Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Credit Crisis Explained

I don't like to let things get too serious around here, but I also feel a need to spread knowledge when possible. I found this great little video which simply and quickly explains how everything went to shit in the housing and credit markets. Hey, its better than reading a book.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Notice how the video doesn't blame the CRA? That's cause the CRA isn't to blame, and anyone who does blame the CRA is a fucking partisan moron. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Badvertising: Head and Shoulders

Love it. Simple, funny, catchy and not trying too hard.

Its also a good public service reminder to go check your tires for death crystals. This is no joke people, don't become another victim of death crystal laden tires.

Friday, February 20, 2009

That's a lot of Lucky Charms

Sproles got the franchise tag this week, all but guaranteeing that he'll be a Charger this year. Good for him, he's certainly earned it, and hopefully this can turn into a long term deal so he can remain a Charger for several years to come.

My only question is whether he has room in his pot-o-gold for $6.6 million.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A-Rod Tangent

All this A-Rod talk has made me remember something else that's bugged me. Back in 2001 A-Rod signed the biggest contract in sports history, a 10 year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers. During his tenure in Texas he was very, very productive (and apparently could afford some steroids as well). However, despite his big numbers the Rangers never amounted to much, and he was eventually traded to the Yankees.

One of the memes that developed during his time with the Rangers and since is, while A-Rod was very good, his contract was a "crushing weight" on the Rangers which prevented them from signing other quality players in order to compete, especially some good pitching. Getting rid of A-Rod was supposed to give them the payroll flexibility to be competitive.

This, to me, is a bogus theory. Didn't the Rangers think this through before signing A-Rod? Didn't they consider that signing A-Rod was only one part in building a winning team? Did they not think they were going to have to actually pay him? Did they think he was going to throw 200 innings a year in addition to hitting and playing shortstop?

This whole meme is nothing but a cop out for the Rangers being stupid. They made a shortsighted decision of their own free will, and when it didn't work out (as it probably wasn't going to) they managed to successfully shift the blame to A-Rod and his contract, not their stupidity.

By the way, since being freed from A-Rod's "crushing" contract, the Rangers have won precisely... nothing. In fact, their payroll was cut in half (way more than getting rid of A-Rod alone would account for) and has only trickled upward gradually. Their win total, on the other hand, has remained mostly flat.

Sour Juice

So Alex Rodriguez allegedly tested positive for Steroids back in 2003. Oh Boy. This is gonna be annoying.

This has instantly become the #1 story of the Baseball season. Everything that A-Rod or the Yankees do will have this cloud over it. It will be discussed, argued, clucked about and fretted over by fans, journalists and analysts from coast to coast. I'm even writing a post about it. And all this chatter will amount to nothing except a big headache.

I was meaning to write a steroid related post, but for a different reason, so I figure I'll be efficient and just role two thoughts into a single post. After all, saving words is important in these trying economic times.

ESPN's Outside the Lines, a program whose existence is one of the few redeeming qualities of ESPN, recently did a story about the 1963 San Diego Chargers and how they were pioneers. Though not the good kind of pioneers, who deal with bears and dysentery and broken wagon axles. The '63 Chargers were probably the first professional team to make extensive use of steroids. And it wasn't a dirty little secret in the locker room, either: the team was given and told to take these pills during training camp. The OTL segment is outstanding and I wish I could embed the video, but instead I just have to make a link here and send you on your way to check it out.

Its really amazing, looking back, how little these guys (and their coaches) knew about steroids at the time. Its also amazing how much the game, and sports in general, have changed. No one lifted weights. No one questioned what coach said to do. Coach told you to live in the desert for week, and all you said was "yes sir". He says you gotta play hurt: "Yes sir". He tells you to take a mysterious pill with every meal: "Yes sir". The teams didn't know or care, the league didn't know or care. Hell, Sid Gilman is in the Hall of Fame!

Of course, nowadays we know a ton about steroids, and yet I think we are still pretty naive about it. Or at least we make ourselves naive about it, in order to avoid the cold hard truth that a lot of our favorite athletes are probably cheating. Sure, when a hated rival gets busted, we cluck our tongues and heckle and mock them and write them off forever as cheaters. When its our guy we can't rationalize or forget it fast enough. Its a totally natural and human reaction, which is not limited to steroids or to sports.

It reminds me of a story about Antebellum Plantation housewives, who could be counted on to know who the father was of every mulatto slave in the state, except of course those who lived on their own plantation. Lord only knows where those children came from.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to our latest hero to fall from grace: A-Rod. A-Rod (allegedly, of course) used steroids in 2003, and possibly other times as well.

What's weird about this is that A-Rod isn't really liked that much. In fact, I'd wager that he's one of the most disliked players in baseball. Even Yankee fans don't seem to like him very much. There's a handful of baseball fans who (until now, anyway) liked him, myself included. I happen to like A-Rod because I think he gets a terrible wrap and is perhaps the most under appreciated player in baseball. This is not to defend him or excuse his behavior, its just how I (used to) feel about the guy.

The weird thing about this is that, unlike guys like Big Mac, Bonds or Giambi who got obviously bigger and stronger, A-Rod didn't seem to change in size. Nor did his numbers improve dramatically in 2003. In fact, they were down quite a bit from the prior season, as were his 2004 numbers. His slugging percentage dropped from .623 to .600 and then too .510 before rebounding in 2005 to .620. His Home Run totals dropped from 57 to 47 and then to 36 before going back to 48 in 2005. His power numbers have fluctuated throughout his career and there seems to be no definite trend either before or after 2003.

My guess, assuming that he was only using in 2003, was that A-Rod was using Steroids to try and recover from some lingering injury, and it took until 2005 for him to really get right again. Or maybe he was just a head case for those two years (he does admit to seeing 5 therapists). Either way, its odd.

For many years he's been, quite literally, the best baseball player in the whole world, and yet he's hated by so many. Most of this dislike is a combination of his being a Yankee, his enormous contract, and the perception that he isn't "clutch", a mostly meaningless (and fairly incorrect, in this case) distinction. Throw in the messy divorce and the fact that he's dated Madonna and you have a surefire recipe for loathing. And now steroids are the topper on the A-rod hate sundae.

The one thing that A-Rod did have going for him was that he was on pace to take back the title of Home Run King from perhaps the only player more universally hated than A-Rod himself: Barry Bonds. Whatever his other attributes or whether or not he ever won a World Series, A-Rod had this one chance at redemption and to be remembered in a positive light. To restore some dignity and pride back to what was once the most hollowed record in sports.

And now that's gone.

In a sad sense, this couldn't be more appropriate. Steroids have been hiding in plain sight in sports, especially baseball, for too long. The Home Run Chase with Sosa and Big Mac. Barry Bonds breaking almost every HR record. Rogers Clemens seeming immortality. Eric Gagne, Jason Giambi, dozens of others named and unnamed. The Mitchell Report.

A-Rod was a big hope for Baseball to right the ship and put steroids behind it, but I guess it was too good to be true, which is totally fitting.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pot Phlap

This whole Michael Phelps flap has gotten quite ridiculous. Ya, he smoked some pot. Pot is illegal, or something, whatever. He's a bad role model or something. Oh Lawdy, a guy took a bong hit! To be fair, a lot of people aren't really that upset about it, but there's still a sizable group of self righteous idiots who consider this something to be upset about. I'm willing to bet that a year ago 99% of the people who actually care that Michael Phelps smoked pot had no idea who Michael Phelps was.

I'm not exactly a big Michael Phelps fan, but let's look at the facts. He has 16 Olympic medals. He has 14 Gold Medals. He has about a bagillion other medals from World Championships and more World Records than I care to look up. He's got like $50 million dollars and worldwide fame. And he earned it all. He's not some fake celebrity. Phelps worked his ass off his whole life to get all these things. If anyone's earned a hit, he has.

USA swimming has suspended him from swimming for a few months. Kellogg's has dropped him as a sponsor. Both of these things are stupid. Oh no, he can't swim for you for a few months? I don't know how he'll ever survive such a harsh penalty. Good thing the Olympics are 4 years away and he's got several other chances at high level international competition which will come after this lame suspension is over. A few months now? Really? That's like MLB suspending a baseball player for the month of December. That will teach them.

And Kellogg's dropping him? Of all his sponsors, Kellogg's? Do they not realize that one of the biggest markets for cereal is stoners? This is a potential gold mine for them.

What I love is that Phelps actually did something much, much, much worse than getting filmed taking a hit a long time ago. After his first Olympics, when he was only 19, he got arrested for DUI. He could have killed someone. Why didn't Kellogg's or USA Swimming give a damn about that?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Starting them Young

Damn, this kid is gonna grow up and be a fun guy to party with. Or be really annoying.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Coke Zero Recap

Well I was incorrect in my prediction about this commercial, and the ending they went with is actually pretty good. Well played, commercial writers.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Respect the refs

It doesn't matter if you're a star player, a hall of fame coach or a sad looking furry. One rule is constant: don't mess with the refs.