Thursday, May 27, 2010

64 and Counting Will Return June 1st

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 4:51 PM

Safety first, kids.
  • Safety first, kids.

The merriment and wonder that is this (recently sporadic) sports blog will be on a brief hiatus until Tuesday, June 1.

In the meantime, always remember the grill doesn't need as much lighter fluid as you think it does, unless you like big flames, in which case just go ahead and douse the mothereffer and strike a match. Keep the kids back, though. Hospitals tend to be very busy on holiday weekends.

Have a beer or twenty, have a hot dog or two, and meet us back here next week. Hopefully with no third-degree burns.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, kids.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

12 Days Later, Oversized Headbands Lone, Sad Reminder of Cavs Playoff Run

Posted By on Tue, May 25, 2010 at 9:19 AM

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Cleveland's playoff run came to an abrupt halt 12 days ago in Boston. The day after, the huge tarps that adorned the Q, the ones bearing the "All Together" playoff slogan and gigantic images of the players, were ceremoniously torn down.

Twelve days later, however, the oversized Cavs headbands the team had looped around the massive statues on the Memorial Bridge are still up, a depressing reminder that yes, the Cavs were in the playoffs recently, even if you've tried to expunge that memory from your brain in short order.

Did the Cavs forget about them? Is the team hoping to use them as bargaining power when courting Coach K or Phil Jackson? Were the crews too lazy to head three blocks from the Q to retrieve them?

No word yet on when/if they'll come down, nor what the headbands will be used for once someone takes a 30-foot pole and removes them from the stone heads (hey, wait.... that's an idea... that's not stealing, right?). Unless Barry Bonds is a huge Cavs fans and wants to wear these around his house, I have no idea what they could be used for.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Great Bernie Kosar vs. Boomer Esiason Poster

Posted By on Tue, May 25, 2010 at 9:09 AM

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Found at the downtown Winking Lizard.

And if you're curious, it says Boomer's got a reach of 75 inches... Bernie with just 74. You're welcome for that important stat of the day.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Gauging Shin-Soo Choo's Popularity In Korea

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 3:45 PM

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There will be a similar, more serious piece on Choo and his popularity sometime in the coming months. This is not that serious piece. It involves Snooki. You've been warned.

During the gap between the end of the 2009 season and the start of the 2010 campaign, there was a documentary on Shin-Soo Choo's life broadcast on Korean television. And it wasn't sequestered to an ESPN-like specialty cable channel; it was on the Korean equivalent of NBC... during primetime.

Imagine how popular an American athlete would have to be to merit a one-hour documentary of their life shown on NBC in primetime. Not even LeBron could pull that off; his documentary is just an indie feature film. Just.

Not Jordan, not Hank Aaron, not even Muhammad Ali would be given that timeslot reserved for C-list celebrities foxtrotting with Simon Cowell in a hot tub for the bachelor's heart and six-month supply of cephalosporins. For a nation as obsessed with sports and fame as this one, disparate rooting interests and leagues prevent one athlete from singularly capturing the national psyche. It really takes an us-against-them situation, one brave star fighting for America against the world, for patriotic fervor to kick in and endear one athlete to a nation.

I suppose an Olympian could pull it off one day, but it'd have to be about an athlete who did more than win some medals. I mean, Michael Phelps would have had to hunt down Osama bin Laden and strangle him with his gold medals to extend his moment as America's hero and land a primetime doc. And even then, they probably wouldn't make it because he'd still be a douche. He only lives on now because Subway has poor choices in spokesmen.

Which makes the Choo doc, “Choo Shin-soo, Hitting Major League At Last,” all the more remarkable. It was so popular, it aired a second time.

As the Choo bandwagon gets more crowded by the day — profiles in USA Today, Yahoo!, and countless "he's a rockstar" comments from scouts and writers during spring training are just the beginning of the adoration, which seems to have hit a pinnacle this year — you wonder just what sort of rockstar he is. He may play in front of a couple hundred fans and the occasional bored seagull in Cleveland, but when Choo hits towns with large Korean populations, the seats are packed with his countrymen and women. On a recent west coast swing, Choo was supposed to get a day off California, but manager Manny Acta played him because of L.A.'s huge Korean population. Can't disappoint the fans — after all, they might be the only ones the Indians have.

That same road trip saw no fewer than eleven credentialed media from Korea and Korean news outlets who showed up just for Choo (and Mark Grudzielanek, everyone's nuts for Grudz). His stats from every game are written up for the Korean papers, his highlights shown every night.

While his popularity in his native country isn't entirely surprising or strange — pitcher Chan Ho Park garnered insane attention when he reached the majors and Ichiro is the gold standard for national obsession for Pacific-born players — but while Choo's here — he has hired superdevil agent Scott Boras, after all, which means come 2014, at the latest, he's out like trout — we should know what we're in the presence of. If just so we can know what we lost.

Who is this man — acquired for Ben Broussard, if you'll remember — who could stroll through Wal-Mart at Steelyard Commons and not be bothered once? If he's a rockstar, is he like Bono? Or is he like Bret Michaels? Is this a Hasselhoff/Germany thing? If he's a TV star, is he Seinfeld or Ryan Seacrest? And why hasn't some journalist asked these questions? Hoynsie, I'm looking at you.

In search of the answer, I fired off emails to a handful of respected Korean journalists asking a simple question: Is Shin-Soo Choo the Snooki of Korea?

Without exception, they responded that no one was as popular as Snooki and that she should move to Korea immediately. Weird.

They did put Choo's stardom in some perspective, too.

"[Choo's] popularity is a bit different," says Hyunsik Lee, New York Bureau Chief for Seoul Broadcasting System. "People do not like him like a movie star and a singer, more like respect him. Yes, people respect him. They have hope seeing him in difficult times."

So, just like Snooki. Go on...

"The level of popularity of LeBron or Tom Cruise can be attributed to maybe Chan Ho Park or Yuna Kim, Olympic figure skaing champion. Actually, her fame is hotter than that now," Lee says. "All the demographic groups of Korean population would know [Choo's] name, including aged women who usually don't get interested in baseball. But many Koreans who know him don't have a very strong impression of him in their brains yet. I think Choo can reach that level of national popularity in a few years to come."

So, Choo's actually more like JWOWW. Glad we got that straightened out. Lee continues:

"Koreans don't see the national sports competition as just a sport. They get really serious and even jealous. So, if you make impressive scenes in those national games, you become the national hero. Choo needs that kind of career boost to be loved more by Koreans."

Reality stars would release a sex tape in these circumstances; Choo just has to play good baseball. In any case, the last time there was a sex tape involving the Indians and minor leaguer Kazuhito Tadano, it didn't do him or the team any good anyway, so that's probably a poor option. Best to stick with baseball.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Questions Continue Over Possible Makeover at Progressive Field

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 2:51 PM

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From his current perch on CoolCleveland.com, Cleveland journalist Roldo Bartimole dishes out some color commentary on the Plain Dealer’s piece last week on who’s likely to foot the bill if Progressive Field gets a face-lift.

According to reports in the New York Times and Crain’s Cleveland Business, the cash-strapped Tribe recently asked design firms to “brainstorm” potential renovations. When the PD approached Indians officials about the possible construction, VP Bob DiBiasio shrugged it off, telling the paper “It’s not a question that needs to be asked yet.”

Bartimole was not too happy with that answer.

Doesn’t need to be answered? That is strict PR bullshit from someone who never gets challenged by the news media. A happy face he has but not a trustful one for me. If you believe him on this one I have some special mortgage bonds to sell you.

The newsprint vet says if the team goes forward with a renovation, taxpayer could end up shelling out for the work. There’s a growing pot of possible funding that the Gateway Economic Development Corp. — the nonprofit behind the stadiums — has an eye on, Bartimole suspects.

The sin tax extension of 10 years has a stipulation that the revenue up to $116 million will go to help pay for Browns Stadium for the City of Cleveland. However, once that total is reached the money — some $68 million had been the estimate — will go to the County. The tax has raised $94.3 million. So it’s not far from the $116 and is coming in at some $13 million a year.

The new money is not to go to Gateway. It is supposed to go to the County general fund. Where it is needed, I might add.

Watch County officials for the rest of this year. They must not be allowed to make any revisions that would send this money to Gateway.

Oh yeah, and although he starts off his post with a hearty pat on the PD’s back for asking the right questions, he doesn’t pull any punches about the past quality of their watchdog journalism.

My question is whether the Plain Dealer will deal with this money grab honestly. I hope so. But the PD’s record on this score is about as good as guys named Hagan, Dimora and Russo.

Kyle Swenson

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Cavs — Now Hiring

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 10:33 AM

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Esquire's Shaq Profile With Some Insights On LeBron

Posted By on Wed, May 19, 2010 at 1:27 PM

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It's striking, really, looking back at the optimism and pomp and circumstance of Shaq's arrival in Cleveland and where we are now. The welcoming press conference/party is where this profile of Shaq, from the June issue of Esquire, begins. We all know how it ends.

Good reading on a guy who has likely played his first and last season as a Cavalier.

This excerpt gives a little something to take away about LeBron as team leader, team social coordinator, team cheerleader, team chemistry-maker.

"My thing back then was, it was always gonna be my fault if we don't win, so we're gonna have to do shit my way. When I was with Orlando, we was doing it everybody else's way — and I always got blamed. So I just got it in my head, Fuck it, if I'm gonna get blamed, I'm gonna do it my way. Period, point-blank."

These guys seem to like you.

"I talk to 'em. I tell 'em stories. The good thing about my stories is, it's all believable. A lot of guys here have seen me in my younger years do what I did. It's a close-knit group. This is the funnest, funniest team I've ever been on in my life. Just laughter and guys hanging out; I've never been on a team like that. Most of the teams I've been on always had cliques — this guy hangs with this guy, this guy goes to the movies with this guy, two guys from Europe are doing their thing, one guy's doing albums and movies, one guy's doing a business deal, one guy's telling the coaches whatever, but this guy — LeBron — everyplace we go, he'll send a text — 'Hey, meet us at the steakhouse, eight o'clock, meet us at the movies, we got a party tonight.' This is a very, very close-knit group."

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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