Andre Agassi--out.
Juan Carlos Fererro--out.
Andy Roddick--out.
Justine Hennin-Hardenne--out.

In the French Open, the red clay leads to lots of upsets. It wouldn't be extraordinary for these big names to be out after the weekend, but this is the casualty list after two rounds!

A host of other seeded players were ousted, and some others survived real scares. Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati had to rally to win 3-setters. In the French Open no one is invincible.

So, what now?
The men's draw is always a free for all, so this is typical. The best player in the world, Roger Federer is still in it. So are a lot of clay court specialists--Coria, Moya, Kuertin, etc. The ladies' draw could be very competitive without Henin and Clijsters. The Williams sisters could work their way back to their champion form. So could Capriati and Davenport--it's been even longer for them. Or, we could see a first time grand slam winner in Mauresmo or one of the Russian Kourniclones.
posted by uberschuck 5/28/2004 01:06:00 AM


10 Reasons You Should Watch the Stanley Cup

Y'know, there's been a concerted effort in the media to tell you how lousy the Stanley cup finals will be and why you shouldn't watch. Most of their arguments are downright silly ("What? No Detroit?") but it has become the media line: don't watch these games. As a public service measure, I decided to give you the reasons why every hockey fan should be glued to their TV watching this thing.

Think back 10 years ago, when hockey was on the verge of becoming the next big thing. Gretzky was still in LA, the Rangers made people stop chanting 1940, and life was good. Then came the single worst idea in sports history: the neutral zone trap. I blame the New Jersey Devils for a lot of hockey's ills, as just about every team in the league adopted their clutch-and-grab tactics and downright obstruction at the blue line. Detroit at least made the neutral zone trap a little bit more watchable by virtue of their incredible talent, but still, their success just encouraged every team to adopt the same pricniples.

And ten years later, even hard core hockey fans couldn't watch the games. Scoring was in the toilet, there was no open ice, and every team played the same plodding style of standing up at the blueline. It was a nice way to win some Cups, but if it wasn't your team winning, it was downright brutal to watch. Now, for the first time in ten years, there is no neutral zone trap team in the finals. And there is open ice for players to show off their speed and stickwork. Get this, hockey is fun to watch again.

Look, I understand all of the stories about the upstart Flames, but the Lightning had the best record in the east. They are a fabulous team. They don't have to apologize to anybody for making the finals. They are supposed to be here. And have you seen their passing? It's like watching the old Edmonton Oilers at times. Everyone on the team can handle the puck, and their crisp passing is really a joy to watch. Not only are they the best team, they have the likely MVP in Martin St. Louis. So we get to watch the best player do his thing.

Have you noticed how fast these teams are? Hovkey's greatest selling point is the tempo of the game. you look away for a second, you'll miss something. When the game gets bogged down in the corners and in the neutral zone, the game just slows down to an unbearable pace. But these teams love to use open ice and can counterattack brilliantly. The players are fast skaters, but the stick-handling is also outstanding, allowing the puck to move even faster. These games are end to end action.

He is no longer the league's best black hockey player, he's now simply the league's best player. If the NHL had a half a brain, they'd be marketing the crap out of this guy. Isn't the old joke that blacks just let white people dominate hockey so they can still have one sport they are good at? Chris Rock, in his recent HBO special, joked about LeBron playing hockey instead. why bother with LeBron? Chris, my man, you already got Jarome! The NHL finally has a player that can attract minorities to the rink, they should do so. The funny thing is, the NHL is probably the most international American sports league.

Aside from the race issues, Iginla can flat out play. He plays the same style as Gordie Howe. For you non-fans, a Gordie Howe hat trick is not three goals, it's a goal, an assist, and a fight. That's an Iginla kind of game. He's not a namby-pamby sissy who's afraid of the big hits (cough) (Gretzky) (cough), but he likes mucking it up. He's among the league leaders in goals, assists, and penalty minutes. He's the kind of player even non-fans can appreciate. He can score and skate, but he can also beat the crap out of you.

Don't these same sportswriters wring their hands that small markets can't compete in baseball? I mean, stick to one storyline. If big market teams win, it's bad because small market teams can't compete, but if small market teams win it's bad because we want to see big markets? You can't have it both ways.

The Flames have the lowest payroll in hockey. The lowest. And they are in the Stanley Cup finals. How can you not root for that?

Canada has their first team in the finals since 1994. That's just not right. Hockey is a Canadian game, so it's nice to see them actually have a team to root for. OK, we still need to figure out how to rebuild the Habs, but baby steps, people.

How sick are you of Detroit/ Dallas/ Colorado? They've been dominant for a decade, and frankly, it's gotten boring. We needed new teams in the finals because if I had to see Brendan Shanahan one more time, I was gonna kick in my television. I'm sick of all of those teams, and New Jersey as well. Besides, they are the teams which gave us this unwatchable brand of hockey, why should we be sad the sun is setting on their era?

Dynasties are cool if you live in that city, but for everyone else, they suck. It stopped being fun rooting against the Red Wings about two or three years ago. It just got old. We need new teams to hate or love. Wow, the league has more than five teams!

Kiprusoff will probably win the Vezina Trophy. Khabibulin has eben one of the best goalies in the world for a few years now. So even though both of these teams actually play some offense, we still get outstanding play in the pipes. Actually, their play allows the teams to play a more exciting brand of hockey. That security blanket in goal allows the teams to play a little looser and take more chances. Less goals, but more chances.

These teams can skate, they can score, they can make pretty moves, but they can also hit. A premium on skill doesn't mean there won't be some serious checking going on. The Flames lie down in front of every shot, and both of these teams beleive in the mantra "finish your checks." There was some serious hitting going on in game one, and should continue.

It's worth mentioning again. The neutral zone trap practically ruined hockey.

We're not going to see hockey again for a long, long time. So enjoy it while you can.

* - I apologize for the cheap shot on Gretzky.
posted by Poseur 5/26/2004 10:30:00 AM


Doug Pappas

You don't care, but I just saw that Doug Pappas died over the weekend. Doug Pappas was perhaps the greatest baseball writer in the country, and he didn't even work for a newspaper. He was one of the lead writers for Baseball Prospectus, but he was also the chair of SABR's Business Committee. This man studied baseball and economics, and managed to make sports economic both interesting and easy to understand.

His eight-part series, the Numbers, is the type of investigative journalism I wish the press actually did. The long and the short of it is that Bud Selig is a lying cocksucker. I admired his writing, his intellect, and all of the time he put into writing about a sport we both love.

It's a shame no one knows who he is. His weblog was one of my bookmarks, and a daily stop for me as I tried not to work. I feel like I've just lost a friend. Check out his writings here:

Roadside Photos

He was 46.

posted by Poseur 5/24/2004 01:15:00 PM

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