October 31, 2007

More Harmful than You Might Think

Last evening, while simultaneously ingesting some mediocre bar cuisine and the first half of the Spurs-Blazers game, The OCC and two associates happened to spot a noteworthy interaction at a table nearby.

Seated just a few feet away were a pair of 20/30-something suits and their dates. During the 30 or so minutes that our visits at the establishment overlapped, these four individuals had really done nothing whatsoever to draw our attention in a positive or negative way.

However, not long before we were getting ready to leave, one of the suits (we’ll call him Tony) got up from his chair to go to the bathroom. Before he could get out of earshot, his buddy (we’ll call him Jake) stopped him and said, “Hey, what do you want to drink?”

Tony stopped where he was standing, a few feet away from the table, and paused a second for dramatic effect. Then a second later he pointed at Jake – much like the Val Kilmer rendition of Elvis points at Christian Slater in True Romance – and with a smile at his amigo, as if to say, you know what I’m gonna say, old buddy, Tony dropped his drink order in a tone that suggested he knew no individual more cool and fun-loving than himself:

“Jack and diet,” he said.

Jake, the recipient of this order, did not so much as flinch.

But right at that moment, somewhere across the world, an unknown person awakened in the night and screamed out – a brief but jarring cosmic disturbance caused by the oblivious behavior of one low-carb douche bag.

October 29, 2007

From the Sandy Trench of Glory: An Ode to Football on the Beach

It being late October, we're a long way removed from the peak of beach football season. But that
didn't stop a determined swarm of West Coast invaders from storming the beaches of Santa Cruz this past weekend for an old-fashioned gridiron mash-up. And should you find yourself planted on a sunny swath of California beach or inhabiting some other unseasonably warm environs in the coming days, weeks, months, years or lifetime, here are some of the finer points of the game to keep in mind:

Transportation -- If you're serious about success, you won't drive a car. You'll show up at the field like a real man. On a beach cruiser.

Assemble a peanut gallery -- This way, one member of said assemblage of people can make a ruling on a controversial incompletion in the end zone, a ruling that somehow becomes the final arbiter on the play even though the peanut gallery member clearly didn't see what happened because he was distracted talking to the female members of the peanut gallery.

Don't ignore defense -- You may be playing touch football (because some of you have families to think about), but that doesn't mean you play soft on D. Here Jesse does his best Shawne Merriman impersonation to demonstrate the proper defensive techniques:

(Scouts: Take note of the vertical leap. That is not an optical illusion.)

Huddle up before every play
This way, you can talk about how you're going to take the short, easy completions on this possession and then just end up going for the long bomb like you always do. Another reason to talk strategy is that if you actually do concoct a well-designed play -- such as a fake double reverse -- it is 100 percent guaranteed to make the defense look ridiculous. One other reason to huddle is that it's rare that you get to talk football strategy with a man wearing such a tremendously absurd headband.

Chest-bumping after a touchdown is not encouraged; it is mandatory -- Here The OCC demonstrates the proper technique with teammate Cunningham after scoring an early TD:

Mind the feet -- A beach may seem like a completely natural setting for an outdoor athletic
endeavor, but one thing that's not natural is running on sand for two hours straight, particularly if you do so for two consecutive days. By day 2, odds are that your Achilles tendons will be as taut as a waterskiing rope and the arches of your feet will feel like they just got clubbed into a pulp with a sledgehammer.

Be careful at halftime -- It may seem innocuous to toss around the pigskin during a break in the action, but when you get to be in your late-20's, all bets are off. Just minutes after posing for this football card-style glamour shot (below), league member Hox -- who had already broken a toe on an earlier possession --
snapped his hammy reaching up for an errant throw. He was immediately placed on injured reserve, ending his season.

Post-game: A multi-step process

Step 1: Assemble rival teams (and assorted peanut gallery members) for group photo.

Step 2: Watch picturesque sunset.

Step 3: Leave beach in an orderly fashion.

Step 4: Consume copious amounts of undercooked red meat (please note that consumption of
raw or undercooked meat may lead to bacterial infections such as salmonella, e-coli or trichinosis and could cause a stunningly realistic recreation of the campfire farting scene in Blazing Saddles).

Step 5: S
tay well-hydrated.

Step 6: Wake up the following morning barely able to walk due to excessive soreness in feet, hastily pack up belongings, fly back to East Coast, pass out for 10 hours, wake up realizing you have a doctor's appointment in less than 24 hours for the broken hand you just spent a whole weekend ignoring, wonder why the hell you insist on giving your body such a severe physical punishment, and more importantly wonder just how long you'll have to wait before you can get back to the beach and do it all over again.

October 23, 2007

Mustard Signed; Professor Plum Still Without a Contract

If you're a Falcons fan who has four really bad fantasy football teams (combined record of all teams, Falcons included: 8-27), there hasn't been much to cheer for this fall. In fact, if the devil himself (represented by diabolical guitarist Steve Vai in the movie Crossroads) approached you with a deal through which you could erase all of your fantasy teams (and the Falcons), but doing so would cost you the past two months of your life, you would at least have to ponder it (yes, having bad fantasy teams really does suck that badly).

However, in the midst of these staggeringly moribund autumn Sundays which seem to string together in an endless cycle -- hope, loss, frustration, repeat -- one small glorious thing did take place:

The Broncos signed a dude named Chad Mustard.

When your world looks most bleak, it can be strangely comforting to take solace in the little things.

Sorry Mr. Vai -- no deal.

October 17, 2007

Fantasy Gone Wrong

I've done a lot of regrettable things in my day.

When I was in first grade, I accidentally peed my pants while my teacher was correcting my math assignment.

In junior high, there was the day I decided it would be a good idea to jump off a moving school bus (this ended in a vicious fall and extended mockery from the bus driver and an older student, who leaned out the window and yelled out "dumbass" as the bus drove away).

More recently, I broke a bone in my hand attempting to hurdle a pile of garbage in the East Village.

And this is only a light smattering of the things I can share (this is, after all, a family site).

But as poor as all those choices and mishaps were, they really have no footing whatsoever against the most current source of regret in The OCC's universe: my choice to enter four fantasy football leagues this year.

In many ways, I knew that this was a bad decision from the start -- too many players to manage and too many conflicts of interest. Add in the fact that I would be conducting three of my four drafts via telephone in Japan without doing nearly enough research, and we already had the makings of a disappointing season.

But it's been far worse than I ever could have imagined.

Entering Week 7, my four teams are a combined 6-18. The one I care most about is 0-6, and the one I expected the least of, at 3-3, has the best record of the shit-stained bunch.

Each week I renew my hope for a full slate of wins, and each week I end up lying face down in a pool of my own blood, drool and vomit (I mean this figuratively, at least thus far).

Like many sports fans, I sometimes wish that I had the sports almanac from Back to the Future II so that I could successfully predict (and make untold fortunes gambling on) the outcomes of sporting events. These days, I wish I had that sports almanac because maybe -- just maybe -- it would have told me not to play fantasy football this year because all my teams would be shit.

At the very least, it would have been able to warn me of the perils of drafting Marc Bulger.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run -- the waiver claims for one of my leagues (the one with a 1-5 record) are due at midnight.

Sometimes caring hurts.

October 15, 2007

Pumping Iron

We live on strange planet in a strange universe. Which is to say that unusual and impossible to explain occurrences happen more often than we think.

Dogs save lives, humans develop extra-sensory perception and small college basketball programs occasionally make a run to the Elite Eight.

Yet somehow, the visual of a monkey lifting weights is still downright incredible.

Many thanks to friend of the blog Andy, who photographed this Herculean beast showing off his otherwordly strength. And many thanks to the divine creator of otherworldy feats of strength from the animal world -- in this case, tourism, which forced some schlub in Thailand to parade this monkey around with a barbell over his head in the hopes of earning a quick buck.

In related news, we have just received word from a reliable source that the monkey tested positive for 17 different anabolic steroids just minutes after this picture was taken. He's now facing a lifetime ban from wandering around tourism areas with weights held aloft over his head.

It is a sad day indeed.

October 08, 2007

Listen Closely

You know that game called Telephone, the one where you start out with a word like “salmon” and by the time it gets passed around a circle through a series of whispers it’s been changed to “”salmonella” or “sliced bacon” or “Houshmanzadeh”?

In many ways it’s a very stupid game.

But occasionally the principles of this game do have some bearing on everyday life.

For instance, imagine that you’re in Brooklyn one Friday night in October of 2007, in an area that we’ll call “Park Slope.”

From there, you’re supposed to go meet some friends in another part of Brooklyn. You get on the phone with one of those friends, and he tells you that you’re supposed to go to the corner of Flushing and Classon.

Not having a pen, you make a note of this in your mind, which is usually quite reliable for these sorts of things.

But a second later, your one friend passes off the phone and your other friend gets on the line, and when you confirm the location with him, he says that you’re supposed to meet at Flatbush and Classon.

In the midst of a crowded bar and a surrounding group of friends and this one guy you know insisting that you should trade him Jon Kitna, you think nothing of the switch.

Flushing, Flatbush. Flatbush, Flushing.


You commandeer a taxi outside and tell him your destination. Flatbush and Classon, please. He doesn’t flinch – until about seven minutes later when he tells you he doesn’t know exactly where Flatbush runs into Classon.

Obviously you have no clue, but not wanting to be too obvious about that, you play it cool. The cabbie then asks another driver in a car stopped next to you where Flatbush and Classon is, and the other guy confidently says that Flatbush and Clarkson is not too far away – just keep going straight and you’ll hit it.

Classon, Clarkson. Clarkson, Classon.


Going along with the principles of the game of Telephone, when you hear these slightly different words, you just assume that they are the words that were originally intended. Of course it’s supposed to be Clarkson and not Classon – Classon is a strange street name that you’ve never heard of anyways.

A few minutes pass, your cab arrives at the corner of Flatbush and Clarkson, and you hop out.

A few seconds later, you realize that this was a bad idea.

The time is now past 2 a.m., the streets are somewhat dark and largely empty, and it suddenly becomes blatantly clear that you're nowhere close to your destination. If there's an internal map somewhere in your brain, you have very clearly fallen off it.

You call your friend and he laughs as he hears that you’re at the wrong corner of F-word and C-word. It's easy to laugh when you're not the one who lost at Telephone.

You hang up with him quickly, as you realize that time is of the essence in departing from this somewhat eerie locale.

Fortunately, a yellow cab comes through, and the light on top indicates that it's vacant.

Unfortunately, the driver doesn’t even consider stopping as he sees you waving your arms. In fact, he doesn’t even see you waving your arms because he appears to be so intent on getting out of this area as fast as possible.

You briefly lament that you forgot to charge your teleporter before leaving your apartment. But before you go too far into dreaming of teleporters, another yellow cab comes through. The driver appears to be looking five miles down the road with no peripheral vision as he darts through.

You can swear you hear a woman's voice whispering through the unseasonably balmy autumn air:

Dear God, make me a bird, so I could fly far, far far away from here.

Meanwhile, a semi-illiterate Tom Hanks is attempting to locate Flatbush and Clarkson on a map.

Before you can fully bottom out, salvation appears in the form of a livery cab that slows down next to you with a quick honk of the horn, clearly acknowledging your predicament.

You hop inside, ask the man if he can take you to Flatbush and Classon. He says yes. You ask him how much that will cost (as if any price in the world will keep you from getting into this cab).

He ponders for a moment and says “15 dollars.”

You hop in, slam the door shut, and as the cab heads off towards the F and C streets you were originally looking for, you wonder for a brief second if he might have actually said “50.”

October 03, 2007

Look Away, I'm Hideous

In case you were wondering, this thing makes it hard to type.

For those not in the know, The OCC has hit the 15-day DL with a non-displaced fracture of the right pinkie. (And if you're wondering how the injury happened, see the treatise on urban hurdling, below).

There's something terribly undignified about telling people you've broken a pinkie -- two different rec league basketball teammates called me variations of "nancy boy" when I told them I was on the shelf. There's also something terribly undignified about having to use the left-side "Shift" key on your keyboard and constantly hitting "Ctrl" instead, thereby initiating all sorts of keyboard commands you never knew existed.

This all makes you want to take a swing at your computer monitor, which is all good and well -- just make sure you do it left-handed.

If there's any consolation to this, it's that I sustained a similar injury to the one Carlos Delgado suffered in the Mets' season finale. And odds are he's feeling worse than I am. I know this fact because 'Los and I have the same hand doctor (and oddly enough we both visited the same office for hand injuries in late 2006 and then cracked the identical bone within 48 hours this past weekend). We also both bat left-handed, throw right-handed, speak surprisingly eloquently and never forget what a certain pitcher threw at us during any given at-bat.

But if you're starting to think that Carlos Delgado and The OCC are actually the same person, I will have to ruin your fun right there. Delgado is from Puerto Rico. And The OCC is from... Myanmar.

In any case, we're gonna do everything we can to keep this here blog pumping during the next three weeks while typing proves to be a massively painful chore. Just please know that for every 15 or so words written, there was at least one enraged left hook thrown right into the grill of the exasperated monitor.

In the meantime, someone reserve a couple bowling lanes for October 24th. That's when our three weeks are up. And that's the day I'm planning to take off this splint and promptly roll a 190.

And if I don't, you can rest assured that something's going to get broken.

October 01, 2007

On Big Buck Hunter and the Perils of Urban Hurdling

There was a time, not so long ago, that I saw the proliferation of Big Buck Hunter machines in our nation’s ale houses as a surefire sign of the decline of our society.

This sentiment sprung forth primarily from the fact that Big Buck was widely replacing my beloved Golden Tee, which seemed to me the perfect bar game: See who can slam his hand harder into the plastic screen in order to tack a few extra yards onto his drive.

But now, as Golden Tee has passed partially into extinction and I’ve had some recent opportunities to blast away at deer, moose and big-horned sheep with a plastic orange shotgun, I realize that my distaste for buck hunting was largely shortsighted.

Big Buck Hunter, I have learned, is an outstanding video game, in part because a large majority of the population is just not very good at it. But since they’ve mostly only played against their friend who’s also terrible, they think that they’re quite skilled, so when they play against someone who’s actually pretty decent (you), it’s not remotely difficult to dismantle and humiliate them. And naturally you’ve bet a round of drinks on the match, so you end up drinking for free while filling your pick-up truck with a virtual pile of steaming deer carcasses.

Of course, after several such spirited rounds of Buck Hunter (and the three or four whynattes that you downed earlier on that night), you may become so overcome with a sense of glee that you take to the streets and begin to take part in the practice known as urban hurdling. Urban hurdling, if the name isn’t adequately self-explanatory, is the art of jumping over various street-based obstacles.

Such obstacles include (but are not limited to): garbage cans, garbage bags, fences, piles of boxes, mattresses and shopping carts being pushed by homeless men (if you successfully leap one of these, chances are decent that the homeless man pushing the cart and nearby onlookers will give you a hearty smattering of applause).

As you can probably guess, there is a caveat.

Don’t get cocky. Even if you have successfully cleared a homeless man’s shopping cart (something you never quite imagined would be possible until you did it), don’t suddenly assume you’re a track star, even if your friends have started calling you “Carl Lewis” (they say this not really thinking about the fact that Carl Lewis wasn’t a hurdler, instead just focusing on the fact that he’s the most prominent track and field athlete they can think of).

So when you see that sizable pile of garbage bags (about two bags high and 3 or 4 bags across) on the middle of 14th Street and decide that you’re going to jump over it, don’t assume that you can easily clear it with only 80% effort. And definitely don’t skimp on the height and trajectory of your takeoff, because otherwise you’re liable to catch your right foot on one of the bags, go sailing headlong and narrowly save your face from being mashed up by the concrete when you stick out your right hand at the last second.

And when that happens, your hand ends up looking something like this:

Not the best of times.

But like any true champion, lying there on the ground, wailing in pain and feeling sorry for yourself never crosses your mind. Thanks to the caffeine and booze coursing through your veins, you have no trouble whatsoever springing back to your feet, beholding your mangled extremity and realizing that it’s all part of the danger of late-night urban hurdling.

And though you later tell yourself that you’ll never be so stupid again and are hereby retiring from the sport (It’s just not worth the risk, you say), when an opportunity to leap over the siding surrounding an outdoor restaurant patio presents itself the following evening, there’s only one option as to how to react:

You ignore the fact that your hand is completely destroyed, put aside your lingering fear, wind up for a running start and clear the hurdle with room to spare.

The crowd – consisting of several of your friends and two restaurant employees standing on the otherwise vacant patio – goes wild.

You’re back.

High fives and chest bumps are exchanged. Euphoria is once again in the air.

And right then, you wonder how you’ll possibly be able to resist jumping over the next obstacle that dares stand in your way.