July 31, 2006

The Parking Lot at the Mall of Death

Imagine the excitement: You're going out the ballpark with Dad for the first time. You've heard so many stories about the park, and its great history, and all the amazing wins Dad has seen there. And now you're finally getting to go.

You ride out on the train together. Dad has his ball cap on, you’ve got your glove in hand.

The train ride seems to take forever. Stop after stop goes by. You ask Dad probably a hundred times when you’re going to arrive. "Almost there," he says, smiling.

Then, finally, as you look out to the right of the train, you see it.

“Awesome,” you say, staring out the window at the stadium. It's smaller than you imagined, but you like the looks of it. It is neat, clean, well-kept, and surrounded by trees.

Dad taps you on the shoulder and and says, “That’s the tennis stadium, buddy. Shea Stadium is over there.”

You wheel around, and look to the left.

And it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen.

* * *

As legend has it, the town is called Flushing because Shea Stadium looks like it came from somebody's ass.

It looks like a spaceship from a B movie, a failed version of the Death Star that sputtered out and crashed years ago and has since grown grass in its hollowed-out middle. It may have looked futuristic in the 1960's, but now it looks like a big round parking lot painted blue and left to rot.

And the inside is no better. If you're not sitting in your seat, it's a guarantee that you're staring at concrete as far as you can see. You are not in a baseball stadium; you're in a parking lot at the Mall of Death. Entry and exit ramps have no logical design. Trying to get to the loge level (the best place to sneak into better seats) is like attempting to navigate an irritatingly difficult level on a video game you hate playing. Time and again you choose the wrong ramp that takes you up one floor too high.

When the game is over, you will be pleased to discover that Shea's architects employed "bottleneck" technology to maximize people traffic and general irritation. But what else would you expect?

Fact: The best team in the National League plays in the worst ballpark in America.

Fact: There are plans for a new Mets stadium in 2009. That's not nearly soon enough.

Some other things to discuss:
  • For the record, there is absolutely no connection between the above-vented bitterness and the Mets' three-game sweep of the Braves this past weekend. Okay, maybe there is a slight connection.
  • In tennis news, James Blake has signed an endorsement deal with Evian. Says Blake in the press release (which was somehow acquired by reader Frank G. Yak): "Throughout my career, I have enjoyed drinking Evian water on and off the court because I prefer its purity and mineral content to other waters." The OCC hereby gives you permission to slap him if he ever speaks of a water's purity or mineral content.
  • This just in: Jeremy Shockey drinks booze; lives hard. This would be a worthwhile revelation if it weren't the most obvious, already-established information ever disseminated.
  • The legend of Howie Kendrick grew Sunday night, when the Angels' infielder reached into the stands at Fenway to snag a foul ball from an unsuspecting fan who just so happened to be Ben Affleck. Affleck was heartily booed by Red Sox fans for not properly interfering with Kendrick's effort to catch the ball, at which point Affleck started screaming like O'Bannion from Dazed and Confused when he got covered in white paint. What are you looking at? Huh? I'll kick your fucking ass, right now! Okay, actually he didn't start screaming like that. But he should have. Ben should take every opportunity to channel that character, since it was clearly his finest role of all time.
  • Sunday, SportsCenter reported that Cubs' SS Ronny Cedeno had been in a 19-for-122 slump before hitting a homer. The question: By the time you reach 122 AB's, haven't you passed the classification of "slump" and moved on to just being terrible?
  • In a reminder that sometimes strange things come flying out of apartment windows, a man was struck down on the streets of Sosnowiec in southern Poland when a 110-pound St. Bernard landed on him. Apparently the dog, named Oskar, was shoved out of the apartment window by its drunken owner, named Mike Tyson. (Okay, the Tyson part is not really true.) But here's the question: Who actually shoves a dog? Doesn't the word "shove" kind of imply that it's a fight of some kind, where the dog is actually implicit in the event? Seems that you don't really shove a dog out a window so much as you throw it, but now we're getting into semantics. Also of note, a police spokesman said that "The dog had a soft landing because it fell on a man." Which is kind of like saying, "The air conditioner was not injured because it landed on somebody's head." The lesson here is obvious: When walking the streets of Sosnowiec, make certain to wear a helmet.

July 26, 2006

H.R., Howie and Broccoli Rabe

Remember that famous Chris Rock bit from "Bigger and Blacker" where he suggests that instead of gun control, what we really need is bullet control? To refresh your memory, he says: "if a bullet costs $5000 there'd be no more innocent bystanders. That'd be it. Every time someone gets shot, people will be like, 'Damn, he must have did something.'"

And it's exactly that line -- Damn, he must have did something -- that passed through The OCC's mind when news came down that ESPN canned baseball analyst Harold Reynolds this week. Because for the Worldwide Leader to come out firing (literally) at one of its most high-profile talents...well, quite simply -- he must have done (did) something. Right?

Or is it possible he didn't must have did something?

The something that Harold Reynolds is accused of, as you may have already heard, is sexual harassment. Which is a gray area that makes that spot on the back of Rasheed Wallace's head look like a completely normal patch of hair.

Here are The OCC's thoughts on this decidedly ambiguous matter:

1) Harold Reynolds is a good analyst. And by all accounts he comes across on air as a likeable guy. And, as Andrew Marchand of the New York Post points out in the article linked above, Reynolds is not the first on-air talent from ESPN to screw up. Yet many of those others got away with it, so why did he have to get whacked? Well, maybe he did something really serious, but if you believe H.R. (Harold Reynolds, not Human Resources), what he did in this case wasn't a big deal (Reynolds describes the incident that led to his firing as a misinterpreted hug). Let's hope that this transgression was bad enough to warrant the firing (something we'll probably never know for sure), or if it wasn't that bad, let's hope that ESPN realizes it overreacted and gets Harold back on the air soon. The guess here is we'll be seeing Harold back on the air at some other station in a lower-profile gig in the months to come. Hopefully he won't bottom out as far as "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period."

2) The OCC has heard from at least one source that Harold Reynolds clearly comes across as the flirtatious type but at the same time also appears to be completely harmless. Seems completely feasable that he just ended up flirting with the wrong person at the wrong time. Or that ESPN finally got tired of hearing the "Harold was flirting with me" complaints.

3) The OCC has seen Harold Reynolds' wife in person, and she is not an ugly lady. If memory serves correctly, she's gorgeous. What does this mean? Nothing really. Mainly just wanted to share that information.

4) Baseball Tonight is going to be a lot worse without Harold Reynolds. Too much John Kruk can be a very bad thing.

Some other thoughts from the world of sport:
  • As has happened before on this page with the likes of Josh Smith and Shaun Livingston, copious amounts of text shall now be devoted to extolling the virtues of one Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, USA infielder Howie Kendrick. This is by no means meant to be a claim to have discovered Kendrick, because many others have pimped him before (not in that way). Seriously, though, this guy is good. He was hitting .369 in the minors and has recently begun to get lots of AB's for the Angels. Flat out, he can hit. Just advised a friend to add him to his fantasy team and in his showcase at-bat which we watched on MLBTV.com (level of nerdiness -- very high), Howie hit a dinger. "Wow, that's unbelievable," said shocked friend. Unbelievable indeed. Don't hesitate. Get Howie Kendrick on your fantasy team. Trade some of your GI Joe's for his bobblehead doll. Make a whole bunch of t-shirts that say "Howie, Wowie!" and put them up on eBay. Actually, scratch that last idea -- but you get the point: It's high time to get on board this bandwagon.
  • On a note completely unrelated to sports, there are few things on this planet that can ruin the experience of eating a bagel early in the morning like looking across the train and seeing a small dog's dirty sphincter staring back in your face. Seriously, not cool at all. Put some trousers on that beagle!
  • And on the subject of food: There's a dude on the Twins who recently got called up, goes by the name of Josh Rabe. Do you suppose that's pronounced RAAB, as in broccoli rabe? Do you think Josh ever gets teased by teammates about his affiliation to broccoli's well-dressed step brother? Probably not. The guess here is that most Major Leaguers either a) think broccoli rabe is for sissies; or b) will not ever admit that they know what broccoli rabe is.

July 23, 2006

This One's for the Kids

Well, it's summertime in New York, and frankly, what a delight. Scorching temperatures, strange and pungent smells normally buried by colder climates brought to life by the heat, insufferably warm subway stations -- this is really the place to be.

And if that's not enough -- all the kids are out of school. How splendid! They travel the streets in unruly droves, swarm our normally quiet places of commerce, spill their ice cream on our sandaled feet, and their strollers constantly cross our paths as we attempt to walk. Ahh, the joy of having youngsters around. Marvelous, just marvelous.

So it is with these wonderful young rays of light in mind that I now present to you the first ever installment of The OCC's Lessons for the Children:

Lesson #1: If in the future you're going to repeatedly get in trouble with the law, some originality would be appreciated. For an example, look no further than Shawn Kemp, who seems to think it's okay to repeatedly appear in the news for the same violation (possession of narcotics). Kids, I assure you -- this is not okay. If you're going to pop up on the police blotter time and again, you'll need to mix in some assorted other charges: Crapping in somebody else's laundry hamper, showing up at the airport with a prosthetic urinating device, cutting off your johnson and throwing it at the police...actually, never mind that last one. In fact, it's probably best that we leave this particular lesson for another time.

Lesson #2: Sometimes if you hear something called a "children's book," that still doesn't mean it's actually meant for you kids to read. Recently, Eagles' QB Donovan McNabb referred to former teammate Terrell Owens' autobiography as a "children's book," but this was actually McNabb's way of saying "Terrell Owens is a churlish, immature lout and his book is as pathetically juvenile and self-serving as he is." So, don't run out to buy that Terrell Owens children's book just yet, kids -- I think you'd find it a rather unsatisfying summer read.

Lesson #3: If you know any old people who are really starting to show their age, try not to do anything that would point this out to them. On Saturday, at the Mets-Astros game, Mets' backup OF Eli Marrero was warming up the pitchers in between innings while Mets' catcher Ramon Castro was putting on his equipment in the dugout. When Marrero was catching warmup pitches from Orlando Hernandez (whose listed age is 36 but real age is probably closer to 81), he (Marrero) was not wearing a catcher's mask. But then, later in the game, when he was warming up Mets' closer Billy Wagner, Marrero suddenly was wearing a mask. See kids, in not wearing a mask for Hernandez but putting one on for Wagner, Marrero might as well have walked up to his elder teammate, kicked him in the center of the groin and said, "Hey oldie, I have no respect for how hard you throw the ball. See how I wore a mask for Wagner and not for you? That's because you're old and you suck."

Lesson #4: Mouth guards are for nerds. This is another one we learned from the Mets. On Sunday, rookie pitcher Mike Pelfrey was gnawing on a blue mouth guard during the game because he has a jaw condition called TMJ. Doesn't that sound nerdy? Well, that's because it is. And I know some of you might point out that Pelfrey probably can't help having a jaw condition and as it just so happens TMJ is very unpleasant and uncomfortable, and to those of you pointing that out, you get a golden star. And the golden star goes right over your mouth so that you will shut up and stop saying such annoying things.

Lesson #5: Bibs are usually for babies, but they're also for people who suck.

Lesson #6: Be careful what you say, because your words actually have magical powers and they might make your worst nightmares come true. Recently, Rockets' center Yao Ming, who has been recovering from a foot injury, said to some people, "Do I look like a guy with a foot injury?" This was Yao's way of saying that his foot is doing much better. But what he doesn't realize is that by saying this he has virtually guaranteed that he is going to suffer from another horrible foot injury sometime very soon.

Lesson #7: Baggy clothes are not just offensive to adults, they are also dangerous. You see, just about every time he throws a pitch, Kansas City Royals' reliever Mike MacDougal's hat falls off his head. Often he is so preoccupied with picking it up that he's bending down to get it before he even looks to see what the batter did with his pitch. Other times he's juggling it around in mid air, trying to catch it from falling to the ground while the batter is swinging away. Did you know, kids, that sometimes batters hit line drives back at the pitcher, and if the pitcher is paying attention, he has a better chance of not dying? Did you also know that Major Leaguers have access to hats of all different sizes?

And that brings us to the word of the day -- Moron.

Well, that's just about all the time we have for today. Hopefully you kids have found this educational and fun. And, hopefully you will all go back to school soon so that your dear old uncle OCC can finally have some peace and quiet.

July 21, 2006

The Hillenbrand Files

What went down this week in Toronto (or the "T-Dot," as the kids call it), can only be described as bizarre. Consider this timeline of events over the past few days:

Tuesday -- Shea Hillenbrand flies back to Toronto after spending the weekend in LA with his wife and newly adopted child. On this day, we get our first hint that something odd might be brewing (quote courtesy of the Toronto Star): "Hillenbrand also wasn't sure how some birth mothers would view the couple's suburban stable of animals, which includes more than two dozen tortoises, three miniature horses, three rabbits and four schnauzers."

Wednesday -- Hillenbrand blows a gasket because no one from Toronto's front office congratulates him on his adoption upon his return to the team. Nor apparently did anyone congratulate him for having three miniature horses and four schnauzers. Hillenbrand is out of the lineup for the second straight game, is verbally undressed during a team meeting by manager John Gibbons before the game, with rumors flying that Gibbons challenged Hillenbrand to a brawl and some talk about Hillenbrand having scribbled "This is a sinking ship" on the clubhouse chalk board. After the meeting, Shea opts not to sit in the dugout with his teammates. And to put a capper on a splendid 48 hours, on Wednesday night, Hillenbrand is designated for assignment.

So, so many questions to ask:

1) Have we really heard the entire story here? Seems to me that usually a guy hitting .301 with 12 homers and 39 RBI's has to do a lot more than adopt a child, get a little bent out of shape when people don't congratulate him, and then scribble some immature nonsense on the chalk board to get released. The guess here is that this is more of a body of work for Hillenbrand, and this release was a long time coming.
2) Given that there are many published reports out there about what a rather unsavory character Shea is, be those reports true or not, think the birth mother might be having second thoughts about the adoption? Are "take-backs" allowed in adoptions? (This just in: I'm getting confirmation from my sources that take-backs are not allowed.)
3) Can anyone else picture Hillenbrand and his wife wedging themselves into child-size cowboy outfits and hopping aboard their miniature horses, then riding around the neighborhood in a game known in the Hillenbrand household as "Midget Cowboys"?
4) Does anyone have an inside scoop on this? Is there any word out there from Shea's teammates on what they think? Because right now, Hillenbrand sure does seem like one of the worst guys in baseball who wasn't readily known as one of the worst guys in baseball.

A few other thoughts to share as we collectively try to purge our brains of the mental image of Shea Hillenbrand berating his fleet of schnauzers after a particularly bad day:
  • On a much more innocent note regarding new children, Dodgers' third baseman Cesar Izturis has been away from the team of late while his wife gave birth to their second child, and his return to the squad was delayed because his wife was still in the hospital and he had to watch over their other child until she got out. Omm...pardon me for being presumptious, but can't the Cesar Izturises of the world probably afford to pay a babysitter, family member, or close friend to watch over the child while Monsieur Izturis attends to his multi-million dollar a year profession? Furthermore, the kid he's attending to is 6 years old. 6! Isn't that legal babysitting age these days? Quit pampering the kid. Couldn't the Izturises just drop Izturis Jr. off at the Hillenbrand farm? He could play with the tortoises.
  • And while we're still tangentially on the subject of Shea Hillenbrand, I present to you the anti-Hillenbrand: Vinny Castilla, recently released by the Padres, not because he's a dickhead, but just because he can't play anymore. As teammate Eric Young described Castilla: "Valuable human being." Notice the careful choice of words: E.Y. did not say, "Valuable baseball player." Which is his way of saying, "Vinny's a great guy, but he sucks now." In any case, here Vinny will always be remembered as the guy who got away from the Braves in the expansion draft and somehow captured some magic in the Colorado thin air to become one of the most unlikely baseball superstars of this generation. And if he cheated at some point, I don't really want to know about it. If this is the end, best of luck to you, Vin. Best of luck.
  • As you may have heard, on Thursday the surging -- nay, the thrusting Atlanta Braves acquired Bob Wickman to close out ballgames. And I ask you, sports fans -- Based solely on physical appearance, is there a man better suited to come trotting out of the bullpen on a muggy Georgia night? This guy is a trucker if I've ever seen one. He looks like he rolled into the ballpark straight from a Waffle House off I-285. And if he's not a trucker, he's a farmer: He sawed off part of his right index finger when it got caught in the undercarriage of a tractor when he was a child. Actually, that's not true. He sliced it off in a fan. But he looks like he could have lost his finger in a tractor accident. And that's what really matters.
  • On the subject of minor bodily deformities, does anyone else ever look at the mole on Carlos Beltran's right ear and feel inclined to channel Uncle Buck: Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face! Honestly, that thing has got to go.
  • Twins' catcher Joe Mauer has emerged as one of the game's most celebrated players this year, but, a little known fact: The Mauer family has a foul secret. A child whose identity was concealed for years, his name was changed, he was shipped out of town. And improbably, this child, also a lefty batter, grew up to be a baseball player as well. Don't believe what you're reading? Well, take a look for your self at the secret the Mauers tried so hard to hide: Little Ricky Mauer.

July 19, 2006

Swing Away

It's one of those great debates that can never truly be settled yet remains compelling enough to provide an almost unlimited amount of mileage: Golf -- is it a true sport, or just a game?

Personally, I can fall on both sides of this one on any given day. Generally speaking, I'm of the opinion that in order to be a sport, something must require running, or something resembling running (meaning skis or skates). But I also appreciate that hitting a golf ball is a remarkably complex physical activity, and even if some of the people doing said activity have man boobs that would make Frank Costanza blush, it's still impressive enough that most of the time I'd be willing to acknowledge golf as a true sport if someone argued it adamantly enough.

However, I must say, the current Tiger Woods-Nick Faldo feud represents a massive setback to the game/sport's overall credibility. In case you haven't heard, Tiger is all irritated at Nick because Nick criticized his swing during a stint as a TV commentator.

Waiting to hear the rest of it? Sorry, there's no more information coming. That's it -- that's the entire feud. Pathetic, right? Would this even be a story in baseball -- someone's swing being criticized? Have you ever heard of one baseball player getting upset at another because he said something's wrong with his swing? Have you ever heard of one basketball player calling out another about his slightly busted-looking jump shot? Jalen Rose has perhaps the ugliest j in the NBA. Think he hasn't ever heard people tell him that? Of course he has. But we don't hear about it because usually, such petty jabs stay right there on the court. Someone tells Jalen his shot is ugly, he comes down court jawing right back, and then pulls up for a jumper at the first opportunity, either burying it and talking even more, or missing it and yapping something about how he'll hit the next one.

To summarize: Fighting, arguing, outright dislike in sports -- no problem. In fact, usually encouraged. Makes good entertainment. Petty bickering apparently fueled by insecurity? Keep it to yourselves. This verbal slap fight between Tiger and Faldo is annoying, and the parts of it that aren't annoying are just kind of embarassing. If you ask me, for something to be a real sport, it's got to have real feuds. This one makes golf look like a backyard game between Maladjusted Younger Brother and Snobby Next Door Neighbor.
  • Much talk in the New York papers about ARod's disastrous three-error game Monday night. Has he caught Chuck Knoblauch disease and lost all ability to throw accurately? Was he bothered by a sore foot? Simply an off night? Is he finally wilting under the pressure of playing in New York? One other possibility I'll throw out there -- perhaps the Yankees' third baseman was a tad bit distracted because he was worried his colon, spleen and liver were on the verge of exploding in the completely inhumane heat. Lord, it's hot in NY these days. Reminds me of the summer I spent in Micronesia. If it were legal and socially acceptable to go to work in a Speedo and dress shoes, I think I probably would. It's so bad I've installed a kiddie pool in my living room (not true). But I digress. And yes, I do believe a moment ago I did make an excuse for Alex Rodriguez's terrible performance on Monday, but I mainly did so as a vehicle for pointing out how hot it is. Though I must say, it's gotten so bad for the reigning MVP in this town that I almost -- almost -- feel mildly sorry for him.
  • Just last week on this site we were talking about the 83-year-old man who became the oldest pro ballplayer in history, and now, word comes out that 94-year-old former Negro League great Buck O'Neil stepped into the batter's box in a minor league all-star game to break the record. Is nothing sacred, I ask? And I ask that not as a way of saying that either of these records are sacred -- rather, I ask it as a means of saying, don't we value the safety of our elders anymore? We can't just be slapping a helmet on the aged and decrepit among us and shoving them into the batter's box for the sole reason that it makes good publicity. One errant pitch up and in and their heads will come right off. (And, for the record, apparently one did nearly plunk O'Neil directly in the dome during one of his AB's Tuesday.) And by the way, don't try to make the case that they should be allowed to hit in these games if they want to. We don't let old people wander across the interstate, do we? But if left to their own devices, they almost certainly would. Sorry, but if you're old enough that a routine HBP has a reasonable chance of becoming a DOA, baseball is not allowed. Them's the rules.

July 17, 2006

I'm Steve Karsay

Frankly, I have no idea how the hell I missed this news when it broke last week. Actually, yes I do -- sometimes I fail to notice things. But my deficiencies aside, I bring you now, a couple days late, an absolutely spectacular piece of information: There is a man here in New York who has been going around town impersonating Steve Karsay. Apparently (according to the New York Post Page 6) this relief pitching doppelganger was at a comedy club the other night just generally acting like a prick -- making out with a woman in the bathroom, trying to leap over the bar, skipping out on his tab at the end of the night -- which is exactly what we would expect from the real Steve Karsay. Actually, I don't really know that to be the case. For all I know, the real Steve Karsay is not at all the type to misbehave at a comedy club and would be just as likely to be the polite man sitting in the back laughing at all the right moments and calmly sipping out of his two-drink minimum at evenly-timed intervals.

Though I clearly have little insight as to what would bring a man to want to impersonate Steve Karsay and nor do I know much of anything about how the real Steve Karsay behaves (though I'd be curious to learn more about both topics), I can provide some unique insight into some of the Karsay impersonator's behavior that was not published in the newspaper. According to a friend of mine (we'll call him
Jeff), the other day a guy he knows (we'll call this guy Luther) was on the Great Lawn in Central Park, baseball glove in hand, when a man approached him and asked if he could borrow his glove to have a game of catch with his wife.

When Luther responded in the affirmative, the man said, "Thanks," and then added after a pause, "I'm Steve Karsay."

Luther, not being much of a baseball fan, found it slightly odd that this man had introduced himself using both surname and family name, but opted not to waste too much time worrying about it. Then, a few minutes later, the man (whom we will heretofore refer to as
Stevie Boy) returned. Apparently the "wife" wasn't so good at throwing the ball around, and Stevie Boy was hoping Luther might want to join him for a game of catch. Luther agreed, they played catch, and when they were finished, Stevie Boy returned Luther's glove.

When he did so, he said, "Thanks for the game of catch. I'm Steve Karsay."

A minute later, after Stevie Boy was gone, someone who had been standing nearby during the exchange walked up and said to Luther, "Wait, did that guy say his name was Steve Karsay?"

To which Luther replied, "Yes."

I have a few things to say about this story, which I will now share with you in a unique new format I like to call the "numbered list":

1) I'm pretty sure I butchered this story at least a tad bit, for it was told to me by Jeff only once and it's likely I mangled a few minor details. But the jist of the story, I do believe, remains intact.
2) One detail I'm certain I didn't get wrong is that Stevie Boy went out of his way not once, but twice, to say, "I'm Steve Karsay." Which I think is tremendously awesome.
3) I feel rather confident that the person in Central Park was indeed the same Steve Karsay impersonator mentioned in the NY Post.
4) With that in mind, it seems to me that if I were a Steve Karsay impersonator, the last thing in the world I would want to do would be throw a baseball. For it seems unless you threw the ball like a man who was once an extremely hard-throwing Major League pitcher, you would essentially be going out of your way to blow your cover. But then again, if you're the kind of guy who's generally acting like a dick at comedy clubs, maybe you're so confident in your resemblance to Steve Karsay that you just don't worry about being caught.
5) Or maybe, if you're crazy enough to impersonate somebody, you just don't care that much about being caught.
6) Though I know it's actually kind of against the law, I must say I think there's something great about the fact that there's a Steve Karsay impersonator somewhere in this town. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. Stevie Boy. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners.
7) I stole that last line from
The Big Lebowski.
8) Question: Given all of the uncertainty created by this situation -- i.e., if the real Steve Karsay isn't actually Steve Karsay -- how can you tell that this blog was actually written by the real OCC?
9) Answer: Because who else would waste so much time on this topic?


10) I haven't really coined a lot of phrases on this site that I'm aware of, but I would like to nominate one right now: I'm Steve Karsay. Kind of like "I'm Rick James, bitch," but different. If you're all interested, I'll get to work on printing some t-shirts.

July 14, 2006

Only the Good K Young

When I spotted the headline the other day on ESPN.com: "Man, 83, K's in Pro At-Bat," I immediately thought the worst. Oh my God, some poor old bastard died playing baseball. You see, in briefly skimming past the headline and ascertaining that there was an 83-year-old and baseball involved, I momentary mistook the verb "K" to mean "die." And can you really blame me? Of course we all know that to "K" is to strike out, but given the context, wouldn't it be logical to assume that an 83-year-old playing in a pro baseball game would probably die? Or at the very least, you wouldn't think it would be newsworthy to include in the headline that he struck out. Of course he struck out -- he's 83! That's almost 12 dog years. At age 12 I would wager most dogs cannot swing a baseball bat without dying.

So I guess my point is, the headline really should have been: "Man, 83, Appears in Pro Baseball Game," and it safely be assumed that a) he struck out, and b) he did not die. By including the verb "K's," you've not only brought the nation's attention to the fact that this old codger can't catch up to a fastball, but you've momentarily given me quite a scare in thinking he had died.

A couple other groundbreaking thoughts to share on this Friday:
  • In a turn of events that proves beyond all doubt that the Major League Baseball All-Star break is one of the most dismally slow 72-hour windows of time adorning the House of Sport, the other night I was at an establishment that was showing the WNBA All-Star Game. And I watched some of it. The event primarily caught my attention in the final seconds, when everyone got the hell out of the way so that Michelle Snow could attempt to prove to the skeptics out there once again that women actually can dunk. On her first attempt, a circular piece of orange metal (which looked suspiciously like the rim) jumped up at the last minute to stuff the ball back in her face. Undeterred, she made a second try, and came through with a kind of decent-looking reverse that could either have been a triumphant moment or a complete disgrace, depending on where you stand on the issue, except that the issue became null and void when a player on the other team (not sure who) picked up the ball, ran down court and tried to throw down a full speed dunk of her own only to be feebly rim-checked as time expired. Probably not a moment that will be ending up on too many WNBA promotional videos.
  • In some news that doesn't exactly have to do with sports but does involve a remarkable feat of hand-eye coordination and courage, a 61-year-old German man on trial for theft somehow managed to steal a set of keys from the judge trying him while standing face-to-face with said judge at the bench. And the judge didn't even notice until later. Incredible. A little known fact -- there is legal precedent in Germany for situations in which accused criminals show criminal abilities so far above those of their peers that the judge will immediately dismiss the case and place the criminal in a program for gifted criminals. Actually, that's not true. But if it were my courtroom I think I would be inclined to cut the guy a break just because I'd be so damn impressed. Which is one of the many reasons (my lack of a law degree and my inability to speak German also being among them) that I am not currently under consideration for a judiciary position in Germany.

July 12, 2006

I'm Sorry, Did I Stutter?

Last night around 10 p.m. I was in a friend's car when we flipped the All-Star Game on the radio to find Bud Selig mid-speech:

"Roberto Clemente was and always will be remembered for his wonderful humanitarian efforts," said the Commish in his most grave and somber tone (which sounds exactly like his most aloof and disinterested tone). He continued, "Roberto Clemente was taken from his wife, Vera, his children, and from all of us much too young while escorting a planeload of emergency supplies to earthquake victims in Nicawagwa on December 31, 1972."

"Hang on a sec," I said. "Did he just say Nicawagwa?"
"I believe he did," replied my friend.

Incredulous that Selig could have possibly pronounced "Nicaragua" like he was a 7-year-old with a speech impediment, I dialed it up on the DVR upon returning home, and sure enough, on TV it sounded exactly the same way. Is this possible? Did anyone else notice this? Is there any precedent for a grown man lapsing into small child speak at the most inopportune of moments? Reminds me a little bit of the movie Dead Again when Frankie starts stuttering completely out of the blue and suddenly you realize that he's the grown up version of the same kid who killed Margaret so many years ago and is now hunting down her reincarnated self in an attempt to destroy her second life. Who's following me? Anyone? Anyone?

A couple other very important topics to discuss:
  • Did anyone else notice the shit-eating grins on the faces of the White Sox coaching staff after Michael Young's 2-run triple in the top of the 9th last night? Think that was pure American League pride as Ozzie & Co. congratulated Young on his way back into the dugout? Not exactly. They had one thing on their mind: This guy just got us home field advantage in the World Series. What a colossally stupid rule. Does anyone watch the All-Star Game because it determines home field advantage? No. If you're the type of person who's going to watch the All-Star Game, you're going to watch it regardless. Not like they're roping in people who aren't serious sports fans with the lure of home field advantage -- people who aren't serious sports fans think that home field advantage means deciding what goes on the menu when you're hosting a dinner party at your place Friday night.
  • Friend of mine was sitting in an ATL barbershop on Wednesday talking about the All-Star Game when in walked Marlins' outfielder Jeremy Hermida. Seeing that the barber and my friend were talking baseball, Hermida proceeded to join the conversation, at which point he advised my friend that he should trade for him in his fantasy league. Which reminds me -- there's really nothing quite like a good haircut when it comes to boosting morale. Here's Hermida, coming off a dismal first half during which he couldn't stay healthy and hit only 2 HR's, but the guy is feeling like a thousand bucks right now. Thinking I may have to head over to the barbershop and get me a haircut as well. Of course, it's a calculated gamble, because the bad haircut can really send you into an emotional tailspin.
  • So we now know that Marco Materazzi did indeed provoke the Zinedine Zidane head-butt with some kind of insult, but according to Materazzi he didn't call Zidane a terrorist, as has been reported. And, Materazzi won't confess as to what exactly he said, which is wonderful because now we can speculate rampantly. Here are my best guesses:
    1. "The Ocean called. They're running out of shrimp."
    2. "Do you like apples?"
    3. "Take me to bed or lose me forever."
    4. "I will smash your face into a car windshield, and then take your mother Dorothy Mantooth out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again."
    5. "I love you, Johnny Cakes."

July 11, 2006

Meet the Hawks

Got an e-mail from a cousin of mine the other day in which I learned, among a few other things which I shall not bore you with at this time, that Salim Stoudamire has a myspace account. Perhaps not the most noteworthy fact in and of itself, but after a few minutes of browsing I did discover some interesting facts about Salim and his network of friends (some of whom you might recognize by name). Ladies and gentlemen, introducing yooooouuuuurrr ATLANTA HAWKS!
  • Salim Stoudamire: Hopes to "reach inner peace." Says "Time is a state of mind, flowing at Salim's pace." I hadn't thought about it that way, but he raises a good point. The song on his profile is "Carpe Diem," by Madgesdiq. Salim and Madgesdiq appear to be friends. Also, Salim says, "I love you all."
  • Josh Childress: Headline quote says "Just play a little D & I'll make ur mouth dribble." Not sure exactly what that means but it sounds vaguely disgusting. I don't think I necessarily want my mouth to dribble. And if I were choosing the headline quote for J-Chill, I think I would make it read, "God I have a weird looking jump shot." There is also a sequence of photos that runs on Childress' page with captions, one of which is I believe a picture of a young J-Chill with the line "He is learning the power of the 'fro" below it. There's also one of him dunking on Yao that says "He shouldn't have jumped!!" And, if you scroll down the page and look at the comments left by Childress' friends, there's a picture that defies description -- a man in some kind of swimsuit/leotard thing who might be wearing eye makeup and has his testicles hanging out of said bizarre garment. Very disturbing image. Underneath it, the friend wrote the caption: "U R NUTS!!!...Y DID U LEND OUT YOUR SWIMSUIT???...AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH..." Not sure if I can ever think about Josh Childress again without conjuring the horrible image of him wearing this swimsuit with his balls hanging out. You're going to have to look at this to see for yourselves.
  • Donta Smith: Okay, so he hasn't exactly developed into a serious player in the NBA, but if the photos of his friends are any indication, Donta appears to have no such shortcomings as a player in the game of sexing ladies. I would say his portfolio is looking strong to very strong. I have mentioned it before and I will now mention it again: I think being an NBA benchwarmer is truly one of the greatest gigs out there.

  • Tyronn Lue: Thanks for 11 seconds of my life I'll never have back, Tyronn. There is nothing at all to be seen on this profile, aside from a picture of MJ and Ty walking on the court together in Wizards unis. Also, just so you know, Tyronn Lue doesn't want kids.

  • Esteban Batista: The unknown Hawks big man is listed as "Grande Puto" under Josh Childress' list of friends. Curious what this familiar-sounding but not altogether understood word "Puto" meant, I googled it, clicked on the first link that came up and found that in some instances it has rather unsavory connotations. Like, it means "male hooker." Which means that Esteban Batista has been referred to by at least one Hawks teammate as a "big male hooker." Which, it goes without saying, is awesome. Also, Batista has a friend named NaTaLia who appears, based on her profile, to be of the licentious sort. Have I mentioned I wouldn't be angry if I woke up tomorrow and was a benchwarmer on an NBA team? Willing to relocate within United States to accomplish said goal. (Salary demands are flexible.)
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Meet the Hawks. Coming up soon, we shall attempt to track down the myspace profiles of some pro hoops players who are actually relevant. Or do relevant players not need myspace pages because they're already relevant in the first place?

By the way -- operating under the premise that he does indeed love us all, I have asked Salim Stoudamire to become one of my myspace friends. Still awaiting his reply. If there ever comes a day that Josh Childress lists me as one of his friends with a caption that refers to me as a big male whore or anything along those lines, I will be a very proud human being.

July 09, 2006

Bill Simmons Dons His Xenophobia Hat

Having finally carved out the appropriate amount of time to do so, I finally navigated my way through The Sports Guy's recent dissertation on which NBA players have the most trade value. On what seemed to be page 97 of this novella, at the moment that my attention was beginning to wane, something I read made me do a double-take. Discussing the trade value of Chris Bosh, Bill Simmons writes:

"A delightful third season: 22.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, 51 percent shooting, 82 percent from the line...and I will never figure out for the life of me how any NBA expert believed that an 18-year-old Croatian was a safer bet in the 2003 NBA Draft."

Umm...are you sure you meant Croatian, Bill? The player in question (Darko Milicic) is not so much Croatian as he is Serbian. And I hate to be overly nitpicky here -- but there was kind of a bitter war characterized by years of ethnic violence and bloodshed between those two countries. No one's ever called me Captain Current Events, and hope I'll never be confused as a card-carrying member of the Politically Correct Patrol, but I feel pretty qualified to say that confusing those two countries in such a way isn't particularly kosher.

And furthermore, it's not like this is some passing, irrelevant reference to Darko's nationality -- Simmons utters "Croatian" almost as if it's a synonym for something negative. He's basically calling the selection of Darko a crazy, misinformed draft pick, and his two proofs of this are a) Darko's age and b) his nationality. And it's only accentuated by the fact that he gets the nationality wrong. I get the idea that Simmons was trying to say Darko being from a foreign country makes him an unknown commodity in the NBA, but altogether this comes off very much the wrong way. (For the record, I did consider the possibility that Simmons might have been making some kind of bizarre joke here in calling Darko "Croatian," but I don't think that's the case, and if he were joking, that would only make it worse.)

Overall, I realize this isn't anything close to a terrible transgression. But considering that Simmons has essentially annointed himself Holder of all Significant Opinions Pertaining to Sport (even more so when it comes to the NBA), a moment like this, sprinkled with just the slightest dash of xenophobic ignorance, should at the very least take a small gasp of breath out of Sports Guy's air of infallibility.

July 05, 2006

Trouser Snakes: Meant to Stay in the Cage

A friend recently called my attention to a surreal sequence of events that took place during what appears to have been a European club soccer game. During said incident, a defender takes a grab at a player's shorts, latches on, and in so doing somehow manages to unsheath the player's member, which proceeds to flacidly thrash about like a Peruvian water snake which has been unexpectedly marooned on shore. Note: I wish I was kidding, but I am not. See the video for evidence, at your own risk. Also note: I'm pretty certain there is no such thing as a Peruvian water snake, but I would appreciate it if we could all begin to use this as a euphemism for male genatalia at once.

As it just so happens, I have a couple of observations about this mishap:

1) Has the player whose johnson was exposed ever heard of compression shorts, or at the very least underwear? I'm sorry, but this kind of penile galavanting just has no place in modern sport. If this were Roman times, I might understand. But things being as they are, I just can't permit it.
2) Considering the relative ease with which the trouser snake appears to have been unfurled, does anyone else subscribe to the theory that the player (whom we shall heretoforth refer to as "Johnson") might have been rolling commando style? Though I would have to think such a thing is unheard of at the sport's highest levels, I have heard of athletes doing some stupid things with regard to protecting the nether regions.
3) If you didn't notice the first time, rack that video up once more and take a look first at the defender's stunned expression when he realizes that he's face-to-face with a loosely dangling wang, then look at Johnson's face as he exasperatedly throws his hands up as if to say, "Are you happy now, asshole? You've gone and pulled out my penis."

A few other things to discuss:
  • In news from presumed and/or confirmed former steroid users who are desperately wishing for days when they were relevant, Sammy Sosa has hinted at a MLB comeback, even though he should most likely be focused on trying to catch on with a team in the Golden League, where Jose Canseco recently enlisted, only to demand a trade within two days of his first appearance with his new team. The AP headline reads "Canseco Seeks, Receives Trade Because of Family Obligations," though I believe it should say "Canseco Seeks, Receives Trade Because of Desperately Needing Attention."
  • As someone who has been known to throw down quantities of food disproportionate to a man of my stature, I've got to doff my cap to Takeru Kobayashi. That guy is good. And on a side note that proves for the n-millionth time how juvenile I am, I think the main reason I like competitive eating is because sometimes people throw up.
  • Lastly, a few final words on Eddie Griffin's vehicular pornfest: Apparently, Eddie decided to take my recent suggestion to come up with an excuse for crashing his car other than essentially saying "I was masturbating while driving." Eddie's new explanation -- he dropped his cell phone and was searching for it. I'm guessing it's probably too little too late, considering that an eyewitness says Griffin confessed he was wanking it behind the wheel, but at least this is progress -- maybe the next time Eddie decides to go buck wild on a random erotic impulse he'll think better than to fess up as to the real reason his car went a tad bit off course. While I'm at it, I also must call out the CBS News story linked above, which at one point reads, "Key questions are why Griffin wasn't tested for alcohol and why the officers drove him out of the city to his home in St. Paul." Call me insane, but I would argue the key question is: Why in the hell was Eddie Griffin watching pornography and masturbating in his moving car? We may not ever know for sure, but I'd wager the answer might have something to do with the fact that Eddie Griffin just doesn't care. But at least he had the common decency to expose himself in his car rather than on a soccer pitch.

July 04, 2006

A Midsummer Night's Lobotomy

Going to attempt to be brief, as I'm currently logged on a long ways away from the 212 area code, and time is short*. So let's get caught up -- first, some news that hit late last week:

Jose Canseco is returning to baseball. There are four things I love about this story:
1) Jose Canseco is returning to baseball.
2) He's not only going to hit, but he's going to be a knuckleball pitcher as well. This is funny because a) he's probably got a wretched knuckleball; b) he once completely obliterated his arm trying to throw a knuckler in a blowout game.
3) The league he'll be playing in -- The Golden Baseball League -- was started by a good friend of The Bird, who is responsible for this site's relatively new majestic look.
4) When reporters tried to reach Canseco on his phone, this was the message they heard: "Hello, Jose Canseco. I have lost my cell phone. If you can, please leave a number when you call. Thank you."

I don't know about you, but I'm glad we have a reason to call Jose on the phone again. Sure, he's done some unsavory things in his day, but few athletes, if any, are good for more shits and giggles than Josie. Some other things I'd like to discuss:
  • In NBA news, former Net/Rocket/T-Wolf and current troublemaker Eddie Griffin got caught flogging his dolphin watching porn. What's wrong with this, you ask? Well, he was also driving. Yeah, not recommended (Griffin crashed his car). You know what else isn't recommended? Telling a witness to the accident that you were masturbating, which Griffin did. Honestly, does Eddie G. think that qualifies as a legit excuse? Does he realize that it would be better to tell a witness absolutely anything else other than what he confessed? Would have been wiser from a PR standpoint to say he was trying to light up a joint and crashed when he accidentally dropped the match between his legs. Of course, there is the small problem of that being illegal, but you know what I mean. This guy just doesn't get it. And as a punishment, I'm taking away the DVD players in his car, which I will then sell on eBay.
  • As you've probably noticed, I've been killing, or at the very least vigorously bludgeoning the Hawks of late for their recent personnel moves, not the least irksome of which has been their steadfast refusal to acquire a quality point guard, but tally one for those lummoxes in the ATL front office for their signing of Speedy Claxton. He's not necessarily the most dynamic player out there, but every time I've watched him I've thought the guy was a pretty good (and at times very good) player. Also, he just doesn't seem like the kind of player the Hawks would think to target, which is, I believe, a very good sign. Or at least that's how I'm choosing to spin it.
  • Quick celebrity update: Larry King farted, and David Hasselhoff got an ouchie while he was shaving and had to have surgery. No word on whether or not he got a call from Dirk Nowitzki while he was in the hospital. By the way, the German word for "ouchie" is "verletzung."
  • Can you imagine being given a job at your older brother's place of business, rising through the ranks incredibly quickly, coming up and proving that you're far better than your brother at what you both do (and really always have been), making such a strong impression that ultimately your higher-paid brother gets the ax from the employer and you take his spot? That's pretty much what just went down between the Weaver brothers of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, USA. In goes Jered, out goes Jeff. AWK-ward.
By the way, happy 4th of July. I'm in Europe, or some place that looks vaguely like Europe and where some people don't wear underarm deodorant, which leads me to believe it's
Europe. So I hope you have a lovely barbeque without me, you bastards. The closest I'll be coming to a barbeque will be if I happen to stumble across a herd of yaks who have spontaneously been engulfed in flames. Mmm...yaks.

Okay, in case you can't tell, I've lost it (I think it's something in the water here -- which, for the record, I am not drinking). But before I go, please do say hello to your irritating relatives for me. And if you get an opportunity at any point to use the phrase "If it's gonna be that kind of party, I'm gonna stick my dick in the mashed potatoes" -- by all means, do it.

Heavens to Betsy, I am punchy. Sleep is imminent. Go Whalers. I'm out.

*Footnote: attempt to be brief failed miserably.