Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NY Knicks drop the proverbial ball

NBA commissioner David Stern has finally gotten around to blasting the New York Knicks for how they handled the Isiah Thomas sexual harassment lawsuit. The Knicks lost the lawsuit in October and were ordered to pay $11.6 million to the plaintiff, Anucha Browne Sanders.

Stern, displeased with the Knicks for not taking other actions, said this to ESPN:

"It demonstrates that they're not a model of intelligent management. There were many checkpoints along the way where more decisive action would have eliminated this issue."

It’s too bad this comes far too late. Had he said this before the trial happened, maybe the Knicks would have agreed to settle out of court.

In my opinion, some of the blame has to fall on Stern himself. Obviously, this kind of press is not good for a league that is trying to clean up its image, regardless if the matter was settled out of court or not. But, Stern could have stepped in and offered advice to the Knicks; advice that may have kept them out of court. A small win in the image department, but a victory nonetheless. I think we can all agree that the last thing the NBA needs is more legal problems than what it already has.

Rise of Russia

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been a shadow of it's former glory. They face a crisis of a rapidly shrinking population. Experts estimate that Russia is losing one million people a year. This problem began in the early 1990s, and Russian officials are frantic to solve it. The fall of the communist government was supposed to bring about democracy and industrial success, however the country has still struggled in the world markets.

Russian politicians long to regain the country's former standing in the international community. They have been envious of America's prestige as the sole world power on the globe. With Russia's greatly decreasing population it seems that the motherland will not regain what she had lost. Nevertheless, Russian activities are more frequently discussed as of late. Russian bomber planes have flown twice near Norway in a parade-like show of force. Admittedly, the planes remained over international waters, the incident caused quite a stir. Russian military recently tested what they claim to be the most powerful non-nuclear bomb.

Russia's increase in military activities has coincided with a rise in oil exportation. The country contains some of the largest oil fields in the world, and has begun to compete against Saudi Arabia as the leading provider of natural gases.President Vladimir Putin desires to head a revived Russia respected world-wide. Russia's weak democracy has become more of a pretense as Putin asserts more executive control over the country's policies. The parliament appears to be a rubber stamp for his wishes. Countries have a right to build up armies as they see fit, however Russia is worth watching in the near future. Russia's history is rich with intrigue, and the Russian machine seems to be building up steam again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A-Rod, Boras, take a hike please

As little as yesterday afternoon I would have happily accepted Alex Rodriguez as a Detroit Tiger. True, it would have been nearly impossible for him to become a Tiger (impossible now that they have traded for Edgar Renteria), but I figured that Rodriguez’s greatness warranted my respect.

And with one announcement he lost said respect.

Rodriguez, and his media-whore agent Scott Boras, decided that the most-opportune time to announce his decision to opt out of his contract with the Yankees would be during game four of the World Series.

Way to go A-Rod. Let’s defile the greatest series in baseball. At least if you were going to do it during the game, couldn’t you have showed up to accept your award before it?

I know it must hurt that you’ve never been to a World Series Alex. But, in all seriousness, how do you expect to get to the Series when you’ve hit an anemic .136 in the postseason since 2004? Put up or shut up.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mark your scorecards, Last Best League is a winner

In today’s high paying, steroid laced baseball atmosphere, it is often hard to imagine a league where players simply played for the love of the game. Players whine about the smallest things, and if they don’t get their way, trouble is sure to follow.

Jim Collins’ book Last Best League explores the ins and outs of the Cape Cod League, a NCAA sanctioned summer league that is filled with the nation’s best college baseball players. Collins covers the 2002 season from an insider’s prospective, offering not only the outcomes of games, but a deeper back story that draws readers in, and keeps them there.

The reader has the opportunity to follow around players as they endure not only a grueling schedule of games, but also as they experience a normal college summer. Partying, girls, and the like are not left out of the book. As they are not paid for their baseball services, many of the players also work summer jobs in addition to their commitment to baseball. And throughout all of this, they are trying to secure their futures in baseball by performing well for the numerous scouts that visit the Cape.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Last Best League. It is very detailed not only from a baseball standpoint, but also from a life standpoint. The back story that Collins includes throughout the book makes it what it is, a great piece of literature.

The book reads very similar to Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball, another one of my favorites. In fact, I believe any baseball fan would get a lot out of reading this book. Last Best League is definitely a must read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My World Series Preview

Being that I really am into the whole sports analysis thing, I could get way too far into detail about how this year’s World Series could play out. However, I think the more appropriate way is to remark just how great baseball is.

Take the Boston Red Sox for example. For years and years (and decades and decades), they simply could not win a World Series. Curse of the Bambino or not, they just did not have much luck. And yet, in the past 5 years they have managed to reverse years of bad fortune and turn themselves into a legit contender. Only in baseball could you reverse years and years of poor play.

The Colorado Rockies are a great example of just how funny of a sport baseball is. The Rockies were a long ways out heading into the last weeks of the season, and yet, here they are in the World Series. Their winning streak was spectacular and the Mets’ collapse was even more so.

I think this year’s series is going to hinge on the unknown. I don’t think it will come down to a David Ortiz or Todd Helton, but rather a Troy Tulowitzki or Jacoby Ellsbury. Baseball has a way of playing out like that.

All things considered, the Red Sox appear to be the stronger team on paper. Despite this, I think the Rockies take the series in 6. Their magical season will not stop without a win.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Steroid (witch?)hunt in baseball

***Edit: Since writing this article in the afternoon, Byrd has admitted to using HGH for a medical condition. His explanation does NOT change my views of the subject.***

Sometimes I wonder how legit steroid allegations are.

In game four of this year’s ALCS, Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd went 5 innings, giving up only 2 runs. His strong performance was key in securing the Cleveland victory.

Less than a week later, Byrd has been accused of buying human growth hormone (HGH).

I do not condone steroid use, period. However, I find all these accusations a little fishy.

Sure, it’s pretty hard to deny that Barry Bonds took steroids. I mean, he even says he never knowingly took steroids, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t take them unknowingly. But what really gets me about the Byrd accusations is that they come only after he has been placed into the spotlight.

Why release such information only now? It’s obvious whoever released it wanted a story. And, of course, all this information comes from an unidentified source. Hmm, even things that have supposed good sources can turn out to be false. Why should we believe this one?

And this isn’t the first time this has happened either. Just over a month ago, Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel was accused of purchasing HGH as well. It just so happens that this occurred less than a week after he homered twice in a game. Why is that a big achievement you ask? Because Ankiel was a pitcher, and this season was his first since coming back up from the minor leagues.

I just think it’s rather ironic that all these steroid allegations come out following the success of a player. It seems like it would be very easy to fake these accusations just for the sake of news. Hopefully, the results of the Mitchell Investigation will sort all of this nonsense out. Until then, I will be taking everything with a grain of salt.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yes, I’m One Too (Please Facebook, Don’t Become the Next MySpace)

The college life, it’s awesome really. Take yesterday for example. I had no classes in the afternoon; hence I should have been doing something constructive. But, what was I really doing?

I was surfing Facebook.

Something about the site is so intriguing to me. Nowhere else can you have so much interaction with others with only a few clicks of your mouse. I love it.

What is beginning to irk me, however, is the amount of freedom Facebook has recently given to its users and developers.

Facebook originated as a college only site. It took awhile before high schools and workplaces were added to the system, and now it’s open to anyone with an email address. In my opinion, Facebook should have remained a closed system; that was part of its original beauty to me. A tight control on admission would have allowed them to stop some problems that other social networking sites (read MySpace) have had.

Perhaps the most annoying thing that Facebook has done is that it has allowed for third party applications to be placed on user’s profiles. Although I don’t find every application to be a nuisance (I personally use the myBlog, Top Friends, and Who’s Your Tiger applications), they start becoming a problem when users feel the need to proliferate their profiles with them. I don’t want to have to sift through a mile long block of applications just to get to somebody’s wall. Nor do I care who drop kicked, hugged, kissed, or bitch slapped someone else.

The last thing Facebook needs is to allow that much freedom to its users. Sure it’s kind of a socialist attitude, but in this case, it’s better for Facebook’s users and for itself. I’ve used other sites in the past where color schemes could be determined by the user, and let me tell you, there were some nasty ones. I don’t want to be distracted by an annoying animation or badly chosen colors each time I try to visit someone’s profile. If Facebook every does allow such leniency, I can tell you I will not frequent it as often as I do now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not the First nor the Last

President Bush has long been criticized for unprecedented abuse of American liberties. A year ago this month, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann accused Bush of killing Habeas Corpus saying, "The President has now succeeded where no one has before." He then continues on to explain how this eliminates all of the Bill of Rights except for the third. The third allows Americans the right not to house soldiers if they choose. It is a blatant and incorrect attack on Bush.

Olbermann gives President Bush undeserved credit, as the suspension of Habeas Corpus can be traced as far back as the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln issued the Proclamation Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Nor is he the first President to imprison people without due process, as FDR issued an executive order imprisoning tens of thousands of Japanese Americans.

The government will continue to take our rights away during times of uncertainty. The American people will make the sacrifice, but for only so long. We will demand that our rights be returned. This is the perpetual give and take between our two values; life and liberty. We expect that the government protects us from dangers to our safety. Those dangers include the government and the threat of losing our freedoms.

Many of President Bush's actions are not original in idea. Lincoln and FDR are but two examples of other presidents trampling on our rights. The insinuations about Bush ending our democracy expected, but incorrect. However, the fact that many people do accuse him, and repeatedly get away with it, shows that their rights are still intact. His actions are similar to many presidents before him and will be repeated by those to come.

What will the ‘next’ thing be?

Gatorade has just announced that golf god Tiger Woods will have his own sports drink by early next year. “Gatorade Tiger”, as it will be called, will come in three different flavors picked by Woods himself.

What other endorsements might we see? I understand that Tiger is a very marketable figure, but naming a drink after him? I think that’s going a little far. What’s stopping companies from coming up with these products:

Michael Vick Dog Treats – Your dog is guaranteed to like them, or else.

Online Poker sponsored by Tim Donaghy – Well at least it’s not an NBA game.

Barry Bonds’ 3-Step Workout for Athletes – Step 1: Cream, Step 2: Clear, Step 3: Repeat

Video Cameras endorsed by Bill Belichick – I can see it now, “This camera is the only one that I’d use to cheat!”

For those of you who haven’t noticed, we now have a new domain name: . Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Microsoft: Please Get a Clue

Very rarely do I condemn the actions of Micro$oft (Yes, I spelled it with an $). After all, I use their operating systems, their software (this is being written in Word 2007), and their video game consoles. However, they really need to reconsider some of boneheaded decisions.

Recently CEO Steve Ballmer has said that Linux violates some of Microsoft’s intellectual property. He statements implied that he would eventually want compensation from the users of the free-operating system.

That’s what really makes me mad. People have their reasons for using Linux, and sadly for Microsoft, a big reason is because they hate the products that they put out. Don’t give them a reason to hate you more.

Honestly, I have even been stretched to the point of switching over to Linux. Currently I have Ubuntu running in Virtual PC on my computer. I love it. It’s fast, it looks good, and most of all, it’s free. Last time I checked, Windows Vista only had one of those three. In fact, Vista is sometimes reduced to crawling speeds even with my 2 gigs of RAM. I could shut off Aero but that completely defeats the purpose of Vista.

My message to Microsoft is this: Keep your mouth shut and fix your own problems. Just because someone else is taking your customers, don’t get mad at them, get mad at yourselves. You’ve managed to create the most bloated software around and expect people to stay happy with you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

GOP good chances in Michigan

Michigan has not gone to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988 when President George H.W. Bush ran for office. This year it might be different, as five Democratic candidates have withdrawn their names from the state's primary. Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd have not removed their names from the ticket, but they have vowed not to campaign in Michigan. The withdrawals come as a result to Michigan Democrats moving the primary up to January 15 in the attempt to gain more attention to the state's issues and influence in the overall nominating process.

Democrats in Michigan might not feel so inclined to come out and vote next fall, as a result to the candidates decisions not to be on the Michigan ticket. They might feel that since the candidates did not feel it was worth coming to Michigan, then it is not worth electing them. This might be a boon to whoever becomes the Republican candidate in 2008, as it could very well be another tight race between the parties. The 17 electoral votes will be essential in deciding who the next president will be, as some are saying Michigan will be a key state in next year's election.

The democratic candidates decision could have little effect on the presidential candidate Michigan goes to. Hillary Clinton will very likely be their candidate with her strong lead above the others. Her decision to remain on the ballot in Michigan will likely earn her favor amongst the people of Michigan. However, as the GOP candidates have come to the Great Lakes State, their candidate could impress upon the fact that she had canceled her campaigning in Michigan during the primaries whereas they came.

With the mid-terms ending we plan to return to our regular posting schedule.

Monday, October 8, 2007

File sharing verdict causes uproar

For those who missed it, last week 30 year old Jammie Thomas lost a court battle against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) concerning her alleged downloading of illegal music. It was ruled that Thomas would have to pay a $220,000 settlement to several big name record labels.

Today Thomas announced that she intends to appeal the court’s ruling.

I couldn’t agree more with her decision to appeal. This case is one of the lamest attempts by the RIAA to curb filing sharing on the internet. No matter what they do, it’s going to happen. An appeal by Thomas will probably only strengthen people’s opposition to the organization. Several comments left on stories about the situation prove my point.

What I find disgusting about the lawsuit is the fact that she is being forced to pay $220,000. The RIAA sued because of 24 illegally downloaded songs found on her computer. That works out to almost a $9,200 fine per song. How the RIAA can demand that much per song is beyond me. There is no way to prove that they lost that much profit just because Thomas downloaded those songs. The RIAA’s own stats (PDF) show that they still brought in over $11 million from music sales in 2006. The law suits sound like a great way for them to get rich quick. Too bad the RIAA has angered enough people to drive them to boycott it. I bet they lose more money from this than the file sharing.

Did I mention Thomas makes $36,000 a year? There’s no way she’ll ever be able to pay that amount back and still be able to live comfortably.

Though my story seems to imply otherwise, I’m actually against file sharing. Thankfully, GVSU uses Ruckus, so I can get music for free, legally. I don’t have a problem with small amounts like what Thomas is convicted of because those amounts do no noticeable damage to the RIAA’s finances. Large file sharers, however, should be stopped, or at least slowed. They could put a dent a into the music industry, and, as a result, the consumers could see higher prices on legit music.

If you interested in reading more about Jammie’s situation, visit her page at

Sorry for the time in between posts. It’s mid-term week at GVSU and both Nick and I are really busy with studying and writing papers. Expect more stuff following this week.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Punter sentenced to seven years for stabbing of rival

Mitch Cozad, former backup punter for the Northern Colorado Bears football team, was sentenced to seven years in jail Tuesday for the stabbing of starting punter Rafael Mendoza in 2006. Cozad was convicted of second-degree assault charges, though he was originally facing attempted first-degree murder.

My question to Mr. Cozad is what he thought he would gain from getting the starting position. Pride? You just stabbed a man to get the starting job, try telling your conscience that you got it fair and square. Monetary gain? There are only 32 punters in the NFL. It takes talent to get there, and if you weren’t good enough to start in college, how do you plan to make it in the pros?

What I really don’t understand is why he was concerned about being the starting punter at a Division I-AA school. Although football is still big in I-AA, it’s not Division I caliber. Michigan did get beat by a I-AA school, but Appalachian State is an established powerhouse. Northern Colorado just completed the switch from Division II less than five years ago. Why risk everything to start on a team that is barely a Division I school?

I guess he’ll have seven years to figure that out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Marriage as a Religious Sacrament

The issue of gay marriage has, for a while now, been politically charged. The religious right has been firmly against it. The progressive left has been okay with it, at least enough to please their far left base, but has not pushed for too much reform as it would distance them from the mainstream of American thought. The democrats were active enough to vote against a bill defining a marriage as strictly between a man and a woman that came though the senate in 2004.

I am a Catholic, and I stand by the beliefs of the Church. I believe homosexuality is a sin, much like a lot of other behaviors, such as theft or murder. However, America is a secular country, which means that it is of this earth and not ruled by the church. We all know the separation of church and state practice of the land; congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (Bill of Rights). This goes both ways, and many people seem to forget that as they cry out that religion is intruding on our public life. This amendment, the first one by the way, was meant to protect churches from the state. In Europe, during the eighteenth century, the state governments were very involved in churches inside the country, and our founders did not want that.

Marriage has been a religious sacrament long before the beginning of this country, which is to say that it belongs on the church side in this debate. In my opinion, this country has no jurisdiction to call a marriage anything, as it is an institution of religions. I am okay with laws being created respecting civil unions, in fact I am in favor of them. While the U.S. has very christian tendencies, it has a very diverse population and as such the government does have the right to make laws in respect to civil unions. If homosexuals would like to be joined in a civil union, while it saddens me as a christian, it is fine by me as an American. However, I am against the federal government doing anything about laws respecting civil unions. The issue concerning homosexual civil unions, like so many others, should be left to the states. The national government involves itself on too many social issues better left to the lower levels, like state and local governments.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Steroids "effect" on home run totals

With Barry Bonds blasting his record setting 756th home run this season (the ball, by the way, is headed to Cooperstown with an asterisk on it), his supposed steroid use has been brought more and more into the public eye. And baseball’s recent foray into investigating the use of performance enhancers throughout the MLB has called into question the achievements of several big name players.

The recent increase in home run production is often attributed to these performance enhancers. But, if you examine statistics from the past 60 or so years, the numbers tell a different story.

If you compare the top home run totals in each league from 1940 to 2007, the numbers seem to prove steroids have had little effect on home run production. In that time span, 5850 home runs were hit by league leaders (multiple league leaders were not included). If you do the math, that works out to an average of 43 home runs a year.

Let’s assume that the steroid era began in 1986 (Jose Canseco’s first full season), so we’ll remove the numbers from ’86 and beyond. Evaluating and comparing these totals against the ones from our first calculations should tell us how much of an impact steroids have had on home runs.

From 1940 to 1985, 3724 home runs were hit by league leaders (again, multiple league leaders were not included), which equates to an average of about 40.5 home runs per season.

In essence, home run production has increased a mere 2.5 home runs on average since 1940. 2.5 home runs do not justify the argument that steroids bloated home run totals. Other factors, however, do account for this small jump.

For one, players are in much better condition today than back in the 40’s and even the 80’s. Though Babe Ruth’s career took place before the 40’s, his lack of conditioning is well known. Who knows how many home runs he could have hit if he was in top shape like today’s athletes. They spend hours conditioning to get stronger and faster. At one point, weightlifting was discouraged among baseball players, and it has now become common practice.

Hitting technique has also evolved since the 40’s. Today, people teach the rotational hitting approach, which basically involves dipping the back shoulder and having a slight upper cut. Barry Bonds, for example, employs this technique. Rotational hitting places an importance on the home run and numbers have risen accordingly. Before the rotational approach, people taught linear hitting, which results in more line drives and ground balls. Had the great hitters of the past used a rotational swing, it’s very likely that more home runs would have been hit.

Though it is often said that home run production has been extremely high in the past two decades, numbers say otherwise. A small increase in production is not the sole result of steroids, but one of better conditioning, technique, and other factors.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Democrats tax the poor

When the bill for increased coverage for children's health care passed, to the tune of 35 billion dollars, the Democrats realized they needed to add taxes somewhere. Heaven forbid they act within their budget. They decided that a 156 percent increase to the cigarette tax would be the appropriate decision. This would raise the federal tax from 39 cents to a dollar per pack. Even with the tax being raised significantly it is not enough to cover the new spending, but it does discourage smoking.

Cigarettes are used at a much higher rate among poorer citizens, then among the wealthy. This seems out of place for the great defenders of the poor. It is hard to believe the Democrats would even consider taxing them. I doubt very much that many people will cry out that the Dems are taxing the poor unfairly. After all, it is only the smoking poor that they are raising taxes on. As they already admit, their tax increase to cigarettes will not be enough to cover their plan, so where will the next tax be on?

People need to realize that cigarette tax revenue will continue to spiral and, as more people quit smoking, the social programs that it pays for will be further in the red. Now, instead of budgeting and working within their means, politicians on the Hill will put new taxes up. Taxes that affect more people so that they can have a larger revenue base, such as a tax on pop or bottled water. Before I am willing to give more money to the government, who takes enough of my pay check already, they need to show that they can manage what the already have.