Recent Comments by Howard_T

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

The "Mouse that Roared" did a bit more than that. Mouse Iceland has just taken a major bite out of the English Lion 2-1 in the Euros. I saw only the last 15 minutes or so, and the commentators were all over the English side for the ineptitude they were demonstrating. One comment was made during the tennis from Wimbledon that should England lose, they should not even bother to come home. For the "little guy" to knock off one of the giants is significant. Now if they can do the same to France, it will probably cause the earth to tilt on its axis.

posted by Howard_T at 05:00 PM on June 27

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

I was at TD Garden last night for the Celtics' Draft Party. Fan reaction to the picks was anything but pleasant. One of the high-paid keyboard operators who pass themselves off as reporters opined this morning that the reason for preferring someone other than Jaylen Brown with pick #3 was familiarity rather than likelihood of NBA success. Actually, not a bad analysis. After the selections of Yabusele from France and Zizic from Croatia, I heard one unhappy soul remark that at least they could have tried to draft someone whose name he could pronounce. After the 3rd Celtics' selection of the first round, the place emptied faster than the free beer cooler at the office picnic. Celtics' owner Wyk Grousbeck said that the fans' negative reaction showed that they cared. Well, we do, and I think those fans who understand the game and reject the hype from the talking heads are willing to wait the year or 2 or 3 that it will take to see the results.

The party itself wasn't bad, but there weren't enough concession stands open, and the only beer available was Coors Light, Miller Light or Bud Light. Almost enough to gag a maggot. Still, it was nice to see some of the people who have seats near your own and to chat with those to whom the Celtics mean a lot.

posted by Howard_T at 06:03 PM on June 24

The 12th Annual chicobangs Memorial SpoFi CFL Pick 'Em

With all of the things going on in sports - Copa America, the Euros, NBA, NHL, MLS, and MLB - the CFL season sort of snuck up on all of us on the south side of the border. I am really happy that the Chico Bangs has served to remind me that it is time once again to test my profound lack of knowledge about all things football - Canadian style that is. I will spend the tail end of July and most of August touring Nova Scotia with my wife, learning about my dad's birthplace of Westport, meeting some cousins that might still be around the area, and making sure there were no ancestors that were hanged as horse thieves. Added benefit will be the ability to watch a few of the games on TSN whenever we are not sampling the wines of the Annapolis Valley or some of the microbrews that are available. Bring it on, guys, game on!

Hamilton at Toronto: Tiger Cats' secondary is dealing with some injuries, but Ricky Ray might still be chipping off some rust after his injury last year. Rust will not be an issue. Toronto by 10.

Montreal at Winnipeg: Alouettes bring what they believe to be a stout defense to oppose the Blue Bombers. The Bombers' Andrew Harris might not play due to injury. This brings to mind the RAF's WW2 leader Bomber Harris who believed that Germany cold be bombed into submission. It still took a lot of infantry, armor, and artillery to do the job. Bombers won't fly. Montreal by 16.

Ottawa at Edmonton: I spent most of last season underrating Ottawa, and it cost me in the standings. Now they travel to the Grey Cup winners who have had to replace their coaching staff. Last I looked, a coach has yet to take a snap during a game. It's all up to the players. Edmonton by 17.

Calgary at BC: Stampeders had a fine season last year, while BC sort of "got along". Stampeders might have lost some of their offensive prowess while BC has tried to make improvements. Both of these teams could challenge for the top. This one is an early season coin flip. BC by 5.

posted by Howard_T at 12:44 AM on June 23

SpoFi NBA Playoff Pick 'Em Results

I'm rather surprised that I finished as well as I did. Before the finals I fully expected to have an outside shot at the Costanza. Thanks for running this, Ufez, these things are always fun. I guess I have a little of the Warriors in me, having torn up the regular season pick 'em and then doing poorly in the playoffs. I blame too much time on the baseball field, but it was more like too little time doing my homework.

posted by Howard_T at 11:51 PM on June 22

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

If this is a harbinger of things to come, Carson Wentz is in for a strange career.

posted by Howard_T at 03:54 PM on June 16

"Mr. Hockey", Gordie Howe, has passed away at age 88.

I saw him play in person just once at a game vs Rangers in Madison Square Garden. It was sometime in 1967, probably late in the season. I don't remember a thing about the game, but I certainly remember marveling at his many accomplishments. My brother-in-law, Bob, was once at some sort of business gathering where Howe was the guest speaker. Bob told of how he rose from his seat to do one thing or another and bumped into Howe as he was walking past. Bob said he thought he had collided with a concrete wall. There was nothing soft about Gordie Howe.

RIP Number 9.

posted by Howard_T at 06:08 PM on June 10

SpoFi NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: Finals Edition

Cleveland in 7

LeBron James is the MVP

Largest margin of victory 18 points

Highest combined score (single game) 217 points

Total 3-point goals 86

My ever unreliable gut instincts tell me that a healthy Cleveland team will have enough to win this series. The most interesting statistic I have heard is that Cleveland has made more 3-pointers than Golden State in the playoffs this year. It promises to be a fun series.

posted by Howard_T at 10:54 PM on June 01

NHL Playoff Pick 'Em: Stanley Cup Round

...and as Howard sinks slowly in the standings...

San Jose in 7 (thus saving at least one line feed)

Longest game will require 1 OT period (and not much of that with these 2 clubs)

First goal by Marleau

Conn Smythe Trophy goes to Jones (Goaltenders seem to win this quite often)

Most goals scored by Pavelski

Most assists by Thornton

Best +/- Vlasic

Most PIM Wingels

Best save % Jones (Which leads to the choice of Conn Smythe winner)

Total goals in the series will be 67 (and if I were betting, I'd take the "over")

Everything should be plural.

Which sorely tempts me to enter the above once more.

posted by Howard_T at 02:28 PM on May 30

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

How are you going to keep Trey Gowdy from finding out about it?

It will be placed in the bathroom. The periodic presence of noxious odors will serve as its physical security.

posted by Howard_T at 01:02 PM on May 26

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

"Like a Beautiful Swan" An NFL star prepares for a possible career after he leaves the game. He's surprisingly graceful for a man his size.

posted by Howard_T at 02:19 PM on May 18

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

the difference between Bautista's slide into Odor, and this slide into a short stop three weeks ago

Looking at it from the viewpoint of an umpire, there are a number of differences. First of all, Bautista went into a sort of rolling block as opposed to a straight slide. The slide in the linked video is the sort taught by youth coaches everywhere, that is with one leg tucked, the other extended toward the base, and the head up. Bautista went past the base and did not even attempt to reach back for the bag. The slide in the video shows the player sliding past the bag, but he reached for the bag and held it as he stopped. In short, the video shows a baseball slide, while Bautista showed a bad take out attempt.

Now, since the legality of the slide is a judgement call, anybody who argues with me will be ejected from this discussion!!! (only kidding, but rules are rules)

posted by Howard_T at 12:27 AM on May 18

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

The second base umpire called the double-play (because of Bautista's slide) almost instantly.

This was as close to an automatic call for interference and a double play as possible. Bautista started his slide late, it was more of a rolling block than a conventional slide, and the thing that sold the umpire was that the slide went past the bag. No doubt on that call.

posted by Howard_T at 10:00 PM on May 16

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: Conference Finals

Howard: what about the player with the highest points, rebounds, and assists?

Wow, I missed that one like I missed a couple of calls on the bases today. (My partner got both of them for me, so nobody noticed.)

The Mister Offense Award (Average points, rebounds, assists): Russell Westbrook

posted by Howard_T at 09:53 PM on May 16

Manchester United Match Cancelled by Bomb Scare

From the reports, the evacuation of the stadium was remarkable for its orderliness and speed. I heard one comment that it was almost the perfect emergency drill, except it was not a drill. Contrast this with at least one incident in the US when training devices were allowed through airport security during tests. It makes one think a bit.

My comment on the use of "native" terms used in various sports that are not commonly used in American English commentary is this: If the comment is being used appropriately, there's no complaint from this set of ears. If an announcer is deliberately using the term as an affectation, then I will likely tune that announcer out. The term "kit" is a long-standing British usage for military uniforms, including equipment, that has been brought into sports, I have no objection to it, although some announcers here in the US seem to overuse it. I would never call my uniform and protective equipment for umpiring baseball a "kit", although it perfectly fits the British definition of such. The term "jersey" is appropriate for most sports, but in ice hockey it is properly referred to as a "sweater", at least by this son of a Canadian father.

posted by Howard_T at 10:43 PM on May 15

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: Conference Finals

Howard, is there an NHL-style President's Trophy curse hitting you this playoff pick-'em season?

That very well might be the case. I think the biggest factor is that I am not spending as much time looking at matchups, injuries, and the like. New Hampshire is terribly short of baseball umpires this year, and I have been on the field nearly every afternoon. I have to get all of my chores done in the morning, get to the games early, drive home, and then get dinner ready. By the time I'm done, I have just about enough time to check my e-mail, read the sports news, check SpoFi, and get some sleep. The good news is that I have had to work alone only twice this year, and the coaches were great about not giving me too much grief about tight calls on the bases. There are only about 2 or 3 weeks left in the season, and after this week most of that is tournaments, so the workload will ease up soon.

So now we look at the conference finals:

Toronto had to scramble in both of their series so far, but they seemed to get a bit stronger against Miami as the series went on. It still won't be enough to beat Cleveland. Golden State has too many weapons for Oklahoma City, but the Thunder have suddenly figured out how to close out a game. Could be a fun set of finals.

Cleveland in 6

Golden State in 7

Blocks: Serge Ibaka

Steals: Kyle Lowry

Fouls: Draymond Green

Free throws: DeMar DeRozan

posted by Howard_T at 10:20 PM on May 15

NHL Playoff Pick 'Em, Round 3

Too much to do today. Didn't hit the computer until after 9:00 tonight. Had to cut the lawn before it rained, grocery shopping for the week, and had to umpire a double header this afternoon. After the games my wife and I headed to our favorite Mexican joint for dinner. This retirement crap doesn't leave you with a lot of time to do the really necessary things like pick 'ems. I will pass on the Tampa vs Pittsburgh series, but will go with the rest.

San Jose in 7

Goal Scorer: Logan Couture

Save Percentage: Martin Jones

Power Play Percentage: San Jose

Most Penalized: Alexander Steen

Most Goals (team): San Jose

posted by Howard_T at 12:09 AM on May 14

SpoFi NBA Pick 'Em Round 2.

As I start to type this, Toronto is up by 5 with 6.5 seconds left and Indiana with the ball. I think I am safe in predicting the Toronto vs Miami series.

Miami in 6 Toronto struggled mightily against a fair Pacers team. Miami will pull the upset.

posted by Howard_T at 10:34 PM on May 01

SpoFi NBA Pick 'Em Round 2.

Here are mine from yesterday's huddle.

Golden State in 7 Don't be surprised at an upset here.
San Antonio in 7 Same situation here, but it won't really be that much of an upset
Cleveland in 5 Atlanta actually played some decent defense against Boston. Could get 1 win vs Cavs.

Miami, Toronto, Charlotte, Indiana??? Pacers have surprised, Charlotte has played slightly above expectations, and Miami has finally found the combinations that work. Toronto has looked a bit disorganized at best.


Adding the bonus picks here:

Disagreeable person (technical foul): C. J. McCollum (Talk about an off-the-wall pick.)
He who shoots from far away (3-point shooter): Damian Lillard (Wins the duel with Klay Thompson)

See you tomorrow with the Miami vs ??? pick.

posted by Howard_T at 05:09 PM on May 01

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

Making my picks for the SpoFi basketball contest, as I'm not sure I'll be around later today:

Me too. I'm helping my kid move his stuff to another apartment.

Golden State in 7 Don't be surprised at an upset here.
San Antonio in 7 Same situation here, but it won't really be that much of an upset
Cleveland in 5 Atlanta actually played some decent defense against Boston. Could get 1 win vs Cavs.

Miami, Toronto, Charlotte, Indiana??? Pacers have surprised, Charlotte has played slightly above expectations, and Miami has finally found the combinations that work. Toronto has looked a bit disorganized at best.

posted by Howard_T at 10:18 AM on April 30

NHL Playoff Pick 'Em, Round 2

This stupid game with a rubber disc is strange. The one with the big brown ball is easier to pick.

Tampa Bay in 5
Washington in 5
Dallas in 6
San Jose in 6 No need to change this one. It will hold no matter the opponent.

Top goal scorer: Ovechkin (Sooner or later he will break loose.)
Save %: Holtby
Power play percentage: Washington
Most goals per game: Dallas

posted by Howard_T at 04:03 PM on April 27

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

crazy stuff in MLB update

It must be something in the air, because Boston had to go 12 to beat Houston last night. After Boston went ahead by 2 in the 3rd, there was no further scoring -- until a Carlos Correa double and a Colby Rasmus home run off of closer Craig Kimbrell tied it in the bottom of the 9th. Heath Hembree pitched 3 scoreless for the win. Boston scored the winning runs with a pair of lead-off singles and a sacrifice bunt. This was followed by a 13-pitch walk to Ryan Hanigan that loaded the bases, and an RBI single by Jackie Bradley, Jr. A force play at the plate made it 2 out, but Hanigan scored on a wild pitch by losing pitcher Ken Giles, giving Boston an insurance run. A pair of strikeouts with 2 on ended it.

My wife and I got home from the Celtics game quite late (Boston's ever reliable untrustworthy MBTA plays a role here), so I turned on the TV to get the scores. Lo and behold, the game was still going, so I had to stay up until the end.

posted by Howard_T at 12:38 PM on April 25

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

another bizarre play in MLB.

Well that's one that hasn't happened to me -- yet. The dead ball rule comes into use quite often when you play on open fields with trees and shrubbery not far from the foul lines. The ground rules often include something like "if it hits the bushes out there in left field it is a two base award, but if it hits the tree branches, it is four bases".

posted by Howard_T at 01:43 PM on April 21

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle


posted by Howard_T at 01:36 PM on April 21

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

you'll still see something you've never seen before.

If any of you have ever umpired a game at the middle school level, Little League, Cal Ripken League, Babe Ruth, or any other youth baseball, you will see something new almost every game. It makes umpiring a whole new adventure with every trip to the field.

On the play in question: It is unmistakably a balk. Any motion a pitcher makes, once he has committed to delivering a pitch to the plate, that is not a part of his normal delivery is a balk. In this case the little hop is not a part of his normal delivery and it may be seen as an attempt to deceive the base runner. I really don't know why there was any problem with the call in the first place. The video gives the impression that the plate umpire made the call, and the 1st base umpire agreed. We don't know which of the other two disagreed, but the plate blue should have simply said that it is his call and it will stand.

The thing that saves us umpires at the middle school level is the agreement that we will grant one balk per pitcher as a learning experience, with no advance by the runners. It saves a lot of arguments, and the coaches appreciate the chance to teach the game.

posted by Howard_T at 12:09 PM on April 20

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

Vin Scully tells his Jackie Robinson story on Jackie Robinson day

So maybe it should be Gene Hernansky Day?

Alfred Hitchcock explains baseball

All tha is missing is Gounod's Funeral March of the Marionettes playing in the background.

posted by Howard_T at 01:36 PM on April 17

NBA Approves Advertising on Uniforms

The high school rule book says that manufacturers' logos may appear on the visible parts of a team's official uniform. These are restricted to a size of 2 1/4 square inches, with any one dimension not to exceed 2 1/4 inches. The case book says that there is no NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) rule prohibiting commercial advertising on uniforms, but states may have rules prohibiting it.

posted by Howard_T at 11:09 PM on April 15

SpoFi NBA Playoff Pick 'Em 2016 is a go!

Thanks for the catch, Ufez. I didn't read the fine print.

Highest score for a team in one game: 122
High individual score in one game: 43

posted by Howard_T at 09:52 PM on April 14

SpoFi NBA Playoff Pick 'Em 2016 is a go!

OK, Ufez, I'll play your little game. Playoff predictions are never my thing, but we will see.

Cleveland in 5
Toronto in 4
Charlotte in 6 My upset special number 1
Boston in 7 My upset special number 2

Golden State in 5 Houston actually pulls one game out.
San Antonio in 4
Oklahoma City in 6 Dirk Nowitzki is not enough.
LA Clippers in 7 Portland will be a tough nut to crack, but Doc has all his troops playing.

posted by Howard_T at 01:17 PM on April 14

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

what are you watching tonight

the Celtics have pooped their pants

They'd fallen off a cliff the last few games so I gave up.

My wife and I were at the Celtics last night, and after that nightmare of a first half we were almost ready to leave. I wanted to stick around at the half when the '66, '76, and '86 NBA Championship teams were honored. A lot of the greats were there, including Bill Russell who drew a long standing ovation when introduced. Maybe something rubbed off, but all of a sudden the shots from everywhere that had been dropping for Miami were falling into the hands of Celtics rebounders. The shots started falling for Boston, and the Boston defense denied Miami the easy baskets and turned steals and rebounds into fast break layups. Maybe it was coincidental, but defense, rebounds, and fast breaks are the things that Red Auerbach lived by, and on a night when his name was often mentioned, they were featured.

My wife does not often come to the games with me. Last night showed me why this is not a bad thing. In the second half, every time a Miami shot went up, she was on her feet screaming NO NO NO. She does the same thing at home when she's watching an away game on TV. This from a nice, quiet, mature lady who used to take her knitting to the games when we were Baltimore Skipjacks (AHL) season ticket holders about 30 years ago.

posted by Howard_T at 01:11 PM on April 14

Kobe Bryant Scores 60 in Final NBA Game

I got home from the Celtics game last night just in time to watch enough of the Warriors game to make sure they would get the record. Then I turned to the Lakers vs Jazz. Kobe was having a pretty good game, but Lakers were trailing. I was hoping for a good performance followed by a Lakers win, but it seemed to be out of the question. Understand I had just watched Boston overcome a 26-point deficit to pull out a 10-point win, so I figured anything was possible. Then Kobe put it all on his shoulders and went off for what ranks as one of the best individual performances of his career. What a great way to go out! I was an acknowledged Kobe hater until a couple of years ago, but he changed my mind when he refused to quit in a game against Boston, when the rest of a bad Lakers team was going through the motions. He showed what greatness is all about.

posted by Howard_T at 12:53 PM on April 14

SportsFilter's NHL Playoff Pick 'Em Starts Now

I assume that's what Howard_T's entry is as well.

You assume correctly, grum.

Please make the appropriate correction to my entry, rcade.

posted by Howard_T at 02:57 PM on April 13

SportsFilter's NHL Playoff Pick 'Em Starts Now

For 2 years in 1965 - 1966 I had the only copy of The Hockey News on Okinawa. My Mom took out a subscription for me while I was manning a Mark 1, Modification 3, steel desk in the US Army. That makes me such an expert (well, OK, I know what a puck looks like).

Florida in 5

Tampa in 4

Washington in 6

Pittsburgh in 7

Anaheim in 6

Los Angeles in 4

Minnesota in 7

Chicago in 7

Leading goal scorer East: Ovechkin

Leading goal scorer West: Benn

posted by Howard_T at 10:25 PM on April 12

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

I'm watching the pre-game festivities from Fenway Park before the Red Sox play their home opener. As usual, it was a bit overdone, but there were a couple of moments worth mentioning. On the pleasant side, the National Anthem was sung by David Ortiz's daughter. The fun part was that Ortiz did not know she was to be the singer until she was introduced, and the look on his face was priceless. Young MS Ortiz has a decent voice and did a good job on the Anthem.

The sad part was seeing who was throwing out the first pitch. Patriots' star Ty Law, Bruins' immortal Bobby Orr, Celtics' legend Bill Russell, and Ortiz were those who threw the first pitch. The sad part is twofold. First, placing Ortiz into the same category as the other 3 is a bit premature. Maybe he is deserving, maybe not. He certainly contributed a great deal to the success the team has had during his time here.

The second, and really sad part, was watching Bill Russell. Instead of waiting in the dugout to be introduced, Russell sat in a chair along the fence behind 3rd base. He needed to be helped to the area near the mound to deliver his pitch, and the throw itself was quite feeble. In December of 1956 I sat in the first balcony seats in Boston Garden and watched the young Bill Russell make his NBA debut. Now, nearly 60 years later, I see what time has done to a man whom I will always remember as athletic, strong, graceful, and a leader. Time is doing the same things to me, but I know it cannot be avoided. It makes me think too much about my own fate to see what the calendar can do, but I will not allow it to slow me down. As old and feeble as Russell appeared today, I will always see him leaping to block a shot, recovering the ball, and making the perfect outlet pass to a streaking Bob Cousy.

posted by Howard_T at 02:24 PM on April 11

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em Contest: Final Week

The schedule has left us with some tough games to pick. It starts with tonight's promise of a classic in San Antonio. Warriors need a win to beat Chicago's record; Spurs want to keep their clean sheet at home. Who will prevail? Atlanta needs a win at Cleveland to maintain it's lock on 3rd in the East. Will Cleveland rest the regulars on Monday, or will they play it to win? Miami at Boston will be another game vital to the chances of both teams. 3rd through 5th place in the East is on the line, and both teams want to finish looking forward to having the home advantage in the first round of the playoffs. While all of this is going on, some of the teams will be resting regulars and others, out of the post season, will be trying to make statements about their statements for next season. It's going to be a very hard week to predict.

10 April

Golden State by 6 Coach Kerr has left it up to the players whether or not to go for the record. They will try.

11 April

Atlanta by 12 Cleveland rests the regulars
Sacramento by 9 Phoenix tries to improve its draft position.

12 April

San Antonio by 10 Neither team has anything to gain, but San Antonio's bench is better.
LA Clippers by 8 Another case where standings are not affected.

13 April

Boston by 12 Celtics bear down, clinch 4th in the East, and push Miami to 6th.
Golden State by 15 SLAM The record belongs to the Warriors.
LA Lakers by 9 Kobe has the floor for his final dance, and the music is Jazz.

I wanted the NBA contest to go out on a high note

This has been a fun contest, and I don't say that because of any success I have had. You might have guessed I'm a long time NBA fan, so anything to do with the game holds great interest for me. Many thanks, 'Cade, for running it; it's been on a high note all season.

posted by Howard_T at 03:54 PM on April 10

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: 16 Days Left in the Season

I'm glad the Celtics are off tonight, otherwise I would be at the game and miss making the picks. These next 2 weeks could mean the entire season, both here and on the various courts. Here goes:

05 April

Miami by 9 but I will be rooting for the upset.
Golden State by 14 Make this one a SLAM Warriors will not lose 2 in a row at home.

posted by Howard_T at 07:12 PM on April 05

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

Incredible ending for today's T20 World Cup.

Just shared this with my cousin in Trinidad who is quite excited about it. His father, my uncle, was a pretty fair pace bowler on Barbados. There has been some controversy over Brathwaite and others not wishing to play test cricket for West Indies because of money and a variety of other things, but I guess the limited overs game at the World Cup level suits them better.

posted by Howard_T at 08:45 PM on April 03

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: 16 Days Left in the Season

Holy hell, this week.

Last night's results really hurt me in the pick 'em, but pleased me greatly in the heart. Atlanta's loss to Cleveland helps Boston's playoff positioning, and of course the unexpected Celtics' win over Warriors had me nearly screaming (restraint was necessary due to sleeping wife and cats). The NBA Eastern Conference playoffs, outside of the #1 and #2 positions, are a real scramble. I'm hoping for a Boston finish in 3rd or 4th, thereby giving Celtics a decent chance of a first round series win. I have my playoff tickets reserved, Section 316, Row 5, seats 9 & 10.

In the pick 'em I feel like a team that has had a really great first half and a decent 3rd quarter but is hanging on by its fingernails in the 4th. I'm not hitting my shots, but the other team has not put a strong run together -- yet. Just a handful of games remaining. It will be fun.

posted by Howard_T at 02:15 PM on April 02

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: 16 Days Left in the Season

I really thought I had had a bad week, but as I look at the results, I feel like someone who couldn't sink a shot from the field but was solid from the free throw line. The defense was pretty good too. The biggest question this week is which of Golden State's games to pick as my slam. I am not going to feel secure, even with the big lead. The Eastern Conference games are getting hard to predict, especially with the teams in the 3 - 7 spots. Here goes:

29 March

Cleveland by 15
Golden State by 18 SLAM

31 March

Houston by 6
Oklahoma City by 10 (There's some delicious irony in Paul Pierce injuring his ankle vs Boston)

01 April

Happy 75th, Howard

Atlanta by 11
Golden State by 15 (Would that I could pick my Celtics with any degree of surety)

03 April

Oklahoma City by 9 (I really don't trust this pick, but I will make it anyway)

posted by Howard_T at 05:28 PM on March 29

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

This is always part of the ground rules briefing whenever I am umpiring a game. The outfield fences are not in the best of shape, and we will ask the home coach to tell us of any areas in which the ball can be trapped or roll underneath. Many of the fields are unfenced, and the grass at the margins of the field is allowed to grow. Balls have been lost, not just to sight, but lost for good (or at least some kid finds it after a week or two). What I will tell the coaches about balls under the fence or lost in the grass is to have the fielder raise his hand if he cannot get to the ball without moving something or cannot locate the ball immediately. I will then add the warning that time will not be called until the play is complete, and if the umpire (usually the field umpire, the plate blue is wearing too much gear, or like me is too old to run all the way out to the outfield) judges that the ball was playable, the play will stand. If the umpire agrees with the fielder, then it will be a 2-base award and any other runners will be placed as they should be by rule. I can't believe Cespedes doesn't know the rule. Maybe he just didn't feel like bending over.

posted by Howard_T at 09:38 PM on March 25

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

To get a bit more serious, my cousin in Holland has posted that Johann Cruijff, the legendary Dutch football star, has passed away from cancer. She shared a tribute to him from Cruijff was "before my time" in that I did not seriously follow soccer until perhaps 15 or 20 years ago. Even at that, I had heard of him but did not realize just how great a player he was.

posted by Howard_T at 10:24 PM on March 24

ESPN attempts to shame Cuba; backfires badly.

Was this really an attempt to embarrass Cuba or an attempt to show how Cuba is trying to maintain a love of sports despite its impoverishment? Such impoverishment might be blamed on US trade embargoes by those of a certain political persuasion. Much depends upon your interpretation.

posted by Howard_T at 03:10 PM on March 23

NFL Adds Rule for Automatic Ejections After 2 Personal Fouls

How long will it take before someone does the soccer flop because the opposition put his hand on his chest during a heated moment?

I really don't think referees will call personal fouls for a simple push in the chest, even when there is one of those frequent pushing and shoving contests that involve some interesting words that one does not teach his kids. The officials will be looking for the actual punch, the deliberate head butt, unsafe hits on defenseless receivers, illegally lifting the QB's skirt, and other such things. My fearless prediction is that there will be a number of ejections in the first few weeks of the season, and as the season goes on, you will see fewer and fewer. The players will adjust to the rule, and more importantly, the officials will figure out what is really a personal foul worthy of ejection and what is not.

As I wrote the above I was watching the NFL channel airing a playoff game from 2009, New England vs San Diego. Toward the end of the game a New England defender jumped across the line before the snap, and Phillip Rivers would up on his backside from the contact. Now the contact was from someone being knocked into Rivers, and it was not very hard, but it looked bad. Guess what -- no call except for the offside. Then at the very end of the game, with a few seconds on the clock, after it had been decided by a missed San Diego field goal attempt, New England players ran around the field waving their helmets in celebration. A flag was thrown and New England was penalized for removing their helmets. Technically this was a personal foul. Do you eject any of them who had one previous PF? Part 2 of the fearless prediction, you will see a lot of "situational" calls by the officials. Once again, this promises to be a weird season in the NFL.

posted by Howard_T at 03:06 PM on March 23

Tennis Tourney Exec: Women Ride Men's Coattails, But They're Attractive

How long would a soccer match be if they just kept playing until someone won (without shootouts)?

While this is a bit off topic, one answer is given by the recent Hockey East Men's Tournament. Providence College and UMass Lowell went 3 overtime periods to reach a decision in a game that went 4 hours and 26 minutes. The really hard part was that Lowell had to play the following evening in the final against Northeastern. The advantage for Northeastern might have been mitigated somewhat by the fact that Lowell played the first game of the semifinals, thus they got to bed at a reasonable hour. Northeastern's game did not end until a few minutes before 1:00 AM. If Lowell was at all tired, it was not obvious, as the final ended in a 3-2 Northeastern win, NU hanging on by their fingernails in the last 2 or 3 minutes.

As I think about it, the way energy is expended in ice hockey is similar to the demands of tennis. Players go all out for short bursts of 30 seconds to 1 minute. They will be on the ice for about 15 to 20 minutes total in the game, perhaps as long as 40 minutes for your top defenseman. Tennis demands the same sort of brief but violent expenditure of energy, followed by a bit of rest. It's not identical by any means, but there is a similarity. I did manage to watch a little of the Hockey East Women's Tournament. Guess what; the women play by the same rules as the men, the games last the same 60 minutes, and involve the same skills and exertion of energy, minus the heavy body contact, as the men's game. The game is a bit slower, but not by much. Women's tennis requires the same skills as the men's game, although serves are generally not as hard, and some of the lower-ranked women move a bit more slowly, but I believe the analogy holds. Women should easily be able to play the longer matches. Guys, this weaker sex idea is a bunch of crap.

rcade, I take issue with one small point you raised. You said the fans have supported equal prize money going back to the 1970s. I would suggest that it is not so much support as resignation to a fait accompli, perhaps you might call it indifference. Those who are fans of tennis want to see tennis. Who gets how much for playing is of little concern.

posted by Howard_T at 02:43 PM on March 23

Tennis Tourney Exec: Women Ride Men's Coattails, But They're Attractive

grum has contributed another good analysis and an excellent rebuttal of the arguments against it. The "women earn 77 cents for each dollar a man earns" argument also needs some analysis. This, by Glenn Kessler, from April 2, 2015 in The Washington Post is a fairly well-reasoned debunking of that.

To be sure, there are gaps in pay for women vs men, but they are neither as stark as the 77 cent (or the updated 78 cent) number would indicate, nor are they solely the result of discriminatory practices in the workplace. However, tennis gives us the unique place to measure differences. Should women, having the expectation of working approximately 0.6 times what a man would work (per grum's analysis), be paid equally? If one goes by the standard of drawing power, TV money, and ticket sales, the analysis must be extended a bit. I would argue that the TV ratings and ticket demand for men's and women's matches in the quarterfinals and later matches are roughly equal. I would also argue that those matches that feature the highly ranked men against the "mid-level" players are slightly more attractive than the same sort of matches on the women's side. I have no figures to support this claim. It is subjective and based only upon what I feel. Take it for what it is worth. What I am getting at is that the top prize money for the women and the men (top 4 places0 should be equal, but this is based only on the probable demand for tickets and TV rights for the match. For the lower finishers, I would award the prize money on the basis of 60 cents on the dollar for women vs men, and this is based solely on the above analysis.

Now to throw a bit of gasoline on the fire. The question was asked by billsaysthis why the women played best of three rather than best of five. Good question. It is really historical precedent, but the reason for the precedent is the thing that might have feminists carrying pitchforks and torches to the gates of Wimbledon. Women are the weaker sex!!! At least that was the thinking many years ago when tennis began to organize tournaments. Now try to explain this to a feminist without getting your head handed to you. So here's the simple solution to the dilemma. Ask the women either to play 5-set matches or to have their prize money reduced. If they decline, then say to them that they are reinforcing the fiction that women are the weaker sex and they cannot do all of the things that a man can do. Will this not put the ardent feminist into a bit of a quandary? I think I would like to watch the fireworks as this point is argued.

posted by Howard_T at 11:23 AM on March 23

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: Week 18

Houston, we have a problem.

Suspicions confirmed: Houston is a selfish basketball team. Perhaps it is because they lack the pieces to spread the offense around, perhaps it is because a few of their players do not feel that playing defense is part of a basketball game. I watched the second half of their game last night, after I got home from watching my Celtics put in one of their worst efforts of the season, and I was very disappointed in what I saw. My advice to myself is that if they show up in the pick-em again, playing anything more than a mediocre bottom-feeder of a team, don't pick them. If they can run around on offense, do what they want to do, rebound a little, and trust the opponent to self-destruct, then they will win and win big. Otherwise, they will find a way to lose. UGH.

Why, oh why, did I let myself believe they could beat the Clippers. I knew better, but I didn't want to face the ugly possibilities.

posted by Howard_T at 01:47 PM on March 17

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: Week 18

I'm beginning to look at Cleveland with "a jaundiced eye". (I don't know who originated that expression, but it serves well here.) Utah can be very tough with their size in the paint, but can be beaten if you run your offense with good ball movement. I said Utah could win with a near-perfect game. Their game was really good last night, but I would not consider it near-perfect. Rather, Cleveland put together a stinker. There was far too much free-lance offense, the defensive scheme seemed unfocused, and overall they looked like a team that just wanted to get out of the building and onto the plane home. If the expectations in Cleveland are for the Cavaliers to make it to the NBA finals, someone needs to get that team playing hard every game. There is an element there that makes them a very vulnerable team that will disappoint their fans. Is it coaching? That's part of it, but unless the coach has some real power to bench or even dismiss some players (and believe it or not I do not include one Mr. James in that group), it will continue. They have a bad habit of trying to turn it on and off, depending on the opponent and situation.

posted by Howard_T at 03:18 PM on March 15

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: Week 18

I'm watching ESPN right now, and it's Detroit at Washington, not Memphis at Houston. Is there some regional thing working here?

posted by Howard_T at 08:17 PM on March 14

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: Week 18

The last contest week was certainly not one of my better efforts. Of course, Golden State threw everyone under the bus with their strange effort against Lakers. This week must be better, else I might return to mere mortality. My son and I will be at the Oklahoma City vs Boston game, and I will do what I can from the balcony to influence the outcome.

14 Mar

Houston by 6 Memphis is missing too much to beat a good team, but Houston is unpredictable.
Cleveland by 12 Utah can surprise, but only if they play a near-perfect game.

16 Mar

Oklahoma City by 10 SLAM in Beantown. Celtics are missing Crowder and will be on the 2nd night of a back-to-back.
Houston by 6 I do not trust Houston, but Clippers have also been erratic.

19 Mar

Golden State by 7 This will be an epic matchup and not decided until the last 30 seconds.

posted by Howard_T at 05:17 PM on March 14

Snowmobiler Strikes Iditarod Team, Killing Dog

I understand that Jeff King is from my current city of residence, Nashua, NH. The SOB claims he was driving the snowmobile while drunk? The guy would have to be really smoked to repeat the attacks on more than one team, and in one case circled back to attempt to hit the team and driver repeatedly. This is one case where I really hope that the law in Alaska provides some draconian punishment.

posted by Howard_T at 02:41 PM on March 13

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: Week 18

06 March 2016

Golden State Warriors 95, Los Angeles Lakers 112

W T F ???

posted by Howard_T at 08:28 PM on March 06

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

This native Bostonian had the privilege of reading his articles and columns regularly in The Boston Globe. It did not matter what the subject was, nor what was Collins' particular point of view, he was always interesting and fun to read. I remember his work on WGBH, the Public TV station in Boston. He did tennis, of course, but also I remember him doing commentary on college ice hockey when WGBH regularly broadcast the games. While watching the Celtics on TV tonight, the play-by-play announcer, Mike Gorman, gave a brief eulogy of Collins. Gorman said he had called basketball games with Collins doing commentary. While Gorman did not specify where, I suspect this was when Gorman was the announcer for Providence College. Gorman also related the story that Bud Collins had insisted that NBC employ Gorman to do tennis with him at the Barcelona Olympic Games, giving Gorman an important assist in gaining future assignments with NBC. Tom Heinsohn, the former Celtic and now part-time color man on the Celtics broadcast contributed the information that Bud Collins and the late Celtics' coach Red Auerbach regularly played tennis together, and that Auerbach's "backcourt" dink-and-dunk game was the counter to Collins. Bud Collins was far more than a tennis announcer.

posted by Howard_T at 10:24 PM on March 04

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: Week 18

At the time the pick-em was posted, I was blithely pushing my truck at about 80 mph on MA Rte 3 southbound near the interchange with Rte 128 (sorry, it's now I-95, but not to those of us who have lived here longer than 40 years) on my way to the Celtics vs Portland game. Please don't tell the MA State Police about this. The speed limit on Rte 3 is 55 mph. Of course, if you hold to 55, you place yourself in imminent danger of being destroyed by people like me. Met up with my son, enjoyed a few beers with him, really enjoyed the game, and now I'm trying to shake the effects of a nasty head cold. I don't regret missing out on last night's picks. I would have missed on the Thunder vs Clippers. I would have picked San Antonio, but most likely would have missed the spread. Oh well, let's see what we can do with the rest of the week.

03 March

San Antonio by 7
Golden State by 9

04 March

Cleveland by 12
Atlanta by 6

05 March

Chicago by 11

06 March

Golden State by 14 A SLAM, as the statues in the Star Plaza patiently await the return of Lakers' greatness.

posted by Howard_T at 02:57 PM on March 03

New Rule Takes Out Slides Like Chase Utley's Legbreaker

Oh well, there goes the neighborhood.

Really, as an umpire, I am truly glad this has been done. Trying to convince some coaches that I did not call the "neighborhood" was difficult. I won't say that I never called it that way, but I tried to avoid it. Now I can just concentrate on the play, let my plate blue watch for the interference, and do the drop step and pivot to call the play at first base.

posted by Howard_T at 10:27 PM on February 25

Pace Mannion NBA Pick 'Em: Week 17

I really thought I had a bad week last week, and I was looking for my lead to dwindle significantly. Somehow it stayed up there, and I almost question the math involved. Not really. I think it's more like the Republican Party's nominating process. No single competitor to the leader has emerged, but that is not due to anyone's incompetence. At the risk of sounding like that certain blond-haired candidate, "I love the Pace Mannion pick-em, and I will make it great again." Enough demagoguery, let's make some picks.

24 February

Chicago by 3 in a duel between John Wall and Derrick Rose
San Antonio by 14 with a SLAM in the Delta

25 February

New Orleans by 6
Portland by 12

26 February

Atlanta by 8 The still intact Hawks don't let the trade rumors get to them.
LA Lakers by 9 Memphis without Gasol is greatly weakened.

27 February

Golden State by 17 You expected something different?

posted by Howard_T at 04:34 PM on February 24

Cricket Star Kieran Powell Tosses His Bat and Picks Up a Smaller, Rounder One

Windies cricket seems to be in a pretty sorry spot, financially speaking.

My cousins in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago frequently rail about this on Facebook. They seem to place the majority of the blame on the WI Cricket bosses. From the article it sounds like more of the blame might be placed on the international group for giving out smaller slices of the pie. The nature of the West Indies is also to blame. West Indies is not a country, it is scattered nation-islands with small populations, with economies that are small and vulnerable, an inter-island transportation that tends to be unreliable (my T&T cousin regularly posts horror stories of 30 minute flights that require 2 days to complete), and no efficient way of developing a viable professional league. With all of these difficulties in place, and the English cultural heritage losing its influence, I'm surprised the decline in the sport has not been more rapid. It's a pity, as I recently found out that one of my uncles was a decent pace bowler for Barbados back in the day. I would like to think that my mom's family had some small part in perpetuating a tradition.

posted by Howard_T at 04:15 PM on February 24

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Some day, I really hope one of these emergency goalies is going to get into a game.

It has happened more than once. Below is part of an article from Sports Illustrated in November 2014.

"The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 1938, and for one game in the finals, they trusted the net to Alfie Moore, a journeyman minor-leaguer, who subbed in when starter Mike Karakas suffered a broken toe and couldn't get his foot into his skate. Chicago coach Bill Stewart dispatched a search party to locate Moore, who was finally found in a local saloon. With a few drinks in him, Moore spotted the Hawks' crew and asked if there was any chance they might have an extra ticket to the game that night. Instead of a ticket, however, he got a cold shower and had hot coffee forced down his throat. He won the first game, 3 - 1. Though he didn't play again in the series, he did get his name on the Cup and on an inscribed watch that Stewart ordered for him as a token of thanks. But the bigger prize for Moore, by far, was his moment of fleeting glory."

The link to the article

posted by Howard_T at 11:04 PM on February 16

Peyton Manning’s squeaky-clean image was built on lies

I had never heard this before. I'm trying to recall where I might have been during the time period that this story first broke. I cannot use the excuse that I was overseas, but I did spend a lot of time away from home. Still, it was all in the US, so I should have seen this story somewhere. I can only conclude that as soon as the story hit, it was buried, for obvious reasons. I will copy the link and send it on to my son. I'm sure he will be quite interested, he being every bit the Manning hater disliker as I. This story must be spread far and wide.

posted by Howard_T at 06:29 PM on February 13

NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest Winner: Tron7

Put me in accord with the additional wild-card lock. It makes sense.

posted by Howard_T at 05:18 PM on February 11

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

throwing their warm ups on the local sideline reporter

It's mostly Jared Sullinger who does this, and yes, Chris Mannix does get along well with the players. He's part of the local broadcast team (Comcast Sports Network, New England), that also includes Mike Gorman, play-by-play announcer for the Celtics for the past 35 years, Tommy Heinsohn (home games only) and former Celtic Brian Scalabrini. Since they are the "home" broadcast team, the relationship with players and coaches is on non-controversial terms. In other words, no hostile questions, support for the team, and more a promotional viewpoint than a strict reporting viewpoint.

posted by Howard_T at 05:12 PM on February 11

NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest Winner: Tron7

I would limit the locks in some manner. Perhaps allowing locks only on Thursday night, Sunday night, and Monday Night, would enjance the "special" nature of those games.

posted by Howard_T at 02:59 PM on February 10