Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sh*t I Don't Understand: The Royal Wedding

I've spewed about this general subject before, but since all the buildup and enthusiasm over the Royal Wedding has brought the whole ordeal to an uncharted level of annoyingness, it now warrants its own post. I'll be honest - at first, the news of Prince William's engagement did turn my head. After all, it's not an insignificant event by any stretch of the imagination, so let's make it clear that I'm not trying to downgrade the overall weight that the wedding carries. The British Monarchy is an interesting lesson in history, tradition, the whole bit. Weddings like this happen about as often as a solar eclipse. Throw in the fact that Prince William is the son of the late Princess Diana and was a teen tabloid heartthrob himself in the '90s, and you can see why the hype machine is ratcheted up enough to blow the entire town's electricity.

But, that being said, come on. The level of coverage is just insane. Not only does a Google search for "Royal Wedding" produce 56.5 million results, but (possibly more importantly), it's also the first thing that pops up on the automatic search aid after typing just the first two letters. Not only that, but when you type in the "y," three of the first five suggestions are Royal Wedding-related. I think apologies are owed to Roy Halladay, Roy Rogers, Roy Orbison, and Roy Oswalt for the sudden decrease in Google popularity.

You know what's worse than the level of coverage itself? The fact that enough people are actually eating this garbage up! I've even heard of people that are taking the day off from work to immerse themselves in all things Royal Wedding. Unless you're from the UK, why is this so important? Just give me one good reason for an American to donate such an inordinate proportion of their time to following this wedding. Allow me to remind those Royal Wedding fans out there, that this is the union of two people who (brace yourselves for this) you do not know, you will never meet, do not care about you, have zero impact on your life, have basically zero political power, and, most importantly, are not even meaningful figures in your own country!

Maybe this is just one of those things that separates women and men as species (yes, I said species). Women don't get why men obsess over sports, and men don't get why women obsess over things like this. And despite the title of this post, I can see, to a certain extent, why a lot of women may be all about the Royal Wedding. Like I said earlier, Prince William was on the cover of every teen magazine back in the days that the current 18-34 demographic was growing up. He's grown up handsome (no homo), educated, and with a legitimate term of military service under his belt. And now that he's getting married with the utmost pomp and circumstance, nearly a generation of American women suddenly feels like they're in 7th grade again. And, in turn, since this is the wedding of a person they once held up so high in their thoughts and on their walls, they want everything to be perfect. They don't want their former dream guy getting married to just anyone, hence the gross obsession, if not unfair scrutiny, over Kate Middleton's dress, hair, shoes, etc. etc. etc.

In that respect, I guess I can relate. Part of the reason I love playing sports and going to games is to unleash the 12-year-old inside of me. Getting off the subway at 161st St and River Ave. in the Bronx gives me chills and goosebumps even in 90-degree heat. When I'm there watching Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, the only thing adult about my world is the beverage in my hand. I think that can be equated somewhat to the Royal Wedding obsession. Apologies in advance for making a big generalization, but you can't tell me that a good deal of women don't have some sort of dream about being the centerpiece of a huge wedding like that and having all those eyes on them as they walk down the aisle. It's probably the same feeling I get when I think about stepping into the left-handed batter's box at Yankee Stadium.

But (and I'd be doing this blog a disservice if there weren't a "but"), the line must be drawn somewhere. I can't completely give Royal Wedding nuts a pass by comparing it to sports fandom. Because sports actually grip us. Sports are something we follow day-in and day-out. Sports are unscripted. Sports are there for us, season after season, generation after generation. The Royal Wedding? There's no question of winning or losing, no outcome hanging in the balance. She walks down the aisle (and hopefully doesn't trip), they stand at the altar, exchange vows and rings, say "I do," kiss, and then it's time for a reception that is sure to sway the value of the GBP one way or the other. And then it's over. Sure, you'll have the honeymoon pictures on every tabloid and God (or Bog) save us from the media arms race when the first baby is born. But any way you slice it, you're back to your mundane life after Friday evening.

The idea for outside distractions from the grind of life is to create memories to draw back on when the days never seem like they're going to end. That's why people shoot the shit about the 50-foot eagle putt they sank, the three-run triple they hit to win a game in their softball league, or the college football road trip they took. But I'd really like to meet the person who says "you know, those three weeks I spent glued the TV poring over the Royal Wedding were such a rewarding experience, I'm so glad I did that." On second thought, no I wouldn't.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Promotional Ideas

I was watching the Phillies game last night and they were advertising some upcoming home games.  One of the promotions for the upcoming home games was "upper respiratory asthma awareness night"  Really?  We just got through Autism awareness night which is a stretch anyways for a baseball game.  I understand the Phillies are just making up promotions because they are selling out games and are propping themselves up to the community.  It's just all a bit much for me.  One of our readers works in the marketing department for the Phillies and he gave me some insight into future promotions.  Try to picture any Phillies announcer read this promotion too, it will add to the fun.

Colon Cancer Awareness Night-  The Phillies plan to offer a free Colonoscopy to fans.  The first 100 fans will have their colon checked by the Phillies ball girls, who ironically will be near your balls, but will defile you in a not so pleasant manner.

Tolerance Tuesday-  The Phillies will wear purple uniforms and rainbow hats to support the gay and lesbian communities.  Join us after the game at Show and Tell where the girls will demonstrate the passion they exude for one another in a one on one show.

Single Season Ticket Holder Singles Night-  Follow me on this one.  If you have a single season ticket and come to the games alone you must have few friends and little family.  So allow the Phillies to play matchmaker.  The Phillies will host a happy hour before the game and will pair you with member of your sexual preference in hopes of you finding a companion to watch the games with.

Skoal Night-  Fans 14 and under will be given tobacco less dip.  It will be tastier than bubble gum kids we promise.

Sons of Ben Night-  Fans will be given mini soccer balls and a $5 coupon off their next Philadelphia Union soccer match.  We see nothing wrong with giving thousands of fans mini soccer balls at a game, Phillies fans are always on their best behavior. 

Wheel the Bases-  The ADA is being enforced yet again.  Disabled fans will be given a chance to wheelchair around the bases.  A special ramp is currently being put in to allow for expensive and easy access to the playing field for wheelchairs.  Please allow for 1 hour after the game for the grounds crew to lay down a hard surface to move around the field easier.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wake Me Up in a Month

Coming up tonight, on TNT: Overmatched Team A tries to steal a playoff game from Juggernaut Team B! And if they do so, don't miss the next 6 months, during which Team A will try to sell its fanbase on the idea that a 5-game playoff loss is a successful season! Be sure to treat yourself to this compelling melodrama, the only thing more viewer-enticing than Charles Barkley doing a Sodoku puzzle!

I've tried. I've tried and tried and tried and tried. I've picked a few teams I wanted to root for and against. I've set aside time to watch games. I've even gambled on a game or two (note to the Blazers: putting a hand in a guy's face is not only allowed, but it may actually make your opponent's shot more difficult. Try it sometime.). But I just can't get into the NBA Playoffs until the Conference Finals at the earliest.

With rare exception, the NBA's first two playoff rounds are brutal. When you think "playoffs" in general, you think of a heightened level of competition and intensity that is not found in the regular season very frequently. You think of hot underdog teams making the odds-on favorites sweat. The NHL, NFL, and MLB deliver on this more often than not. The NBA? Eh, not quite.

Why? Well, for starters, too many teams make the postseason. When a league sends more than half (16 out of 30) of its teams to the playoffs, it's begging for mediocrity. For instance, the Indiana Pacers, for all their pluck and relative likability, wedged themselves in as the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference with a 37-45 record. Give me a break. That's like a 73-win baseball team playing in October. Now, I know I'm walking right into it because the NFL saw a 7-9 playoff team just last season, but this sort of thing happens almost every year in the NBA, while the 2010 Seahawks were the first sub-.500 NFL team to ever make the playoffs in a full 16 game season.

Couple the overload of teams with the fact that the first round is best-of-7, and you've reduced basically the first two weeks of the postseason to a formality. You know what else makes the other three major sports' playoffs great? It's the fact that if you're in it, you've got a chance to win it. Baseball only sends 4 teams per league and is possibly the ultimate playoff crapshoot. The NFL has seen two #6 seeds in the past six seasons win the Super Bowl, as well as several other #6 seeds reach the AFC or NFC Championship in the past decade. The NHL playoffs routinely see upsets and edge-of-your-seat Cinderella runs, thanks many times to the all-powerful "hot goalie" equalizer. Equalizers are hard to come by in basketball. The best-of-5 opening round used to make for some compelling series - who doesn't remember the image of Dikembe Mutombo after his 8th-seeded Nuggets stunned the Sonics in 1994? Unfortunately, since playoff gates, parking, and concession sales are too much to pass up, all rounds are now best-of-7. Not only does the 7-game format make it significantly harder on the underdog, but the multiple off days between games are a momentum-killer in addition to making the series take for-ev-er. Of course, it is possible to get a big upset (see the 2007 Warriors-Mavericks first round) or a terrifically played series (i.e. the 2009 Bulls-Celtics series that I linked to previously), but memorable moments in the NBA's early rounds are much, much scarcer than those in the other sports.

What you need to win 16 postseason games in the NBA is three or more elite players and/or a great defense. So that boils it down to maybe 4-5 teams that have a legitimate chance to be the ones standing at the end in mid-June. In about half of these early series, the favored team only needs to shift it into high gear when absolutely necessary. Defense is optional. The opening round is turned into more of a tune-up than anything else, almost like a top college football team opening its regular season with a small-conference or FCS school. You know how baseball has extended spring training for injured players and/or slow-to-develop minor leaguers? More often than not, the first round of the NBA Playoffs is just an extended regular season.

And those are just the on-court issues. Arguably the least bearable element of the NBA Playoffs is the coverage. TV and radio heads go blue in the face breaking down these series, which I suppose is understandable. What is bothersome is a channel like ESPN constantly pumping up its own NBA coverage in an attempt to boost ratings for the games that it carries. I don't need Sportscenter cutting away to the side studio every 6 minutes to pore over a mid-April playoff game where one team is happy just to be there. I also don't need Mike and Mike, who sometimes provide a listenable morning radio program, being force-fed for 9 weeks a guest list of stiffs like Tim Legler, Jamal Mashburn, and occasionally even Dick Vitale, all of whom -you guessed it- studio analysts at ESPN. The hosts have a comfortable, if not cliché, dynamic to their show. Mike Golic plays very well the role of "ex-lineman who is the butt of jokes about being fat and dumb," while Mike Greenberg holds his own as the "wimpy, somewhat dorky lifelong fan who could never really make it onto the field." It's unfortunate to see them constantly being put out of their element by endlessly pining over a sport they don't know that well, all seemingly under the direction of the mother ship.

Besides the relative pointlessness of some of the early round games, there is also a monotone nature to a basketball playoff series that makes it excruciating to break down game-in and game-out. In football, games are once a week, so opponents, locations, and conditions are constantly changing. In baseball, every game is its own entity - the pitchers are different every night (which often brings about significant lineup shifting), and the parks provide unique dimensions, weather conditions, and even rule changes (i.e. the DH or no-DH in the World Series). Leaving hockey aside (since we're not clubbed over the head with hockey coverage in this country), football and baseball warrant the ad-nauseam playoff talk. Basketball? You're often looking at the same starting fives night after night, playing in standardized atmospheres (now that the Boston Garden and its famed dead spots on the floor are long gone) where most of the time the only variable is home-court advantage. Is there an interesting dynamic to see how teams may approach defending and attacking each other differently on a game-to-game basis? Sure there is, but not to a level that justifies the skull-numbing NBA playoff coverage from all angles.

The long and the short of it is that bigger is not always better. The NBA appears to be learning this lesson now. I've written on this topic before. Too many big guaranteed contracts, too many teams, too many playoff teams, and in turn too many playoff rounds and too many playoff games have watered down the product immensely. The league's labor situation after this season will likely end up even more dicey than that of the NFL. Now, I don't want to full-on blast the NBA, because at its best it's a great product. In recent years the NBA adopted the slogan "Where Amazing Happens." Well, amazing does happen. But you've got to wait a month or so first.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Things You Should Definitely Do: The Preakness

Kevin, despite already being easily the most well-traveled of the three contributors to this blog, is always looking for the next trip, the next experience, the next event to cross off the list. So when we were discussing potential trips for the 2011 baseball and college football seasons, it came as little surprise to me that he also threw in the word "Preakness." After reading that text, my eyes were more lit up than Lindsay Lohan on 4/20.

A back story, if I may. Back in college, one of our fraternity brothers would organize a trip down to the Preakness Stakes every year. (For the lesser-informed, the Preakness is the second leg of the famous Triple Crown of horse racing, sandwiched every May between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.) Simply put, purchasing a general admission infield ticket to the Preakness is an entry into the biggest college party of the year. There are several schools within fairly easy distance of Pimlico Raceway (just outside Baltimore) - Towson , University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, James Madison, and University of Delaware are some examples off the top of my head. The timing is perfect. The race is held around the third week of May or so, right near the time when most colleges are finishing up for the year, which leads many groups of college kids and early 20's hangers-on to treat the Preakness as their last big bang before everyone parts ways for the summer or for the treachery of post-graduate life. Couple that with the fact that it doesn't become consistently warm in the Northeast anymore until around May 15, and you've got nearly 100,000 people in a rough age range of 19-30 chomping at the bit for some good old fashioned outdoor daytime drinking. Oh, and another thing - under the old BYOB rules (which have since been abolished, and then brought back in modified form), you could bring as much booze, food, and whatever else that you could manage to wheel into the place. And believe me, they're not carding 100,000 people, either.

There is a rare dynamic to The Preakness. It is a combination of landmark moments in one's sports fandom as well as his partying career. I say that because, when you have infield tickets, you obviously get to walk across the racetrack as you enter and exit. Just think, for a mere general admission ticket, you are allowed to transverse the very surface on which one of the biggest sporting events of the year takes place. To me, that's the horse racing equivalent of the days when spectators were allowed to exit the old Yankee Stadium to the subways after games by walking across the field.

Once you get to the infield, what you enter upon is a collision of Bourbon Street, Hamsterdam, spring break in Cancun, an SEC tailgate, and the last 20 minutes of the Atlantic City Beer Festival all in one. And there's also a bunch of horses running around you periodically. If you want visuals, here's a link to the Google image search for "Preakness infield." The first beers were cracked circa 6:45am as we met up with the charter bus to head down to Pimlico. There were 30s for the way down, bushels of 30s for the day, and 30s for the way home. Once we found a spot on the infield near the 1/8 mile marker and next to a group of old people with no idea of what was in store, the melée began. The beers didn't stop, the food was there when we needed it, and the infield betting counters (a fantastic way to get drunks to part with their money) weren't too far away for the ill-advised amateur handicappers in the group. Eventually, someone whips out a bottle of something, and then things get hazy. People begin to pass out on the ground (mid-day naps, they'll call it), and inevitably those in their group will see how many objects (empty cans, coolers, lawn chairs, etc.) they can stack on top of their slumbering friend before he wakes up and notices anything. Girls will start making out with each other. You're certain to see a near-fight break out before 3:00 in the afternoon. Someone is bound to lose their phone. One of this blog's loyal readers puked before 11am and wound up passing out in the back of a U-Haul (if he wishes to identify himself in the comments section, then he certainly may). After the last race, it took us nearly two and a half hours just to get out of the parking lot and head home, and it didn't seem to bother anybody.

If you go, a charter bus (WITH A BATHROOM) is a must if you're making a trip of an hour or more. Bring twice as much food (of the PBJ/lunchmeat type) and water as you think you're going to need. Also, hand trucks are a huge plus. It's one of the longest walks of your life from the parking lot to the infield on the way in, and it's THE longest walk of your life from the infield to the parking lot on the way out, so you want to ease the carrying load as much as possible. And finally, sunscreen. You'll take one look at the obligatory sun-crisped friend at 4:00 and thank me, unless you end up being that sun-crisped friend.

Which year did I go, you ask? Well, I was an infield spectator at the 2006 running of The Preakness, more famously known as the day that Barbaro, the winner of the Derby just two weeks prior, broke his leg on the initial straightaway and became a worldwide story for the next 8 months during his ill-fated recovery. Why did I not mention it earlier in this post? Because, even though I was probably standing less than a 7-iron away from Barbaro when it happened, I did not become fully aware of the situation until 1AM after we got back home. That's the Preakness for you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jim Rome Show: Jim Nantz Interview

Rome: Clones, we have a huge interview for you today, the biggest name in broadcasting, Mr. Jim Nantz.  Jim, welcome to the jungle.

Nantz: Thank you Jim, glad to be here

Rome:  Let's start with the NCAA Tournament. There was alot of upsets and it lead to a less than satisfying Championship game between the Butler Bulldogs and the UConn Huskies. Was that the worst championship game you have called?

Nantz:  The game was definitely went to the dogs, early and often.  Butler just couldn't hit any shots, and UConn's athleticism carried them in the second half.  Everyone talked about the dog fight coming in, and one thing was very clear in Houston, Connecticut won best in show.  It certainly wasn't one of the best finals but it was a great NCAA tournament.

Rome: How long do you think the NFL Labor strife will continue for?

Nantz: Well it is hard to say really.  Both sides would be crazy not to come to an agreement in the next month or so.  They need to be able to go full boar after draft, preferably even before it.  The last thing the NFL needs is a strike.  The strike will be over in short time frame.

Rome: What are you going to do with yourself if there are no NFL games?

Nantz:  I will probably play alot of golf (chuckles cautiously).  See Jim that's how you tee up a segway.

Rome:  Speaking of Golf, the Masters start today, who do you look forward to seeing?

Nantz: Well I think I am like everybody else, I look forward to seeing what Phil and Tiger are going to do.  It's wonderful to see all the old greats like Jack and Arnie.  It truly is a tradition unlike any other...not just in golf but in sports. 

Rome: How do you think Tiger is going to do? Can he get things rolling again and be the Tiger he was before his wife beat him with his own clubs?

Nantz:  Well boy do I know what a divorce feels like.  I think his wife took half his golf game too (nervous laughter).  I think Tiger will roar back this weekend at Augusta.   He lives for the Masters tournament, his career really took off here with his first major tournament victory.  The course suits him well and by the end of the tournament it wouldn't surprise me to see him battling for the green jacket.

Rome: So are you picking Tiger?  Or do you have someone else you are going with?

Nantz:  No I think Tiger will contend but I'm actually picking an upset this year.  I think an amateur will win the Masters and make history.  Lion Kim will be the king of the jungle. 

Rome: Nice. Well thank you for joining the program, your welcome back anytime, I always need show to fill.

Nantz:  Thanks and remember to watch the Masters on CBS.

The show continues after the break....

Rome:  Welcome back clones.  Big ups to Jim Nantz.  That guy is the man (dead air)..............................Let's go to emails.


I didn't get fired from CBS, I fagged out on Jim Nantz because of his brutal puns.

Signed, Billy Packer

Multiple sound bites play over and over again.

Rome:  Dead air...........Were going to have a monster smack off after the break.  Casper The unfriendly Ghost defends his title against Reid from his mother's basement.  Stayed tuned.

You have now turned your radio dial.......

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Least Satisfying Champions Since 2000

Ok so being the least satisfying champion is dating the worst looking cheerleader.  She may not make the cover of the calendar but she still looks great.  In an expansion on my "Building a Perfect League Structure Post" I wanted to look at some of the least satisfying champions in major US Sports over the last 11 years.

2001 New England Patriots
Look at how they advanced in the playoffs. They beat the Oakland Raiders in a blizzard and on a referee's call. Oakland was by far the better team and just happened to be beaten by the elements and a rule that needed to be changed. Charles Woodson's sack on Brady was a fumble to anyone who was watching the game, but replay overturned the call. If the rule is as it should be, the Raiders advance and the Pats go home.

New England went on to upset the St.Louis Rams in the Super Bowl and claim the crown.
2006 Cardinals-
The second-worst champion of all time: the 2006 Cardinals, whose regular-season record of 83-78 gives them the lowest winning percentage ever for a World Series winner.  They nearly blow a monster lead to the Astros down the stretch but got hot in the post season and won the World Series.

2007 LSU Tigers

They may have actually been the best team all year long.  So why should they be on this list?  They lost two games, and unprecedentedly ended up with a chance to play for the National Title anyways.  Now to be fair both losses were in OT to Kentucky and Arkansas, both its disappointing to have a champion with so many blemishes on their resume.

2007-2008 New York Giants

The Giants are a wild card team that manages to win every road game in the playoffs including a bitterly cold game that would be Farve's last in Green Bay.  They earn a rematch in the Super Bowl with a team that they lost to in week 17 at home, the undefeated New England Patriots.  Sure it was great upset and full credit to the Giants, but it just feels wrong not crowning the Patriots champs when they are undefeated prior to the Super Bowl.

2010 San Francisco Giants

This team was made up of vagabonds to a degree and could barely hit.  This may sound like sour grapes, but they beat Phils team that largely beat itself and were certainly not playing good baseball.  They then beat the Rangers in the World Series which lacked pitching outside of Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson.  They got hot for the postseason but were slightly above average all season long.

2011 UConn

Yes they won the Maui Invitational and the Big East Tournament, that was really impressive.  However, they finished 9-9 in conference play and 9th in the Big East.  The strongest team they beat in the NCAA tournament was probably Arizona.  The NCAA tournament usually gives you a satisfying champion, but this year doesn't feel like it. 

I'm sure I missed some but feel free to add to the list.  I did not evaluate hockey because I don't know enough about it to do so.

The Hard Cam Is Your Only Friend

CBS isn't alone, Fox, ABC, NBC, and ESPN are guilty too.  CBS, however is the most agregious offender after the tournament.  They love using multiple camera angles during live game action.  This will always be unacceptable.  It makes it difficult to see what is going on and disorients the viewer.  We have gotten used to the one hard camera view in basketball, football, and hockey.  Do not change it up just because you have the camera you want to use.  Those extra cameras are for replays, how complicated is this?  It's almost as if they are bored with their production, and need to rotate camera angles to stay busy.  Live action camera switches are reserved for adult movies (so long as its not the view of the guy's ass). 

Monday, April 4, 2011

You Do Not Do This At the Gym

  • Curl at the Squat Rack- You squat at the squat rack and maybe a few other things but you don't ever curl here.
  • Distract or make anyone think they have to move mid set- This happens mostly by the dumbells, but how dare you interupt or disrupt my set because you can't wait 30 seconds.
  • Take up more space than you deserve-  This applies to occupying more sq.ft than you need to do your workout
  • Occupy multiple machines while working out-  I'm all for people mixing up there workouts and maxmizing the time they have to spend at the gym, however if the gym is crowed you can't bench, do pull-ups, and use a leg machine at the same time.  When it's hard to get on equipment don't be a hog.
  • Wear wifebeaters or sleveless tees if your not big.  Personal philosophy is don't do this ever but some guys really are that big and its just more comfortable. You can't work on your tan at the gym.
  • Use Clips uneccesarily. Some people love weight clips and use them to compensate for their poor form.  You need clips to squat, you do not need clips to bench 135.  Get a spotter before you do this.
  • Throw the weights down- Unless your hang cleaning or dead lifting don't throw the weights.  It's annoying and your drawing attention to yourself.  You better be putting up some serious weight and have done something you havent done before if you want a celebratory throw down.
  • Read a Magazine-  I'm tired of it girls.  Why did you come to the gym to walk on the treadmill?  The only multitasking done at the gym is listening to music and working out at the same time.
I'm forgetting some so add in the comments.