Monday, October 31, 2011

Quick Takes - Here comes Halloween

Oh these things? They're just super-powerful afterlife judgment scales. No big deal.

Okay, first off, if you haven't read the first ever Golfpunk comic, written by myself and the enormously-talented Lucius Wisniewski and illustrated by the aforementioned enormously-talented Lucius Wisniewski (he's a mouthful), then GO READ IT. Because it's awesome. And it's funny. And it's golfpunk.

Today is Halloween, which would be my favorite holiday ever if it weren't for the hordes of drunken whores that ruin it for those of us with a bit of whimsy in our hearts. Halloween, to me, is about celebrating and embracing death, which I've always thought is definitely something to celebrate (especially for kids!). But I don't like to dress up on Halloween anymore, mostly because I'm still haunted by being forced to wear the worst/best costume ever years ago by my friends (I'm looking at you, K-Mart), an artsy piece that we dubbed "Crouching Nipples, Hidden Penis," using well-placed Chinese-themed tiger/dragon temporary tattoos and a whole lot of whiskey to help guide the decision. These days, I prefer quiet genuflections at the altar of Anubis I set up in my apartment, thank you.

Last year, I got really excited for Halloween. It felt like my first real "grown-up" Halloween, and I bought tons of candy to hand out to kids who came to my door (if that's not being grown up, I don't know what is). I put all the candy in a bowl by the door and waited patiently for the first little fiends to arrive. But no one arrived. Ever. The entire night, not a single goblin child came to my door and asked me for free candy. It was the most depressing Halloween ever, until I realized I had a buttload of candy to eat and I didn't have to share it with any stupid kids.

  • Tim Tebow's success as an NFL quarterback lasted about as long as Kim Kardashian's marriage. Heyooo!
  • The Texas Rangers, fresh off a disastrous loss in World Series game seven, are apparently interested in Prince Fielder and will be pursuing him this summer. As a Seattle Mariners fan who desperately hopes the Mariners can woo the gigantic first-baseman to Seattle, I can't help but break this down logically and wind up feeling like Kurt Cobain in the sunshine. If the money is the same, there's basically no reason whatsoever that Fielder would choose Seattle. Seattle has a bigger stadium, a worse team, worse teammates, an unclear positional situation, a disassociated owner, minimal national spotlight, a tight payroll ... Okay, I have to stop, this is just morbid (yay, Halloween!). Let's hope Prince Fielder hates hot weather and has a sweet-tooth for smoked salmon.
  • After ranking dead last in Major League Baseball in homeruns since moving to their new park, the New York Mets have finally decided to bring in the fences at Citi Field. They will be moving the walls in by as much as 12 feet next season, lowering the height from 16 feet to eight, and changing the color to blue. No word yet on whether Bernie Madoff will be frozen in carbonite and displayed in left field.
  • The previously-winless St. Louis Rams, starting A.J. Feeley over the injured Sam Bradford, somehow beat the 5-2 New Orleans Saints 31-21. A.J. Feeley should pull a Tony La Russa and retire today.
  • Dwyane Wade is a snappy dresser, sure, but I think having a personal stylist should absolve anyone from being interviewed for a magazine about style, as Wade was recently by GQ. Why not interview the stylist? Wade doesn't pick out or buy his own clothes; his stylist sends photos of potential clothes/accessories to his iPad and he just says yes or no. If that's style, then every time I go to McDonald's I'm going to say I'm cooking.

Golfpunk: The Icy Fairways, Part I

Written by Erik Ian Larsen & Lucius Wisniewski/Illustration by Lucius Wisniewski

Click the comic to view in full resolution!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quick Takes - The greatest game of all time?

I humbly disagree, LL Cool J.

Last night's World Series game was amazing. There's really no other way to describe it (except there is, and we'll get to that in a bit). The Rangers were one strike away, twice, from winning the World Series, only to have the Cardinals come back from two runs down in both the 9th and 10th innings before hitting a game-winning home run in the 11th to extend the series to a final seventh game. It was one of the most incredible finishes in World Series history, in baseball history no less, but a curious thing has happened since the game ended. Reporters and fans alike have begun calling it "the greatest game ever." It was certainly a spectacular game, and the drama it provided consistently over the last three innings is tough to match, but was it really the greatest baseball game in the history of the sport? There were loads of errors, managerial miscues, poor pitching, poor defense, and it merely extended the series instead of ending it. Is that the greatest game ever? Do all those negatives go away because of the drama and the spectacle of it all? And, more importantly, what does the "greatest" even mean?

We're quick to add that title to anything that's immediately prevalent. A successful film. A mind-blowing album. A breathtaking athlete. A cultural revolution in the Middle East. A mass protest against banks or the government or something. A game. Our collective context for "the greatest" extends only as far as our short-term memories and our own preferences, and that's even with the depth of statistics at our fingertips. Most modern NBA fans still call Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time, and statistically you could make that argument, but people from a different generation and a different preference would point to Wilt Chamberlain, or Bill Russell, or Jerry West, or whoever changed their perspective and left that imprint on the game. And that's how "the greatest" forms. It's a moment that changes perspective. Last night was definitely a perspective changer, and it's prompted more discussion about a singular baseball "moment" than there's been in years, but does it eclipse everything that's happened prior simply because it happened "now"?

Normalized statistics are really the only way to accurately judge "the greatest" of anything. But statistics can't really pinpoint the right set of variables that would please everyone and establish a true formula for greatness. It's not a problem with statistics, it's more a problem with people and how we choose to categorize and canonize things. If an album sells the most copies, but it's poorly-reviewed by critics, is it greater than an album that sold a handful but critics loved? Do the masses determine the greatest of anything, or is there something more fundamental to greatness that's out of the public's hands?

I think it's the latter, but that's what makes last night's game and the subsequent beatifying of it so interesting: People are calling it the greatest because of how it impacted them individually, and as long as there's enough people who contextualize it individually as "the greatest," it simply becomes that thing in the public sphere (greatness in numbers?). The concept of "the greatest" ignores the fact that it's often difficult for anyone to come up with a better example, because few of us have the proper historical and statistical context to compare it to other so-called "great" games in MLB history, but that's really what the greatest is all about: 15 minutes of fame, sometimes extended because there isn't anything more pressing to disestablish it. Muhammad Ali is the "greatest" boxer of all time because no one's come close to pushing his legacy, his impact on the sport, his impact on popular culture, and his ability to be at his best under the brightest lights. But, statistically? There were better boxers before him and have been better boxers since him. Here's the real point: If the Rangers win tonight, doesn't that change the context and perspective of game six? Doesn't that change the "greatness" formula?

  • Does Nelson Cruz know how to play outfield? Based on last night's game, where Cruz misread an easy line drive with two outs in the 9th that would've won his team the World Series, I'm guessing no, he doesn't. But don't get too excited, Mariners fans, Franklin Gutierrez may have caught that ball, but he wouldn't have hit eight homeruns in the playoffs to tie Barry Bonds for the all-time playoff record. Also, he wouldn't have been in the playoffs, because he's on the Mariners. Damn, that was depressing, sorry about that.
  • When Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush used the adjective "stink" to describe his team's performance this past weekend against the Broncos, Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell told reporters that, in fact, "He stinks," referring to Bush. Ahhh, teamwork, you are a fickle friend.
  • Of all the stupid shit I've read and wrote about over the past week, of course an athlete talking about god has to show up. Of course. We couldn't just have a nice, peaceful Quick Takes, make fun of a few people, make fun of myself, and all go home together to eat some Velveeta Shells and Cheese. No, religion and sports are, once again, inevitably intertwined, and I'm the one left to cover it rationally. Josh Hamilton, who I really like as a baseball player and respect as a person for what he's overcome (drugs are bad, mmkay?), told reporters that god told him he was going to hit a home run last night. And lo, the lord spoketh, and Hamilton hitteth said homerun, and so the lord's existenth is proveth! Hamilton told ESPN, "[God] told me, 'You haven't hit one in a while, and this is the time you're going to.' You know what? I probably had the most relaxed, peaceful at-bat I've had of the whole series at that moment. It's pretty cool. You ought to try it sometime." As to what the "it" he's referring to is, that's for each of us to decide personally (my bet's on mushrooms), but I sure wonder what god must think about Nelson Cruz, and Neftali Perez, and Darren Oliver, and Ron Washington, and, and, and. Not only that, but the inane idea that some omniscient superbeing is watching a freaking baseball game instead of helping out sick children, preventing murders, stopping brutal civil wars, or clearing the horrible flooding in Bangkok is so ridiculously insane that it makes my brain hurt. It physically hurts. And what makes it hurt even more is that a religious person may actually revel in something like Hamilton's divine home run, that it's some sort of justification for belief, and ignores the logical implication of what that god would actually be like if He chose to dip His hand in Major League Baseball instead of all of the aforementioned (and unmentioned) atrocities in the world. That's something to believe in? Sports fan Jesus who doesn't give a crap about all that other stuff aside from excusing it as "part of god's plan?" I JUST WANT TO WRITE STUPID JOKES ABOUT SPORTS, OKAY?!
  • Chargers all-pro left guard Kris Dielman suffered a grand mal seizure on the flight back to San Diego last Sunday after sustaining a concussion in a loss to the Jets. I don't know what it's going to take for the NFL to take concussions seriously and reduce the brutality of the sport (remove the pads, seriously, that's how you fix it), but I think we're one step away from finding out what that end is.
  • The only reason Tony Sparano is still the head coach of the Miami Dolphins is so they'll continue to lose in a desperate attempt to draft Andrew Luck, right? We're all aware of that? You too, Commissioner Goodell? For all the problems I have with David Stern, at least he tried to figure out a way to lower the incentive for teams to tank by introducing a draft lottery. Now, whether or not Stern rigs the lottery every year is a completely different discussion.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I present to you, Golfpunk

This shot lands in the fairway, and you let our hostages go.

I was discussing the concept of literary "-punk" genres (cyberpunk, steampunk, etc.) with one of my best friends in the whole wide world (cue audience "awwww"), let's call him Lucius (because that's his name). It seems that new sub-genres of fiction are being invented daily lately, with marketers are overzealous readers attaching a -punk to everything. People in the Arctic? Icepunk. People on a boat? Sailpunk. The extent of this strange sub-categorization is out of control. But Lucius and I, always looking for the next big financial windfall (we're super wealthy), have decided to jump on the punkwagon and are going to corner the market on the next big -punk.

Trying to define what constitutes a "-punk" was difficult, because, really, it's just fiction and it usually doesn't need to be categorized to the point of absurdity. But we settled on the definition of a -punk genre as a story in an otherwise drab or unknown setting that is surprisingly gritty and badass. Cyberpunk transforms 14-year-old nerds playing World of Warcraft for 12 hours a day into tense international hacking escapades (nothing gritty about the word escapade, but you get it). Steampunk takes the stuffery of the olde Victoriane erae and adds guns and airships and sexy ladies. Normally boring locations or people, now kaboomed for your entertainment. After considerable debate about what our genre would be, there was one true standout amongst the crowd:

Golfpunk.

+++

President Kennedy lined up his tee shot on the second hole of Augusta National. The wind was warm and breezy that day, not out of the ordinary for a summer in Georgia, but the President knew his way around a gust. He stood with stoic confidence, the confidence only a man of his position and power could carry, and gazed out into the green ocean before him.

He pulled back a hefty wood driver and-

"Sir!" his top aide interrupted.

"Dammit, Johnson!" President Kennedy pulled a lightly-chewed cigar out of his mouth. "I thought I told you never to interrupt me during my back swing."

"But, sir," Johnson said panicked, "the Russians ... they've just launched their nukes."

The President turned around, his mere presence bringing the aide's eyes down.

"Where?"

There was a pause in Johnson's response. He looked up slowly at the President, afraid to answer the monumental question. Los Angeles? Would they dare hit the heartbeat of America and nuke New York City? Or would it be somewhere unimportant, like Nebraska. A distant bird chattered away, and the sound of a faint lawnmower filled the anxious void.

"Everywhere," Johnson finally gasped.

Kennedy placed the cigar back in his mouth and reset his taut body over the white ball. He waggled the driver and bounced his knees to settle in for his shot.

"Sir? What shall we do?" Johnson whispered.

"Hit them back; hit them back hard."

THWACK!

+++

In our next issue: Mutated giant nuclear gophers, a Russian spy with a surprisingly-high handicap, and an international crisis brews on the icy 14th green at Siberia's most notorious country club.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quick Takes - Ambidexterity

Great. Now try it with your left hand, Hanks.

A few years ago, I was obsessed with the idea of training myself to be ambidextrous. I like to think I'm prone to ambidexterity anyway, I don't know why I think that, but I just want to (I sound like a religious person now ... dammit), so I spent a considerable amount of time doing everything that I normally did with my right hand with my left. If my right hand already knew how to do something well, then why did I persist on using it? Why not try to learn something new and get my left hand up to par? I wrote left handed, I brushed my teeth left handed (surprisingly hard and painful); I'd even try to dress myself using only my left hand. The last one doesn't make sense in hindsight, but that's what happens when obsession grips you.

I gave up after realizing that it took years to learn how to do all those things with my right hand, and I didn't want to write like a 6-year-old for a lengthy period of time while I explained to a dwindling pool of friends and co-workers that I was "just working on my ambidexterity." As primates, we are naturally adept at doing many things with either side of our bodies, but the presence of a "strong" hand or foot is natural in the wild, so I've decided it's okay for me too. I'm no better than the noble gorilla or the boisterous chimpanzee. Not only that, but there is no tangible utility benefit to learning how to do most of the things that I do with my right hand with an alternate hand (an alternate hand ... like I have more than one alternate?). I'm not going to be kidnapped by terrorists who only bother to tie up my right hand. If I'm on a deserted island, I can pretty much scrawl an S.O.S. into the sand with any body part that's still there (after my pirate ship goes down in shark-infested waters and I lose an arm). And even if the S.O.S. is a bit sloppy, it's not like the rescue plane is going to turn around because my typography is sub-standard. And if the plane does turn around because of that, well eff those guys, I'll wait for the next one.

  • The Seattle Mariners will start using tech company Qcue's on-demand pricing software for all home games next season, which uses software analytics to set ticket prices in real-time based on actual demand for each game. Uh oh, this could get awkward.
  • Terrell Owens held a workout for himself yesterday in a last-ditch attempt to save his NFL career. A host of teams were supposed to be in attendance for the workout, but none showed up and TO was left to strut around for the media (who were all too eager to show up, of course). His agent said that no one showed up because they could just watch it on the NFL Network, and that Owens' "drills created buzz" around the NFL. It goes without saying that they still haven't received a call from a team yet, but damn, I think I need my own sports agent, someone to just publicly blow wind up my arse and tell me how great I am. "Hey, everyone! Erik just created some buzz at the grocery store with a savvy purchase of expiring steak! No one else would've thought of that but him! Now he's going to go home and cook it and watch 'Dexter' because he's freaking awesome!"
  • New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had to apologize to Pats owner Robert Kraft after pictures of Gronkowski shirtless with an adult film "star" (...) in his jersey appeared on Twitter last week. The adult film "star" appeared on a radio station Monday alongside the tight end (no jokes, please) and said that she and Gronkowski share a mutual friend who played football with him at Arizona. They took a couple photos together and she posted them online. BFD. Are we so sensitive to sex in this country that an NFL player has to apologize to his owner for standing next to a woman who has it? And Patriots quarterback Tom Brady married a freaking Victoria's Secret underwear model! Is that really so different than an adult film star? What the hell is going on here? Why is Gronkowski apologizing?! I'M SO CONFUSED.
  • Tony Romo and his wife are expecting their first child. We all agree that Romo should stay as far away from the delivery room as possible, right? He gets a little iffy during important plays.
  • Former #1 overall pick and Oakland Raiders bust JaMarcus Russell is blaming sleep apnea for his lack of success in the NFL: "In the NFL, my first year, I had to be there at 6:30 (a.m.) before practice and be on the treadmill for an hour. Then meetings come, I sit down, eat my fruit. We watch film, and maybe I got tired. Coach Flip (quarterback coach John DeFilippo) pulled me aside and said, 'What are you doing for nightlife?' I said, 'Coach, I'm just chilling.' He said, 'I need to get you checked out.' I did the sleep test, and they said I had apnea." As someone who has dealt with my own sleep issues, I understand the preference for the nighttime over 6:30 a.m. treadmill runs, but I also know that they have a lot of medical options for managing sleep apnea, and if I were the #1 pick in the NFL Draft, with a contract that gave me $61 million, I'd try just about anything (Hyperbolic chamber? Surgery? CPAP machine?) to make sure my sleep problems were taken care of. I think it's a bit absurd for Russell to try to fall on that sword, especially when he forgets that we all watched his standout NCAA career, we all saw him gain 50 lbs. once he joined the NFL, and, of course, we all know about his preference for purple drank (arrested for codeine possession without a prescription).
  • NBA players have talked seriously about forming their own league as a response to this absurd lockout. I think it's a great idea and all, and it would certainly stick it to the man, but I, for one, hope that doesn't happen. Not because I don't want to watch basketball, no, it's for that very reason I don't want NBA players to form their own league. Did you see Kevin Durant put up a triple-double in a game the other night against a horde of fellow NBA players? Of course he did. Each team scored like 170 points. NBA players hate playing defense. They only do it because they have to. But take away the "have to," and what do you have? A full season of the NBA All-Star Game. Yikes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quick Takes - Death to the twist-tie

From hell.

The twist-tie has to be the worst invention in human history. It does not save time, it does not preserve bread better than twisting the bag and tucking the remaining plastic under the loaf, and you can't re-purpose it for anything else when a loaf is done. The twist-tie may seem like a flexible, malleable option, but after three or four uses, it begins to fray, little speckles of colored material litter the countertops, and all that remains is an increasingly-useless bit of wire that Professor Farnsworth wouldn't even bother to save. If I buy a loaf of bread that has a twist-tie, I remove the twist-tie on first use and replace it with a hoarded bread clip. I save bread clips. Shut up. The bread clip is superior in every way to the twist-tie, and yet the twist-tie still holds a share of the market. How is this possible? Do people still use rotary phones? Do they still manufacture rotary phones? We have cell phones now! We have bread clips!

But that got me thinking, what other stupid inventions are still out there? What other trinkets do people use that make no sense to keep using but we're forced to continue because companies won't stop including them in purchased products? The first answer has to be that atrocious adult-proof packaging for things like knives, GPS units, and, as I found out recently after purchasing a child-proofing set to keep my damn kittens out of the cabinets, child-proof sets (apparently people want to keep murderous child-proofers with a bad sense of direction from seeing out their sinister plans). If I buy a knife, I don't want to have to use a knife to get a knife out of its packaging. You know? If I buy some child-proofing crap, I shouldn't have to violently wield a machete to get little bits of formed plastic out of their Fort Knox container. We have other kinds of packaging, packaging that works really well, that serves its ultimate purpose better than the adult-proof kind. So let's just stop making and using that other stuff. Thanks.

And what about shoelaces! Okay, I'll stop, I'll stop. On to Quick Takes.

  • The St. Louis Cardinals gave away game 5 of the World Series last night, thanks to a late-inning blunder by manager Tony La Russa. With the game tight and runners on base, La Russa decided not to use his best bullpen pitcher, closer Jason Motte, he didn't even have him warming up, and instead let Mike Napoli tee off another pitcher for the game-winning two-run double. But La Russa, either covering his own ass or covering someone else's, said to the media that he'd actually made the call to get Motte warmed up to come in and lock things down against the Rangers, but that the crowd noise was so loud the bullpen apparently didn't hear him ask for Motte. Twice. From a land line. To another land-line inside an enclosed bullpen. The Cardinals must use AT&T.
  • And to continue piling on La Russa, because it's really fun going after a guy who's clung to a mullet for 30 years, Allen Craig was thrown out trying to steal second base yesterday with Albert Pujols at the plate. Pujols said that he made the call for the hit-and-run that got Craig thrown out, which would be baffling if a player was making those types of calls (don't get me started on the sabermetrics behind base-stealing). Shouldn't the manager be determining whether or not to throw away an out and a potential run with one of the best hitters in baseball history at the plate?
  • The NBA is set to cancel another two weeks of the regular season, which means we're two weeks closer to LeBron James in "Kazaam 2!"
  • Ndamukong Suh, mentioned in yesterday's Quick Takes for having allegedly taunted an injured Matt Ryan while he squirmed in pain on the ground, fired back at the accusatory Falcons and said that Ryan's temporary injury was "karma" for all the dirty play Atlanta's offensive line was dishing out. No, what's karma is taunting an injured player, only to have him come back in the game and beat the snot out of you. But I don't expect the HOUSE OF SPEARS to be overly connected with Buddhist ideologies. Not that "beating the snot out of someone" is very Buddhist either ... god damn these electric sex pants.
  • According to the Associated Press, during Sunday's loss to the Broncos, desperate Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano pleaded with officials to review a late Denver touchdown because, "If I don't call a timeout, I'm (sunk) and now I'm getting fired, OK?" he screamed at two referees while pointing toward the team owner's skybox. The referees ignored his pleas and didn't review the touchdown. And Tony Sparano went home to begin mixing concrete for what he calls, "special referee shoes."
  • Oregon Ducks cornerback Cliff Harris was suspended by his team after being pulled over for, keep up with me here, driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance, and driving without a seat belt, this after being ticketed in June for driving 118 mph on I-5 with a suspended license. In response, Nike will design and manufacture $10 million robotic, self-driving cars for all Oregon Ducks players.
  • Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli is now backing a fireworks safety campaign (by standing for a photo holding a poster of fireworks), days after he set fire to his bathroom by using fireworks indoors. Balotelli has tried to clear up the story, saying the newspapers got the story wrong and "a friend" was the one using fireworks in the bathroom. Balotelli said he didn't know anything until he heard the shouting, but we all know that when you reference an unnamed friend, you did it yourself. My friend has this rash. My friend got his arm stuck in a vending machine. My friend ran over a guy. It was you, Mario, just fess up.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quick Takes - Mystery meat

These aren't the tacos you're looking for. Move along.

Taco Bell can be a rather unfriendly co-host at times. I haven't had it in probably a year, but this weekend, I decided to take the plunge and loaded up on delicious tacos + burritos. Hours later, I was genuflecting to the porcelain gods and wondering why I thought it was a good idea to get back on the wagon (is it on the wagon or off?). But was it really Taco Bell's fault? Was I subconsciously preparing my stomach for what could happen based on hearsay and the occasional past experience, which made a normally stalwart Viking stomach into a nauseous little girl who had too much candy's stomach? Did I convince myself that Taco Bell = X (fill in your own adjective so I don't get sued), and therefore Consumer = Sick?

Or was the combination of subpar meat and multi-colored mystery sauces to blame? I don't know, I'll never know, unless I go back to Taco Bell, order the exact same thing, eat the exact same amount at the exact same time of day, and then observe myself like a rhesus macaque in a cage, which I'm probably more excited about than any normal person would. I get to be my own science experiment?! Awesome! I get to observe myself like some sort of dual wild animal/primatologist?! Sign me up!

Someone should set up a Web site that proposes scientific experiments that people can volunteer to do on themselves (with the appropriate legal waivers, of course). Whether direct cause and effect experiments or even just simple observational ones (yes, I will eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a week and record my bodily responses), as long as there's some sort of cash incentive, I think there's a huge market for modern scientific explorers like myself to conduct contained experiments! Make it so, world. Make it so.

  • Aaron Rodgers is pretty much a lock for MVP in the NFL this year. The Packers QB has led his team to an undefeated start and is putting up historic numbers that have never been approached by another quarterback in NFL history. But what's really interesting to me is that the Packers receiving corps leads the NFL in drops. How much better would Rodgers' already-untouchable numbers be if his receivers could actually catch the ball? Scary.
  • And then there's the opposite: Tim Tebow. Tebow apologists out there are pointing to the dramatic come-from-behind, overtime victory that Denver pulled out in Miami (against the worst team in the NFL), behind two Tebow TD throws and a last-gasp Matt Prater field goal, but I don't know that I've ever seen a professional quarterback that looked so bad. And I live in Seattle!
  • One more thing about Tebow, and then I'll just walk away for the rest of the week (promise). I've heard so many talking heads on ESPN explain that they love and believe in Tebow because "he's a good guy," referring to his oozing Christianity and rampant positivity. But, and this should really go without saying, being a good guy doesn't mean a damn thing in sports. These are professional athletes, their job is to play sports, not to be "good guys" (whatever that even means). If he was running for office or something, sure, go ahead and list that as an attribute if you want, but him being "nice" is as important on the football field as him being Christian is. It's completely inconsequential, and if he keeps completing only 40% of his passes, he'll get to be another one of those nice guys who says it wasn't god's plan for him to play football.
  • The refereeing in the NFL has never been more atrocious than it is right now. The inability to consistently call anything has made the game frustrating to watch and, for the players, frustrating to play. I can't imagine that's something the NFL commissioner is shooting for. In the Seahawks game alone, there were a handful of questionable calls that made me want to go do something else (and I did, I went to Uncle's Games and bought Magic cards because I'm awesome). The personal foul call on Kam Chancellor for tackling the quarterback too hard (I seriously can't fathom what they flagged him for), negating a sack and causing an irate Pete Carroll to be forced off the field by the officials, was so ridiculous even the announcers were upset. And if you can wake an NFL announcer up from his talking coma, you know you've done something wrong. The point of a referee is to make sure the game is being played fairly and at the highest level possible. I think they forget that sometimes, hell, I think the league forgets that sometimes, and it turns the referees into trigger-happy police. Nobody wants to watch an NFL game to see close-ups of an old man in weird clothes explaining shit. Nobody. And nobody wants to see some of the best athletes in the world afraid to touch each other for fear of getting flagged or fined. NFL refereeing is a joke, and the only reason it's not a bigger deal is because the refereeing in every other major American sport is too.
  • Legitimate question: Do the Colts even like playing football?
  • Ndamukong Suh and a Lions teammate were accused of taunting Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan after he went down injured, with a Falcons player accusing Suh of "talking trash" and mockingly telling trainers to "get the cart." I think when you play against a guy whose first name means "HOUSE OF SPEARS" you should just be glad you get to go home at night to your wife and kids.
  • The Raiders threw six interceptions yesterday in a tough loss, three coming from new quarterback Carson Palmer. But don't worry, it always works out well to sell the farm to pick up a mediocre quarterback, right Arizona?
  • You know the old saying that the "best" player on any NFL team is the back-up quarterback, because of fans' idolization of what the back-up quarterback could be? Well, back-up quarterbacks are 1-18 this season after replacing the starter. Statistics make me happy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Quick Takes - The eSports revolution

And up next on ESPN3 ...

Return to Castle Wolfenstein was always my game. For nearly a decade, I played nothing but RTCW. Day or night, rain or shine, RTCW was this humming insect zapper that annihilated my desire to play other games (or to go outside). Even as the server populations started to dwindle (newer, better games kept coming out and stealing players ... those bastards) and hackers tried to ruin every single match, I kept plugging away because there was something exciting about playing RTCW at a high level. It was my "digital home," and there was a community of hardcore gamers who made it their homes too. But it wasn't just a home, it was a real, competitive digital sport, and it made me wonder about the future of both gaming and sports (and whether they could, or even should, join forces).

If Madden gamers could show up on ESPN2 wearing oversized NFL jerseys and doing that weird "cover your opened mouth with a fist because you've just done something well and shamed your opponent" thing, I felt like RTCW could've easily been there too. Digital sports, viewable by the masses. I spent my childhood sitting next to my brother and watching him play games or playing them myself. The viewing experience for me has always been more enjoyable than any other watchable consumption (better than movies, TV, anything). The quality of gameplay and the quality of the viewing experience within RTCW was on par with most live sports, let alone something relatively uninspiring to watch/play like Madden, and it came down to the sheer experience and precision of the players who turned first-timers, with those tell-tale white-text names, into pin cushions.

I knew every map and could maneuver through them with my eyes closed. I had studied the game religiously and learned how players moved and acted, what their inclinations were and what decisions they were most likely to make in every situation. I played the game so much that, after a dreadful night out drinking, I said goodbye to a toilet full of puke with a German "auf wiedersehen!" Not my proudest moment, but a reinforcement that I knew RTCW and it knew me. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about the 10,000-hour theory (that it takes that amount of time to truly master something), and I felt like I really understood what that meant as a gamer. People would sit in "Spectator" mode to watch each other play, to watch the really good players play, or to watch teams go head-to-head in official matches. That was how people wanted to spend their free time. So where was the market for those people who a) loved to play games and b) loved to watch the best players in the world play them too? The answer came years later in the form of eSports, which are growing at such a tremendous rate right now that publications like Forbes are starting to cover them without irony.

The viewership numbers for eSports events are starting to get scary, and I think it changes the model for how we consume sports and what we consider sports as well. I'm not saying some kid in Korea playing Starcraft II is on the same level as Aaron Rodgers or LeBron James, but if Texas Hold 'Em poker or Nascar can show up regularly on television, I don't see why professional gaming can't either. It may not even need to be on TV, and you can certainly make the argument that television isn't the right format for six-hour death matches, but the mainstream sports media should embrace competitive gaming and eSports. And eSports should embrace the mainstream sports media too. That means professional announcers, professional graphics, and professional coverage.

Forbes released the following numbers from Major League Gaming (MLG) events over the past four months. These are concurrent viewers, all tuning in to online streaming matches at the same time. It's no "Walking Dead" with its 7.5 million viewers (cough ... the comics are better), but these numbers can't be ignored, especially when you consider that people are watching other people play video games:

MLG Columbus (June) – 117,000 peak concurrent viewers
MLG Anaheim (July) – 124,000
MLG Raleigh (August) – 138,000
MLG Orlando (September) – 181,000, with 3.2 million total hours of video consumed.

  • The NBA has finished it's marathon labor talk sessions with nothing to show for it, and now no new sessions are even being scheduled. One source said that some owners are prepared to miss the whole season instead of giving up too much of what they want, which sounds like "I'm going to take my ball and go home." The maturity level of these dealings has been baffling, from commissioner David Stern, the owners, and the players. They're all acting like children, except worse because a child would rather have one gummy worm and give his sister the rest of the bag than for both to get nothing at all (even if he really hated his sister). I'm not sure why the owners and players union haven't thought to just put together a short-term buffer deal so they can actually have a season and not have to rush to come up with the "ultimate fix" right at this very second. If you need more time, give yourself more time. Isn't some money better than no money? Isn't some gummy worms better than no gummy worms? (A+ for grammar.)
  • A.J. Hawk was fined $10,000 by the NFL for flipping the bird toward the Rams sideline last weekend. It's not my money or anything, but I still think it was worth it.
  • Albert Pujols made a critical error in game two of the World Series last night, whiffing on a cutoff throw that allowed the eventual game-winning run to advance into scoring position. Instead of facing the media after the game, Pujols sneaked out of the locker room and left his younger teammates to answer to the frothing pack of reporters. His punishment will be a 10-year, $200 million contract that he will be forced to sign this offseason.
  • I had a bit of a realization this morning re: Tim Tebow. People are excited to watch him start on Sunday, and I'm definitely curious (from a morbid sense) to see what happens, but the Dolphins are probably the worst team in the NFL right now ... Let's just say, hypothetically, that Tebow looks terrible against Miami. If he can't put together an outstanding performance against the Dolphins, doesn't that pretty much set the baseline for how he's going to play the rest of the year? I was going into Sunday thinking it would just be interesting to see how Tebow plays, but I really think this game could be a definitive moment for his whole NFL career. Pretty hyperbolic there, eh? It's what I do.
  • Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is spitting up to the media about how great it would be to play with Hornets guard Chris Paul. Listen, if you guys already have a Heat-esque backroom deal worked out, just STFU and make it happen. I don't want to hear your BFF love letters to one another in the media for the next year before, gasp!, Paul somehow ends up in New York.
  • A streaker disguised as a referee interrupted the UCLA-Arizona football game, which prompted a massive brawl to break out between the two college sides. See, this is why nudity works. Nobody wants to get near a nude man. Ever. Not even people who are married. Nude men are just repulsive, ergo, they make the best streakers. And they certainly don't cause fights, except between security guards who have to rock, paper, scissors over who has to tackle the guy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quick Takes - Free throws? Please no!

And the crowd goes wild!

I saw a story the other day about a homeless man who stole $100 from a bank in Louisiana and got 15 years in prison for his sentence. Juxtaposed to that was a story about a CEO who stole $3 billion dollars from his company and was sentenced to 40 weeks in prison. Perhaps our judicial system needs some retooling. You know what else needs retooling? The NBA!

This lockout is destroying professional basketball in a way that the narcissistic owners and commissioner couldn't have predicted (it's hard to see anything when your head is jammed up your own arse), and I think that means the NBA needs to start from scratch. It's really easy to just try to build off of something that's already existing, even if it's bad; you don't have to work as hard to make little improvements and to feel like you're fixing it (see: Internet Explorer). But when something's really broken, and I've thought the NBA is broken for years now, I think you just have to blow it up. Strap Acme TNT to the league and push the plunger. Whatever that means from a CBA perspective, that's for other writers who have more patience for the semantics of revenue sharing to discuss. What I'm talking about is the way the game is played.

The NBA is dreadfully boring to watch now. Say what you want about the talent of the players, and they're certainly bigger/stronger/faster/more PEDed up now than ever before, but the quality of the actual gameplay has taken such a dramatic hit in the "isolation era" that I find it hard to watch anything until the playoffs roll around. At least in the playoffs, the referees put the whistles away and let the players go at it a bit more. But during the regular season (and let's be real, the playoffs still aren't great), the lack of consistent play makes the game unwatchable. There are too many timeouts, too many TV timeouts, too many breaks, too many sideline reports, too much time between quarters, too much bullshit to sit through during halftime, too many fouls, too many free throws, etc etc. There isn't too much of anything good, it's just all the worst parts of the game exacerbated to the point of skull-splitting drudgery.

Dwight Howard has hired a scientist to help him shoot free throws, saying that in order for him to become a great player in the NBA, he needs to shoot over 80% from the line. And that's what's wrong with the league, right there. One of the most talented, gifted athletes we have ever seen in the league, a seven-foot giant with incredible speed, agility, and athleticism, is going to spend the entire offseason working on free throws, because that's all the game is anymore. Grown men, standing around, watching someone shoot uncontested foul shots. Awesome.

And what about Derrick Rose? The Chicago Bulls guard is one of the most awe-inspiring players to ever put on a basketball jersey, but NBA analysts have been criticizing his game for years because he "doesn't get to the foul line enough." They've been begging for him to change his game so he'll start running into a pile of people, make contact, draw fouls, and shoot 15-20 free throws a game, a la Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James. That's how you become great in the modern game, you take the ball inside and you jump into contact. I've heard analysts praise Rose for "playing the game the right way," but then admitting that he can't play that way in the NBA and expect to win a championship. Sigh.

Let's get rid of timeouts. Let's put the whistles away. And let's get back to playing a real freaking sport.

  • Cardinals reliever Arthur Rhodes is guaranteed a World Series ring this year after playing for both the Rangers and the Cardinals this season. I'm not sure how the league doesn't have a rule that prevents a player who didn't, you know, win the World Series from getting a ring because he played a few regular season games with another team, but this is from the same league who determines home field advantage through a meaningless exhibition game. If I were Arthur Rhodes, I'd just hang out in the locker room, drink beer and order Popeye's chicken, and wait for my ring to arrive, but I guess he's not on the Boston Red Sox.
  • Does anyone else think it's creepy when ESPN fawns over high school kids? "Hey, kid, come check out our news van ..."
  • Rex Ryan seems to be vomiting words uncontrollably again, calling out Chargers head coach Norv Turner by claiming that, with the teams Turner had in the past, Ryan "would have had a couple rings." You'd think for a guy his size he'd know how to keep his food down.
  • On a recent broadcast of HBO's "Real Sports," the normally soft-spoken Bryant Gumbel compared NBA commissioner David Stern to a "plantation owner." Now, I can think of a lot of things to call David Stern, most of which I don't feel comfortable printing here as my mom would never talk to me and the FCC would come to my house to take my computer away, but to have the ignorance and audacity to compare Stern to a plantation owner is just pathetic and absurd. David Stern deserves all the vitriol writers and broadcasters (and players) can throw at him, but Gumbel should know better than to destroy his argument and his credibility by likening it to slavery of all things. It's basketball! Players are paid millions of dollars to play a sport. They are choosing to play the sport, as well. And they're not being ... you know what, I don't even need to finish this rant. Everybody knows how stupid that "plantation owner" comment was. Everyone knows how awful slavery was and how ridiculous it is to compare it to the NBA too. I'm done.
  • Are you ready for the 24-hour Tim Tebow news network? If not, you might as well just cancel your cable before this Sunday and move to a Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
  • Speaking of which, right now on ESPN.com, the main story is, of course, Tim Tebow, while the recap for game 1 of the World Series is buried below. Hilarious. I sure hope it's like this for the next 15 years.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles made a trade for Detroit Lions running back Jerome Harrison, only to discover during his physical that he had a brain tumor, thus nullifying the trade (obviously). What's fascinating about this story is that had the trade not been made initially, Harrison wouldn't have had a physical and who knows how long it would've taken for the first diagnosis. The tumor is now being treated, according to sources, and his prognosis for life and football are both positive (best trade ever?), but I'm starting to think regular physicals should be more common in the NFL. If I had to turn and cough every year in high school for my sports physical, why aren't pro athletes doing the same?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quick Takes - We are all just delicate flowers

This post does not apply to you.

I really like seeing things that remind our species of our delicate fragility. I don't mean watching a man-eating lion (hyena) maul a child at a zoo in China or something. That's just macabre (except when they don't shoot the animal to death, then it's okay). What I'm talking about are the little things. Things like stubbing a toe. Something so small and insignificant, a toe, a measly toe, can bring a grown man to the verge of tears and a hospital visit for X-rays and a walking boot. It's brilliant. I don't like to stub my toe, I don't willingly jam my foot into hard objects to experience my humanity to the fullest, I just like seeing other people do it.

I especially enjoy seeing someone trip on a slightly-raised bit of sidewalk, where her gaze is too high to perceive the miniscule height difference between concrete slabs and it takes all the two-legged balance of our evolutionary gate to stay upright. It kills me. Or watching someone walk down stairs and not realize that there aren't any stairs left, so he thumps down a horse-legged stomp on the ground and glances around sheepishly to see if anyone saw. I saw, my good sir, I saw, and I'm delighted.

We spend so much time trying to maintain the perception people have of us, even complete strangers who have no interest whatsoever. We want to be more than just an animal, we want to be perfect. No slip ups, no injuries, no awkward moments (unless you're Larry David, and then you're an awkwardness reactor), we must be pristine at all times! It's embarrassing to trip and fall in public, it's embarrassing to become frightened in a revolving door (not that I've ... done that ...), it's embarrassing to have to walk around with a cast and explain to people that you "got a little crazy" playing Wii, but what are we so embarrassed about? We're just animals.

Does a bear turn red when he swipes at a salmon and misses? No way, he just keeps swiping, because, well shit, he's hungry. Does a dog feel embarrassed when he has to go #2 in public? Not a chance, he rather seems to be enjoying himself. We're all just fragile creatures, delicately balanced in the ecosystem (although humans aren't exactly down with the whole "balance" thing anymore). We need not be ashamed by the occasional stubbed toe or paper cut on the skin between fingers (ugh). We need not be ashamed when the concrete isn't level or the sidewalk is a bit icy. Just laugh at how delicate we really are, because if you don't, then I'll just be that guy who's laughing at everyone, and then I'll be embarrassed.

  • NBA players, owners, and a mediator met for 16 hours yesterday to try to negotiate a new deal. They were unsuccessful, but I heard Pizza Hut had a record sales day.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu passed a concussion test and looks like he could be ready to play on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. From what I've heard, the concussion test consists of a pop quiz against Vince Young. Beat him, and you're ready for some football!
  • So the World Series starts tonight (hopefully filled with ads of children enjoying chewing tobacco), and I couldn't be happier for Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, who's become the toast of Major League Baseball this year. If you didn't know, Washington used to dabble in cocaine (like a year ago), but the team stuck with him and now they're being rewarded with a World Series trip. Everyone keeps talking about how fun and laid back Washington is, which means he's for sure still clean, but I have to say, if I dabbled in cocaine, I can't imagine my employer a) not firing me immediately, and b) rewarding me with a contract extension and then parading me around town when I hit some corporate sales mark thingy (I don't know anything about the real world).
  • Speaking of drugs! Doc Gooden said in an interview that he missed the New York Mets' 1986 World Series parade because he was in a drug dealer's apartment, too high and paranoid to join in on the festivities. Baseball was so much more fun when the players were high and not the managers ... Anyway, my favorite drugs + baseball story is that of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, who threw a no-hitter in 1970 against the San Diego Padres while on LSD. I'll let him tell the story, "I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the glove, but I didn't hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't. Sometimes I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn't hit hard and never reached me." He finished the game with eight walks, but the Pirates won 2-0 and Ellis' legend was born.
  • A 52-year-old man slapped Chicago Bears WR Devin Hester in the back of the head at a casino as Hester stood innocently in an ATM line and was arrested and charged with battery. There had been no prior confrontation between the two men, which proves, once again, that alcohol and Bears fans are a troubling combination.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quick Takes - Jesus fishes

And for my next trick ...

I'm all for freedom of expression, but whatever it is that we're doing to our cars needs to stop. I saw not one, but two Jesus fish on the back of a single vehicle driving home from work. One had an American flag inside the empty spot of the fish, because apparently there are now nationally-affiliated Jesuses (plural Jesuses ... shudder). My first inclination was to shake my head with a scornful smile, but I'm a people person, I work well with the masses, so I shook my preconceptions free (immaculately) and tried to process through the mentality of the driver.

Perhaps she received the first Jesus fish, much smaller than the second, as a gift, only to be so blown away by the larger American-flag Jesus fish that she had to also include it on the back of her burgundy Nissan Murano (hot). I can see her not wanting to take down the original Jesus fish for a larger, more adorned Jesus fish, because that would be super disrespectful to her lord and savior. But she couldn't not include the American flag Jesus fish, because how badass is that. Separation of church and state? Piss off. So she went for the two-fer, and, considering the rest of her vehicle was smattered with those serial-killer-producing family stick-figure stickers (she included her cats and a fish ...) and a bumper sticker that said "Purr more, hiss less," I think the double-barreled Jesus fish rounded things out with a touch of class.

Or maybe, just maybe, she bought the American flag Jesus fish first. This is where it gets interesting. If she bought the larger fish first, that would mean, at some point in her life, she realized that she wasn't giving enough of her vehicle to Jesus and bought a second fish.

  • I tend to mock myself with self-loathing humor 99% of the day, so it's always nice to find an article that helps reinforce my shattered self-esteem. A 100-year-old man, Briton Fauja Singh, became the oldest man to complete a marathon after finishing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in eight hours, 25 minutes, and 16 seconds. Singh, born in India and migrated to England in the '60s, took up running 11 years ago (when he was 89, for those of you who can't subtract) after his wife and son died. He trains every day by running 10 miles, and he puts his stamina down to ginger curry, tea and "being happy." He finished ahead of five other competitors, who must've died on the course.
  • Four senators from cities hosting the World Series are trying to convince the baseball players union to ban chewing tobacco at games and on TV. The senators told the head of the players union that when players use chewing tobacco, they risk their own health as well as the health of kids who are watching the games on TV. Hey, guess what? These are grown men! There shouldn't be federal oversight and wink-wink suggestions from United States senators to the players union for how they should act and police themselves. Talk about an over-extended government. It's not illegal for the players to use chewing tobacco, and if the players union or the league hasn't banned it, that's their decision, not the decision of the freaking governmentTHATHASBETTERTHINGSTODOTHANTHIS.
  • On October 4th, the NBA lockout negotiations were apparently going well until Kevin Garnett showed up. One league official said, “We were making progress, until Garnett fucked everything up.” That's an actual quote! This lockout is so awesome, and it also reconfirms what everyone already knows about Kevin Garnett.
  • The Oakland Raiders are on the verge of trading two first round picks for Bengals QB Carson Palmer, who's barely touched a football in the last two years since his knee injury. This just days after Al Davis' death? And two weeks away from Halloween? The crypt-keeper lives!
  • Perusing the NHL headlines of the day and I'm noticing a trend: Jason Blake to miss three months; Doughty out 7-10 days with upper body injury; Carter has hairline crack in foot; Tyler Kennedy has head injury ... I'm starting to think hockey is a bit violent.
  • New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire said in an interview that Ronny Turiaf and Boris Diaw are the smelliest guys in the NBA. That stereotype about French people sure puts up a fight, huh?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quick Takes - Dear Diary

Met some new friends today. Ate them all. Lonely again.

When I was in college, I had a professor who demanded that we wrote for 15 minutes at the start of every class. It didn't matter what we wrote about, just that we sat down, pen to paper, and wrote until the time was up. We never had to read them out loud, we never had to turn them in, we just had to perform the activity of writing. It was often painful and embarrassing -- like having to write dreamy "Dear Diary" letters to yourself -- but it was an effective tool. Whenever I'm flummoxed by the blinking cursor of a virgin page now, I think back to those moments and force myself to start writing.

Of course, what comes out is usually complete, utter trash. Since I started this post, I have written poorly about warm toilet seats, fantasy football, "Star Wars," aliens (the creatures, not the movie ... although now I'm thinking about the movie and will have to force myself not to write about it), and the movie "Aliens" (damn). But the simple act of writing the previously mentioned trash begins to open up my mind.

I think about the "creative brain" as a house. When all the windows in your house are shut, you may feel cozy and safe, but after a day or two, a swarm of unidentifiable smells percolates through the air. Is that kitty litter? Dirty laundry? The old lady who used to live here who died in her bed? But if I start opening the windows, a cool breeze of fresh air comes rushing into the house, wraps itself around the boring, overused, unformed ideas and sweeps them away. What replaces those nasty smells are new ideas; ideas with context, some connection to the outside world. I don't normally like leaving my brain (or my house), but there's something necessary about doing so when you write.

  • After the San Francisco 49ers beat the previously-undefeated Detroit Lions on their own home turf, first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh skipped across the field toward Lions coach Jim Schwartz (be with you) and gave him a classic white guy bro-five (over-exuberant and delightfully awkward half high-five/half-chest bump). But before he'd nearly missed Schwartz's hand, he'd ripped his polo shirt out of his khakis (I don't actually know if he was wearing khakis, I just assume all men over 40 are wearing khakis 100% of the time) and bared his stomach to his defeated opponent. As someone who is passionate about primatology, I think we're all fortunate to wake up this morning having not witnessed a demonstrative genital display from Coach Harbaugh.
  • Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk flipped off the Rams sideline during Green Bay's blowout win on Sunday. When asked about the gesture, Hawk said, "It was a joke, and I kind of got caught up in the emotion of the game. I definitely apologize if any kids or anyone else saw it. I have a daughter myself, so I wouldn't want her doing that. I got excited and I got caught up in the game. It was just, I guess, a bad joke. I definitely won't do it again." There's still a long way to go on concussion research, everyone.
  • New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton tore his meniscus and broke his leg on Sunday after Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was tackled along the sideline and bowled over his coach (or as it's known in the NCAA, "Getting Paterno-ed"). Can someone explain to me why everyone has to stand so goddamn close to the field during the game? Especially the coaches? Is it just easier to yell at the referees from there?
  • More details are emerging about the Boston Red Sox clubhouse antics this year, with pitcher Jon Lester admitting that he and a few teammates drank beer in the clubhouse during games and "ordered chicken from Popeye's like once a month." Fuck me, I didn't know Popeye's delivered!
  • You know why I love football? Because of plays like this.
  • Business owners in Oklahoma City are stewing because of the NBA lockout, claiming that the missed home games are going to devastate the local economy. Allow me to remove the world's smallest violin from David Stern's puckered arse and play it for you. Go Sonics.
  • Former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry started in his first game with the Oakland Raiders, and he finished with a very Aaron Curry type of day: Three tackles, no sacks. But Curry is optimistic about his new team: "I feel like this is a defense that allows me to utilize what I do best, which is run. They blitzed me one time but my best attribute is when the ball is snapped, who has the ball and go and get it and play smart." It might just be me, but it seems like there's some incongruity to "who has the ball and go get it" and "play smart."
  • 46-year-old light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins lost his belt to Chad Dawson on Saturday after a bizarre UFC-style takedown ended in a separated shoulder for Hopkins and a TKO "win" for Dawson. I only mention boxing because grown men hitting each other is apparently something other people are interested in.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quick Takes - Shower of terror

I want these motherf***ing kittens out the motherf***ing bathroom!

Showering has never been as difficult as it is after buying kittens. Before I go into detail, yes, I could just shut the bathroom door while I shower and solve 100% of my problems immediately, but I hate showering with the door closed because I have a mold phobia and the thin film of moisture that clings to every surface in the bathroom when you shower with the door closed might as well be molten lava. So there.

Now, I firmly believe that kittens are suicidal. They have an intrinsic need to destroy themselves and their bodies, and they will stop at nothing to find every little loophole you've left open to reach their goal.  Their daily curiosity to discover new things baffles me. Yesterday, and the prior 200+ days, that full trash can in the bathroom was nothing to them. It was merely an obstacle they needed to work around to reach some hidden dust bunny behind the toilet. But today? It's a free candy machine. Every piece of balled-up toilet paper a glorious prize that must be extracted from the trash can and paraded throughout the house like the severed head of my kittens' greatest enemy.

I heard a scuttle and poked my head out of the shower to find the especially crazy kitten, Triceratops, neck-deep in garbage. I spilled out of the shower to shoo her away, the trash can quickly swept into the laundry room, on top of a shelf they can't reach, and one more issue was temporarily solved. I climbed back into the shower, slightly colder and mildly frustrated. You're probably wondering, at this point, why I didn't just shut the door after the first offense. I've been asking myself that in hindsight all morning, and, as they say, hindsight's a bitch.

Moments later, another noise, this one the unmistakeable sound of a cabinet door closing. I sat pondering in the shower, knowing full well that I've seen them make attempts to open the bathroom cabinets without any real success. So I decided to ignore it and continue showering. Then I remembered that I keep toilet bowl cleaner in there and freaked out like a mother who locked her baby in the car. I jumped out of the shower again, spilling water all over the floor, and opened the cabinet to find Triceratops basking in a mountain of pristine toilet paper rolls deep within the cabinet. She'd hit the jackpot.

You see, she loves toilet paper, and she's constantly being disciplined for snatching the end of the roll in her mouth and running down the hallway with a white trail behind her. So a whole pile of rolls? Her face was beaming, until I snatched her out of there, tossed her down the hallway, and finally shut the door.

  • Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall has declared that he wants to get thrown out of the game on Sunday by the second quarter because he hasn't been playing with enough emotion. I'm all for setting attainable goals and everything, but maybe talk that one through with your coach, Brandon.
  • David Stern has suggested that if no deal is done in the NBA labor dispute by Tuesday that there could be no games all the way through Christmas. But what will we watch during awkward family get-togethers to stave off having to talk to one another?!
  • Did you know LeBron James is a minority owner with Liverpool FC? I didn't until today, when I read a story James flying to Liverpool this weekend to watch the Scousers take on Manchester United at Anfield. I'm surprised there wasn't an hour-long ESPN TV special where James picked which EPL team he was going to buy.
  • Just thought about a winter without the NBA, and it's cold and dark.
  • Two congressmen have decided to spend our taxpayer dollars on reforming HGH testing in the NFL. A stipulation in the NFL's new CBA said that the NFL had to start testing for Human Growth Hormone once there was a reliable and scientifically-proven method, and, for reasons I can't explain, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is leading the charge. Do they even know what the words in their committee title mean? At a time when government spending is rampantly out of control, budgets are being hacked left and right, and Presidential nominees are campaigning almost exclusively on reforming Washington spending, how does hte House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have the audacity to spend its time and our taxes on the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE?!
  • After the Vancouver Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals, Vancouver fans rioted in the streets and ripped apart their beautiful city (yes, over a hockey game; no, I don't know why). It was a pretty awkward, surreal moment for the friendly Canadian city, but four months later, the Ecotique Spa and Salon is trying to single-handedly make it all better by offering $50 gift certificates to rioters who turn themselves in for their roles in the rioting, arson, and looting. I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I'm pretty sure $50 in spa services does not equal a prison sentence and accompanying fines/legal fees/community service hours. Admiral Ackbar alert!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quick Takes - Anemone

Ohhhh, who lives next to barnacles under the sea?

Spongebob Squarepants is a bit of an enigma to me. He lives in a pineapple, under the sea, and yet the pineapple never decays, it's never soggy, and it's never eaten by one the various ocean-dwellers prowling the depths below. I know that many of those deep-water creatures are especially ravenous in their pursuit of dropped morsels of food, rare as they are down there. A large pineapple would be a windfall for them. Yet why do they stay away? Does he coat the pineapple with some sort of fish deterrent? Is he a fish hunter, waiting for hungry seafood to come close to his pineapple before BAM! ... snapping them up in his electrified net and eating them raw with his super-sharp razor teeth? But he's a sponge. He should be water-logged to the point of incapacitation, how could he possibly move fast enough to catch anything that didn't fall directly into his mouth? Nothing adds up. Nothing.

And don't get me started on how he's a fry cook either. Are the burners heated by volcanic vents? What kind of meat does he use? Crab meat? Is that why they're called Krabby Patties? Or is it hamburger, and they're just called Krabby Patties because the owner is Mr. Krabs (inventive name)? If it is hamburger, how is the meat shipped to the bottom of the ocean? And how do they pay top-dwellers for the shipping? Is there a common currency that's exchangeable between their species? I am beyond frustrated with this show. Is it that hard to put together a scientifically-accurate kids show these days?

I think they should re-invent Spongebob. Make it "Anemonebob Tentaclepants," and he lives on a rock, under the sea. He affixes himself to a stone and waits patiently for food to fall into his poisonous nematocysts, before pushing the paralyzed creatures toward his mouth and digesting them ever-so-slowly. He has no friends, only enemies who try to eat him, and he's certainly not a fry cook. It would teach kids real science (instead of lies), and it would also teach them patience, instead of how to be an unstoppable psychopath, like the current show does.

  • As ticket prices continue to go up, and the cost of home entertainment continues to go down, I really do wonder about the future of live sports. What will leagues and teams have to do to keep people coming to the stadium? What can they do to incentivize sitting in traffic for hours, trying to find parking that doesn't cost $20, wandering through a sea of people to get to a tiny seat, paying $10 for a single beer, and then having to do the whole song and dance three hours later just to get home? In another five years, why will anyone bother? I don't think adding more cheerleader dances during timeouts and crappy gate giveaways is the answer. Here's how you fix it: Step 1) Lower costs. Step 2) There really is no step two. Just make it cheaper, you bastards.
  • Reports surfaced soon after the Red Sox's disastrous collapse this year that a handful of Boston players were going into the clubhouse during the game and eating fried chicken, playing video games, and drinking beer. Or as I call it, Thursday.
  • The Seattle Seahawks have finally traded away linebacker Aaron Curry. The #4 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft was sent packing for Oakland for a 7th round pick in 2012 and a conditional 4th or 5th round pick in 2013. The drop in his value over the course of three seasons is absolutely staggering, especially for the expectations everyone had of him coming out of college, but I'm sure it's all part of god's plan for him to flame out of the NFL and join the WWE.
  • Texas is one win away from the World Series. I don't have anything to say, really, this is really just a reminder to delusional Mariners fans. One of the best teams in Major League Baseball is within our division, playing a completely different style of baseball than us (power vs. pitching), in a completely different type of ballpark (hitter friendly vs. pitcher friendly), with a completely different style of ownership (hands on vs. hands off), and they're doing it for only $6 million more a season (until we cut payroll even more next year). Anyone who thinks this Mariners team is just a few guys away from being competitive has clearly been bitten by a malarial mosquito and is hallucinating.
  • I just thought of an awesome new superhero in the same, cough, vein as Marvel's Spider-Man (I apologize profusely for that awful pun). The Mosquito! Bit by a malarial mosquito, our hero's body reacts differently to the disease and, instead of killing him, it gives him super powers! He grows a proboscis and wings, hangs out in a pool of tepid water, and fights crime with furious pestilence. And he's best friends with Bill Gates, who conducts research on his DNA to try to find the cure for malaria. Tell me you wouldn't read that comic book. I dare you.
  • I have mentioned both the neat little flick "Drive" and Tiger Woods being attacked with a hot dog in Quick Takes recently, but I never expected that the hot dog-wielder would be inspired by the movie "Drive" to carry out his meaty attack. Brandon Kelly, a random dude from California, said he saw the movie "Drive" and wanted to do something "courageous and epic" in response. He chose to run at Tiger Woods and hurl a hot dog at him. I'm not 100% sure we watched the same movie.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quick Takes - Ding Dong

Aaaaaahhhhhhhh! I love the Food Network!

I have a great idea for a TV show on the Food Network. One of the main problems with being a home chef is that you rarely have the right ingredients to make a splendid, home-cooked meal. And the chefs on the Food Network rarely use anything but the best ingredients -- freshly caught, freshly bought, and perfectly ripe. So here's the twist: A world-class chef shows up at some random house with a camera crew, and he/she has to make a full meal out of only what the occupants have inside their home at the time! Awesome, right? 

College student with two packets of Top Ramen and stale oatmeal? Lonely bachelor with a fridge full of mountain dew and a pantry lined with macaroni and cheese? Strange kitten with hot dog buns, Lays, and a stick of butter? No task is too great for our Food Network chef! Possible names for the show include, "I'll Have Whatever," "Expiration Notice," or, my personal favorite, "The Pantry Raid."

Bring me the head of the Food Network CEO!

  • The St. Louis Cardinals got back into the NLCS with a game two win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Some of us, who believe in science, would attribute their win to playing better than the other team. Others, including Cards manager Tony La Russa, believe that a squirrel was the catalyst. Taking a page from the Angels' Rally Monkey, the Cardinals have now fully embraced a random squirrel that ran onto the field as their lord and savior, and will be distributing 40,000 "Rally Squirrel" towels and selling $5 stuffed squirrels for game three. La Russa has also invented a backstory for the squirrel involving a sordid love affair with the pet turtle of one of his players. When asked by a fictional reporter if he was stressed out over the pressure and losing his mind, La Russa said, "No, why do you ask?"
  • Red Sox GM Theo Epstein has agreed to join the Chicago Cubs as their new GM and supreme overlord. Because Epstein has one year left on his contract with Boston, the Cubs will have to give the Red Sox some form of compensation in players and/or cash. I'm pretty sure the Red Sox would be fine if Epstein just took Carl Crawford with him.
  • Whatever sadness I feel about the NBA lockout is quickly smoothed over by the thought of Delonte West having a ton of free time to do whatever he wants.
  • Hey, Mariners fans: Adrian Beltre. Doug Fister. Are we all sufficiently depressed now?
  • After starting out the season poorly and lacking team cohesion, the Kansas City Chiefs started playing "Bags" (or "Cornhole" if you're from Indiana) in the locker room, and it's done wonders -- for their morale and their record. As someone who spent many drunken summer afternoons playing "Bags" on the sidewalk in Chicago, I can tell you that the morale boost only lasts when your team is winning. Otherwise it's a game filled with ridicule and mockery. It can tear relationships apart and bring the closest of friends to the brink of homicide. Tread lightly, Kansas City ... tread lightly.