Tuesday, February 28, 2006

See? See? I told you so!

Damn, I totally nailed this.

In the history of called shots, it's now:

  • Babe Ruth at Wrigley Field
  • Joe Namath in Super Bowl III
  • Me, in the previous post ("If anyone sw John Goodman dressed as Lindra Tripp on SNL, I think I could have swapped the photos and no one would have known. ")
  • Nostradamus on 9/11
  • Saddam Hussein in 1999, "That crazy little Jr. Bush mother is going to do something stupid and come after me... you watch, Uday! You watch!"

(Photo from dcist.com)

Just some friendly advice

Here is the 71-year-old New Jersey substitute teacher who got a sex change operation and is returning to teach this week.

My advice?

Get your money back, motherfucker!

Someone sold you a bad wig and you look like a frat boy dressed as his grandmother for Halloween.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Two, four, six, eight! Sometimes it's good to stop the hate.

As much as I am having a hard time adjusting to my new surroundings and douchebag neighbors, there are a few things up here that have either made me feel at home or just better for a while. I'll add as necessary, but here's a few to get things crackalating.

In no particular order:

The surprising sushi scene
No typo there, there's some pretty good sushi to be found up here. Granted, I'm not used to largemouth rolls or spicy walleye, but it's a start. Two stand out especially for me, as they are the only two I've been to.

Fuji-Ya is the big dog of the Twin Cities. I went there with folks who'd lived in Japan for a few years and knew more than our server about the entire menu and that's their sushi bar of choice. Great sushi, great quality fish, some of the best I've had ever.

When we walked out, I leaned to The Girl and told her that in the words of the immortal Bigfoot, that "Fuji-Ya like rainbow in hell." Endorsements don't get much better than that.

Second in the lineup is Ichiban which features all-you-can-eat for one hour and an early bird special which makes the sushi there really fucking affordable. Now, making the whole thing that much cooler is the setup for the cultural mainlining at the restaurant.

Think on this problem for a second. You need to push roughly 150 burly Norse motherfuckers through the door, shoving as much fish into them in a one hour period as you can. How do you keep Hagar the Horrible and his buddies from rioting?

You feed them on tiny boats. The sushi is prepared in the center of an island with a water track circling them and seating around that. Imagine sitting in front of a tiny moat with an endless chain of boats circling as Japanese chefs holler about what's hitting the fleet next. Bonus points for sitting upstream and grabbing good stuff before you fellow diners can get at them. I almost caused a fistfight with my buddy Flynn by snatching the eel rolls as they rounded the bend.

I'd suggest switching up the seating order in 15-minute shifts to avoid this problem.

The moon

The moon here is really bright. You could read by the thing some nights. It's about the only thing right now that's markedly different than Chicago that isn't weirding me out or outright pissing me off.

It has to be less smog, but really, really bright.

No lie.

(Photo by Origami Restaurant)

An amicable seperation

I tend to be pretty wordy. That's just a fact.

This gets out of hand at dinner parties and when the subject turns to baseball. Not so much baseball e-mails, but baseball on the blog. Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket, does it get out of control there.

As I've been fighting with whether or not to post team-by-team previews with stats and rosters and all sorts of good stuff, I think I've found a happy medium.

The other blog - Siberian Baseball - will catch all of the baseball posts from Siberia, Minn. as well as the baseball-related garbage that interests me and lets me nerd out with VORP and WHIP and other Bill James-related nonsense.

Whereas a good friend of mine strives for logical, fact-based analysis, I don't care about that as much. I believe in team chemistry and obscure players who keep clubhouses loose. I would like to write about all of that and more, without feeling guilty for clogging up the other blog with 32 team capsules that most people I know could care less about.

So, for the nerds, statheads and other deviants, the new page is for us. And everyone else can be left alone, safe in the knowledge that long essays about knuckleball catchers will be kept to a minimum and on the other page.

At least until October.

Get the door, it's Jesus

You know that saying, "I'm just as *blank* as the next guy? It's usually used to warn the listener in that particular conversation that a big lie is barreling in on them.

"I'm just as hard-working as the next guy," means that someone is about to tell a whopper about how much they do in the office, even if they just hang around the water cooler all day and stare a lot to make people uncomfortable. "I'm just as good with a set of wrenches as the next guy," means that the tow truck driver you're currently on the phone with should bring a shovel because you dropped an axle two miles back on the freeway.

Well, I'm just as religious as the next guy, but do we really need a Catholic-based community in Florida founded by a pizza baron? Is this the South's way of paying us back for whupping their butts in the Civil War?

In short, the guy who founded Dominos Pizza was raised by nuns and wants to give back to God. He's going to do this by founding Catholictown, USA in Florida. According to the article, that means no contraception or dirty movies on cable. Bummer.

"Yet civil rights activists and other watchdogs concerned about the separation of church and state are threatening lawsuits if Ave Maria attempts to enforce Catholic dogma. Environmentalists have also complained the town will restrict the habitat of the Florida panther, an endangered species."

Well, maybe this problem will just take care of itself in due time. I personally, would enjoy the unintentional comedy of a town full of intelligent design proponents ending up as panther food in an unmistakeable show of survival of the fittest.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that an orphan, who was raised by the church went on to great success (reminds me of Arnold in Twins) but, couldn't he have done just as much good by pouring that money into Catholic school funding or charities? While the Church is still reeeling from sex scandals and each diocese is forced to make cuts to help pay legal bills worldwide, is this really the best idea Tom Monaghan has ever had?

On the other hand, he seems to have a track record of passibly successful ventures here. Dominos and the Detroit Tigers. Neither one is really the industry standard in their respective fields. If he owned Pizza Hut and the Yankees, then maybe, but what is the cut-rate, sub-.500, stoner-friendly equivalent here?

I can't even think of the pinnacle of Catholic living to compare it to, but a college town with no condoms... let that sink in... next to panther land, built on a swamp and endorsed by Jeb Bush seems like a great start.

(Photo of Elvis, Jesus and Gen. Robert E. Lee from voccoquan.com)

Friday, February 24, 2006

G-Rod is the hip governor, right?

Chicagoist hit this first.

Then Frank the Tank got in on it.

I was baited into weighing in, but it seemed overdone, so I let it sit all afternoon. Now, watching CNN, Wolf Blitzer is joining the mock-a-thon. OK, fine, game on.

It seems Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (just spelled that without looking it up and I did it correctly, btw) is a total moron and his staff wants to see him fail on a national stage. That's about the only explaination here. He went on The Daily Show last week to talk about condoms (oh dear) and didn't know what the show is about. In short, G-Rod thought it was a legit news show and doesn't have the good sense to now lie about his ignorance. Why he chose to come clean is a major mystery to me. I thought Pat Quinn would chime in to tell G-Rod to keep him damn fool mouth shut. Pat is a really, really bright guy and exceptional at using the media as a tool.

Apparently, the 'hip' governor who rode an image of youth and Elvis albums to Springfield not only doesn't get basic cable at the governor's mansion, but no one on his staff felt the need to clue the poor bastard in.

Now, I can see this falling through the cracks because, really, who would feel the need to explain the basis of the show? If your boss were going to appear on Monday Night Football would you give them a head's up that the show was about football? No, because you'd feel bad about making your boss feel like a jerk for being told such basic things. Still, someone should have sucked it up and made extra sure G-Rod was in on the joke.

For anyone who missed the show, it was the best example of how the Daily Show really doesn't doctor footage as much as one would think. I always assumed things were taken from context and reshot with the interviewer asking the really smartass questions.

Whoever is the press secretary for G-Rod should be fired for not stepping in when he turned and asked, "Is he serious? Is this legit?" That's when you take five and ask as many questions of the governor as possible until he gets it.

As a little addition here, as I was watching this unfold, I was somewhat sympathetic to G-Rod, thinking he's busy, he might not watch much TV, etc. and then I saw a teaser for John Stewart's upcoming interview on CNN. And that he's hosting the Oscars. And had a best-selling book about America last Christmas. How can one person be that out of touch and can I get a job as normal person liason for these people?

I can tell George Bush, Sr. how much a gallon of milk costs and fill in G-Rod about why he's being asked if he's the gay governor. I can do these things and more, for a mere $75,000 per year. And that's a bargain to keep your boss from looking like a jackass on one of the most watched news shows on television.

(Photo from www.illinois.gov - which has the daily Lotto numbers, btw...)


Which part of this story is least shocking?

1.) It occurred in Little Rock, Ark.?

2.) That he resisted arrest?

3.) That he's using three names like all good Southern gentlemen?

[Insert Scottish guy / drunk frat pledge joke here] and [His sister must have been busy watching NASCAR or something joke here].

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sweet Home, Chicago

I can't do any better than Chicagoist did in this matter, so here is the link.

First the Stanford mascot gets the boot and now this? Seems a little harsh on the payback for killing Sonny Bono.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The problem with these stupid Olympics

This ain't the Summer Olympics. Those are easy.

Hey, that dude crossed the finish line before those other dudes! Hey, that dude jumped two feet higher than the other dudes! I have no idea what that dude just threw, but he threw it a helluva lot further than the skinny guy from Luxemburg!

The winter games? Not so much.

With figure skating on tonight, I was told, "Ooh, she did really well! Wow!" and all I could think was, "As compared to what?" Honestly, aside from re-enacting Chris Farley's performance on SNL, can any normal person (read those who were not shuttled to the ice rink at 4:30 a.m. every morning for practice) tell the difference?

I mean, that Chinese lady got launched into the end boards the other night and her duo still won a silver. What's up with that? Isn't a near concussing-fall a deal breaker in the Olympics?

Well, it should be.

I lump figure skating in with the American Kennel Club in terms of television spectacles. While there is a very slim percentage of the population (and slimmer still that isn't related to one of the participants) that has a clue of what's going on, there is a vast majority that breathes through its mouth and hopes to see a wardrobe malfunction. I have no idea why one pair of skaters is better any more than I can correctly gauge the rear end line of a Schnauzer.

However, there are analagous winter sports, and not surprisingly, people tend to gravitate to them. Aside from the obvious biggies like hockey, the other heavy hitters are races like downhill skiing and speed skating. Races are easy. None of the nebulous nonsense like curling.

Seriously, go here to The Explainers and tell me if you can explain curling scoring in the time it takes me to replace the alternator on my truck... with silverware instead of my wrench set.

Even with three bright people and an Internet connection Sunday, we couldn't figure things out, except that the bullseye is the "house" and that you can't stop the rock. That was about it. Making matters worse were the commentators who didn't feel the need to explain any of the rules, use insider jargon and sit in awe of strategies and techniques without cluing any of us in at home. Maybe it was an alternate feed for Minnesota where this stuff is second nature, but I do know that in my house we were completely clueless.

If they have that little cocksucker, Scooter, to share screentime with that big cocksucker, Tim McCarver when October baseball rolls around, they damn well better have a little curling rock puppet to explain what the hell is going on in a sport we see every four years, completely forget about and try to comprehend again in another four years. People actually understand how baseball is played, but we get stuck with remedial rules classes and five-second science lessons on how a curveball curves? I'm beginning to think curling changed its rules just to see if anyone notices the difference between Salt Lake and Torino.

In any event, here's to Rocky, the curling rock, explaining what the fuck is up with those knuckleheads running on a sheet of ice with brooms.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Barry Bonds Needs a Hug

The story out of San Francisco today is about Barry Bonds talking out of both sides of his dumbass mouth.

Read between the lines with his teammates' comments. Now get ready for the phrase 'Barry being Barry' (which something similar was used in thetitle of a Sports Illustrated feature years ago) only without the intrinsic entertainment value of Manny's insanity.

First, he tells that paragon of American journalism, USA Today, that he's tired of playing, that he's doped up on painkillers and that the joy is gone from playing the game. To this I say, then quit, you little bitch, sounds like someone is setting up an alibi for the impending failed drug test this summer and then quit, you little bitch.

Then, he says in an MLB.com interview on the same day that he wants to play in 2007, his body and family willing. To which I say, then quit, you little bitch. I don't trust this juicer for a half second and think it was all too convenient for him to take a season off last year in the middle of Congressional hearings and Giambi taking hits daily in the Balco case leaks.

Then, he props his kid up on a bench and bitches about how all the writers tried to force him out and they should be happy now. Well, I hope he has a computer and I hope he stumbles across this as he narcissitically Googles his own name, reads this and gets his feelings hurt. Then I hope he quits tomorrow and we never have to hear from his cheating ass again.

I wish things could have been better in the Bonds saga - he was practically born into baseball royalty with Willie Mays as a godfather and a pro player dad. Had he not been a contender for the all-time HR record, I would have hoped he'd at least have a degree of respect for those who came before him. He doesn't seem to give a damn about anyone but Barry and that's pretty disgusting in the long run.

Baseball hsitory is rich with men who just 'got it' and as a result of its deep roots, a case can be made that baseball greew out of a time when players made a normal day's wage to play the game. Humilty, country boys and new additions to America who found better opportunities in the game were all building blocks through the 1950s. Long roads through the farm system (as in hockey) seems to breed a bit more respect in players.

Something tells me Barry never had to worry about much of that.

In any case, Bonds never 'got it' and I doubt he ever will. It's got to be tough to be a supremely talented ballplayer and Mays' godson. I just wish there was some charity I could give to to ease my own pain about it.

(Jeff Chiu/AP/MLB.com)

Ricky Williams v. Whizzinator, Inc.

Ricky Williams, you stupid shit.

OK, first you wash out of the NFL, citing your love of weed as a major factor in the decision to call it quits. Then, when drug dealers got over giving a pro athlete free weed - even Leon Lett's burgeoning weed empire couldn't see the benefit in free advertising like that - Williams went back to work to earn more money for weed.

I knew a guy, who after high school worked at the pizza place in town, went to the peeler bar and bought weed. Every night he took the tip money and gave half to the dope man and half to Tommi Gunnz - even stoners can grasp basic economics and Ricky just took a little longer than most.

Now ESPN.com is reporting that Williams has (gasp!) failed a drug test. I'd demand a pee-count recount on this one. Ricky? Really? No way. How dumb do you have to be to get busted for this if you're Ricky?

This is what he does... this is what he is known for. Not the college rushing record, not the Ditka trade to bring him to New Orleans, he's known as the washout pothead who went to the Happy Ending School of Massage.

Two equally dumb assumptions: 1.) Ricky Williams saying, "Pass the bong, I'm sure they're not looking at me for drug testing after all the press last year." 2.) Paris Hilton saying, "Quit looking for that missing sex tape that may have fallen out of the car when we parked. I'm sure the market has dried up on that kind of stuff by now."

In both cases, they'd be wrong.

Put simply, when my sister was 16 or 17, my mom left town for a week to go to a conference for work. Now, my sister had never been left alone for that long before, maybe a night or two, but never a whole week. My mom leaves on a Thursday and calls in Friday night, late, to make sure my sister was home by 2 a.m. Surprise, surprise, there was no answer at the house.

Like Ricky, she should have known that scrutiny was coming. Enjoy your impending career hawking Internet urine sales, Ricky. You are truly a gentleman and a scholar.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Whoa... how meta...

So much linking, cross-linking and internal referencing that your head'll spin.

I'd kicked in about Lindsay Jacobellis the other day and all but called her a pothead. OK, it was a cheap joke at the expense of extreme athletes, which is hack, but entertains me. Her hot dogging that cost her a gold medal was lumped into my conciousness with Bode Miller who is just becoming a bigger pain in the ass by the day.

The Tank hopped in on that to talk about her marketability as the whole thing has just gained steam in terms of coverage. And that's where we are now.

A few quick thoughts:

1.) She had no problem getting endorsements before (Imagine your Visa check card has been stolen...) and anything short of an out and out collapse meant cash in pocket. She's still 'Olympic medal winner Lindsay Jacobellis,' in ad copy, and by not having 'gold' there it isn't going to cost her much.

2.) Dan Jansen is the other big adverstising figure this year and his entire commercial is about him falling on his ass, so go figure. America loves a big, dumb loser. While it's easier to remember big flameouts, you have to make a real show of it to get recognition for succeeding. Why is that? (For the record, you can still pick Dan and Dave from the Reebok commercials from a lineup, but I dare you to name two others who have even competed in the decathalon).

3.) I think the rash of Amero-centric sports - snowboarding, etc. - are pretty crappy. If you can't beat 'em, have the IOC add sports that only we compete in. I can't wait for Olympic Football, skateboarding and bull riding in the next 20 years.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Is it still a "boy band" when you're 40?

Poor Nick Lachey.

It's not bad enough that Jessica Simpson is shacking up with the lead singer from Maroon 5 - nice job on the Kanye track, by the way, but in the words of Jay-Z, even a garbage can gets a steak - now he has to ask for a handout and for his shit back?

Ouch, bad week.

I have to admit, after seeing the two of them on their show, at least Lachey came across as a sympathetic guy who married beyond his means and was paying some weird Greek tragedy-type price. I admit that I was a little skeeved out to learn he was a decade older than her and started to chase her when she was like 15, but what can you say? The man has a keen eye for talent.

I just feel bad for whoever had to take the job of sitting Lachey, a grown-ass man, down and telling him, "Listen, buddy... you're going to need to get some kind of cash back from Jess. I know it sucks, but if you want to keep going to USC games and hollering at plasma screens instead of tri-color sets with tin foil on the antennae, you need this. No, 98 Degrees isn't primed for a comeback, it's over and you need to take anything you can get your hands on as you leave the premises..." Oh, and get to steppin' we don't want to keep Reese waiting on his new digs, bitches.

Sonny and Cher, meet Nick and Jessica. Nick, keep your head up, dude. (And pass on any future ski trips).

(Photo from People.com/Ramey)

If a snowboarder falls in the woods...

Oh, hell.

On the final leg of what was supposed to be a gold medal run, Lindsey Jacobellis did the only thing she wasn't supposed to do to retain her medal.

She fell.

And, unlike the Chinese couple that got up and fought their way to a silver medal in figure skating, Jacobellis fell to her silver, literally and figuratively.

The thing that is strange to me is how well the "extreme" portion of out Olympic team takes losses. While I'd love to chalk this up to youth or perspective, I think it has more to do with the fact that the IOC can't test everyone for weed all the time.

(AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Assalamu Break-um

Wow, another three dead and there's no sign of things quieting down, huh? People didn't get that upset in this country when the Bush/Gore recount was going down. We're either a peaceful, accepting society or really lazy as a whole...

Yesterday, I had a little back and forth with my best friend from high school, Frank the Tank, over the flap in general, the First Amendment and whether or not crappy cartoons should reprinted in American papers.

I have logged over a half decade in newsrooms throughout the Midwest and see things a bit differently. Frank is a lawyer and much less impulsive than me, so it was odd and kinda cool to see him get all worked up over the issue (see his past posts on the subject here and here). To me, choosing to keep quiet on something is just as much an exercise in First Amendment rights as calling George Bush a punk-ass bitch on national TV. But, as I tend to just run my yap and hope I hit something intelligent, we eventually got down to the issue at hand - defining what the problem was.

Well, here's the play-by-play, and I'm sure both of us would like do-over's on some of the stuff, but it's close enough for government work.


Frank the Tank: I don’t know if you’ve seen my posts over the last couple of days, but the flap over the Daily Illini publishing those Danish cartoons is really pissing me off. As a former journalist, I’m interested to know what you think.

Minneapolis Red Sox: I think they suck, so they weren’t worth the space in the first place. I also think that if people are that interested they can look them up online. Screw sensitivity, I want to keep bricks out of my window at the office.
Actually, the online idea has merit. You link to it (which is a smart marketing move anyways) and that way you can lock them down a bit – i.e. don’t click if you really don’t want to see them. Might keep the bricks away, too. Let me ask you this: Aside from the shock value at this point, what does publishing the cartoons get you? The people who want to see them saw them on day 2 or 3 of the Danish fiasco. By printing now, really what do you gain other than a little sensationalist sizzle?

Frank the Tank: Isn’t that what the danger is, though? Yes, the cartoons did suck. However, the press didn’t publish the cartoons because they thought they sucked - papers publish pictures and stories that are offensive to particular religions, races, and other groups all of the time. Instead, they didn’t publish the cartoons because they were afraid of the backlash, which is a lot more troublesome. If the members of the press want to pass themselves off as the enlightened beacon of freedom, then they can’t cower and not publish cartoons because they’re scared of a negative reaction. Honestly, I’m unbelievably disappointed in how the American media has handled this.

Plus, I don’t think it’s shock value. It’s one of the most important stories so far this year and the cartoons are the entire basis of that story. If I hear are that a bunch of people are getting killed over some cartoons, I’d think that the only way I could ever come close to understanding why that’s happening is to see the cartoons myself.
What bothers me is that the press loves to use the “freedom of speech” card and stating that is has an obligation to the public to report the truth, whether good or bad, yet they decided not to run the cartoons because they were afraid of a backlash in this particular instance. Would these papers have published these pictures if they had replaced the image of Muhammad with Jesus, a rabbi, or the Dalai Lama? I’m almost positive that the answer would be yes. That means that the press wasn’t worried about being perceived as intolerant toward the Muslim faith, but rather how they thought people of the Muslim faith would react. Isn’t that an even worse stereotype in assuming one religious group is going to act differently than other religious groups?

Minneapolis Red Sox: Then be angry that they didn’t weigh in when the whole thing started in Denmark - just saying that a week after the fact it doesn’t pay to print them. And while they print things that are offensive they are at least topical. A week after the fact, it makes no sense to publish the cartoons. And once the big papers passed, none of the second or third tiers would touch it because then they’d catch hell for being sensationalists.

Frank the Tank: The riots are still going on and 3 more people got killed in them yesterday- I think it’s still topical. Just because the papers didn’t fulfill their obligations from the beginning doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t correct that mistake. Of course, they’re not going to do it after publishing a bunch of gobbley-gook editorials about how sensitive they want to be toward people’s religious beliefs and seeing that a couple of college paper editors got raked over the coals for actually standing up for journalistic integrity.
Look, the New York Times defied a Supreme Court order a few months ago regarding Valerie Plame documents which put one of its own reporters in jail. Yet, that paper won’t print some cartoons that one of its peers from Denmark published where the fallout is going to cause a huge chilling effect on the press internationally? Is any paper going to be willing to stand up the leaders of a religious faith after this, even when it is necessary? Would you want the Tribune to stop reporting on abuses in the Catholic Church and criticizing Cardinal George because they’re scared of how the city’s large Catholic population is reacting? That’s unacceptable to me.

Minneapolis Red Sox: You’re confusing religion with the offensive content portion here. You must be forgetting how many TV stations will air alternate content (especially in the Midwest) when controversial episodes are shown on television – i.e. reruns of 7th Heaven when there’s a big lesbian kiss on in prime time - and people get all up in arms and say that Jesus is crying and then everyone gets over it. To this day, you cannot say God damn it on television. In a day and age where ‘douchebag’ is used on national television and God, damn and it are all passible as long as they aren’t used in succession, you’re concerned about newspapers that choose not to show crappy, week-old cartoons that were designed to elicit the same response they received.
You putting too much behind why papers should show these cartoons and not enough to the fact that no one is stopping them. That’s part of the First Amendment, too. Free speech also carries the option (and sometimes responsibility) of no speech and while you get worked into a lather about why these papers aren’t adding fuel to the fire, you’re missing the fact that the White House can’t tell the Washington Post to print them to drum up some Arab furor to help them out in the polls on Iraq.
You are also forgetting that every day hundreds, literally hundreds of photos are left in darkrooms. Burnt corpses, mangled bodies from car and other types of accidents, and good ole heat and cold are left out of the papers because it’d be in poor taste and serves no real purpose. If people really want to see a dead body/these cartoons they will have no trouble finding pictures of a dead body/copies of these cartoons. Every afternoon, editors make suggestions, amendments and out and out cuts from stories and from editorials in the interest of the paper as a whole while trying to maintain a balance and work out the most truthful issue they can.
You want to know why there are no cartoons? Because it’s not in any US paper’s best interest right now. Once the big ones took the duck, everyone else was in the clear. Now anyone who does is being painted as a sensationalist - I hate what they did to the Daily Illini editors, but I’d all but guarantee you they weren’t acting on behalf of the First Amendment, they were looking to cause a stir. The suspensions that followed are probably more because they broke rank to do so.
It’s not like they were sitting on the Pentagon Papers here, dude - they were re-printing week old comics that are readily available on-line. It’s not a First Amendment fight at the DI anymore, it’s a spanking for running against policy.

Frank the Tank: Absolutely, it’s not a First Amendment issue - that only deals with government restrictions on speech, which isn’t the issue here. Each media organization has the right to print or not print what they want. Sure, the networks get scared when dealing with the loud complainers in society (look at all of the crap that happened after the Janet Jackson fiasco). I know full well that media companies are businesses.
But there’s also a difference between the entertainment division of a company and the news division. I simply believe that the cartoons were an integral part of the story (if not the most important part of the story) and the major papers in this country gave reasons for not printing them that seemed cowardly considering what they’ve been willing to print before. The fact that one can find any of these cartoons online doesn’t excuse this behavior and the fact that none of the large organizations chose to print them so the smaller guys didn’t print them is an even worse excuse - no wonder why people hate the media as much as lawyers and politicians.
Are papers in the business of printing pictures of dead bodies? No. Are papers in the business of offending large groups of people? Of course not. But I do believe that papers are in the business of presenting accurate and comprehensive coverage of the news, and while it might not be necessary to accompany a story that someone is dead with a picture of that person’s dead body, I don’t believe that any American or Westerner could possibly understand what’s going on in the Middle East without seeing those cartoons. Without seeing those cartoons, all the average person is going to think is that all of those people in the Middle East are crazy and willing to kill people over stupid crap like this. This is an instance where no amount of description with words is going to come close to accurately depicting why people were so outraged.
The press was scared to present the full story because they were afraid of the reaction of a particular religious group. I fully believe that they would not have done the same thing if it were any other religious group. That’s the ultimate sign of being intimidated from presenting the facts. The press just willingly succumbed to chilling effect that they have always stated that it wanted to avoid. Think of it now - this is going to be used by every Christian group from now until the end of time whenever there’s a negative depiction of that religion (”It was okay to protect Muslims, but not us?”). That’s an awful precedent.

Minneapolis Red Sox: From CNN today:
I think that because these are illustrated images and not photos, their publication isn’t as important. Let me take this on two-fold. (1) I think the major papers ducked this for political, keep their advertisers reasons, but by doing so backed into a situation I’m fine with and (2) It’s not protecting Muslims, it’s being afraid of them.
1) I can see printing photos of prisoner abuse, monks on fire in Vietnam and little Vietnamese girls who have been napalmed. I can also see why papers in Tulsa and other have pulled The Boondocks, Doonsbury, Outland, etc. at times with things they’d deemed offensive to their readers. In doing so, they keep advertising dollars and maintain the status quo. This is where the liberal media arguement usually sputters out. For as liberal as many reporters and editors are, the people making the decisions are largely conservative and make safer decisions. As much as someone might want to put any of those cartoons in there someone always has a better idea of why thye shouldn’t. That’s just life.
Now, I think illustration vs. photo is a distinction here. It’s hard to decribe a photo in any detail. For most Americans, we need to be told why it’s offensive anyways. Plus, there are varying degrees of outrage here, based on all sorts of things. I wouldn’t know by looking at one of those what was offensive, etc., so seeing the actualy cartoon doesn’t help much.
The story is not the cartoon, the story is what the cartoon represents. The story is not the cartoon, the story is what the cartoon represents. The story is not the cartoon, the story is what the cartoon represents.
I don’t feel offended, but I can understand just as much by being told Muhammad is portrayed like so, as I can from seeing Muhammad being portrayed like so. In the meantime if it doesn’t ignite a furor in Cincinatti, even better. Cost/benefit analysis.
2) America is scared by brown people. They don’t care if they are offended - only if they break shit because they are offended.

(Image from: Cracked.com)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I been traumatized... Now Daddy needs a lap dance!

The General Accounting Office dumped a huge pile of Katrina-related audit material and Al Tompkins over at Poynter found it.

That's why Al is my dog.

Anyways, here's the highlights and let me just say I'm not surprised and I can actually sympathize with some of the purchases. That, and with the biggest percentage going to 'cash' you know these folks weren't the only ones making iffy purchases - only the ones dumb enough to use their government-issued debit cards.

Here's what people deemed necessary following the big storm:

Elliot's Gun Shop; Jefferson, La.; .45 caliber pistol; $1,300

D Houston; Houston; Gentlemen's club; $1,200

Friedman's Jewelers; Plano, Texas; Diamond engagement ring; $1,100

Argosy Casino; Baton Rouge, La.; Seven ATM withdrawals within one day at a gambling institution; $1,000

Tim Fanguy Bail Bonds; Houma, La.; Partial bail bond payment; $1,000

Dept. of Public Safety; Baton Rouge, La.; Payment of prior traffic violations for driver's license
reinstatement; $700

Cat Tattoo; Addison, Texas; Tattoo on arm; $450

Swedish Institute; Irving, Texas; Massage parlor; $400

Tiger Beer and Wine; Dallas; Alcohol beverages; $200

Condoms To Go; Dallas; Adult erotica products; $150

Sports Bigamy Pt. III - The Empire Slaps Back


The year that brought to an end 86 years of wanting from Red Sox Nation, 20 and change for me and a little over one for The Girl. I'd be lying if I didn't give serious thought to pushing my future children towards more stable teams, like, oh, the Marlins.

Not only did the Red Sox win, they did so in the most emotional way possible, by quickly dropping the first three games to the Yankees (including Game 3 when I was at a wedding, had to shave in the middle of the playoffs and watched the whole mess spill out on a cell phone's wireless web) and then clawing their way back into the series.

If anyone ever claims to be a true Sox fan, ask them about this series (among other things). Anone who said they had a good feeling heading into any of the final four games is a stinking liar. In fact, I felt worse and worse as the series went along from total apathy in Game 4 (I only watched the last few innings after hearing the first couple on in the background on the radio) to total panic and terror in Game 7 (because there'd have been no better way for them to lose in typical Red Sox fashion than to drop Game 7... after running a big lead... I was a total wreck).

Two thing happened on the streets of Chicago after the Sox started to climb back, reaching a creshendo in time for the World Series against the Cardinals (Enos Slaughter and Bob Gibson's Cardninals - apprently Mookie's Mets had a prior committment).

The first thing I noticed was that Yankee caps all but disappeared (and damn, if I wasn't looking, too) and Red Sox caps with their new cap smell began to emerge. While plenty of Cub fans could relate to the Boston faithful, they hadn't been there through the whole mess. Most of them were too busy calling sports talk radio shows to curse out the goat and Bartman in 2003 to notice that the Red Sox were playing the next night and surely didn't give the loss a second thought.

I'd be lying to say that this didn't drive me bonkers. A year later, all the red-capped Cub fans jumped the Red Line to fill the Cell for Boston/White Sox on a great Saturday. The Sox had become some weird sort of surrogate for thousands of Cub fans and it made my case for dual-citizenship even weaker.

Last year, when the Cubs and Red Sox met in interleague play at Wrigley, I can't count the number of times that people asked what I was going to do, was I excited about the series, etc. In truth, I felt sick all weekend and it turned out OK - two games to one, Cubs, in Wrigley - and it seemed to be a fair shake. The sick thing is one more win there would have broken the tie with the Yankees in September, but who keeps track of these things, right?

For me, that series was the equivalent of having two dogs. One dog you get and love and take care of and then you decide you have the space and the money and you get a new puppy. Do youlove the old one any less? No. Does the new one get second-class status by being there a few years late to the party? No.

Now imagine that you come home and find the two of them locked in a battle to the death - that'd be a Cubs/Red Sox World Series. Imagine you come home and the new dog is missing an ear and the old dog has broken off a tooth - and that someone had told you two months ahead of time that the fight was coming on that day - and you get a pretty good idea of how that went down.

While there are exceptions to every rule, in the towns with AL and NL teams, I think it's not such a cardinal sin to partake in sports bigamy. In addition to amping up hatred for your rival local fans, it makes you a better baseball fan overall. Knowledge of the AL and NL is not a bad thing. Moreover, with knucklehead fans like 98 percent of the Wrigley faithful (Again, most, not all), Red Sox Nation is a great place for baseball. There, Spring Training carries no element of being a hard core fan, while knowing the starting pitcher's name before the National Anthem at Wrigley does.

I guess this was the long way around to the baseline that while the Cubs and White Sox, Met and Yankees, Giants and A's and some selcet intra-state teams all hate each other, it's too simple to just lump all the bandwagon Yankee fans into the same pile with true dual-citizens. I'll stick to my own guns, answering questions from any and all comers on this controversial topic and honestly not feel bad about any of it.

For me, I think there's a special place in hell for the middle of the road, shitsack Chicago fans who claim to be fans of the Cubs and Sox. "I'm a Chicago fan," they'll say and then violate a cat's anus while firing off a handgun at the elderly. Man, do I hate those fucking fans. I can honestly say that as long as you can keep up, back as many teams as you want, just not two in the same city.

Chuck Klosterman made a point on the BSG site about how his teams were more rotational - if he had favorite bands in high school, college and beyond, why not teams to suit you changing lifestyle. Can I see his point? Yes. Is it bullshit in practice? Yes.

It's all about stickin' you find your spot and stand with your respective brothers and sisters and get ready to defend the team to anyone who should think otherwise. And while I can stand with Red Sox Nation when there's an AL fight or with the Cubs fans who are sober enough to talk, it's pretty difficult to find your ground cheering for intra-city teams.

The can of worms is officially open.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sports Bigamy Pt. II

So, after years away from baseball, following pretty much all sports but baseball, I was assigned by my paper to cover summer baseball in terms of semi-pro and American Legion ball and really started to get back into it again.

This left me with a few problems in the "pick a team" sweepstakes, not the least of which was I'd been through 1984 and 1986 with each team and got on board just for the beginning of another roller coaster ride with the Sox.

Had it not been for Pedro's game in Cleveland, I might have been OK, but after being through so much with both teams, it became really hard to pick. You can't easily half-ass fan interests when you're a lunatic like me. And, now in my early 20s, I had a more realistic view of the baseball world. There was just no way that the Cubs and Red Sox would ever meet in the World Series. No way. And even if that ever happened, it would only be a few days until the earth careened into the sun, anyways. Then 2003 came along.

I was in the process of moving to the east coast while the 2003 playoff picture was shaking out. I lost track of the race as I drove halfway across the country and was settling in when I started getting calls from friends about the big news. Both the Cubs and Sox had at least made the post season. Without cable or the Internet hooked up, I'd missed all of this.

I spent the first part of the playoffs in bars watching the games until we got the TVs hooked up in the apartment and then watched every pitch as surprisingly, both teams advanced past the Braves and A's.

Now, any baseball fan can tell you what happened next and I won't get into too much detail on the advice of my therapist, internist and lawyer. This was the season of the Bartman game and the Boone home run one night later. At the end of that extra innings game, it was late, I was looking for work and I'd sucked in The Girl, who was watching the games over the MLB.com feed in Europe. It was a bad week all around.

The point of all of this is to set the stage for the stunning third part of the trilogy, where it all comes together. The big picture is that while I agree with those who frown upon dual fans who have their team and a rotating second squad, there are cases like these, too. I dare anyone to go through something like the 2003 season with both teams and think it's taking the easy way out.

To suffer through season-crushing losses within 72 hours of each other is something that I don't wish upon anyone. Even White Sox fans.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Maybe I should just move me and my cable box to Utah

I'm still wrestling with the options for my baseball preview extravaganza. As a rational human being, I realize that there are precious few baseball fans left in America and that most of us are already e-mailing each other on the topic with Spring Training on the horizon (it's Truck Day at Fenway already!) and so post upon post here would kind of be redundant. Stay tuned, there'll be something soon.

Instead, I'd like to weigh in on the scourge of the sports world - Sports Bigamy.

Boston Sports Guy has a strong stance on this and I'd gladly link to this, were the heads at ESPN.om not charging for access to his old articles now. Suffice to say that he's sticking to his guns and holding that if there is even the slightest chance that the two teams you root for should ever meet, it's a bad idea and you need to choose one or the other.

Let me give you a little background before I make my plea.

As a little guy, growing up in Chicago's south suburbs, there were scant few things to do in the summer. Included in those were getting into trouble, playing outside with other kids who talked us into getting into trouble and watching baseball on TV.

In our neighborhood, there were three kids my age, including David. David's dad was the only hard core fan of any type and for any sport. My dad and others would watch football or baseball, but it's not like anyone lived for the tailgate in our neighborhood. By virtue of David's dad being a Cub fan, he became a Cub fan and the rest of us fell in line.

In the summer, this was fine, we had our little secure pocket of Cubdom amidst the Sox fans and with WGN playing pretty much all the games those days, we were happy kids who would walk away from smashing batteries with a hammer on the curb (true story) to watch games all summer. On days when there was no baseball (keep in mind this was prior to night baseball in 1988 at Wrigley) we'd be in the yards as Leon Durham, Rick Sutcliffe and after fistfights, someone got to be Ryne Sandberg.

When school started, there were football and nuns making sure we were kept on the straight and narrow, so somehow baseball didn't come up much (actually look at the Cubs or White Sox records from the early 1980s and you'll see why there wasn't much interest). Sure, it would come up from time to time when kids start looking for reasons to beat on each other (You're a Cub fan? I'm a Sox fan! Whap!) but this was before interleague play.

Every summer they'd have the "Crosstown Classic" where the teams would meet on an off day and play a game no one gave a crap about - case in point, Michael Jordan played for the Sox on one of these days. After we got tired of ragging each other about who won the Crosstown that summer (which was hard to remember two months later) the arguements ran out of steam.

That was, until 1984.

Suddenly, the Cubs 'magic number' began appearing on the front page of the sports section and mentioned on the radio as they did afternoon drive news updates. I had no idea what this meant. None. I just knew that the Cubs were still playing and it was getting colder outside. None of this made any sense, but I got a t-shirt that had the words 'Cubs' and 'Champions' on it, so it was all good.

Sure they lost on Durham's Gatorade glove, blowing a 2-0 lead in San Diego, but from there the fire really started in grammar school. Whereas before we were all fans as a means of identification, things began to get nasty. Whether this was because of the Cubs' success or the White Sox' resurgence or just kids filling a need to be more competitive as we hurtled towards puberty doesn't matter, but one thing became clear - the Crosstown wasn't going to cut it anymore.

The line was drawn. White Sox fans the fall before were still Sox fans and now would give me hell when the Padres won against the Cubs. Some defected to the Cardinals, others just chose sides seemingly at random. Hardly a day went by that spring where I wasn't hearing a snide remark about someone who had beaten the Cubs. That's not to say that they started it. Not by a long shot, but this is where the unpleasant business of sports bigamy comes into play.

With my mom being from Massachusetts, I instinctively chose the Red Sox. While I knew that one day they might see each other, they were a world apart from my non-interleague Cubs and I ran with it.

In retrospect, someone should have stepped in and explained the choices I had made (in fact there are child protection laws against this type of things these days). While it may have started as extra ammo against the White Sox, we all started to care about our AL teams. This lead of course to Miss Wick's second-grade class of little Cubs and Sox fans losing all track of the math lesson as we tried to remember two teams for each of the guys in class and who had won and lost the night before (in an era of no SportsCenter or internet, this was tougher than the long division we were trying to avoid). In short, it got out of hand really quickly.

This also set me up for the Cubs loss in 1984 and the Red Sox historic collapse against the Mets in 1986. Honestly, I can't express the disappointment I felt in 1986 - I saw a clip of it two weeks ago and I still feel sick... and I didn't even get to see the game live. I was too young to know that they were cooked for Game 7, and kept my hopes up that they would pull through. I heard about it until I moved to a new school the following year (not because of the Wold Series, but it wouldn't have been a bad idea anyway).

From there, I grew into football and the Bulls took Chicago by storm in the Jordan years. Adding in hockey in high school left no room for baseball and it all fell by the wayside. College meant long summers with time to kill and drunken nights seemed to always have a baseball game on in the humid background. And as baseball crept back, so did the Red Sox.

While I'd always kept a Cubs hat around and still went to games in high school, my Red Sox hat had been lost in the shuffle and so it was replaced. Since then, the Cubs and Red Sox have held a photo-finish in my baseball life.

Look for Part II tomorrow or Wednesday.

Hot Shit!

I never thought there would come a day when I would shop for a heated toilet seat.


I always figured I'd just tough it out, winter can't last that long, some people take cold showers to wake up... in short my inherent cheapness would overpower my stunning ability to self-delude...

I was wrong.

Here's the deal, cash in hand, I went to Menard's and looked around a bit.

"It's Minneapolis in February, they have to have these things," I thought. And I thought wrong. In fact the toilet man in Menard's silently judged me as a man who sits when he pees for even asking if they carried such heated seats in stock. No joke, he stood there and judged me like I'd asked if they had men's capri pants. The rat bastard.

Long story, short, I turn to my good friend, Interweb and asked it if it could sell me a heated seat so that my yam bag doesn't stick to the seat in the morning when it's time to take the Browns to the Super Bowl and Interweb told me to screw off.

You see, in addition to stonewalling the Minneapolis toilet market, Kohler, Bemis and other toilet seat manufacturers have decided not to make heated seats for round toilet bowls (roughly 15-16 inches stem to stern) only for elongated bowls (17-19 inches).

It has been a day of few answers and frozen grapes.

Boy howdy, do I love this frozen little slice of hell.

(Photo from Kohler.com)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wow. Just wow.

Sometimes awesome is the result of hard work, dedication and hours upon hours of careful study.

Sometimes awesome just happens.

Awesome just happened. In Texas. At the end of Captain Angina's boomstick.

No link on the White House site yet. Weird, the veep unloads buckshot into someone and they have no comment yet. Bet if they caught Bin Laden, they'd have someone in on overtime tonight to get that blickey up there. Just saying is all.

(Photo by David Bohrer)

Netflix ain't no Mom and Pop shop

I'd seen the class action suit from the San Francisco subscriber who wasn't getting one-day delivery as promised, but this is new.

The gist is that the automated system at Netflix takes into account how many movies you rent per month and ranks you on a list from there. This seems sort of self-defeating to say the least. If I rent 20 movies a month and you only need four shipped, you will get yours faster and will get more new movies that have longer wait lists.

So, in short, the customers who turn movies around quickly and get them back to Netflix where they can be shipped out again are passed over in favor of the salesman who travels, never checks his mail and will leave that DVD sitting on their TV for two months before they send it back.

Netflix is presumably doing this to protect profit margins and to keep the bulk of their users happy (those that rent to watch on weekends, etc.) and point to their user happiness polls. Well, no shit Netflix - what would we compare it to? Blockbuster's too little too late foray into the mail-order rental business or just borrowing movies from our cinema snob friends?

I think I'm on this slow list, so this really annoys me. It's a good thing I have no taste, so I only really get screwed if I want to see the new Ben Alleck movie within six month of it hitting the shelves.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Screw the Yankees and their cold, dark hearts

In a story that's getting some legs with the national media, the Lowell Spinners (Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) have offered to replace any and all Yankees jerseys being worn by kids across New England.

Is it a ridiculous move made by a minor league team to grab headlines and cause a stir?

Hell yes.

Is that ridiculous move made to grab headlines and cause a stir completely awesome?

Hell yes!

According to the release, "Red Sox fans understand how devastating it can be for any child to be on a Yankees youth baseball team in New England. The Spinners have heard stories first-hand of children actually crying and refusing to play if they have to play for the Yankees. The Spinners believe they have found an answer to the problem."

On a kinda cool note, the press release also says that it's in fun and meant to appeal to fans in New England, which is better than blasting the Yankees for the sake of feeding the fire.

If there's a classy way to say, "Hey Yanks, screw you and we don't even want our kids wearing your name in Little League games..." well, this might be a close as it'd get.

In other baseball nonsense consider this your warning shot. I'm lining up team-by-team breakdowns, because let's face it, I have that kind of time. I figured I could do dvisional breakdowns that went on and on or team capsules that go on and on, but are broken up more. I went with Option B.

The other, more practical option is to do team-by-team bits for the divisions that interest me. I think that the Option C darkhorse is gaining ground.

(Image from www.lowellspinners.com)

Wrigley! Sheffield! Addison! Come here, boys!

The Labrador retiriever is still king of Chicago's dog parks. While the French poodle and other designer dogs (golden doodles, cockapoos, other stupid dogs that apparently are combinations of slang words for penis and what a three-year-old calls their excrement) have gained ground, Chicago's growing Trixie population has sustained Chicago's growing lab population.

When it came time to name my dog, I made approximately 3,264 jokes about naming him after

a.) Wrigley Field
b.) Any North side street
c.) Any designer clothing line

If I see another black lab named after a, b or c, I'm calling animal control to have them step in and do something on the animal's behalf.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

John Flaherty, you poor bastard

I'd mentioned in the starting rotation write-up last night that I thought losing Doug Mirabelli would really have an impact on Tim Wakefield this year.

In addition to the loss of another good clubhouse guy (Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar are others) Mirabelli was the designated catcher for Wakefield. While I'm sure the pilfering of John Flaherty from the Yankees (evening the score for their pickup of Damon, for sure) will be a fine move in retrospect, I really question if he can handle Wakefield every five days.

Now, for those who are casual fans of baseball, I'd like to point out that a lot of teams have a second catcher who will only catch one pitcher and it automatically builds in an off day for your starter. This is a brilliant idea, especially in late July and August.

Now, take a team with a strict knuckleballer like Wakefield and it adds another dimension. Mirabelli was known in Boston for being the knuckleball catcher. This is a much bigger deal than most people would give him credit for.

For starters, you have to be quick to adjust to a dipping, cutting, sinking or sliding ball. The scary thing for fans of a team with a knuckler on staff is that admittedly, even the pitcher has no idea where the ball will end up. Let me repeat that - no idea where the ball will end up.

Actually, that's not entirely true - with the wrong wind or inside a dome, that ball will probably end up in the left field bleachers. See, that's the thing with most knucklers, they aren't overpowering pitchers, just adaptable. I believe it was in The Last Good Season by Michael Shapiro that he wrote of a beat writer who asked to hit against the team's resident knuckler. The team stepped in because they were pretty sure that the reporter would succeed and ruin their pitcher's confidence.

Many knucklers start as more traditional pitchers and age or hit a wall where their talent can't keep up anymore. Some, like Wakefield, have thrown knucklers for most of their careers, and those careers tend to go on forever. Charlie Hough pitched well into his 40s and others have done just as well thanks to the lack of stress put on their pitching arms.

A knuckleball succeeds because it is thrown without any spin, allowing the air to move around it and make it wobble and dance erratically. Basically, no one in the park, including the pitcher or catcher knows where a ball will go once it's released. If it doesn't dance, it's only moving 60 or 70 miles per hour and it gets tagged. A knuckleball exists to throw off a hitter's timing and the trade off is that you risk a wild pitch every time you let go.

Getting back to the issue at hand, a catcher that is regarded as a knuckleball specialist it a rare commodity in the league, especially for a team with a knuckleballer in its starting rotation (and Wakefield is the longest tenured member of the team at this point), so it's an odd move to ship him out west. The only reason the Red Sox made the move was to get Mark Loretta to fill a minor hole at second, a move they had to make, but now Mirabelli is sitting behind Mike Piazza in San Diego, so it's not the best trade the Padres have ever made.

Now, with Flaherty taking his place behind the plate, either he or Varitek will be forced to adapt. It does little for Red Sox Nation's peace of mind and will make in impact in Wakefield's starts, at least in the beginning. I hope he can get work in with Wakefield and step right in, but it's far from a sure bet.

Is this splitting hairs? To a point, but while many fans write off knucklers as 'whiffle ball pitchers' I think it's pretty interesting to watch. If you follow the Red Sox on the MLB Extra Innings package, it's a real treat to see opposing team's broadcasters on days when Wakefield takes the mound. They seem just as confused as some hitters and you can expct plenty of replays showing the lack of rotation on good pitches.

While batters don't quake at the plate or keep an eye on probable pitchers like they do for fireballers like Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan in his day, they hate to see a knuckler. There are stories of guys who have problems with their swings after spending the afternoon trying to hit a ball fluttering at random. If a hitter relies more on timing than anything, the knuckleball is the most devastating pitch around. You can speed up or slow down for fastballs and off-speed stuff and even try to time curveballs, but with a knuckleball being so unpredictable, there's really no way to prepare for it.

As nerve-wracking as it can be for a hitter seeing Wakefield once or twice a year, it's worse for the man behind the plate. Honestly, if you're calling a game for Wakefield, know about his sub-par fastball and know that the hitter knows the same thing, it puts you in a bad spot. Do you really want to be the one to call for a lukewarm, 70-mile-per-hour fastball with a man on third, or do you want to call for a ball that could be a foot over your head or in the dirt? Mirabelli had made his peace with that proposition, and for that reason he'll be missed.

As for Flaherty, hopefully he can get ready for 2006 by asking questions and getting time in behind the plate. Bob Uecker's advice on catching a knuckleball is simple, "Wait until it stops rolling, then go pick it up."

Geno Petralli's outlook wasn't as sunny. Asked for comment after he gave up four passed balls in one inning catching Hough, Petralli said simply, "Knuckleballs suck."

(Illustration by Dugald Stermer/Available at goodnaturepublishing.com)

I don't need HBO Latino. I really don't.

OK, so for years, the cable industry has claimed that channels came in blocks (12 channels of HBO, 13 of Showtime, 10 of MLB/NHL/NBA Season Pass options) and that it would be more expensive to break those down further.

"We don't need a repeat of movies playing on a Pacific time zone clock," we said.
"Shut up, we're the cable company... you want us to cut your cord, bitch?" said Comcast.

For whatever reason, sending the signal in blocks made things cheaper and easier and we all bitched and moaned and forked over $100 a month so we didn't miss an episode of Nick and Jessica's Newlyweds or I Love Lucy reruns.

Life without Cribs? Unthinkable and damn near un-American.

Now this from the Chicago Tribune (and hundreds of others, I bet).

Most cable TV customers would save money if allowed to pay for only the channels they want to watch, a report from the Federal Communications Commission concluded Thursday, reversing an earlier finding that so-called a la carte programming would raise cable bills.

The report set off howls of protest from the cable industry, praise from consumer advocates and mixed reactions from special interest groups trying to calculate whether mandated channel choices help or hurt their causes.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a longtime a la carte advocate, praised the new FCC study and said he would introduce legislation next week to require channel choice.

Two things:

1.) I can't wait to see where this goes and what lengths the cable companies go to in order to kill this backlash.

2.) McCain is focusing on this? really? This is on his radar and is a pet issue. I might have to consider him as a viable candidate in the future. He's like Ralph Nader, crusading for the public good, but without the hippie stench and better suits.

Craiglist posting #332498 - Looking for 40 roommates, spacious accommodations, large gatherings not a problem

Two aging multi-purpose stadiums, two power struggles, two situations where neither team is going anywhere any time soon.

In today's Washington Post Thomas Boswell has an interesting column about the newly-minted Nationals and their fight to build a ballpark in Southeast DC. After the fights that brought the Nationals (nee Montreal Expos/San Juan Touristas) to the District, there's a new one being played out to give them a full-time home outside of RFK Stadium.

Basically, the team wants a space to call their own and compete with the Baltimore Orioles and their relatively new digs at Camden Yards, while DC's city council is trying to cover their bets and make sure they aren't left holding the bag for the cost of the construction.

Anyone familiar with DC knows the stigma of that part of town and questions why there would be any hesitation to try and add a viable economic engine to the area (both in direct benefits like jobs for concessions, but also for the souvenir stands, bars, restaurants, etc. that come with a major league ballpark. Anyone who knows about past stadium builds (see Milwaukee) can see why DC is so cautious.
"We have accommodated every single issue of every council member," fumed a disgusted [Robert DuPuy, president of Major League Baseball]. "This is shortsightedness in an election year by some politicians. They have no vision for the city. They can't see the forest for the trees.

"We will file arbitration tomorrow to have the original contract enforced and we will consider all other options."

Turns out those other options might be moving the Nationals from DC. It also turns out that the council then backed up and voted to approve a ratified version of the lease that MLB will be looking into soon.

Seeing as the first two incarnations of a DC team (Senators I and II) have bolted town - to Minneapolis and Texas, respectively - I can't see DC bailing on this too quickly. As DuPuy said, "We've worked our butt off to make this work in Washington."

This week, the Twins were told by a Hennepin County District Judge that their lease is up this year, which means they have been given more ammunition in their fight to pick up a new ballpark and get out of the Metrodome. Speaking as someone who walked out on the field last weekend at TwinsFest, the field is a parking lot painted green and it's beyond me why the players' union hasn't filed a grievance on behalf of the Twins players and any team unfortunate enough to have to play there.

It might be better if they were to upgrade the turf itself to something akin to the carpet at the University of Illinois and other stadiums, but it seems the Metrodome has kept the original carpet that came with the place. I hope that I'm wrong and that with thousands of fans kicking about, the Twins put out any old rug, but something tells me that's not the case.
'[The Judge] wrote in his decision that the Twins are playing on a season-by-season basis and can leave the Metrodome before they start advertising, distributing tickets, securing sponsors or otherwise indicating an intent to play an upcoming season in the Dome.

The issue isn't over yet, as the commission is mulling whether to appeal the decision. The commission's lawyer, Corey Ayling, told The Associated Press that he believes the Twins could still trigger a 2007 playing obligation by their actions.

"If the Twins do take steps to sell tickets and reserve dates, we will define that as a renewal of the current arrangement to play ball in the Metrodome under the current terms," Ayling said.'
The Twins have made no secret of their desire for a new, outdoor ballpark, launching this page off their web site, with matching tabs, front and center. Heck, even The Girl walked into the place for our first game in the Dome last season and said, 'This isn't right. Baseball shouldn't be played indoors.'

She's right and the facility is a little out of whack. With Minneapolis lacking viable public transportation, it's not like moving the venue is going to be too traumatic either. Drive 20 miles to the Dome, drive 20 miles to northwest Minneapolis, what's the difference? If anything, they can take a page from the Brewers' book and custom make a ballpark with easy parking and better traffic flow.

As it stands, they want to build near the Target Center, just north on what is largely industrial land. While it's going to be interesting (and the retractable roof hasn't been added to any price quotes yet) to see what allowances are made for the weather, etc. the general park overview looks great. Then again, anyone who has ever seen a game at the Dome knows anything is an improvement. Baseball shoehorned into a football stadium doesn't really work as baseball at some point.

Personally, I'll settle for a time in this town when the sun can shine on home plate in a major league ballpark.

(Larry Salzman/AP)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Like sausage, you don't want to see your puppies being made

While I will try and stay away from evangalizing too much (at least on the important stuff, I make no such promises for TiVo, unwatched TV shows and my personal campaign against Tim McCarver), something has been bothering me for a few weeks now.

I have been volunteering twice a week at the local Humane Society, if for no other reason than it helps add normal schedules to my life. I also can keep track of the days better, having a commitment twice a week. In return, the dogs get out, get a buddy for a few hours a day and some much needed attention and socialization.

Most of these dogs are strays or mutts or stray mutts, but late last year a puppy mill was raided and the Humane Society took possession of 150 rat terrier puppies. Most of these little guys are still being pushed through the system as they were too small at the time of siezure, but they are out the door within 12 hours of seeing the adoption floor.

This is a very good thing.

This makes me very happy.

'You don't have many dogs...' is a whine that is music to my ears.

However, let me tell you about Peggy. Peggy was a four- or five-year-old yellow lab that looked twice her age with sad, droopy eyes and a nose that had been punched limp by someone who thought it was OK to beat a dog in a cramped cage. Unlike the puppies that people drool over as they shake and sleep in the quieter kitten room, Peggy slept on a blanket in the back of her cage and refused to move.

When I say that, I mean just that - she had been beaten all of her life, doomed to lay on her side and crank out litter after litter. As people bought countless lab puppies at pet stores and from the breeder, Peggy was never let out, just fed and beaten every day for a half a decade.

When I first saw Peggy, she showed no aggresion, resigned to let people do what they would, and I needed to pick up her limp body to place her on a pile of blankets. To take her out was a two-person job, requiring one to pick her up by her middle and set her back down on her four feet. Two people were then needed to keep her upright as she tried to keep as low a profile as possible, despite two people coaxing and prodding her to get outside.

Peggy is on a long road to learning to be a dog again. For a few days the adoption staff would take her and her new bed to the front, where she got just what she needed - 50 people a day who would walk by and not beat her.

Peggy went home with a sweet couple a few weeks ago and should be on the mend, possibly moving around a bit by now as she begins her new life as a middle-aged dog.

Are all breeders evil? No. Are most breeders not on the up and up? I'd be inclined to say yes. Should you think twice about the next puppy you see at the pet store? Damn straight.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Reasons I can sleep at night

In no particular order (well, it's a lineup order) here are the reasons I can take a deep breath and wait patiently for pitchers and Varitek to report to Fort Myers, Fla. in just a few short weeks.


***Warning. This is a long post, centered around the Red Sox pitching staff. You may want to skip it if you are not a Red Sox, baseball or rambling nonsense fan. Also, yes, I am aware of the Roger Clemens rumors. No, I won't comment until I see him at a press conference with Theo.***

Curt Schilling - 8-8, 5.69 ERA, 9 saves
Not what you want from your staff's ace, huh? Yeah, I'm not too pleased, either. However, it's not what he did last year, it's the 2004 season that really counts for any Red Sox fans. If it took a year of injury and disappointing results to win the World Series, so be it. There's really no fault to be found in Schilling's performance when you view it through that prism. Is it making the best of a bad situation? Sure, but for anyone who saw him enter the game from the pen in his first relief start knows what he means to this franchise.

He recently did a Q&A session with Bill Simmons of Boston Sports Guy fame and sounds ready to rebound in a big way. Instead of worshipping at the dual altars of BSG and Schilling, I'll just say that he's a gamer and I have little question that the spirit is willing. Whether or not his body keeps pace remains to be seen.

As a man who holds dual-citizenship in both Red Sox Nation and the Cult of the Cubs, let's just say I've been down this road before. There is no harsher mistress than 'If this staff stays healthy' but considering it wasn't arm or shoulder trouble, I'd be ready to bet on a strong year from him.

I could go on for weeks about how much respect I have for Schilling. He was brought in to be a Yankee Killer and he did just that. He was brought in to win and he did that. If you need any more proof, don't take my word for it, Google 'Schilling" and 'sock' and see for yourself.

On a final note, despite his Republican boosting and love of Jesus, I can't hate Schilling because when all is said and done, he gets it. He understands the fan perspective better than most players and you have to respect someone who calls up sports talk from his car to read the hosts the riot act. Was it the smartest idea from a PR perspective? Hell no, but it sure was a lot of fun.

Josh Beckett - 15-8, 3.38 ERA, 178.2 IP
I have to admit I'm a lot more comfortable now knowing that his nickname is 'Country.' Although, Enos Slaughter was nicknamed Country, too - maybe that's a bad omen, huh?

Let's see, a stunning young pitcher with blister problems (fingers, not Kyle Farnsworth blistering) who the Sox picked up for a song in the offseason and recently avoided arbitration with. Why worry, right?

Try these numbers on for size - 24.0, 107.2, 142.0, 156.2, 178.2 - those are inning counts for Beckett in his first five years as a pro. The first season is indicative of the four starts, but it's still troublesome (see the thoughts on Schilling above). Prior and Wood move over for Curt and Josh?

Nothing is worse than a starting staff that falls apart piece by piece as the season progresses, aside from a staff that falls apart piece by piece from the top as the season progresses. Here's to hoping the Florida humidity was causing the blisters or that the Red Sox have those tiny band-aids they give you at the doctor's office after they draw blood. For the life of me, I'll never understand professional pitchers who are shut down for finger blisters. They pitch in a fice-man rotation and can't gut it out with finger blisters? Really? Really?

Last thing on Beckett is that they'd given up on Hanley Ramirez, the star of the Red Sox farm system to pick him up in a package with Mike Lowell's bloated contract. Ramirez was the crown jewel you hear about for years and years before they hit the majors. Like the Cubs with Kerry Wood and the Mariners with King Felix, you get a buzz that builds and builds until they hit the scene and light up the league or fizzle out.

Now, with the gaping hole that existed at short until last week, I wonder what went wrong there. Sure, Beckett was a deal too good to pass on, but the choice of trade bait is puzzling. This may warrant its own post in a week or so, along with the Andy Marte deal.

David Wells - 15-7, 4.45 ERA, 184 IP
In the words of Ted Williams, 'Hello, whale belly!'

The Pillsbury Throw Boy had a quiet season last year, which off the field is a great thing. The problem was that Boomer was pretty silent on the field as well. I'd go into depth about how he was actually as solid a pitcher as the Sox had, but honestly, with Wells trying to get out of his contract to head out west and head back with the Padres (rumors were in the works for a Dave Roberts trade) it's hard to think of much more to say until opening day.

If the Human Donut Apocalypse comes back, great, if not, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a fan who will take this very hard.

Matt Clement - 13-6, 4.57 ERA, 191 IP
True story. I was sitting in the stands last spring, watching a Red Sox spring training game with Clement starting one of his first games after he signed over from the Cubs. He'd done well the year before, but got no run support. He was 9-13 while holding batters to a career best 155 hits all year. For whatever reason, the Cubs just took the day off when the Amish Outlaw took the mound. It was the damnedest thing.

I remember two things about that start. First, no one in the stands around us (mainly snowbirds and people who made the trip to call their friends in New England and rub it in) knew who he was. After he gave up a few scattered hits, he got hit pretty good in the early innings before he was pulled. Not good. I made a joke about the ex-Cub factor, but had spent the week seeing some pretty brutal pitching performances.

Secondly, I tapped my buddy, Rich, and said, 'I think the Sox will do as well as he does this year.'

'Who the fuck is that guy?' asked Rich.

Well, fast forward to the Tampa game in July/August and Clement getting the Charlie Brown treatment and so went the season. He never seemed right after that and neither did the Sox. This has since been proven untrue, but still, something was off. I wish this guy could catch a break, but for whatever reason he keeps falling short.

His numbers weren't awful last year, but he didn't pitch well, either. He's a solid second-tier starter, but should benefit from not having to be the top dog all season.

Tim Wakefield - 16-12, 4.15 ERA, 225.1 IP
What's wrong with this picture? At 39, Wake was the most dependable member of the staff? Well, knuckleballers pitch until they're in their mid-70s (see Charlie Hough), but there's no way this guy should have chewed up this many innings last season.

What the stats fail to show is that in that 4.15 ERA are games with two runs and others with six or more runs. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground here. When the wind is kicking up and the knuckler is dancing, it's great. When you're in the Metrodome, you get slapped around like Flavor Flav at Bridgette Nielsen's house. Not the best pitcher to put up there on some days. Making matters worse, is that it usually takes Terry Francona a bit to catch on to this.

Colorful as he is, Wake becomes a liability some days. I remember spending the day of his playoff start against the White Sox nervous and going back and forth with Frankie, a long-time friend and White Sox fan. It's never a good feeling to have to rely on a 39-year-old knuckleballer in the postseason. Never.

Should Wake be on the Opening Day Roster? Yes. Should he sit in October? Yes again.

Also worth mentioning is the loss of Wake's show pony, Doug Mirabelli. The backup catcher caught every fifth day and only for Wakefield. His glove was the size of a garbage can lid and he has quick, soft hands. These are two great qualities for a knuckleball catcher.

Anyone who discounts this factor needs only watch game tape of Varitek (a very good defensive catcher) trying to catch for Wakefield. It's a mess. If there's a stat for percentage of runs scored by pitch type, it'd hands down be on knucklers. A runner on third is a very real threat, no matter the count or number of outs with a knuckler on the mound. Again, this might be worth its own posting. Something to keep an eye on this season.

Jon Papelbon - 3-1, 2.65 ERA, 34 K, 34.0 IP
The fair-haired child and possible savior for the Red Sox was the only bright spot on the mound in October. The only one who didn't look totally overmatched. The only one who held the White Sox in check. The only one who didn't seem like he could get shelled at any moment. Ah, youth...

Not much on that stat line yet, but it looks like he'll be moving into the rotation this year. I think he's ready, Red Sox Nation thinks he's ready, hopefully he thinks he's ready, too. He was 12-7 with a 2.64 ERA for AA Sarasota before making the leap to the show, but a season with the big club doesn't seem like over-reaching to anyone who saw him in October.

He was the one not sucking.

Bronson Arroyo - 14-10, 4.51 ERA, 205.1 IP
The man who Schilling said had 'balls the size of Saturn' in the 2004 playoffs was up and down last year. Like Derek Lowe before him, he showed flashes of what it takes to be a starter with a bright future, but then sunk just as quickly.

His side career as a rock star has been blamed for erratic performances (especially when spot starts required him to step in the night after a planned gig) and I think the guy named after Charles Bronson needs to suck it up and realize that most rockers would rather be pitching in the bigs just as he'd like to perform in front of sold out arenas.

This choice reminds me a bit of the Kyle Farnsworth epic in Chicago where you always saw him for what he should be versus what he is and don't think that it's too rash to say that this is a turning point for him in his career. Either he can focus, lose those stupid cornrows once and for all, and get down to the business of baseball. With six seasons under his belt (only two worth much, though) it's make or break time.

It looks like he'll be farmed back to the bullpen for now, but he'll be a heartbeat, blown ankle or finger blister away from the starting rotation.

So what's it going to be? You wanna be a starter in this league, or are you happy to bounce around with Tim McCarver calling you 'Brandon' before World Series starts?

The Wrap-up
In all, it's a good staff on paper. If I get my act together, I'd like to do division breakdowns in the weeks leading into the season, but suffice to say with neighbors like the Yankees, Orioles and retooled Blue Jays, serviceable isn't going to cut it this year.

I hate playing the games where if the staff stays healthy, they have a shot, but the Sox have done more with less in the past. Without even peeking into the bullpen and regardless of how the David Wells story plays out, I think that this is a pretty shaky starting staff.

For the record, there are two "if healthy's," a rookie, two "if they pull it together's"and a knuckleballer who'll turn 40 in August. Add Wells and you have a human bullpen cart. However, if just half of those actually pan out, you might have something and if that half is Beckett and Papelbon, you have a contender in the East.

And that is something I can live with... at least until April.

(Photo from Boston.com)

The Apathy Bowl recap

Seattle versus Pittsburgh... eh, sure, I guess. When is Family Guy on?

Despite precious few story lines and two teams that matched up well on paper, it seems that most people feel pretty good this morning about the big game yesterday.

The Steelers pulled down one for the thumb and sent Jerome Bettis out on a high note, in all a pretty good showing by both teams. Even losing quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck was 26 of 49 for 273 yards, one TD and one pick. That outgunned Ben Roethlisberger's 9/21, 123 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs.

It also marked the game that featured the two most difficult QB names to spell on the first try. Go ahead and pick up the laptop from any of the national media who covered the game last night and odds are 'Roethlisberger' is still on the clipboard for easy cutting and pasting.

Strangely silent was league MVP Shaun Alexander who didn't crack the century mark and was kept out of the end zone all night. For marketing and contract purposes, he would have loved to make a bigger splash on the national scene. As it stood, the Steeler defense held tight, despite outwardly quiet nights by Troy Polamalu (four tackles and an assist) and Joey Porter (three tackles). While Polamalu seemed to be a step slow on his banged up ankle, the Seahawks largely stayed away from Porter.

While I'm not putting him in the category of Lawrence Taylor, keep in mind that most big defensive players get small numbers in the Super Bowl as teams stay away from them. That's the reason why when players like Reggie White have three sacks in a Super Bowl, it's a big deal. Porter himself addressed the issue in the postgame insanity when he asked reporters if they saw Seatle running all over his side of the field. Good point. Of course anyone familiar with Porter would be legally insane for picking a fight with him after a game, but he was right.

A few other quick thoughts:
  • It seemed almost strange that there were no off the field incidents this weekend from Ray Lewis, high-profile problems to Eugene Robinson finds a hooker cop distractions. In Detroit? Nothing happened? Can I check the Detroit Police arrest records this morning?
  • Aside from Cowboy/Raider fans from back in the day, there's not a lot of animosity towards the Steelers of today. While there is plenty of reason to get up for a team like Pittsburgh, there isn't the backlash you see from teams like New England, Dallas and the 80s/90s vintage San Francisco squads. And hatred towards Seattle? It's like cheering against a cripple.
  • Will either team make it back next year? Maybe Seattle, depending on how they do in the off-season, who they keep, which free agents they can pull in. I feel Seatle is at a crossroads much like Green Bay was at a few years ago. A remote city, a mid-levle team, only the Seahawks didn't have the pedigree to try and sell free agents on the franchise. While you can't play in the footsteps of Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr or Jerry Kramer (who wants to share a locker room with the ghost of Brian Bosworth?) at least you don't have to live in Green Bay. Still, until the NFC gets its act together, the road to the Super Bowl is pretty wide open next year. As for the Steelers? Without the Bus/Cowher's first championship to play for, I question if their season of destiny will carry over to 2006.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My name is Carl

Just a short blurb on Carlos Boozer, the man who knifed the Cavs in the back and renegged on a gentleman's agreement.

For a quick recap, Boozer was temporarily released from his contract by the Cavs front office to rework a deal a few years back. He then bolted from playing with Lebron James and the budding franchise to sign with Utah.

This was a big deal when it happened and then fell by the wayside. Carlos has since been injured and hasn't played since Valentine's Day last year.

"It's karma, Randy. It's not like a dog you can just call..."


Shrapnel creating big problem for military docs, servicemen

I was rushing through the Washington Post this morning, mainly seeing what news was coming from the Nationals camp when the lead story caught my eye. It's worth a read, but in a few short sentences:

'Shrapnel wounds have been part of combat for more than 200 years, since Henry
Shrapnel, a British artillery officer, designed an explosive canister that sent
metal balls flying during the Napoleonic wars.
"It has probably become the
single best man-killer, barring a nuclear weapon," said Dale C. Smith, chairman
of the Department of Medical History at Uniformed Services University of the
Health Sciences.'
Kind of shocking in a 'never thought of that, but it makes perfect sense' kind of way. Check out the full article here.