Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh ESPN, Where Is Thy Stain?

Mark it in history. Today, November 27th, 2006 is officially the day I switch from ESPN's juggernaut of a website to another major sports news website. Why the hasty change? Why the wierd Snoop-Raven Simone picture? Glad you asked, friend. Today's headline on That's So Raven-ous. The pun is referencing the beatdown the Baltimore Ravens administered yesterday and, of all things, a Disney Network show "That's So Raven"-- a show with a target audience of braindead 9 to 14 year-olds-- starring the aforementioned Simone.

Readers, you make the call as to whether or not this marketing crossover makes any sense or if it is intentional at all on DisnEySPN's behalf. Meanwhile, John Clayton looks even gayer (somehow) by having his article's lead in referencing the girl who destroyed the Cosby show.

Why do I feel like Homer Simpson screaming, "YOU JUST LOST YOURSELF A CUSTOMER!"?

Oh, right.

With that-- I'm off to a funeral (no, seriously...).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holy Brutal Hell

I just returned from the rural South. I was a bit culture shocked-- to say the least-- after my extensive absence. The unrefined and bitter days of my youth attacked my senses and sent me into a freefall of accents and accidents. I was garrulous and reserved at the same time. I couldn't figure out why.

Then I read this and remembered the rules of Padgett Powell's New South. Everyone is out to get you. I can't imagine being a witness to this, but I can imagine that at some point the entire crux of the argument regressed into a discussion over who was better than who in high school athletics.

Collegiate sports are overblown in the South. Rivalries are taking on new meaning. What's surprising is this wasn't even a Duke-NorthCarolina argument. I've seen some violent shit break out over Jeff Lebo and Eric Montross as compared to Cherokee Parks and Steve Wojchekowski. No lie, Serge Zwicker's laxness made a man throw a bottle once. This, however, was Clemson vs. South Carolina. It was football. It was SEC vs. ACC pride, and goddamnit if James Walter Quick was gonna take Steve Spurrier's shit lying down. He wasn't afraid of the goddamned SEC-- he knew good and hell's well that Allen Johnson was as sonofabitch for laughing at him, and he wasn't paying for no bullshit cheater-ass shit like this.

The craziest part? He used a hunting rifle. This is some shit Mark Twain would've scoffed at-- c'mon Jamie, man, at least break a beer over his head. A hunting rifle? Wow.

If nothing else, I'm really glad to be back in NYC. At least here I can get shot outside of a strip club 50 times for a reason.

Ahem. My point is... the South is crazy, man.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Body Parts 3: Plummer's Plumage

I have copper strands in my beard. I don't know why; I just do. My hair is black (or dark brown), and nowhere on my person is there any suggestion for the redness in my facial hair.

I'm rather proud of it, actually. It's different. It's a conversation topic. And while I get admittedly angry when I have to tell people that, No, I don't dye my beard, it's pretty funny that they have to ask in the first place.

As a matter of fact, I have to have my beard. Without it I look like I'm 18 - and I know the ladies like it.

In 2005, the hirsute Snake threw for 3,366 yards and 18 touchdowns against only seven interceptions in leading the Denver Broncos to a 13-3 record, a second seed in the AFC and a trip to the conference title game.

But that's where things get, well, hairy.

In 2006, sans bushy crumb catcher, Jake has amassed some rather pedestrian numbers. He's completed only 55 percent of his passes, and thrown 12 picks against 11 scores. With left tackle Matt Lepsis out for the year with a torn ACL and tackle George Foster benched for playing more like Jodie Foster, the running game has come to a grinding halt. Teams are stacking the box and daring Plummer to beat them. He can't.

I tracked down Plummer's Beard at the Holiday Inn Cocktail Lounge on St. Marks in Manhattan. I bought him another round of a shot of Wild Turkey and a Budweiser bottle. Myself, a Jameson on the rocks.

Phony Gwynn: How'd you get all the way out here?
Plummer's Beard: An old buddy of mine, some sideburns, moved out here years ago. I needed to get away. (Takes the shot, holds the shot glass up, stares at it for a second.) Sonuvabitch shaved me like Boston College did points.
PG: Did he say why he did it?
PB: Nah. Just woke up one day and - BZZZT - I'm gone. No reason. Like one of his passes into triple coverage. (Gets up, puts a few quarters into the jukebox, punches a few numbers, and sits back down.)
PG: But you guys had such a good year last year. When did it go wrong?
PB: I'll tell you when (takes a long sip of the beer). Second quarter, AFC championship game. We're down two TDs, and he throws a bad - I mean, Michael Richards at a NAACP conference bad - pass that's picked off by Ike Taylor. When he came to the sideline, he threw his helmet down and then started scratching at me. Like, really hard, you know? Like he was trying to kill some lice in there or something. That's when I knew.
PG: Wow. But did you ev-
PB: Oh man, this is my song. ("Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top begins playing.) I love this shit. (Takes another long swig of his Bud.) Did you know that the drummer's name was Frank Beard and he was the only one in the band that DIDN'T have a beard? (Laughs loudly.) Oh, man. Good shit, man. Good fucking shit. (Takes another long drink, this time killing the bottle.)
PG: Yeah, I didn't know that. That's pretty funny. Here, let me get another round.
PB: Naw, I got it. (Comes back with same drinks as before, but with shots of Patron.)
PG: Damn. Thanks.
PB: Hey, no prob. (He holds up his shot.) Here's to the glory and success of the Jay Cutler era in Denver. And to Jake the Mistake, soon to be washing cars with the rest of the also-rans in Bronco history. (We take the shots - he bangs the shot glass hard on the table three times.)
PG: So do you think this is a Samson and Delilah situation? Are you convinced that Plummer's having problems now solely because he cut you loose?
PB: Is there any other explanation? He got rid of me in mid-April and then guess what? He cuts some guy off and then, when the guy honks at him, he gets out and kicks his headlight. While on the way to deliver a check to charity no less! And on 4-20 - maybe he should've participated in that day's festivities and calmed the fuck down, you know what I'm sayin'?
PG: I do. So what are your future plans?
PB: Ah, I don't...I don't know. I'm gonna hang out here. See the sights. Maybe go to work for a high school kid in Maryland. He's got potential. But mostly I'm killing time until the World Moustache and Beard championships. I'm going to try to find a little sexy action.
PG: That's coo - uh, wait. What? Aren't all the mustaches dudes?
PB: Hey, man, it's either some good, full-on lovin' or those nasty things that Mexican women over the age of 30 grow. And trust me, man, you don't want that. I wouldn't even wish that shit on Jake - now THAT'S saying something.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Outside the Aviary: "This Is All Just Hearsay..."

Outside the Aviary is proud to present a feature that will preclude the beginning of each season in sports: the Outside the Aviary forthcoming happenings column! This marks the first time I’ve done this on a grandiose (read: unread blog) scale, and it begins with the NCAA Basketball season. I’m only covering a few of the roughly 650295869503 teams in contention—my apologies to most of the conferences I just don’t care about. Here’s part one: The Atlantic Coast Conference.

North Carolina
: Amidst a successful season, Coach Roy Williams will inadvertently cause a stumble in his teams’ season by admitting that a) Duke has a cooler mascot and b) Sidney Lowe will become the new Everett Case. The players, dejected, will turn to their fan base for help. That fan base, however, will be indulging a bit in their quest to become the least knowledgeable fan base in basketball history. Their heads, firmly lodged in their stupid asses, will not heed the cries of a team in need—a team on the brink. After a disappointing 18-12 season, they will make the NCAA tourney when Dean Smith blows some acceptance committee members. Acidentally witnessing this, Tyler Hansbrough will take his own goofy life. OK, so they'll actually finish with more than 20 wins. OK, so I do not like Chapel Hill, NC. I will not apologize.

Duke: Before the second Duke v. UNC game, Shelden Williams (f/ Jay Williams) will give an inspired talk over one of his signature hip hop beats. He will then field questions from the team. The questions will include: 1) Can I ski from your forehead? 2) Didn’t Paulus want to play football? 3) How did you stay in Durham so long? God, what a vapid fuckhole. 4) You’re seriously retarded, right? Inspired, the team will win it’s game, get a #1 seed, and lose in the third round to, um, someone actually good. Ok, so I do not like Durham. I will not apologize.

Maryland: A quick note here: in two separate games of the Coaches v. Cancer Classic the other night, Anthony Mason Jr. (yes, that Anthony Mason) and DJ (“Son of Darrell”) Strawberry were on the court. I went to Madison Square Garden to see this. Needless to say, I heckled—a ton. Best night ever. As for Maryland's season, it all pales in comparison to holding that elusive "Coaches v. Cancer prsented by 2k Sports Trophy. Gary Williams’ head will explode this year, and Lefty Drissell will come out of retirement. He will lead them to prominence. Still, they have no point guard that can handle pressure. With their NCAA bid, Lefty Drissell will announce his bid for Presidency of the Confederacy. This will cause commotion. Lefty likes commotion.

Georgia Tech: after the city of Atlanta is burned to the ground, Paul Hewitt will relocate the team to Athens and rename them Georgia 2: Tech Harder. They will win the ACC Tourney with vengeance on their mind, and make a run toward the NCAA title. Just remember Hewitt, the shell of a ghost of a man that once was a resemblance of Bobby Cremins is watching. You will pay for the team you inherited. YOU WILL PAY.

NC State: Um, do I have to do this? Damn. Holler at me, Sid Lowe. I gotchoo, son. Not this year, but I feel you in, like, three. Four? Until then, keep y’head up, playa.

BC/Miami/other non-O.G. teams: No thanks. Get another league to ruin the sanctity of, why don’t you? Sure B.C. will make the tourney, but who expects them to matter?

Wake Forest: I can’t name one player on this team. I don’t know that I’ll need to. Skip Prosser may have to punch the opposing players’ nuts himself this year. Prosser will do so, but if nuts get punched and no one is watching—does anyone hear the stilted man-screams?

Virginia/Clemson: These two teams will battle, once and for all, for Orange domination. The winner gets to, um, keep their awesome color. The loser? They are resigned to hang back with Florida State at the bottom of the ACC Standings in perpetuity forevermore so we don’t have to care about them anymore. Overpopulation means you gotta kill some of the beautiful animals sometimes, kiddo.

Regular Season Winner: UNC (Ugh. I just vomited in my mouth a little.)

Tourney Winner: Georgia Tech

NCAA Bound: Duke, UNC, Georgia Tech, Maryland, BC

Note: This may be the only one I do. I just don’t have it in me to care about a billion college kids through the nation. We’ll see.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Daisuke: Japanese for "Expensive Hope"

Mr. Matsuzaka? Welcome to hell, brother. For the next three or more years, every move you make, every bloop single you allow, every time you shake off Captain ‘Tek, every time allow a two-run single, Boston will be watching with crossed arms and cross statements. The town that chose you knows about failed free agents and misallocated capital. They’ve lived through the Carl Everett era, the Clemens debacle, the Fisk mismanagement, etc, etc, etc. Red Sox fans have seen what happens when promise doesn’t translate from dollars to sense. I’m hoping this won’t be the case, but be prepared for that argument, Mr. Matsuzaka. Be prepared for a million other arguments as well.

A primer, if you will: it’s not so much the clubhouse or the expectations of the front office. They’ve invested (and will be investing) quite a bit into your pitching, to be sure. It’s not so much the media—they’re happy to have new fodder, sure, but they’re just talking heads that would be angry about anything. No, it’s the fans—the hulking mass of humanity that expect their number 9 hitter to have the same average as their cleanup hitter. It’s that rabid fan base that operates roughly thirty billion sports blogs and message boards who have already extensively analyzed your pitches, calculated your efficiency and debated the merits of your pitch counts.

The money the Red Sox are willing to spend seems exorbitant for an unproven commodity. At twenty-five/twenty-six you will have to pitch in sport’s most overblown rivalry, pitch in the hardest league in baseball, and be expected to live up to the truckload of money left at your proverbial doorstep. Thankfully, we have a plan for you, Mr. Matsuzaka. This 3 step plan will ensure your sanity. It will bring you the success that other failed free agents and big risk names never had in Boston.

Step One: Completely ignore what everyone is saying.

Use the “I don’t speak any English” routine. Say you left your translator in your other pants. Run if you have to. Just don’t listen. Don’t read the papers. Stay away from the internet. Stay indoors if possible. Destroy your television. Pull a Manny/Pedro and don’t allow the press to speak to you. Francona will cover you. If he can be Manny’s Mouthpiece for three years, he can certainly do that for you as well.

Certain people adapt to the Boston atmosphere. We think that most of them are level-headed enough to take criticism, are bat shit crazy or they are completely brain dead. In either event, commentary (on every single part of their lives) washes over them. Some recent examples included Trot Nixon—level headed, Johnny Damon—brain dead, and Pedro Martinez—bat shit crazy. Even in these cases, though the press eats out of their hands when they did speak, only one of them really wanted to stay in Boston and he is currently being replaced by either Wily Mo Pena (a train wreck of a fielder) or JD Drew (a train wreck of a human). The criticisms will come. They will come early and often in your MLB career. With the right amount of causal indifference and stubbornness—the perfect mixture of brain-dead, level-headed bat shit crazy—you can ignore it all. It’s called survival.

Step Two: Always have dirt on your uniform and/or a disgusting ball cap.

Boston fans like this sort of thing. I call it the Mike Timlin corollary. You see, hustle is the only thing Sox fans say they want. You want to wow the fans right away? Walk out looking like you haven’t taken a shower in about a year. They LOVE that shit.

Step Three: Win every single game you pitch for the next three or four years, win some World Series, three Cy Young awards and be the first to win thirty games in a season since Denny McLain in 1968.

This best case scenario is what I hope you’ll do. This way, I’ll feel justified in my favorite sports team spending an entire payroll for the rights to talk to you in a businesslike manner. You see, Mr. Matsuzaka, the typical Boston fan is proud of three things: 2004, the fact that they continually stay below the Yanks in payroll, and that they are smarter than the average fan. While the latter is completely ridiculous, if you falsify the second statement, the argument for evil completely changes. The Yanks are the free-spending juggernaut while the Sox are the underdog with “smart money” (though second in MLB payroll is, admittedly, hardly room for complaint). Reversing this gives us no reason to lose, and if there are two things the Red Sox have been adept at in their years, it’s losing and complaining about the Yanks’ formidable payroll. Now that the Front Office is willing to drop $100 million on one player, you’ll have some pretty lofty expectations behind you.

The only way to meet those expectations is to absolutely shatter them. Win all the time. Never lose. Be the first Red Sox pitcher to win MVP since Clemens. Be the first Cy Young Winner since Pedro. Get the gold glove Alex Gonzales and Mike Lowell deserved. Be the first since Nomar to be Rookie of the Year (stupid Verlander). Be the pitcher that $100 million makes you.

Otherwise, you’ve left a fan base with too much interest and too much anger with too much to talk about. As a Red Sox fan, I hope you live up to the hype/money. If you do, then I will be happy to have witnessed this debacle. If not—it’s like I said before: welcome to hell, Daisuke.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Webb of Lies

Since it's November and, you know, they have to, Major League Baseball decided to hand out the National League Cy Young Award today.

Your winner? Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks, he of the 16-8 record and 3.10 ERA. Oh, and that also means that the D-backs can lay claim to 5 Cy Young Awards in their 9 years of existence.

In a down year for, well, pretty much the entire senior circuit, the Sinkerball-slingin' Southerner beat out Trevor Hoffman, Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt.

While the San Diego Padres have never had a no-hitter, they do boast three Cy Young winners in their illustrious - umm, dubious? - history, including the most losses ever for a Cy Young winner*:

Randy Jones in 1976 (22-14*, 2.74 ERA)
Gaylord Perry in 1978 (21-6, 2.73 ERA)
Mark Davis in 1989 (44 sv, 1.85 ERA)

Should Hoffman have been the fourth?

While the debate centering on the importance of a starter vs. a reliever is one that many, many baseball geeks have indulged in (yes, I'm guilty), it appears that the trend of using more relievers is being reflected in the winners of the Cy Young. And you can't blame the relievers - the Cy Young should go to the best pitcher, not the people that have thrown the most innings. When the fabric of the game takes you in a certain direction, you need to reward those who do their jobs.

Mike Marshall was the first reliever to win it in 1974 (NL); then Sparky Lyle in 1977 (AL); Bruce Sutter in 1979 (NL); Rollie Fingers in 1981 (AL); Willie Hernandez in 1984 (AL - plus the MVP award); Steve Bedrosian in 1987 (NL); Davis in '89 (NL); Dennis Eckersley in 1992 (AL); and Eric Gagne in 2003 (NL).

Although there was a decade-long gap from 1992 to 2003, for a while it was a lock that every two or three years, a reliever (OK, a closer) would win the Cy Young. They gave the first one out in 1956, and they didn't start giving one out for each league until 1967. Still, a starter won the first 25 awards (only counting the Cuellar/McClain tie in 1969 once). Then, for roughly the next 20 years, a reliever would win one out of every five or six.

Basically, a reliever was due. And that reliever was Trevor Hoffman.

Everybody will remember the blown save in the All-Star game. But look how much that mattered - the Tigers didn't even get home for Game 6, let alone Game 7.

Remarkably, Hoffy had a better K/9 ratio than Webb (7.14 to 6.82). He also had: a better WHIP (.97 to 1.13); a better K/BB ratio (3.85 to 3.56); a far better OPS allowed (.566 to .647); and a better ERA (2.14 to 3.10).

Cancelling out October, in which they both did terribly (albeit in limited action - not counting the playoffs, where Hoffman got a save in his - ugh - only appearance), Webb had two pretty bad months: June and August, where he was a combined 2-4 with an ERA over five. Hoffman, on the other hand, only struggled in July, where his ERA was near six and he blew 3 of his 5 saves.

And did I mention that the Padres won the division over - ahem - Arizona?

Yeah, Hoffman's monster 1998 season was better (53 saves, one blown, 1.48 ERA), but the Padres were a much better team that year (98 wins and NL champs before being steamrolled by the Yankees, one of the greatest teams of all-time). And Tom Glavine had a pretty solid year in '98, too. For all his accomplishments, including breaking Lee Smith's record for most career saves, it seems like Hoffy should've been rewarded at some point for his outstanding consistency.

This year should've been that year.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Proof positive that Music is Dead, part 1

Apparently, Big Ron Artest’s album (album?) My World didn’t sell all that well. Soundscan numbers indicate that he sold, um, 343 CDs this week. Hey, it’s better than selling one. At this rate he should be platinum by January of 2032. We can only imagine how this topic was broached.

Record Exec: Send in Mr. Artest, please.
Artest: What’s goin’ on? You wanted to see me?
RE: Yes. Ronald. Hello. I wanted to talk about your album sales.
Artest: Is there a problem? (Artest clasps his left wrist and his eye begins involuntarily twitching).
RE: Oh… heavens, no! We, that is, well…
Artest: You got the numbers. How’d I do? (Artest begins staring at a picture of the executive’s family).
RE: Yes, the news is… that is to say, I’ve seen the numbers, and while I don’t know them offhand, I—
Artest: (rocking back and forth) Motherfucker—
RE: Let’s, uh, ahem. Let’s put it like this. We thought you were doing poorly, but it seems that Soundscan made an error, and your sales have skyrocketed!
Artest: F’real?
RE: Indeed. It’s a markup of over 300%.
Artest: Cool, man. Yo, I gotta peace, man. Good looks, yo.
RE: Pleasure to see you again, Mr. Artest. (Exec begins crying a little).

As for us, we’re waiting for the local 99 cent store to pick the album up. Then, and only then, will we truly understand Ron Ron's world.

Thanks, Nahright.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Body Parts 2: Eclectic Boogaloo

Hello, friends. Today, I’m supposed to sit down with the ego of St. Louis Cardinal’s Manager Tony La Russa. Knowing full well the ego’s busy schedule, I am not surprised at it’s lateness, but I am worried whether it will arrive at all the demands were sort of bizarre: I am not allowed to look Mr. La Russa’s ego in the eye, there should be two full glasses of Dry Sherry at the disposal of the ego at all times, and, for some reason, I have to play Queen’s Greatest Hits (Vol. 1) throughout the interview. I think it’s arrived.

Business or Leisure: Um, hello. Are you, the—that is—you’re the ego, I presume?
Tony’s Ego: Ahem. Ahem.
BoL: What? Oh. (I hit play and Tony’s ego immediately requests Track 4. “Fat Bottom Girls” begins playing.)
TE: Love that cut, man.
BoL: Oh. Um, yes. I thought you would look, uh, different. I mean—
TE: What, you mean like a distended eye, or some sort of hulking beast? Maybe on some ballplayer or something, but Mr. La Russa has an ego made of pure light and energy. That is why you are not allowed to look directly at my energy source. I am not unlike an eclipse, Mr., uh…
BoL: You can call me—
TE: No matter. (It sips the sherry.)
BoL: Right. So, to begin, I want to ask you about the modern athlete as compared with the athletes of past decades. Is their a large differential in their egos or beha—
TE: I know Terrell Owens’ ego quite well. We’re intimates. I’m supposed to meet him in an hour. He wants to feel a real life championship trophy.
BoL: OK. Interesting. What’s Mr. Owens’—?
TE: He’s sort of a bore. He’s in the shape of a bicep and mostly flexes himself when talking, but he’s quite fun once you get to know him. I do enjoy his company.
BoL: Right. Now getting back to the matter at hand.
TE: You know, winning two World Series makes me a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame. To think! Me next to some of the great egos of all time!
BoL: Do you think that is a great honor?
TE: Honor?! (It laughs loudly for what seems like a full minute. Then it tapers off and sips more sherry.) Heavens, no. This is the opportunity for other ego to pale in comparison to my vigor and unadulterated power. Ruth, Williams, Bonds… they all pale in comparison to the greatest managerial ego of all time.
BoL: Is that so?
TE: Indeed. Who keeps Tony’s hair so pristine, his demeanor so incredulous, his laundry so permanently in place, and his eyes turned away while his players drive needles into their asses? I do. I am the controlling force behind the greatest baseball mind ever.
BoL: Well, I happen to think—
TE: Can you skip to “We Are the Champions?” It would be rather befitting, no?
BoL: No. No, I won’t switch. Now, let’s go back to the original questions.
TE: Is it hot in here to you?
BoL: Hot? No. It’s a decent temperature.
TE: Must be my natural aversion to lesser beings. Were you asking something?
BoL: Now wait just a goddamn minute you—
TE: One second, Chet.
BoL: My name is—
TE: (answers cell phone) TegO. What’s the deal mate? No. No. Really? Right then, I’m off. I’ll see you there. Cheers, mate.
TE: TO’s ego. Says Faith Hill’s ego is ready to hang out. She’s a handful, but… well, never mind. Are we done then?
BoL: I suppose so.
TE: Thanks ever so much for the, um, sherry. If you can call it that, I suppose (tips back both glasses).
BoL: Yeah. Sure. See you later.
TE: (stifles laughter) Right right.

Author's Note: In any event, I think it went relatively well. Another quick note, I’ve since been told that La Russa’s ego put Faith Hill’s ego up to her whole gag. Maybe it convinced Donald Rumsfeld’s ego that he was comparable to Winston Churchill? Perhaps. La Russa’s ego denies both claims, and has not returned any of our phone calls here at the Pretzel Factory. All the same, it’s probably for the best. The Cards were, at best, the eighth best team in the MLB this year anyway.

Outside the Aviary: "Baby Come Back"

Dear the NBA,

I know we haven’t spoken in some time. Here’s a quick update: I moved to New York City, I’m writing for several unread blogs, I grew what is considered a formidable beard, I’m failing at everything, and I’ve decided I want to patch things up.

Here’s the thing: I don’t mean for the latter of the update points to be something I try to slip by you. I know it's been a few years. I know I said some unruly and uncalled for things—hastily put together arguments do not a break-up make and I know this now—but I’ve realized the error of my ways. Give me a minute, would you?

Admittedly, there were many positive things about you I chose to ignore. You’ve always had an understated beauty about you. And sure, the Red Sox are spiraling farther from their elite status, the Redskins are winning on luck alone, and Hockey has fallen farther than the Christian Slater bandwagon membership, but I want you to know that I was always keeping an eye on you. I was just waiting for you to make a few changes—drop some of the dead weight, so to speak. I sound shallow, right? You must admit, though, your “Latrell Sprewell is a bona fide superstar years” were not your best. I was upset. I acted in haste. I said some things I didn’t mean—like defense, real speed, and the fast break are all dead—but I repent. Take me back. I promise that I am willing to change (much like you have).

It may have taken a Chris Paul, a new Rat Pack, and some Euro names, but I see the way you carry yourself now—like a sport with meaning again, and I want in. I promise to make informative arguments and watch entire games before voicing opinions on the new rules. I promise to be a better fan—a better man even. I’ll do the cooking and the cleaning. I’ll windex the television screen. I’ll even cheer for the Celtics as vehemently as I did when I watched Larry. Hell, I’ll even admit the new breed of athlete isn’t just different; it’s as good as the older breed—though still slightly contemptible in many ways. I didn’t mean that last crack. I’m sorry, baby.

I’ll prove it to you: I watched a Knicks game last night because it was ON. I’ve hated the Knicks since I can remember, but I like that Lee character. I like a member of the NY Knickerbockers. I admit it. There, you see? I’m a changed fan.

I know it will take time, but I’ve always loved you. I know I had a funny way of showing it (calling you a mockery of a league, and making “which ref’s turn is it to blow Shaq tonight?” jokes to start), but I just wanted something more from you. Now I realize I should've been more. Think about it, won’t you? Talk it over with your family. They always liked me.
I love that skirt. I love those shoes. I love the squeak they make when they slide step into the proper defensive position. I love you. Let me come back. I won’t disappoint you. I really won’t. Unless, of course, you don’t amend this silly “no talkback” rule just a little. That’s just stubborn. We can make it work, though. I’m willing to try. Seriously. I’m willing.

I just love you too much to let a good thing get away-- again.

Business or Leisure

The Body Part Interviews, #1: Jerramy's Junk

We'll admit, first and foremost, that we didn't watch Monday Night's game between the Seahawks and the Raiders. (At least I didn't.)

When you're a fan of a team (in this case, the Broncos) and you grow up hating the mere mention of a team, let alone the visage of those painted, spike-studded-shoulder-pad-wearing, 500 SAT-scoring trilobites from the Bay Area, you wish them all the luck in the world, as long as it's bad.

Well, these Raiders are bad. On offense, anyway. So when they take their ineptitude to the national stage, you'd rather just look away. This team, these ... monsters, these silver-and-black clad crazies, used to bring out the best in you, your team, and your fandom.

Not so much anymore. So instead of watching them get washed away into the abyss of the Pacific, I ate some macaroni and cheese and watched the last three episodes of Season 1 of "The Wire." Because if you haven't seen that show ... damn, what a good f#!%ng show.

But the events that took place near the end of said game, when Raiders defensive end Tyler Brayton (a CU Buffalo, by the way) tried to effectively ensure that Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens would never, ever procreate again, are what we are interested in today. Because you see, we here at the Pretzel Store are going to start interviewing athletes ... 's body parts. I mean, really, how many times can you hear the old cliches before these millionaires just start sounding like the teachers from "Peanuts"? There are far too many Michael Jordans and far too few Gilbert Arenas's (quotationly speaking, of course).

No, we must hear it from the source. The torn hammys. The weak hearts. The engorged egos. And, based on the (semi) timeliness, what better way to kick -- er, knee -- things off than with Jerramy's Undeniably Numb Kids?

Phony Gwynn: How are you feeling?

J.U.N.K.: Fine, man, fine. Been restin' up, ready to bust.

PG: Are you sure? Because, well, to be honest, you ... you don't look so good.

J.U.N.K.: No?

PG: No, not really. I thought you'd be ... well, a little more tanned. More of a brass color, really.

J.U.N.K.: You think you'd look like Denzel at the Oscars after a 280-pound sociopath rams his knee right into your mouth? How do you think you'd look?

PG: Probably not too hot. But Jerramy did make some big predictions before the Super Bowl last year. Especially for a guy who, up to that point, had averaged 27 catches, 307 yards and three touchdowns a year.

J.U.N.K.: Look, man, all he said is that we were going to win the game. What, you want him to say we're going to lose? That just because that fat-ass Bettis was born in that shithole town we should just lay down like dogs? Is that what you want?

PG: No, not at all. But then he went out and dropped some key passes, and-

J.U.N.K.: Who caught Seattle's only touchdown? I repeat: who caught Seattle's only touchdown?

PG: Jerramy Stevens.

J.U.N.K.: That's right. So are we here to talk about me, or Jerramy? I mean, it's not like I'm busy or anything. No, it ain't like me, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson aren't gonna get some sushi, a few apple martinis, and roll around in some fig leaves for a few hours or nuthin'. Nah, that wasn't supposed to happen in about 20 minutes or so.

PG: Ok, we'll try to wrap it up. So, about Monday night, how come Jerramy didn't look a little more ... unhappy with the incident? It looked like Tyler Brayton went straight for the kibbles 'n bits there with that knee. And pretty much every angle showed it to be a direct hit.

J.U.N.K.: Well, what do you want me to say? He's a tough guy? Look, I don't remember exactly what happened. Have you ever been shoved inside of an athletic supporter, which was then squeezed into them damn pants? Shit, I was probably makin' googly-eyes at his taint for all I know. There was a pinch, some commotion, and that was it.

PG: Are you ... I mean, you seem to be of pretty good size, and-

J.U.N.K.: What the hell did you just say?

PG: Nothing, nothing. (Coughs.) Umm, looks like you have a birthday coming up in a few days. You'll be, let's see ... 27.

J.U.N.K.: Yeah, yeah. Should be fun. I'm looking forward to it. I got a record coming out soon, too.

PG: Oh yeah? When does it drop?

J.U.N.K.: Super Bowl Sunday.