Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quick Takes - The Club Card conundrum

Dude, even I have a Club Card.

If someone came up to you on the street and offered you free money, would you take it? No questions asked, no strings attached, just here you go, sir, here's $10. Of course you would. Everyone would. So that's what makes what happened at the grocery store yesterday so goddamn frustrating to me. I was standing in line, waiting for the guy in front of me to check out. The cashier asked him if he had a QFC Club Card, a card that lets you save money on items you've purchased, and he said no. He said no as casually as you could say no, and he paid his bill and left.

I stood there flummoxed. How could you just say no and walk away? It's free. You barely have to give any personal information to get one. And you literally save money. Every single time I've bought something at the grocery store, I've saved money using my club card. I like to play a really fun grocery store game to try to see if I can save more money than the total purchase price after discounts. I've only done it twice so far, but the allure of finding the biggest discounts is intoxicating. Why wouldn't you want that?!

Based on what he was buying, he wasn't just randomly stopping by a secondary grocery store, and there aren't many grocery stores around other than that one, so he clearly shops at that specific store often enough to warrant a card. So why not get a card?! What's wrong with you?! Just get a card! If you're trying to "live off the grid," you wouldn't be shopping at a neighborhood grocery store in the first place, you'd be farming vegetables and raising alpaca for their wool and delicious meat. So just give them your phone number, and take their free money. Hell, just type in a random phone number, and if it doesn't work, just tell the cashier, "Weird, I don't know what's wrong," and then he'll type some code into the register and you'll save money that way. Just do something. Please. For the love of god.

  • Tim Tebow was asked by head coach John Fox to address his team before the Broncos game against the Chargers on Sunday. And Tebow, like any good Christian, decided not to speak from the heart, but to let the Bible speak for him and chose a verse from the Proverbs section: "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." It's not a bad proverb for a pre-game speech, but I think he should've gone with something a little spicier, like this African proverb: "Blind belief is dangerous." - Luyia, Western Kenya.
  • A television station in Tampa Bay, WTVT, accidentally aired footage of a naked Buccaneer (an NFL player, not an actual pirate) from the waist down while interviewing offensive lineman Donald Penn in the locker room after the game on Sunday. The station has apologized for airing the footage of the unidentified player and has promised to bring in Paul McCartney to stand heavily-clothed in the background for their next interview.
  • Hey, look at this, it's actual NBA talk: The Boston Celtics appear to be doing everything they can to move Rajon Rondo, being linked with trades for Seattle Supersonics guard Russell Westbrook, New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul, and a yet-to-be revealed trade with the Indiana Pacers. If Boston is so eager to rid themselves of their bad attitude point guard, I think Steve Ballmer should just buy him, and 10 other players, and a renovated Key Arena, and then everyone will be happy. We can even give Boston some Microsoft stock or something. Maybe some free keychains? A copy of Kinectimals?
  • Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, whose last name I can unfathomably spell from memory now, was suspiciously-mum when asked questions about the Mariners' pursuit of free agent slugger Prince Fielder, a player Zduriencik and co. drafted as members of the Milwaukee Brewers front office. When asked how hard the Mariners would pursue Fielder, Zduriencik said, "I don't think it's in our best interest to do that. I apologize. I wish I could tell you a little more, but I don't think it's fair for us." I think what he's trying to say to the media is: "Stop asking me questions you know I can't answer and then writing stories about my non-answers as if there's news there. Thanks."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quick Takes - Funny losing

Stop smiling! They're terrible! What's happening?!

If you haven't seen the newest Golfpunk comic, where we recreate an infamous historical event with surprisingly little offensiveness, then what are you waiting for?! Click here and look at how pretty Lucius Wisniewski can draw.

Now that the administrative things are over. It's about time we got serious. When I think about serious things, I think about old people, their faces all grouchy and wrinkled, shaking their fists at young kids doing things they did when they were young but are now too old to remember doing. I think about chimney sweeps. Not the Dick van Dyke kind, who sing songs and are surprisingly merry (drugs?), but the really hardcore ones, the kind covered in soot, breathing black dust day and night and croaking inside an especially-compact chimney, only to be discovered a week later by some urchin boy who fell down looking for raccoons (dinner!).

But when I really think about serious things, I think about losing. There's nothing funny about losing, unless you lose so much all hope of winning ceases to exist. Only then can losing be funny, which is a bit ironic. I've seen that type of comical losing living in Chicago and going to Cubs games, talking to Cubs fans, and just being a transplanted Cubs fan. Nobody really worries about winning, and it's funny when they lose. It's really the strangest thing ever. The only other place I've seen it is in video games, where players, whether new to a game or just painfully shitty at games in general, repeatedly prance to their bloody, gory doom, only to respawn and repeat the same psychotic actions over and over again. Also strange, and also hilarious.

But it's weird being a sports fan; someone who cheers for a group of strangers to succeed because they simply play for a team that you associate with; someone who feels physical and emotional joy when those group of strangers play well enough to win, while also feeling physical and emotional pain when those strangers lose. I've always wondered why fans seem to take losing harder than players. Maybe because it's out of a fan's hands. The game happens whether they're there or not, watching or not, and that complete lack of control is gut-wrenching to the human species. We love control! We build our whole lives around control. And we control what teams we choose for, yet we don't control the outcomes of the games those teams play. That's just rough on us. But the players do control the outcome, and while they take losses hard (see: Adam Morrison in the NCAA Tournament), they know that whatever the outcome is happened as a result of their actions and their teammates' actions. It's in their hands, sometimes literally (right, Bobby Engram?), and there's something comforting about that, even in failure. It's much more comforting than watching something you care about fail and not being able to stop it.

So where does funny losing fit in? Funny losing removes "control" and replaces it with something bigger: Superstitions, curses, deities. Chicago Cubs fans actually believe that a gypsy with a goat cursed the team nearly 100 years ago, which is why they haven't won a World Series in a century. No one has to internalize the arduous, angsty battle of control that plagues our species. There's no control to subconsciously battle over. Period. There's a goat curse. There's Bill Buckner. There's entire cities who are plagued by some anti-winning demon. There's nothing we can do about it. There's nothing the players can do about it. So let's all drink Old Style and sing obnoxiously loud during the seventh inning stretch.

  • When John Elway came out in a radio interview critical of Tim Tebow last week, the outlash that followed from butthurt Broncos fans could only be described as overzealous. Elway said he was "surprised" by the reaction of fans to his smart, measured comments regarding the starting quarterback of his team, but I'm not sure he really knows what he's dealing with here. We're talking about Tim F***ing Tebow. The most adored athlete in human history. The son of god him/her/itself. Questioning Tim Tebow's skills as a quarterback is the modern day equivalent of questioning the Catholic church in the 12th Century.
  • Chelsea star Didier Drogba will reportedly go "wherever he's offered the most money" whenever he inevitably leaves his London club next year, according to his agent. Well, that makes things pretty easy: The New York Yankees are buying a striker!
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars have fired head coach Jack Del Rio and are seeking to sell the team to a local Pakistani businessman who has vowed to "keep the team in Jacksonville," despite interest from Los Angeles to bring an NFL team back to the city of angels. If we've learned one thing from franchise sales and owners' empty promises in professional sports, it's that Seattle is going to get screwed.
  • Ndamukong Suh has been suspended two games by the NFL, and commissioner Roger Goddell has filed for witness protection.
  • A small tech company, Fuse Science Inc., has landed a major sponsorship deal to be on Tiger Woods' golf bag. The start-up company markets nutritional supplements and medicine that can be taken in drop form and absorbed quickly into the body. Woods is apparently working with them on a "Whoops!" 72-hour Plan B droplet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Quick Takes - The return of the NBA


The NBA is alive! Like an infected body reanimated by the virus within, the Zombie NBA is finally back and better than ever (I don't know what that means, it's just a thing I've seen people say. I'm a Sonics fan, so the NBA is definitely not better than ever.). Now that owners and players have negotiated an end to the NBA lockout, the real drama will begin, with a shortened timeline for transactions and training camps, a condensed season that will see NBA players have to play hard in every game for the first time in their professional careers, and the swinging body of David Stern drifting lifelessly from the proverbial rafters. While the players came out on top here, pulling down a deserved 51% of the revenue share and a unity that had been lost in their circle, David Stern is clearly the one man who took the hardest hit throughout this whole process.

The players have lost their respect and, really, their fear for the man who has worked so hard to craft his own personal Isengard to keep them at bay. He's pushed and pushed and pushed -- players, owners, and the fans -- for so long without any balancing force to keep him in check, but that balance came through the form of self-immolation during the lockout proceedings. Stern thought he was invincible, that he could just power through the process and come out on top like always. He wasn't prepared for the players to so angrily fight back, to so angrily spit in his face from his rampant, unchecked narcissism. And, more importantly, he wasn't concerned about what this might do to his legacy and the perception of the fans who give him a job in the first place. David Stern was always an enemy to NBA fans, but he was a sort of lovable enemy, a singular force that was fun to cheer against but who stood his own in return with sarcasm and wit. But this lockout showed something else: A bitter, entitled old man who forgot how to share.

And the fans saw it, they saw him pour gasoline over his head and set it alight on Sportscenter and in every interview he gave to whomever would listen. His attitude was disgusting and made something shitty into something completely infuriating. The fallout from this lockout will probably be minimal once the season kicks into gear and fans forget about this summer, but as long as Stern is still atop his throne, there will be a distancing from fans with the NBA. You support products you appreciate, you support local businesses who have great employees and owners, you don't support Ebenezer Scrooge pre-Christmas. That's what David Stern has become, but there are no ghosts to save him from his inevitable doom. He will not be remembered as the man who saved the NBA or broadened its appeal to a worldwide audience, he will be remembered as the man who nearly capsized it for his own personal and professional gains.

  • The Tim Tebow fable keeps growing. After another paltry statistical performance (although his 22 runs and 18 throws were the first time since the '60s that a QB ran and threw that many times in game), Tebow kept his team close and, sure enough, the Broncos freaking won 16-13 in overtime on a Matt Prater field goal after the Chargers missed a field goal of their own that would've won the game earlier. This Tim Tebow thing has gotten completely out of hand, but you know what? I'll buy into the hype if he starts dating a post-jail Lindsay Lohan, gets her off drugs and back into "Mean Girls" shape, and then puts a little Christian baby in her stomach. Then you'll have won me over, Tebow. We need our Lindsay back.
  • The best part of the NBA lockout being over isn't the fact that the NBA is back, it's that a handful of players didn't think it would come back. Multiple NBA players signed contracts with teams in China with provisions that they couldn't break their contracts if the NBA lockout ended. Now that the lockout has ended, they're trying to get released and are, of course, running into a great wall (nailed it).
  • Ndamukong Suh has worked very hard this season to tell everyone that he's not a dirty player; that he just plays hard and that he's surrounded by a bunch of sissies on the other teams who can't handle a little toughness. Well, all that went out the door on Thanksgiving day when Suh stomped on a Packers offensive lineman's chest that he'd shoved to the ground and was ejected from the game. Happy Holidays, America. Ndamukong Suh wants to eat your children for dessert.
  • Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson celebrated a touchdown in a 28-24 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday by miming a shooting (in reference to Jets receiver Plaxico Burress) and a plane crash (presumably miming Jets receiver Santonio Holmes who does a plane celebration thing ... or whatever). A few people were upset about the gunshot celebration, but in New York City, it seems that Johnson's plane crash was more offensive. Jets defensive tackle Sione Pouha said that Johnson acting like a plane -- something his teammate regularly does after scoring -- and then crashing into the endzone was "kind of a dagger" because of 9/11. Pouha also said Johnson should've taken into account that 9/11 is a "sacred moment." Firstly, the only thing people should be upset about is that receivers still think touchdown celebrations are cool/funny/badass. Secondly, 9/11 should not prevent people from miming airplanes. Even crashing airplanes. Even if they're in New York. Because we're all adults and we can still pay respect to what happened on that day without limiting our lives and our rights as American citizens. Just ... damn ... calm down, people.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Golfpunk: The Icy Fairways, Part V

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

Click our moderately-offensive comic to view in glorious full resolution!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Quick Takes - Hello? Is it me you're looking for?

Earth can't come to the phone right now, but please leave a message after the beep.

This is probably a really stupid question, but couldn't we search for life on other planets simply by looking for planets/moons that are abnormally bright? There must be an estimable calculation that can determine how much light should be emitted from planets, based on distance from the sun, reflectance properties of the atmosphere, etc., so couldn't we (I say "we" like I would have a clue what to do) run all the best candidate planets and moons through a comparison calculation to see which ones are "brighter than they should be?" Advanced species, like humans, don't really like the dark so much. The dark is bad, the dark means death. There are tribes all over the world that still have myths and tales about the dark, and anthropologists have come to the obvious conclusion that those myths are so pervasive because people die more frequently in the dark than in the daylight. Pretty straight-forward, eh? For an advanced species that may be able to communicate with us and respond to any contact signals we send their way, maybe we should look for the light.

Then again, what if they're giant killer mutant cyborgs who see our blinking flashlight in space and round up the Super-Mega Death Squadron (SMDS), who travel through a wormhole in space and park just outside our atmosphere, bombarding the planet with alien bombs that rip massive anti-atomic tubes through the very fabric of the planet and leave nothing but a sprinkling of dust and gas where roughly 8.7 million species lived just seconds earlier. Then they'd send out the cleaners and collect all the precious compounds that once made up our planet and bring them back home to make their alien gas prices a few cents cheaper. Those bastards. We should send them bombs FIRST, just in case, and if they were friendly and were going to share technology with us or whatever, well, we can just try another planet. Although, really, any alien planet could send out the SMDS, so we should keep to ourselves like isolationist Japan and forget about all this "contact" business. We're fine without aliens, thank you. Please leave us alone.

  • The Denver Broncos have gone all-in on Tim Tebow, waiving former starting quarterback Kyle Orton in hopes that someone will pick him and the $2.5m remaining on his contract up. That's really bad sentence structure, but I think we can all get over it. The Chicago Bears just lost Jay Cutler, the former Broncos quarterback who was traded to the Bears for Kyle Orton and a bunch of other stuff, and now the Bears are reportedly interested in picking Orton back up to replace the injured former Bronco they traded Orton for! It's like "Human Centipede" up in here.
  • I made a prediction during the last Major League Baseball season, that the Seattle Mariners wouldn't have a single player to hit 20 home runs this year. Sure enough, Miguel Olivo hit his 19th on the second-to-last day of the season and then was benched for the final game. Any statisticians out there, has there ever been an MLB team that didn't have a single player to hit 20 home runs?
  • Turkish basketball giants Besiktas are pursuing Lamar Odom to play in Turkey when the NBA lockout officially kills the entire season. Odom is apparently mulling the offer, but he's getting some push back from his wife after she found the "No Kardashian" clause in the contract.
  • ESPN debuted a documentary earlier this month called "Unguarded," about Massachusetts basketball star Chris Herren and his battle with drug and alcohol abuse. And who did ESPN choose to sponsor the documentary? Jameson whiskey! Classy work, ESPN! And from a Disney-owned company too? Even better!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quick Takes - Lessons from Super Mario

Teach us your ways, oh wise Italian plumber.

When it comes to the pantheon of great video games, few stand above Super Mario World for Super NES. I recently started replaying Super Mario World and, from the moment I turned it on and got my controller out, I realized I was humming along to the tune with perfect pitch and accuracy. Beep beep beep BOP beep beep beep BOP BEEEEEEE beep bop boo, bum dun dun dun bum dun dun dun bum dun dun dun'l doo dee dum bummm, bom bum bum bum bom bum bum bum bom bum bum bundle bun dee dummmm bummm.

Why does such a simple game, with such an extraordinarily cliche premise (save the Princess, again? Why the face?!), have such a deep emotional attachment to me. It could be that it's a reminder of the proverbial "good ol' days," where I'd rush home from school, push up the purple SNES power button, and sit down for Super Mario World until my parents got home and made me go outside (bastards). Or maybe it's because in the ever-expanding video game world, with games of infinite wonder and story like Skyrim or complex strategizers like Starcraft II, something so profoundly simple that cuts to the core of the gaming experience makes all the superfluous complexity seem unnecessary. Super Mario World takes an Italian plumber with extraordinary calf muscles and turns him into a feeling: Of nostalgia, of joy, of community.

It's so simple, but there's something complex about the little guy's pursuit of simple perfection. When I look at sports, I see a lot of parallels to Super Mario World. Seriously. This isn't a stretch, just bear with me. The complexity in planning and execution has pushed the boundaries of the athlete's mind (and the Kinkos guy who has to pump out all those goddamn playbooks) to the breaking point. Players are expected to function not as athletes, but as databases of information. They're more computer programs than people, and the coaches are programmers spitting out complex code to get them to do, essentially, pretty simple things. Pass the ball. Run the ball. Hit the ball. Whatever. But every great athlete and every great coach always says the same thing: That sports are played at their highest level when the players can stop thinking and can just play.

If Mario were a multi-button combination play-calling RPG battle simulator, it might be a fun game, but the idea of just reading and reacting to the scrolling environment makes Super Mario World something sublime. Simple to play, but hard to master. I would love to see coaches and players take a step back from the over-complication of sports and try to get back to the core of the game. I realize it's easy to say that from atop my shiny Isengard, and the reason it's become so complicated is because coaches and players know more information about each other and each other's strategies than ever before in sports history, but that doesn't mean the answer has to be a complicated one. Maybe try Super Mario's methodology, and simplify the situation. Hitting a baseball is incredibly hard, but having to process through 45 coaches' notes on your swing and scouting reports of the pitcher and the advanced sabermetrics of what you should do in that particular situation and and and ... just hit the ball. You know? Just react. Just Mario.

  • Professional athletes are seriously detached sometimes. Jabar Gaffney, wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, told a Cowboys fan over Twitter to "kill urself" amidst a swarm of angry swearing and poor spelling after the fan Tweeted Gaffney the Redskins' record (3-7). Gaffney since apologized for the incident over Twitter, saying, and I'm quoting here, "I don't want the man to really kill himself it was just a way of saying fuck off and leave me alone to all u lames keep up or don't follow." So, if Rex Ryan is fined $75,000 for one swear word, and Gaffney rolled off four in total plus a "kill urself," I'm guessing Jabar will owe roughly $500,000 to the league (I quantified the "kill urself" at $200,000). I bet Mark Cuban is really enjoying the NBA lockout right now.
  • When asked about the prospects of Tim Tebow being the future quarterback of the Denver Broncos, John Elway, the chief of football operations for the Broncos and the unequivocal best QB in Denver history, said, "Uhhhh ... no!" Just like that. I heard it on the radio. It was pretty emphatic. For all the success Tebow has had this year as a starter (4-1 record), John Elway knows what it takes to play quarterback and win championships in this league, and his answer was as definitive as it could've been. They don't think Tebow can win them a championship. That's the bottom line. He can be America's Christian Anglo sweetheart, he can be the "Rudy" of the NFL, but he's not going to help his team win a championship unless he actually learns how to throw the ball. Personally, I think the Broncos should play with two quarterbacks. Have a traditional pocket passer and Tim Tebow both in shotgun at all times, the center snaps the ball to whomever the play is called for. If it's Tebow, he can pass or run, and if it's not Tebow, he can either take a handoff from the pocket QB or block and split out wide for HB screens. I would pay a lot of money to watch that team play football, and I don't even like Tim Tebow.
  • The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim apparently took free agent left-hander C.J. Wilson to dinner on Monday night to try to woo him away from division rival Texas. But times are tough in professional sports right now, and Wilson was apparently less-than-impressed with the choice of "whatever Carl's Jr. value meal strikes your fancy."
  • Kenyan long-distance runner Marko Cheseto had both his feet amputated after being lost for two days in the snow in Alaska. Cheseto, a nursing and nutrition student in Alaska and a member of his college's cross-country team, got lost without protective winter clothing and was found suffering from hypothermia and severe gangrene. I think somebody took the whole "cross-country" thing a little too seriously.
  • A linesman in Spain was hit by a flying umbrella during a recent La Liga match, prompting the referee to run for cover with his fellow referees and abandon the game. It was later determined that the umbrella was accidentally flung by a child, who still had the handle in his hand as he watched the remaining piece fall to the pitch and slice a deep gash into the linesman's face. Even physics hates referees!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quick Takes - Enemy of the deaf

Damn, lady, I don't know you. Please stop fogging up my glass.

I used to be able to sign ASL conversationally in college. One of my best friends grew up next to a deaf kid and, therefore, had learned ASL to talk to his neighbor (he was a language buff and spoke five languages, so it's not like it was that hard for him). He taught ASL to me so we could use it on the el riding around noisy Chicago, and it actually worked really well. But one day, I was at a car show in Chicago and a deaf woman came up to me with an alphabet card asking if I could help her. I froze up. I knew sign language, but I couldn't remember any of it when I actually had to use it. I looked at her and said, out loud, "I'm sorry!" despite the fact that a) she was deaf and b) I knew sign language. She walked away, and I've never felt more ashamed in my life. I let down the deaf that day.

Fast forward years later to the Seattle Aquarium. It was 4 p.m., and the staff was preparing to feed their two giant pacific octopi, Noodles and Mae (Noodles > Mae in terms of octopus naming). I like to think I have an instinct for photography, it served me well in high school and college photojournalism, and so I scoped out a location that I thought would be perfect for taking pictures of the larger of the two octopi, a 45-lb. behemoth (the largest giant pacific octopus ever caught was 437 lbs., so she wasn't that big, I guess), and when some woman in a long tweed trenchcoat finally moved away from my scouted location, I slipped in and began shooting. I got some incredible shots, only to find out a few minutes later that I had, once again, let down a deaf person.

The woman in the tweed trenchcoat was deaf and had an ASL interpreter with her there. I would've never seen it, but my girlfriend informed me that, after I slipped into the open space in front of the octopus tank and began taking pictures, the deaf woman was furious that I would dare to block her camera-phone shots of the octopus ... even though she got up and gave me the space to shoot ... and there was no way for me to know she was there.

Behind my back, she was huffing and puffing and signing furiously to her interpreter, who was telling her to calm down and that it was okay. A few minutes passed and I ended up next to the deaf woman again, who started telling one of the employees at the aquarium about her personal experience snorkeling and seeing an octopus. It was the least interesting story ever ("I was snorkeling and saw one."), but because she was deaf, you had to pay attention and stand there until she was done. I think this woman is onto something, but that's beside the point, all the puzzle pieces had finally come together. She wasn't mad because I blocked her shot -- she'd been sitting in prime camera position for like five minutes before she got up and I started shooting -- she was upset because she thought she had some sort of higher personal connection with the octopus than I did, that because I'd never seen one snorkeling like she had, that I didn't deserve to take pictures or get as close to it as she did. The octopus was hers; not mine.

  • Seattle Mariners outfielder Greg Halman died Monday morning in his homeland of the Netherlands after police found him stabbed and bleeding and were unable to resuscitate him. There's nothing you can really say about a promising 24-year-old outfielder who was brutally murdered to death by his own brother (allegedly). I'm just deeply saddened by his death. He was one of my favorite Mariners prospects, a five-tool player who'd done relatively well in limited action in the major leagues, and someone with a lot of character who was always a great interview on radio or TV. I was really looking forward to him playing for the big club again this year and continuing to grow and mature as a player, and it's just beyond-words-shitty that someone, especially his own brother, would take his life away. Greg Halman had all the potential in the world to be a superstar outfielder for the Mariners, and I'm going to miss seeing him play next season. This is all just so surreal.
  • Justin Verlander has done it. The Cy Young award winner has locked up the AL MVP this year too, making him the first starting pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986 to win the league's Most Valuable Player award. Personally, I don't think a pitcher should ever win the MVP, regardless of his stats, because a) pitchers already have their own "best pitcher" award, the Cy Young, which is given out to the one pitcher in each league (yes, hitters have "Silver Sluggers" too, but those are one per position and aren't even remotely on the same scale as a Cy Young award), and b) because pitching every five days, even if you're lights out, isn't the same as both hitting and fielding in 162 games. But let's get honest, handing out an award centered around "value" that uses arbitrary measurements to qualify what value even means isn't exactly the most scientifically-accurate approach.
  • Hey Seahawks fans, would you rather have Tarvaris Jackson or Sam Bradford as your quarterback right now? I'd put my money on Jackson for $4m a season and spend the rest of my cash on a better team. Like the one the Rams lost to on Sunday. It definitely makes you think about the NFL Draft though. The Seahawks will presumably finish outside of the top 10 in draft order, leaving them the second tier of available rookie quarterbacks after Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, and Landry Jones are all taken in the top 10. Wouldn't you rather stick with Jackson and use that 10th or 11th pick in the NFL Draft on a top tier pass rusher instead of forcing a move for a QB that probably isn't worth the draft position and subsequent contract he'd get if drafted above his market value?
  • Outspoken New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been fined $75,000 by the NFL for swearing at a fan during halftime of a tough loss to the New England Patriots eight days ago. A Pats fan told Ryan that New England head coach Bill Belichick was better than him as he walked down the tunnel, to which Ryan responded, "Shut the fuck up!" Seems like a reasonable response, and at $18,750 a word, he did really well to keep it brief.
  • LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony are set to head a four-city "Homecoming Tour" next month as the NBA lockout continues to press the red button. I would honestly rather watch Saer Sene get his wingspan measured over and over again than watch LeBron and friends play "basketball" in their home cities. They might need to do it like pinball and just put multiple balls out on the court to keep everyone happy, otherwise it'll just turn into four grown men wrestling on the floor over who gets to shoot. Or, in the case of the Akron stop, four grown men huddled together to avoid flying beer cups. Any way we can get Metta World Peace to join the tour to keep everything calm and non-violent?

Golfpunk: The Icy Fairways, Part IV

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

Click the comic to view in glorious full resolution!

And click on the "Golfpunk" tag below to view the whole Icy Fairways series!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quick Takes - Shut up, nerd!

You want me to do what?

"Stargate" is a lovely tale about a nerd who uncovers the secret clues of an ancient Egyptian artifact that turns out to be a portal built by an alien to travel between locations in the universe (still with me?). So, obviously, I watched it the other night. I say obviously because I'm a nerd who enjoys ancient Egyptian culture almost as much as aliens who travel around the universe in giant pyramid ships. While I was wholeheartedly disappointed with the quality of the Blu Ray video (Clean the f%@#ing specks, people! We're in the future!), the movie was as good as ever. Considering that "Stargate" came out in the early '90s, it's aged remarkably well, but there was one scene in particular that drove me crazy. Crazy enough to do some math.

When Daniel Jackson, the super-linguist who solves the original stargate hieroglyphics in a few days -- after a team had floundered for two years to solve it prior to his arrival -- he and a crew of "hardcore" Marines head into the portal and are transported across the universe to find the sister stargate and, I guess, destroy it? The logic is a bit fuzzy, but whatever, we humans must stop at nothing to preserve our mediocre culture! The real intrigue begins when the crew lands on planet whatever and Jackson reveals that he can't actually get them back home through the second stargate because the tablet that would've shown the order of the return symbols wasn't there. Whoops! Guess he should've mentioned that on earth. Now, I'm not excusing Jackson from his actions, he obviously had a responsibility to the whole mission to let them know he needed the code tablet, but they could've sent multiple probes through the stargate to the other side to search for the it, and if they didn't find it in the sister stargate's location, they could've (and probably should've) aborted the mission. Everyone was too eager to go, so you can't really blame Jackson for being eager as well.

But when they get to the sister planet and find out that Jackson can't get them home, one of the Marines confronts Jackson and says something to the effect of, "What do you mean you can't get us home, nerd?! Just shut up and figure it out!" Jackson tries to reason with them to say there are "millions" of combinations that could lead to anywhere (I smell a TV series!), but without the right return tablet, they simply wouldn't get home ... so everyone should stop bitching and go search this sandy planet for the GD tablet. The disgust and disbelief from the Marines is palpable, and they obviously don't believe that Jackson can't just figure out the symbol combination. It was such a lovely allegory for the disdain most people have for rational logic, and it reminded me of everything from politics to religion to the education system, but it got me thinking ...

If the Marines were right, it should be relatively easy for Jackson to just "figure it out," and if Jackson was right, there would be so many combinations they could travel to nearly every corner of the universe before ever making it home. Let's say there are 50 symbols on a stargate (too lazy to look it up, sorry), and there are seven symbols that make up a portal sequence. To calculate the number of combinations, you use the formula 50^7. A quick input on my BFF site Wolfram Alpha spits out the correct number of possible combinations on a stargate:

718 billion, 250 million.

Sorry, Marines. Better start looking for the tablet.

  • Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow. There hasn't been a more interesting, and more divisive, story in the NFL that I can ever remember. I'm searching the old noodle, and nothing's coming up. The love and adoration being thrown Tebow's way by Broncos fans and casual fans is hilarious, and the disgust he's brewing in the minds of confounded statisticians is equally as enjoyable, but, in the end, results are all that matter. And Tim Tebow is 4-1 this year. Well, his team is 4-1 with him as a starter. And it's mostly been on the back of the defense and the running game, but you can't discredit, even statistically, what Tebow has done for an otherwise-shitty team. Yes, the elephant in the room is his completion percentage, which is an unbelievably-bad 47%, but he's running the ball extremely well for a "quarterback" and he's protecting the offense from turnovers. The Broncos offense has basically regressed to pre-1950s football, and, for some reason, it's working. Tim Tebow thinks it's god, and he thinks god has blessed the Denver Broncos with unselfish receivers, and he thinks god has given him a great support system (what normal people call "friends and family"), and he thinks god has done a great job believing in him, which seems a bit blasphemous if you look at the religious text (false idols anyone?). Isn't Tebow supposed to believe in god, and not the other way around? As my brother texted me last night, "I think Tebow may be the anti-christ."
  • If you're curious what an uncapped system can look like when its run amuck, look no further than the English Premier League. Manchester City reported losses today in the last fiscal year of £194.9m, the largest annual loss in EPL history. The team, recently owned by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, has spent more than £460m on players in the last three years, and while the methodology is absurd, they're currently leading the league and will make a considerable amount of that money back were they to win. I mean, a football team is cool and everything, and the Sheikh can spend his money the way he wants to, but for $730m, I think I'd rather have a spaceship or something. One Joint Strike Fighter costs $125m. He could have a fleet of fighter jets at his disposal. Isn't that better than a football team?!
  • When the Houston Astros make the switch to the AL West in 2013, that will even the AL and NL at 15 teams apiece and will open the door for two additional wild card teams to make the playoffs. That means 10 of the 30 teams in the league will make the playoffs each year. Think about that, at the beginning of 2013, the Seattle Mariners will have a one-in-three chance of making the playoffs, and they still won't be able to do it.
  • A friend of mine went to Las Vegas last week and ended up on the same plane as NBA and Seattle Supersonics legend Gary Payton. The Glove! Not only was my friend on the same plane as Payton, but he was in the same aisle. So I asked my friend, excitedly, "Did you say something to him?!" He laughed and said he did, and said that he tapped him on the shoulder, his brain racing, trying to figure out what to say to a Seattle icon and every little kid's childhood basketball hero, and said, "Hey, I was watching Monday Night Football the other night and you were there too ..." Gary Payton responded, "Oh ... yeah." And that was it. That's all he came up with! Not, "Go Sonics!" or "You were a hero of mine growing up, just wanted to say thanks for all the great years you gave Seattle, let's hope we get a team back soon!" No. None of that. Just, "Hey, I was at a place one time and saw you." Pathetic. You should be ashamed of yourself.
  • Fifa president Sepp Blatter has apologized for offending anyone with his asinine comments about racism in international football this past week, but he says he will not resign. Because an insincere apology is worth far more than an awesome job.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quick Takes - Kitty litter and skin lamps

Han Solo, you are my coping mechanism.

Every single time I clean out the cat litter, I pretend I'm Han Solo and I just found Luke Skywalker freezing to death on the ice-planet of Hoth. I literally say to myself, out loud, "And I thought ... they smelled bad ... on the outside!" as I sift through granules of sand like the owner of the most depressing Zen garden in human history. The way we, as humans, learn to cope with awful things is fascinating. And we all do it differently too. When someone dies, every single person who knew that individual processes it in his/her own way. For the same person, you have people who secretly celebrate the death (which sounds horrible, but we all know it totally happens), and you have people who wail away like old Italian women. And you have actual wailing old Italian women too (unless that stereotype is just way off). There are people who probably love cleaning kitty litter. I'm not one of those people, but I'm sure they exist. Because for every crazy thing you can imagine, there's someone out there who's doing it. Right now. And probably enjoying it.

But even though we can rationalize that and say, "Of course there's someone out there making decorative patterns in their litter with a little wooden rake," the range of the human species is so expansive that we're continually surprised by it. Like when people found skin-lamps in Ed Gein's house. Really? You made lampshades out of human skin? You didn't think that was weird, Ed? And he didn't. And that's cool. I don't really have a problem with it (the skin lamps, not the murders ... those were bad, mmkay?). And I don't have a problem with people who have a problem with skin lamps, because, dammit, we're all genetically unique (except for those freaky identical twins), and whatever outputs that produces are just part of the human experience.

If we hate something and we have to turn it into a game to get through it (these tauntauns are making me thirsty), or if we love something everyone else thinks is weird, we don't owe it to anyone to have to explain it away. Coping is a wonderful thing. It's probably one of the things our species does best. We are incredibly resilient. I love seeing the aftermath of natural disasters, not because I like natural disasters (they are cool, just when they happen somewhere else), but because I love seeing how people cope. They're making homemade jet-skis in Bangkok right now to get through the flood waters. Homemade jet-skis! Just because they can, and because they need them, and because the alternative isn't even worth considering. That's what we do, we make "Star Wars" references and build steampunk vehicles out of empty barrels and salvaged motors, because we have an amazing capacity to move forward.

  • The biggest news of the day is obviously that the Houston Astros are headed to the AL West! Wow! After a lengthy battle to sell the team, contingent on moving the Astros to the AL West, baseball owners have officially approved the sale and the Astros will be joining the best/worst division in MLB in 2013. Congratulations, Seattle Mariners fans, you will now be following the second-worst team in the division.
  • FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who must have a weekly conference call with David Stern to discuss how to be a massive douche, is now facing calls for his resignation in the wake of his comments downplaying racism allegations in international football. Former Arsenal cult hero Emmanuel Eboue was especially critical of Blatter over Twitter, saying that the favoritism Blatter and his counterparts have shown toward Chelsea and England defender John Terry, while ostracizing the players who were allegedly abused, is pathetic and a testament to his true character. And a host of other players are calling for Blatter to step down. Of course, people like Sepp Blatter don't step down, they step on, and it's going to take more than a few angry shouts to remove him from atop the world's football association. Paging: Austin Powers.
  • Aaron Brooks has joined a handful of other NBA players to sign for a Chinese team. First they take our manufacturing industry, and now they're taking our NBA?! How dare they! Actually, maybe they can make it better and cheaper and then just sell it back to us.
  • Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving last night. Pinkel has apologized for his actions and said he will accept full responsibility, which is the NCAA way of saying, "Nothing's going to happen to me so let's all just move on. Don't you guys need to beat the Penn State horse to death a little more?"
  • Tiger Woods really let the Golfpunk community down yesterday. No swearing, no fighting, no nuclear threats, just bad, bad golf.
  • The Seattle Seahawks offensive line has lost two rookie starters to season-ending knee injuries this week, with both John Moffitt and James Carpenter going down. Hey, if things don't work out for Tim Tebow at quarterback in Denver, he could always come play on the offensive line for the Seahawks. Will we see the first-ever offensive line draw play? "And the center snaps it to ... himself! And he's off!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quick Takes - Anthropomorphism

No, I don't know why you have a sword.

I always cringe for overblown anthropomorphism. I don't mind it when it's clever, like in "Toy Story," or when it's intentionally ironic and meant to show us how absurd our behavior really is sometimes, or even when it's subtle but still from an animal's perspective, like in "A Bug's Life," but when humans make movies about themselves using animals that have human behavior, human culture, and human evolutionary priorities, prickly hives start forming on my brain that can only be cured with a heavy dose of David Attenborough.

I watched two movies recently that were especially overblown in their rampant use of anthropomorphism: One, a cheap, trashy Hollywood exploiter ("Puss in Boots"), and the other a revered part of the cinema canon ("The Lion King"), were filled with so many instances of our own behavioral projections that they might as well have been live-action clunkers made for teenage girls and 40-something singles.

"Puss in Boots" was almost offensively anthropomorphized, and I get that it's just supposed to be cute and fun, but dammit, it's not fun to see cats behaving like humans! They should behave like cats. Period. Make an animated movie about cats, not sword-fighting, sex-dripping stereotypes that make me very uncomfortable in the theatre surrounded by little kids who don't have a clue what they're watching. The movie opens with Puss telling a decadent white cat that he just had sex with that she meant the world to him as he leaves her owner's house in a hurry. They made a kid's movie about a cat nailing another cat and making up bullshit about how much he meant to her. Later in the movie, Puss and obvious-female-cat-character dance together, not once, but twice! And they don't dance like how a cat might dance (not that I know what that would look like), they dance like humans, with sexy swinging hips and pelvises thrusting together. I'm sorry. I know nobody else cares about this. I know everyone just thinks it's adorable and clever. But not me! NOT ME! If you're going to make a movie about animals that talk, make it about their behavioral ecology, not ours.

As for "The Lion King," I truly love this movie, and it's such an amazing piece of story-telling and animation, and it certainly is a marvelous moral story and teaching device for kids, but I could've done without some of the more painful instances of anthropomorphism. "The Lion King" is about one lion's quest to recapture his pride (good pun, eh?!) and avenge his father's death to bring prosperity back to the kingdom. Not only are the lions vaunted into some monarchical system above all the "common" animals, but they even discuss things like marriage! Mufasa tells Simba, as they're casually walking through the plains, that he and his young female counterpart Nala are already promised to one another. They're like ... 1 year old cubs! And they're lions. If Simba really is meant to be "king," he will do his best to impregnate as many female lions as possible when he reaches sexual maturity, not just Nala.

I can't comprehend why an arranged marriage trope showed up in that movie, but I guess that's every man's dream, to be promised the hottest lion in the pride when you're a little kid so you can focus on more important stuff and stop worrying about finding a mate. Here you go, Erik, it's young (insert female pop culture reference here), she's yours forever, so go ahead and go back to coloring and building LEGOs. Your job is done.

  • Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis doesn't appear to be the biggest fan of Tim Tebow's style of quarterbacking. Leading up to this Sunday's game against the Broncos, Revis told reporters that the secondary's biggest concern is "for us not to fall asleep" while the Broncos run the ball to death. You and me both, Darrelle.
  • In more Tim Tebow news, the Jets are using 41-year-old quarterback Mark Brunell to simulate Tebow in practice. Brunell says it best, "I'm left-handed and he's left-handed. And that's about it right there." You guys are both white too? And ... uh ... you both play quarterback? No wait, that last one isn't right.
  • New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters he wasn't sure Alex Rodriguez was the right choice to play 3B in the ALDS, as A-Rod was still not fully recovered from injury. Hindsight sure is nice, especially when Rodriguez went 2-18 in the series, but in the playoffs you always have to send out your big guns, and the alternative of Eric Chavez is no longer a big gun in any way, shape, or form. That'd be like going to war with NERF guns because your tank wouldn't always fire on target.
  • Tiger Woods has drawn Adam Scott to open the Presidents Cup, pitting Woods, once again, against his bitter former caddy, the obnoxious Steve Williams. I smell a Golfpunk episode!
  • A 12-year-old footballer has turned down the opportunity to join Chelsea FC, opting to stay with his hometown club Swindon Town after the London giants approached for his services. The boy recently signed a contract with Swindon that will keep him at the club until 2015. Let's see, when I was 12 years old, I was playing little league baseball and riding my bike around the neighborhood with an arsenal of NERF guns strapped to every inch of my body for our neighborhood game "Guns" (a complex game of armed combat, prison riots, tag, and dodgeball). Hmm, I feel like I could've spent my youth better.
  • With a rash of racism allegations between players flooding the international football world, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said that racism isn't a problem in the sport and any disputes should be handled between players with a handshake. If only Sepp Blatter were around for World War II!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quick Takes - Cloudy with a chance of something

Niiiiiiiiiikolaaaaaaaaaaaaa (blows giant horn)

If you haven't seen the third installment of the Golfpunk series: The Icy Fairways, Part III, then I demand that you click that link and read it. Read it 100 times, read it until your eyes fall out and you have to carry them in water-filled Ziploc bags as they dangle awkwardly by the optic nerves. And then read it once more, from your hospital bed, and share in the laughter with your nurses and doctors. Because laughter is the best medicine.

I like to dabble in inventions. More conceptually than practically, because, come on, who's got that kind of start-up cash? This all really started when I was still in elementary school, and I dreamed up a crazy concept for an air freshener that you plugged into the power outlet of your car or home and it would use electricity to pump out a constant stream of scent while in operation. I thought it was a brilliant idea, only to be disheartened years later to find Glade had finally released one and was raking in the cash. Typical.

I had another idea for a floatable black box, so when an airplane went down they wouldn't have to scour the sea floor for months trying to find the black box. Just make it float, people. But it seems like the number of crashes over sea has dwindled, as has my market for invention. So it's on to new ideas, I suppose. But we live in a different world now. We have computers in our pockets more powerful than the giant desktops of a decade ago. Anything we need, we can get almost immediately. The allure of the "invention" seems less shiny; like it's been replaced by the comfort and convenience of the fast food status quo. But that's what I'm here for. To challenge the status quo! To push the boundaries of the human experience!

How about an automatic pill dispenser for old people? It hooks up to their heads like a bluetooth or something, and automatically dispenses pills and water at the programmed times! Never miss a dose! Or how about a mouthguard-toothbrush that you stick in your mouth and, when you bite down, the motors engage and brushes come swirling in from every angle to clean your teeth? It's like a mouth car wash! We can call it The MouthWash! Or what about a bird dropping collector that converts their tiny excrement into biofuel? It might take a year's worth of poo to power your blender, but hey, what else were you going to do with that stuff?

  • Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is out for the year with a lisfranc injury (he hurt his foot), which means, drumroll please: Matt Leinart is now the starting quarterback for the playoff-bound Texans! Hide your kids, hide your wife! Do you think Gatorade makes a tequila-flavored sports drink just for Leinart?
  • Aaron Rodgers threw four more TD passes during Green Bay's thumping Monday night win over the hapless Vikings. Rodgers is now up to 28 on the year through nine games (with only three interceptions) and is on pace to challenge Tom Brady's NFL-record 50 TD passes in a season. Even if Rodgers breaks the record, Tom Brady is still married to a Victoria's Secret supermodel that he successfully impregnated, so he probably still wins (at least from an evolutionary sense). Sorry, Aaron, you're really good at football though?
  • You know what I hate? When sports reporters/writers use the phrase: "If the playoffs started today ..." They aren't starting today. There's no discussion to have. It's a cheap gimmick to give you something to talk about in the overbearing 24-hour news cycle. However, once the regular season is actually over, and the first playoff game is about to start, feel free to use it at your leisure.
  • While the NBA is headed for a doomsday scenario, with David Stern appearing in all his smug glory on SportsCenter last night to cast everyone else as the villain and take little to no responsibility himself, the British Basketball League (BBL) is dealing with its own scandal. Foxy, the mascot for the Plymouth Raiders, pulled down the shorts of Guildford Heat player Martelle McLemore last month. The Raiders have been fined this week, and Foxy, the canid-themed mascot, is finally going to be neutered: "We have drawn up a code of conduct for Foxy, and this will govern what he is and isn't permitted to do in future games," Raiders CEO Dave Briggs said. I'm quite pleased that there was no code of conduct even discussed prior to the incident and that it took him pulling down an opposing player's shorts to even consider a code of conduct. British basketball, ladies and gentlemen!
  • Former NBA center Shawn Bradley has recovered his gigantic bicycle after it was stolen recently from his barn in Utah. I say gigantic because Bradley, at 7'6" tall, is one of the tallest players in NBA history and had his bike custom-made to fit his frame. The crime was strange to both Bradley and police, because in the same barn where his huge bicycle was stolen were a host of ATVs, motorcycles, and regular-sized bicycles. A perplexed Bradley told reporters, "My brother is 6'10" and he can't ride it." Police were apparently able to apprehend the thief as he stomped through downtown Tokyo.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Gunning Hawk >> The Arsene Wenger defence conundrum – Three possible solutions

Arsene Wenger has a good problem on his hands: Too many good centrebacks in his defence! What's a manager to do?


Quick Takes - The Seacrest Incident

Destroyer of dreams.

I had a dream last night that I was at Sea World, and Ryan Seacrest was there (my subconscious really didn't work hard for that correlation). A gaggle of gawking teeny boppers were following him around, taking pictures, asking for his autograph, and being generally obnoxious. But Seacrest wasn't phased, he was carrying around an ice cream cone and smiling calmly. I was surprised that he was so serene in this environment, but I thought, "Oh well, whatever," and began to walk away from the whale tank where he was standing. At that moment, the most boisterous (see: loud and horrible) girl of the group, a hefty girl in clothes that didn't even remotely fit, came screaming toward the Seacrest and collapsed at his feet like someone at a Michael Jackson concert in 1988. I turned and saw her fawning at him and rolled my eyes, but he gently helped her to her feet as she begged him, through tears, to take a picture.

He saw me turning away and said, "Hey, you! Come here, can you take the picture?"

I had a camera around my neck, "You want me to take the picture?"

He said he did, and that he wanted me to e-mail it to him when I got home. I was confused, why would he want me to e-mail him some random picture of himself and an obnoxious fan? But who am I to question dream Seacrest, so he gave me his e-mail address (OMG SEACREST'S E-MAIL ADDRESS!) and I stepped back to take the picture. As I pressed the shutter down, Seacrest shoved the girl as hard as he could, I heard the camera shutter click, and she went flying head-first into the whale tank. Everyone gasped and looked in horror, aside from Seacrest, who was laughing maniacally and rushed over like a little kid on Christmas to see if I'd caught it on camera. I pressed the "Play" button on my camera to bring up the last photo, and there it was, in all its glory: Ryan Seacrest, face lit up with glee, shoving a poor teenaged girl into the whale tank at Sea World.

He patted me on the back and said, "Great job. Don't forget to e-mail it to me," and walked away, munching merrily on his ice cream cone while trainers fished the panicked girl out of the tank.

  • Tim Tebow completed TWO PASSES in four quarters of play in the Denver Broncos' 17-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. His completion percentage was 25%, he completed TWO PASSES, and his team WON. Are you reading this? What the hell is happening?! I'd make a Robert Johnson/"Me and the Devil" joke here, but at least Johnson got better at guitar after selling his soul.
  • Lost in the shuffle of the NFL weekend was Jonathan Papelbon signing a $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, who will pay the closer roughly $15 million a season. It's the second-richest deal for a closer in MLB history, behind only Mariano Rivera's last two deals. Basically, if this were a business, Papelbon would've just signed the equivalent of a $100,000/yr. salary with benefits for working 15 minutes a week. Don't check the math, just agree with the concept. Thanks.
  • Think the NBA is ready to end the lockout and play some basketball? Not even close. NBA players rejected the latest CBA offer from owners and called David Stern's (ironic) second ultimatum "extremely unfair." Billy Hunter, director of the players' union, said the union plans to file antitrust action, which means this season is pretty much dead. Hooray. At least Skyrim is finally out on PC ... who needs basketball when you can slay dragons!
  • In a year or two, I have this weird feeling that Quick Takes won't even involve sports. I apologize in advance.
  • Michael Vick broke his ribs on Sunday in a tough loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Something something dog fighting.
  • After Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson scored a touchdown Sunday against the Cowboys, he ran over to his girlfriend, Cowboys cheerleader Kelsi Reisch (it's like Romeo and Juliet), and gave her a hug and the ball. Dallas-area plumbers reported a record number of puke-clogged toilets in the aftermath of the event.
  • Sometimes I think we, as fans, deify professional coaches, making the understandable assumptions that they couldn't have gotten to the point they have without superlative strategic brains and unfathomable comprehension of the sport. But then professional coaches decide to punt to Devin Hester, and I search's careers section for any vacant head coaching positions.

Golfpunk: The Icy Fairways, Part III

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

Click to view in full resolution!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quick Takes - Old man fashion

Just a few more years, Erik ...

I love the way old people dress, especially old men. I feel like young men dress the way they do simply for evolutionary reasons: To reproduce. But once reproduction has occurred and the family has been created -- the genetic material has been passed along and the adult can melt into the ocean like a post-spawning salmon -- the man sheds his flashy peacock feathers and slips into something more comfortable. Thick, rubber-soled shoes. A breathable shirt or sweater that would be burned immediately were it not draped over a human's body. And khakis. Always khakis. I don't understand any of it, other than that old men just don't give a shit. But isn't that refreshing? All the hard work that people put into dressing themselves, all the countless hours we first-world humans spend in front of mirrors trying to make sure every last thread is properly in place, and old men just hit some magical age and say, screw it, I'm going to put on these comfy Velcro shoes and watch the Weather Channel all day. You take your fashion and shove it, I got this shirt for 99 cents at the drug store. Basic economics.

The old man is a beautiful thing. An immovable object of shamelessness, practicality, and common sense. But for all the grandeur of the old man, the middle-aged man is his awkward nemesis. He may have a family, or he may be well-to-do in his life to feel like he's accomplished, but the evolutionary pull to reproduce, to display those dramatic feathers and puff out the chest, still creeps to the forefront (emphasis on creep). Hey young lady, do you like fast cars? Because I have worked for 19 years at the same dead-end job doing data entry, and I have just enough money to afford this delicious used sports car. The middle-aged man dresses in some sort of fashion purgatory, where he is neither comfortable nor stylish, but instead wears oversized pants, shirts tucked in that display his impressive gut, and crazy curled dress shoes that give him the appearance of a lost Christmas elf. Embrace old age, sir, embrace it! For she is a warm and loving mother, and Velcro is a really cool invention.

  • A quick note to ESPN re: Grammar. When using the term "11s" for the accompanying graphic to the following text on the front page of, "To celebrate 11/11/11, we look back at some of the greatest 11s in sports and in history," it's best to leave the additional apostrophe in "11's" out of the graphic, like you did so well in the text. I'm sensing some siloing in ESPN's corporate structure!
  • NBA commissioner David Stern has now handed down his second ultimatum deal to the players to end the lockout, which makes me think David Stern doesn't really understand what an ultimatum is.
  • Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh is upset with the staff at Heinz Field for playing music that was supposedly "insulting" to his quarterback Joe Flacco during the Ravens win over the Steelers last weekend. The song played was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "What's Your Name," which features some lyrics about a little girl. Harbaugh was sure the "little girl" lyrics were in reference to his quarterback, who responded to reporters by saying, "I have no idea what you're talking about. They were playing a song?" ... John Harbaugh must think highly of his quarterback to make that correlation.
  • I'm going to apologize in advance for this soapbox moment, but I have to get this off my chest: The entire sports world has been consumed (and consuming itself) over this Penn State Sandusky scandal. And while it's definitely newsworthy when a major college program deals with the fallout of this type of horrific abuse, and when a legacy coach like Joe Paterno gets fired, that's newsworthy too, but the 24-hour news coverage has just gotten completely out of hand. Every radio station, every front page, every television broadcast, starts and ends with hours of talking heads debating the finer points of this tragedy. Just stop. Seriously. Stop glorifying college sports and Penn State like this while hypocritically calling out the students and faculty for doing the same to Joe Paterno that let this type of cover-up happen in the first place. Stop making this about you and your network and leave these people alone. No one cares what your morals are, because they aren't Jerry Sandusky's, and saying that you would've told someone about what he did or passing judgment on who should've done what is just the lowest common denominator type of reporting. It's easy to say what you would've done and to passionately announce that you wouldn't have passed the buck, but you don't know the situation, you don't know the relationships, and you don't even really know what was/wasn't said. We, collectively, don't know enough to spend every waking moment of our lives talking about an abuse scandal at a state university in Pennsylvania. And even if we did know enough, letting it consume us doesn't help the situation. It doesn't help the faculty, staff, and students of the university move forward, it doesn't help the victims feel safe and comforted when talk show hosts are clamoring for details and wondering why it took so long for this stuff to come out (come the f#%@ on), and it doesn't help the people who've been impacted by this -- whether the victims, their families, or Joe Paterno, or the current athletes who lost their coach -- to let their lives become your gossip. So just stop. We all know it's sad, we all know it's horrific, we all know that more should've been done. But let due process take its course, let those people who are responsible receive their punishments and disappear, and let the abused and their families have their freaking lives back.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quick Takes - The baffling evolution of the kitten

I think there are some holes in here, science ...

And now for a little shameless plug. My brother is the front man for the hard rock band Urban Collapse, and they've just released a new album that needs your vote! Go to this Web site and cast your vote for their album "American Dream," and a shower of gummy bears and gold-plated chocolate cherubs will rain down upon you. And you should probably listen to the album too because it's awesome. That is all.

I am often confused by the behavior of my kittens. Two nights ago, one of them, Sasquatch (that's her name, because she likes to hide in her own homemade caves ... just go with it), discovered the dark backside of the washing machine and dryer, and was unable to get herself out. What prompted her to jump down there, knowing that it would be nearly impossible for her to get back out? Was it hubris that slayed the beast? I eventually had to push the machines as far apart as they'd go and coax her out with treats, which is a super good use of my time as a human, only to have her jump down again a day later and get stuck in linty purgatory for a second time! I got her out again and rigged an ironing-board/pillow apparatus to keep her from falling down. So far so good.

But where is the evolutionary progress there? If her species' genetic disposition was so risky that they would routinely get stuck in places and starve to death without some sort of intervention, how did they manage to make it this far? Is it simply an environmental issue, that there's no genetic coding for "laundry room faux pas?" Or did she have a bag of survival tricks up her sleeve? I suppose, if things got really desperate, she could've latched onto a hose or two and Cliffhangered her way to safety, or maybe she'd worked out a cloak and dagger deal with her sister, Triceratops, to bail her out if she got stuck (I can't begin to fathom), but that seems like a bit of a stretch, and there's really no reward for the risk in the first place. Lint is not a reward, not when it clings to your fur and turns you into a walking feather-duster. So, from an evolutionary standpoint, I'm utterly baffled by her decision-making skills. Perhaps the trapped lint looked like food to her, and her instincts to hunt and find food outweighed the risk of getting stuck: "If this is where mice live, then yes, I can sustain a healthy supply of food. No, it's quite cozy down here, thank you. Please leave."

  • Joe Paterno, the legendary head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, has been fired effective immediately after the board of trustees decided it was the right time and the right situation to let him go. Considering the circumstances surrounding Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged 40 counts of child sex abuse and Paterno's knowledge, however limited it was, of some of Sandusky's behavior in the past, it's hard to argue with his termination. It's sad, because JoePa was always one of the great immovable objects of NCAA football, and he's had a tremendous legacy tarnished by someone else, but when you find out about something like that, you can't just pass the buck to someone else and wash your hands of the situation. You have to take responsibility, just like I'm sure he's told hundreds of college athletes and students over the years. What's sad to me is that someone of his obvious character, someone who would go out of his way for each and every one of his athletes, didn't do the same for those kids Jerry Sandusky allegedly preyed on. Joe Paterno had a chance to protect more children, or even just to do the right thing for the children that had already been abused, but it seems like his loyalty to the school, his program, and his coaching staff got in the way of his responsibility to those kids. I can't pretend to crawl inside his brain and know what he was thinking when he first heard about Sandusky's behavior, and we'll never really know how he may have interpreted whatever he was told (sounds like it was a big game of telephone), but you don't get in trouble for reporting someone to the police for this type of behavior, even if it turns out to be untrue. It may destroy a relationship, but isn't that worth the risk when you think of the alternative?
  • John Daly has quit the Australian Open PGA tournament after partially completing the first round (only 11 holes), and in the aftermath, Australian Open officials have called him unprofessional and asked for other events to not invite him. Daly, currently ranked 666th in the world, isn't qualifying for any of these tournaments, but is still such a fan favorite that he's getting sponsorship exemptions to play. After starting out poorly, Daly appeared to give up on the 11th hole and launched whatever remaining balls he had in his bag into the water hazard. Perhaps the drink cart girl should just go around next time.
  • In British horse racing (oh yes, I'm going there), jockeys who excessively use the whip against their horses will face lesser penalties after an amendment in the rules. Instead of a five-day ban for going over the allotted amount of whips, jockeys will now only get a two-day ban. The horses couldn't be more pleased.
  • Did you know that Tim Tebow is averaging 23.7 points per game so far in fantasy football? It's like every Denver Broncos fan's wet dream is coming true through arbitrary scoring, confirmation bias, and bad logic, "See, I told you he was good!"
  • Boston Bruins forward Daniel Paille was hit in the face with a slap shot Monday night and has since been sent to be examined by a specialist. Boston coach Claude Julien said, "The puck hit him in the face, in the nose area, so we'll probably know more tomorrow once he's seen by a specialist." There's a slapshot-to-the-face specialist?!?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A world without referees

Take me out of the ballgame.

The referee is as much a part of sports these days as the players are. In every sport, whether it's baseball, football, or even boxing, the referee is there as the voice of reason, the enforcer of the rules, the maintainer of the peace. They often get more air time than the players as they explain rules, hand out penalties, and intervene in fights. But what would happen if we just got rid of referees? Would the leagues fall into complete chaos? Would players turn into wild animals and beat each other into oblivion? Would the modern day arena hark back to the gladiatorial era? I highly doubt it.

We've all played some form of "pick-up" sports before, and if not sports, some form of game, and there's an intrinsic human element to playing games that simultaneously establishes and enforces rules. It's more cultural, more embedded in our human nature, than I think people give it credit for, and that's because we've become so accustomed to having someone else (the "authority figure") tell us what we're supposed to do and how we're supposed to play that we feel like nothing can happen fairly without their presence. But players define rules, they have for generations of our evolution, and when rules are broken in a player-created game, there is always a penalty.

Children are masters at creating and enforcing rules. When a group of kids play freeze tag, there's an understanding between all participants of what the rules are and what a broken rule looks like. If a child tags another and he doesn't freeze (gasp), a nuclear meltdown occurs in the suddenly "Lord of the Flies" community, and that child is either kicked out of the game forever by his fellow taggers, sent home weeping to explain his indiscretion to his mother, or he's temporarily banished, locked in a longer-than-natural freeze, by the horde. It's a communal decision, not that all communal decisions are going to be correct (majority may rule, but it's rarely right), but when it comes to games, that type of enforcement works. The same thing happens for adults too. If we're driving and someone cuts us off, we honk our horn to shame the other person for breaking the understood rules of the game. If someone cuts in line, everyone behind that person will enforce proper behavior and send the invader to the back of the line, where he/she obviously belongs. We establish and enforce rules every single day, so why the authority in sports? Why the referees?

The obvious answer is that, while people inherently define and follow rules, people also inherently cheat, and without a neutral third party there to observe and watch for intentional rule-breaking, it can go unseen and unpunished and have an unfair impact on the outcome of the sport. And sports are all about money, and when that much money is on the line, it's almost as if every owner and player collectively agrees: "There's too much to lose to not cheat, so you better disincentivize it from a higher authority." But people cheat regardless of the rules, in both life and in sports. Does everyone come to a complete stop at a stop sign? Of course not, we bend the rules in our favor daily, and so do athletes, even with the presence of a referee. The only difference is that when there is no referee, the players will naturally even the score or hand out a punishment befitting the offense.

I can't imagine a group of NFL athletes arguing over a pass interference call or a disputed touchdown, but maybe that's because we -- fans, coaches, players -- are all so used to letting someone else define the outcomes and mediate the disputes that it's hard to conceive of the alternative. We don't know what it would be like if the players were left up to their own devices, and, based on how they continually act even with an authority figure there to police their actions, it's easy to say how much worse it would be. But there would be a certain evolution that would occur. It would have to occur. A different version of that sport would organically grow into something new, something unique. In the NFL, the players that couldn't follow the rules would be ostracized, the nitpicky-nature of refereeing would disappear, as would the chain-link measurements and the precisely-controlled maintenance of game play and game clock. It would naturally sort itself out, and, in the end, I think a better sport would come about, something more akin to a hyper-speed rugby than the jerky, clumsy NFL.

The same thing would happen in baseball too. The whole concept of a "strikezone" would probably go away, and another version of pitching and hitting would emerge. Something that was more definitive, more abrupt; something that would force action as opposed to inaction on the part of the batter. Players would come to know what was and wasn't an out and wouldn't need to appeal to authority to sell their story. Baseball players are notorious for arguing the strikezone and getting ejected from the game. But that's because they aren't responsible to their fellow players, they can focus their disagreements on the "other," instead of being accountable to the other players and the fans to keep the game moving.

The NBA is by far the worst sport when it comes to players complaining to officials. And many times, a player will be able to woo an official simply as a result of his incessant whining. Has that ever worked in a pick-up game? "You know what, you're right, you do deserve some free throws." Hell no. Things are self-policed. You know when you fouled someone and you raise your hand. If it's disputed, you just take it at half-court and start again. No free throws, no authority. Just a communal understanding of "this is slowing our game down, so just take it at the top of the key and start playing again." That's how you play a game.