-yard passes over the middle and -- as I've stated before -- he's not the most instinctive guy on the block (especially as a runner).

Look, I find him to be a likable guy, and he's a good leader and the quarterback of a team I believe will be undefeated heading into 2011. But he's not there yet. Most importantly, he hasn't shown anywhere near the promise to be the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman (which somehow he is).

Ohio State has a great chance to win the national championship, and Terrelle Pryor might be the team's MVP, but he's not carrying this team on his back. And if he does, I'll be the first to tell you: I knew it all along (insert laughter from live studio audience).

2. I hate the backfield situation. Brandon Saine has lousy feet and Dan Herron is average at everything except being tripped up as he appears to be entering daylight (he's great at that). The diehards love to make excuses for these guys (especially Saine). I spend most of my days reminding the diehards that Saine and Herron are seniors, and with runningbacks you generally know from the beginning. Herron and Saine aren't terrible, but they're not ideal options on a championship-caliber sqaud.

3. Losing academic casualty WR Duron Carter was a direct punch to the face. For one, the guy was the most talented wideout on the team (remember, he was targeted on the most critical pass of the USC game). For deux, this receiving corps is painfully thin. Junior Devier Posey is a stud who might bolt after the year, and Dane Sanzenbacher is more than just the steady, reliable white kid he's been branded. After that............Jesus. Who knows. I'm sure most other coaches would chop off their pinkies to have OSU's stable of wide receivers, but again, this team is loaded, and good enough to cut down the nets (or whatever)...and having the forgotten (and never highly regarded) Taurian Washington as the No. 3 WR -- the same position Santonio Holmes and Anthony Gonzalez once held -- doesn't make me do cartwheels when I wake up. Which leads us to...

4. The obligatory mention of tight end Jake Stoneburner's increased role in the offense. It's unlikely to happen, but it should. Stoneburner is a super-athletic giant who thinks of himself as a tight end. I'll never forget watching his high school highlight tape, thinking, "Damn, Tressel's been searching for his Kellen Winslow ever since January 2003 and he finally found one."

Stoneburner's now a third-year sophomore with two career catches. I'm positive that Jim Tressel is qualified to head a college football program, but I'd like to see him step out of the 1930's and let Jake Stoneburner spread his wings (or whatever).

Blocking is important, no question. But Jake Stoneburner isn't a glorified offensive tackle, like so many tight ends before him under Tressel. Stoneburner's true value is up the seem, wreaking havoc on overmatched LBs and safeties. Protecting Pryor's blindside is endlessly important, but it should be done by players who are, you know, good blockers. Let the NFL teach him a three-point stance.

4. The offensive line. Blah. They will be fairly steady and occasionally frustrating. In other words: They'll be the best O-Line OSU's had in years. Let's move on before I say hurtful things about O-Line coach Jim Bollman.

5. Assuming Nathan Williams is healthy, this has a chance to be the best defensive line in the country. I honestly feel -- and I know this is the kind of comment that can and will be thrown in my face in three months -- that between established star Cameron Heyward, fast-rising meathead John Simon and on-the-verge-of-a-holy-shit-where-did-that-come-from-12-sack-season Nathan Williams, my Buckeyes possess three guys on their defensive line who could be All-Americans this year.

I love watching Williams come off the edge so much that, when Thaddeus Gibson decided to forgo his senior season, I was genuinely happy about it. Gibson was good coming off the edge, but Williams is better. He's meaner too, and maybe a better athlete. I've been a sucker for that guy since he unexpectedly became a valuable pass rusher as a true frosh. The opportunity is there, and I'm 100 percent convinced he'll seize it.

The stories about John Simon are hilarious. Apparently all this dude loves to do are lift and play football. Generally speaking, cat-quick 270-lb. defensive tackles end up at smaller schools -- maybe even Wisconsin or Iowa -- but never Ohio State. Ever. Same thing with do-it-all 5'10 quarterbacks, but that's a story for a different day. Anyway, players with Simon's measurables usually end up causing all sorts of trouble for lumbering offensive lines (like the ones OSU seemingly always have). But now...Ohio state has one of their own, and he's a goddamn beast. When you consider how good he was as an undersized true freshman DT (only three teammates had more tackles-for-loss), and how much he loves what he's doing, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he earned 1st-team All Big Ten.

6. The seniors who play linebacker, Brian Rolle and Ross Homan aren't Hawk and Carpenter, but they're better than Lauranaitis and Freeman. Don't believe me? Well, I have facts to back it up. Actually, I don't have facts to back it up, but I really like Rolle and Homan. And let's say this duo has roughly the same talent as that duo, I'll take Brian Rolle and Ross Homan for no other reason than Rolle plays with a mean streak and pumps up his teammates (which the workmanlike Lauranaitis/Freeman combo never did).

As for the other starter, junior (JUNIOR!) Andrew Sweat is talented enough to win the Butkus Award in 2011. I mean...obviously that's not going to happen. But every garbage-time minute he played last year impressed the hell out of me. Big, fast, instinctive, blah, blah, blah. More importantly, he looks like an elite Ohio State linebacker.

I'm not selling on Etienne Sabino, but I'm pretty sure Tressel made the right choice with Sweat.

7. I should probably write about the Tyler Moeller story, mention Jermale Hines, Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa in some capacity, and reveal my growing concern of defensive backfield depth, but...oh wait, I just did.


I don't know if Ohio State will win the BCS Championship, but I'd be a little surprised if they didn't make it there. Pryor's progression + dominant defense + Jim Tressel knows what the hell he's doing = a team that is markedly better than anyone on the schedule (including Miami, who's in line for an eye-opening beatdown next weekend).

I'm expecting a lot of 38-7 and 24-0 scores this year. The Buckeyes will likely lead the nation in scoring defense, and with Jim Tressel leading the team every week, that's a great recipe for an undefeated regular season, which I fully expect. Give me a month before I decide if Pryor is ready to face Alabama (or whoever) on 4th and 6th with 2:15 remaining, down a point and 60 yards from field goal range. I'm not yet convinced that he won't crumble under pressure. I'm hopeful, but not necessarily optimistic (if that makes any sense).

I like sports!


Around the Nation (or something...

Alabama RB Mark Ingram is the returning Heisman winner, and yet he's not even the best back on his own team. That designation belongs to sophomore Trent Richardson, who reminds me of a faster Emmitt Smith -- and yes, I realize I just compared a backup college RB to the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

All I can tell you is what I see. And what I see is a perfectly built (5'11, 220 lbs.) monster with otherworldly feet and the burst to match.

For the record, Mark Ingram is an absolute animal. He's Rudi Johnson 2.0, and there ain't nothing wrong with that.


And as much as I love Richardson and Ingram, neither are as good as Virginia Tech sophomore Ryan Williams. They're all close, I suppose, but I like Williams the best. I've seen him caught from behind a little too much, but he's close to perfect in every other aspect of running the football.

This is going to be a special year for runningbacks.


While we're on the topic of special runningbacks, Penn State's Evan Royster comes to mind...mostly because he's the most overrated player in college football (and has been for a few years). He runs stiff and possesses lousy feet. I still can't believe he's about to become Penn State's all-time leading rusher.

He's not a crappy college runner, but he's not an elite prospect like most seem to think. His draft stock will fall one day very soon. Consider Royster the Jonathan Dwyer of 2010, and prepare to hear me say I Told You So an awful lot.

(Note: The great Phil Steele lists Evan Royster as a better pro prospect than Ryan Williams. In a few short months -- and especially in a few years -- you will understand how laughable that is.)


Georgia's AJ Green is once again the best WR in the country. I say "once again" because that was the case last year, and may have been the case two years ago (but probably not). Some might not think I'm making a bold statement here, however...when the very respected College Football News continually rank Alabama's Julio Jones as not only a better college player, but a better NFL prospect, I slam my head against the friggin' wall.

Do scouts feel the same way? Is it possible that everyone else isn't seeing one of the rare WR prospects who warrant a top-5 selection? AJ Green is big and smooth with ridiculous hands and, for my money (and I swear to everything holy I believe this)...he's in a class with Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald and nobody else when it comes to playing balls in the air.

If you gave me 6/1 odds on AJ Green making the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I'd jump all over it (assuming he stays healthy).

If you pressed a gun against my temple, I'd tell you pretty quickly that AJ Green is the best player in college football.

If you asked me what's my favorite food, I wouldn't tell you eggs (although I enjoy eggs very much).


Want to have fun this year? Pay attention to what's going on in College Station. Texas A & M is about to do some Loyala Marymount silliness. Aside from maybe Cincinnati, no team will play in more games totaling 75 points or higher.


Speaking of UC, I don't have a whole lot for you here, other than this: If you traded Ohio State's skill positions for Cincinnati's, I would bet 10 billion dollars on an OSU national title.

The receivers are deep and talented, Isaiah Pead is better than any Buckeye runner and Zach Collaros...Good God Man! At the end of the year I'm pretty confident that Collaros will be considered one of the top 5 QBs in the nation. Other than his height, please -- I beg you -- find a flaw in this man's game. You can't.

The Bearcats might not be able to stop anyone this year, but they have a legitimate superstar at QB...and nothing is more important than that.


I have to leave for work, boys and girls, so I'm cutting this piece short. I intended to play some good ol' fashioned College Football Name Game (there's a guy named De'Joshua this year!), not to mention a breakdown of the $2700 I just wagered on college football futures with my bookie in Cincinnati (and I live in Vegas!), but that will have to wait for another time.

I also don't have an illustration to kick off the post. Deal with it. I'll get around to it soon.


Keep the change, you filthy animals.

-Brad Spieser (

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Slovenian Hoops, Kirk Herbstreit, Gin Blossoms, Etc.

I find it funny that such a big deal was made out of the Sasha Vujacic-Goran Dragic rivalry during the Suns-Lakers series. Yeah, I get it: Both guys are from Slovenia. But does that instantly make them the best man in one another's wedding? Do you like everyone in your country? Your office? Your own goddamn family? Of course not. Jesus. It was a fun rivalry to watch (they clearly hate each other), and I'd like to hear the back story (hopefully a lady is involved), but it's crazy to me that everyone was shocked because two guys from the same country aren't BFFs.


Speaking of feuds, Kirk Herbstreit and Bucknuts recently buried that hatchet. Personally, this is sickening. Explain.

For the better part of the past ten years (and especially the past five), (and especially Bucknuts brainchild Mr. Bucknuts) has taken shot after unfair shot at Herbstreit, simply because the former OSU QB is an objective analyst on ESPN's College Gameday, as opposed to an unapologetic Buckeye homer (which is all those losers expect).

But now that ESPN and Bucknuts have partnered, the two parties have made nice. Whatever.

Between podcasts and columns, I've made the point numerous times that no matter how much you think you care about Ohio State football, it pales in comparison to Herbstreit's feelings toward his alma mater.

He grew up dying to play for OSU. His dad was a captain there. Eventually, Herbstreit did the same, and was named the team's most inspirational player his senior year. He married an Ohio State cheerleader. He has a talk show in Columbus (or used to) that I once listened to religiously online; it was a daily three-hour advertisement for all things Scarlet and Grey. Following a Mike Doss interception in the 2002 national title game, cameras spotted Herbstreit and Eddie George practically having sex with one another. Et cetera. Et cetera.

Kirk Herbstreit cares about Ohio State football more than you've ever cared about anything, and you're a complete fucking idiot if you've ever questioned his loyalties.


I'm hopping on a aeroplane to Cincinnati at 6:00 a.m.; this excites me for a million reasons but depresses me for one: A little band called Gin Blossoms is playing a show Friday night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which just happens to be my place of employment.

Sooner or later, I'll probably get to see these living legends play. How do I know this? Because, the well-rounded journalist in me decided to check out Gin Blossoms' website -- more specifically, the tour schedule -- and goddammit, these bastards are accessible. Four upcoming shows in particular stick out for me:

6/11/2010 -- Fargo, ND -- FargoDome Ribfest

7/10/2010 -- Lake in the Hills, IL -- Rockin' Rotary Ribfest

7/31/2010 -- Toledo, OH -- Smoke On The Water Ribs For The Red Cross

9/4/2010 -- S Parks, NV -- Nugget Rib Cook-Off

I am now certain of two things:

1. Every member of Gin Blossoms is flat broke.

2. Them boys love to eat some ribs

-Brad Spieser (

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Super Bowl + Blizzard = Terrible Idea

Quick: Name all the fullbacks, pulling guards and punters who have been named Super Bowl MVP.

Wait a few years, you might get your answer.


Anyone who thinks it's a good idea to play a Super Bowl in a potential blizzard is a complete idiot.
You're either an old school ex-jock meathead or someone who is only interested in the Super Bowl as an event, not as the most important sporting contest of the year.

Old school ex-jock meatheads think, "Now this is football. Football is supposed to be played in treacherous conditions. Football is for tough guys."

The other group, the people who pay more attention to the commercials than the game, think, "It's kind of charming to play in the snow."

The people who think it's acceptable to play a Super Bowl on a field covered in snow don't care about a Chiefs-Jaguars tilt in mid-October. But I do. So does everyone else I know. Football might be the only sport where the mavens make up the majority.

Find me someone who spends a few hundred bucks on DirecTv's Sunday Ticket, competes in a handful of fantasy leagues and gambles on several games a week. Please, find that person (they're everywhere) and ask them: Do you want to see a frustratingly-sloppy, turnover-filled snoozefest, or would you watch rather watch two teams operate at full speed in the most important game of their lives?


This past Super Bowl -- Saints vs. Colts -- was probably the most entertaining match, start to finish, I've ever seen. But it wouldn't have been that way in a sub-zero windstorm. Both the Saints and Colts were both pass-happy finesse teams in '09...are you telling me the game would have been better had it featured a few dozen fullback traps? Are you going to tell me that it would have been better if the Saints won 6-3 in a game that featured eight fumbles, five interceptions and nineteen punts?


Paul Daugherty wrote a column about a snow-covered Super Bowl in today's Cincinnati Enquirer and, among his many maddening words, dropped this doozy:

"Football is elemental and violent and meant to be played in the mud in
Pittsburgh. There is no debating this."

These are the words of someone who cares about a great storyline, not the quality of the product. Trust me. I know Paul Daugherty. I got to know him pretty well after working with him on a nightly basis for six months. Great guy. But his opinion on this one shouldn't count. Regardless of what he claims in his column, he ain't a football fan.


Keep the change, you filthy animals.

-Brad Spieser (

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jay Bruce Is Awesome; Things That Make Me Feel Old

Trivia question: Of all the National League right fielders named Jay Bruce, how many of them are leading their position in walks?

I'll save you the suspense: The answer, boys and girls, is one. One person. His name is Jay Bruce. He plays baseball for the Reds of Cincinnati, Ohio. I root for him.

Jay Bruce -- who's also the subject of my latest poll question -- leads all National League right fielders with 25 walks.

This means (a.) he's maturing, and (b.) Dusty Baker is a goddamn fool for batting Bruce sixth or seventh in the lineup.

Want more good news? I thought you might, and even though it's quite greedy of you, I'll deliver...

Jay Bruce's Line Drive percentage in 2010 -- 25% -- is higher than the following superstars: Albert Pujols (23%), Chase Utley (21%), Ryan Braun (21%), Justin Morneau (24%), Hanley Ramirez (19%), Jason Heyward (15%), Mark Texeira (18%), Andre Ethier (19%), Miguel Cabrera (22%), Kevin Youkilis (18%), Joey Votto (23%), Ryan Zimmerman (23%), Alex Rodriguez (21%), Evan Longoria (22%), Vladimir Guerrero (18%), Ryan Howard (23%), Joshua Holt Hamilton (19%), Ichiro (22%), Adrian Gonzalez (23%).

I just named nineteen of the top twenty-five hitters currently inhabiting our fine planet, and aside from Mark Texeira, every one of them is enjoying either a really good season (like Howard or Ramirez) or a super-awesome, out-of-this-world season (like Morneau or pre-injury Ethier). The only player I randomly checked with a higher LD% was, not surprisingly, Joe Mauer (27%).

What does all of this mean? How the hell should I know? But I'm not a lunatic for being more than a little encouraged with the results of my fact-finding mission.

(Channeling Rod Roddy...)

But wait, there's more.

If you'd like to focus on the defensive side of things, stick this in your pipe and smoke it: Among National League RF Jay Bruce ranks first in total chances, with 111; Jeff Francoeur comes in a close second (106), and third place (a player nobody cares about) has only 87 chances on the year. This simply means that Jay Bruce is getting to more balls than anybody else...and since he only has one error on the season, this also qualifies as encouraging news.

Warrants mentioning: Jay Bruce is leading the entire goddamn world (not just the NL) in something called range factor, a statistic Bill James believes is far more valuable than fielding percentage.


Jay Bruce's HRs are down thus far, but he hit 43 homers over his first 209 games (all before turning 23-years-old), so I'm not even the slightest bit concerned at his early-season power outage. Plus, as mentioned, he's smacking the shit out of the ball this year. Plus, he's a lefty, playing in a ballpark suited for his abilities. If he can continue his trend of plate discipline and high LD%, and mix in his 2008 and 2009 power, the league will take notice of Jay Bruce faster than you can say Anbesol.

What I'm trying to say about Jay Bruce echoes what I said about the man even during his worst slumps: It is not unrealistic to expect Jay Bruce to become one of the game's very best players. And soon.


Closing thought about unrelated baseball matter: Keith Law's mock draft is projecting Delino DeShields Jr. to be taken in the latter half of round one. Again: The son of Delino DeShields is about a month away from becoming a professional baseball player. It seems like only yesterday when the elder DeShields teamed up with Marquis Grisson to form baseball's most exciting young duo (or whatever). I have more than a few gray hairs and my ankles perpetually ache, but this makes me feel like the oldest 29-year-old in the world. In related news, I'll be shooting myself in the brains later this evening. Please wear black to my funeral.

Carry on.

-Brad Spieser (

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I said I'd post something each of the next twenty days, but what's the punishment if I don't?

Some people need a boss. I am one of those people.

I don't want to be writing these words. I wrote yesterday simply to fulfill an obligation, which is why I submitted that bullshit video. It's not that I don't love Onyx's "Slam," it's just that nobody should ever be that self-important. It's crazy to think that anyone would care about my opinion of 17-year-old pop music. Shit, it wasn't even an opinion; it was merely, "I like this song." Who cares? If you read that post, I apologize. I wasted your goddamn time. I have really high standards for this site, and I lose sleep when I don't meet them.

I started writing tonight with the intention of beating up on Dusty Baker for his lineup decisions. I also wanted to touch on LeBron's future. But I'm struggling to understand why anyone would give a shit.

I have no idea why, but confidence is at an all-time low, and I'm endlessly depressed.


I still want to be on the radio. Maybe that's it.

-Brad Spieser (

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Only One Song Makes Me Happy After Losing Money

I just lost a few American dollars on the NBA playoffs; I should have known better than to support them heartless Orlando Magics. Anyway, after cursing Rashard Lewis and throwing my remote control into the couch cushions a few dozen times (at speeds upwards of 8 billion MPH), I've calmed down a little. A little. But I'm still not happy. This makes me happy:

No jokes...this song is fucking great.

-Brad Spieser (

Monday, May 17, 2010

Horse Trainers, Barry Larkin, Devin Mesoraco

1. I can name four horse trainers: Nick Zito, D. Wayne Lucas, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher.

2. I can name zero NHL head coaches.

3. I have no interest in either.

4. Rangers' shortstop Elvis Andrus has been caught stealing seven times this year. Seven! It's mid May! Of course, Andrus is 3rd in the bigs with 14 stolen bases, so that's all anyone wants to talk about. Which is crap.

I feel like part of what's hurting Barry Larkin's Hall of Fame case is intelligence -- as in, maybe he played with too much intelligence. Take a look at his year-by-year stolen base/caught stealing numbers. Mind blowing. Had Larkin been a more greedy (read: unintelligent and less efficient) baserunner, he easily could have racked up a few hundred more stolen bases, and we all know how much HOF voters love numbers. Larkin retired with 379 SBs...would 600 stolen bases (and top 20 all time) be enough to put my favorite baseball player in the Hall of Fame?

5. It's really really really really really really (I'm going to write this word ten more times, once using the power of italics) really really really really really really really really really really early, and we're only talking about Class A Advanced Carolina League, but Reds' 2007 1st round pick, catcher Devin Mesoraco, is leading the entire farm system (not just his own team) in the following categories: batting average, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Again, it's early. And it's still just High-A ball. BUT...

Mesoraco is only 20-year-years-old, his first-round tag suggests he obviously has plenty of talent and he's not merely playing okay; he's murdering the ball. Plus, he plays a position that is impossibly difficult to develop. I couldn't tell you if he's considered a great prospect, but he's certainly not a bust. And when you consider where he was last year at this time, I think this qualifies as progress.


More on the way tomorrow.

-Brad Spieser (

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Falling Asleep At Wheel, Joe Buck Unfunny, Carlos Boozer, Etc.

I just made up my mind: I'm posting at least one item over the next twenty days. This is now my mission. Note: When I say "twenty days," I'm referring to the days of the week not named Saturday or Sunday (and some Fridays, depending on how busy/tired I am). So the next "twenty days," by my calculation, could take a year-and-a-half, but whatever. At least I'm writing. Which seems to be all you peoples's want out of me.


1. Some things will never stop blowing my mind. Topping that list will always be falling asleep at the wheel. There isn't a soul on Earth immune to this phenomenon and really, I have no idea how it's ever happened once. Think about all the times you've been in the most comfortable environment imaginable (your bed, lights out, 64 degrees), wearing an endlessly comfortable article of clothing ($65 basketball shorts), desperately trying to fall asleep...and yet, despite the fact that you've been awake all day -- and need to be up in five hours -- you can't get to sleep.

By comparison...

You're driving an 80,000-lb. (or whatever cars weigh) piece of steel (or whatever cars are made of)'re sitting no way is your underwear making you more might be tired, but staying awake has never been more important...and then you start drifting off...which of course leads to your brilliant decision to roll the windows down (unless you're a snob with automatic windows, in which case you push a button until the window is down) and crank the music to deafening levels.

None of it works.

You start pinching yourself and calling friends (they of course never answer) and that doesn't work, either. After narrowly avoiding a few dozen wrecks, you make it home alive. But it was the struggle of a lifetime. Your head was bobbing up and down the entire time and you can't recall details from the last half hour.

How in the hell does that happen? I'm positive that question has been asked and answered roughly 40 billion times since the advent of the Internet, but I've never heard one. Please help.

2. While am at it, can someone tell me why the inside of my left ear itches when I gently massage the area to the immediate left of my lips? Or, perhaps even more bizarre...why doesn't the same phenomenon take place when I do the exact same thing on the right side of my face?

Yes, this is a sports website.


3. Okay, while I'm still asking gay questions that are always on my mind: Why is it considered an airball if your shot misses the rim but still hits the net? This isn't just coming from fans in basketball arenas, either. When I played HORSE as a little kid, you'd always pick up a letter for airballs, and a shot that hits just net was considered an airball. What genius came up with that rule, and how in God's name did it stick?

4. Taylor Mays, according to Craig, is the biggest, blackest human around (which, if you frequent this site, is the highest compliment he is capable of giving). He's also Jewish. For some reason I find this interesting. I stumbled across this nugget recently while on one of my random Wikipedia journeys. Here's a complete list of Jews in sports.

5. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Pawn Stars and everything, but the main guy, Rick, laughs at his own jokes far too often. This means he's not funny (and pretty annoying). Funny people don't laugh at their own jokes.

6. Speaking of not funny, I give you Joe Buck and Jim Nantz. Yes, I know you've always thought they were humorless squares, but their respective efforts in recent commercials confirm your beliefs. First, watch Nantz, then Buck (video not found) and see if your response is anything but creeped out. You're either funny or you're not. Jim Nantz and Joe Buck aren't funny; they're just nerds on a commercial trying waaaaaay too hard to seem likable.

7. Charles Barkley is my favorite basketball analyst of all time, and yet I haven't learned much from him over the years -- I'm not so sure he watches much basketball during the regular season. Anyway, he said something Tuesday night on Inside the NBA that is dead wrong: 'The Jazz shouldn't sign Carlos Boozer because they'll be left with the same problem as this year.'

(I paraphrased the last sentence, but I'm accurate with his beliefs.)

Let me run you through what he's saying and why he's wrong...

The Jazz just got swept by the Lakers, mostly because the Jazz are just too short to compete with the massive Lakers. If you sign Carlos Boozer to a long-term contract this offseason, you're basically saying, "Yeah, we'll be good, but we'll never be good enough to beat the Lakers."

Again, that's Charles Barkley's logic. Thing is, I agree with every part of it. But I'd still re-sign Carlos Boozer. In a heartbeat, I would. Because signing Carlos Boozer gives the Jazz the absolute best chance of winning a long as they don't have to play the Lakers of Los Angeles, California.

It's all about matchups. The Saints might not have been good enough to beat the Ravens this past year, but they didn't have to play them in the Super Bowl; they got the Colts, a team they matched up with.

I watched a ton of hoop this year, and I can tell you, undoubtedly, the Jazz were good enough to beat every team in basketball in a seven-game series...except for those behemoths in L.A. Letting Boozer go and signing a few seven-foot stiffs would be a mistake. I say keep Boozer, keep churning out 55-win seasons and hope for the best. Just because the Lakers will never lose to the Jazz doesn't mean they won't lose to another team. and once the Lakers are eliminated, it's on. Trust me, trust me, trust me: Utah has a championship-caliber team on their hands, and their best chance of cutting down the nets (or hoisting the trophy, or whatever) is with Carlos Boozer playing with them, not against them.

It's all about matchups.


End of words. I promise to write more words on Monday.

-Brad Spieser (

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Billiards = Excitement, Desperation Full-Court Heaves, Jay Bruce, Etc.

I've recorded so many sporting events on VHS tape that my collection is fifty years beyond embarrassing. Forget about my understandable 500-1000 hours or so of Nick Van Exel footage and focus on the endless stream of 8-hour Maxell's with labels such as "Brian Reith's 4th Start" and "A-Rod's Texas Rangers Debut." If you were to raid my old bedroom at Mommy and Daddy's, your opinion of me would immediately change. It's that bad. So, as you might assume, I have an opinion or twelve of ESPN Classic.

ESPN Classic was the greatest idea for a television channel in the history of greatest ideas for television channels. And yet, they run Classic Billiards (and often Classic Bowling) nearly every day. If you're a heterosexual male, you probably already knew this. Anyway, let me go ahead and assume that Classic Billiards isn't drawing M*A*S*H-finale ratings. Fine, I get it: ESPN Classic wasn't a ratings smash when ESPN was pumping money into its misguided project, so they can't shell out big cash to run forgotten but outstanding Sweet 16 games and Monday Night Football contests. But if you're just going to waste an hour of programming with programs that originally aired on ESPN and cost (I'm guessing) $0.00, why do it with recycled 9 Ball tournaments?

I have an idea: Why not run Classic SportsCenter?

And no, I don't mean those retrospective shows about the Bay Area earthquake, Magic Johnson's HIV announcement or Michael Jordan's retirement; that stuff has been recycled far too many times. What I'd like to see is a random SportsCenter from October 2, 1994 (or whatever). I want to see how sports were covered back then. I want to see Stuart Scott when he was entertaining and Linda Cohn when she was pretty (wait, bad examples).

Actually, now that I've given this an extra second of thought, I don't care about the evolution of sports coverage. Well, I do, but that's not why I want to watch random, sixteen-year-old SportsCenters. I suppose I just want to be nostalgic. SportsCenter was a really big deal to me when I was a little boy way back in the 1980's and 90's. I feel like watching those suckers would be akin to rifling through my collection of 1987 Topps baseball cards (assuming my mother hadn't thrown them out.)

But anyway, that's a good idea. I have good ideas. I like sports!

2. Scenario time: You play basketball for a the's the playoffs...1.9 seconds remain in 1st quarter...your team is down two (or up twenty, it doesn't really matter) receive an inbound pass a good 85 feet from the hoop...what do you do?

A. Hold the ball until the horn sounds.

B. Dribble the ball twice, take an exaggerated extra step, give the impression that you'd like to help the team win, wait 'til the horn sounds and fire up a 65-footer.

C. Take maybe one dribble toward the hoop and heave a Hail Mary that has maybe a 1 percent chance of going in.

Not to sound like Bob Knight on his worst day, but I absolutely would not tolerate Options A and B if I were coaching a basketball team. Options A and B are so bloody selfish, and yet so common, that I still have trouble believing that this trend is apparently here to stay.

In case you're wondering why players don't attempt these end-of-quarter miracles, it comes down to field goal percentage. Attempt an almost-certain-to-miss shot and your FG% will drop (although these are often the same bozos who carelessly chuck three-pointer after three-pointer despite years of overwhelming evidence stating that they're lousy shooters. Cough, cough, Ron Artest). Plus, would this ever happen in the 4th quarter of a game you trail by two points? Of course not.

(Note: This trend has actually trickled down into rec leagues, where they keep score but not individual statistics. There is nothing funnier than seeing a 27-year-old drug dealer, who is playing in a wife beater, hold onto the ball seventy feet from the basket during the final few seconds of the the half. He doesn't know why he's not trying to score, but the players on TV do it, so it must be the thing to do.)

This isn't really a big problem, and it probably doesn't affect many outcomes (since everybody does it), but it is a problem...or at least one of my ten biggest pet peeves. And an innovative coach should step in and challenge his team to do something about it.

A few years ago Tony LaRussa started batting his pitcher eighth because he believed -- over the course of a 162-game season -- his team would score four or five more runs. Four of five more runs...over the course of an entire season! Yes, you read that correctly. At the time I reacll a lot of people calling the move pointless (and a slap in the face to the usual No. 8 hitter), and a lot of people chalking it up to typical LaRussa arrogance. Regardless, I don't remember anyone claiming LaRussa wasn't doing absolutely everything in his power to win absolutely every game he managed.


That's all for now, boy and girls. I wanted to write about the myriad of articles popping up recently regarding Jay Bruce's perceived struggles, and how bad luck was attributable. I wanted to write that nobody but this guy (me) had the courage to write that article a year ago (last June again and this April), back when the media was killing him...and how everybody seemed to piggy-back me after Bruce's batting average jumped up twenty or thirty points last month. Whatever.

Think I'm overreacting?

Listen, this crappy website barely gets any traffic. Sure, I have my loyal fanbase, but it's a blip on the radar. But go ahead and Google "jay bruce struggling" piece from last June comes up second on the search results page.

I'm not accusing anyone of stealing, but it's good to know I'm planting seeds.

-Brad Spieser (

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Final Thoughts Heading Into 2010 NFL Draft

I have a cable bill, therefore I have cable. Therefore I'm well aware of the fact that the 2010 NFL Draft begins tonight. Therefore I'm about to predict a whole bunch of stuff that you'll forget about (at least until I remind you of my correct predictions). Enjoy...

1. Sam Bradford = Carson Palmer. I mean that as a both a compliment and a criticism. Give either fantastic pass blocking and we're approaching Peyton Manning territory. I truly believe that. Both Bradford and Palmer are fundamentally perfect when delivering balls seven steps deep in the pocket, but when defenders get in their face and it's time to thanks.

If the Rams select Bradford, they should (a.) sit him for a year, no matter what, and (b.) draft offensive linemen in each of the next forty rounds, or until Bradford is properly protected.

2. Ndamukong Suh is the best player in the draft, and really, I'm shocked he isn't going first overall. Bradford is certainly a worthy selection -- especially considering the fact that no position in sports is anywhere near as important as QB -- and if you hit a home run with a QB, it was worth it. Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor could have a super baby and he wouldn't be as valuable as Drew Brees in today's NFL.

But Bradford might not turn out to be Brees or Manning. And Suh might just be Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor's love child. When I'm a billion years old I will still consider him one of the very best players I've ever seen, and it would only be kind of silly for me to predict his eventual enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His performance against Texas was the best in a losing effort since Terrell Owens in the Pats-Eagles Super Bowl, and it was all I could think about as I was trying to sleep. Suh is the type of player I feel lucky to have watched.

Wherever he ends up, and it seems like a slam dunk to be Detroit, they will immediately get better. On top of being blessed with otherworldly quickness and George Foreman-like hands, winning is important to Suh. Football is important to him. You always hear how consistent effort is what separates the average defensive tackles from the great ones, well, nobody has to worry about that with Ndamukong Suh. The man dominated the Big 12 despite beating double and triple teams on the reg. A once in a generation player.

And since I'll probably never have kids, I'll be sure to tell my neighbor's kids all about him.

3. Whoever drafts Eric Berry is getting themselves a ball-hawking Pro Bowler. The NFL is a pass-heavy league, and in the past six seasons Bob Sanders and Ed Reed, both safeties, have taken home the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, while Troy Polamalu has been undoubtedly one of the game's five best defenders over that stretch. And while he's probably a little overrated, does anyone want to look up Darren Sharper's winning percentage for me?

Pass on Eric Berry because he's "just a safety," or get yourself a guy who will lead the league in interceptions a few times...your choice.

4. In one of my last columns for, way back in January 2007, I complained loudly about Jim Tressel's closing ability with recruits; this was a week or so before the BCS championship abortion against Florida. I gave Tressel a free pass for missing on several recruits because I was convinced he was spending every free second game-planning for the Gators, as opposed to wooing 17-year-olds.

Anyway, the focus of my complaint was Tressel missing out on heralded recruits to the football wastelands of Rutgers and Arizona. Why do I bring this up on the day of the draft? Because the recruits in question turned out to be awesome'r than heck. Rutgers OT Anthony Davis (top ten projected) and Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski (late first to early second) are expected to hear their name called within the first fifty picks or so.

A few things. First, do you think Davis and Gronkowski regret not competing for national championships at Ohio State? Second, why do I do this to myself?

5. Speaking of Gronkowski, I like him better than Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham, a guy the Bengals just might scoop up in round one. Regardless, I'd prefer the Bengals pass on both at No. 21 overall. For starters, Gronkowski might be available in the second. Mostly, though, I think you pass on a tight end in the first round unless you're convinced you're getting a stud. By the way, a steady-blocking tight end who simply moves the chains is not a stud.

I won't bash the Bengals for taking Gresham or Gronkowski tonight (although maybe I should considering their injury history), but they'd better turn out to be a lot better than steady.

6. Now, if you're asking who I want the Bengals to select at No. 21, based on who might be available, I'll throw out the names Brandon Graham, Dez Bryant and Jerry Hughes. Unfortunately, Bryant won't be there (regardless of Todd McShay's mock), while Graham and Hughes project to OLB in a 3-4 (and the Bengals play a 4-3)'s anyone's guess.

***Graham's performance against Ohio State this past season (please watch the last two minutes of this video) was the best I've ever seen from a Michigan defender in the rivalry (yes, that includes Heisman winner Charles Woodson). He terrorized OSU's offensive line and owned the Buckeye backfield. Graham was stuck with lousy teammates and faced constant double teams and it never effected his motor. Winning is important to Graham, and I'd kill to have him in Cincinnati.

***I've written about this at least once before, but I'll say it again: Dez Bryant = Anquan Boldin. As long as he can avoid Boldin's well-deserved "injury prone" tag, Bryant will be a beast at the next level.

***Hughes is similar to Graham in that he's considered short (6'1), but has the natural ability to get after the quarterback. Neither are a perfect fit for the 4-3, but you can never have too many pass rushers. (see 2007 New York Giants).

(I only have a few more thoughts regarding tonight's first round...)

7. The draft hasn't even started, and I'm already annoyed by how many times Rolando McClain's "instincts" have been mentioned. Give it a rest already, boys.

8. Tell me all you want about Joe Haden's stiff hips and pedestrian forty time, and I'll tell you he was better than every other college defender not named Ndamukong Suh last year (ahead of Eric Berry). He is a super-smooth cover corner who warrants a top ten selection. Perfect amount of swagger, too. The Bengals certainly don't need corners, but if Haden somehow falls to them they should send Roger Goodell sprinting to the podium.

9. What really pisses me off is that it took the combine for scouts to tell the world that Ryan Matthews is a better player than Jonathon Dwyer.

It's hard for me to recall another player's stock confusing me more than Dwyer's. He's a big guy with lousy feet -- I've never seen him make anyone miss -- and he doesn't possess breakaway speed. Best-case scenario: 1,050 yards, 3.8 YPC. More likely scenario: Adequate goal line option.

Analyze this video and tell me why Dwyer, as recently as two months ago, was considered a first-round lock and better prospect than CJ Spiller. This is maddening

I don't have much to say regarding Matthews, other than he's markedly better than Dwyer, which should have been painfully obvious to talent evaluators well before Dwyer's unimpressive broad jump at the freaking combine. Whatever.

Speaking of (expected) non-first rounders...

10. If Tim Tebow goes ahead of Colt McCoy, I'm punching things. Lock it: Colt McCoy will win several playoff games in his career. And for what it's worth, his arm strength is better than you think, and many starting NFL QBs would kill for his feet and accuracy. Call me a homo for saying this, but Colt McCoy's a winner.

11. I spent much of 2008 and 2009 bad-mouthing Golden Tate. I wasn't really trying to put the guy down; I was merely trying to compliment the other WR at Notre Dame, Michael Floyd, a mammal I see as Plaxico Burress 2.0. But that doesn't mean Golden Tate isn't a player, because he is. He absolutely is. The more I think about it, I love Golden Tate. Similar to Rudy Ruettiger, he's not the biggest or the fastest. But he doesn't drop anything, and he made dozens of big catches in the closing minutes of countless Irish games. And his facial expression and body language always suggested that he hated losing a little more than most competitors.

12. Taylor Mays is the type of prospect you hope your team passes on, yet if you draft him you'll forget all the red flags surrounding him. Ten years ago, Mays wouldn't have slipped past pick No. 5. Now? He might go in the middle of the second round. Taylor Mays possesses every skill that Sean Taylor did (size, speed, etc.)...except for ball skills. It is unfathomable to me that a guy that big, playing in the middle of the field on a loaded USC defense could play a full season without snagging a single INT. Buyer beware.

13. Penn State's Sean Lee is a first round player, and should consider it an insult if he goes in the second round. If he's healthy, he's making a Pro Bowls.

14. I wouldn't touch Arrelious Benn with a 39-and-half-foot pole.

15. Todd McShay project's Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy and South Florida's George Selvie in the fourth and seventh rounds respectively. For whatever reason, their stock has slipped. I'm not here to argue on either's behalf, but I can tell you both know how to get after the QB, which is a skill that will always be at a premium.

16. Can I get an Amen for white receivers! Minnesota's Eric Decker is projected late second; Texas' Jordan Shipley second-third; Michigan State's Blair White seventh. For Decker and Shipley, they deserve their current ratings. As for White, he's one of the real sleepers of the draft.

17. What's the opposite of smart? Let's go with dumb. Jevan Snead is dumb. It seems unlikely, but there's a chance the former potential No. 1 overall pick might not get drafted. What makes him dumb is the fact that he left Old Mississippi after a dreadful junior season.

18. If the Bengals pass on a TE in round one (and assuming Gronkowski's off the board), I'll do cartwheel's if they grab Florida's Aaron Hernandez. Hernadez is one of those prospects that scouts focus on what he can't do (block) as opposed to what he can (turn a football game into a basketball game). Hernandez is just a great athlete with impeccable ball skills. When the balls in the air, it's his. When he's in the open field, you forget he's a tight end. He's very underrated at this point.

19. I'm a big fan of Tony Pike and even Mardy Gilyard. With Pike, I see a guy who's a better athlete with a much better arm than he showed at the Senior Bowl. He's a project at the moment, but his ceiling is as a starter, not a career backup.

As for Gilyard, I have it on the best authority possible that he's a world-class a-hole. He single-handedly tried to sink the ship in New Orleans as the Bearcats prepared for Florida. That said, he's a baller. He got caught from behind more than you'd like, but if he keeps his head on straight, he could be a devastating slot guy.

20. If you're happy with your draft, and you don't have a ton of needs going into the last few rounds, draft Florida's Brandon James or LSU's Trindon Holiday. Immediately, your kick return needs are solved. I've never understood why so many NFL teams neglect that area of the team, all under the logic of, "We'll just use our No. 4 WR back there, he returned kicks in high school." We're in the greatest era of standout kick returners and yet most teams refuse to acknowledge their importance.

21. Jesus, this thing's getting long. Mid-to-late rounders who will outperform current projections: Centarl Michigan's Dan LeFevour and Antoio Brown, Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield (shockingly, he's black), Oregon's Ed Dickson, Byu's Dennis Pitta, Florda's Major Wright, Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson and Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards (but only as a QB). I also like a few Buffalo products who'll likely go undrafted: RB James Starks and WR Naaman Roosevelt. I told you last year that Buffalo's undrafted QB, Drew Willy, would stick, and he did (with Indianapolis). This year I'm giving Starks and Roosevelt a legitimate chance to hang around for awhile.

Oh, and I love Dexter McCluster. Take his 4.6 forty and shove it up your behind.

22. As for a player I hate, I give you the infamous LeGarrette Blount. I don't care about punching opponents, I care about ability. Blount's always been overrated. I don't like big backs that take a step or two to get going, and Blount has a slow first step (among big backs, he's the anti-Chris Wells). So, when your team drafts Blount in round five, don't fall for it when the GM tells you what a steal you got in Blount. Jerk or not, he's simply not good enough.

That's all for now, boys and girls. Forgive me for typographical errors and whatnot.


-Brad Spieser (

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jay Bruce, Mike Leake, Women's Hoops, Etc.

1. Closing thought about the fraud that is women's basketball: In 2010 UConn led the nation in field goal percentage defense as well as allowing the fewest points per game, so...clearly, the Lady Huskies (or whatever they're called) were the best defensive team in the country. That doesn't make women's basketball a fraud; it simply means UConn played better-than-average defense. What makes women's hoops so dang fraudulent is the fact that UConn also committed fewer fouls than any other team in the "sport." Can you think about that for a moment? Can you imagine a team comprised of Bruce Bowens and Dwight Howards and Lindsey Hunters committing fewer fouls than any team in the NBA? You can't, right? That's because it's fifty miles beyond impossible. Being a great defender means you're physical, and often times too physical. You cannot be a great defender without committing a fair share of fouls. Fact.

When West Virginia's men's team came within a hair of a Final Four Spot a few years back (the Pittsnogle/Gansey squad) I seem to recall a statistic about the 'Neers committing the fewest amount of fouls in the nation. But that made sense! They were atrocious defensively, and generally just tried to outscore their opponent in high-scoring affairs.

But UConn is great defensively while avoiding fouls. Which tells me (a.) they're obviously really good (relatively speaking) but also (b.) evolution is crap.

I've been hearing about the improvement of the women's game since I was in kindergarten, but it's just a joke...always has been. There will always be a few players who are much better than everyone else, and those players will play for UConn or Tennessee. And every time I'm subjected to a game I'll be forced to watch flat-footed blocked shots and shooters treating the ball like an 80-lb. boulder as they attempt a shot from the great distance of twenty feet.

2. Ok, let me make fun of women's hoops a little more. As you know I watched every move Brittney Griner made this March, and it was undoubtedly the best decision I've made in years. Highest of high comedy. It also sent me on a YouTube journey where I quickly discovered that Griner pucnhed some chick in a game this year. The following video is great for two reasons: (1.) Griner pucnhes like a girl, and (2.) the coach of the chick who got "punched" feared that her player might be out for the season. Watch the video and you'll understand why that's laughable.

3. Every time I see a graphic about the absurd cost of attending a professional sporting event, it always references a family of four, and that family is always buying bobble heads and caps and pennants and programs and small Mountain Dews and footlong weiners, and I always pull my goddamn hair out. Can't you just go to a game for three hours without purchasing an endless supply of cheaply-made souvenirs? It's three friggin' hours! Anyway, Rob Neyer recently made fun of the exact same thing, and since I agree with every word of it, I'm providing the bloody link.

4. Last year I suggested that Reds fans were overreacting to Jay Bruce's perceived struggles. It caused quite a stir on Cincinnati sports talk radio and in my inbox. Most people scoffed at the statistic of Batting Average on Balls in Play (or BAbip), and I'm pretty sure it was because it's not as simple as batting average. But some stat freaks, and I think some chaps over at Red Reporter, pointed out Bruce's low line drive percentage as a reason for his low BAbip. The argument made a bit of sense, and I conceded, privately, that my Bruce column was somewhat misguided.

But this year, I'm once again hearing that he'll never live up to the hype, and that his confidence is shot, which makes me want to punch babies. When Dusty Baker sat Bruce on the fifth day of the season to "clear his head," I couldn't take it anymore. I knew -- because I'd watched every one of his ABs -- that Bruce was beating the snot out of the ball, and his line drives were finding gloves on seemingly every occasion.

I did some quick digging, and not surprisingly Bruce's line drive percentage is 32%, best on the team. His batting average on balls in play is an unfathomable .182, second worse to only Orlando Cabrera (whose line drive percentage is understandably 21 points lower)

For the record, Bruce's 2010 line drive percentage is higher than either Albert Pujols or Hanley Ramirez, the National League's two best hitters.

Here's a quick breakdown of Bruce's LD% and BAbip compared to the 2-3-4-5 hitters in the Reds' lineup:

Bruce - 32%, .182

Cabrera - 9%, .167

Votto - 26%, .409

Phillips - 14%, .286

Rolen - 17%, .190

It's true that I'm not completely rational when discussing Jay Bruce, and maybe I want him to succeed a little too much, but that doesn't change the fact that -- no matter how you look at the stats -- Bruce has been remarkably unlucky since the start of the 2009 season.

If you're reading this, Dusty Baker, what that means is that you shouldn't sit Jay Bruce just because Tom Gorzelanny is the opposing starter. Jay Bruce won't improve against lefties unless he faces them! Hello?

5. Finally, am I allowed to strangle the next idiot who compares Mike Leake to Greg Maddux? Because I hear it a lot. I understand that both right-handers are built averagely and share similar fastballs, and I know Maddux at times seemed boring or even unimpressive, but the guy won 355 games. Three Hundred and Fifty Five! I'm a fan of Leake's and everything, but the fact remains: The odds are stacked against him ever recording 100 wins at the Major League level. Settle down, everyone.

-Brad Spieser (

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reds Do Good Pitch Baseball In USA!

Although I've only watched one Reds game as a Vegas resident, I'm less than enthused about the idea of spending the season without Franchester Martin Brennaman. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those multitaskers who listens to Marty while watching the game -- my ADD simply won't allow it -- but I do need Marty in my life. For the past twenty-plus years I've run to the radio any time I suspected Marty would be bitching about the Reds (September is an underrated month for Reds fans). And if I'm the car when Marty starts ranting, you can bet your sweet ass I'm not getting out of the car under any circumstances. I've lived in Vegas for ten weeks, and I'm shocked at how little I've missed Skyline Chili. The Reds' season, by comparison, is one game deep and the lack of Marty Brennaman in my life is wrecking my insides.


Two quick thoughts from Opening Day before addressing the remaining 161 contests:

1. I watched Opening Day on ESPN, and witnessed Brent Musberger refer to Cards second baseman, Skip Schumaker, as a "pepper pot," whatever the F that means. Actually, I know exactly what it means (although I've never heard that particular expression). It means that Skip Schumaker is the type of annoying little gaywad that tends to find his way into Tony LaRussa's lineup on a yearly basis, but that isn't the point. The point is that George Grande retired last year and I was excited about never again being subjected to such old-time nerdiness emanating from a broadcast booth. Stick to Ohio State-Michigan, Brett. You still do that exceptionally well.

2. Of all the available arms in the Reds' bullpen, why was Mike Lincoln the first mammal to get the call in relief of Aaron Harang? Mike Lincoln. Seriously. Mike Lincoln. It was still a two-run game, and after escaping a base hit and two line-outs in the 6th, Dusty Baker allowed Lincoln to pitch to Albert Pujols in the 7th with a man on base. Ballgame.

How many tape-measure home runs does that idiot have to give up before he's no longer a part of this team? He's allowed 58 earned runs and served up 18 HRs in his 94 innings in Cincinnati. That's not only embarrassing, it's unacceptable (or should be). Making matters worse: Lincoln's only struck out 66 batters over those 94 innings.

Every time I consider Mike Lincoln a useless pitcher, I check out his statistics, which reveal that he's actually worse than I thought. At least he's not making a few million bucks this year (sarcasm). Pass the dynamite, please...


Okay, the 2010 Reds. Sure, I'm a day late, but I'm not a dollar short. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (laughter). But anyway, I'm pumped about this season. Not because I think the Reds are going to shock the world (i.e., winning more than 81 games), but because baseball gives me something to do. Unless you're poolside, summer is a pretty stupid season. But if your baseball team is somewhat competitive through August, things aren't so terrible. This is coming from a guy who hates baseball. I really do. I just like the Reds. I don't watch regular season games (not since Pedro was in Boston), and I haven't seen nine consecutive innings of a World Series game in probably five years. The sport bores me to death.

That said, I was a remote-throwing lunatic all day on Monday and I've read 100 percent of Rob Neyer's last 50,000 words, so, despite hating baseball (and that's not an exaggeration), I still know a thing or two about it. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further...

While I'm not guaranteeing the Reds' 2010 pitching staff to drop a Palmer-Cuellar-Dobson-McNally on your face, I'm certainly pleased with not only the present-day starters, but also the organizational depth. In years past, Travis Wood would have been pencilled in as a No. 3 or 4 starter before March. Now? He's in the minors, where he should be. But forget about Travis Wood, whose future has me encouraged, and focus on the following gentlemen.

Mike Leake: First round pick, outstanding spring training, opening the season as the No. 5 starter despite spending a total of ZERO days in the minor leagues...and yet the city isn't eagerly awaiting his major league debut. I'd be shocked if local TV ratings that night are any different than the days before and after. Trust me, in the days of "9 Million Dollar Man" Eric Milton, a fresh-faced rook like Leake would probably put asses in the seats (if only for one start). Now? He's just another in a long line of promising young pitchers.

Edinson Volquez: Whether he returns to his brilliant from of '08 or not, Volquez will go down as one of my five favorite Reds (but behind No. 11, obviously). I loved watching him work. I loved how his changeup puzzled opposing hitters. I loved watching him dig down after he mindlessly walked a couple of nobodies on four pitches. In short, I thought he was capable of just about anything. Anyway, he's out 'til August, which should have me counting the seconds until his return. But I'm not. And if I can be honest here on my American website, I'll tell you that I don't spend every second waiting until he's back on the hill. And if and when he returns, it's very possible that he won't be needed down the stretch (assuming the Reds are a little better than .500). Here again I would explain my occasional misremembrences (not even Roger Clemens would attempt that word) by pointing to Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, etc. Edinson Volquez is gone...and he's kind of forgotten. Can you imagine reading those words twenty months ago without diving off the nearest cliff?

Daryl Thompson: In case you've forgotten, Daryl Thompson is the once-promising 24-year-old righty who's still in the organization. Thompson might never pitch another day in the bigs, but that isn't really the point. I didn't hear his name mentioned all spring -- not even in a "what ever happened to Daryl Thompson" way -- which never would have been the case six or eight years ago, when vagabonds like Osvaldo Fernandez were counted on to contribute.


Since my junior year of high school I've attended Opening Days where Mike Remlinger, Joey Hamilton and Paul Wilson started for my Redlegs. I'm 29 now, so were not talking about "Since the Korean War" or anything. But Remlinger, Hamliton and Wilson...that's brutal. It's also typical. For a team with a proud history like the Reds, the chapter on greatest pitchers still includes names like Tom Browning and Danny Graves. Not bums by any stretch, but certainly not guys you'll be telling your grandkiddies about, either.

But history is about to change.

Okay, that's a stretch, because every starting pitcher has a question mark. But there are more reasons to be encouraged about the current staff (and the arms in AAA Louisville) than at any point of my life.

Mike Leake might be a savior, he might not; Edinson Volquez might return to All Star form, he might not; Daryl Thompson might pitch three perfect games for the Reds this year, or maybe he went to jail for robbing a liquor store last night. In all three cases (and in Wood's case), it's not critical to the Reds' success in 2010 that any of them record even one victory. It would certainly help, but it's not critical.

The Reds might not hit enough to break .500 this year, but they have enough pitching that 85 wins or so isn't out of the question. Low-scoring games might not be entertaining, but they prove a team's legitimacy. Jay Bruce might be a year away, and they'll definitely need another stick to go with he and Votto, but I can't imagine feeling any better about the future of the organization than I do right now. And for once, it's because of pitching.

Aroldis Chapman, John Cueto, David Bailey, Ed Volquez, Aaron Harang, Bronny Arroyo, Travis Wood. That's not a misprint.

Gimme a little luck in regards to health, mix in a smart trade, and my Cincinnati Reds might be a legitimate contender sooner than we ever imagined. In related news, Joey Hamilton was a stupid idiot.

-Brad Spieser (

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jason Heyward Helps Me Forget About Gordon Hayward

I can't stop thinking about how the lives of everyone associated with the Butler basketball program would be forever changed had Gordon Hayward's desperation toss (Hoosiers reference) been maybe three inches to the left. Three inches and Gordon Hayward would have been responsible for the greatest ending in the history of organized sports. Can you please give that last sentence an extra second of thought. The ensuing riot would have been unlike anything we've ever seen -- Indianapolis...half-courter at the take down college basketball's Super Villain...forget about it. Just once, sometime before my brain quits on me, I want to see a shot like Hayward's half-courter go through the hoop in a championship game with 0:00 on the clock. Not to be sappy or anything, but isn't that why we watch sports?

Speaking of...

Most YouTube videos that have only been viewed 334 times are complete horseshit; it's usually a crappy garage band covering "Even Flow," or whatever. This one -- some amateur job capturing Jason Heyward's first at bat -- is anything but. I could watch this sucker all day. In fact, I just might.

-Brad Spieser (

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Brittney Griner, Dumb Nicknames, Bob Huggins, Etc.

I've been thinking about things lately. Don't believe me? Put this in your pipe and smoke it:

How in God's name did Alabama-Huntsville become a college hockey power? Did you realize they competed in college hockey's Elite Eight over the weekend? Wouldn't this be like New Hampshire A & T becoming a baseball heavyweight?


I have a problem with one of the more memorable scenes from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and I need to bring it to your attention: "Adams, Adamle, Adamowski, Adamson, Adler, Anderson, Bueller, Bueller, Bueller...."

Now, I get going overboard with all the names at the start of the alphabet, but if you're going to include five last names before Anderson, how in the hell can you justify zero names between Anderson and Bueller? It's an impossibility. You mean to tell me that that class shouldn't have included an Atkinson, Baxter, Benson or Bishop before Bueller? Wacky high school comedy or not, this has always driven me crazy.


Been paying attention to that woman giant, Brittney Griner, lately? I sure have. Her games are appointment television. She blocks a bunch of shots without jumping and struts around with an annoying swagger that suggests she's done something impressive. Let me ruin the fun for you: She hasn't. She's just really goddamn tall. Anyway...

Over the weekend she threw up a stat line we may never see again (unless she does it again this tournament): 27 points, 10 blocks...7 rebounds! Does it even seem possible to block that many shots and only come away with 7 rebounds? That particular game featured (an appropriate term for the women's game) 78 missed field goal attempts and 11 free throws. Step it up, Griner!


Speaking of the women's game, Mo Egger echoed everything I wanted to say about Xavier's choke job on Monday, and he wasn't remotely out of line. I wish he would have added this: Women should not be allowed to play basketball. Exhibit A for my argument is Xavier's multiple blown layups at the end of the Stanford game.

Tennis, soccer, volleyball and swimming? Go for it, ladies. I'll even watch on occasion and keep my obnoxious remarks to a relative minimum. But, basketball as a legitimate form of entertainment? Please. I watch women's hoops for the same reason I watch Red Dawn: Both are unintentionally hilarious.


Professional basketball is covered by TNT better than any sport is covered by any other network. Fact. Yet I can't stop shaking my head at TNT's bone-headed decision to put EJ, Kenny and Chuck in the booth for last Thursday's Bulls-Heat game. Aside from opening night, the playoffs and maybe Martin Luther King Day, this was TNT's biggest night of the year, and a golden opportunity to highlight the comedic talents of America's greatest studio show.

And I doubt anyone watched.

There are only two Thursdays every year when even hardcore NBA fans don't care about the NBA: The first day of the NCAA tournament and the Sweet 16. That's it, that's the list. I'm not a clever television critic, but I would give TNT two emphatic thumbs down for this move.


It's probably been seven or eight years since I considered anyone other than Tom Izzo the best college coach alive (really, who else makes it in the discussion?). Anyway, I'm not shattering the Earth with this proclamation (although I think most would find a way to disagree with me), but I find it interesting that Tom Izzo -- undeniable greatness and all -- remains underrated. Even after this past weekend, when the world seems to be lining up to fellate him, Izzo isn't appreciated in the manner he deserves.

Unless Michigan State wins it all, Tom Izzo will once again drift into relative obscurity.

Let's play a game: Quick, name all the outstanding NBA players Tom Izzo's produced...

Still waiting...

Ten more seconds...

Come up with any? If you answered Zach Randolph, you'd receive partial credit (he played one year for Izzo and averaged 10.8 ppg). After that you're looking at two years of Jason Richardson (only one of which where he really made an impact) and a solid four-year career of Morris Peterson.

And after that?

Eh. You're looking at a few Charlie Bells and Shannon Browns and guys who never made an impact at the next level. Since the end of the 90's (when Izzo finally got things rolling at MSU), Michigan State has only put nine players in the NBA and those nine players have combined for one All Star game (Randolph, this year). By contrast, Fresno State's put twelve players in the NBA since the start of the century. Twelve! Fresno State!

Which confirms the following: (1.) Tom Izzo's not the best recruiter on the planet. (2.) Tom Izzo's the best coach on the planet. Undeniably.


Every year at this time I rail against basketball's flopping epidemic and the nature of taking charges. I won't waste your time linking to all of my past columns where I frustratingly wrote (at length) about the absurdity of taking charges. But I will reiterate my main theme: Taking a charge -- which most of the time means standing in place and falling backwards after minimal contact -- is the least natural basketball move a player can make (other than maybe taking a pee while shooting a free throw, or whatever). Trust me, I've been playing ball for 23 years now (often times against current and former college players), and it's never once crossed my mind to stand in front of someone and fall down just to gain a possession. Basketball is all about instincts, and taking a charge is anything but instinctive.

It's also the reason Baylor isn't in the Final Four. For anyone who saw 7'1, 270-lb. Brian Zoubek stand under the rim with his arms straight up as Baylor forward Quincy Acy came storming down the baseline, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Baylor had a two-point lead and a shit ton of momentum before a 7'1 behemoth -- again, standing under the rim -- decided not to challenge a shot, but to fall down because an opponent touched his hip. Zoubek got the call, Baylor relented the lead on the next possession, Duke snatched momentum and won the game.

The charging/flopping epidemic gets worse every year, and it's standing in the way of making basketball the perfect product.


Evan Turner wasn't a unanimous AP first team All American; he missed by one vote. I'd like to deliver a face punch to the jag-off who voted five (or maybe more) players over Turner. Remember, basketball All American teams don't require voters to select a conventional lineup of two guards, two forwards and a center. It's simply a vote for the five best guys in the sport. That means that some asshole out there thought Evan Turner wasn't one of the five best players of the 2009-2010 college basketball season. I'm not making that up. Whoever excluded Evan Turner from his (or her) first-team ballot shouldn't be allowed to cover the sport for a living.


Women's shot clocks are thirty seconds; men's are thirty-five. Can somebody please explain this to me? Aside from the flopping epidemic, college basketball's biggest problem is widespread offensive ineptness. Regardless of how hard-fought some of these tournament games have been, a 55-53 slugfest is still endlessly boring.

The game needs to be sped up, scoring needs to increase and the game's magnificent athletes need to be uncaged. Because there is no reason West Virginia, a team graced with a multitude of thoroughbreds, should struggle so much on the offensive end. Which reminds me...


Three games remaining until a champion is crowned. Three boring games. I'm pulling hard for Huggs and everything, but West Virginia plays an ugly brand of basketball. Duke and Michigan State? Not a single next-level player on the roster. And while Butler's Gordon Hayward has the most potential of any Final Four participant, he doesn't often assert himself, and he's still flanked by typical Butler players. Prepare yourself for the worst Final Four since (at least) 2000.

Don't get me wrong, a Butler-Duke title contest would be positively riveting on the David-Goliath scale (an obscure Biblical reference), but the actual game play might put you to sleep.


It appears Kevin Durant is now being called "Durantula." No, really. I'd love to make fun of this, but I'm afraid I'm in the minority here. I have trouble understanding this, but losers everywhere love making up nicknames for established young stars. I can't imagine another trend being more nerdy. I really really hate it. Don't get me wrong, I love nicknames (and especially nickname origins), but only when they come about in a natural fashion (typically in one's youth); they should never be forced. I feel very strongly about this.

Two quick nickname/new media stories that left me scratching my head and contemplating suicide:

1. During a recent Grizzlies-Wizards game (don't ask), the Grizzlies announcers repeatedly called current Wizards guard (and former Grizzly), Mike Miller, "MM33." That's the dumbest goddamn nickname I've ever heard. MM33! No wait...


Could anything be more ridiculous? It's really hard to say and it was obviously an attempt by a nerdy white announcer to create a cool nickname. Not happening. That will never be cool. Not in my lifetime, holmes.

2. Watched NBA Fastbreak for about ten seconds last week before the studio host (maybe Kevin Connors or Robert Flores, not sure) called a triple double a "trip-dub." Did the studio analyst, Jalen Rose, call him out for this? Of course not; he's not exactly a burgeoning broadcasting talent. Without hesitation I changed the channel and threw my remote control 600 MPH into the couch cushions.

Yes, I desperately wanted to be a credible media member for several years, but I was being blocked by dickheads who thought it was cool (or at least acceptable) to say things like "MM33" and "trip-dub." This is a massive effing problem, and it keeps me up on more nights than I'd like admit.

I blame Stuart Scott and Chris Berman.


Finally, we have Huggs. I won't waste your time explaing my embarrassing affinity for the man, but it goes pretty deep (forgive me, he came to town when I was just 9-years-old). Plus, I've written about him several times and I'm not sure what else I have to add. The list of people I can't discuss rationally is pretty short: Marty Brennaman, Nick Van Exel, Bob Huggins, Howard Stern and that's about it. And Larry David, Tony Kornheiser, David Simon, Barry Larkin, Edinson Volquez, Troy Smith, Antoine Winfield, David Boston and Mike Martz probably make the cut, as well. Okay, maybe my list isn't so short, but Coach Higgs is definitely on top.

Do I consider him a god? Do I make excuses for his past failures? Would I lay down in traffic for the guy? Yep. Yep. Yep. I can't help it, he was responsible for so many great moments in my childhood that I'd root for him if he were fighting my Aunt Bunny in a steel cage death match.

Before I post a few tear-jerking videos, allow me one improbably sentence to illustrate how much of a Huggins fan I was: I used to record his postgame radio shows on a cassette tape.

That's how much I loved Higgy, and I won't apologize for it. As Christopher Moltisanti once spoke of Tony Soprano, "I'd follow that man into hell."


I woke up on Monday in search of...something on YouTube. Can't remember what. Somehow, with fate intervening (or whatever), I quickly stumbled upon two Bearcats season-recap videos from the glorious Final Four season of 1992. Against all odds, I didn't cry. But I was damn close.


(Lengthy Reds preview coming before Monday morning.)

-Brad Spieser (

Basketball Is A Sport (Elite Eight Picks)

Me doesnt's have a ton of time this morning, so I'll get right down to it

Four Elite Eight games on the board and winners are everywhere. Follow me to freedom. Every pick below is being considered a lock.

Coach Cal (-4) vs. Huggs

Words: Calipari has KU committed to playing defense, and since they have better athletes than West Virginia (and much more skilled players offensively), this seems like a pretty easy pick. I'm thinking Kentucky 65, WVU 54. West Virginia just can't score. Which means...

Kentucky-WVU UNDER (133.5)

Sentences: This might be the easiest bet on the board.

Kansas State (-4) vs. Butler

Words: As a rule, Cinderella generally goes no further than the Elite Eight (although George Mason spit in the face of that rule a few years ago), and I'm sticking to that again this year. It's been a cute story this year -- all these upsets -- but the Final Four is about the most talented teams facing off on the biggest stage. If you disagree with me, think about how boring a Northern Iowa-Butler Final Four match would have been.

As for betting against Butler today, two things scare me: One, K-State's fatigue (which might be nonexistent). Two, Butler wasn't hot when they took down Syracuse; they missed a ton of open threes. If the mighty Bulldogs get hot, we could have a ballgame with sixty seconds left on the big black hanging watch that also keeps score.

But I'm not expecting that tonight. Kansas State has been to businesslike all tournament to take Butler lightly.

Baylor (+4.5) vs. Duke

Sentences: It's possible that Duke wins here (although I'm not buying it), but it doesn't change the fact that this line is way off, probably by eight or nine points. Baylor should be favored tomorrow. Better athletes, more NBA players, deeper I need to keep going? Duke plays lock-down defense, but that won't matter if they can't score more than 50. You want to see something funny? Watch Greg Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers (sounds like a garage band) try to keep up with Baylor when they take off the other way. It won't be pretty.

(Note: Despite mentioning in my pre-Sweet 16 column, I forgot to wager on Baylor at 25/1 to win it all. If this happens -- a legitimate possibility -- I'm giving myself the ol' Brooks Hadlin. Sorry, Mom.)

Locks record: 7-5

-Brad Spieser (

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Definitive Sweet 16 Preview (Loving The Dogs? Really?)

(Note: The picture above doesn't necessarily have anything to do with collegiate basketball, although this author can safely assume Oliver Purnell has lost a few thousand Tic-Tac-Toe matches in similar fashion.)

Incomplete paragraphs about sports and whatnot:

While it's blatantly obvious that Kentucky and Syracuse are on a collision course to square off on the first Monday in April, I give both teams a decent chance to go down Thursday -- Kentucky to Cornell; Syracuse to Butler. And listen, I'm not putting these heavyweights on upset alert simply because of this year's unpredictable tournament. Nope, not at all. I could be crazy, but I think Cornell and Butler are just really good. The same goes for Northern Iowa -- taking on Michigan State -- and St. Mary's, who gets the pleasure of dancing with the Baylor Please Stop Asking Us About Patrick Dennehy and Carlton Dotsons (or whatever their nickname is).

Of the four underdogs mentioned, I consider St. Mary's the best overall team. Ironically, I consider them the longest longshot of the four. Baylor, with a multitude of long-armed superfreaks, is one of the few teams that won't have to send a double teams towards Omar Samhan.

As for Butler, Cornell and Northern Iowa, I'm taking the points in each of their games this round, and I'm only a little frightened to do so. I'll probably lose one to a blowout (definitely not Northern Iowa), but I think I have a reasonable shot of nailing two out of three.

I want to make something clear: I am not pulling for underdogs simply because it's fun to pull for an underdog. Aside from the fact that each have a legitimate chance to win, I'm rooting for these underdogs because of their style of play. I'll always pull for teams loaded with shooters, just as I'll always pull for any football team that features a pass-heavy, riverboat-gambler offense (perhaps this means I'm flawed). Take this year's Old Dominion squad, or all of the good Southern Illinois teams of the past decade: Good teams, great defensively, dreadful to watch...and ultimately, they hit their ceiling after a round or two. That style of play doesn't fly when heavyweights bring their A Game.

And while I'm not suggesting Butler, St. Mary's, Cornell or Northern Iowa don't have ceilings (they do, and none of them have a chance to win it all), I am suggesting their style of play gives them more than just a puncher's chance to advance to the Elite Eight.


Here's how screwed up my brain is: I'd love to see Kentucky and Syracuse battle it out in Indianapolis -- I think it could go down as an all-time great -- and yet I want to see both of them fall Thursday night.


One last thought about the dogs of round three: Gritty as they may be, I give Purdue little or no chance of moving past Duke on Friday. They'll struggle to score 60 points and the loathsome Blue Devils will own the glass. In fact, let's just make Duke (-8.5) one of my two locks of the Sweet 16 round. I watched both of Purdue's games and they're running on fumes. They were manhandled by Texas A & M, but somehow managed to steal a victory (just a heartbreaking loss for the Aggies). I just don't see that happening against a Duke team who, silently, is playing better defense than anyone in the tournament (including Syracuse). Purdue is without bangers and shooters, and the hyper-intelligent Chris Kramer/Matt Painter tandem is only worth so much. All the effort in the world won't keep the Boilers within fifteen. Duke wins, 66-49. (I guess that means I love under, too.)

Lock No. 2: Washington-West Virginia UNDER (141)

Words: I'd rather make out with my mother on Easter Sunday before taking the over in another WVU game. Are you kidding me? They don't have a point guard and they can't bury open jumpers. Plus, they never take advantage of their athleticism in transition (thanks, Huggs ). And I don't care how hot Washington's been offensively, they haven't seen anything resembling what the Mountaineers have in store defensively. Just watch: Ten minutes into this game and the Huskies will have something like 11 points.

So, with my locks out of the way, let's move on to the rest of the collegiate basketball contests on the docket...

As mentioned above: Butler (+6) vs. The Cuse; Cornell (+8.5) vs. Kentucky University Wildcats; Northern Iowa White People (+1) vs. Izzo; Baylor (-4.5) vs. St. Mary's.


Kansas State (-4.5)
vs. Xavier

Sentences: I'm pulling for the Muskies, but I just don't see any reason we won't see a repeat of the 71-56 beatdown K-State delivered XU in December. I also have a bad feeling Jordan Crawford will hurt his team by trying to do too much.

Duke-Purdue UNDER (128.5)

Thoughts: It just occurred to me that if any of my ten former bookies were to read this post they might think they're in an alternate universe. I mean, Brad Spieser just doesn't take two unders and three dogs (certainly not when the dogs have names like Butler, Cornell and Northern Iowa).

Ohio State (-4.5)
vs. Volunteers

Words: All year long I've considered Tennessee overrated and I'm not backing off that. The Buckeyes seem beatable, but Evan Turner is a lot better than anyone on Tennessee's roster, and I give a decided coaching edge to Thad Matta over Bruce Pearl. I don't love this bet, but a wager on Rocky Top here would be a foolish one. They're not to be trusted.

Locks record: 5-5 (still shaking my head at Texas A & M)


Once again, I'm prematurely calling this bastard quits. It's almost six in the goddamn morning, the sun is coming up, I'd like to eat a bagel, my feet are freezing and I'd like to close my eyes for the next four hours or so. If you have a problem with that, you can take it up with my boss, Jesus Christ.

In your face, sinners!

-Brad Spieser (