Friday, June 29, 2007

Not-So-Extended Hiatus


So, Phony and I are embarking upon our own adventures: I to the woods, he to somewhere more civilized. During this time, there will be no posting (something shocking to our devoted fan, I'm sure). Until the time where we will tickle you fancies again, I'm offering a chilling vision of things to come:

Phony is going to report on speaking to Mike Dunleavy Jr. in the airport.

More Escape Engine madness!

A full report on the Philadelphia version of the East Coast Pants Party (if I can afford to go).

A state of emergency report on having missed a week of baseball.

A love story between a man and his full court mini basketball zone (AKA my den).

An "Outside the Aviary" look at crowd-functions and their affect on fandom.

An interview with some blogger somewhere that will be funny, maybe. Perhaps Signal-To-Noise will accept the challenge?

And a one-year fun-a-bration so absurd, you may have to call in sick just to read it.

There is so much more on the horizon as well. Your Pretzel Factory still loves you even though it has to leave. Trust us, we will come back refreshed and ready to tackle non-issues like never before. Be safe during this, the most American fucking holiday fucking like EVER, motherfuckers. FUCK.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

R.I.P. Insightful Baseball Analysis

This is a little late. I was going to do this Friday, but the events of the preceding night (detailed below) and the anticipation of the upcoming East Coast Pants Party (detailed here and here by my esteemed colleague) kept me astray.

So I'm throwing it up now as a reminder (like you need another one) why Baseball Tonight so fervently, feverishly and fantastically sucks.

Okay, here's the situation. It's late last Thursday, and my girlfriend has just had some bad Chinese that has put her effectively into the tank (my nuclear-like stomach was unharmed). In between checking to see if she's OK, I throw on the tWWL to get some highlights. Much to my delight, the Rockies have finished a three-game home sweep of the Yankees, and the crew (someone who wasn't Karl Ravech or Steve Berthiaume, Fernando Vina and Buster Olney) start analyzing why the Rockies are playing such good baseball.

Do they turn to Olney, he of the stellar insight and fabulous blog that nobody has access to? Of course not! They throw it to yet another painful reminder that Harold Reynolds used to sit on that set, in that very fucking seat. Take it away, Fernando!

"They're a special club. They're doing it with offense, obviously. [Ed. note: the Rockies had just given up five runs in three games to the red-hot Yankees] Matt Holliday should be a starter in the All-Star game, this guy's a special player, he'll hit the ball the other way, he's leading the National League in hitting, .366 with 13 HRs and 58 RBIs, I mean the guy can flat-out play.

Todd Helton, been around for a long time, tremendous hitter, .446 OBP, he's a veteran in that lineup that they really need and just knows how to hit, this guy's been hitting for a lot of years and he gets it done the right way.

Troy Tulowitzki, I mean, the guy's just been a force. [Ed. note: here they show his stats - .270 avg, 3 HRs, 28 RBIs - but, of course, since that game he homered in three of his next four] Not only pickin' it from a shortstop position gettin' it done day-in day-out, but he's hitting .270, solid play at shortstop.

And the pitching: Jeff Francis, I mean this guy's been a great addition to that starting rotation from the left side, hitting his spots, 3.4 ERA, I mean the guy's incredible from the left side. His arm angle, 6'5" comes at you in different ways.

Rodrigo Lopez, guy they got from the Orioles. Good pickup, I mean he's been big. This guy's 4-0 with a two-nine ERA. He's always had a lot of late movement, Colorado's been a good move for him.

And then we go to Brian Fuentes, a closer that's just been lights-out. One-nine-five ERA, 20 saves, I mean this guy's just a special closer from the left side and it doesn't get much better.

So you look at what they're doing and how they're doing it and it's just a team that you've got to recognize and know they're coming up." [Ed. note: painfully transcribed word-for-word off the Idioma at my work from the 12:20 a.m. edition of BBTN, Friday, June 22]

Wow! That's some quality analysis. I now know that a good-fielding shortstop who hits .270 with decent power is a "force," a guy who's 37-30 lifetime with a career ERA of 4.69 is "incredible," and a pitcher who even the Orioles didn't want is a "good pickup" who has "been big."

I'm not shooting down the Rockies here. I think they have a lot of young talent, and if they get a few more arms and another big bat they could do some damage for quite a few years.

But shouldn't the professional on TV tell you that, in detail, instead of blurting out the word "special" and other trite hyperbole over and over and over?

It's time to recognize: that glorious sanctuary of our youth, Baseball Tonight, is not "coming up" anytime soon.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

East Coast Pants Party

Photo courtesy of metschick. She's everybody's favorite.

Something I don't usually do is mention being a Deadspin commenter. It has nothing to do with being ashamed or inherently jealous that someone gets paid to do that job. The site is great and everyone knows that. I do take a bit of pride in showing off my rapist wit on the world's grandest stage (read: the interwebnets). Yesterday, I had the pleasure of doing that in the flesh with a wonderful group of like-minded individuals. A fantastic time was had by all. There was much cavorting and capering (read: drunk time) and the internet world of ours got a bit smaller and friendlier for a few hours.

To those involved: thanks for a wonderful night. To those uninvolved: where the fuck were you, anyway? I mean, damn.

For a slightly more harrowing tale of debauchery, the end of the night is described on an alternate and not often updated blog I operate simultaneous to the fifteen projects I have my hand in. Read it at your own peril. Enjoy it... I did, apparently.

The photo at the top is one of your fearless and feckless leaders: Businessorleisure and Phony Gwynn. Indeed, we are charming and beautiful men-- tall drinks of water, both. I don't remember exactly when this picture was taken, but it was awesome nonetheless. Need a clue as to who is who? Hint: I'm drunk in the photo.

In any event, last night was awesome and I was honored to be around such smart, funny and ultimately friendly people--especially my partner-in-crime who is probably pissed that I beat him to this post. Sometimes, and this isn't all that often, everything feels perfectly in place. Last night was one of those times, friends.

Now back to the irregularly scheduled, oft unread sports a-bloggins.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Madam, I'm Adam

Aside from the obvious problems that most people have with Pacman Jones -- the enormous waste of talent; the blatant "I-don't-give-a-FUCK" attitude; the profession of feeling guilty about doing the things he does, even though he obviously relishes in being a bit of a badass -- I've got another one: his first name.

True, nobody really even calls him "Adam" anymore. (He's listed as Pacman Jones over on the league's site, but, curiously, he's no longer listed over at the WWL -- and neither is Tank Johnson, although Chris Henry still is. Pretty interesting, if you ask me.) But it's my name, dammit, and the name "Adam" has a long, sad history in the world of sports. Recently, anyway. We'll start with Pacman and work towards the (gulp) winners.

Adam "Pacman" Jones
Where do you start with this guy? The waste of talent? The modification of the old dollar-bill-on-a-string trick (instead of one dollar bill and a piece of string, just throw $81,000 around and then ask for it back)? The fact that in that clip they've shown about four million times on tWWL, it looks as if he's chewing on the little plastic thing that's attached to price tags? I'm going to go to great lengths to find out if there's any possible way I can legally get you to remove "Adam" from your name. Once and for all.

Why he's like me: We both like watching women get naked. Oh, and I'm black.
Why he's like the first man: That apple/strip club looks good.

Adam Archuleta
I was going to let my boy (and resident 'Skins fan) Business or Leisure? take this one, but he bailed on me. Jerk. Here's what I'm assuming he'd say: "Adam Archuleta should have his vital organs removed through his nostrils. Then he should be beaten with a bag of oranges, to be followed by a bag of rocks, to be followed by a bag of locks, to be followed by a bag of land mines. And he can only thrive in the Cover-Two."

Why he's like me: He's currently dating Playmate Jennifer Walcott. I'm currently masturbating to Playmate Jennifer Walcott (right).
Why he's like the first man: Association with serpents (or agents) telling them what to do (eat some forbidden fruit, sign with Washington).

Adams Eaton, Everett, Hyzdu, Kennedy, Loewen, Melhuse and Wainwright (the baseball bunch)
Adam Eaton pitched well for the Padres in 2005. Kennedy won the 2002 ALCS MVP after going yard three times in Game 5. Wainwright was pretty filthy in the playoffs last year.

You wouldn't recognize any of them if they didn't have their names on the back of their jerseys.

Adam Scott
He's Australian. He plays golf. He wins here and there.

He's here to break up the team sports monotony. And that's it.

Why he's like me: I like shrimp. And Barbie.
Why he's like the first man: Australia was originally a colony of prisoners, and could you imagine being stuck in a garden with just one chick? "Honey, when are you going to mow the lawn? Should we put some tomatoes over here? Do you like daffodils?" That, my friends, is a prison.

Adam LaRoche
Had a breakout year in 2006 with Atlanta, belting 32 homers and driving in 90. Subsequently got shipped to Pittsburgh for Mike Gonzalez, and that trade hasn't really worked for either team. On the plus side, his last name makes me think of MXC's Guy LeDouche, and thinking of anything related to MXC makes me smile.

Why he's like me: He suffers from ADD. I do, too, until I smoke weed.
Whe he's like the first man: According to Wikipedia, he likes fishing and hunting. Those are things I'd imagine you'd have to enjoy if there were no 7-11's around.Adam Dunn
Bigger than a recently broken-up Eastern Bloc nation. Stronger than a shot of kerosene and walrus piss.

Misses more often than your three-year-old niece at Wiffle ball.

Here's his ten similar batters at Ron Kittle, Pat Burrell, Jim Gentile, Henry Rodriguez, Nate Colbert, Tony Conigliaro, John Jaha, J.D. Drew, Nick Esasky, Bo Jackson.

If there's one rule in baseball, it's that you don't want to be on any list with John Jaha and J.D. Drew.

Why he's like me: We're both about six-and-a-half feet tall, throw right and bat left.
Why he's like the first man: Both were nicknamed "Big Donkey."

Adams Deadmarsh, Foote, Graves and Oates (the hockey bunch)
Deadmarsh and Foote helped my Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in the '95-'96 season, their first in Colorado. They were crowd favorites, and even though they declined (Deadmarsh got concussions with the Kings, Foote got old with the Blue Jackets) they were still quality, championship players. Graves was a solid left winger for the Rangers for over a decade (he also played for the Red Wings, Oilers and Sharks), and was by all accounts one of the good guys. Oates -- aside from having one of the steeliest stares in all of sports -- was probably one of the most creative centers of the last twenty years.

Adam Vinatieri
Four championship rings. Three game-deciding field goals on the biggest sporting stage (at least one that's held more often than once every four years). That title that hangs above an athlete's head like a gold, diamond-encrusted halo: clutch. When you make Peyton Manning a champion, you deserve to be at the top of some sort of list.

Why he's like me: We both know how to split the uprights.
Why he's like the first man: Fig leaves, field goals -- same thing.

So that's it. A bunch of hockey players and a kicker. Oh, and this guy. I mean, I'm happy for him and all, and I wish him luck in his future endeavors, but ... c'mon.

Thanks for cementing my athletic failures, mom and dad.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Outside the Aviary: The Rise and Fall of Lavar Arrington

Lavar Arrington's motorcycle accident is the punctuation at the end of his career. A man once worth millions and lauded as one of the premier linebackers in the NFL became a mirage-- a wild card from play-to-play for all the wrong reasons. With the Washington Redskins, his erratic style translated well for years. His occasional missed assignment or overrun play were worth the sacks and general excitement when he made a big hit. Then as the quotient of bad plays increased, the injuries mounted and the affability faded, the Redskins fans didn't bat an eyelash when he asked to be released. Certainly, this was a long fall for the face of the franchise a few years earlier.

Signed by the New York "football" Giants, their fans learned quickly that he was not a force anymore. His interviews were the most entertaining aspect of his New York days-- leaning on crutches or lambasting coaches for his declining importance in the defense-- the idea that he was ever really great was hard to believe.

He was great though. He was the face of a defense. He was a disrupting force that coaches had to scheme around constantly. If he was easily fooled from time to time, he made up for it. I remember watching him and thinking he could be, if Marvin Lewis stayed on, the best linebacker in the NFC--maybe the NFL-- for years to come. Of course, this was the hope of every Washington fan. It was not a smart move to invest so much in him-- so much of my affection for the past few Redskins' teams was based on the hope that Arrington would anchor a Lewis-esque defense once again.

When Gregg Williams marched the cover-two into town, Arrington was all but finished in most people's eyes. I still held out hope that he could contribute. When he came back from injury in his last year in Washington, I watched and waited for his impact. He recorded two or three great games-- coming off the bench in a Joe Gibbs/Wlliams' inspired ploy to see of they could get anything from him before casting him off to free-agency. When he was released, I wasn't surprised, but I was sad to see him go nonetheless.

I always wondered if he ever got used to the idea that he wasn't the best player on the field after he started to decline. Each play was a fifty-fifty chance instead of a big play possibility. After the foul-ups and missed tackles, I wondered if he didn't get up and decide that mistakes were just a part of the game. Conjecture, rather than confusion, seemed to rule his style. He believed that he was bigger than a scheme, better than the other team and more important than the play itself. All the while, it was impossible to cheer against him, yet futile to cheer for him.

I had a modicum of hope when he went to the Giants. I wanted him to succeed while the rest of the team failed (NFC East rivals, you know), but the spark and the desire were marred by injury, freelancing style mistakes and a sense that he started to understand that he had to become a role player. The Giants released him in the offseason this year, and I thought sure he would find a new system to inhabit-- even if a backup. I searched around as recently as a few weeks ago to see if he had been picked up-- maybe a Cincinnati (with all their arrests) or maybe an injury made him valuable enough. He was a former All-Pro and a great teammate (or so I heard, anyway), he was worth a gamble, right? Alas, he was still a free-agent when I searched and he is still a free-agent after his accident.

Like many, I saw the rumors of a one-year contract with the Redskins in April. I was happy to see the interest. Arrington, as a back-up, would have a nice moment walking back out in Redskins' colors. Still, there would be that lingering possibility of him re-emrging as a quality linebacker-- the fan-favorite with a perfectly placed mean streak. However assanine it may have been, I had hope. That ended today, as if it was not already dead, with his accident.

I'm glad to see he's safe, but part of me wants to ignore this story and remember the day I was a lot younger and more excitable about the kid from Penn State about to come and destroy the NFC East. Part of me wants to believe he is only now getting to the point that he doesn't have the wheels or the will to be amongst the great linebackers in the league. As of today, I have to stop ignoring that part of me and come to the realization trhat one of my favorite players is not only (all-but) retired, but lucky to be alive. Godspeed, Lavar. It's a shame you won't be around anymore, but a relief to see you survived. On a smaller scale, I felt the same way when you went to the Giants, and I was hoping to feel the same way again this year. The rise and fall of a superstar is a weird thing to watch.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Voting for Vanity

Apparently, the Ladies... blog is putting together a way to finally settle the question: which basement-dwelling lurker has the hottest face to bod ratio? It's the all-male blogger revue! Our representative, Phony Gwynn (though he could've TRIED to send in a good picture) is an 8 seed or something. Vote now at the Ladies... blog ( under "AFC North." I would link it, but my computer is fucked and the hyperlink button is not appearing on my friend's computer. APOLOGIES.

Seriously, though. Give us a reason to live. You know you want to. Otherwise, you'll end up throwing Phony down a hill and he'll yell "AAAAAAASSSSSSS YYYYYYYYYOOOOOOUUUUU WWWWWIIIIIIIISSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHH" and you'll realize you loved him all along. No one wants that, right?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Escape Engine 3

(Editor's note: Escape Engine will be a series of baseball features on this site. The first month of the series will focus on bullpens.)

The fast rise and fall of a bullpen is a tragic thing to watch. A month of fantastic pitching could just as easily crumble as continue, as anyone knows, but to predict such a fall is divine. Since sportswriters mention bullpens more than they actually talk about them, we've decided to devote a little time to some contenders' bullpens (with little focus on the closer, since they get enough airtime already). This week we've focused on the Cleveland Indians, currently 2 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers in the AL Central at 34-21. We have them winning the wildcard, if you must know.

(Ed. note 2: feel free to tell me I'm full of shit in the comments section. I know my knowledge of non-East Caost is fairly limited.)

For a second, can I ask a question? When does a good start technically become a good start? When do we label a team (or in this case an entire division) the class of it's opponents? 31-18 is nothing to scoff at, obviously, and the starting pitching for the Indians has been fierce. As always, it makes for a rested and fierce bullpen come the summer, but does this always mean that a good start can't become a mediocre finish? I think the cut-off is the end of May, personally. Cleveland can officially call themselves a threat, rather than a promise. Calling a start anything up until the all-star break infuriates me. On with the column.

The Indians have put their threatening face on the past few years, but one thing or another keeps their prodigious offense from raping postseason pitchers as well as regular seasoners. The bullpen has been less of a calamity and more of a mediocre yet maddening misfire for fans. If the pitching staffs of the world were judged by Nichola Cage movies, they would be in the Con-Air category-- no plot but an effective amount of exciting escapes and explosions (this is a scale from Face-Off to Raising Arizona, by the way). The difference this year is going to be the pitching, but the question is whether or not a true anchor will emerge. How long can Joe Borowski be effective in any role that pays him 4 Million dollars for a 1.57 WHIP and an above 7 ERA?

Let's Just Talk About This Guy First: Having seen Rafael Betancourt pitch three or four times this year, color me damned impressed. The 1.54 ERA and .81 WHIP are no justice to how this man has been mastering hitters. He is 2nd in the league in holds (11) and has made 22 appearances. Throwing in times he is giving them a chance for late inning combacks (see: Detroit v. Cleveland 06/01) he is responsible for well more than half of his appearances being Cleveland victories. Does this mean is VORP is approximately infinity? All this, and he's been on the 15-day DL once already.
Late Innings Other Than Betancourt: As aforementioned, Joe Borowski is a shaky cause to back as closer. His numbers suggest a terrible job, but 17 saves is respectable-- good even. In fact, he reminds me of an Alejandro Pena (or any of the Braves closers in the 90s). Effective for a few years, but the fans are just WAITING for a complete implosion for 4 blown saves out of 5 and a trade for 3 cents on the dollar. I remember watching Braves games when I was young and feeling the same way as when I see Borowski enter. Just don't let the lead runner on--DAMNIT. OK, don't let him steal sec-- DAMNIT. OK, fly-out and we got one guy down. Let's just DAMNIT, infield single. Let's get a double play right, here Joe. C'mon Joe. DAMNIT. OK, 5-4. Two down. OH SHIT STAY IN THE PARK STAY IN THE PARK GET IT GRADY. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Whew. And I am not even an Indians fan.
Middle and Long Relief: Collectively, Tom Mastny, Roberto Hernandez and Fernando Cabrera are a crew of mediocres. This nucleus is the reason I can't see this team winning the Al Central. Sure, middle relief isn't the most important thing in baseball, but these are the kind of numbers that end up killing guys like Betancourt and Borowski-- the bridges. None of them is under 5 ERA in 15+ appearances, which make them shaky candidates for inherited runners to say the least. This WHIPs are high and the walks are inexcusable. Hernandez (42 years old) is officially hovering at 2 baserunners an inning while Rafael Perez remains limited in innings pitched (6 well pitched innings and counting...).

Long-Term Eye: Generally speaking, I hold out hope that the AL Central will finally shut pundits up about the AL East's detritus-ridden reign over everyone's minds. Between the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Jay and Rays, none of those teams would be ahead in the standings of the Central right now. I believe that. Challenge all you might, but the pitching and hitting is younger and better (or at least it is damn close to it). Much like the NFC East, it is just going to take a while for the analysts and casual fans to realize it. The Indians are a big part of that reason. As far as the bullpen is concerned, this may be the year it is just good enough to get them into the postseason. It depends, ultimately on Borowski and the bridges to Betancourt. Can a trio of ineptness hold up for an entire season? In the most hotly contested division in the league, it had batter.

Fun Fact: I am in throes of one of the worst fits of depression I have had since moving to New York City. Outstanding. Anybody got any pain pills?

Projection: We're sticking to our guns. The bubblegum and scotch tape (i.e. middle relievers) are just effective enough to outlast the Twinators, Athleticisms and Yanquees. I just hope they aren't prepared to win a series in the playoffs unless they make a deal before the ever-looming trade deadline. I say a trade for a Chad Cordero type of guy. Young and durable, though he hits spots of trouble. Why not? The Nationals aren't using him for anything special right now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Beauty, blood, Buck-less. What's not to love?

Growing up, there were two sports I didn't play: soccer, because I was lazy; and hockey, because I was poor (and tall, and not very good on the slippery stuff). If we were ever forced to play soccer or floor hockey in gym, I usually gravitated toward goalie. I didn't like running around, and I was usually good at stopping things from getting past me.

Then, in 1995, the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche. All of a sudden, I was hooked on hockey. It probably didn't hurt that they gave Colorado its first professional championship that year. If a putrid team like the Blackhawks had relocated, or Denver had gotten an expansion team and put together a squad like the Blue Jackets, would I have been so quick to jump on the bandwagon? I actually think so. Even though I never really played it, I hadn't ever seen it regularly played at the highest level. When you're exposed to it constantly, you begin to appreciate it.

I still don't like soccer. That's just me - I remember waking up at two in the morning or whatever it was to watch the United States in the 2002 World Cup. That was special. That made me a fan - for a few weeks. Hockey, for better or worse, has made me a fan for life.

What I don't understand is why it can't do that for other American sports fans who, I believe, are just like me.

So, as a guy who, admittedly, has never been face-washed; never laced 'em up at the break of dawn to skate around the pond; hell, someone who's never even been to Canada - here are the reasons Americans should embrace hockey.

You like football, right? And what do you like about it? The off-tackle run on second-and-seven? The check down to the fullback for five yards? Those 36-yard field goals to make it 20-13? No, you like the violence. The hits. The sticks. The bone-crunching, helmet-cracking, snot-spilling, ball-breaking, tendon-twisting, teeth-clacking, skull-crushing blows. The carnal bloodlust oozing from deep within our DNA, the barbarian instinct to stand toe-to-toe with that fucking guy and hit him so CODDAMNED hard that his bowels forget where they are and his mother regrets giving birth to him. The wanton disregard for human safety, the passion to hate a complete stranger's very soul because he had the fuckin' nerve to wear something different than you and your fellow gladiators. Well, guess what? Hockey's got that - in spades. They're swinging wooden weapons of destruction at each other and skating on Ginsu knives. What's the football equivalent of this? Joe Theismann breaking his leg? Gimme a life-threatening, several-people-including-fellow-players-vomiting, blood-spewing-everywhere break.

But there's gotta be some skill, though. We're not Neanderthals - oh, heaven's no! When not running it at full speed into large, immovable humans, most of us actually like to use our brains. We see wonderful, beautiful things - like, perhaps, Michael Jordan or Dr. J resisting the natural pull of gravity, gliding through the invisible blanket of air in ways that we're just not accustomed to, and then, lo! Behold! As if defying the laws of physics weren't enough, they are gracefully manipulating that spherical orange orb, moving it betwixt hands, around limbs, tantalizingly teasing their over-matched foes, moving in a wondrous, congruent arc, splitting the figurative lane of our hopes and our dreams - and the literal lane, widened at first by their swooshing ascent, and later by their glorious descent - before finally, mercifully, finishing at the hole, the ball through the rim signifying Cupid's arrow through our smitten heart. For a game played on a reflexive surface, hockey has its moments of young love, too.

Sometimes, however, you just want a dominating performance. No two positions in different sports are quite as similar as the goaltender in hockey and the starting pitcher in baseball. Sure, the goalie plays a bit more, but they follow parallel paths. If you're having an off-night, you get pulled. But if you're on - and I mean on - then you can steal a win for your team, even if everybody else is playing like recycled Spam.

If you can't invade them, beat them. Wait, we're America, right? Go in, wherever we want, whenever we want, punch your wife in the face, fart on the dog, take some Hot Pockets and the last Hawaiian Punch and then just fucking roll? That's us, right? So why not get behind the one sport where not only can we beat teams from another country, but we can do so with jaw-dropping regularity? And in their pride-and-pig-fucking-joy sport? I mean, it's one thing to go North and beat up on the Raptors and Blue Jays, but damn if it don't mean a whole bunch more when it's the Maple Leafs. (And, lest we forget, four of the Original Six were from the good ol' US of A.)

Buck-Cherry. We've got Joe Buck for damn-near everything, and hockey's got Don Cherry. One gets offended by everything, the other offends everything. Which one would you rather have? That's what I thought. And since we're talking about announcers, when was the last time you actually listened to an entire hockey game? Hockey play-by-play announcers should be paid thrice their PRO sports counterparts. Since something is usually always happening, there's really no time for that loathsome, grating, "So, when you played, did you ever eat the same meal before games?" blabber. There's just ... sports. And it is wonderful. Besides, have you ever tried to do even thirty seconds of hockey play-by-play? "Niedermayer centers, back to Kofulwicz, to Pedersen on the point, and it's off his stick, poked away by Stillfredsen, OH! and a crushing blindside hit by Barker on McDonald along the center boards, a quick change by the Ducks, and Milfredveckivichensteinassonajakkenrikkervic straddles it near the left circle..." I mean, that was only about ten seconds. And I think I need a cigarette after it. In fact, to help them out and make it more appealing to us lowly Yanks, let's just American-ize all the names. Valtteri Filppula, you’re now Vinny Filpo. Andrej Meszaros? Andy Marsh. Say goodbye to Keith Tkachuk and hello to Keith Kachuck!

Rick Tocchet is the exception, and he's been retired for five years. I mean, all we do is bitch and moan and complain and whine and whimper and preach and gasp and feign fainting when (insert pro athlete here) (insert felony here). "It's the end of civilization!" "Why do I let my kids watch this nonsense?" "Yes they deserve to [be convicted] and I hope they burn in hell!" Well, guess what happens, you harbingers of moral standing? These guys come back, win a game or two for you, and then you're right back in front of the tube, wearing their replica jerseys and bidding for their bobbleheads on eBay. But what do hockey players ever do? I mean, besides make very little money (compared to baseball, basketball, and football players, and most golfers and NASCAR drivers; I'm not stupid) and work ridiculously hard to play the game they love? Could you even fathom what Pacman Jones or Ron Artest or Elijah Dukes would do with the Stanley Cup if they had it for one day? (I'm thinking: filling it with stripper piss, drinking clown's blood out of it, and clubbing his wife to death with it, respectively.)

And finally, the Stanley Cup itself. Blind kids won't even touch the Cup because they don't think they're worthy. Blind kids. That's pretty much it right there.