Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Volume 6, Number 15: Introducing the XBA

OK, let me get this straight about the labor situation in the NBA... you've got greedy owners saying they're losing money, players making ridiculous amounts of money to play a game that's cheaper to play than baseball, football or hockey, and a commish who's been known to talk about expanding his league overseas when there are a dozen TV markets in North America that would be thrilled to have NBA teams.  No wonder more people like college basketball better (never mind for the moment that a lot of its players are "overpaid" in that they get full scholarships to play when their grades suck).

Here's my question: Why hasn't someone tried to create a new league to fill the void?  After all, basketball is a cheaper in terms of expenses (virtually no equipment such as pads, helmets, gloves or sticks; 12-man rosters, smaller than the other 3 "big league" sports; just a wood floor, which is cheaper to maintain than grass or ice; and a couple of hoops).

The fictitious teams listed below represent twelve markets that are larger than Memphis (the 48th largest TV market) but DON'T have NBA teams, and would constitute the equally fictitious XBA (a reference to Vince  McMahon's XFL, a football league that fizzled in 2001; I have sworn up and down that McMahon should have started up the XBA due to the aforementioned lower costs, plus you could have pyrotechnics going off after particularly dazzling dunks, long 3-point shots and game-winning shots).

Cincinnati Scorch - OK, this is one I came up with back in 5th grade for a football league I dreamed up. I like names with alliteration in them (Pittsburgh Penguins, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Drive, Denver Dynamite, Boston Braves, Miami Marlins, etc.). Cincinnati used to have an NBA team called the Royals; they are now known as the Sacramento Kings.
Pittsburgh Pisces - Named after the fictitious team featured in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, a 1979 film starring Julius Erving and Stockard Channing. It wouldn't be the first time a pro team named itself after a movie--remember the NHL's Mighty Ducks of Anaheim?
Kansas City Steers - Named for the local cattle ranching industry. Oddly enough, there used to be a professional basketball team in Kansas City in the early 1960s called the Steers.  Another thing, too, KC has a relatively new arena now (the Sprint Center) to lure NBA and NHL teams.
St. Louis Rhinos - St. Louis is home to one pro team named after a horned animal that starts with "R" (the NFL's Rams). Why not another? Besides, this city very nearly got the NBA's Grizzlies from Vancouver: In 1999, Bill Laurie offered to buy that team and move it to St. Louis, but David Stern blocked the sale, citing his desire for the team to succeed in Vancouver. One year later, Stern approved the sale to a Chicago businessman named Michael Heisley, who promised to make every effort to make things work in Vancouver, and in 2001, he moved the team to Memphis. Now, the only difference I saw between Laurie's offer and Heisley's is that Laurie told the truth about what he planned to do with the team, whereas Heisley made a promise he had no intention of keeping.  Way to double-standardize, David Stern.  Bad enough you've stolen players from teams that sorely needed them via your Draft Lottery, but you stole the NBA from St. Louis as well.

Birmingham Maulers - Named after the local steel industry (another steel town, Pittsburgh, once had a USFL team called the Maulers). This city has hosted franchises in the World Football League, Canadian Football League, United States Football League and the XFL.
Jacksonville Jackals - Jacksonville's support for the USFL Bulls (1984-85) was the reason why it beat out St. Louis, Baltimore and Memphis for an NFL expansion franchise in 1995. It's also one of the bigger cities among those listed here. The Jackals nickname comes from the short-lived UPN action/adventure show Deadly Games, whose main villain, Sebastian Jackal, was a video game "big bad" come to life following a freak accident.
Nashville Hee-Haws - Named after the syndicated comedy show. The LA Lakers can keep Jack Nicholson. The Hee-Haws would love to give Reese Witherspoon free mid-court tickets for life.
Tampa Bay Barracudas - I don't know if barracudas are common in Tampa Bay, but they are got to be more common there than in Birmingham (the Canadian Football League once had a team called the Birmingham Barracudas). This team would have to compete with the NHL's Lightning for attention, but it's not like Tampa was ever a hockey hotbed.

Las Vegas High Rollers - A high risk--"Due in part to perceived risks with legal sports betting, no major professional sports league has ever had a team in Las Vegas" according to this Wikipedia article. But it is one of the largest cities in the United States without a major league sports team and it has been a candidate to get a relocated NBA team in the past (for example, the then-owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, Howard Schultz, talked to ownership groups from Las Vegas, St. Louis and Kansas City before deciding to sell to Clay Bennett, who moved the franchise to Oklahoma City).
San Diego Avispas - "Avispa" is Spanish for wasp. Having a Spanish nickname would appeal to basketball fans just south of the border. Hey, it worked for the Padres in Major League Baseball, didn't it?  And no, the home jerseys would NOT say "Los Avispas," just "Avispas".
Seattle Cyberpunks - Hey, Microsoft isn't far from here, and remember, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen helped save the NFL's Seahawks from moving to Los Angeles back in the '90s. I considered naming this team after the local music scene (which brought us Jimi Hendrix in the late '60s and the grunge bands of the early '90s) but "Rock Stars" and "Grunge" just didn't resonate with me. This team could enjoy a Pacific Northwest regional rivalry with the team listed right below it...
Vancouver Beachcombers - Named for those who travel coastlines to track down and salvage logs that have broken away from barges and/or logging booms, as well as a long-running Canadian TV series about two men who did just that.

Well, there you have it... a 12-team league.  Now, I realize this league doesn't have teams in many major TV markets and therefore would have a hard time competing with a healthy, fully operational NBA, but hey, if things keep going the way they've been going, maybe a number of NBA teams would "secede" and join the XBA.  We can dream, can't we?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Volume 6, Number 14: I'm Not the One with My Face on Some Wack-Ass Cap'n Crunch

I haven't made a blog entry in a while so here are a bunch of quick updates:

The Penn State football child sexual abuse scandal: Truth be told, I didn't know a thing about it until Saturday when that sicko, Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator, got arrested and charged with 40 counts of molesting young boys.  From there, in just a few days, what looked like one sick man being arrested morphed into one exemplary and clean program (high graduation rate, no gifts or money like USC several years back or SMU in the early '80s, no "Pro Combat" uniforms or even helmet logos) has been reduced to a tarnished, corroded shell.  Head coach Joe Paterno was fired and president Graham Spanier were fired Wednesday night by the Penn State Board of Trustees.  Two other things that shocked me right off the bat: First, this isn't the first time that a charity was set up to help wayward boys, then used for the sexual abuse of those boys.  Father Bruce Ritter set up Covenant House in 1972 and at least four men later said that Fr. Ritter engaged in sexual activities with them.  Sandusky set up a charity called The Second Mile in 1999 and it was through that charity that he molested those boys (most of whom are now young men, and all of whom will have to deal with damaged, violated lives for the rest of their lives).  Scandals like these really hurt charities that do help young boys.  Second, the rioting in the wake of Paterno's firing (including turning over a TV news satellite van)--does it occur to these schmucks that there are more important things in life than college football?

The Tigers: I was amazed by them this past season.  Despite having to patch up a bunch of holes with players that would never have been drafted in my fantasy league in a million parallel universes (Andy Dirks? Al Albuquerque? Danny Worth?), they won their first division title since 1987.  Hats off to Tigers manager Jim Leyland and team president Dave Dombrowski.  A couple of days after they lost to the Texas Rangers in the AL Championship Series, some idiot posted on freep.com: ""No team finds more ways to LOSE than the Leyland/Dumbrowski Tigers."  My response to this stupid comment: "We all need to be grateful for the work that Leyland and Dombrowski have put together in making the Tigers what they are today. Before Leyland took over as their manager, the Tigers had exactly TWO winning seasons between 1989 and 2005--a 17-season span that included four seasons of 100 losses or more and Randy Smith's near-destruction of the team. They have had five winning seasons since. Mitch Albom once said that Sparky Anderson was great at getting the best out of his team no matter what, "folding the rag for every drop," and Leyland has been great at that as well. The rag just came up dry in the ALCS against the Rangers, that's all. Dave Dombrowski has drafted or traded for many of the Tigers' key players since taking over as the team's GM in 2002. It's no surprise they have been so successful here; after all, they succeeded elsewhere (Leyland with the Pirates and Marlins; Dombrowski with the Expos and Marlins, and incidentally, the Pirates and Expos/Nationals haven't seen much success since they left)."

The Lions: After a 5-0 start (their first since 1956), they are now 6-2.  Again, I give serious props to Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew.  The Lions have done a much better job of drafting under Mayhew than I had expected (especially considering that Mayhew made very different decisions than I would have made at key points in the 2009 draft--he took TE Brandon Pettigrew with the 20th overall pick when I would have gone with OT Michael Oher, and FS Louis Delmas at #33 when I would have opted for a linebacker, either James Laurinaitis or Rey Maualuga).  Matthew Stafford is healthy--knock on wood--and when they can run the ball, they can win.  All in all, it's a 180-degree turnaround from the Hell of the Matt Millen years.

Funniest video in recent months: Epic Rap Battles of History #13: Mr. T vs. Mr. Rogers.  Mr. Rogers absolutely pwned Mr. T in this one in my opinion.  Epic Rap Battles of History is a series of short videos featuring rap battles between historical and/or fictitious figures (Darth Vader vs. Adolf Hitler, Dr. Seuss vs. Shakespeare, etc.)  

I don't know if I've ever said it before, but I still consider the greatest acting performance I've ever seen to be Martin Landau's Academy Award-winning portrayal of Bela Lugosi in the 1994 Tim Burton biopic, Ed Wood.  (Here's a clip from the film--warning for you little kids out there, there's some swearing in this one.)  Landau, for me, defined what it meant to disappear into a character to the point that you wouldn't recognize the actor, and keep in mind, Lugosi was both a real person and an actor himself.  His performance was so good that if anyone wanted to remake a film Lugosi had made during the final years of his life, I would hope that Landau would play whatever character Lugosi played.  It would be as if Lugosi had come back to life.

One more thing--I wish that Daylight Savings Time would go back to starting on the final Sunday in April and ending on the final Sunday in October.  (It changed in 2005 in the Energy Policy Act so that it now starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November; this, among other things, means kids trick-or-treating in broad daylight when it should be "dusk".)  Never mind that I really wish we were in the Central Time Zone (all TV shows start/end an hour earlier--yippee).