Monday, January 12, 2009

Luke Busts a Cap

In case you missed it, I'm now writing for an actual sports website(you can read my inaugural piece on Jason Giambi here). But not to worry-I'll still be slumming here on Blogger. This blog is very near and dear to me, mostly because I use it vent my sports and entertainment frustrations. And lately, the NBA salary cap has really gotten under my skin.

For all the laymen and laywomen out there, a salary cap is the maximum amount of money a team can spend on its players in a given season. Salary caps are instituted in order to encourage parity in the league while ensuring that no team can buy a championship(I'm looking at you, AL East). Depending on how much revenue the league generated in the previous season, the salary cap rises or falls accordingly. The NBA cap was instituted in the 1984-85 season. It was 3.6 million dollars. It has risen steadily to get to the $58.68 million figure that we see today.

But apparently that isn't high enough. As of this writing, there is one(ONE!!!) team in all of the NBA that is currently under the salary cap. Congratulations, Memphis Grizzlies! You finally won something!

Memphis Grizzlies Pictures, Images and Photos


The NBA has what is called a "soft" cap, as opposed to the "hard" caps that we see in the NFL and NHL. This means that NBA teams can hike payroll well above the salary cap without penalty. And the reason for this is the Hick from French Lick, the legendary Larry Bird. Here, check out this Wiki entry if you want all the details. In a nutshell, the NBA lets teams go over the salary cap in order to re-sign their own players(this rule was first used when the Celtics wanted to keep Bird).

I think I see what the league was trying to do here. Larry Bird belonged in Boston, Michael Jordan belonged in Chicago, so rules were bent to keep them in their home towns. I'd go so far as to say that it was the right decision to institute the Bird rule.

The problem I have with the NBA salary cap is that teams can, in fact, buy championships(2007-2008 Boston Celtics, anyone?). This is exactly what a cap is supposed to prevent! The Celtics' payroll is $80 million this year. The Cleveland LeBrons are spending $90 million! In what universe could this possibly make sense?

For all of you soft cap enthusiasts out there screaming at me to acknowledge the luxury tax, I hear you. Now let me tell you why you're wrong. The luxury tax, for those who don't know, is essentially the actual salary cap figure. Allow me to explain. This season, the luxury tax is set at $71.15 million. If a team exceeds the tax level, they must pay that amount to the NBA, which then distributes that money to the owners whose teams are under the luxury tax figure.

Let's use Cleveland as an example. Because their payroll exceeds the luxury tax level by roughly 19 million dollars, they must give that 19 million to the NBA on top of the 90 million they're already paying the players. Got it?

Of course, if you have a merchandising machine like LeBron James, that $19M becomes chump change pretty quickly. And if you also count the fact that LeBron is decent at playing the game of basketball, you'll realize that a deep playoff run makes the luxury tax even more irrelevant because every single playoff home game nets the owners millions upon millions of dollars.

So what did we learn? Fact 1: The NBA has a salary cap. Fact 2: This cap is about as relevant as 21st century Corey Feldman. The league doesn't have parity; it's all smoke and mirrors. Up yours, NBA.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Secret To Vampire Weekend's Success

Every once in a great while, a band comes along that redefines what it is to be great. Their music is better live than it is in studio. Their songs have significance to millions, their sound transcends genre, and in general, their perfect arrangements can take fans to a higher place.

Vampire Weekend is not one of those bands. They will never be one of those bands. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why so many teenagers, twentysomethings, and critics love their sound.

Take the video for the song A-Punk. I scoped it out after hearing good things about Vampire Weekend. I was excited, totally pumped for that rare experience of hearing a great band for the first time. Then I spent the entire song waiting for the shoe to drop.

You know what this reminds me of? OK Go. And wow, when I think dynamite bands, I think OK Go. Any group that makes a gimmicky music video says they made it because they're so "hilarious" and "quirky," but in reality gimmicky videos are used in order to "distract fans" from the "awful music."

Vampire Weekend is bailed out by their indie-pop label, of course. People hear the word 'indie' and immediately think 'underground,' which of course gives bands the leeway to absolutely blow. Because I'm always looking out for you, here's a quick Indie-to-English translator for you.

Raw = Awful
Undiscovered = Awful
Experimental = Awful
Underground = Awful

The other half of indie-pop would be the word "pop." In other words, harmless summer music best listened to while drunk, on a boat, or drunk while boating. If you want more examples of pop music, just think about whether or not the artist in question sings on stage with a headset mic. If so, we have a pop artist!

In Nitsuh Abebe's review of Vampire Weekend on Pitchfork, he says a lot of people hate the band because of their east coast preppie foundation. He could be mistaken. I can't stand Vampire Weekend because their music sucks. It's pretty simple. And if that makes me an indie music detractor, then fine.

I hear and read a lot of praise for Vampire Weekend's originality. Let me tell you something, folks. Just because a band is so transcendantly terrible that no other band has ever been as putrid, this does not make them orignial. If I formed a band and released an album, that record would also be original. Catch my drift? Vampire Weekend is being praised for being one-dimensional, simple, and untalented. I will now sit back and wait for the rest of you to figure it out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Cautionary Tale To Be Read By Peyton Manning

"No, Brett, I don't want to dance."

With his 3rd MVP Award, Peyton Manning has just tied Brett Favre for the most in NFL history. This narrows the gap even further in the Manning/Favre debate, doesn't it? Each man is durable, prolific, and owner of exactly one Super Bowl ring. Currently, the main difference between the two(if we ignore the fact that one guy led his team to a 12 win season and the other would have trouble finding 12 guys on his team with a good thing to say about him) is that Manning is 32, and Brett Favre is 39.

He's 39 years old, people. Is anyone surprised by what transpired this season? Let's flash back to Week 12. The Jets move to 8-3 after spanking the formerly unbeaten Tennessee Titans. Favre's season quarterback rating is in the low 90s, practically a miracle for a man his age. Peter King ranks the Jets #2 on his Fine Fifteen, and hints that it would be just fantastic to see a New York/New York Super Bowl with a halftime interruption by The Boss.

Apparently King, Favre's other bandwagon jumpers, and the fans that ditched the Packers for the Jets(you know who you are) forgot one very important fact: old people freaking hate cold weather. Witness Favre's final pass as a Packer in the record-low temperatures of Green Bay. It was picked off by the Giants, they won in overtime, then made history or something.

I'm not normally one to toot my own horn, but back in June I remember saying something about Favre wanting to return to football in order to prove that he's still got it. No champion quarterback wants his last pass to be an interception. So what did Favre do? He came back with a bang! And on his final pass of 2008, he....threw an interception that killed the Jets' playoff hopes in the process. He sure showed us! After beating the Titans, the Jets finished 1-4, thanks mostly to Favre and his 2 TDs to 9 INTs, which equated to a rating in the mid 50s. He choked when his team needed him the most. We might as well call him Brett Grossman from now on.

Here's the link to King's short interview with Brett the Jet after the Tennessee win. There's one Favre quote in particular that I just love. "I knew what a change it would be, especially in New York. I was about to be 39, and New York wasn't a great fit. The media, [the Jets] coming off a 4-12 season, learning a new offense, the high expectations...did I really want to go through that? A change like that would have been tough on a 22-year-old."

Yeah, it sure must be tough on those 22-year-olds to learn a new offense. Oh wait...they call that the NFL Draft. And to really hammer home my cold-weather point, I will now paraphrase Bill Simmons. If you need your driveway shoveled, who is better equipped for the task? A strong 22 year old, or a 39 year old uncle who pops pills like Pez? You're going with the younger guy, no question. Favre listed plenty of advantages to being a 39 year old quarterback, but he neglected to mention that the elderly happen to hate cold weather, noise, and physical abuse. If you hate those things, you might want to avoid being an NFL quarterback in December.

The Word of Caution:

And so here we are, on the cusp of another NFL postseason. Peyton Manning has his 3rd MVP. Brett Favre's team hates him. Well, maybe not the whole team. But he's partly responsible for running a solid coach out of town and alienating his younger peers. And so goes the tale of the superstar athlete who leeches onto a new team for one last shot at the glory he once had. Huge names, legendary names, have been scratched up because of this stubborn refusal to keep the all-important legacy in mind. Michael Jordan, Washington Wizard. Joe Montana, Kansas City Chief. Brett Favre, New York Jet.

1994 Action Packed #49 Joe Montana Kansas City Chiefs Pictures, Images and Photos

"I'm ruining my legacy! Weeeeeeeeee!!!"

So Peyton, knowing that you're most likely reading my blog, I urge you to recognize when it's time to stop playing. You're obviously the best quarterback in the NFL right now, and you may wind up as the greatest ever when you're done. You have some great years left, but when they're done, hang 'em up and move on. Be John Elway. Don't be Brett Favre.