Politics and Sports for $1000, Alex
September 10, 2012

Clint Eastwood talked to a chair, Bill Clinton is the most fired up man in America, and football is now underway. There was plenty of tennis in New York, and oh yeah, the Giants and Dodgers faced each other over the weekend. Lots of random thoughts and comments...

The political arena: I try not to write about politics in this space, because the only likely result is that I will piss half of you off, but I did spend a great deal of time over the past two weeks watching the speeches at both party's national conventions. I saw most of them live, but taped the others. The two that I missed live were the candidates themselves, no I had a nice Romney-Obama doubleheader last night. Quite a contrast, that's for sure!

Clint Eastwood has been at the mercy of the late-night comedians for using an empty chair as President Obama, and having a “discussion” with him. Really, though, if Eastwood didn't stutter and stammer through the speech, it would have been quite entertaining. The best part was when Eastwood leaned toward the chair as if Obama was whispering to him, and then said “I can't do that to myself.” Wouldn't you once love to hear a candidate actually say what Eastwood was implying?

I think even Republicans have to admit that the best speech in the entire two weeks was Bill Clinton's. Of all the speeches, Republican and Democrat, it was the only one with real substance, and it certainly didn't lack in enthusiasm. Critics whined that it was a little long, but it's difficult (especially for Clinton) to limit his comments about anything, and he had a lot of points to make. His speech ran about 48 minutes, while most of the other speeches were well less than half an hour. Afterward, I was ready to go out and vote for Clinton right then. I forgot for a moment he's not the one that's running.

Ahead of Barack Obama's speech Thursday, the networks showed the end of Joe Biden's, and the Vice President got all choked up when he started talking about the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Don't get me wrong, our men and women overseas should be recognized as often as possible (especially since tomorrow is September 11), but it seems like mentioning the troops has become an issue of political correctness. Romney took some criticism for not mentioning them in his speech, and maybe Biden was trying to taking advantage of that. It was hard to judge Biden's sincerity.

The best speech at the Republican convention was Paul Ryan's, although it's hard to tell if the numbers he threw out there are true or not (same for the Democrats. How can we, the average viewer, verify something like that anyway?). Also, who knew that a prerequisite for being First Lady is public speaking? Ann Romney and Michelle Obama both spoke well, and both talked mostly about their families. And I know Romney has been criticized for not coming across like “a real guy.” After his speech, it looks like he still needs to work on it.

Are you ready?: You may already know this, but the reason the NFL season started on a Wednesday instead of Thursday is so that NBC could carry President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention. However, the move meant that the network missed the best speech of either party's convention—the nomination speech by former President Bill Clinton. NBC says it's the first time the NFL has played a game on a Wednesday since 1948.

Northern California, and much of the country got a good pair of early games NFL games Sunday. CBS had Indianapolis at Chicago and the debut of number one draft pick Andrew Luck, while Fox showed Washington at New Orleans and the second overall pick in quarterback Robert Griffin III. It was fun for awhile, flipping back and forth between the two, but Griffin had the much better game, throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns. His team also won, while Luck's lost.

Forty Niner fans must be happy that San Francisco defeated Green Bay 30-22 at Lambeau Field Sunday. I was mostly watching tennis, but the Niners looked good, and could end up really being a force in the NFC this season. Maybe the San Diego Chargers can be a pleasant surprise in the AFC.

Bad news for non-Raider fans in the Marysville-Yuba City area. The league has changed its blackout rules, which likely means more Raiders telecasts and fewer choices. The new rule says that a team only has to have 85 percent of its tickets sold by 72 hours before kickoff (the old rule was 100 percent). Sacramento is in the blackout zone, but Chico is not, meaning that if a Raiders game was blacked out in Oakland, fans here could still watch it on the Chico CBS affiliate, or get to watch a different game on the Sacramento channel. Lifting of the blackout means the Raiders on both stations. There is no blackout for tonight's Raiders opener against San Diego on ESPN.

He's back-back-back-back-back!: The Huffington Post reports anchor and occasional play-by-play man Chris Berman has signed a multi-year contract extension with ESPN. His routine can get old at times, but it's just not ESPN without him. It's also hard to believe that when Berman says “he could...go...all...the...way” during football highlights, there are generations of fans who don't know that Berman is quoting Howard Cosell. Berman was part of ESPN when the network launched in 1979. Terms were not disclosed, but the extension could keep him at the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” through the end of the decade.

The college game: Labor Day weekend is the beginning of college football, but the only game I watched on that opening Saturday was the highly-touted matchup of Michigan and Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 'Bama was up 31-7 in the second half when I fell asleep. I woke up in time to see the final of 41-14, turned over to the Oregon game, where the Ducks were up 50-10 at the half. Wow, what a great start.

The Fox pregame show prior to Saturday's Nebraska-UCLA game was a debacle. Former sideline reporter-turned studio host Erin Andrews couldn't get out a complete sentence during the first segment and Andrews and co-analysts Eddie George and Joey Harrington kept tripping over each other. We'll cut Andrews a break this week, though, because there were all kinds of technical problems, including showing of the wrong highlights. The worst part was when talking about the Tulane player who broke his neck on a play. They were supposed to go to that video, but instead cut to highlights of the Oregon State-Wisconsin game, with George and Harrington narrating highlights. Was that recorded? Weird. The pregame show the previous week was cut short due to the length of the baseball game that preceded it, so this was pretty much the show's debut, and it didn't go well at all. I did watch the game, and much to my (and I think everyone's) surprise, the Bruins won!

Florida State was a 70½-point favorite Saturday at home against Savannah State—the biggest point spread ever according to the Sporting News. The underdog covered with FSU winning 55-0, but the game was called because of lightning with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. If you had Savannah State and the points, you may not have been able to collect. The underdog school received $475,000 for agreeing to be pummeled.

Sacramento State has defeated a Pac-12 opponent for the second straight year. They won a squeaker against Oregon State last season, and kicked a field goal as time expired Saturday to beat Colorado 30-28. How 'bout them Hornets?

Since we have a political theme this week, we'll mention that Utah State plays their home games in Logan at Romney Stadium. The building is not named for Mitt Romney, but for Dick Romney—the winningest coach in the school's history. ESPN noted in its telecast of Utah-Utah State Friday night that Dick Romney is a relative of Mitt's, but didn't mention the relationship. Utah State won the game 27-20 in overtime, the first time the Aggies have beaten the Utes since 1997 (the year I moved to Salt Lake City for 4½ years).

Tennis anyone?: I have never been much of an Andy Roddick fan, but his retirement was quite a story. He normally comes off as an arrogant jerk, but the announcement at the U.S. Open on his thirtieth birthday, the two wins that followed, and his exit, were all handled by Roddick with nothing but class. And now he gets to go home to swimsuit model wife Brooklyn Decker. Tough life. Roddick won only one major title, and it was at the U.S. Open in 2003.

The women's final was a great match, but let's face it, Victoria Azarenka choked. She was up 5-3 in the third set to Serena Williams and serving for the match, and Williams won all four points in that game. Azarenka also had some serve chances to force a third set tiebreak, but couldn't get the ball in, and ended up losing 7-5.

The men's final was postponed from Sunday to Monday for the fifth straight year, and I understand next year there will be some changes. The U.S. Open is the only one of the four majors that has the men's semifinals and women's final on Saturday, followed by the men's final on Sunday. This is done for television, because CBS only televises the weekend matches, and is trying to get more bang for their buck. The Open is also now the only grand slam tournament that doesn't have a roof, and rain and wind have been a problem for the last five years.

The grand ol' game: Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson has announced that pitcher Stephen Strasburg has been shut down for the season. Strasburg has been pitching well, says he's healthy, but is coming off of elbow ligament replacement surgery (Tommy John surgery). Johnson has had to answer all the questions about Strasburg, but it was general manager Mike Rizzo's decision. There is no definite medical data that justifies Strasburg's shutdown, and the Nats are going to make the playoffs for the first time since the franchise re-located from Montreal. The Nationals are paying Strasburg a lot of money, and are trying to protect him and their investment, but there's no guarantee that Strasburg won't get hurt next year. I'm not a doctor, and I'm not playing one on TV, but this decision seems like it's in neither party's best interest.

I didn't see it live, and didn't see the replay until this weekend, but Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive last week. Even after watching the replay, it looked bad, but not as serious as it turned out to be. McCarthy was diagnosed with a epidural hemotoma, and could have died even three days after the injury. He seems to be out of the woods now, and even tweeted to Forty Niners linebacker Patrick Willis that it felt like McCarthy had been run over by Willis. A scary few days for the McCarthy family.

The A's (79-60) went into Monday with a better record than the New York Yankees (79-61), and who ever thought that would happen? With the A's holding a two-game lead to host the wild card game, and the Yankees clinging to a narrow lead in the AL East, wouldn't it be something to see the Yankees in Oakland for the AL Wild Card? Could happen.

The San Diego Padres (66-75) have a better record than the Boston Red Sox (63-78). You think Bobby Valentine will be back in Beantown next season? Me neither.

The Dodgers looked pathetic in Sunday's 4-0 loss to the Giants in San Francisco. Barry Zito looked like Cy Young, and the Dodgers seemed completely lethargic. The Dodgers are now 5½ games behind the Giants in the National League West, but only 1½ games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild card spot. ESPN's Orel Hershiser said about the Dodgers and all of their new players, that they don't know each other yet, their kids' names, or where each other shops for groceries. I had no idea how important that is.

Note: The Clint Eastwood speech and the corresponding photo happened two weeks ago, and even though this is a weekly column, I saw Mr. Eastwood's speech this week. Also, the political conventions happened within a two-week period, so I wrote about both conventions instead of just the Democrats. Besides, what a great photo of 'Dirty Harry' himself talking to an empty chair!

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