E-Mailing It In
Artie Lange-Joe Buck controversy, Kobe Bryant's place in history, usefulness of interleague play
Each week, Dan Rubenstein, Ty Hildenbrandt and Jacob Osterhout will jump on e-mail and riff about various subjects in the news offered up by SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
Traina: We might as well start with Artie Lange's appearance Monday on Joe Buck's new talk show. Forget whether the appearance was funny. Does this help the show more than anything else could have?
Osterhout: Lange's hijacking of Buck's first show certainly helps create buzz. It is with pleasure that I compare Joe Buck Live to the LPGA. The same rule is true for both -- any buzz is good buzz. That being said, Buck will need more than an Artie stand-up routine if he wants his show to gain any traction. What would really be awesome is if he invited Tim McCarver on the show and then allowed Artie to go ballistic on him. I'd pay money to see that.
Rubenstein: Of course this helps. Why else would people talk about Joe Buck Live this morning? The best thing that could've happened to the show was SOMETHING. That said, Lange has a special way of being both legitimately funny and over-the-top obnoxious at the same time. It made for entertaining TV, but at the same time, it completely handicapped Buck and the rest of the guests, which takes away from any sort of show structure. I picture Joe Buck retiring to his green room thinking about how disgusting of an act it was.
Hildenbrandt: Dan's right, this was the best possible thing that could've happened to Joe Buck Live. You know, it's supposed to show the whole other side of Joe Buck that we had not previously known. The witty and charming side that laughs at Randy Moss' end-zone celebrations, not the side that scoffs at them. So this was perfect, and it had the shock value of Russell Brand hosting the MTV Video Music Awards. Mark this down as the first and last time that Joe Buck Live will be considered "water-cooler discussion."
Osterhout: Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis looked kind of like blushing schoolgirls sitting there listening to their foul-mouthed brother call the prettiest girl in school a fat hussy. I actually thought Buck did an admiral job playing the straight guy and making fun of the fact that Artie dominated his show.
Rubenstein: Other than a few absolute looks of terror, Buck was fine. It was strange, though, that he acted that he didn't know what the show was getting when they booked Artie Lange. Also, I'm just not sure when a network play-by-play guy (who requires a police escort) decided he wanted to try his hand at comedy bits.
Hildenbrandt: I'm in agreement, but we can take a wait-and-see approach here. I've always enjoyed Buck's commentary, and since this isn't a weekly gig, perhaps it's something that'll find it's niche. In the short term, well, we can at least say that Joe Buck Live is going better than the Josh McDaniels Experiment in Denver.
Traina: I'm not sure that's saying much. Moving on, is Kobe Bryant the second-best basketball player you've seen after Michael Jordan? Would you say Kobe's the best? Third-best?
Osterhout: During my lifetime, which dates to 1979, the best basketball player I've seen is Michael Jordan. He made defenders look silly and hung in the air like the rules of physics had been suspended. After MJ, sure, I'd say Kobe is the second-best player I've seen, but it is a distant second. Kobe hits unbelievable shots, but he doesn't inspire like MJ. Whereas MJ stuck out his tongue, Kobe came up with that ridiculous scowl. Plus, there was never that "Craig Ehlo/Bryon Russell" moment for Kobe in this Orlando series during which he not only looked unstoppable but he also made his defender look ridiculous while he did it. I think a lot of MJ's greatness was because he united basketball fans in his greatness. Kobe does not. He's a polarizing figure. He feuds and bickers, but in the end, gets the job done.
Hildenbrandt: I knew this question was coming. I was dreading it because it's impossible to answer and is entirely subjective. All I can say for certain is that Kobe Bryant is the best basketball player to share a name with a type of beef. Beyond that, I'm on the fence. Michael Jordan is still my clear-cut No. 1, if only because he transcended the game and is still one of the most popular sports figures in the world. Almost anyone who grew up in the '80s and '90s will give you the same answer. If forced to answer, I'd probably have to put Kobe as the second-best player I've seen. Not since Jordan have I seen anyone so dominant on a championship level.
Osterhout: Yes, Ty, yes! "Transcendence" -- that's the word I was looking for. MJ transcends the game of basketball, much like Megan Fox transcends the limits of hotness.
Rubenstein: Watch the Megan Fox video from Hot Clicks. I knew I was on to something last week with my "Megan Fox is a robot" theory! Back to Kobe. Since my formative years began in the '90s, Kobe is the clear No. 2 behind Jordan. There are certainly others in the conversation (Shaq, Tim Duncan, LeBron, etc.), but No. 8/No. 24 is the second-best player since the end of Magic and Bird. He's the most skilled and complete player of his era, and has the championships to boost his résumé. But he'll need even more hardware to stand toe to toe with Jordan.
Rubenstein: Kobe's Ehlo/Russell moment was when he kicked it out to Derek Fisher for a three, which, for Kobe in crunch time (given his ball-hogging rep) to hit an open guy for the win, is just as meaningful as Jordan hitting a buzzer-beater (after a push-off in Russell's case), just not as iconic. Kobe may be a more methodical player than MJ -- how many times did he make Courtney Lee look dumb by falling for his head fakes? It's a much more calculated greatness, which isn't nearly as sexy, but just as effective.
Traina: I'll tell you what's not effective: interleague play. Do you guys care about it? Does anyone? Should MLB keep interleague or get rid of it?
Hildenbrandt: Get rid of interleague play? Are you kidding? Without interleague play, Luis Castillo would be botching fly balls against lowly National League teams like the Pirates, and that lacks the intensity of a ninth-inning debacle against the Yankees. As a baseball fan, I think interleague play is a great thing. What I don't enjoy is the constant PR effort to manufacture new "rivalries." Make no mistake, an Indians-Reds game in late June is not a real "rivalry," and we shouldn't treat it as such.
Rubenstein: Interleague play is interesting when you have either regional or historic matchups, but nothing at all special otherwise. A's-Giants, Rangers-Astros, Dodgers-Yanks? Sure. Diamondbacks-Orioles? Let me know how my fantasy guys did and I'll be on my way. Yes, I promise that's the last time I use the term "fantasy guys" on SI.com.
Osterhout: If you live in New York City, interleague play rocks. The Subway Series is just good fun all around. There's a nice rivalry, but everyone knows that it doesn't really matter, which takes some of the vitriol out of the atmosphere and makes for a good afternoon at the ballpark, especially when your second baseman can't catch a pop fly. But other than that, I'm not sure what value interleague play adds to baseball. I guess it is fun to watch American League pitchers try to swing a bat, but I could wait until the World Series to witness that.
Rubenstein: If you can't get excited about Aaron Harang mowing down Mark DeRosa in the third inning of a meaningless 118-degree June game in southern Ohio, you sir, are no baseball fan.
Hildenbrandt: On Dan's point of fantasy baseball, I'd argue that interleague play has been an extremely frustrating situation for owners who have guys (like David Ortiz) who are aging, immobile and completely useless in the field. They simply have no spot in the lineup. It's the only thing more frustrating than being a David Ortiz owner in 2009.
Osterhout: David Ortiz, in general, has been extremely frustrating for fantasy baseball owners, regardless of whether he plays the field. In fact, maybe it is a good thing if he's got to sit out an interleague game. My theory is, if these players are too old and out of shape to play the field, then maybe they shouldn't be playing baseball. What other sport has a position where you get to skip half of the game?
Rubenstein: Exactly. It's tough to find people willing to buy into a contrived rivalry that doesn't somehow affect either their own team's race for a spot in the playoffs or, in the case of fantasy, their wallets. Even as a Dodgers fan, L.A.'s games at Texas gave me the opportunity to see some more Brad Ausmus at-bats. Didn't exactly get my blood racing.
Dan Rubenstein hosts and produces the SI Tour Guy video series for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ty Hildenbrandt writes for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal podcast. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter. Jacob E. Osterhout is a features reporter for the New York Daily News and a former writer for Sports Illustrated On Campus. His work can also be found at the College Sports Examiner.
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