Monday Morning Links

Let’s start with some props to this guy, who legitimately won the 2009 Open Championship on the links of Turnberry by making some putts down the stretch, including a non-gimme on the 72nd hole of regulation. Then, he made a good par save on the first playoff hole and from there played nearly flawless golf. Take nothing away from how well Tom Watson played this week, don’t let a bogey on his last hole, followed by an ugly display in the playoff, fool you into think his carriage turned into a pumpkin. Mark Herrmann agrees, as did Rick Reilly in his closing essay on the ESPN telecast. If it’s any consolation to Watson, he took a big leap in the latest World Golf Rankings. Stewart Cink, meanwhile, has a career-altering victory which validates his consistently excellent play on Tour– something his relative lack of wins might have hidden for a while. By the way, check out Cink’s photos on the twitter feed I linked to, which includes the photo seen in today’s first post. Plenty of commenters already, while the family and fans back in Georgia are quite proud too. As Mark Bradley indicates, hopefully we will all appreciate Cink’s accomplishment eventually, rather than just dwell on what might have been for Watson.

Elsewhere in sports, we find some Roy Halladay trade rumors. This store caught fire leading up to the All Star Game when the Blue Jays indicated that they’d consider a deal if they were blown away by an offer. Doesn’t look like anything’s too close though. The Orioles also may deal some veterans, but are being pretty coy about it to try and drive up the price. The Brewers did make a move, getting Felipe Lopez from Arizona for a couple of minor leaguers. He should immediately become the second baseman, and might also be their leadoff hitter. They still need more pitching, however, to keep pace with the Cardinals and Cubs in the NL Central.

In other news…

Man walked on the Moon 40 years ago tomorrow, and HowStuffWorks posted a film commemorating the legendary Apollo 11 and its journey. Newsday has a photo gallery, as do other media outlets. I’m sure there is or will be even more content out there. The astronauts themselves say that Mars needs to be our next mission. They’ll be at the White House today. Kind of ironic that this anniversary occurs just after Walter Cronkite’s death. Cronkite was quite an admirer of space exploration. He was a giant of journalism, and we will all miss him.

Speaking of the White House, I’m going to try and get back to posting some political stuff- legitimately fair and balanced, of course. Mike Allen has some other tidbits on today in Washington, including a state visit from India’s Prime Minister in November. Also, the healthcare issue is still vexing, and the President has plenty of critics who smell blood. The public polling numbers, to the extent they will actually influence Congress, are not on President Obama’s side. Not sure if I think Bobby Jindal offers many alternative solutions to those which likely would be in any eventual reform. Naturally, President Obama intends to fight back. But can he really get the Senate’s Finance Committee to put a bill on the table this week, as Jake Tapper reports? Deliberative is probably a better approach here. The government gets one chance to do this even close to correctly.

Various other political perspectives, on the left, right, and in the middle, can be found through links here and here.


And So It Begins Again…

A new era for Danimal’s Den starts today. The changes may be slow at first, and I haven’t finalized exactly what they will include, but you can be sure this site won’t look or feel quite the same by the end of the summer.

More importantly, I’m confident that we’ll have better content than ever before, updated regularly throughout the week.

Apparently, however, there’s nothing new about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ performance in the first two games of their rematch with Detroit. 2-0 down, and while their effort was considerably better than in the first two games of last year’s series, when they lost both games by a combined 7-0 (which was basically the difference in the series as the remaining four games ended up being a virtual dead-heat), the result was the same. Down two games, and beaten by a sucker-punch goal in the third period both nights.

Ed Olczyk’s commentary is correct. It was terrible defending from the Penguins, giving Justin Abdelkader so much time and space. Still, as Pierre LeBrun recognized in his column last night, the biggest difference between the teams so far in this series is that Chris Osgood is getting it done and Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t. Johan Franzen’s game-winning goal in the opener was a bit of a fluke and unlucky for Fleury, as the puck hit his pads while he was down on the ice and went over the line. But Abdelkader’s goal simply can’t be conceded at this level. Period. If the Penguins don’t turn it around in Games 3 and 4 back at their often inhospitable Igloo, you can point to Osgood’s stop of Evgeni Malkin’s breakaway in Game 1 (for good measure, Osgood stopped a Malkin wrist-shot from the point last night while it was still 1-0 Penguins) and Abdelkader’s goal in Game 2 as the defining moments of this series. Joe Starkey also noticed this shocking difference in net. Luckily for Pittsburgh, Malkin escaped a possible one-match ban for a late fight with Henrik Zetterberg. Puck Daddy’s not so sure he should have gotten such a reprieve, and Puck Stops Here agrees. In fairness, Malkin is presumably on the ice to score goals, and the instigator rule is really intended to deal with teams who send out enforcers late in games.

Regardless of Pittsburgh’s foibles, gotta give the Wings some props (even if I didn’t mind seeing Pittsburgh lose because I’m not the biggest Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin fan out there). Where do they keep finding all these kids who come in and produce? Even Mike Babcock is shocked how almost everyone he plays turns golden once they put on the famous “Winged Wheel.” Okay, Abdelkader not only played for Michigan State’s 2007 NCAA Championship team, he scored the winning goal in the title game. And, he was a second-round pick back in 2005, so he hasn’t completely come out of nowhere. But Johan Franzen was the 97th pick overall in 2004. Zetterberg was the 210th pick in 1999. Jonathan Ericsson was the last pick in 2002, and he had his appendix removed last week, but came back to score the tying goal last night. I could go on for a while. Mitch Albom notices that not only are they racking up goals and assists, they’re also stopping Sidney Crosby cold.

Much has been written about how great Jim Nill, Ken Holland, Joe McDonnell, and Hakan Andersson are at scouting/drafting players for Detroit, and this weekend was just more evidence of it. The Wings don’t lack for money, but cash is worthless if used unwisely.

Stay tuned to this series, and to this blog. More later today or tonight.

Happy 100 Days!

Graphic Source: Slate

Mr. President. By no means is he doing a perfect job. For all we know, some of his actions to deal with the recession, wars, and the rest could end up failing down the road, both in policy and in cost. Other presidents in the past have had bold ideas, put together staffs/cabinets which sounded great in theory… only to see the whole thing fall apart. Lyndon Johnson’s administration comes to mind because of Vietnam (and JFK also had some missteps on foreign policy with many of the same advisors).

But I do think we can be happy about at least one thing today- especially because it seems unlikely to go away anytime soon. Competence is but the least of Obama’s good traits, which collectively are now back in power after too many years away. Long may that continue!

(Also, long live my ability to pick basketball games more accurately than he can!)

Graphic Source: Delaware Online

Thank You, Jackie

As this blogger , and many others note, myself now included.

The anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Dodgers debut, April 15, 1947, is always a major event in baseball. We simply cannot forget how important it was in breaking down racial barriers all over the nation. Not just by showing that African-Americans could play baseball just as well as whites, but the integrity and courage he, Larry Doby (who started playing for the Indians later that same year), and other pioneers of the late ’40s and ’50s showed. They probably also helped pave the way for Latinos and others to follow suit and come to the Majors in more recent times. Each new group has brought its own talents and flair to the game (both collectively and individually), raising the bar of competition for all who followed.

So, it was a little strange to hear yesterday that Jackie’s first game, when it happened, actually wasn’t that big a deal to the New York Times, or even to the Associated Press. Especially considering the negative reaction his signing drew from rival teams, and that the game drew over 26,000 fans (an excellent regular-season crowd in those days), including thousands of blacks. Branch Rickey deserves a lot of credit for sticking his neck out to sign Robinson, even though he had to tell his player not to retaliate against any of the abuse he was likely to face. But as the AP’s Jim Becker recounted in 2007, the moment’s significance wasn’t necessarily lost to the media even then. He claimed that many in the press box that day, including himself, likened the debut and Robinson’s career-long triumph over segregation as something akin to our then-recent defeat of Nazism.

62 years later, I think Becker was right. Can you honestly imagine a sport or element of our society where there could ever be justification for excluding someone because of race? Didn’t think so. But to make sure that we don’t forget that the majors were once “whites only,” it was a really classy gesture for MLB to have its tribute include donning all of the teams in Robinson’s #42 for last night’s games. Fittingly, the Mets dedicated their Jackie Robinson Rotunda, Citi Field’s centerpiece, then recorded their first win at the new yard. Likewise, Mariano Rivera, the last player who is still grandfathered-in to wear #42, recorded yet another save as the Yankees beat Tampa to finish off a series win at Tropicana Field. Of course, the Yankees will retire #42 for Rivera soon after his playing days are over, so I guess you could say he and Robinson will share it like Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey do for #8 in Monument Park.

Speaking of the Yanks, home opener is tomorrow, meaning the new era/stadium is officially upon us.

Other Way Around

North Carolina didn’t completely hold down Willie Warren, as the previous entry suggested would be important. They did virtually silence Tony Crocker and nobody else could buy a basket. Ergo, game, set, and match.

Didn’t see the other game as I was at a party for my parents’ 25th anniversary. It actually falls on April 1st, and that’s no lie– although we’ll have to see whether the same can be said for the conficker virus. Things went pretty well, the food was good, and just as planned, we surprised them with my brother coming over from college in the midwest. But when I found at what Michigan State did to Louisville, all I could say is whoa. Good defensive team? Yes, like a few others in the Big Ten this season? Hold the Cardinals to 52 points and win by double digits? Maybe five people saw that one coming.

So now we get a killer Final Four. Michigan State and UConn, two teams that have played each other twice before in their histories. They split those meetings, and went on to win the national title in the same seasons. This time, the winner obviously gets to play for it on Monday. Beyond the aforementioned display against Louisville, Michigan State is a team nobody wanted in Detroit simply because in addition to the playoffs, the Huskies will face maybe 50,000 Spartan fans. Don’t be fooled by the limited ticket distribution (plus those given to students). The likes of StubHub will make it a very unpleasant environment for UConn. On the 30th anniversary of Magic and Co. In a city/state badly damaged by the Big Three’s uselessness and desperate for something good (besides the Wings, whose success is practically expected).

Source: Deseret News

North Carolina gets Villanova, and while they’re a better all-around team, they might have a tough time with the Wildcats D, Desire, and Determination. The bookies still apparently love the Tar Heels, and I do have them winning in my Beer Lodge bracket, but I think 10-11 odds are a little too overwhelming for a team that’s definitely human. Speaking of that bracket, I could possibly still move up from 4th into the top-3, but not sure about winning (even though I’m a point behind) because I only have Villanova and UNC left in play. Facebook bracket percentile is still nice, but probably even less potential to move up…

I’ll give my thoughts on the games later this week, but for now, some external previews. ESPN has thumbnails for each team if you subscribe to Insider, while Andy Katz has a longer preview for everyone. Dan Wetzel focuses on the very different angles each team has going into the weekend.

Saw most of the U.S.A.’s draw against El Salvador. Ugly first hour, nice comeback to save a point led by Frankie Hejduk and Jozy Altidore, and it could’ve been all three but for a goal-line clearance on Brian Ching’s late bicycle kick. Hejduk might be getting better with age, and he says going surfing has a lot to do with it. Altidore, of course, is probably America’s bright hope for the future, though he needs to get some more playing time at club level before he can expect to start, much less live up to the hype on a consistent basis.

Frankie Hejduk heading home the equalizer.

Frankie Hejduk heading home the equalizer.

Thanks to for the picture.

Oh, and as noted in the Tribune article and a press release, Henry Kissinger is now helping to lobby for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to be held in America. I’d love to see us host it, not least because we might be ready to win by then!

This image was found on the U.S. Soccer Federation website.

The U.S. plays Trinidad & Tobago next in Nashville on Wednesday, and I’d expect an American win from this one.

Day Old, But…

You must be joking.

Probably not the type of audience she was expecting.

Probably not the type of audience she was expecting.

While I don’t have an issue with Rep. Cantor or anyone else in Congress not watching Obama’s press conference– I did watch and thought he did alright, but also recognize that not too much of substance came out- I just can’t see what someone like him would be doing at a Britney Spears concert. Certainly can’t imagine he’d be accomplishing too much business with clients with the loud music and crowd screaming. Taking one of his children would be a bit different, but we haven’t heard any indication that he did that either.

Since one of his staffers made a comparison to President Obama (and in theory, others in both parties) enjoying a night at Washington’s Verizon Center, I will say that seeing a basketball game or certain other singers/bands seems socially acceptable for someone like members of Congress or the President. Britney? It would take pretty unusual circumstances…

Honestly, I really don’t think it’s “being cool” in this case. It just gives me the creeps, especially coming from one of the leaders of a party which talks a lot about traditional social values (and I’m not a liberal on some of those culture wars).

End tangent, back to more enjoyable matters.

Update: CNN posts an explanation from Cantor.

Who Knew?

That you could be in almost 35,000th place on facebook and still be in the upper 9% of brackets. I guess that’s what happens when there aren’t many upsets. And a couple that I predicted might happen didn’t materialize.

Still, it means we’ll get some monster match-ups in the Sweet 16 and probably beyond. Does UConn-Memphis or UNC vs. Oklahoma or Syracuse grab you? Also, Darren Rovell reports that nobody will be winning the big jackpot I mentioned over the weekend. So I’m not going to have to imagine that I could do what somebody else actually did, even though apparently someone on facebook still has a chance to get a perfect bracket.

More good news from a friend. Apparently, I’m definitely still ahead of the president, which Jake Tapper confirms (I doubt ESPN’s contest is too different from the ones CBS/Facebook or Yahoo are running). Come the end of the tournament, I wonder how many people will make facebook groups poking fun at that sort of stat? Hopefully, while his bracket scores may improve with all the high seeds he had getting this far, his and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s plan to deal with the banking crisis does even better.

Sweet 16 and Elite 8 picks coming next time, plus a review of the World Baseball Classic final.