Thursday, August 28, 2008

Outside the Aviary: "Everything You Must Love You Must Love Now"

I had a column all set up for how the Yankees were shot and how the Red Sox were becoming a less polished version of those 1996-2001 teams that just won at any costs (sprinkling the pickups of Kotsay and Byrd in as evidence), but really, I don't feel like talking about all that. Perhaps it's the whimsical instrumental music I am listening to, the fact that i have cheered on championship teams a lot lately or the fact that I read way more on sports than I write about it these days, but the article bores me. It really does.

The liberation of a two-sport championship is daunting. Ask Bill Simmons, Dan Shaughnessy or the cavalcade of "Boston Bloggers" nationwide. It's not a small task to write about things when they are going well. There's little to criticize-- the Red Sox are on their way to another playoffs and took two out of three from the Yanks in September. The Celtics are taking a gamble here and there (although a non-guaranteed contract to Darius Miles is not a gamble-- more on this in a later column) after securing a championship that got more press than Lady Di's death rattles. The Redskins have made improbable playoff runs and are, at least, intersting every year. My sports life is good.

Still, the Sox letting a sweep slip through their brittle fingers, I noticed something-- the Yankee fans are comatose right now. I went to the game last night, and most of the meatheads were expectant. They expected Papi or Varitek to come through against the Veras and Ponson types. When Jeter came up, they looked ahead to the next batters and knew A-Rod had no chance against relievers. Whereas my friend and I just stared ahead and waited. We talked about insurance runs and how funny 'Tek's swing looks. We talked about how cool it was to see Yankee Stadium one last time and how we couldn't wait for it to be razed. We talked about all kinds of things, waiting for the bottom to drop out against a terrible set of pitchers.

Meanwhile, the Yankee fans got more and more hopeful. You could hear fingers crossing and heads nodding. You could hear frustration. When the Sox went up 5-2, some people left. 5-2? At 6-2, more scampered away. 6-2? This is a team that leads the world in bullshit hits-- infield choppers, dying quails, etc. There is no other team blessed like this one. Granted, the place deadened after the Pedroia grand slam, but even then, where was the swagger, the bravado? The "Well, we still got twenty-six rings" assholery?

It was lost in Goose Gossage pulling a fake lever to remind the fans that they had two weeks left to enjoy the old stadium. It was lost in a lackluster "YMCA" chant as the grounds crew came out in the seventh. It was lost in the anti-clutchness of the middle of the order. It was lost in walks, doubles, a grand slam and the overall disillusonment of their reality: they don't field good teams right now. They just don't.

There's a new Steinbrenner, a new stadium and new motto: win with what is out there. Gone is the hope of a saviour for this season, and soon the invented mystique of the ideal playing field will be gone too. For someone with a dog in the hunt like me, it's not a moment too soon. Bury that hole as soon as possible and make sure Michael Kaye is in it. But for the casual fan-- like the Californian father and son in front of us, it was a moment bereft of rivalry. Yankee Stadium, with its statue park, its die-hard/vulgar fan base and its ancient lore meant something different entirely. It meant the end of an era that was long past, not the one of recent memory.

Now, nearly every dog is in the hunt. Then, it was the Yankees and whomever challenged them. There was little to no real rivalry. Fans are better off believing that their team can win now. Fans are better off wondering if their new young rookie sensation can be the next Josh Beckett or Mariano Rivera rather than the next Cy Young. The year-to-year, station-to-station idealism is better for the mystery of the game. The casual fan has really never had it better: there is no dominant force in many major sports anymore. Rivalries exist out of biterness, sure, but moreso becuase each team has a real stake again. The Red Sox, White Sox, Rangers, Cubs (as of this year)-- invented curses or not-- have a chance. This hurts the dynasty and leaves the monumental fans pride-hurt and with new stadiums? Pride hurt and priced out.

Such is life, I suppose. I won't miss the mystique or the builing. I won't. I will miss the old fans like my Uncle George-- recalling the past-- a little, maybe. I might miss the way there is no bad seat in Yankee Stadium, just a touch. But, I won't miss how the casual fan came in with reverence and fear. Price 'em out, Yanks. The die-hards are dying with the titles. The Sox's are winning, the Rays are running away with it this year and the Stadium is done. And so, the new era is upon us.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

7 Ways I Wish Brett Favre Would Die

Scenario 1: After the Packers decide they can't trade Brett Favre - or, at least, get something decent in return - they invite him back to Green Bay to training camp. Once again, fans line up outside Austin Straubel International Airport. As his private jet approaches the runway, there is a problem with the landing gear. The plane lands and skids into a refueling truck. There is a huge explosion. As everyone holds their breath, Favre emerges ... carrying his severed left arm. As he comes to his senses, he realizes that his left hand is holding the only oxygen mask that fell from the cabin. Deanna is inside, struggling to breathe. But he can't re-enter the plane due to the encircling flames. He heaves his left arm - which is holding the oxygen mask - through the door, toward his choking wife ... but it is intercepted by a pilot, the only other survivor. Deanna succumbs to smoke inhalation. Favre, overcome with grief, jumps into the still-running Jet engine.

Scenario 2: Despite all the problems, all the hassles, all the drama, Favre comes back to Green Bay. Come November 9, the Packers are 7-1 and riding high. Entering their showdown against the rival Vikings in Minnesota, Favre is once again playing at an All-Pro level. In the middle of the third quarter the Packers lead 17-13. But something is brewing outside ... a violent snowstorm the likes of which Minnesota hasn't seen in years. By the end of the game (which the Packers win 23-20 on a last-second field goal), over three feet of snow have fallen in less than two hours. No one can get into the Metrodome, and no one can get out. After several hours, the stadium's food has been consumed. The fans are getting restless. They are getting hungry. They turn their attention to #4 in white. Nobody knows how they got past the offensive line, or any of Favre's other teammates, or who bit first. But they'll forever know a different meaning for "Packer."

Scenario 3: Javon Walker is upset. He's feigned retirement, offered $11 million in guaranteed money back to Al Davis, filled both of his knees with KY jelly and rock salt, and still the media ignores him. They keep talking about him. Favre. The asshole that drove him out of Green Bay. During the third week of preseason, Walker invites Favre to Las Vegas. Thanks to the LVPD, Walker knows who mugged him over the summer. Instead of pressing charges, he hires the two men to kidnap Favre, which they do after a night of drinking and blackjack. Except there's a problem - Favre's just too charming. After several stories of life in the NFL, the hit men are too guilty to do the job. Luckily for them, a short circuit cuts out the fire alarm at the Mirage. After a concentrated blaze started by a lit cigarette, all three die in the flames.

Scenario 4: Right before Favre cashes the $20 million check the Packers have given him to go the fuck away, he has a violent heart attack brought on by years of light beer and Wisconsin cheese. Due to his advanced physical conditioning, however, Favre survives. In the hospital, an intern, a lifelong Bears fan, smothers him with a pillow, then takes his Super Bowl ring.

Scenario 5: While watching the 47th story on himself on the third-straight viewing of an early-afternoon SportsCenter, a clip is shown of Favre early in his career with the Falcons. He feels nostalgic and reminisces for the days of his youth, when everything was simple. He calls Michael Vick at Leavenworth to see how he's doing. He then goes to visit the embattled quarterback in prison. Vick tells him it would be nice if he went and talked with his family. When Favre arrives, four Presa Canarios meet him at the door, tearing at his flesh. The alpha male, Koopa, removes Favre's genitals with one swift bite. Within minutes his carcass is picked almost completely clean.

Scenario 6: The time has come. Packers coach Mike McCarthy can't handle the dissension any more. He calls a team-only meeting to clear the air. As Favre talks, Aaron Rodgers sneaks up behind him and clobbers him over the head with the Vince Lombardi trophy. McCarthy then rains blows upon him with the playbook. Woozy and bleeding profusely from the temple, Favre asks for some painkillers. Mason Crosby kicks him in the dick. For old time's sake, Najeh Davenport shows up to shit in his mouth. After a massive loss of blood and oxygen to the brain, Favre is no more.

Scenario 7: Canton, Ohio. 2014. With the scarring memories of the summer of '08 long behind him, Favre strides confidently to the microphone for his Hall of Fame induction speech. Yellow jacket resplendent, sun glistening off the slightly graying stubble, Favre thanks his family, his teammates and, most of all, the Green Bay fans. As his voice starts to quiver near the end, a loud pop is heard. Favre's bust shatters into several pieces. Before he can react, a small red dot fixes itself on his forehead, between his eyes. Another pop. A single bullet enters Favre's skull, splitting his brain, ending his life. Several hundred yards away, dressed in a Southern Mississippi t-shirt and hat, Rachel Nichols looks through a scope. She never blinked.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I'm SOOOOO Applying for This

I'm in the market for a new job, and this seemed like my cup of tea, so I'm going to fill out an application this week.

My buddy Stan and I mused for a moment what that application may have hidden.

Actual application questions:

1. Yes/No: Do you have a Bachelor's degree in journalism, communications or related field? (Related: English? IF so, than YES.)

2. Yes/No: Do you have at least 1 year experience as a sports writer or member of the sports copy desk? (Does a post on this blog once every three months count?)

3. Yes/No: Do you have at least 1 year PR or marketing experience with a professional sports team? (No.)

4. Yes/No: Do you know NBA knowledge? (Not personally, no, but I'M WILLING TO LEARN.)

5. Yes/No: Are you available to work any day or night that the Knicks play? (Definitely.)

First of all, read number four again. Related Questions not on the website:
6. Start/Stop: Snitchin'?* (For real, though)
7. Please circle the following things you are willing to do:
Give up on that pretty intern (yes)
Leave D'Antoni's draft picks alone (yes)
Liveblog a truck party* (yes)
Spell the new foreign guy's name correctly EVERY time (yes)
8. Are you willing to print what we tell you and not what actually happened (see no. 6)? (Uh, sure.)
9. Have you ever met Jamal Crawford? If not, are you willing to deal with menopausal mood swings? (My mom went through that once, I think. She didn't score many points on bad days.
10. Do you support Cablevision? (What is that?)
11. Are you willing to stop blogging (see no. 6)? (I guess so, yeah.)
12. Are you seriously willing to liveblog a truck party? (YES PLS.)
13. Are you willing to take it from Starbury in a tight area? Like the back of a Volkswagen? Or an alley? (Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm...)

I've got this, guys. It's in the bag.

*Question six and the liveblogging of a truck party were Stan's contributions.