Daily Archives: September 24, 2009

An inglorious end for the Great Gretzky, and a hilarious Ricky Gervais rant


Sports fans have been incredibly lucky over the last 30 years.

Let’s say you’re like me, and started to become interested in sports around 1983 or so. Just since then, we have been privileged to watch the greatest basketball player of all-time (Michael Jordan), the greatest tennis player of all time (Roger Federer) and, apparently, the greatest golfer ever (Tiger Woods. I say apparently because I loathe golf and refuse to care or pay attention to it).

Maybe you could get an argument on a few of those from people. Some will argue Rod Laver or Pete Sampras is better than Federer, and there was a golfer named Nicklaus who seemed to be pretty good once.

But no one, I mean NO ONE, argues that Wayne Gretzky is the Greatest Hockey Player of All Time.

Name a record in the NHL record books, and he holds it. I don’t know if I’m so into hockey because of No. 99, but he certainly had a big part of me loving the sport as a child (And yes, there will be hockey on this blog. That and college basketball are my other winter passions. )

I loved it that my beloved New York Rangers were Gretzky’s final team; I can still see him skating around MSG one final time after his last game in 1999, as the adoring masses cheered.

Fast forward 10 years, and Gretzky is hardly being adored. Thursday he resigned as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, who are in the midst of a truly messy ownership squabble, even by NHL standards. Gretzky may have been fired by a new ownership group, which is battling the NHL to own the Coyotes (why anyone wants such a pathetic franchise is beyond me, but hey, it’s not my money).

So instead of being pushed out, the Great One jumped. Truthfully, his stint at coaching was a disaster. In four years he had a 143-161-24 record, and Phoenix missed the playoffs all four years. Did he have much talent to work with? No. But he certainly didn’t make the talent any better.

Gretzky joins a long list of superstar players who were bad coaches. Magic Johnson. Ted Williams. Larry Bird. Bill Russell. These guys were legends, but they just couldn’t translate their brilliance onto others. I remember Magic vividly becoming angry after one Lakers practice, saying he just couldn’t understand why Point Guard X didn’t see that coming, or why he didn’t make that play.

The answer, of course, is that the guy wasn’t Magic Johnson, and Magic never could come to terms with coaching players who just didn’t have his gifts.

I hope Gretzky is back in the NHL at some point soon; he deserves a hallowed place in the game for as long as he lives.

But no hockey fans in Phoenix are boo-hooing his departure today. As a coach, Wayne was a failure. Maybe that’s the real reason he left: He knew he wasn’t getting it done, and it was killing him.

***I know there are a legion of Ricky Gervais fans out there, but I’m not really one of them. The British comedian who starred in the original The Office”  in England just isn’t usually my pint of ale.

But I thought this was truly hilarious, a brief discussion of the terrible lessons we get from nursery rhymes:

Sports gambling in Delaware, and a great new show with Al Bundy


There really aren’t a whole lot of controversial things that happen in the state of Delaware, home of my wonderful college years (if I could go back right now and do it all over again, I’d be on the next train to Newark. Yeah, we don’t have an airport there. That’s a problem.)

We’ve got a whole lot of banks there in the First State, a cool minor-league baseball stadium, and tax-free shopping.

Not a lot of headline-grabbing going on there.

But I’ve followed with amusement over the past months as Delaware has suddenly become a hotbed for one specific issue: Sports gambling. If you’re not familiar with the whole brouhaha (man I love that word), here it is in a nutshell: Delaware wanted to raise money for the state, which was in deep financial doo-doo (a nearly $800 million budget deficit). So it went ahead and legalized betting on games.

This sent all the pro sports leagues off the deep end, because even though it’s legal in Nevada and two other states, and even though sports betting increases interest and participation in every sport, and brings in MILLIONS of dollars, well, they decided we can’t have that because it’s too messy and wrong. A whole court fight ensued, led by the NFL, and after months of wrangling a court ruled that First State bettors can only wager on NFL games.

But they can’t just bet on individual games, see. They can bet on three-game “parlays” which if you’re not familiar with this means the following: You have to bet that the Eagles, Giants AND Falcons will cover the point spread to make any money. If any of them lose, well, nice knowing you.

This is so ludicrous on a number of levels. Allowing betting, but only under exact conditions, is like telling a kid he can’t have dessert but he can have a cookie or two. Gambling is gambling, and if it’s allowed, it should be allowed.

Second, it kills me that the NFL and NCAA go to such incredible lengths to try to limit the scope of betting. Please. Like they really care if people get addicted to gambling, or if people lose money.

All they care about, as Norman Chad pointed out on SI.com, is that a huge amount of the NFL’s popularity is due to gambling. People bet on the games, they want to see if they make money! Same as with the NCAA Tournament.

It’s just idiotic that Delaware can be, as Chad says, “a little pregnant.” Parlays are almost impossible to win, so why would bettors gamble in Delaware when they can bet with better odds elsewhere?

The NFL folks are just such amazing hypocrites when it comes to gambling, and this Delaware case is example No. 4,865.

**OK, quick interlude that cracked me up. So on my way to work today I took a different route because I had an errand to run, and I saw a hilarious site. As I drove past the Dollar store knockoff on Ridgewood Ave., there was a woman standing out there with a sign saying “Final closeout, everything must go, prices are slashed.”

And I’m thinking: Yes, that’s the reason people aren’t shopping at the Dollar store. The prices are too damn high! Because there are scads of people who think to themselves: “Ya know, I’d love to shop somewhere with affordable prices, but that Dollar store? Too expensive. What, they’ve dropped the price to 50 cents? Stop the car honey, we’re going in!”

*Finally, at the risk of being one of those annoying people forcing a TV show upon you, I have to say how awesome the new ABC show “Modern Family” was Wednesday night. Yeah, I know it’s the first episode and pilots are often great, but this show was superb. It’s got Ed O’Neil (Al Bundy from “Married With Children”), Julie Bowen from “Ed” (who I’ve always had a major crush on), and some other hilarious people you haven’t heard of.

Anyway, it’s a rare sitcom that’s actually funny. Laugh-out loud funny. Here’s one clip that manages to take a classic 80s movie line and make it funny by changing it just a little bit:

Vodpod videos no longer available.