Sunday, January 28, 2007

Trying to reason with the postseason

One of the most difficult things for me to justify in my head is how things can be unendingly important one day - like schoolwork, deadlines at the office or that bill coming up next week - only to fade from the forefront in a few quick weeks.

More than that, sports and their respective championships tend to fall fast and without anyone really paying much attention. Between the build up and the ensuing celebration, most wins are remembered by the fan bases of the winning and losing teams and the big fans of the sport, but even for them, the details get hazy.

Case in point is my friendship with Frank the Tank and, more specifically, our divided rooting interests.

I honestly thought the world might end and that I'd never get over the White Sox winning it all in 2005 and that has faded to the rear view mirror in the grand scheme of things. Now, despite the championship gear floating around the city, my brother-in-law's closet and video evidence, it's not such a crushing blow anymore.

Of course, I fled Chicago immediately following the World Series that year, so my perspective might have been different watching the ensuing commercials for half price night at buffets in Alsip featuring second- and third-string infielders - "Baseball has been very good for me and my World Series teammates, just like the good folks at Arnie's All-You-Can-Eat rib shack, so come on down and strike out hunger..." - but it's not something that haunts me on a daily basis anymore.

On the flip side, the few times my teams have won were difficult to watch at times and were events in my life I thought I'd never top. I went to Lambeau Field following a Super Bowl win and a loss in the 90s and did my best to keep things to a dull roar when the Red Sox won in 2004.

As it stands this morning as I sit here with a cup of coffee on the couch, I don't get a larger tax refund for the Green Bay win, a free soda with a fill up at the gas station for any of the Bulls' championships or slid up higher on the waiting list at my favorite restaurants for following nearly every pitch of the Red Sox postseason in 2004.

In fact, without any major Yankee fans in my life, I'd say I'm getting less mileage off of all of those than I would normally. It's a shame really, the big payout for any sports fan should be the ride to the championship, but most of us are too nervous or critical to enjoy that part of it.

For the rest of the country, we wait for our teams to fall off and then try and pick a prohibitive favorite and a new version of "our" team. We can watch games start to finish without suffering from chest pains or anxiety-related fainting spells and actually enjoy games more than fans of the teams involved. The catch-22 is that the more exciting the game is with close scores, epic matchups and huge plays, the more excruciating it is to watch for the fans of the two teams who are actually playing - just ask Rams fans.

Once the final gun sounds, your Colts, Patriots or Bears fans grab the torch and celebrate like there's no tomorrow, but by then, everyone else is moving along. It's like showing up to a really great party late when things are starting to break up and people are heading for home.

I guess what I'm saying here is that the paradox for sports fans is that if your team is advancing, it's hard to enjoy that ride in the moment. Unless you have an absolute powerhouse like the '85 Bears or some of the great dynasties where a championship is a foregone conclusion, it's pretty difficult to focus on the moment and just go with the flow. Maybe that's why the championship videos sell so well - it lets you relive the games from a safe distance, knowing that your team is sitting at home with giant rings on, so you have nothing to fear.

So, as we grind through a Sunday without football before football goes away for a few months -sigh - I am pumped because at next week's Super Bowl, I know I'll be interested as a fan, but have the added bonus of not really caring who wins.

In fact, in situations like these where I really dislike both teams playing I get pretty deep into my Zen state and keep telling myself over and again - "One of these teams has to lose and I'm really going to enjoy what that does to their fans."

For the winner however - and yes, I do think that will be the pride and joy of Illinois - try not to get too bogged down in the hollering, nail-biting and "I just can't watch" aspects of the game. Regardless of the outcome, the sun will rise tomorrow and you will have to pay full price at the supermarket.

Unless of course you manage to blow the game on a fluke play. Then no one will ever let you forget the name Bill Buckner.

(Image from

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Happy Birthday Post

It was exactly a year ago today that this whole beautiful mess got up and running here at Siberia, Minnesota.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did start sifting through the old posts to throw together a Top 10 favorites post here, but I'm such a narcisistic bastard that it would have been a.) disgustingly self-indulgent and congratulatory and b.) about 37 to 45 items long, so I scrapped that idea pretty quickly.

Instead, I'll just share what I found by looking back with quiet reflection and the perspective that a year on the frozen plains gives you.

* There were a lot of hit and miss posts. Some were pretty well thought out and borderline worthwhile and then there were the others that were fueled by the thought that, "Crap, I haven't posted in almost a week." and just churned out to take up space.

Still, one of my favorites was only one line about how if I could invent an adhesive that stuck as well as a human booger, I'd be one rich mother.

* I think the baseball spinoff was a pretty good idea. It's been a lot more work, but kept it from taking over the site. That said, I still have a lot of crap thrown up there, too as well. More than here though. Much more than here.

* Somewhere along the way this summer, I realized how much I enjoyed writing again. That's when I think the overall tone changed from "LISTEN TO ME!" to just writing for myself. I think the writing got a lot better after that.

* While we're talking about tone, man, I had a really bad attitude about being here off the bat. I'm surprised I wasn't deported now. It is what it is, but it was getting pretty ugly for a while there.

* I can't believe how much I write about something on TV or that I heard about from TV. It's a lot - you can check it yourself... a lot.

* I think some of my favorites are the long posts about history. It should make sense that the posts that run long are the ones I'm most into (duh) but the ones with a historical base are the most fun.

* Finally, I'm pretty happy that I'm still doing this a year later. I'd thought when I went back to work that the blog would start collecting dust and eventually just die on the vine, but it's been nice to find time to vent, think or write. It's been pretty good for keeping my mind moving and giving me something to work on in my head during the day other than work.

Being able to kick an idea around all day and put it down in the evening has been a lot of fun.

(Photo from

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The good old days

Know why I love YouTube so much?

Because of stuff like this.

I first saw this years ago when living in the Wellington apartment and though we were "adults" we were miles away (and still are) from being grown ups.

Know how to tell? Check your pants for urine after a minute and change of this beauty.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What bad, bad news

As if my ongoing struggles to outsmart the Comcast DVR in the bedroom weren't enough heartbreak on the cable television front, now there's this news from Deadspin.

Major League Baseball sold the rights to its games to Direct TV for the next seven years.

Those sons of bitches.

I know they can't just give the money back, but honestly, this has taken away one of the few things I really enjoy in this world. Being able to watch Cubs and Red Sox baseball all summer, in addition to the literally hundreds of other games was one of life's little pleasures and it's gone now.

No more watching most of the Opening Day games, no more following the Red Sox daily and back to the dark ages of bookmarking the Cubs schedule on WGN's Superstation, which is only really good for a quarter of the televised games anyways.

I know that it can sound like I'm playing this for laughs, but this is seriously a major shock to my system. I am so full of anger right now that I'm seriously considering calling the Twins and telling them to take their season ticket package and shove it straight up their greedy, enabling asses.

EA Sports locking in the Madden Monopoly was a shame.

This is nothing short of a national tragedy.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

You either have it or you don't

With the Bears game in the books, the Colts are gearing up to face the Patriots, Bill Belichick is putting on his homeless sweatshirt and Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning are taking turns holding each others' heads as they throw up in the bathroom.

As much as I detest the stupid story lines that are rammed down my throat every week - I know, Rex is uneven, Hurricane Katrina will be forgotten if the Saints win it all and Brady vs. Manning is bigger than God vs. Satan VII - I really like this AFC matchup.

It's not just that I hate Manning - let's just get that out there right now - but that it's the perfect dichotomy of players in the two quarterbacks.

I've long been a believer that intangibles - while difficult to quantify - are often overlooked and undervalued. This has long been my downfall in fantasy leagues, as I'll pass on number-piling monsters in order to take a player I can actually respect and Brady and Manning are great illustrations of this.

On paper, Manning racks up huge numbers each year, while Brady will get you a few points here and there, never really coming through with a breakthrough week to the point that in deeper leagues, he rides the pine in favor of quarterbacks who will throw their arm out every Sunday like they're trying to catch Dan Marino's records in two seasons or less.

This is not news to anyone.

Every hack with a pro football column, blog or e-mail account has made this point in varying degrees all week, but it doesn't mean I'll enjoy this game any less.

I love how this also extends to other sports as well, from having the requisite ice water in your veins to close out games in major league baseball to those scrappy wingers who are always in the top 15 in scoring years after year in the NHL, despite having no discernable talent.

On paper, the Colts have a defense that has risen to the occasion this postseason, a big time quarterback in Manning and a team that is built to play on the turf in the dome. Yet, the Patriots are being seen as the team to beat tonight and Brady is the reason for that.

No one can tell you why he's so successful in the playoffs, just like no one can tell you why Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan or Joe DiMaggio just kept winning. Sure, talent can take you a long way, but at that level, how much more talented are you than your competitors?

Along those same lines, look at the notable players who were on par with the stars of their era - Dan Marino, Ted Williams, and a borderline vote for John Elway - who never seemed to put all the pieces together. Forgive me for just spewing all of this out without much to hold it all together - I honestly find the whole thing fascinating.

Even now, they are flashing the graphics showing playoff records for the two players and a half dozen reporters are pre-writing their opening pararaphs so they can fully focus on the press box buffet.

For me, I like how it gives the world a little more balance and helps things make more sense to me. There are winners and their are losers and regardless of pedigree, hype or talent, the winners finds ways to win and the losers continue to lose.

We saw it with Martyball's spectacular failure last week, with Herm Edwards' refusal to use Larry Johnson correctly in the opening round and the Giants saying a quick goodbye to their national TV audience.

Reagardless, it'll be fun to watch with the knowledge that if the Colts pull off the supposed upset, Northern Indiana will implode upon itself. With the regional favorite and the in-state team headed for Florida, it might cause widespread rioting. And that's a situation where we're all winners.

(Update at 9:17 p.m. - Well, so much for that, huh? Wow. Just wow.)

(Photo from

I know, I know - Super Bowl, Super Bears

Quick hits from today's Bears/Saints game (4:19 left in the fourth right now, with Thomas Jones putting the final nail in the coffin) which I partly heard on the radio, partly saw on TV and partly napped through:

* During the radio pregame, they were giving it up for Lovie Smith and his decision to keep Rex Grossman in as his quarterback. The only hitch was that because of the way they said it - "It's the playoffs now and Lovie's stuck with Grossman" - it was hard to tell if that meant "Lovie has stuck with Grossman" or "Lovie is stuck with Grossman."

That's problematic.

* Good job with the double flip off on a panning crowd shot, where one guy stood there and gave the camera the bird and the other wandered into the aisle to really sell his point. Since then, all the crowd shots from that sideline tractor have gone by really quickly.

* Virginia McCaskey looks good, huh? And there's Mike! Man, he looks like a movie bad guy more and more these days.

* After halftime as the Bears were getting ready to take the field, they were playing the Grossman's QB rating game again. Yes, we know, he's inconsistient, but that shouldn't be the biggest issue with his season.

I had Bull Durham flashbacks to when the manager was going over Nuke's stats for the game - both new league records.

* If I forget, will someone please remind me to talk about cold weather and why it shouldn't be a big advantage to anyone at all? It'll give me something to do later this week.

Monday, January 15, 2007

One more for the road

I really did think about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. today, despite the hectic pace of the job we're working on this month. Honestly.

It brought back memories of a column I'd written in another life for a newspaper I'd be happy not to mention here. It was a year after 9/11 and I took a trip with friends to Washington, D.C. to visit two of my best friends out there.

Our group of three met up with two other friends and I went with them to the Lincoln Memorial and just sat on the steps and talked and thought in the middle of the night while people came and went to see Abraham Lincoln.

The column I wrote was about how despite the national security scare and the armed guards around town, I thought it was pretty amazing that we could sit there at the site of so much of our national history at 2 a.m. and not be harassed by anyone.

We were a few feet from the marker I wrote about yesterday and we watched as people came and read it and looked out and went along. In whatever small way it was a sign that despite everything we'd been through, we'd be OK.

Things are funny that way, where in a nation that prides itself on its freedoms it would enter the realm of possibility that its citizens would be somehow locked out from some of its most sacred and special places.

In a way, that scares me a little, that one of my favorite places on earth would be closed to me, but it was refreshing and restored a little faith in the government when I needed it most. I guess for those of you who need a common thread in your blog posts, it was a time in our nation's and my personal history where I felt strongly that my government didn't have my best interests in mind as it made decisions.

Do not misread that as, "Oh, he's saying he knows what it's like to be an African-American in the 60s!" because I'm not saying that at all.

What I am saying is that I was secretly a little scared and disappointed that there weren't thousands of people flooding the national mall to start holding the government accountable for the things that happened in this country, post-9/11.

Much of this was colored by my position at the newspaper with a large Muslim population in our coverage area, threats on mosques, Hispanics and others being beaten in "mistaken identity" cases and the leader of a Muslim legal council telling his story of his kids watching the news and asking if they'd be beaten up at school the next day. I personally felt that the federal government didn't do everything it should have to help out innocent Americans who were being harassed because "terrorist" meant "Muslim" to far too many people under its watch.

All of these things hit home in one way or another, but let's just say that trip coincided with a pretty low point in my confidence in the federal government on the heels of the Patriot Act and some questionable arrests in our coverage area.

It's apples to oranges for sure, but it's a pretty awful thing to lose faith in your government. I can't imagine how bad it must be to have that sneaking suspicion written down for everyone to see: "The government doesn't care about you or what you think and it certainly won't be working to protect you or your interests."

(Image from

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Remembering MLK

So, it's the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day tomorrow and the snow is really coming down outside tonight. I'd really love to be a kid tonight.

As it stands, my employer gives us the option of one of three holidays as a floater, with MLK day as one of those options.

In a perfect world, I'd take the day off and use it as it was intended - to take some time, reflect on and celebrate the man's life - but we don't live in that perfect world. Left to my own devices, I'd more than likely play video games, sleep in and just enjoy the time off.

It's a shame, too, because at the heart of things, Dr. King is one of the most important Americans in history, if not the world. I used to keep copies of a few of his speeches in my desk when I worked as a reporter as well as transcript of his "I have a dream speech" on my bedroom wall.

From a purely artistic standpoint, the man was a powerful writer and nearly unmatchable speaker. If video tape can capture his charisma, I can only imagine how amazing those speeches must have been in person.

One of my favorite spots in Washington is the plaque that now marks the spot of where he spoke at the march on Washington. For those who haven't heard the whole speech, it's available below and the parts everyone knows begin around the 12-minute mark.

The lead-in makes the final portion of the speech that much more powerful - it's truly like a symphony.

More than that, it's worth taking a few minutes today to think about why history - our collective history, no less - needed Dr. King in the first place. We as a society needed someone to step up and tell everyone that it's not OK to treat other people as less than human.

It's not OK to have separate sets of rules and artificial limitations set upon others just because of their race. It's not OK to treat people differently based solely on the color of their skin. It's not OK to place arbitrary limits on education, business opportunities and human decency because of the same factors. On paper, those should be a pretty simple concepts but we're still miles from finished at achieving that goal.

I guess that is the most disappointing aspect of this great man's legacy - that despite the speeches and the passion, the thousands of people who banded together, it's still an unfair world and we live in an unfair country.

While it seems that many of the limitations today are placed on the poor, it's no secret that the bottom of the tax brackets have more than their share of African-Americans and Hispanics. While the state-sanctioned limits are gone, it's still not a straight shot for anyone to make their way to the top.

I guess if there needs to be anything said about tomorrow's national holiday it's that - be thankful for what you have and if you're privileged enough to have a college education or an opportunity to get one, if you haven't known widespread segregation and if you've at least been given the chance for a better life than your parents had, regardless of your race you owe Dr. King a moment of thanks.

Secondly, realize that we're still a long way from the country he pleaded for - we're a nation divided between red and blue states and we just fracture as a populace from there. When you're looking for friends across the national landscape, it can be pretty lonely to be a blue state, pro-choice, anti-gun, pro-meat, pro-business proponent when you're trying to find like-minded people.

And for me, that's the biggest thing to think about tomorrow - exactly what we can all do to help bring ourselves together for once and keep moving ahead as a national community. I have friends that while they don't look exactly like a Benneton ad, do span a great array of beliefs and ideas that they hold dear.

It's not a nation of unconditional acceptance, but it's a start.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where did this little jewel come from?

I might have to rethink my stance on Jon Heder - one trick pony with a great trick, will never be as successful as his big break in Napoleon Dynamite - after seeing the preview for Blades of Glory.

Thanks to Barstool Sports for finding this, and the trailer is here.

The basic premise is that Heder and Will Ferrell are male figure skaters who decide to enter pairs skating.

Hilarity and testicle jokes ensue.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Best. Idea. Ever.

Since the dawn of man, we as a people have been striving towards common goals.

The quest for fire. The invention of the wheel. Cures for diseases from polio to AIDS. The ability to both watch a baseball game and eat enough to feed a small European village for a week at one, set price.

The Dodgers have done it, ladies and gentlemen. They will be offering an all-you-can eat section for the 2007 season.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

A ticket to the right-field pavilion — at $35 in advance and $40 on game day — will entitle fans to an endless supply of ballpark staples, including hot dogs, peanuts and soda but excluding beer, which hasn't been sold in the pavilion for years. The Dodgers tested the concept several times last season.

All the hot dogs I can stomach, a ballgame at Chavez Ravine and all the hot dogs I can stomach?

Man, the only thing that could make that deal better would be some sort of deal wherein other people would bring me as many hot dogs as I could eat as long as I kept asking for them...

Hey, wait a minute...

(Image from

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Taser! Taser!

I don't know what was funnier tonight on Armed and Famous - LaToya Jackson asking for a finger bowl at the Texas Roadhouse, La Toya Jackson calling one of her brothers and name-dropping Michael or LaToya Jackson getting her ass tasered...

OK, not a fair fight, but for those who missed this touchstone of Western Civilization, here's a quick recap.

(Bonus points to Trish Stratus for taking her tasing like a man and asking for the leads to be shot into her back with barbed points.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

I'm gonna get you for this, Doucheman!

Came across this tonight and while I love all the 80s-relate junk that floats across my computer's screen, this won a special, postable spot in my heart for being new content.

Seriously, I'm not sure how many more times I can watch Saved By the Bell clips or an ancient toy commercial for some scrap of plastic that I couldn't live without and now blame for my current state of uncool.

I can't help but think of how different my life would be if I'd only been given Hungry, Hungry Hippos a few years earlier. I could be president or maybe a cowboy.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Contenders and Pretenders

There's a post-season football pool at work that is getting off the ground today and it's been driving me crazy pretty much all week.

The basics are that you pick two QBs, three RBs, etc. and pick up points as they move through the playoffs. Because of this, there's an important wrinkle in the way this works - a good running back who plays three games will be a better pick than a great back whose team goes one and done.

The weird thing this year is there's no clear cut favorite heading in. The teams that started hot cooled down the stretch and the teams that had to sprint to the finish don't seem to be very good - Chiefs, ahem, Chiefs - so the traditional "peaking at the right time" team seems to be out of the equation.

When chalk and common sense points to the Chargers as the favorites, it's been a strange year.

In laying out a lineup, the first step was to figure out who has a shot and who doesn't. In the interest of keeping this shot and letting the "football" tags cool off before I have to spin off a Siberian Football site like I had to do with baseball, here's how I see it.

Teams with a shot at hitting the Super Bowl:

NFC: Bears and Saints
AFC: Chargers and Ravens

The Big Maybes:

NFC: Cowboys and Seahawks
AFC: Colts and Patriots

The No Way in Hells:

NFC: Eagles and Giants
AFC: Chiefs and Jets

Just how I'm seeing it this morning. I will be completely wrong by 6 p.m. today.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

As promised, a horse shit performance

If you're on any sort of diet you might want to skip this medley.

It's Jim Mora - who is a master of post-game interviews and should have a job coaching with Denny Green somewhere in the next two years purely for entertainment value - calling his team horse shit, scoffing at the idea of the playoffs and how crappy his team performed.

My favorite is the Peyton Manning Droopy Dog look at the end of the clip.


And a little something extra because you were all so awesome this week.

God, I love football and combustible coaches. Say what you will about Ditka, but I'd be intimidated to have to go ask him questions after a loss... much less seven of them.

Playoffs? Playoffs?

While this will almost certainly force me to post the now famous "Playoffs? Playoffs!?!" meltdown, it's a pretty awesome little gimmick from the NFL.

Found this when I was scrounging around to complete my post-season picks pool for work, but it's clever and pretty funny.

The deep-voiced Inside the NFL highlights guy narrates the whole thing which is funny on many, many levels. My favorite is if they ask you "Bling or no bling" and he assure you he knows how you roll, Boo.

Word to your collective mothers, campers.

(Oh, I'm supposed to be a Chargers fan, which I guess I already kind of am for the purposes of this post-season, but now I have an automated bandwagon selection to back that, instead of simple front running. Uh, go Bolts, I guess?)

(Photo from

Monday, January 01, 2007

The greatest story ever told

The nicest thing about not drinking on New Year's?

No New Year's Day hangover.
I remember working late in college and coming back to the house we were staying at to a party in full swing.

"Where's Jeremy?" I asked.

"He's in the downstairs bathroom," said Heather. "He's being calmed down because he got drunk and thinks he ruined New Year's Eve."

The only logical thing to do? Burst through the door to the bathroom and greet him with a heartfelt, "I hear you're ruining the evening, you jerk."

That was good for another hour of entertainment.

That's what friends are for.

(Photo from