Recent Comments by Howard_T

U.S. Wins Women's World Cup

Well this final is over after 15 minutes.

"It ain't over until the fat lady sings", goes the old saying. I don't see any fat ladies on the pitch. While a 3-goal deficit is close to insurmountable, the US cannot afford to lay back. Japan will recover from the initial shock, indeed already appear to have done so after their goal. IS has to keep the offensive pressure going for no other reason than to keep Japan in their own end as much as possible.

posted by Howard_T at 07:55 PM on July 05

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

Phil Kessel traded

So now all of the players/draft picks that were part of the original trade between Boston and Toronto are no longer with their original post-trade team. Seguin is in Dallas, Hamilton is piling up the Loonies in Calgary, and now Kessel goes to Pittsburgh. At the time, it looked like Boston had committed highway robbery. Now this appears to be a trade that truly benefited neither team, at least for the long term.

posted by Howard_T at 10:03 PM on July 01

CFL Pick 'Em, Week Two

When I looked a the scoreboard of last week's games, I was certain I was destined to flirt with the Costanza. Then I looked at the Pick 'Em standings, and I see things certainly could be worse. So brimming with confidence, we go bravely to the keyboard. We're on vacation this week. My wife and I try to get away around the end of June every year. It gives her a chance to unwind after another year of working with special needs kids in the schools, and believe me, with the class she had this year, she needs it. So here I am in New Hampshire's White Mountains, and it's raining. I can't even see the ridge on the other side of the Kancamagus Highway because of the low-hanging cloud. It's a good day to work on the picks.

Hamilton at Winnipeg: The Kitties were just about to dine from the cat food dish when it was rudely pulled away from them. This makes for a very angry kitty, and since they have not yet been declawed, they could do some damage. Blue Bombers would like to fly away out of range of the Tiger Cats, but can they get off the ground in time? The most useless things in the world are runway behind you and altitude above you. Hamilton by 6.

Calgary at Montreal: Stampeders managed to prevail by a whisker (pun intended) at the last minute over the aforementioned Tiger Cats, while Montreal lost at the last minute to the checkerboard guys. Will the home cooking help Alouettes make it through he full 60 minutes? Little larks will avoid the rampaging quadrupeds, but it won't be easy. In another close one, Montreal by 3.

BC at Ottawa: Now that Ottawa has thrown the ladies who kick things out of town, the big guys can take over the field. No yellow or red cards, no nets, just red flags and lots of contact. RedBlacks pulled off a significant win last week over an unsuspecting Montreal team. Now they have to take on a bunch of roaring lions who have yet to compete. BC has a decent offense and a supposedly tough defense. Ottawa won with an excellent air attack and a late pick. Lions should be able to keep the Ottawa guys from getting that close. BC by 12.

Toronto at Saskatchewan: Argonauts sailed past a bunch of Eskimos last week, but perhaps the Wood Buffaloes in the national park had something to do with it. Meanwhile the Roughriders had a rough ride against the Bombers. Look for the Argonauts to enjoy their western swing. Toronto by 7.

Before I forget, happy Canada Day to all.

posted by Howard_T at 03:41 PM on July 01

NHL Playoff Pick 'Em Champion: Cixelsyd

Ah yes, comfortable mediocrity once again. The old saying is that the nail that sticks up feels the hammer. Perhaps a better ability to pick results will make me the hammer. Of course, by that time we will be using screws instead of nails. Thanks, rcade, for another fun time. The pick 'ems are one of the better parts of SpoFi.

posted by Howard_T at 11:15 PM on June 25

The 11th Annual chicobangs Memorial SpoFi CFL Pick 'Em

In the words of Donald Rumsfeld, "...as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know."* One thing I know I do not know is a lot about the CFL. I know this because I often have embarrassed myself in the past few years of the Dr. John Classic. I will not let these unknown things that I know prevent me from trying once again to prove my ignorance. To paraphrase an old saying, "It is better to be thought a fool than to take to the keyboard and remove all doubt." Here goes:

Ottawa at Montreal: The colour-confused team from the Capitol City should be better than last years 2-win club. This will not be one of the games they win. Montreal found a QB last year, have improved in other areas, and look to challenge for the top of the East. Allouettes by 9.

Hamilton at Calgary: Is it deja vu all over again? Didn't we see this matchup in last year's Grey Cup? There's nothing to be feared more than a hungry Tiger Cat, and the Cats have just missed feasting on the Cup. Trouble is that Stampeders look to be as loaded as they were last season. I will go with the home team in this, but it will be close. Calgary by 4.

Edmonton at Toronto: Fort McMurray is between Edmonton and Wood Buffalo National Park. This has absolutely nothing to do with my prediction other than to recall the phrase "don't take any wooden nickels". I guess wood buffaloes are the Canadian equivalent of wooden nickels. Back to the game. Argonauts are without someone to handle the rudder with Ricky Ray recovering from shoulder surgery. The defence (please note the use of 'c' in place of 's') was also suspect last year, and might not have been improved. Edmonton last year was my "contrarian" team. If I picked them to win, they lost, and the converse was true. Eskimos promise to be better by a bit than last year, and with the injuries to Toronto they should prevail. Edmonton by 12.

Winnipeg at Saskatchewan: Bombers were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde last season. To help the situation they have tried to improve the offensive line as well as give Drew Willy some security and continuity. Roughriders too had their problems late in the season, but these were the result of injury to a key player. This has been addressed by the signing of a proven backup QB. This early in the season picking a winner between these two is more a guess than any sort of prediction. The coin flip came down for the Bombers. Winnipeg by 5.

*Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a press conference on Feb 12, 2002.

posted by Howard_T at 10:14 PM on June 23

Max Scherzer Has Perfect Game Through 8 2/3, But Hits Tabata

It's the judgement of the umpire that determines whether a hit batsman is awarded a base or not. The general guidelines involve an attempt to avoid getting out of the way, the location of the pitch (in or out of the strike zone; in a place where the batter had no chance to move, such as the feet), swing or no swing. At the MLB level, the umpires are aware of a batter's ability to see the pitch in time to attempt avoidance. dfleming accurately states that possibility. In this case the hit batsman decision was likely correct.

What bothers me is the batters who do not try to get out of the way, or worse who try to make it look that way while actually making sure they get hit. This is not called often enough for what it is. The call should be a dead ball, pitch called a ball or strike as applicable, runners returned to their bases unless they had advanced a base prior to the pitch, and the batter kept in the batter's box. I don't want to say it is a lack of testicular development on the part of umpires, but I do feel they have become too comfortable in awarding the base when not justified.

posted by Howard_T at 12:31 PM on June 21

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

Norwegian national team players talk about how much they suck at football.

Pure gold, goddam. My wife is in the other room yelling at me to find out what I'm laughing at. I love the bit about the offside rule, but really, this has to have been rehearsed. Still funny anyway.

posted by Howard_T at 09:54 PM on June 19

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

Has a member of the losing team ever won Finals MVP in the NBA?

Jerry West, LA Lakers, 1969. He had a game 7 vs Boston (42 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) that was as enormous as any of James' efforts. LA lost by 2 after coming back from a 15-point deficit entering the 4th quarter. Don Nelson hit a desperation 18-footer to beat the shot clock when John Havlicek had the ball batted away, but it went directly to Nelson. A free throw for Boston and a late 2-point shot for LA determined the final margin. For the series, West averaged 37.9 ppg, while playing 43.9 minutes.

posted by Howard_T at 11:07 PM on June 15

Warriors Win Game 5, Need One More for NBA Championship

I do not understand playing Mozgov for 9 minutes last night

I believe the theory is that if you have the biggest and best "small" guy on the floor, you should have an advantage. This would hold true if your other 4 small guys were a match for the other team's small guys. It is pretty obvious that they are not, and why Blatt persisted in the strategy for so much of the game is beyond me. In his defense, perhaps he realized that Mozgov could actually be a defensive liability despite his length and shot blocking ability. Golden State has the ability to penetrate down the lane, and Mozgov, when he moves to help, is not quick enough to get back and cover a pass to another Warrior underneath. Once Golden State is making its 3-point shots, packing the defense in down low is not a solution. It's sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation for Cleveland now.

posted by Howard_T at 10:52 PM on June 15

Golden State Exposes Cleveland in Game 4 Rout

Way back when Cleveland swept Boston in the opening series of the playoffs, I made the comment that Boston's bench was better than Cleveland's. This when Love and Irving were healthy. It does not surprise me that the Cleveland starters are playing heavy minutes and are beginning to wear down. Dellavedova in particular seems to be affected by having to play more minutes than he is used to playing. His play in games 2 and 3 was very effective, but last night seemed to be lacking some of his usual energy. The extra day of rest will help, but will not be enough.

It seems to be LeBron's sad lot to have found another team that does not have enough behind him to win a championship. I know it's not over yet, but all the signs seem to indicate the ultimate outcome. This time it is the fault of the injury spirits rather than team management or any other circumstances. In a way I feel badly for him, but at the same time, being no fan of his, I enjoyed his tribulations last night. Over time I will mellow towards him as I did with Kobe Bryant, and recognize that his talent far outweighed his early immaturity and apparently self-centered behavior. Thank ESPN for much of that.

posted by Howard_T at 05:34 PM on June 12

NBC Sports to NHL: Hey Good Lookin', Shave Those Playoff Beards

Young and attractive? Get their faces out there? How long will it be until the first closeup of a clean-shaven, generously scarred face that smiles broadly -- revealing some serious dental deficiencies? You want clean-shaven? Switch to something a bit more genteel. Swimming might be an alternative. The beards tend to slow down a swimmer.

posted by Howard_T at 09:52 PM on June 09

James Scores Triple-Double as Cavs Even NBA Finals at 1

Isn't that exactly what they're doing Howard?

It is, but it will take time for it to work. It is now a 5-game series, LeBron is single-handedly carrying his team, and has succeeded, at least for game 2. As you correctly point out, Golden State suffered from uncommonly bad shooting in game 2, and I'm not sure Cleveland's defense had all that much to do with it. Curry got the touches he needed, but Dellavedova (interesting that spell check says that "Dellavedova" should be "levelheaded") was sufficiently disruptive to put Golden state's offense off of its usual efficiency.

posted by Howard_T at 04:53 PM on June 09

Football Coach Creates Rivalry Game Without Rival's Knowledge

But I couldn't come up with a name. I needed a river that divided us.

No rivers, but how about the Llano Estacado (Staked Plain) "Stakeout, or the Jornado del Muerto "Death Trip"? This latter terrain feature is a bit too far north to be in between the 2 schools, but the Llano Estacado area around Amarillo, TX, is sufficiently bleak to serve as a terrain feature.

posted by Howard_T at 04:45 PM on June 09

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

A new take on switch-pitchers.

posted by Howard_T at 04:37 PM on June 09

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

And on Sunday I saw something happen in a MLB game that I had never seen before.

It's a first for me at the MLB level, but I have had 2 or 3 arguments with coaches at the Babe Ruth or interscholastic level over this rule. The coach of the team on defense will always argue that interference must be called, even though the judgement call is that the runner was in contact with the base and did not interfere deliberately. The coach of a team on offense will always plead that it was not intentional when his runner interferes with a fielder, and will argue that interference should not be called. One call that I truly hate being faced with is interference on a batter with a catcher attempting a throw in order to put out a runner at a base. If the batter does not move into the catcher's path, there's no interference, but when the batter has swung at the pitch and falls into the catcher's path, it is really difficult to judge. I usually go by the rule "when in doubt, call them out". The rule is clear, the determining factor involves umpire judgement, and coaches are always wrong. Just ask the umpire about that last statement.

posted by Howard_T at 04:06 PM on June 08

James Scores Triple-Double as Cavs Even NBA Finals at 1

It is time for Golden State to use "The Formula". This is the way the Boston Celtics of old (Russell, Cousy, Sharman days) would defeat teams that had the best player on the floor. The idea was that this "best player" was going to get his points. You could not stop him, so do not waste a lot of extra effort. Instead, make sure that no one else is able to go off for points, rebounds, or any other offensive statistic well above his normal output. At the same time, you exert enough offensive pressure on the "best player" to make him play full-time defense, thus tiring him somewhat. Note that this formula must be applied over a series; it does not work for just one game. In the case at hand, LeBron James, having to play minutes in the 30s game after game, will, if the formula is properly applied, be worn down by game 7 of the finals.

What did in Golden State last night was their inability to hit much from the 3-point arc and the ability of the Cleveland defense to pack it in down low to prevent the Warriors from attacking the rim. Give full marks to Dellevadova for his defensive work. It was not so much any ability to stop or influence shots. Rather, he was able to exert the defensive pressure needed to disrupt Golden State's offensive timing.

posted by Howard_T at 03:53 PM on June 08

A bit of history

His performance in The Belmont was outstanding. His start was not too good, but Espinoza took him to the lead easily. While he was in the lead he appeared to be "saving" himself, yet he was not giving up any ground. It was only as he turned into the stretch that he appeared to begin working hard, and even then it looked like he had something left to stave off a late challenge, should one have arisen. The plan is to continue racing him, at least for this year, with a major stakes race in August a possibility. Should all go well, look for him to attempt the "grand slam" in the Breeders Cup in October. He would be the first horse to accomplish this, and perhaps it would place him in the ranks of the greatest of all time.

posted by Howard_T at 08:40 PM on June 07

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

The A's just called up switch pitcher, Pat Vanditte to the bigs.

He came into the game tonight in Boston. The oddity is that he faced Swihart, Boston's catcher, and a switch-hitter himself. Vanditte was pitching left-handed, but wanted to move Swihart to the left-hand batter's box. The rule was that the pitcher had to signal his intent prior to making a pitch to the batter. This he did, Swihart batted left vs the now right-handed Vanditte, and struck out. Interesting to watch. Vanditte's glove is constructed with two "thumbs", so that he can switch hands without having to get a new glove each time.

posted by Howard_T at 10:59 PM on June 05

Warriors Win Game 1 of Finals Despite LeBron's 44 Points

hope it's not meniscus.

That would be the least of his worries. Heard tonight it's a broken kneecap. Ouch!!!

posted by Howard_T at 10:54 PM on June 05

SpoFil NBA Playoff Pick 'Em

In my defense, I hit "Post" about 5 seconds before the tap-off.

posted by Howard_T at 09:12 PM on June 04

SpoFil NBA Playoff Pick 'Em

Winner: Golden State Duration: 7 games MVP: Curry Rebounds: Draymond Green Assists: James Free throws attempted: Irving Steals: Shumpert Blocks: Mozgov Fouls: Bogut Turnovers: Curry Technicals: 5 (not including 3-second defensive calls) Largest margin of victory: 18 Triple doubles: 3 Leading scorer's points: 177 Turnovers: Irving

posted by Howard_T at 09:10 PM on June 04

NHL Playoff Pick 'Em, Stanley Cup Finals

After long and thoughtful reflection, it is time to make my humble effort. With no less than 13 categories to predict, it will stretch my powers of prognostication to the limit, but we will persevere.

Series winner: Before watching game 7 in the west, I might have called the Lightning for this. But it appears Blackhawks have played a little better with each game. Of course, as with any series in the playoffs, it comes down to one man. Bishop has been really good, but Crawford has gotten stronger. My choice is Chicago. +1

Number of games: I have a strange feeling that NBC Sports might like to be rid of ice hockey for the year. The season seems to have drawn out, and now is a bit stale. While the TV will have nothing to do with it, the series will be rather quick. The pick, 5 games.

Longest game: No marathons like the Chicago - Anaheim series. 1 OT, and that a quick one.

Average TV rating in the US: What do I know about that? Nothing. Try 1.6.

First goal: Toews.

Conn Smythe Trophy: Goaltenders seem to have somewhat of a lock here. Crawford.

Most Goals: Kane.

Most Assists: Toews.

Most Points: Toews.

Plus/Minus: Keith. +1

Most PIM: Oduya

Best GAA (starters): Crawford. +1

Winning SpoFite: With his 4-stroke lead as we turn the back 9, I have to look to cixelsyd. +1

posted by Howard_T at 03:56 PM on June 02

Matthew Dellavedova and the Australian Way.

I will always remember my one trip to Australia in USS Midway in 1987. We made a port visit to Sydney, some of the wives chartered a Malaysian Air flight from Japan (our home port), and we had a wonderful 10 days or so. The wives had to leave a couple of days before we sailed, so there was some time to enjoy a bit different side of Sydney. It was then I learned that in the late afternoon getting a beer in a bar near Circular Quay was a contact sport. Not that there were any fights, or even unpleasantries. No, it's just that the place was so damn crowded one had to really wriggle through the bodies to get close enough to put in his order. Finally figured out that it was a cooperative sport as well. Yell out your desire, and soon enough a cold one was in your hand. Put your money in your outstretched other hand, and it was on the way to the bar. More than a few times, the money just stayed there as someone stood the round for you. Attitude? Give me more of it.

posted by Howard_T at 03:36 PM on June 02

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

other fans react predictably

Really old school: 8-mm or 16mm films, shot from your stadium press box, in order to better see what your offense or defense looks like.

Old school: Video shot from a lift truck, boom truck, or equivalent, usually placed in the end zone. Video editing techniques make it possible to concentrate on single players or small player groupings.

Today: Use of an unmanned aircraft to carry a video camera in order to observe the field. The advantage is the flexibility of positioning the camera to obtain the exact angle and player groupings desired.

Those fans who believe this is just another way to spy are somewhat out of touch with reality. The aircraft would need to be large enough to have the endurance necessary to loiter in the airspace and still carry the video equipment. The cameras are small, but the gimbel mechanism to steer them is not so small. How long would it take for someone to notice the aircraft?

Spell check just tried to tell me that "gimbel" was not spelled correctly. The suggested alternative was "Gumbel". Is ESPN trying to tell us something?

NBC Sports is starting its own documentary series

I read the Sanderson biography. My son gave it to me one Christmas or birthday, I forget which. It was pretty much standard stuff, but the details were alternatively, interesting, frightening, and salacious. NBC will have to be careful with a lot of the stuff in the Daisy Buchanan's era. I will definitely try to watch this. On or off the ice, one never knew what Sanderson might do next.

posted by Howard_T at 03:15 PM on June 02

FIFA President Sepp Blatter Announces His Resignation

Hold the celebrations. Keep the hilarity down to a minimum. He ain't gone yet. In his own words, he will "organize an extraordinary convention" to elect his successor. Based on past events, some delegates to this convention are about to receive some "extraordinary" financial rewards. Vote buying at this event will make Chicago politics look like a neighborhood yard sale. In the interest of improving my retirement fund, can anyone tell me how to get myself named to the convention as the representative of some obscure nation?

posted by Howard_T at 02:52 PM on June 02

LeBron Takes Cavaliers to NBA Finals in First Season Back

I got to see Wiggins once this year. I focused on him because my rheumatologist is a Kansas grad, and he was a one-man rooting section for Wiggins. So as I watched him against the Celtics in December, at a time when the Celtics' roster was in a state of flux, I couldn't help but think he was the invisible man. He was most unimpressive that night. Most likely it was just "one of those games". but I am still not really in the "Wiggins is wonderful" camp.

posted by Howard_T at 04:26 PM on May 27

LeBron Takes Cavaliers to NBA Finals in First Season Back

I think Ainge would overpay for Love.

(I know that at various times in my life, I would have done so.)

The Celtics could be a much better team with Love, but their more immediate need is a defensive rim protector. Those are few and far between.

I overpaid for love once, but that was in my misspent youth. I don't regret it, though.

posted by Howard_T at 02:02 PM on May 27

Henchmen arrested, but the Joker is still at large

all of the men arrested or charged are Western Hemisphere nationals

The key here is that the charges are all based on US banking regulations. The Western Hemisphere guys can be shown to have run some of their ill-gotten gains through US banks, and thus to have violated US law. If any of the rest of them can be shown to have used US banks, charges might be issued there as well.

The big question is whether or not any of the accused will ever come to trial in the US. Right now they are in Switzerland. Will the Swiss pull their passports and keep them there? If they contest extradition to the US, the procedure could take years. Will the Swiss allow them to travel? If so, they might head for one of many countries with no treaty of extradition with the US. Freezing, and eventually seizing their assets in the US might or might not work, since they probably have something of an emergency stash somewhere.

All in all, this might just be the impetus for FIFA reform, but I will not hold my breath. Also, keep an eye on the officiating when the US Women's team plays at the upcoming tournament. There could be some really interesting calls.

posted by Howard_T at 01:56 PM on May 27

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

My Dad always said that you have 2 ears and 1 mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you speak. Unfortunately, Twitter has allowed us the use all 10 fingers, thus overwhelming by a factor of 5 the idea of listening prior to commenting. Ah yes, Twitter, idiocy in 140 characters or less.

posted by Howard_T at 01:45 PM on May 27

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Truly, this is all about the Xs and Os.

Huntsville was picked by the army (NASA had nothing to do with it at first) because of the real estate available at Redstone Arsenal. The place is huge, and it has several miles of frontage along the Tennessee River that serves well as a heat sink for the testing of rocket engines. The base itself was once quite remote from settled areas; not so any more. I spent a total of about a year down there over the course of about 7 years, and it's one of the few places in the South I would consider living in. The influx of professionals into the area for the space program meant that the infrastructure developed strongly. There are 3 universities in the city, some really good restaurants, and Nashville is just a little over an hour away.

Dogs and chimps were used originally because they couldn't trust the locals in Houston not to screw up the rocket flight.

posted by Howard_T at 12:10 PM on May 26

Hall of Fame Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes Dies

That would be a great movie.

My memory tells me there was a movie made about the Globetrotters back in the late '40s or early '50s. I do not remember the plot, but I think it had something to do with getting the Trotters into some sort of professional tournament. The film used to be a staple on late night TV until monster flicks took over that time slot.

Aha! Found it. This is the synopsis. I remember the plot vaguely now, and the Celtics team the Trotters were playing was the "New York" Celtics (ugh, disgusting), not the Boston variety. There was a second Globetrotters film called "Go Man Go". I remember the title, but nothing at all about the film.

The good news is that this film showed up on turner Classic Movies a few years ago, so it might come around again. While the film is nowhere near factually accurate, and according to some was poorly made, it at least features a number of the former Globetrotters, including Haynes himself.

posted by Howard_T at 10:14 PM on May 25

Hall of Fame Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes Dies

I saw the headline in an on-line sports source a few minutes ago. Now I cannot get the tune "Sweet Georgia Brown" out of my head. I remember when the Harlem Globe Trotters' visits to Boston were mandatory attendance for my dad and I. It was great entertainment, and it never seemed to grow stale.

posted by Howard_T at 08:25 PM on May 23

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

Here's the rule, straight from the horse's mouth (or at least from the summary of rules).

When a team scores by touchdown, field goal, extra point, or safety and either team commits a personal foul, unsportsmanlike conduct, or obvious unfair act during the down, the penalty will be assessed on the following kickoff.

posted by Howard_T at 09:57 PM on May 21

Kraft Says Patriots Won't Appeal DeflateGate Punishment

Perhaps there is a darker side to Kraft's apparent submission. I read today that the NFLPA has asked that Goodell be held in contempt of court in connection with the Adrian Peterson case. If this is done, our favorite commissioner will have lost a great deal of credibility. It is also a sure thing that the NFLPA will aggressively pursue having Goodell testify as a witness at Brady's hearing. If he does, and does not recuse himself from ruling on the appeal, it's almost an automatic that the NFLPA will go to court to have anything but a favorable result (for Brady) set aside. Should this happen, the possibility for Goodell to perjure himself is there. If he gets it all wrong and does indeed commit perjury, I do believe the owners would be forced to dump him. I would not greatly surprise me were Kraft having someone work closely but clandestinely with Brady's defense team in order to set Goodell up.

posted by Howard_T at 10:51 PM on May 20

SpoFi NBA Pick 'Em

Count me out of this round. I had to work a baseball game by myself (no field umpire) yesterday, and by the time I got home, fixed dinner, cleaned up, and got to the laptop, I was dog tired. Overslept this morning, had to run to get to my game this afternoon, had a church vestry meeting that went late, and as a result I did not get to the laptop until about 2130. Too late. For the record, I'm looking at easy (4- or 5-game) wins for Golden State and Cleveland. As far as the side bets go, I have a day tomorrow that won't let me stop to breathe. (2 doctor's appointments, some critical mailings at the post office, and another game by myself. I'm thinking of taking my assigner to court for abuse of a senior citizen. (Problem is if the weather doesn't cooperate in March, teams can't get the fields ready before the season has already started. Thus a lot of middle school and JV games get rescheduled, as do the varsity games, and you wind up on any given day with 80 games and 130 umpires. The math doesn't work too well.)

posted by Howard_T at 11:39 PM on May 19

Kraft Says Patriots Won't Appeal DeflateGate Punishment

Two things come to mind. Kraft dropping the appeal might just involve some "new" facts about the deflation coming to light, causing Goodell to reduce the fine and/or restore one or both of the draft picks. Goodell will explain that Wells overlooked something or other in his report, the Patriots acted improperly, but were not the evil cheats everyone thought they were.

The second thing is that if the above does not happen, the next time Kraft and Goodell hug, there will be a figurative switch blade in Kraft's hand. In other words, Goodell will be on a very short leash, and one more screw-up in discipline, revenue, or relocation of teams will result in a new commissioner being sought.

posted by Howard_T at 11:28 PM on May 19

NFL Moves PAT Kicks Back to 15-Yard Line

Well, there goes the two-point conversion! The conversion rate for those from the 15 will be almost nil

The line of scrimmage for the 2-point conversion attempt will remain at the 2 yard line. Given game situations and especially weather conditions (wind, rain, snow), the number of 2-point attempts might actually increase. A proposal to move the 2-point line to the 1 was defeated.

posted by Howard_T at 11:16 PM on May 19

NHL Playoff Pick 'Em, Round 3

I was a bit surprised that Washington was able to extend Rangers to a 7th game. That series was much closer than I had thought it would be. Tampa Bay looked like they had the brooms out, but Montreal decided to play, Tampa laid back just a touch, but then Lightnings' skating and scoring showed up. Chicago finally started to put their entire game together, especially in goal, while Anaheim still looks like a machine. The conference finals will be quite fun to watch.

While Chicago has begun to look like Chicago, Anaheim still looks like Anaheim. In other words, very hard to deal with. Ducks winning the series will be no shock, but doing it in a somewhat dominating manner will be. Anaheim in 5.

New York vs Tampa Bay will be a good one. Rangers have perhaps the best remaining goaltender on the playoffs, but the Maine Black Bear, Ben Bishop, in the Tampa nets has looked good and seems to be getting a bit sharper. New York's defense will hold Lightning in check for long stretches of play, but the firepower of Tampa Bay will ultimately prevail. Tampa Bay in 7. +2

Top goal scorer: Tampa's Stamkos was in a deep slump against Montreal, but broke out in the last game of the series. I look for his drought to be over. Top goal scorer: Stamkos.

My pick for top power play scorer could easily have been my pick for overall goal scorer. He might still prove me wrong about that, but on the power play the top gun will be Anaheim's Perry.

The bad boy award for the most PIM is Rangers' Tanner Glass. +1

Save percentage is a tough pick. The winner of this category will come from the East, and he won't be Swedish. Look for the stopper to be Tampa's Ben Bishop.

posted by Howard_T at 10:45 PM on May 15

NFL Announces Punishment for Patriots' Deflated Balls

Here's a handy guide to cheating in the NFL. It appears that Patriots have plenty of company in the shenanigans department.

posted by Howard_T at 10:33 PM on May 12

Yes, But Is It A Sport?

The word "sport" can refer to many things other than athletic competition. Definition 3, here, covers it pretty well. Contract Bridge, particularly duplicate bridge, is a game of skill. It is also a pretty good intellectual activity that offers a good bit of social interaction.

posted by Howard_T at 06:19 PM on May 09

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

Denise McCluggage

I was an avid reader of her writings when I was in the age range from my late teens until my mid-30s. These are what I often refer to as my "younger, drunker, stupider days". I was much into cars, speed, racing, and all that went with it. MS McCluggage's writings illustrated an aspect of the automobile racing scene, especially Formula 1, that was unique and most enjoyable to see. I do not keep up with automobiles as I once did; age, marriage, and financial considerations have that effect. I have also failed in passing along a passion for wheeled vehicles to my son. He just bought a Subaru Outback and freely admitted he was driving a "mom car". Be all that as it may, MS McCluggage's obituary brought back a few memories of those "YDS" days. I may also steal the Housman poem to use when my own time comes along.

posted by Howard_T at 06:08 PM on May 09

NFL Investigator: Patriots Probably Deflated Balls on Purpose

It is more probable than not that Roger Goodell told Wells to come up with something -- anything -- that could possibly keep Goodell and the league from looking like complete a-holes on this. Why did it take so long for the report to be released? It took that long for Wells to interpret some text messages in the worst possible light, figure out how to frame the words so that the evidence would look damning and extensive, and finally how to term things that would allow a maximum of weasel room. Were this a criminal matter presented to a prosecutor by an investigator, the prosecutor wold throw the investigator out of the room while telling him that he could never get a conviction, let alone an indictment on evidence that thin.

I am convinced now that Brady's future lies in the political arena. He has demonstrated a mastery of the techniques for giving unrevealing answers and removing smoking guns. Hillary Clinton couldn't have done it better.

posted by Howard_T at 12:25 AM on May 07

SpoFi NBA Playoff Pick 'Em

I'm cheating by starting my picks on Notepad before Ufez posts the pick'em. Tomorrow is Sunday, that means early to rise for church and then a busy day after that. If I don't get to the picks now, I won't have another chance.

Let's start with the East and Atlanta vs Washington: Washington pulled off the sweep against Toronto and looked good doing it. I did not expect the sweep, but the series win happened just about the way I figured it would with Pierce and Wall leading. Atlanta will be an entirely different bird. While there is no real "superstar" that will take over a game, there is no real weakness to be exploited. Wizards have talent and probably learned a lot from the first round, but they just don't seem to have enough. It won't be easy, but I'll say Atlanta in 6.

Chicago vs Cleveland: Until game 4 in Boston, I would have said that Cleveland would walk into the East finals. Without having Kevin Love, playing Chicago could be a very tough proposition. Bulls can match up well enough up front and as long as Rose stays healthy, they might have an advantaage at the point. James is the best player on the floor, but without Love, is he enough? Irving hit all the shots when Cavaliers needed them, but I noticed that Cleveland's bench was not as good as Boston's. This could be the deciding factor. It is very hard to pick against LeBron, so I won't, but it will go the limit. Cleveland in 7.

Westward ho! (no, I'm not giving a lady directions here) and Memphis vs Golden State: The Grizzlies were just what I figured against a depleted Portland team. Now they are up agains what may be the very best in Golden State. I cannot see Memphis doing much here. My prediction is short and sweet, Golden State in 5.

LA Clippers vs Houston: The Rockets have James Hardin, Dwight Howard, Corey Brewer, and Josh Smith. The Clippers have Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, J. J. Redick, and most importantly Chris Paul. This last-named player will have the largest impact on the series. Houston does not have a point guard who is the equivalent. One major liability is DeAndre Jordan. San Antonio used the deliberate foul against Jordan to good effect. Kevin McHale is no dummy, so look for him to go that route too. This series could be as good as the LA - San Antonio series just completed. I look for LA Clippers in 7.

Rebounders:

East -- Gasol, Chicago Bulls West -- Jordan, LA Clippers

3-point goals: Kyle Korver, Atlana hawks

Assists per Game: 8.6

posted by Howard_T at 11:56 PM on May 02

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Jameis Winston

The crab legs photo does not show a lack of maturity. Rather it displays a massive arrogance on the part of someone who has been catered to since the time his athletic ability was first noticed. Sooner or later one of two things will happen. He will be brought up short on a leash and realize that acting like a punk is about to cost him a lot of money, or he will continue in his behavioral pattern and get himself into some real trouble that cannot be covered up. If it is the former, Winston might just have a chance to become something; if the latter, he's done and Tampa Bay is the big loser.

Maybe it's a New England Puritan rectitude thing, but I share the intense dislike for Mr. W.

posted by Howard_T at 10:54 PM on May 01

NHL Playoff Pick 'Em, Round 2

Minnesota vs Chicago: I should go with Chicago, but Minnesota took down St. Louis, a team with better talent but poor goaltending. The situation seems to be the same with Blackhawks. Minnesota in 6. Kane the scorer. +1

Anaheim vs Calgary: Thought Vancouver could eliminate Calgary. Instead the flames toasted the Canucks. Flames will not roast the Ducks. Anaheim in 5. +2 Perry to be the lamplighter. +1

Montreal vs Tampa Bay: Ottawa did not do what I thought they were capable of doing, that is to steal a series against Montreal. Instead, the hockey gods, and perhaps some of them were wearing striped shirts, deemed it meet that Canadiens should once again advance. Tampa Bay's young talent can skate and score with Montreal, but will they? I will bite the bullet and say no. Montreal in 7. Max Pacioretty tops the goal list.

New York Rangers vs Washington: Capitals did exactly what I thought they would against Islanders, but it was more difficult for them than it should have been. They will play no better against Rangers, and this will spell their doom. New York in 5 +1. Brassard to be high scorer.

I have to go with the chalk for the goaltending. Low GAA goes to Price.

posted by Howard_T at 05:36 PM on April 30

What would happen if you played a baseball game and nobody came out to watch?

This means I might have more spectators watching me umpire at one of my middle school games than at the Orioles vs White Sox. I feel proud and humble.

posted by Howard_T at 05:18 PM on April 28

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

This is from owlhouse territory, the Canterbury Park Racecourse. The jockey says there is quite a bit of national exposure for this. There have been no comments from the horses or jockeys that were trailing him.

posted by Howard_T at 12:10 AM on April 25

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

a couple of novels and an esky

Most of my games will be played on public school grounds, so alcohol is strictly out of the question. If you even try to light up a tobacco product inside your car with the windows closed on school grounds, it will cost you a quick $100. Noo Hampshuh is slowly moving away from the state motto, "Live Free or Die".

posted by Howard_T at 12:15 AM on April 22

Fan Hit in Head by Foul Ball Through Home-Plate Netting

I was at Fenway Park with my son, then younger than 10, sitting in the left field grandstand seats quite close to the wall that parallels the left field foul line. During batting practice my attention was momentarily distracted, and I looked up to see a screaming line drive just a few feet away and heading directly for my son. I could not have reacted quickly enough, but at the last second a glove interspersed itself between the ball and my son's face. It was far too close a call, and I will never do that again.

posted by Howard_T at 12:06 AM on April 22

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

Somebody call in the linesmen and break up this hockey fight. Too bad if they do, it's just getting good. The problem with Edmonton's young talent is that Edmonton just doesn't get much exposure in the US media. Whenever they do, the youngsters are fully appreciated for their skills, do not seem to be suffering from poor coaching, but are stuck in a city that does not draw a lot of attention for much of anything. I'm not trying to run Edmonton down, but the city just doesn't hit the headlines much, for sports or anything else. Sooner or later, one or more of these players will move to a stronger team in a more noticeable city, and then the recognition will come.

posted by Howard_T at 03:24 PM on April 20

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

Two hour and two minute Sunday night baseball game

Not bad, but I took a middle school game through 7 full innings in 1:45 last Friday afternoon. With middle schoolers, who so often stand with the bat on their shoulders, turning the game into a walk-a-thon, it is rather extraordinary to get it done in less than 2 hours. The key, as holden has suggested, is for the pitchers to throw strikes and the batters to respond by swinging at them. Even at the MLB level the umpiring has a lot to do with it as well. A generous strike zone, as long as it's consistent, will speed things up considerably. It's too bad so many umpires seem to have a strike zone that limits what a pitcher can do.

posted by Howard_T at 03:15 PM on April 20

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

A Rod and Signature significance.

That great baseball analyst (and former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman) Alan Greenspan had the exact term for this. He called it "Irrational Exuberance", and the term seems to fit exactly. Of course, Mr. Greenspan was talking about economic expectations during the "dot com" stock market bubble of the 1990s. The dot com bubble was out at the plate in 2000.

posted by Howard_T at 03:08 PM on April 20

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Why I didn't a-know thet, Tahoemoj. Tell me, did it dig up a bone for Barbie Benton?

two sets of laws of aerodynamics (with one pertaining to the human form)

Did any of you know that Howard Hughes invented a bra for Jane Russell that highlighted her best feature (or features, to be more accurate) for her role in The Outlaw?. Hughes took advantage of his experience in aircraft design to develop a sort of articulated lift for MS Russell, and the result was, shall we say, spectacular. The secret is that she did not like the Hughes design, and made a substitute from one of her own bras padded with tissue and re-shaped with tightened straps. Howard Hughes once commented, "There are two good reasons why men go to see her. Those are enough."

posted by Howard_T at 03:18 PM on April 18

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Just devastated. Heading out to slug down some Patron,

I was never a fan of Sabado Gigante, but I did watch it every once in a while. Don't tell my wife, but the feature I really appreciated was the bevy of lovely and well endowed ladies that populated the program.

My meager kingdom to have Hee-Haw available on Netflix.

There's an occasional re-run on RFDTV, if your cable or satellite provider carries that channel. I watched Hee-Haw for the same reasons I watched Sabado Gigante. As you might suspect, I fulfill both requirements to be a dirty old man.

posted by Howard_T at 12:49 AM on April 18

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em

OK, here goes. I am absolutely thrilled to once again go to a Boston Celtics playoff game -- or 2 or 3. It should be 2 for sure, but my son's girlfriend might want to go to game 4. I would complain, but she's my fitness trainer as well as son's girlfriend, and a really nice person to boot.

Atlanta vs Brooklyn: The no stars Hawks should have little difficulty with Brooklyn. On the "blind hog and acorn" theory, Nets will take one game, but the rest will be no contest. Atlanta in 5.

Cleveland vs Boston: Isaiah Thomas goes absolutely bonkers, averages 36 per game, a trio of Celtics defenders wears down LeBron James to the point where he loses his temper in game 3 and is ejected and suspended for attacking an official, and the Celtics win the series. All this will happen sometime in the next two nights, and then I will awaken from the dream. Cleveland in 5.

Chicago vs Milwaukee: The Bucks have been a bit of an enigma, looking unbeatable on some evenings and quite ordinary on others. On the other hand, the Bulls have suffered all year from injury, and at times seem to have stopped listening to Coach Thibodeau. Rose is back, but is he back to his top form? I look for the Bucks to stop here. Chicago in 6.

Toronto vs Washington: Raptors are a talented bunch. Landry Fields, DeMar DeRozan, and Louis Williams can fill the nets, while Valanciunas can get the ball off the boards. Defense could be a problem for them. Washington lacks the scorers of Toronto, but Wall and Gortat sre a tough combination to stop. One thing that Wizards have is the playoff experience of one gray bearded Paul Pierce. His presence on the floor, on the bench, and in the locker room will keep Washington focused. This will be no easy series, but it's Washington in 6.

Golden State vs New Orleans: The best team in the NBA against one that crawled into the post season in its last game. To quote Ogden Nash, "A remarkable bird is the Pelican, his beak holds more than his belly can." New Orleans will stick its beak into Golden State, but will wind up with a belly full of Warriors' basketball. Golden State in 4.

Houston vs Dallas: Who cares about the NBA championship; this one is for the championship of Texas. It could very well prove to be the best series of the 8 being played in the first round. Rockets have Jams Harden and Trevor Ariza to do their scoring, and with Dwight Howard back they have a third threat. The Mark Cuban AC counters with Monta Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chandler Parsons. The question for Dallas is whether or not Rajon Rondo is able to work within the system and support the others. I watched Rondo for his years in Boston, and I know he saves his best for the big moments. This series is the one I will watch when it's available. I look for Dallas in 7.

Los Angeles Clippers vs San Antonio Spurs: Doc Rivers vs Gregg Popovich; Tim Duncan vs Blake Griffin; Kawhi Leonard vs J. J. Reddick. The matchups in this one are intriguing. The only problem with this series is that too many of the games will be in the Pacific time zone. I mean, I'm a night owl, but that's ridiculous. The big difference between these two clubs is at the point guard position. Chris Paul against Paddy Mills might be spectacular. As good as Mills has been this year, I look to Chris Paul to guide the Clippers and sell plenty of insurance. Los Angeles in 7.

Portland vs Memphis: Trail Blazers might have problems if Chris Kaman and Nicolas Batum miss any time in this one. Both are questionable for game 1. Damian Lillard can make up a lot of the Portland offense, but can he do enough without the others? Injuries are a problem for Memphis as well. Tony Allen, one of the best defenders in the league, is coming back from a hamstring strain and is questionable for game 1. Mike Conley is likewise questionable after missing the last 4 games with a sprained foot. Beno Udrih is a competent backup at the point, but after him only rookie Russ Smith is left. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Jeff Green will provide sufficient offense for the Grizzlies, and can also play enough defense to slow Kaman and Batum. Memphis in 6.

High scorer in the East: DeMar DeRozan High scorer in the West: James Harden Ejected player: Yannick Noah (on a flagrant 2) 3-point moneyball (scoring average): 36.2

posted by Howard_T at 12:29 AM on April 17

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

My favorite romantic sports feud

This was no feud, rather it was friendliness to excess. Back in 1973, Yankee teammates pitchers Floyd Peterson and Mike Kekich engaged in occasional wife swapping. Look at item 6 in the link. It grew to the point where the two actually traded wives. I always wondered if there was a player to be named later in that trade.

posted by Howard_T at 11:17 PM on April 15

NHL Playoff Pick 'Em Starts Now

With the Bruins alternating between highly entertaining and brutally incompetent this season, I haven't paid a lot of attention to the NHL this season. I will attempt to pull a few out of my hat.

Montreal vs Ottawa: Senators might just pull Montreal's old trick of introducing a relative newcomer in goal, having him go on an insane hot streak, and steal the series. Ottawa in 6.

Islanders vs Washington: Two words: Ovechkin, Trotz. With Ovechkin playing really good hockey and Trotz having sold his defensive responsibility schemes, the Caps are looking strong. Washington in 5. +1

Chicago vs Nashville: Blackhawks talent is not music to the Music City team. Chicago in 5. +1

Calgary vs Vancouver: It took a bit of time, but Vancouver seems to have jelled. Calgary can be tough, but not tough enough. Vancouver in 7.

Pittsburgh vs Rangers: Penguins have to be the playoff team that has done the least with the most talent. There are others in this category, but none made the playoffs. Rangers are solid from top to bottom. Rangers in 4. +1

Detroit vs Tampa Bay: Red Wings made the playoffs through the grace and ineptitude of a few other teams. Tampa Bay has a lot of young talent. Tampa Bay in 5 +1.

Minnesota vs St. Louis: This is another pairing of a solid team with some depth against a good team that plays hard. Go with the Blues here. St. Louis in 6.

Winnipeg vs Anaheim: Duck! It's the Jets. Jets (at least those of the US Navy and Marine Corps variety) can't fly without JP-5 fuel, while ducks do nicely on whatever they can find. Jets will be grounded and ducks will swim placidly on the frozen pond. Anaheim in 5 +1.

Goal scorers to watch: Ovechkin is an easy pick. I have to look at Stamkos, Tavares, and Monahan, but figure Washington to get put on the power play often enough to give the nod to the Russian. Top Scorer is Ovechkin.

Note for Ufez, if you put up an NBA pickem, I'm in. I have my seats for the first 2 Celtics home games, section 316, Row 5, Seats 9 and 10. Go Celtics. Nice thing this year is that the team does not charge the season ticket accounts until the games are scheduled and necessary. Two years ago they made buying a full playoff package a part of the season ticket renewal, then had to credit the accounts for games not played. It wasn't exactly fair, but there are worse things done.

posted by Howard_T at 05:11 PM on April 15

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

Perhaps the Leafs will go out and get Chiarelli

Their current roster would be all in favor of same. Chiarelli would give many of them high-priced, long-term deals that could keep the Leafs irrelevant forever. He might even trade Phil Kessel back to Boston for a couple of bags of pucks.

posted by Howard_T at 01:34 PM on April 15

Aaron Hernandez convicted of 1st-degree murder

I can think of a few things to give him in a going away party. A copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People would be useful. A supply of Soap on a Rope is always handy in a prison environment. Perhaps some boxing lessons, a few "how-to"books on easily crafted weapons, and a contacts list of those who can supply certain contraband goods will serve him well.

posted by Howard_T at 01:22 PM on April 15

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

This story from The Christian Science Monitor tells why the Padres have signed a former pitcher each year for about 20 years. It makes me like the team even more, and actually gives me a reason to like Larry Lucchino.

posted by Howard_T at 06:54 PM on April 10