June 8, 2007

Link-O-Rama

  • With the throne currently vacant, Elisha Cuthbert is making a very strong run at becoming the first ever two-time Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com:

    If nothing else, it's good to have her back in the mix.

  • The month-long 2007 World Series of Poker is underway in Las Vegas and Paul McGuire is once again providing great non-traditional coverage of all the action over at Tao of Poker. Rubbing elbows with Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark, and LaVelle E. Neal III while covering the Winter Meetings in Orlando this winter was great, but my goal is still to talk NBCSports.com into letting me hang out with McGuire while covering a WSOP for them one of these years.

    Dr. Pauly is a one-man wrecking crew and has the market cornered on interesting off-the-table goings on (not to mention much-needed visual coverage of Liz Lieu, Shannon Elizabeth, Isabelle Mercier, and Brandi Hawbaker), but for further WSOP details about actual hands and tournaments I've also been heading to Card Player, Poker News, Gut Shot, and Poker Wire. Oh, and WSOP coverage or not, read Guinness and Poker too.

  • After earning a cool $131,170 by finishing fourth at last week's World Poker Tour Mandalay Bay Poker Championship, longtime reader and friend of AG.com Thayer Rasmussen told me that he plans to play in a whole bunch of WSOP events. I'll be sweating Rasmussen via the aforementioned sites while jealously sitting here in Minnesota. If any other AG.com readers are planning to play in WSOP events, let me know and I'll add you to the sweat list.
  • The Twins haven't even made half their picks yet, so I'll wait to discuss their draft until next week. However, my initial reaction is that this year's first rounder is awfully similar to 2002's first rounder, and that hasn't worked out so well.
  • While answering all the reader-submitted questions the other day I suggested that getting media credentials and sitting in the press box for Twins games wasn't necessary for what I do here, but I have to admit that LEN3 sure does make it sound interesting in there:
    I feel really bad right now. A HUGE cockroach just scurried by me. I tossed a napkin at it, and it took off right for Kelly Thesier of MLB.com. She didn't go completely nuts, but she’s still trying to calm down and mentioned something about me and a gun.

    There's probably a joke to be made here about Jim Souhan, but I'm far too classy (or perhaps not quite clever enough) to make it. Also, if you missed the aforementioned question-and-answer entry from earlier this week, click here to check it out.

  • A couple quick movie reviews ...

    Occasionally I'll watch a movie, enjoy it, and fail to understand why it didn't get more attention when it was in theaters. Stranger Than Fiction is one of those movies. Will Ferrell is funny in what is for him a very understated role, Maggie Gyllenhaal is surprisingly good as his love interest, Emma Thompson is perfect as the quasi-star, and the quirky plot works just well enough to get you onboard. Plus, Buster Bluth is prominently involved. Grade: B-plus

    I'm not really into horror movies and didn't even see the original, but really enjoyed Hostel: Part II. In addition to all the gruesome stuff and well-done gore, director Eli Roth did an excellent job allowing the audience to follow both the good guys and the bad guys throughout their respective journeys. The plot offered just enough twists and details beyond the typical horror-movie approach to intrigue me and somewhere along the way I inexplicably started fawning over Bijou Phillips. Grade: B

  • Ever the leader, Torii Hunter welcomed Joe Mauer back from the disabled list by questioning his toughness and tolerance for pain.
  • Along with UFC Junkie and Sherdog, Sam Caplan's Five Ounces of Pain is an MMA blog that I've recently added to my daily reading routine.
  • Former NFL wide receiver Johnnie Morton made his MMA debut last weekend and it went about as poorly as possible. Morton got knocked out in 38 seconds, was carried out of the ring on a stretcher, and then refused to take a mandatory post-fight drug test to earn himself a suspension. On the same fight card, former Gophers wrestler and WWE star Brock Lesnar made a much more successful MMA debut with a dominant first-round victory over a last-minute replacement opponent.
  • Shockingly, the White Sox don't think the Twins are such nice guys. Meanwhile, the numbers don't think the Twins are such a small-payroll team either.
  • After accepting a buyout from the Minneapolis Star Tribune as part of massive staff cuts, longtime columnist Doug Grow offered his assessment the newspaper industry:
    One of the reasons to go is I'm not necessarily convinced that we're headed in the right direction now. And I hope I'm wrong, because I want the paper to succeed. I really believe in the end that the franchise is still ours to wake the town and tell the people that the news is more than the most recent murder, that our audience is very engaged, very involved.

    Sure it's going to be more online, but you can't replace reporters on the street. And there's got to be a place for this. Maybe it's going to have to be in a non profit, public radio format. I don't know, but there's got to be something. And it's not because of what you and I do as individuals, but because of what the business is about. There's got to be a place for it. And nobody else is doing it.

    A few years ago Grow spoke to one of my journalism-school classes and, even then, had plenty of concerns about the way the Star Tribune was run. In fact, I remember being shocked as he openly criticized various aspects of the paper to a bunch of wannabe-journalists. He's certainly not alone in thinking that despite all that's going wrong in the newspaper world, there's always "got to be a place for this ... got to be something." I agree, but I'm not sure that the industry is willing or able to find that place.

  • When news of the Star Tribune's job cuts broke last month, I initially planned to discuss it at length here. In fact, I wrote a wordy stream-of-consciousness entry that was about three-fourths of the way to being publishable before I reconsidered. For some unknown reason, for once in my life I decided to hold off on making my reactionary thoughts about something public immediately. As you might expect, that turned out to be a good decision.

    Part of my motivation for initially wanting to discuss the subject is my never-ending fascination with the newspaper business and how it relates to so-called "new media." However, beyond that I had talked to several friends who work at the Star Tribune and it upset me a great deal to hear that their jobs were in danger. I felt like ranting about the newspaper industry and supporting my friends who were seemingly about to get screwed by it, but instead I held off and let things play out a little bit first.

    While my original entry on the subject will never see the light of day, I'm happy to report that the news looks very good for the handful of friends and acquaintances whose potential layoffs had me so upset. That could still change, of course, and I'm sad to note that longtime newspaper veterans like Grow, Steve Aschburner, and James Lileks have been forced out. However, for now at least it's good to know that people whose work and friendship I've enjoyed so much over the past few years are safe.

  • Meanwhile, the Star Tribune isn't the only major newspaper to cut its staff recently. Had things gone according to plan for me, I'd have graduated from the University of Minnesota's journalism school with loads of experience at the Minnesota Daily, and then parlayed that into my first job at the Star Tribune. There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have given just about anything for that scenario to play out. It's odd for me to think that I'd probably be hunting for a job right now if that had happened.

    In five years of writing for an online audience I've learned to appreciate advantages that "online" and "non-traditional" hold over "print" and "mainstream," but an advantage I never imagined is job security. Beginning with AG.com and extending to Hardball Times, Rotoworld, and NBC Sports, I'm fortunate enough to have lucked into some wonderful situations. Yet I've always sensed that the unpredictable nature of the medium and untested career path meant the clock could strike midnight at any time.

    I once imagined that after getting my foot in the door at the Star Tribune, I could climb the organizational ladder rung by rung to the top, which for me was writing columns. In the online world, there's no clear "top" and you don't advance from rung to rung so much as jump from ladder to ladder. I always thought of that as a negative, but it turns out that it's the newspaper business that finds itself going through massive changes. Right or wrong, that gives me a sense of satisfaction.

    However, as someone who grew up wanting to become a newspaper columnist and has befriended many people in the business, news of the Star Tribune's cuts hit me with an even bigger sense of sadness. I'll probably go to my grave feeling resentful of the newspaper business, but that's largely because of how badly I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted it and it didn't want me, and that's not something easily forgotten. But now it's changing for the worse and it pains me to watch it happen.

    Beyond that, the "newspaper business" is really just an umbrella covering a bunch of hard-working, talented people who got into the club I couldn't. They're also people with families and mortgages to pay, and in the days since the Star Tribune's cuts were announced that point has really struck home with me. Whether through relationships I made while in journalism school or through this blog, I have a lot of friends who're being hurt by the changing newspaper world.

    I reached out to several of them over the past month and came away from nearly every conversation thinking just how awful the whole situation is. As anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows, I've long felt that the newspaper business was in trouble and bound for landscape-altering change. The Star Tribune's cuts are the type of thing that I've been expecting, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow when I see friends and people whose work I admire getting caught up in the crossfire.

  • Hoping that the Twins will trade for a decent bat to add to the lineup for the second half? How about reacquiring Jacque Jones from the Cubs for pennies on the dollar?
  • In what is sadly becoming a more and more common occurrence of late, Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune penned the worst article you'll read all week.
  • Brilliant entries like this one from Derek Zumsteg are why I stop by U.S.S. Mariner multiple times per day despite not caring one bit about the Mariners.
  • The Braves and Marlins had a couple of afternoon matchups this week and I had a chance to hear friend of AG.com Jon Sciambi call the games alongside Joe Simpson on FSN South. I've picked on the Twins' broadcast team of Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven quite a bit here over the years, and listening to the Sciambi-Simpson team for several games really hammered home those feelings. They were conversational, laid back, interesting, informative, smart, and funny.

    They didn't spend half the game circling people in the stands with a telestrator. They didn't butcher the English language constantly. They didn't act as if it's still 1965. They didn't repeat the same tired lines over and over. Basically, they didn't make me want to put the television on mute, which is something I've done a lot recently with Twins games. I'd probably grow tired of Sciambi and Simpson to some degree if I listened to them as much as I have Bremer and Blyleven, but I'd pay to find out for sure.

  • One of my rules is that if someone who blogs about the Angels while living in Germany mentions me in an interview with Sports Weekly, I have to link to it.
  • This week on NBCSports.com's "Fantasy Fix" show: Cliff Corcoran of Bronx Banter joined Gregg Rosenthal, Tiffany Simons, and Yours Truly to discuss the Yankees and J.D. Arney of Red Reporter answered questions about the Reds. I also revealed the secret behind my column-writing success on Thursday's show.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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