Category Archives: Sports

Expand the Tournament Field? Now That Would Be Madness.

For the local pee-wee level soccer league, there are no winners and losers.  Literally.

Every Saturday morning, the neighborhood youth soccer association near my corner of Southern California plays to a stalemate:  The league mandates that every game played during the two month-long season will result in a tie.

The belief is that the kids will learn that the object of competition is not whether you win or lose, as long as you participate.

Such programs aim to protect children from the threat of hurt feelings and cultivate self-esteem.

This year’s Academy Awards expanded the Best Picture field from five to ten movies to promote the inclusion of films that narrowly missed the cut.

The decision was meant to pacify the annual complaint that the Academy had once again failed to properly acknowledge deserving candidates for the award, causing bitter disappointment and feelings of resentment.

Further, the move would protect filmmakers from the threat of hurt feelings and cultivate self-esteem.

The NCAA, it seems, has sympathized with the above logic.

The governing body that runs the yearly Men’s Basketball Tournament is looking to increase the number of teams allowed to compete for the National Championship.

At press time, the tournament allows 64 teams to vie for the most coveted trophy in College Basketball.  The committee is considering expanding the field to 96 teams.

The NCAA believes that this would allow more teams the opportunity to participate for the National Title, thus creating a tournament of unparalleled democracy.  Said one NCAA staffer, more kids would be offered the privilege of  experiencing the excitement of the yearly tournament.

The theory is that the expanded tournament field would protect collegiate players from the threat of hurt feelings and would cultivate self-esteem.

Ninety.  Six.  Teams.

The possible revision to the NCAA Tournament is a continuation of a disturbing trend in our culture.  We are cultivating a softer, more tolerant breed of individual that is spoiled, and filled with a false sense of privilege.

The author of this blog hates to type these words, but he shall:  We are becoming a bunch of over-indulged pussies.

If the NCAA has their way — and they will — we can look forward to such scintillating match-ups as number 1 seed Kansas potentially locking horns with number 96 seed Canisius.

Canisius, you ask?  Exactly.

We will wait with sweet anticipation as perennial power house North Carolina collides with the barely qualifying Coastal Carolina (student population 8,000).

A Chihuahua would have better fortune against a Pit Bull.

The proprietors of this blog would like to submit another opinion.  Let’s view this for what it really is — corporate greed at its highest level.

Don’t believe the NCAA rhetoric of the spirit of competition and the selfless act of expanding opportunities to marginal basketball programs.

Here’s how it went down:

A bean-counter at the NCAA corporate offices made a fancy spreadsheet with bushels of  hyperlinks, graphs and colorful pie charts.  These graphics told the story of how much advertising revenue the NCAA tournament games generated.  The bean-counter made an easy sale to these profit chasers — if some is good, more must be better.

“Think of how much more money we could make,” the spindly accountant whined to his bosses.  Since stodgy old executives love colorful graphs, pie charts, and revenue the idea of 96 teams took root.

Regrettably, the fancy pie chart failed to consider the blatant exploitation of the student athletes.  Or worse yet, the fancy pie chart did consider the blatant exploitation of the student athletes and the executives still moved forward with their decision.

This revision to the tournament  would cheapen the quality of an already near-perfect product.  Rather than giving hand-outs to teams on the bubble, here’s a radical suggestion to those NIT-bound teams:  Perform better during the regular season!

Let’s recap:

1. Winning vs. Losing

Edge: Push

2. 64 teams vs. 96 teams

Edge: Colorful pie charts

3. Student athletes vs. stodgy NCAA executive

Edge: Bean-counters

In summary, any attempt to expand the NCAA basketball tournament field should be met with strong opposition.  A group of 96 teams cheapens the quality of the event and reduces its value.

A Maserati wouldn’t be a Maserati if everyone owned one, now would it?

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Filed under Basketball, Sports

False Idols

Has anyone seen my credibility?

The PGA Tour is a one-trick pony; a metaphor for the advice that all mutual fund managers caution investors against.  Putting all your eggs into a solitary basket carries a high level of risk, but if the basket was the Tiger Woods of ten years ago—hell, the Tiger Woods of ten months ago—then that same risk wouldn’t represent much of a gamble at all.

Investing in Tiger is now an exercise in diminishing returns.

If love means never having to say you’re sorry, then why does Tiger’s mechanical apology feel like the hollow, insincere sham that it is?

Not that I ever felt an emotion that can be characterized as love for Tiger.  Sure, I love his gargantuan tee shots.  I love the surgical accuracy of his irons.  I love the Rembrandt-like strokes of his short game.  But if watching Michael Jordan in his prime has taught me anything at all, it is that I can appreciate the man for his abilities without having to love the jackass that he truly is.

To be certain, society has, in its collective form, been particularly tough on Tiger.  This treatment is deserved:  Tiger sold us an image that we eagerly purchased without bothering to retain the receipt.  He is the roadside charlatan with false promises of a diet supplement that cures nothing.  We take his ‘indiscretions’ personally because our heroes aren’t meant to display the same frailty that we have.

Tiger is sorry, not out of sincerity, but because he got caught.  The changes that he has promised to make are reactionary to his misfortunes, not the self-initiated sort he has proffered.  The genuine desire to change must come from within, not as a consequence.

One day soon, Tiger will return to the sport that he has dominated.  He will win more money; regain more endorsements; hoist more trophies.  He will claim every golf record that is statistically measurable.

I will be a witness to these events because I love golf and love the application of the skills necessary to succeed at it.

I will witness these events as an interested observer, not as a supporter.

I cannot enjoy this future success as his fan.

He has robbed me of that, too.

Future unknown, straight ahead.

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Filed under Golf, Life, Relationships, Sports

The Super Bowl, Alternative Programming and Why Tim Tebow’s Pro-Life Stance May Have Missed the Target Demographic

Isn't Sleepless in Seattle on channel 2?

By nature, the author of this blog is the stubborn sort.

You say “paper or plastic” and I say “neither.”

You say “jump” and I say “sorry, I just ate breakfast.”

You say “watch the advertisement orgy of expensive TV spots during the Super Bowl” and I promptly change the channel.

And that’s exactly what I did.

While the lion’s share of the TV viewership watched Tim Tebow tell the women of America what to do with their uterus (uterii?) and while that little kid smacked his mom’s boyfriend over a bowl of Doritos, I took a peek at how the other channels chose to fill their wasted time slots.

It was a fun exercise; one that I heartily recommend.  It was my own personal social experiment where I thumb my nose at popular culture and mass consumerism to study the human nature of TV programming decisions.

Here’s what I found:

While the Saints won the coin toss and elected to receive, TBS aired Failure To Launch, a film about a whimsical 35 year old man that still lives with his folks and falls in love with Sarah Jessica Parker, the woman hired by the parents to seduce their son and convince him to move out.

It stars Matthew McConaughey, in his most challenging role.

When Peyton Manning tossed a touchdown strike to take a 10-point advantage, E! Network was showing Sleepless in Seattle, the endearing romantic comedy where the son of a recently widowed man calls a radio talk show in an attempt to find his father a new wife.  One woman hears the broadcast and goes to great lengths to meet the widowed man.

Sleepless in Seattle features the delightful cast of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

When the Saints recovered an onside kick to open the 3rd quarter, ABC countered with Stepmom, the movie where a terminally ill mother has to settle on the new woman in her ex-husband’s life, who will be the new stepmother to her children.

Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon play the conflicted women.

As the Saints secured their first-ever Super Bowl victory with a 4th quarter interception and touchdown return, the premium movie channel– Love Stories East— treated their viewers to Kate & Leopold, the fantasy romance that features the tagline ‘if they lived in the same century they’d be perfect for each other.’

The movie showcases the talents of Sleepless in Seattle star Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman, as her love interest.

On and on it went.  The WE network showed Beaches, the stirring Bette Midler drama.  The feature presentation on the Encore Movie Channel was She’s All That, followed by 10 Things I Hate About You.

My experiment seemed to confirm what we already know about the Super Bowl:  It is a Man Holiday;  the biggest sausage fest of the year;  the modern-day He-man Woman Hater’s Club.

If once is an anomaly, twice is a coincidence, and thrice is a trend, then the counter-programming to the Super Bowl proves that it is nothing more than an epic struggle between testosterone and estrogen.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock during the Super Bowl, I turned to my wife to share the results of my scientific research.

To my dismay, she was gone.

I stood up to stretch– the resulting noises from my body sounding like a door with squeaky hinges– and my living room suddenly got brighter, as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes.

I surveyed the room– it wasn’t a pretty sight:

The sofa had a life-sized mold of my ass pressed into the cushions.  A massive pile of unwashed dishes teetered in the sink.   A varied collection of empty take-out boxes littered the dining table.  The dogs were hungry and trembling with low blood sugar.  Outside, the yard looked like the canopy of a rain forest.

A note on the fridge from the wife:  Went for coffee.

What?  During the Super Bowl?

It seems that I was/ am living proof to my own experiment.

Damn, catharsis is a bitch.

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Filed under Life, NFL, Relationships, Sports, Uncategorized

A Recipe For Crow: An Open Letter to the San Diego Chargers

Courtesy of isportsweb.com

Dear San Diego Chargers,

I’ve been eating crow for dinner for 11 consecutive Sundays.

It’s really tough and gamey and generally not very pleasant, even if you soak it in logic and coat it with common sense.

You see, I’ve been taking plenty of flack for the words I posted on October 21st, regarding your humiliating loss on Monday Night Football by the Denver Broncos.

Since that time, you have been victorious in 11 straight NFL contests.

Let’s qualify some things:

1. We’ve been going steady since 1984, when my lone criterion for selecting a favorite football team was civic pride and  how cool the helmet logo was (a lighting bolt was– and is– an impressive design feature for a knuckle-head such as my self).

I’ve seen the good times (the magical 1994 Super Bowl year) and the bad (the 1 and 15 season, the Ryan Leaf debacle) and my loyalty has never wavered.

Shaky fair-weather fan I am not.

2. A key component to any healthy long-term relationship is honesty.  The October 21st post of this humble blog is evidence to that notion.  My words, however unflattering, were honest.

3. Given the state of affairs in late October, my words were a true assessment of how the season was unfolding for you.  I don’t regret a single word I wrote.

If you can’t be honest with yourself– or your loved-ones– who can you be honest with, right?

You are now, through no credit of mine, well positioned to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

All because you believed in yourselves– and in each other.

You believed in hard work,  pre-game preparation and your style of winning football games.

You ignored the naysayers, the odds makers and conventional wisdom.

You ignored silly blogs like Bacon Makes It Better.

But I haven’t ignored what you’ve accomplished, San Diego Chargers.

And crow never tasted better.

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Trade Secrets Revealed

Houdini once shackled himself in chains, was submerged in a tank of water and escaped in less than a minute.

David Blaine took a stroll down the side of a skyscraper.

David Copperfield convinced that supermodel to marry him.

Impressive efforts, all three.

Read on, dear reader– I’ve done one better.

Be prepared to be astonished; brace yourself for the improbable; be ready to raise an eyebrow and say “damn.”

Behold, the greatest magic trick ever to be perpetrated on mankind:

I have watched an obscene amount of sports on TV this year and have managed to successfully stay married.

(Dramatic pause to let the certain tidal wave of  “oooohhhhs” and “aaaahhhhs” wash over this post).

The proprietors of Bacon Makes It Better can feel your skepticism.  We can sense your disbelief.  We are abundantly aware that despite popular sentiment, not everything you read on the internet is true.

But it is most certainly real.  I can tell you, in breathtaking detail, who has qualified for the NFL playoffs all while an engraved platinum band still rests on my finger.

Marriage and sports can coexist– and we are willing to share our trade secrets with you.

We have tested the method in our state of the art facility (my living room).  We have applied it generously under a variety of conditions (College Bowl Games, Pro Football, NCAA hoops, golf).  We have even adapted our system into a user-friendly format that we have named, during an epiphany of creative genius, the S.A.V.E. method.  It is an acronym for:

S is for set-up.

Possibly the most critical part of the process.  Without a proper set-up the best laid plans of mice and men would be smashed to bits.  Know the day and time of the game.  (NFL note:   Do not assume that your game is on Sunday.  The complex football schedule will squeeze games in on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Is it a local game or out of market?  Morning or afternoon)?

Know the schedule, understand the logistics involved, plan ahead.  Store this knowledge safely into the recesses of your brain, right next to what’s for dinner and don’t forget to take out the trash.

A is for Approach.

It’s go time.  With your knowledge of the schedule neatly tucked away plan which game you really want to see.  (Don’t get greedy!  You can’t see ’em all)!  Tell the wife, well in advance, that you plan on watching your chosen game.  Don’t dance around the subject– be direct.  She will appreciate your advance planning and will be impressed by your consideration of her time.

Tread lightly, dear reader, for timing is crucial.  If her favorite couple gets booted off of Dancing With The Stars or if those handbags she’s been keeping her eye on are no longer on sale, abort mission.  I repeat, abort mission!

V is for Value.

Help the wife to understand the importance of the game.    Tell her what’s at stake.  Will a champion be crowned?   Does an invite to the playoffs hang in the balance?  The more value attached to the game, the more likely it becomes that she will accept your need to be a captive audience member.

Remember, this is where salesmanship is at a premium.  Placing value on the game can cover a wide range of popular subjects:  Is a favorite actress of hers dating the star quarterback?  Plug it.  Isn’t that defensive end the guy from Dancing With The Stars?  Plug it.  Aren’t they playing in San Francisco, the city that she loves to visit?  Plug away.

Maybe you’ll even convince her to watch the game with you.  Hell, it just may be the start of an activity that you’ll share together.
This may not be such a bad alternative– just so long as you are able to see the action.

Note: At no time during the approach and value stage should you whine, snivel or pout.  When executed properly, you will advance to the final level…

E is for Enjoy the Game.

Spoil yourself with the fruits of your labor.  Kick up your feet.  Crank up the volume.  Guzzle a cold one.  You’ve done your due diligence, so watch your chosen game with the uninterrupted peace that you’ve created.

WarningBe certain that such behavior is not conducted within plain view of the wife.  Poor sportsmanship or excessive celebration may jeopardize future athletic viewership.

Suck, my life does not.

In summary, dear reader, the proprietors of Bacon Makes It Better implore you to try this battle-tested system, which has been made publicly available just in time for the NFL playoffs.    What have you got to lose?

It may just S.A.V.E. your marriage.

The proprietors of Bacon Makes It Better assumes no liability for the poor application or general misuse of the above described method. Results may vary. Actions outside of this method should be conducted at your own peril. May cause rash or irritation.  Discontinue use and call a doctor if symptoms persist. Use as directed.

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Wake Up National League Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Embraced The Designated Hitter

I’ll get to my argument soon, but first a historical analogy:

It was September 1, 1939 and Poland was pissed.

The Germans began an unprovoked show of aggression, invading the Polish border with the ridiculous notion that world domination was their destiny.  The Nazi decision makers decided that Poland would be the first rest stop in this ambitious journey.  So the Poles did what any nation with an ounce of pride would do:  they pooled their resources and mounted a counterattack.

There was, however, one smaaaaall problem.

Those ‘resources’ that the Poles gathered was little more than a bunch of dudes on horseback with pistols and pitchforks; the kind of offense one uses to scare Frankenstein back to his castle.  In contrast, the Germans represented their cause with a healthy arsenal of tanks, planes and other heavy artillery.

Edge:  The Nazi War Machine.

Wait a minute.  You thought you clicked on a post about baseball, right?  If you are still reading to this point, bear with me.  Flash forward to the present day:

The winter meetings for Major League Baseball are upon us.  You know, those critical hot stove meetings that determine the direction of the sport for seasons to come?  Those conferences held by team owners and general managers that the casual fan casually ignores as they are still basking in the afterglow of the World Series?  Anyone?  Anyone?

There is more to these exclusive pow wows than just a bunch of MLB executives sitting around eating lobster tail in between rounds of golf at a swanky country club.  Decisions are made, coalitions are formed and the future of the game is determined.

This year, it is the humble opinion of the proprietors of Bacon Makes It Better that the status of the Designated Hitter be thoroughly evaluated (listen up National League).

To connect the historical analogy at the top of this post, the National League is to Poland as the American League is to Germany.  The difference between the two factions are their choice of weaponry:  The National League, by way of preserving tradition, insists that the pitcher bat for himself.  In contrast, the American League line-up is armed with a skilled hitter batting in the pitcher’s stead.

By giving into this romance with the preservation of baseball history, the National League give themselves a competitive disadvantage in head to head competition against their American League counterparts.  But don’t take my word for it; the statistics tell the most compelling story:

1.  Since the inception of interleague play in 1997, the American League has won 1,673 games to the National League’s 1,534 wins in straight-up competition.  That’s a difference of 139 games– almost an entire single season’s worth of games.

2.  The last time the American League lost an All Star Game was in 1997.  They enjoy a 12-0-1 record in the last 13 mid-season classics.  That is pure domination.

3.  Since 1997, the American League has won 8 of 13 World Series match ups— five of which were four game sweeps– against the National League.  The National League has not won consecutive World Series since they ran off four in a row from 1979-1982.

The disparity in competition between the two leagues hinges on their biggest difference:  the designated hitter position.

The appeasement of its fan base in their appetite for offensive baseball prompted the American League to introduce the designated hitter position into the game in 1973.  The American League first used their new gimmick as a spot to keep aging stars in the line-up (i.e. Minnie Minoso, Al Kaline) in a blatant attempt to boost fan attendance.

Soon, managers began to utilize the rule change for its original intent.  Offensive numbers became bloated like a distended beer gut.  Jim Rice, Frank Thomas and Harold Baines brutalized pitchers and redefined the position.  In 1995, Edgar Martinez became the first DH to capture a batting crown.

Adaptation being what it is, the American League pitcher was forced to evolve or risk extinction.  The result is a different brand of hurler who is accustomed to formidable batting line-ups and resistant to an offensive outburst by the opposing team.  AL pitchers attack hitters with aggressive pitching as they need not bat for themselves in the next half inning, thus avoiding any retaliation.

So focused are National League pitchers on their craft that they neglect batting practice.  The byproduct is the predictable bunt or strikeout in the 9th position of the NL scorecard– NL teams give away FOUR FREE OUTS per game.

It really should come to the surprise of no one that when the two leagues meet in direct competition, it is reminiscent of a chainsaw to a 2 x 4, advantage battle-hardened AL team.

Hold on baseball purists.  I understand the arguments against the DH.  I consider myself to be one of you.

I long for the original aspects of the game when strategy mattered and specialization was a communist idea.  I love timely pinch-hitting, hitting behind the runner, getting the bunt down, taking on a 3-0 count, getting the runner over, six-out saves, taking on a 3-1 count, three-man pitching rotations that pitch on three days and throw BP side-session in between.

But Hideki Matsui was just named World Series MVP (those damn Yankees), more proof that the designated hitter is not going anywhere.

I used to believe that the Wild Card would destroy the game.  It has since proven to be the best thing since the Iced Coffee with Vanilla Powder at the Coffee Bean Tea & Leaf (easy ice).

National League, it is with great reluctance that I type these words:  it’s time to evolve.  Give the DH some consideration.

Stop bringing a knife to a gunfight.

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Filed under Baseball, Sports

At Least We Have The Weather

It’s been said that an NFL general manager assess the progress of their team in four game increments; and being that the season spans 16 games this quarterly analysis seems a prudent one.

With Week 6 officially in the books, many conclusions can be drawn from what we’ve witnessed so far.

Attention Charger fans: You’re not going to like what I have to say.

I know, I know. I can still remember last year, how we were left for dead with four games to go, and how we won each of those ‘must win’ match-ups to close the distance with the then division-leading Denver Broncos. I remember the defacto playoff game against those same Broncos on the final day of the regular season that sent us to the playoffs and completed, for Denver, the worst collapse in NFL history.

If the Chargers did it once, they can definitely do it again, right?

I am a fan of historical handicapping, I do believe that lightning can strike the same place twice and I am certainly aware that history has a pesky way of repeating itself.

But that was before last night’s debacle on Monday Night Football.

We can crunch the numbers, pour over the injury reports and study the Caliente Line to try to wrap our minds around this, Charger fans. But we’ll leave that to the professionals.

Here at ‘Bacon Makes It Better’, we focus on the intangibles.

Credit the Denver Broncos. They showed heart, desire, determination, passion, effort and about fifty other similar descriptions that never make the box scores. In a contest between divisional rivals, the things that defy statistical measures often determine the winner.

San Diego played Denver in the same underachieving way that has typified their style of football this season. With their Super Bowl expectations quickly evaporating, the Chargers are demonstrating that when teams set goals before first establishing their intentions, the results are often mixed.

Professional sports franchises seem to find a way to inherit the personality of the city they are in. Pittsburgh has that Steel City, blue collar toughness thing. New York has that ‘If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere’ frenetic pressure and energy that threatens to consume you at any moment.

San Diego, well, at least we have the weather.

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Filed under NFL