Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The absolute worst sports column ever written (in case you missed it)

Really slow on posting this, as I am wont to lag. But it is certainly worth your attention (if you've not already granted it) to check out this column written by Mark Whicker of the OC Register.

You've probably already heard about it -- meat-head in Orange County writes a column ostensibly addressed to kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard running down all the sporting events he can think of that she has missed out on during the 18 years of her incarceration. It is an embarrassment to letters and words and really anything else decent in the world, and indeed has been roundly condemned on these here interwebs. Hard to have any other reaction.

Whicker is obviously completely tone deaf to even conceive of such a thing, but his editors deserve just as much blame for giving his schlock the green light. It's strange, too, because not one week earlier the same newspaper ran an exclusive and very moving interview with Jaycee's aunt, Tina Dugard, who recounted her and her family's experience getting re-acquainted with Jaycee. It's heartfelt and tender, but Whicker's follow-up commentary bashes all those warm fuzzies with a baseball bat.

Whicker has apologized for "disconnect[ing] that bond" with readers who were offended by the column. But in an interview with Poynter Online, he sure doesn't seem all that sorry. "I vehemently believe I wasn't insensitive about the fact that she was kidnapped," he told the website. Hmm...

Seems it's a conceit Whicker's used before, as Poynter points out, having written almost the exact same article in 1991 when hostage Terry Anderson was released from captivity in Lebanon. At least those who fall victim to lunatics have someone keeping track of the sports world for them.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

New hoops league to tip off in Southeast Asia

Basketball fans in Southeast Asia now have some professional teams to call their own, as the ASEAN Basketball League was officially launched last week in Manila. Games should get underway next month.

Backed by AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes, the league will start with six teams from six different countries: the Brunei Barracudas, KL (Kuala Lumpur) Dragons, the Philippine Patriots, the Satria Muda BritAma, the Thailand Tigers and the Singapore Slingers. There will be 15 home and away games with a four-team playoff in February.

Basketball hardly enjoys the following in ASEAN countries as it does in, say, China. My guess is that the Philippine Patriots are going to be the hottest team and probably the most financially successful. Of all these countries, the Philippines is definitely the most hoops-mad -- while soccer is king everywhere else, it barely cracks the top three favorite sports in the Philippines, coming in far behind basketball and volleyball (in that order).

I played a few games with my Filipino roommate's 14-year-old son, and at a foot shorter and 15 years younger than the rest of us, he dominated. The Patriots are the team I'll go check out when they come to Singapore.

According to ESPN Star:

Each ABL team will be fielding seven local players, three ASEAN imports (with one needing just ASEAN heritage to qualify), and two international imports. Teams do not have to field ASEAN imports if they have the additional three local players they are satisfied that can perform just as well, like the Patriots of the Phillipines.

A significant point was made at the press conference and that is the salary cap has been set at US$400,000 per season, with the top import being set to be paid in the region of US$100,000. The second top import's salary will be set at US$50,000, with the remaining players splitting the salary amount left according to their discretion.

The league is interesting because it will pit club teams that represent countries against one another, injecting an undeniable flavor of international competition with heated rivalries almost a given. I'm sure the Singapore/KL games will be intense.

It may take a few seasons to get off the ground, but with solid financial backing and the moral support of FIBA, the ABL could really be something. Measured against the always floundering CBA in China, success should not be too difficult.

Monday, September 07, 2009

For all the dogs that get Left Behind...

We all know that most pets are hopeless heathens. Beautiful and loving beasts each one, but as unrepentant sinners, their chances of joining the faithful in eternity are nonexistent.

And when The Rapture hits and thousands of believers are instantly transported into Paradise, who will be left to care for our furry friends?

Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA, that's who. They are a group of animal-loving atheists who for a meager fee of $110 are offering their services to the hundred million or so Americans who believe that, when the time is right, on the verge of the Apocalypse, God will suddenly call them up to heaven while the rest of us, left behind here on earth, battle evil forces for the survival of our eternal souls (or something like that).

Lest you think it's a joke, the group writes on its website: "This is a serious offer to our Christian friends who believe in the Second Coming and honestly care about the future of their pets after the Rapture occurs."

The group's founder tells the Main Street website that somewhere between one and 175 people have signed up for the service. It's hard to know how many of these might be true believers who worry about their pets and how many are just fellow atheists who support the effort. Either way, it's nice to see such harmony between the saved and the damned, working together for the betterment of animal welfare.