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Anarchy! March 31, 2010

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Note: The following was written for the April 1st “Anarchy” issue of the Argosy newspaper. It’s basically our once-a-year version of The Onion…

Lebron James Hulks Out of Shirt, Suspended Indefinitely

NBA commissioner and all-around good guy, David Stern, released a statement early Thursday night reprimanding a recent incident involving Cleveland Cavaliers star, Lebron James. Just prior to the opening tip of the March 22nd game between the Cavs and the San Antonio Spurs, Lebron disrupted the usual pre-game festivities by walking to centre court and demanding that the arena staff “cut the music!” before promptly hulking out of his warm-up jersey. The hulking reportedly left many scared or just plain weirded out. In his statement, Commissioner Stern deemed the action to be “completely unnecessary”. During a press conference Wednesday morning, James tried to clarify the incident.  “It was a feat of strength. Straight up”, Lebron said matter-of-factly. “Delonte (West) triple-dog-dared me- What was I supposed to do?” An investigation as to West’s role in the matter is still pending.

Adam Morrison wins Scandinavian Dunk Contest

The internet and basketball world alike are abuzz following the leak of a video of a dunk contest that broke out during half-time of the Scandinavian All-Star game held in Reykjavik, Iceland this past weekend. The contest featured former Toronto Raptor point guard, Master P, the NCAA’s most prolific scorer (ever), Adam Morrison, and an impressive showing by the P-90 X guy. But the real star was Morrison, who dazzled the crowd with an array of acrobatic jams, including the first-ever Between-the-Face dunk, which literally brought the house down. There were no survivors.

OOOOh Yeeaaa: “Macho Man” out 4-6 Weeks

The most recent comeback attempt by wrestling superstar, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, was sidelined Tuesday afternoon when the former tag-team champion was injured while snapping into a Slim-Jim. Savage suffered a broken lower-mandible and is expected to be out of commission for the next month or so, although a scheduled MRI will reveal the exact results.

Joakim Noah day-to-day (Bad Vibes)

Chicago Bulls centre Joakim Noah recently suffered from a “killed buzz” when a baby caribou was eaten by a wolf on the National Geographic documentary he was watching last night. Says Noah, “I know that’s what happens in nature or whatever, but that don’t make it right, you know?” In related news, Noah did not make the recent road trip with his team because he couldn’t fit his weed into the overhead compartment.

Iverson: ‘Practice’ Incident a Hoax

In a shocking discovery, it was recently revealed that the whole “we talking about practice” ordeal involving Allen Iverson was part of an elaborate hoax created by the Philadelphia 76ers public relations team. It turns out Iverson loves practice; he is on record saying, “I relish the opportunity to bond with my teammates and to develop and refine the fundamental basketball skills that are necessary to be successful at the professional level”. It was also revealed that the cornrows and tattoos Iverson made famous, along with his 2001 MVP trophy were part of the same hoax. Sources learned of the news through legally sanctioned wire-taps on Iverson’s phone made possible by the Patriot Act. God Bless America.

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March Madness 2010 March 22, 2010

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As March Madness officially commenced this past weekend, NCAA fans and degenerate gamblers alike were treated to forty-eight games played by sixty-four teams featuring seven hundred and sixty-eight different players over a four day span. The action thus far has lived up to its ‘madness’ claim with numerous upsets and an unbelievable amount of close games. Still, considering the seemingly constant flow of basketball up to this point, it’s nearly impossible to cover everything concisely in five hundred words. So this is happening:

Upsets

When the number 1 seed and overwhelming favourite, Kansas, fell to the University of Northern Iowa (you know, the global hotbed of basketball) on Saturday, it marked the fifteenth victory by a lower seeded team. Any time a team like Ohio University beats Georgetown, the shockwaves will reverberate. But considering the lack of “great” teams and the subsequent parity unfolding in this years’ tourney, the abundance of upsets shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Dominant teams, like Florida in 2007 and 2008 (featuring Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Daquan Cook, and Taurean Green- arguably the best starting five in NCAA history), are non-existent in 2010. Instead, every team has holes, either lacking a certain pedigree or being too reliant on freshman, as was the case with Georgetown (Greg Monroe) and Georgia Tech (Derrick Favors). Sure, Kentucky (led first-year players John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and Demarcus Cousins) looks unstoppable, and Carmelo Anthony won it all in his lone year in college, but freshman-led NCAA champs are the exception, not the rule.

All-Time Greats

The tournament will be remembered for its record-setting amount of close games and buzzer-beaters (14 games decided by three points or less already- an tournament record, with two rounds yet to be played), but really this year’s edition of March Madness has set a precedent for amazingly cool names. Consider the following: Just-in’love Smith (Sienna), Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Dallas Lauderdale (Ohio State), Nimrod Tishman (Florida), Picasso Simmons (Murray State), Blaze French (UTEP),Scoop Jardine (Syracuse), and my personal favourite, LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor). In the words of Navin R. Johnson, “Wow! All I can say is ‘wow’!”

Bracket: Busted

Listen, brackets are useless. Brackets have become like Lord of the Rings movies- there’s always an insane amount of hype at first, and then nobody cares. Of the 2 million people who filled out a tournament bracket on ESPN.com, a whopping 56 went to sleep on Thursday night with a perfect bracket. Ouch.

My favourite NCAA team is the Missouri Mizzou. I became a fan in 2003 because I thought a)Missouri guard Kareem Rush was going to be the next Vince Carter (and I mean that in the best way possible) and b)’Mizzou’ is the greatest nickname in sports. Sadly, the Mizzou were bounced again in the second round this past Sunday by an impressive West Virginia squad featuring pro-to-be Devin Ebanks and Jerry’s son, Jonnie West. In lieu of empirical and observational analysis of the remaining sixteen teams beginning play tonight, I’m going to simply say this: the West Virginia Mountaineers will be the 2010 NCAA basketball champions.

No More Mr. Nice Guy March 15, 2010

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The idea of mic’ing players is commonplace in the world of sports. Nearly every televised sporting event features some sort of “Mic’d Up!” segment, where the viewer gets to see and hear a game from the athletes’ perspective. More often than not it’s a waste of time; fans are treated to a minute or so of inaudible grunts and stirring phrases like, “let’s get a stop here!” (Chauncey Billups, guard, Denver Nuggets) or “c’mon Lamar!” (Phil Jackson, coach, L.A. Lakers). Sometimes it’s more worthwhile: during a live game broadcast in 2009, a mic’d up(!) Steve Smith noted to his then-Carolina Panther teammate Jake Delhomme, “Hey, I know you feel like crap.  I mean you’re not a very handsome guy… I never liked you as a quarterback. But as a person, I love you as a person. You know what I’m sayin’?” Um, kind of.

Every so often, however, these Microphone Moments remind us of why we watch sports in the first place. This past weekend a number of tennis’ biggest stars took part in Hit for Haiti, an internationally-televised fundraising event in California. The main draw pitted all-time greats, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, against their respective natural rivals, Andre Agassi and Rafa Nadal. With all participants wearing microphones, a verbal sparring match erupted between Sampras and Agassi in front of an audience of millions. At one point, a trepid Nadal even tried to quiet his partner, but failed miserably. After Agassi mocked Sampras for being a cheap tipper (whoa, keep it above the belt…) Sampras responded by purposely missing his next serve, instead firing the ball straight at Agassi’s head. It’s been nearly a decade since they’ve last played and clearly they still hate each other! Even though it made for strangely uncomfortable television, good ol’ fashioned, cold-blooded rivaries like this should be the norm.

The truth is sports are more exciting when there’s some degree of genuine hatred between opponents. Great rivalries like Sampras/Agassi, Larry Bird/Magic Johnson, and Adam Morrison/JJ Redick (they never actually played each other in college, but still) remain entrenched in our collective memory as sports fans. We agree that when Patrick Roy explained, “”I can’t hear what Jeremy [Roenick] says, because I’ve got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears.” it was purposefully vitriolic. And perfect. Recently, in a meaningless spring-training game, San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito made headlines when he intentionally nailed Milwaukee Brewers slugger Prince Fielder with a wild pitch. Zito and the Giants, you see, had felt disrespected by Fielders’ excessive celebrations six months prior amidst the final game of the 2009 regular season. And so, the plunk was justified. Of course, in my world- the real world- I can’t throw a baseball at someone when I’m upset. In the world of baseball, of course, its part of the game and that detraction from reality is something of a theme in sports. It took, of all things, a Haitian benefit tennis match to remind me how to benefit from hate. Funny how it works sometimes.

Truth at Last March 7, 2010

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The results speak for themselves. A 9-1 victory over the defending world champion New York Yankees, a 14-6 trouncing of the reigning NL champion Phillies, and a gritty 9-7 win over the Tigers courtesy of a clutch walk-off homer by catcher-of-the-future  J.P. Arencibia. Major League Baseball, be warned: the Toronto Blue Jays came to play. Sure, we’re only a week into spring training, but I’ve seen enough to be convinced that this year’s edition of Canada’s team will be the one that finally, finally, gets past the AL East and those damned Yankees.

Ok, I’m being facetious. Don’t get me wrong- if this were any of the previous ten or so years I would unquestionably allow a minute sample of Blue Jay spring-training victories work me into an unhealthy fervour, but this year something feels different. This season, you see, there are no dreams of division titles or wild card berths- expectations that had been undeservingly placed on the Jays for the past decade. And yet despite the widespread acknowledgement by Jays fans that this won’t be a season defined by winning, there is a sense of unprecedented clarity that has manifested itself in the form of optimism. The 2010 Blue Jays represent arguably the first true rebuilding effort witnessed since the teams’ early expansion years. Built around a slew of promising, if largely unproven prospects like Arencibia, 21-year old Travis ‘Lunchbox’ Snider, and Marc Rzepczynski, along with young stars like Adam Lind, all-star 2nd baseman Aaron Hill, and pitcher Ricky Romero, the focus has shifted from the familiar adage of ‘this year’ to next season and (well) beyond.

If we’re being honest, the Jays have been in a quasi-rebuilding mode for years. Yet former GM JP Ricciardi never seemed to be able to come to terms with this, acquiring one or two big name veterans every off-season, creating transparent hope year after year. I hate to knock the same guy who brought us Eric Hinske and JFG (John-Ford Griffin, for the uneducated), but the truth will set you free. Or so I’ve heard. This past winter saw no Frank Thomas signings; no hundred million dollar paydays to guys name BJ and AJ; no trades for Corey Koskie (hey, it was a big deal at the time). Instead, new GM Alex Anthopolous acquired young, cheap talent like 1st baseman Brett Wallace, infielder Jaret Hoffpauir, and pitchers Kyle Drabek and Brandon Morrow to complement the existing roster, creating promise and, more importantly, flexibility for the future.

Despite Anthopolous’ best efforts in reshaping the roster, the scars of the 2009 season, the last of the Ricciardi era, still exist. Alex Rios was allowed to go to the White Sox for literally nothing in return, and JP’s refusal to trade Halladay (who, now in Philadelphia, is poised to break Jack Chesbro’s 1901 record of 41 wins) resulted in an eventual haul of uncertainties like Wallace and Drabek. And still, as I mentioned, there is optimism in Blue Jay land. For the first time in years, fans and management alike know what this team is and what it most definitely is not; it’s the kind of clear-minded, rational thinking that the franchise has been void of, and is the lone reason for Jays fans to keep showing up to the ballpark. Clearly for the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays, honesty is truly the best policy.