A Trip Across the Pond and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – Christmas 2008 Edition

london-house-of-parliament-big-ben

I apologize for the brief hiatus since I had to travel to London for work last week.  While this might sound glamorous on paper (and certainly compared to my first job out of law school where I was sent to exotic locales such as Danville and Flint, it’s a significant step-up), I didn’t have time to do any sort of sightseeing because I was working over 13 hours a day (which would have killed me if it wasn’t for the fact that I had visited all of the major touristy items in London on a previous occasion).  Of course, the one thing about much of Europe is that they pay as much attention to American news as their own news, which is root of their insistence that we aren’t worldly since we don’t reciprocate.  The fantastic Rod Blagojevich story was front-page news in the London tabloids and at the top of the hour on the BBC all week long with the tie to Barack Obama’s Senate seat (everyone over there LOVES our President-elect, if you hadn’t figured that out already – he’s seriously just behind The Beatles in the U.K. exultation power rankings).  Also, thanks to Sky Sports 2 (the Deuce!), I was able to watch the start of the Bears-Saints game at 1 a.m.London time last Thursday evening/Friday morning (Minneapolis Red Sox aptly pointed out that the British have greater access to NFL Network games than Americans) prior to falling asleep.  Interestingly enough, former Bear Shaun Gayle provides studio commentary for NFL games in the U.K. – apparently, there is enough of a cult following for American football (along with the presence of ex-pats) over there that the NFL gets pretty good coverage.  (It’s better than, say, coverage of the English Premier League over here.  Speaking of which, my only disappointment from the trip was that my work schedule prevented me from seeing Chelsea play a Champions League game in the middle of the week, knowing full well that Chelsea fans brought soccer hooliganism to new heights during the 1980s.)  As far as British television was concerned, it felt as if though I never left Chicago.

Anyway, I fell asleep in the middle of the second quarter of the Bears game and when I woke up the next morning, I got to embark on a parents-from-Home-Alone-esque path to get home to Chicago.  When I arrived at the airport, I found out that my Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to O’Hare was canceled due to “technical problems” (AKA the company wanted to consolidate a couple of less-than-full trans-Atlantic flights to save some money), which meant that I would need to have a stop-over in the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell (AKA Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC, which is not to be confused with the Airport Taxi Line to Hell at Las Vegas International) to transfer to a United flight to Chicago.  (Note that while I’m a cost-conscious consumer in general, I will ALWAYS pay for a direct flight when it’s my own money- I don’t have any tolerance for that transfer bullshit.  When it’s a company-paid flight on an expense account, as in this case, a direct flight is my God-given fucking right.  My indignation at Virgin Atlantic’s callousness in trying to tell me that having a transfer would “only” result in me getting home a couple of hours later than expected was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as an “international incident”.)  At that point, I was in “whatever” mode and simply relieved that I wouldn’t be stranded overseas.

After having a pretty productive flight from a personal enrichment perspective (I finished up Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers”, who also currently has a great piece in the New Yorker comparing the difficulties in evaluating who will become successful NFL quarterbacks and schoolteachers, and watched both “Wall-E” and “Tropic Thunder” for the first time – all are highly recommended), I arrived at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell.  Since I was coming off of an international flight, I got to go through the glorious process of having to sit in line at customs, exit the secured area, pick up my luggage, check-in to my connecting flight and drop off my luggage, and then enter through the security checkpoint again.  Luckily, I had a whole twenty minutes to do all of this before my flight back to Chicago left.  As I sprinted across the corridors of the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell and got to the front of the security line, the lovely TSA guard (AKA a Jawa without a brown robe) informed me with almost a certain sense of glee that my flight had been selected for provisional screening.  So, as my connecting flight was making a last call for boarding, I got to be pulled off to the side to patted down and have my bags thoroughly checked.  (I very politely informed another TSA guard who was a complete dead-ringer for Scott Van Pelt that I completely understood that this was a “necessary procedure” and just wanted him to be aware that my flight was about to leave.  He checked my ticket and responded, “Oooh.  I guess you’re right.  I guess we’ll try our best to do this quickly so that you can possibly make your flight.”  Mr. Van Pelt then proceeded to sit down in his chair for another five minutes before he realized that there were no other guards available and finally decided to start checking my bags.  My indignation was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as a “domestic incident”.)  After finally getting through security, I would have run to my terminal, but the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell is set up where you need to take a “bus” (AKA double-wide with a couple of wheels attached) between terminals.  Fortunately, I was able to jump onto a double-wide as it was leaving.  As you can see, this traveling day to end all traveling days, so it figured that when I finally arrived to Terminal D, I realized that my gate was the VERY LAST FUCKING ONE AT THE END – and this was a LONG FUCKING TERMINAL.  I did my best Usain Bolt impression while weighed down by a full laptop bag and literally ran as fast I could to reach my gate.  Amazingly, the plane was still there and I was able to get on.  Unfortunately, a number of my passenger-mates from London didn’t make it and, to my knowledge, no one has heard from them again.

In the only smooth part of the day (and at which point, I was pushing close to being awake for 24 hours straight), my flight from the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell to O’Hare landed almost 45 minutes early.  The traveling gods had to throw in one last “we’re completely fucking with you today”, though, as I gave all of that early landing time back and then some waiting for my luggage to arrive… which never came.  It was, of course, still sitting at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell along with everyone else’s luggage from the original London flight.  At that point, it was just meant to be.  I got back to my house over 8 hours after I was scheduled to get home (with my luggage arriving the next morning).

The moral of the story: take a boat the next time that you go to England.

Thank you all for allowing me to vent – here are this week’s picks (home teams in CAPS where applicable):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) EagleBank Bowl:  Navy Midshipmen (+3) over Wake Forest Demon Demons

(2) Las Vegas Bowl:  BYU Cougars (+3) over Arizona Wildcats

(3) Hawaii Bowl:   Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1.5) over Hawaii Warriors

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 5-6
Overall Season: 19-22-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Atlanta Falcons (+3.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS

(2) Carolina Panthers (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-4) over Green Bay Packers

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Bears Games for the Season: 3-81
Overall Season: 18-18-3

Alright, so the NFL picks this week just happen to align with exactly what the Bears need in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.  It honestly wasn’t planned that way – I just thought they were pretty reasonable spreads.  (In the case of the Panthers-Giants game, if the Giants lose, then they would go into Minnesota in Week 17 needing to win just get any type of home game in playoffs, but if they win this week, then they lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and likely would sit everyone against the Vikings.  As a result, Bears fans need to root for Carolina all the way this weekend.)

Also, it’s very unfortunate that I won’t be able to spend the day after Christmas checking out the Illini in the Motor City Bowl (instead, it’s a whopper of a game with Central Michigan vs. Florida Atlantic).  Still, there’s a return of a holiday tradition that used to rank right up there with the Lions ruining the Thanksgivings of everyone in Detroit:  Bulls basketball!  That’s right – it’s a Rose vs. Beasley matchup next Friday night.  It makes me reminisce of the golden days around Christmas:

I can’t help you if you’re not pumped up after watching that.  My BCS bowl and NFL week 17 picks) will come at some point next week.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

(Image from Study Languages)

The Presidential Commission on the Establishment of a College Football Playoff System

I will be the first to admit that I am one of the few in Chicago’s legal community that has a lot of issues with the political philosophy of President-elect Obama.  However, his apparent passion for the creation of a college football playoff system, as shown in the above video clip from his interview this past week on 60 Minutes, is admirable.  Indeed, as a fellow South Sider and White Sox fan, I would be more then willing to lead the Presidential Commission on the Establishment of a College Football Playoff System in the spirit of bipartisanship.  I can tell Obama has given this issue a ton of thought judging by the “You can’t remember to pick up a carton a milk from the store within 5 minutes of asking you to do it, but you can instantly recite the names, positions, and social security numbers of the 1992 Chicago Bears roster that had a 5-11 record” look from the future First Lady as soon as brought up the subject.  (Brad Muster, your table is ready.)  I have been on the receiving end of that look more than anyone in history assuming that the guy from “Stump the Schwab” hasn’t found a life partner yet.

The interest of the President-elect has brought back up one of the few posts that I have written that has aged relatively well: this “modest proposal” for taking the existing 4 BCS bowls, keeping the traditional conference tie-ins such as the Big Ten and Pac-10 always being in the Rose Bowl, and making it into an 8-game playoff.  (As horrific as the actual Rose Bowl game last year was for me as an Illini fan, once you’ve experienced the spectacular pagentary around Pasadena on New Year’s Day, you understand exactly why those two conferences don’t want anything to do with giving up that game.  President-elect Obama should be aware from a political standpoint that the all 8 of the Big Ten states and 3 out of the 4 Pac-10 states, with the lone exception being John McCain’s home state of Arizona, voted for him, making those conferences his strongest supporters in the BCS.  He should remember this when he starts hearing suggestions from SEC fans that believe that the winner of the SEC Championship Game should be automatically crowned the national champion, since Florida was the only Obama win among the 9 states in the conference.  On another note, I am sincerely humbled by the fact that Professor Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated’s legal expert, linked to my playoff proposal post on the Sports Law Blog.  I love my job, but I have certainly dreamed of becoming a sports law professor of Professor McCann’s stature.)  The only item that I’d alter from the original proposal from 2 ½ years ago would be the timing of the playoff so that it would be in line with the comment from Slant reader Richard Gadsden, such that the national championship game would be played one week prior to the Super Bowl.  It’s such an obvious open date on the sports calendar that I can’t see any downside to it (other than the faux bemoaning of how long the college football season would be at that point, which I addressed in my original proposal post).  That way, the Rose Bowl and the other BCS games would continue to be on or around New Year’s Day as they always have, while the semifinals would be one or two weeks later in prime time weeknight slots (so that they do not conflict with the NFL playoff games that occur on the weekends in January).  Otherwise, every single item that I brought up then would still apply today.

The main overarching point that I can’t emphasize enough is that the only reasonable way that we will ever see a college football playoff in my lifetime is if the process is driven by the BCS conferences as opposed to being imposed on them.  There are plenty of proposals out there that advocate an NCAA Tournament-style system with automatic bids to the non-BCS conferences and an abolishment of the bowl system, which might work if we were living in a theoretical vacuum, but pretty much removes any type of incentive for the BCS conferences, who are the ultimate decision-makers here, to actually agree to such a playoff.  If people advocate an “all or nothing” approach to a college football playoff system, then no one should be surprised when the BCS conferences reflexively opt for “nothing”.  The reason why I believe that my proposal would have a reasonable chance of actually being enacted is that it would simply add to the bowl system that already exists as opposed to taking anything away.

For his part, President-elect Obama has preached pragmatism to addressing America’s issues more than any Presidential candidate in recent history.  In this case, the pragmatic approach would be to provide an incentive to bring the BCS conferences to the table with a proposal that allows them to keep the same disproportionate share of television and postseason revenue that they currently enjoy while still adding a playoff system that the general public craves.  It’s very easy for people to throw out college football playoff proposals that they believe would be perfect for their personal purposes, but my proposal is aimed at instituting a playoff that the BCS conferences would actually agree to at the end of the day.  Otherwise, we’ll still be debating this same issue thirty years from now.

(Video from YouTube)

It’s Funny Because It’s True: The ESPN College Basketball Fan Casting Call

espn-8-the-ocho

I’m normally not one for hyperbole, but the following find from Awful Announcing might very well be the most awesome sports-related story that I’ve come across since starting this blog: the ESPN casting call for college basketball fans representing different schools.  Due to the fact that it’s so over-the-top in its stereotypes and littered with spelling and grammatical errors, you might think that this is an Internet hoax.  However, ESPN contacted Awful Announcing to make it clear that the casting call was being canceled, which meant that the most powerful cable network in the nation really was going to use these parameters to find people to represent various universities (before they got caught, of course).

Let’s see if I would have met the requirements to be Mr. Illini:

[ ILLINOIS ]
MALE. African-American. Young Obama. Think Toofer-the straight-laced, Harvard grad write r from 30 Rock (Keith Powell)

Well, as a half-Chinese/half-Polish guy, it doesn’t look like ESPN believes that I could represent my Illini.  Believe me when I say that Illinois was treated very positively compared to some other schools.  In comparison, let’s take a look at the alma mater of my man crush Derrick Rose:

[ MEMPHIS ]
MALE. What can we say about Memphis? He’s a southern BLACK kid, really culinary and polite. He’s artistic, and draws comic books really well.

As Awful Announcing noted, an “African-American” gets to be a Harvard graduate, while a “BLACK” can draw comic books really well.  I see that ESPN’s casting director really took to heart America’s historic election of a new President last week.  Anyway, I was able to find a surprising starring role that I could fit into:

[ NOTRE DAME ]
MALE He’s an ASIAN kid who is in to all things Notre Dame, ridiculously so. Oh, and he’s always fighting. Every time we encounter him he always has some words or another, be it the faint traces of a black eye, or a scab or whatever. He epitomizes the fightin’ Irish.

As someone that grew up during the Lou Holtz era on the South Side of Chicago (alright, it was the south suburbs, but all North Siders seem to believe that the Chicago area ends at around 57th Street) where every other person was Irish Catholic, I obviously believe that an Asian kid with a black eye “epitomizes the fightin’ (sic) Irish.”  It’s interesting that Notre Dame was the one program that ESPN’s proxies seemed to go out of their way to avoid so many of the school’s stereotypes (well, other than the black eye and scab part), but there was another Midwestern Catholic university where they sincerely nailed it:

[ MARQUETTE ]
FEMALE. Marquette, on a scale of 1-10, she’s a six. A B-, C in every category you can define a person by. Her defining characteristic is you don’t really remember her. You’re not breaking your arm to get to her, but you’re not chewing it off to get away. She does have a winning personality though. Midwest, sweet girl.

Never have truer words have been spoken about Marquette.  (Yes, I’m a DePaul Law alum.)

That was just a mere sampling – 24 schools in all were up for casting and there are many more gems (although ESPN’s lack of a college basketball contract with the Pac-10 has deprived us of roles for USC and Berkeley).  I’m simultaneously mortified that this is not a joke and gleeful that this will live on the interweb forever.

UPDATE: USA Today appears to be the first in the mainstream media to have picked up this story.

(Image from Scream Punch)

The GOP’s Two Options: Build an Inclusive Majority or Become the Permanent Minority

In the aftermath of the 2006 mid-term elections, I wrote this post lamenting about how the Republican Party’s losses that year were indicative of a widening gulf between the libertarian wing (which I consider myself to be a part of) and the social conservatives. This trend has sprung up more prominently as an issue in the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks as it has become almost assured that Americans will choose Barack Obama over John McCain for President on November 4th (unless you believe that every single reputable poll is incorrect). The internal struggle between the various factions of the GOP is characterized in a number of ways (i.e. elites vs. evangelicals or urban vs. rural), but it still basically comes down to a fight over whether the party should focus on fiscal conservatism or social conservatism.

Since 1980, Ronald Reagan was able to create a coalition of those two conflicting groups that would be a force in American politics for a quarter of a century. Indeed, George W. Bush won two elections by leveraging this powerful coalition – the irony is that the splinter of the party is going to come on his watch (whether this was substantially his fault is a discussion for another day). Even before the nation’s economy became the predominant issue over the past month, John McCain was handed a Republican Party that was in disarray without a vision (and in turn, his campaign has failed to create any vision in its place). In the zeal with which the current leadership of the GOP to use the “50-plus-1” model of securing an ideological base with a slight majority, they forgot that moderate independents are the ones that elect Presidents in this country. This group increasingly felt shunned by the Republicans, which resulted in the changing of control in Congress to the Democrats in 2006 and putting the 2008 GOP Presidential candidate, no matter who it was, at a severe disadvantage against any Democratic candidate. The Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world believed that those people that didn’t meet every single litmus test of being supposedly conservative were RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) that ought to be kicked out of the party and ridiculed (Right Wing Nut House has a great post on this subject – despite the title of this blog by Rick Moran, who is the brother of Nightline anchor Terry Moran, it is actually one of the most well-reasoned and rationally-based conservative sites out there). Well, guess what – those so-called RINOs did end up leaving in great numbers, taking with them tons of independent voters that have similar viewpoints, and could very well end up giving the Democrats both the White House and a veto-proof Congress.

I’ll be straight-forward with you on my personal bias here – there is absolutely no political philosophy that I abhor more than populism. Most people that have my political worldview – fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and live in a large progressive city – would say the same thing. Traditionally, the Democrats have been the party most open to populists and they have certainly hammered home that type of message on the economic front in this election (which is why I will not be voting for Barack Obama). However, the Republican Party has increasingly become more populist since the 1990s (encapsulated by Pat Buchanan’s horrific speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention – of course, he came back this year and called Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention the greatest convention address ever). Even worse is the anti-intellectualism that seems to have come along with this rising tide of populism in both the GOP (once again, Rick Moran hits this point directly). As the evangelical and rural influence in the Republican Party has increased, so has the corresponding aversion to intellectualism. (Minneapolis Red Sox alludes to this in one of his latest posts.)  It wasn’t that long ago that people with higher income and educational levels were voting Republican by large margins over Democrats. Yet, the GOP has become so beholden to its populist wing that it is now the opposite, where the wealthy and highly-educated are actually voting for Democrats more (despite the lingering perception that the Republican Party is the party for the rich).

These Republican populists are more likely to be ideologues on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. This isn’t a good thing for the Republicans simply because of demographic trends which will likely come to fruition in this year’s election. The interior Western states that voted heavily for Bush in 2000 and 2004 have more libertarians as opposed to evangelicals, which means that they are less likely to vote on socially conservative issues (other than possibly gun ownership). Those states also happen to have the fastest-growing Hispanic populations outside of Florida, which will make the Republican Party pay for its nativist rhetoric over the past two years (even though John McCain was at the forefront of trying to get a compromise passed on this issue, which made him so unpopular with the GOP populist base that it almost doomed him in the party nomination process from the get-go). Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that McCain is poised to lose Colorado and Nevada, which would essentially make it impossible for him to win the Presidency.

At the same time, a number of Southern states are seeing rapid changes in their own demographics due to an influx non-evangelical and educated Northerners transplants. Case in point is Virginia, which has gone from a solid-red state to one where Obama appears to have a commanding lead as a result of the increasingly Democratic area of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. North Carolina has experienced a similar influx and, not surprisingly, what once was a lock for the Republicans is now a toss-up. Essentially, these moves are mirroring what has happened in suburban areas across the country, which were once rock-hard Republican bases but are now leaning Democratic. (When DuPage County is having toss-up races, the GOP should note that it’s in a whole lot of trouble.) Add in a worrisome economy on top of all of those demographic shifts and the likelihood of America witnessing a landslide early on Tuesday night (as opposed to staying up late to see if a couple of precincts in Florida and Ohio get their returns in to decide the election) is extremely high.

While John McCain’s campaign has been far from stellar at any level (whether it’s the incoherent day-to-day messaging, the pick of Sarah Palin as the VP candidate that has backfired with independent voters, or the complete lack of an overarching message as evidenced by this New York Times Magazine piece), it’s important to note that he personally is actually polling better than the Republican Party generally. This means that if McCain loses, it will be more because of the long-term political miscalculations of the party behind him (plus the economy) as opposed to anything his campaign could have possibly done. The Republican Party needs to take note of this since there will be the inevitable ill-advised mouth-breathing calls from the conservative media establishment in the event of a McCain loss that he failed to generate any excitement from the conservative base and moved away from the moral values of the party.

Even though I will be voting for John McCain because I truly believe he’s the one national politician of our time that has proven that he is an independent thinker even when it was politically detrimental to him (I personally like Obama and will ultimately be fine with him as President, but I concur with Ruth Marcus in failing to see how his policies break with the traditional Democratic Party approach at all – the fact that Obama’s incredibly well-oiled Chicago-style campaign has been able to get the American public to largely perceive that he is the supposed change agent while McCain is “four more years of Bush” is sad on a number of levels) and hope that he will somehow win (which would be kind of like saying that I hope that the Illini will get to the BCS National Championship Game this year – technically, they could if they win out and every team ahead of them lost every single other game, just as McCain could win by sweeping every single battleground state despite the fact he’s not leading in any of them with less than a week to go), in a way, a horrible loss for the Republicans next Tuesday would be a good thing long-term for the party. This will put the discord between the libertarians and the populists front-and-center such that the GOP has to figure out which direction it’s going to take since the old Reagan coalition will have become fodder for the history books. The Republicans have the opportunity to either perform a make-over to become a true majority party that invites intellectual debate or alternatively could choose to be a vocal minority that only cares about ideological purity. Is the party going to opt to grow and attempt to expand its base by adopting a libertarian platform in light of substantial demographic trends, even in the traditionally Republican strongholds in the South? Or is the party going to look to protect its evangelical core because they are the loudest and most activist group? If the Republicans take the former approach, they will retain me as a supporter in general. However, it will be the last straw for me and a whole lot of other people if the party decides to largely stick the same old socially backward tactics to scare up evangelical votes.

(Image from Los Angeles Times)

Land-o-Links – 3/24/2008

I know the posts have been sparse, especially considering that we’re in the middle of March Madness, but I promise you that this blog will be coming out of its once-a-month-or-so rut very soon. Anyway, the Illini basketball team ended the season with their best impression of the 1999 club in the Big Ten Tournament on the heels of my previous post. Maybe next year won’t be so bad with the return of Jamar Smith and the addition of Alex Legion, right? Here are some links to tide you over in anticipation of the Final Four, baseball opening day and the Masters:

(1) Stuff White People Like – I’m sure that if you’re interweb-savvy that you’ve seen this blog already, but those that haven’t would be remiss not to check out the daily postings here. As many others have observed, it’s really Stuff Liberal White Yuppies and Hipsters Like, but of course that type of title would not lead to people passing around the link to this blog. My favorite gems are how white people like dinner parties, knowing what’s best for poor people, hating corporations (other than corporations that make stuff that white people like, such as Apple and Target), public radio, gifted children, and, of course, Wrigley Field. The only thing is that despite being a half-Asian libertarian Republican, this blog really hammers home how I’m pretty much a pasty white liberal yuppie on paper outside of the anti-capitalist undertones.

(Edit: In my long overdue review of everyone on my blogroll, I’ll note that Kenny pointed this blog out a couple of weeks ago.)

(2) The Republican Resurrection (The New York Times) – I don’t agree with Frank Rich very often (although my link history does show that I’m an avid New York Times reader), but he nailed the political analysis on the spot here. The Democratic Party somehow is grasping defeat from the jaws of victory yet again with a prolonged and increasingly nasty nomination battle. I’ll be upfront that I’ve always been a John McCain fan, but realistically, I’ve thought that he could only win in the general election if Hillary Clinton somehow grabbed the Democratic nomination at the last moment. That would mean that the Democrats would be putting up a politically polarizing candidate AND the party base would be less than enthusiastic in the general election. As unlikely as that may happen, the Clinton family sway over the Democratic superdelegates at least makes that a real possibility. I’m also simply amazed that there are still Democratic primary voters who sincerely believe that Hillary would do better than Barack Obama in the general election. Believe me – every Republican alive that has any knowledge whatsoever about the tempermant of the general electorate would rather face Hillary than Obama in November. This seems to be pretty obvious to everyone other than a blindly loyal subset of Clinton supporters.

(3) Fighting Illini Announce 2008 Spring Games (FightingIllini.com) – Given the state of the White Sox and Bulls, I’m being dead serious when I say that Illinois spring football is what I’m looking forward to the most in April sports-wise (other than the Masters).

(4) Playoffs or Lottery for Bulls? (Hoopsworld) – Speaking of the Bulls, I really hate being in this predicament as a fan. The team is 15 games under .500, yet the Eastern Conference is so horrible that they are still within 3 games of a playoff spot. So, what is better for the club in the long term – squeaking by into the #8-seed, where they would most likely be swept by the Celtics or Pistons in the first round, or taking its chances in the NBA Draft lottery with the hope that everything comes up Milhouse to be in position to get Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose (where either one would probably make the team a true championship contender next season)? I hate the notion of cheering against your own team from a bad karma perspective, but I have to disagree with the Hoopsworld writer and say that the Bulls would be better off heading to the lottery. Unlike football or baseball, where moving up draft positions is almost never worth the thought of losing more games, the NBA, as I’ve noted many times before, is a boom-or-bust environment where you need a superstar to have a reasonable chance to win it all. Not only are those superstars almost universally lottery picks, but they are disproportionately drafted with one of the top three picks. I’m not one of those chumps that wants a “nice Bulls team” that gets to the playoffs regularly but never gets over the hump – I was admittedly spoiled growing up with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, so I want to see the team be in position to win more championships. As a result, I’d rather see the Bulls wait for some ping-pong balls in May than watch them get crushed by KG or Chauncey Billups in four straight games. This all could have been prevented by John Paxson last year, but that’s another rant for another time.

And finally…

(5) American League Preview 2008 (Siberian Baseball) – Minneapolis Red Sox is starting up his annual baseball previews and I’m sure he’ll have the National League shortly. He has charitably put the White Sox in third place in the AL Central (actually, I think that’s about right – I don’t know how some crack smokers think that the Sox will be worse than either the Twins or Royals this season, but the South Siders are clearly way behind Detroit and Cleveland as we stand today).

Enjoy the rest of the NCAA Tournament and have a great day!