Sunday, April 25, 2010

The triumphant return of QUICK TAKES

If you are easily offended, turn away. If you don't like your favorite teams and players being mocked incessantly, cover your eyes (it'll be hard to keep reading if you cover your eyes though, just FYI). If you want cupcake journalism, stories about puppies and kitties and how cute they are, well, there might be some of that, but NOT MUCH DAMMIT.

For five years I wrote a column called Quick Takes, covering national sports with as much satire and attitude as my editors would allow (a.k.a very little). It was because of Quick Takes that I nearly got expelled from Loyola University Chicago ... twice. I received countless voicemails, letters, and e-mails from people who were mad at Quick Takes, all of which I glowingly printed in the "Letters to the Editor" section of the newspaper because, just as I saw the newspaper as a forum for my sometimes-awkward conversations, I thought everyone else deserved just as much of that forum as I did. I thought I was a rebel, like fuckin Che Guevara. I took nude pictures of myself holding machine guns I made out of cardboard. Badass.

And then, after the NCAA Tournament this year, some of my closest friends destroyed that rebel. I wrote an article called "What could have been ..." about Butler forward Gordon Hayward's final three-point heave at the buzzer against Duke. About how monumental that shot could have been. Life changing even. But my friends? They called me Rick Reilly. FUDGEEEEE. Rick Reilly? Seriously? The corniest, sweater-vestiest writer in sports? I felt like Luke Skywalker in "The Empire Strikes Back," "Nooo! That's impossible!"

Ironically, that's the same thing I said after George Lucas released Episodes I through III.

But was it impossible? I'm not the same person I was years ago. I'm not passing out on the el in Chicago with a bag full of uneaten Taco Bell in my lap. I don't lose my shoes anymore when I drink. I'm married now, I'm living in a coffee-drinking, wine-tasting, beautiful town with people who wear socks and sandals year round. I'm having to confront far more of life than I ever thought I would. Finances, business decisions, kids, puppies (see, told you there might be some puppy talk). Has my writing mirrored my life? Has my pen been growing up too?

That's the first grey hair. The wake up call. Without friends who are willing to tell you you're writing like a 52-year-old man who thinks EVERYTHING is adorable and wears replica John Daly pants to bed, you let yourself go. And like all great, sexy men before me, I'm going to Walgreen's and getting some Just For Men Gel. I don't mind growing up, but I refuse to let my writing do the same.
  • I want to talk about volcanoes. Specifically, Eyjafjallajökull. Before we start, yes, I can pronounce it and my wife owes me a dollar for ever challenging me on Scandinavian pronunciations. I'm a direct descendant of Norwegian king Haakon V and his predecessors. I bought an English-to-Norwegian dictionary for light reading. Seriously, you owe me a freaking dollar. Pay up. But all throughout Europe, football players have been bitching left and right, in the wake of the volcanic ash plume that grounded flights across Europe, about how land travel sucked the energy out of them and that's why they lost. Barcelona used the volcano, Fulham used the volcano, Liverpool used the volcano. I have a sneaking suspicion that professional football players weren't piling into a Greyhound bus with a bunch of sight-seeing fat people. "Look honey, it's Lionel Messi! ... I'm starving, let's eat him. But first, take a picture of that illegible road sign."
  • If I ever make enough money to buy a thoroughbred racehorse, and that is my ultimate dream in life, I'm going to name it Eyjafjallajökull. I would pay money to hear a play-by-play guy call that race.
  • Alternative solution: Buy a dog and name him that. For only $100 I can torture my wife for years. Priceless.
  • Tim Tebow's entourage on NFL Draft night looked just like cast members from "Jersey Shore." I wonder what the Jesus version of that show would be like though. Same basic framework -- copycat haircuts, tight shirts, questionable morals -- but what's the twist? Everyone chugging communion wine in the rectory before hitting on girls at youth group. Nailed it.
  • Kids? The biggest lesson learned from Ben Roethlisberger's suspension: If you sexually assault a minor, you won't get to come to work for 4-6 weeks.
  • Kids? The biggest lesson learned from Ben Roethlisberger's bodyguard: If you let Ben Roethlisberger sexually assault a minor, you might not get to be a cop anymore. Aw, frowny-face!
  • Former Oregon RB and internationally-acclaimed Ryu impersonator LeGarrette Blount went undrafted through all seven rounds of the NFL Draft. He's proved once and for all that if you punch a guy in the face and Hulk out on a bunch of police on live TV, you're going to have a hard time getting a job. That's why I'll never sign the waiver from those "COPS" producers. What my employers don't know won't hurt them.
  • When the Mariners signed Milton Bradley, I have to admit I was excited. I wanted swear-laden press conferences, broken cameras, and a Tie Domi-inspired fan appreciation day with Milton climbing the outfield wall into the stands and throwing punches at unsuspecting Japanese tourists. But outside of a middle-fingered salute to Texas Rangers fans earlier this year, Milton's been all smiles. There's a conspiracy here. You don't take someone as volatile as Milton Bradley and churn out a Teletubby unless there's serious medicine involved. Instead of riling up the dragon after he flipped off an entire stadium, the Mariners brass sat down with him and asked him about his day, told him he didn't need to put so much pressure on himself, gave him some milk and cookies and read him "Goodnight, Moon" in bed that same night. And when Milton does something stupid, like trying to barehand a sliced ball in the outfield with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, the Seattle sports media asks him hardball questions like, "Hey Milton, how does it feel to be so awesome?" I get it, everyone's trying to coddle the grizzly bear so he doesn't bite someone's face off. But why do you think those shows about animal attacks on TruTV are so popular? People love animal attacks.
  • Apparently Manu Ginobili broke his nose in game three of the Spurs-Mavs series. How in the world did anyone even notice?
  • I don't like LeBron James, but I'm starting to realize that my distaste for LeBron, aside from his dancing idiocy and self-appointed kingship, has something to do with what I'm calling the Tebow Corrolary. Just like Tebow became enemy #1 in America because of incessant media coverage, LeBron is covered here like he drove Princess Diana's getaway car. Mark Jackson, former NBA point guard and current "analyst," (I put quotes around the word analyst because that implies he or any of the other ESPN "analysts" actually, you know, analyze the game) said on a recent telecast that "LeBron getting to the Finals with that Cavs team in '07 was as good as winning a championship in my eyes." Um, what?! Are we seriously to the point with LeBron now that his most glaring deficiency is being gifted to him like an honorary college degree? We know you didn't go to college, LeBron, but here's an honorary doctorate from Harvard, we think you can be the one to cure cancer.
  • Sometimes I think a bunch of NBA players are actually in gangs and fund a lot of the gang operations with their multi-million dollar contracts, buying guns, drugs, cars, and the obligatory bling to sustain the system. And then I see Robert Swift and change my mind.
  • Do you ever forget to eat lunch? Terrance Cody doesn't.
  • Statistics have become a huge part of the NBA. I love sports statistics, I scour through box scores and routinely take my own notes on games, writing down pass length, pass directionality, positional effectiveness, etc. while I'm watching sports. I always want to understand the difference between positive and negative decisions. That's precisely why I want to talk to Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich about statistics. If a 25-foot shot is worth three points, and a 23-foot shot is worth two points, and, statistically, you have the same percentage of success on both shots, wouldn't it make sense to shoot the 25-foot shot and have the opportunity to get an additional point for every shot you take? Kirk Hinrich doesn't think so, routinely pump-faking a three and stepping in to shoot a long two-pointer. Kirk, that's not effective offense, it's bad offense, and it's really starting to make a lot more sense that you're from Iowa.
  • I hope Chelsea defender John Terry's body produces a new species of mite or louse before the World Cup and he has to play in a HazMat suit throughout the tournament. But much like the intrepid Bob Marley, I fear we won't know the full extent of the fauna living in his forest until after he dies.

Until next time!

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