Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fenway Park Crowd Restores My Faith In Humanity

Choose any verb to describe hatred - loathe, despise, detest, abhor, whatever; enhance the sentiment with the modifiers "absolutely" and/or "fucking" preceding - and it still won't adequately convey how I feel about the singing of the national anthem before sporting events. I really hate it.

From reich wing radio to those obnoxious, omnipresent magnetic ribbons, there is enough nationalistic, pseudo-patriotic crap marring every aspect of daily existence; we don't need to pay homage to the almighty state before a frocking

ANYWAY. All that said, this video of Fenway Park's "Disability Awareness Day" crowd helping an autistic man through the "Star Spangled Banner" still gave me goosebumps:

[h/t to reddit.]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is Eric Lindros Hall-Worthy?

Frequently concussed hockey star Eric Lindros called it quits Thursday after 13 NHL seasons. With the pundits and scribes busy appraising Lindros's career, the popular question has been: is Lindros a Hall of Famer?

Mike Brophy of The Hockey News, for one, is utterly convinced that Lindros belongs. He writes:

I have listened to the criticism Lindros has faced over the years -- that he was too influenced by meddling parents and that he never won the Stanley Cup -- but when I think of Lindros as a player, I think of a powerful game-breaker who was unquestionably one of the most dominant individuals to ever skate in the NHL. I think of a bodychecker who caused opponents to toss and turn all night before they had to play against him, of his lightning-quick release on the best snap shot the game has ever seen, of how he played for Team Canada in the 1991 Canada Cup as a teenager, of his 1994-95 MVP season when he scored 29 goals and 70 points in 46 games.

It was injuries, and nothing more, that hampered what could have been a storybook career. When he was healthy, Lindros was one of the best to ever play hockey. That, and that alone, should be the determining factor when it comes time to consider him for the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I'm not about to start naming names, but suffice it to say there have been players inducted into the Hall with lesser credentials.

I don't have a vote because I am not on the Hall of Fame selection committee. But if I did, I would not only vote yes, I would debate to the end of the earth with anybody who opposed his inclusion.

It is an argument I do not believe I could lose.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with modern sportswriting: questionable conclusions based on flimsy, anecdotal, non sequitur arguments.

Well, Mikey, I think this is an argument you could lose. Your watchword should be "doubt." I don't know that Lindros should or should not be in the Hall of Fame, but let's at least examine his credentials and the arguments constructed around them:

1. Lindros averaged 1.14 points per game over 760 NHL games - 17th in NHL history.
2. Major awards: one Hart Trophy (MVP), one Lester B. Pearson Trophy ("Most Outstanding Player"); one First Team NHL All-Star selection (1995); one Second Team NHL All-Star selection (1996).
3. Achievements/Milestones:
a. 4 seasons with 40+ goals
b. 7 seasons with 30+ goals
c. One 100-point season
d. Tied for the league lead in scoring (1995 - lost Art Ross trophy to Jaromir Jagr, who won by virtue of more goals).

Unfortunately for Lindros, some of his achievements also work against him, due to raised expectations:

1. Zero 50-goal seasons.
2. Scored 100 points in a season only once.
3. Never led the league in goals.
4. Never lead the league in assists.
5. Selected to only one First All-Star team and only one Second All-Star team.
6. Won only two major trophies.
7. Finished in the Top 10 in scoring just 3 times.
8. His career totals - 372 goals, 493 assists, 865 points - are pedestrian; 92nd all-time in goals, not in Top 100 in assists, 99th all-time in points.
9. After leading the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997, Lindros played in just 10 more playoff games the rest of his career.
10. He never won a Stanley Cup.

Lindros supporters often cite Cam Neely since the two had similarly great, albeit injury-plagued, careers. The argument goes that if Neely's worthy of the Hall, Lindros should be, too. There is some merit to that but the argument's weak.

Neely was terrific at his peak but he's a marginal Hall of Famer. Three 50-goal seasons, four Second All-Star Team selections, a Bill Masterton Trophy in 1994, and a torrid stretch of 176 goals in 216 games (around 65 per 80 games) put him in. That's it, though.

Neely had zero 100-point seasons. He never led the league in goals. He was never a First Team All-Star. Among the Top 100 goal scorers in NHL history, Neely doesn't even rank in the Top 10 in goals per game:

1. Mike Bossy, .762
2. Mario Lemieux, .754
3. Pavel Bure, .623
4. Wayne Gretzky, .601
5. Brett Hull, .584
6. Bobby Hull, .574
7. Tim Kerr, .565
8. Rick Martin, .561
9. Phil Esposito, .559
10. Maurice Richard, .556
11. Cam Neely, .544

Lindros supporters: is Cam Neely really the guy whose coattails you want to ride in on?

The question remains: is Eric Lindros a Hall of Famer? I don't know. It's unfair to penalize him for unrealized potential, especially since injuries held him back more than anything else. The thing about hockey, though, is that value is driven almost as much by perception as it is by numbers. In the end, this might work in Lindros's favor.

The problem, however, is that Lindros will never be perceived in the same light as the best of his contemporaries: Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, Yzerman, Hull, Jagr, Shanahan, Robitaille, Bourque, Sakic, Forsberg, Stevens, Lidstrom, and so on.

When you think of the greatest players of the last 20 years, is Eric Lindros one of them?

Thursday, November 08, 2007



That handsome devil to the left is something named Kevin Drum. He blogged about Ron Paul's record-breaking fundraising day (11/5), and boy, is he ever mad!

RON PAUL, FRUITCAKE....Ron Paul raised a buttload of money yesterday. This doesn't really change anything, and everyone knows it,

Everyone = Kevin Drum, apparently.

but I guess it's something to write about. So people are writing about it.

Some better than others.

But look: can we stop pretending to be political infants, even if we happen to be bored this week? It's cheap and easy to take extreme, uncompromising positions when you have no actual chance of ever putting them into practice, so Paul's extreme, uncompromising positions really don't mean a thing.

If you cannot engage the ideas: smear, dismiss, repeat. Classic.

They don't reflect either well or badly on him. They're meaningless, and I wish grown adults who know better would stop pretending otherwise.

Smear. Dismiss. Repeat. Substance? Optional.

Ditto for his "record breaking" fundraising day, which is just a function of (a) the growth of the internet as a political money machine and (b) the curious but well-known fact that technophiles are disproportionately libertarian.

Oops. I forgot "rationalize."

But I will say this: if Ron Paul really is suddenly a "serious" candidate, then I expect him to start getting some pointed questions at the next debate. In the last Republican debate I saw, this noted truth-teller gave a strange and convoluted answer about his economic policies that the audience plainly didn't understand. Next time I expect to see some straight talk about how we should return to the gold standard and get rid of the Fed. This should be followed by a question about whether he supports the free coinage of silver at 16:1. Then some questions about the tin trust.

Seriously, folks. Can we all please grow up?

You first, Kevin.

Seriously, what a twat. Drum's screed uses up 253 words, yet says...absolutely nothing. What is his point? That Ron Paul's a "fruitcake?" Why? That Dr. Paul has no chance of becoming president? Why not? That it's somehow "unserious" to put any credence into coordinated grassroots efforts? Why? Drum doesn't provide support for a single thing he writes.

Kevin Drum: your blog post, and the "ideas" expressed therein, are so transcendentally terrible that I hereby award you an inaugural "Coxie", named for Dr. Perry Cox from "Scrubs."

Take it away, Per:

11/12/2007: Glenn Greenwald has blogged about the smears against Ron Paul - far more eloquently and gentlemanly than yours truly, natch - and cited Drum's crappy blog. Go read it.