Friday, October 22, 2010

Playoff Paradox

The San Francisco Giants, straight from breaking my heart and beating the Padres on the final day of the season to win the NL West, have gone on a bit of a roll. They beat the Braves in 4 in the NLDS, and currently hold a 3-2 lead on the two-time NL champ Phillies in the NLCS.

All is great in the Bay Area. To wit: a story in SI.com yesterday, per Ann Killion, called "San Francisco is falling in love all over again with the Giants" (emphasis mine):

Or maybe, dude, they have other things to do instead focus on total downers. It may be that lack of obsession and self-flagellation that makes outsiders think Giants fans aren't rabid or savvy. One of the talking points of this postseason has been, "Hey, Giants fans are really into this baseball thing," as though it's somehow surprising. The Braves -- who often don't sell out postseason games -- noticed. The Phillies -- who think they have superior fans -- have noticed. The Giants fans are loud. Unlike their counterparts in Los Angeles, or the fans at the new Yankee Stadium, they stay until the end of games.

Well, sure. Sounds lovely! Giants fans rule! They- erp, what?

From the AP's game story - also found on SI.com, natch - of Game 5 of the NLCS:

Werth's solo homer in the ninth quieted the raucous sellout crowd of 43,713, and many fans began making for the exits even before the final out.

So, which is it? Are Giants fans the bestest baseball rooters on the planet, or are they so pessimistic about their team scoring two runs off probably the sketchiest closer left in the postseason that they hightail it out of a potential pennant-clinching game?

I'm so confused.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Same Old (Looney) Tunes

Last Thursday, SI.com did the unthinkable: they placed the anonymous and forgotten Padres atop their power rankings, lording over the dueling AL East behemoths and, obviously, the rest of baseball.

The venerated site did this, apparently, because for the previous two and a half weeks the Friars had beaten up on 2010 lowlifes Arizona, Chicago and Pittsburgh (with a few Ws over the Giants and Brewers thrown in for good measure). Either way, at one point San Diego had won 10 of 11 and seemed like an unstoppable machine.

Whoops.

Not content to merely let their cover jinx extend to the power rankings on their website, the blurb within the power rankings alludes to the Padres' 96.7% chance to make the playoffs; according to Baseball Prospectus, best in baseball at that time. These two factors put the Padres in rarefied air - nothing but air, unfortunately.

Know how in the old Looney Tunes cartoons, a character - usually Wile E. Coyote - can run off of a cliff and continue running on air, but only until somebody - usually the Road Runner - points out the situation? Of course you do. That's where the character, succumbing to physics and a huge "Look Down!" sign, plummets comically to a dusty and deserving death. (Ok, not "death" per se, but you get my drift.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Play, in One Act

The setting: an upscale house in Kohler, Wisconsin. A little boy named Dusty enters and encounters his mom, Pag (it's an Irish name). She is unhappy.

Pag: Dusty, where have you been?

Dusty: I've been playing with some friends. It was really fun! In fact, I just came in here to get a drink, then I'm going back out to play with them again!

He moves toward the refrigerator, opens it, and gets a Gatorade. As he heads for the door, Pag stops him.

Pag: You're not going anywhere. You're grounded.


Dusty: Grounded? For what? For how long?

Pag: For two weeks. And you should know why I'm grounding you.

Dusty [lip quivering]: I ... I don't ...

Pag: Before you went out to play a few days ago, I posted a note on the garage stating where you couldn't go with your friends. One of them was a hazardous place, the dirt hills behind the bowling alley. That's where you went, and that's why you're in trouble.

Dusty: But ... but ... I didn't see any note. You didn't tell me about it. And it's not hazardous! It's just dirt! And if it's so hazardous, how come dozens of kids were playing there? And why did the Petroskeys move their weekly flea market there?

Pag: It was clearly posted.

Here they walk out to the garage. Taped to the side of it - the side facing the neighbor's fence, the side where nobody goes because there's only about 18 inches of space - is an index card with minuscule type which reads ...

Pag: "...furthermore, the dirt hills behind the bowling alley shall be off-limits, but only if the security cameras from the Conoco across 68th St. happen to place you unequivocally at the scene." Plus, your Uncle Walt knew these rules, and was out there watching over you.

Dusty: Yeah, I was going to ask about Uncle Walt. If he was out there and he knew I was breaking a rule, why didn't he tell me?

Pag: Because he can only tell you if you ask him first.

Dusty: So ... if I had known that I had to ask for help I didn't know I needed, I wouldn't be grounded?

Pag: Exactly.

Dusty walks sadly up to his room, alone.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Oh, Jesus

Well, I told you - those Muslims are tough. Damn free will. Next to the platypus, it's been My biggest mistake.



I thought you didn't make mistakes, Father?


Everyone makes mistakes, Son. It's part of life. Speaking of which, remember how we were talking about how angry We get when athletes invoke Our names after wins, but never do it after losses? As if We actually cared about those games they play?


Yes, Father. I specifically remember talking about a young man named Tim Tebow.


Precisely, Son. We were fine with his outward praising of Us in college, but now that he's a pro, I've decided to show him and his Denver Broncos teammates that they should keep his deification to a minimum. Hopefully, I'll have rectified that mistake.


What did you do, Father?



Well, I ... I decimated his team.



You crashed their plane?


No, no, no. Nothing like that. I just tore their best young offensive lineman's knee apart back in April, put down their entire backfield in the span of 10 minutes on the first day of training camp, and then - this one's the kicker - took out their best defensive player just a few weeks after they signed him to a five-year extension.

Wow. That should teach them. Hey, hold on - I'm getting a picture message from a friend of mine. He's a Belgian monk, makes some great beer.


/checks phone














Oh, Me.



/shows to his Father


They should really, really think about taking the bus from now on.



Actually, Father, you know what would be worse?



What?



Turn them into Cleveland.



C'mon, Son. I'm not that mean.

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's the Thought that Counts

Throughout my life, my mother has had a hard time buying me gifts. When I was little it was no problem, because if it was a toy, I played with it. No big deal.

But once I got a bit older, my mother started buying me clothes. For birthdays, for Christmas - clothes. And they were never in style at that moment, or things I liked, or they didn't fit. Basically, I can't remember one single article of clothing my mother ever got me for a gift where I was like, "Sweet! I'm gonna look awesome in this!" And then I wore it, and it totally got me chicks.

Still, I knew my mother loved me. It was the thought that counts.

I feel the same way today as a Padre fan.

Yesterday new GM Jed Hoyer traded a pitching prospect (Wynn Pelzer) for the deteriorating corpse of Miguel Tejada. Ok, that might be a tad harsh. Sure, Miggy's only OPS-ing .670 this year, with just seven homers in 401 ABs. But he's still a veritable doubles machine, and should stand to drive in some runs if the guys ahead of him can get on base.

This move means that Chase Headley probably moves to the outfield, Everth Cabrera gets sent down, and Jerry Hairston gets a lot more time at short. Hoyer has said that Tejada might see some time at short, but I don't see it. He's too old, and many of the Padres' starters induce a lot of grounders. He should either play third or maybe second, but not short. Please. Part of this team's strength is their defense, and playing a 36-year-old at SS severely hampers that. (Unless you're dreamy and can go to your left, like Jeter!)

Is Miggy the same guy who won the 2002 AL MVP? Not even close. Is he as bad as his numbers this year? I'd like to think not. Would you put up good numbers on that Orioles team? Cal Ripken rolled over in his grave so much this year he ended up in China.

This isn't a C.C. Sabathia-type move, but it's a move. It adds a little pop to the lineup and announces that the Padres are buyers. Buyers! Man, that feels good to type.

Plus, San Diego's pretty close to Mexico. They got cheap pharmacies down there, right?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

LeBron James’ Decision: An Exploration in Rock and Roll songs from Chapel Hill in the 90’s-00s






LeBron James’ Decision: An Exploration in Rock and Roll songs from Chapel Hill in the 90’s

Mentally, I am exhausted. I went to the woods and removed myself from civilization for a few days and came back to two jobs, overwhelming debt, an overarching sense that I am not doing anything well in my life and 14-16 hours days. Also, I came back to New York City as the go-to for a lot of my friends for “Where’s LeBron going?” talk. I’m a basketball guy. I know this. I love this. But there is only one way for me to describe to non-basketball fans how the LeBron decision affects fans in the contending cities: be as obscure as humanly possible.

So, here, non-basketball fans. This is what tonight means, as described by 90s-00s rock groups localized in the greater Chapel Hill, NC area.

LeBron spurns Cleveland:

Small (23): Steal Some Candy

Cleveland has been both a blessing and a curse for LeBron. He grew up in Ohio, has been the most beloved athlete in Cleveland (until tonight, possibly) and gave hope to a grouping of the most troubled fans ever to grace American major sports. Still, he was unable to escape his friends, focus on basketball and basketball alone, and every problem was magnified by the Cleveland populace’s rightfully-placed negativity. Thus, Small’s anthemic, driving rocker: “It’s been a couple days and I get the feeling/It’s just another sign I’ve stayed too long/ Pieces of the puzzle keep disappearing/ It’s always been a matter of what went wrong.”

LeBron stays in Cleveland:

Archers of Loaf: Underachievers March and Fight Song

Cleveland’s underdog mentality, despite not getting a championship quite yet, can finally rest a little easier. This is the time to dance and play guitars and smile at one another despite hardship. You see, if LeBron stays, Cleveland is a relevant state in the basketball-- and American sports-- union. This is their chance to hale it all. The name of this song says it all and the lyrics reflect a city with a lighthearted sigh decompressing their quickened hearts. Plus, screw the major markets. YEAH, FIGHT THE MAN. “Doomed to fall/ Smashing their evil empire up against the wall/ All for one/ One for all/ ‘Til their done with free space...” Can’t really get closer to the explanation than that.

LeBron chooses the Knicks:

Polvo: Right the Relation

Polvo wrote this song, very obviously, about their breakup when they were at the top of their collective game. “I killed my creation/ to right the relation...” This is LeBron’s thinking, if he chooses NYC. I know I left Cleveland. AI loved them, but I had to find other means; other money; other outlets. LeBron in New York makes no sense to me, but for his megalomaniacal brand-driven mindset? There’s no better course than to make the history he was destined to. Sure, Polvo’s decision was a little more ,low-key, but dramatics have little to do with an passionate choice. It’s about the moment.

LeBron spurns the Knicks:

Superchunk: Water Wings

Um, these might do:
“Was it worth the wait/ Was that the wall where you marked off the date?”
“...the wings/ Made of wax/ Made of water/ He was too dumb to accept the offer/ He was too smart”
“She pointed at the black cloud in the sky/ She said that’s what happens when you’re learning to fly/ She said with you it is no use/ Why do you try?”

LeBron chooses the Heat:

Raymond Brake: New Wave Dream

This song’s music is really what describes the mood of this move. The idea of watching Chris Bosh, LeBron and Dwayne Wade was a feverish 4 AM dream (yes, I woke up/stayed awake to see them play) in 2008’s Olympic Games. The prevailing rumor is that these gentlemen planned to play together all along. If this is true, the mathy/stop-start pacing belie the basketball fans idea of the move. On one hand, we get to see an amazing sight. On the other hand, we all know the drama surrounding each player’s decision was an underhanded and ridiculous ploy for attention. As the warbling vocals and guitar layers wash over us, the basketball fan doesn’t really know what to do with all of the new, shiny toys laying under the trees. Also at play? the fact that this band was largely ignored unless you lived in the area. Really, only Miami fans are truly excited to see this. The rest of us a cringing-- even if only just a little bit.

LeBron spurns the Heat:

Superchunk: Driveway to Driveway

This is pretty self-explanatory. The Heat already got more relevant. They got two big names, kept their superstar, and have been walking around in a haze for the last two or three days. Nice feeling, but once the hangover comes on, you realize that you spent a lot of money for a better-than-average team.

LeBron chooses the Bulls:

Squirrel Nut Zippers- Meant to Be

As an NBA fan, this is the choice I love the most. “All the time/ I’m finding ways to make things fall in line/ I know/ How tricky things can be... Listen here/ Some things are meant to be.” The Bulls have everything LeBron needs: major media outlet, money, a solid team ready to compete, a new big name, Michael Jordan’s legacy and a chance to win immediately. LeBron has everything the Bulls need (explained by the fact that he is the best player in the game right now). Unless you have a rooting interest in Cleveland, this is the move you root for if you love good basketball. This is the move you love more than you love your own teams’ chances. This is the move that makes you nod respectively and look forward to seeing a great team. those don’t always come along, and this is our chance to see one. This isn’t three big names and a slough of small contracts/filler. This is one great player, young talent and a dream of a championship. This is what we want.

LeBron spurns the Bulls:


Since Michael Jordan left, this is the general milieu. Mistakes, regret, good players floating in and out of the uniform, but nothing permanent, nothing that can compare to the high of those championships. “All of my friends have floated away/ Connect the valley to the astral plane.” Yeah, they’ll have a good team, but the (second) best player may have floated away with all their championship dreams.

So, there you have it. Each team with a real shot (The New Jersey Nets and the LA Clippers were mercifully left off this list) and the song that best describes them from a town that never really caught on. Not bad after being removed from civilization for a week. The only regret is that so many bands never made the list since the youtubes are a little more modern than their run in the 90s. Sorry, Spatula. Maybe when Carmelo Anthony makes his decision.

Oh, and for those of you bored with the whole fucking thing?



Sleepytime Trio: Not Without My (Swimmies)

No, they weren't from NC originally, but fuck it. This shit destroys.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Anatomy of Loss

Once, I was taller than the sky. And now I am lower than Christ's nails. And nothing ever seems to matter until it does. And wanting to believe is more than what it is.


I digress from a point I haven't made. A month ago, I lost $2,650 in a craigslist scam. Lost everything I had and way more. Nothing good has happened since October of last year and it all culminated with my bank calling me and reporting me to a collection agency despite my pleas to live a normal life. And the Celtics were me. No, sports aren't some beautiful metaphor for life, but they are this one time. This one time, the team that played lesser basketball for most of the time won and this once the guy that just wants something good to happen-- just wants someone to believe in him and pay him for something he loves-- lost.


No, this isn't a lament for Celtics fans. We've had enough championships. No, this isn't an anti-Lakers rhetoric piece, they deserved it. Thing is, everyone deserves it. This guy I know, he works in a pizza shop and his coworker's father died and loved the Lakers. And this guy I met, he was a big Derek Fisher fan because his daughter had cancer too. And this other guy, his mother was wearing a Celtic jersey the day of her open-heart surgery. And me, I am at the end of my rope. I am bereft of feeling. I got a letter from a collection agency I didn't know in June. And instead of breaking down (see, it was a different agency that wanted money I didn't actually know I owed), I laid down on my floor and laughed. The previous night, the Celtics had blown out the Magic.


I am a man who knows bad news. I practice for it. I practiced telling my family my dad died. He was sick but recovered. I am the man who will break bad news. I am the man my family leans on and will continue to. I want to be the last man to whine about the trivialities of life. This once, though, I got selfish. Just once. Even with a -$2000 bank account, even facing homelessness, I smiled at my friends and told them I couldn't afford a beer. I was just there to support their engagement or their birthday or what have you. I saw them at their happiest and put on the brave face. I always want to do that. I just want to do that, forever.


***

I turned off my phone for the Finals. It is still off. I don't want to turn it on ever again. I can't face this news. No more bad news. Please. I am Napoleon facing his last stand, but with the news there will be more of them. I am news of bad weather for the weekend. I am the day off spent doing laundry, standing in line for the DMV, or talking to a creditor when there are better things to be doing.


I know, sports are dumb. They are pointless displays of jingoism, determinism and overall pointlessness to the societal need. I know. I am a smart man who reads books, writes poems and wants your approval. But just once, I needed something and it failed. I'm not mad or even really disappointed. To be honest, the Celtics floated above the waves, dug hard into the Earth, made lives better, while I am in flux and make my friends' lives harder by asking for couches, demand their love, make them believe in me despite my obvious flaws. I am the man that asks more than they have and the Celtics are the ones that demand more of themselves. They are better men than me because when I learned I was less than my task, I stared at my future like a gun. They gave their all and I have complained for fouls.


I should have been thrilled that the Celtics made the finals. I'm sorry I wasn't. I am sorry that I wanted more. I am sorry that I wanted more money. I am sorry I wanted to write “Zagat Reviews” (the aforementioned con was centered through them) to finally achieve my goal: to have people care that I wrote something. I am sorry that I went outside my means. Please, though, I don't want to be sorry that I cared about something trivial. It was just that, for once,. I got to talk about something people cared about. They wanted to hear me talk about basketball. For once, the 2650 reasons I had to hate humanity melted away.


I feel fantastic for Laker fans. I do. The serenity that comes to the survivors, the champions, the idea that nothing feels better than believing, the idea that the Lakers' fans finally got theirs over the Celtics-- I get it. I really do. It's just that, the idea of belief is hard to grasp when no one believes in you. And now, at my lowest point, I needed more than distraction. I needed belief. And I had it for three fleeting quarters of some basketball game. Now, I am back to where I was: languid against the face of defeat. I am the man I knew I would be when I was fifteen; the once and future failure. And so are the Celtics. At least, though, they believed. I am not sure I do. The two are not mutually exclusive, belief and failure, except maybe this once. Believe in what you want, but basketball is my one ideal. And it failed me. I am a victim, and I will continue to be one, but it is a part of loving sports. It is also a part of believing in people. For me, at least, sports has paid off once in awhile. Faith, for the most part has not. Such is life.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Pretty Special Day

Today is Sunday, May 9 and, unless you were hatched, a pretty important day. It's Mother's Day, and you should call your mother and express your disdain for her bringing into this horrible, terrible world. There's no unemployment in the womb, you know?

But today is also special for me, personally. Today, a man turns half a century. Fifty years old. This man was instrumental in making the greatest game on Earth fun for a little boy. He gave me my internet handle. And today, he makes me feel really, really old.

Most of you know Tony Gwynn as the - umm - very rotund baseball coach at San Diego State, and sometimes color analyst at TBS. Sure, he's a legend in San Diego, but to many he's a nasally voiced island of a man. That's too bad, because in actuality he was a lithe, 56-base-stealing point guard who still holds the SDSU all-time assist record. He was drafted by both the Padres and the San Diego Clippers (now in Los Angeles) on the same day.

When I met him and got his autograph at Coors Field a few days before his birthday in 1996, I wished him a happy birthday and told him I was going to bring him a card, but I forgot it. He stopped signing his name, looked up, and smiled.

Tony Gwynn didn't hit a lot of home runs. He never won a World Series. But he was my favorite baseball player, and he'll be that when he's 50, 80, or 500. He was - and is - a badass. And that's the truth.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tebowned

Faith is a word that gets bandied around all the time in sports. You put your faith in an owner. They put their faith in a general manager. They put their faith in a coach or manager. They put their faith in the players. They put their faith in the fans to cheer them on, and the fans put their faith in the players to make the right decisions. The players put their faith in the coach or manager to put them in a position to make the right decisions. The coach or manager puts their faith in the general manager to let them handle the players the right way. The general manager puts their faith in the owner to allow them to build a team they think will win. The owner puts their faith in the fans to come out and watch.

It's the circle of sports life.

Rarely have sports faith and real faith intersected so publicly and controversially as they have with Tim Tebow, the Heisman-owning, God-fearing, championship-winning, circumcision-performing QB drafted 25th overall by the Broncos Thursday night.

I choose to keep my faith strictly within the sports realm, where I see results. That's how I see the world, how it's chosen to open itself up to me. I certainly don't begrudge anybody else their right to believe what they want to, so long as they don't force those beliefs on anybody else. Did Tebow do that at Florida? Only his teammates know for sure. He may or may not have with his personal faith, but there's no doubt that he did with his sports faith. He was a winner, and that is inarguable.

Do I believe he'll be a winner in the NFL? I don't. I don't think he'll ever be a viable quarterback in a pro system where he's required to consistently and accurately throw downfield. I think he should be more concerned with Mike 39 Razor than John 3:16. My "personal" faith in him is low; I don't think he's the "Mile High Messiah." (Or as BorL put it the other night during the Nuggets' loss to the Jazz, "You're the most negative fan I know.") But this isn't about my personal faith - it's about my sports faith. It's about believing that Josh McDaniels, Brian Xanders, and Pat Bowlen have watched hundreds of hours of tape, and presumably know what they're doing because they know their team, and they know what direction it should go. It's about believing.

I believe Tim Tebow will bust his ass. I believe he'll work as hard as he possibly can, while under the employ of the Broncos, to make the orange and blue winners, in whatever capacity is asked of him. That's about all you can ask for as a fan.

To borrow from something called ChaCha, I'm going to call Tim Tebow "Tim Tivo." In ten or fifteen years, I'll either want to rewind and watch all the highlights, or I'll want to fast-forward past all the misery and the horrors. Tim Tivo needs to pause, take a breath, and play. It's sink or swim time, now, for the Jesus fish of the NFL. There is no middle ground, no gray area. There never is when it comes to a leap of faith.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Way to go, TWWL

So, when ESPN isn't making grammatical gaffes, they're plain reporting the outcomes of games wrong.

True story. I was watching this game with my buddy, a Sharks fan. At the start of OT I said, "the only way this can really end is with the Avs losing on a fluke goal."

He countered, "or we just score on ourselves."

Five seconds later - BAM.

Crazy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Letter to the Denver Nuggets

Dear Denver Nuggets,

You are all a bunch of pussies. You have no heart. You have no balls. You have no guts. You have no spine.

Instead of rallying around your coach - who's gone because he's fighting FUCKING CANCER - and deciding to do the one thing he's tried to get you to do since he got there, the one thing that would take you from a very good team to a legitimate, scary, championship contender ... instead of doing that one thing that takes effort, and sweat, and blood - you choose the easy way out. You want the spoils of winning, but you don't want to put in the work.

Pussies.

On the second night of a road back-to-back, in a game against a good offensive team, in a place you haven't won at in almost six years, in a game you need to win to assure yourself the Number 3 seed and home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs, you do the worst possible thing: you decide not to do the one thing that would give you a shot - play defense.

I could bemoan your unwillingness to pass the ball, which any idiot with at least one working eye could tell you is increasingly to your advantage. I could bemoan Adrian Dantley's inability to do anything resembling coaching. I could bemoan the fact that none of your top three players - MVP "candidate" Carmelo Anthony, proven "winner and quarterback" Chauncey Billups, and only legitimate "big man" Nene - show any willingness, desire, or ability to lead by example.

You are all lazy. You play horrible pick-and-roll defense. Your switches and close-outs are slow and pathetic. You allow far too many and-one layups, because you have no idea how to foul hard at the rim. Your two legitimate defenders are banged to shit (Kenyon Martin) and a two-guard (Aaron Afflalo) - neither of which will help much in the Western Conference playoffs.

You all have a chance to give the sports world one of the best stories in the last decade - rallying around a sick coach and his son (which the team just signed and who also has beaten cancer) by finally getting his message he's been preaching for years - but you're going to piss it away.

You bitch and moan at the refs far too frequently (even when, unfortunately, many of the calls seem to go the other way). You take horrible shots and are way too inconsistent (looking right at you, J.R. Smith). You cannot win unless you're shooting the lights out of the building.

And, once again, you play absolutely zero fucking defense. It's no coincidence that no "D" in Denver = enver = never, as in Never Win An NBA Championship.

You're all just a bunch of fucking pussies with a giant inflated ego where your heart should be and no fucking balls and tonight I'm ashamed to be your fan.

Sincerely,

Phony Gwynn

Monday, April 12, 2010

And Now, a Simple Link to Something Fantastic

The Pretzel Factory's own bearded man-child, Business or Leisure (AKA Jeff Laughlin), recently attended the final round of a riveting Masters down in Augusta, Georgia.

TheAwl.com was nice enough to let him write his thoughts and musings on what seemed to be an incredible fucking day.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What an Honor

Wow. Seems Drew Magary is such a fan of our work here at the pretzel factory that he volunteered to write a column for us. He needs no intro, so here it is. Thanks, man.


TITS BALLS FOOTBALLS SHUT UP FAG TITS TONY ROMO

--Drew



Truly this was an honor beyond our means. I'll totes yell something at Tiger when I am at the Masters, bro.

In all seriousness, I will be at the Masters. I'm excited. Should be a lot of fun. Ruining a tourney experience because some knuckle-dragger STILL doesn't understand how old people don't get steroids doesn't sound as fun. I'll weigh my options.

Monday, April 05, 2010

"Lost" Previews the American League East

Well, here we are. It's my final season. Credit to all of you who have stuck with me over these last six years. I know it's been a bumpy run, and I've confused and frustrated a lot of you.

Look, you've just got to trust me. You've got to believe me that I'm going to end on a solid note, answer all your questions (seriously, WTF is with the statue and why did it only have four toes?!?!?) and provide a sense of closure.

I'm not going to come right out, though, and say it was all in Hurley's head or the Island is the in-limbo afterlife or it's all been an elaborate chess game played by two omnipotent goat-like beings.

Whoops. BELATED SPOILER ALERT!

5. Toronto Blue Jays - They are Sayid and Claire. Foreigners who lost something (Sayid: his soul, and Claire: her baby; the Jays: Roy Halladay) that has turned them into a zombie version of their former selves. BONUS: Marc "Scrabble" Rzepczynski and Stuart Radzinsky are cousins.

Record: 69-93

4. Baltimore Orioles - They are Charles Widmore. Tell me you don't think Widmore and Peter Angelos were separated at birth. They're both insanely rich, egomaniacal blowhards who fail more spectacularly the harder they try. BONUS: Garrett Atkins can talk to the dead like Hurley or Miles, but only when he's listening to Drive Shaft.

Record: 74-88

3. New York Yankees - They are the Man In Black (AKA Esau). For too long they have menaced and terrorized the people on their island (AKA the AL East). Soon, they will get their comeuppance. You can only afford to run the smoke monster for so long. BONUS: In an interesting flashback from 1982 to 1994, the Yankees were fucking terrible.

Record: 92-70

2. Tampa Bay Rays - They are Desmond. They didn't exist for a while, then they had a brief run of excellence only to disappear again. Now they're back, and the whole kit and kaboodle gets a helluva lot more interesting when they're around and near the top. BONUS: B.J. Upton is actually Walt.

Record: 93-69; Loss in ALCS

1. Boston Red Sox - They are Jack. They are the emotional center of the show. After an up-and-down tenure (this past off-season), they are ready to regain their rightful place at the top. BELATED SPOILER ALERT TWO. C'mon, like you didn't know. BONUS: Jack Shephard's a Red Sox fan. I mean, this shit writes itself, huh?

Record: 96-66
World Series Champions

Sandra Bullock Previews the National League West

I'm ok.

No, seriously. I'm ... I'm fine.

I have a Best Actress Oscar, and a Worst Actress Razzie. How many people can say that?

CERTAINLY NOT YOU JESSE, OR YOUR INKED-UP HARLOTS AND STRIPPER SLUTS!

5. San Diego Padres - The Padres recently had to trim their payroll after former owner John Moores got divorced, citing "irreconcilable differences." You know what that means, right? PHILANDERING ASSHOLE.

Record: 9-153 (splitting the 18 games against L.A., since you can't lose them all)

4. Los Angeles Dodgers - Speaking of philandering assholes, how about Frank McCourt? I love that this happened to the owners of two of the five teams in California, and neither of them signed a pre-nup.

Wait, what? It was actually Jamie McCourt who was reportedly unfaithful? Pffffft. Whatever. I'm sure she did it to get back at him. Good for her.

Record: 9-153 (splitting the 18 games against S.D., since you can't lose them all)

3. San Francisco Giants - I hope somebody looks out for Aubrey Huff on this team. I mean, it's great that a woman has made it to the major leagues (come to think of it, why hasn't a bigger deal been made of this? Seems like a pretty monumental achievement!), but with these millionaire hot-shot professional athletes flaunting about on the road, picking up groupies and floozies left and right ... I'd just hate for poor Aubrey to be used and abused. Watch out, Aubrey. Keep your head on a swivel.

Record: 82-80

2. Arizona Diamondbacks - The Tattooed Bastard Who Shall Not Be Named was in a sex rehab clinic in Tucson.

That's totally perfect. He's a snake.

Record: 85-77

1. Colorado Rockies - Apparently, the Rockies are a God-fearing, Christian team who abhor filth and obscenities and pleasures of the flesh. That's why I'm glad they're going to win this division. This sport needs some religion.

No. Seriously? Oh, Jesus Christ. I give up.

Record: 89-73
Loss in NLDS

Jason Campbell Previews the American League Central

Well, shit.

Is it just me, or is it ironic that a team with the most offensive, derogatory name in professional sports has not one but now two black players at the most important position?

Man, D.C. just be hoardin' brothas.

5. Kansas City Royals - I can really feel for my boy Zack Greinke, now. Everybody ripped him for his absence from baseball due to Social Anxiety Disorder and depression, calling him weak and all that. You know what, though? Failure ain't fun. Ain't fun at all. Just ask Alex Gordon.

Record: 64-98

4. Cleveland Indians - Speaking of failure, how about the Indians? They actually finished 2009 with the same record as the Royals. The Royals! Remember when they had a 3-1 lead on the Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS? Then they blew that lead and fell off the face of the Earth? Just like when I went 13-0 in my senior year at Auburn, but didn't get to play for a national title. Got drafted by Washington, then - BAM - off the face of the Earth. Just like Travis Hafner.

Record: 71-91

3. Chicago White Sox - Before Jake Peavy got traded from San Diego to the White Sox last year, there was talk that the Padres were considering sending him to the Dodgers. They didn't, though, because they're not freaking crazy. Or stupid. Or insane. Who trades a stud within the division? I have no clue, PHILADELPHIA.

Record: 80-82

2. Minnesota Twins - Joe Mauer is the man. There's no getting around it. He's a hometown boy, three-sport high school star, the reigning AL MVP. He's won as many batting titles - 3 - in four years as all catchers in the history of baseball combined. He is, without a doubt, an absolute monster. So, he's kinda the opposite of me. Except neither of us have championships. So I got that going for me.

Record: 84-78

1. Detroit Tigers - I still can't believe we traded for Donovan McNabb. Sorry to harp about it, but ... damn. I mean, dude did a bunch of Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials. My name's Campbell! That's just wrong, man. The Tigers have Phil Coke in their bullpen. It'd be like if they got rid of Jim Leyland, promoted Coke to manager for one game, then replaced him with Ron Washington.

Record: 86-76
Loss in ALDS

Friday, April 02, 2010

Nicholas Sparks Previews the National League Central

Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing here. Is this a sports blog? Named after a Simpsons reference? There was a time, when I was growing up, when cartoons were for kids. They were there to make you laugh. Rockets, trampolines, shotguns plugged with a finger - these were the claptrap of an animated world. Not extended Citizen Kane riffs and obscure pop culture references. (I Pagliacci and Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould? Really? Get down off your high horse, pencil-drawn geek.)

I really can't explain why I'm here in the netherregions of the internet. I write wonderful, wistful, coming-of-age Love stories. Greek tragedies. Real drama.

Baseball? I'm more of a football guy.

6. Houston Astros - You know what I hate about Texas? All those damn Cormac McCarthy books. Take Blood Meridian, for instance. I'd trash it, but I've already done so on a much larger stage. I mean, what - you write long paragraphs filled with five-word sentences that describe the color of the sunset, and you don't use things like quotation marks, and that gets you a Pulitzer? Blow me. I've had Ryan Gosling and Diane Lane star in adaptations of my work. Which do you think I prefer?

Oh, the Astros? They'll suck. Like Cormac McCarthy.

Record: 71-91

5. Pittsburgh Pirates - I'm working on a pirate love story. It's about a blacksmith who crosses paths with a scurvy pirate who has just escaped execution. Together they come across a princess/fair maiden type who needs rescuing, or some such thing, because she's kidnapped by a cursed pirate captain, and the blacksmith and scurvy pirate have to save her. The blacksmith is named Duke, the scurvy pirate is named McCutchen, the cursed captain is named LaRoche, and the princess/fair maiden is named ... oh, I dunno - Ohlendorf.

Record: 72-90

4. Milwaukee Brewers - Did you know that some asshole is making fun of me on the internet? Such petty shit. It reminds me of Prince Fielder, who got plunked not once but twice this spring by the Giants after showing them up on a walkoff homer celebration last year. Maybe they weren't throwing at him, but the ball just got sucked into him due to gravity. And that guy's a vegan? Talk about fiction.

Record: 77-85

3. Cincinnati Reds - Homer Bailey is a pitcher for the Reds. Homer also wrote the classics the Illiad and the Odyssey. Modern scholars call them the classics, that is, much like scholars in a few hundred years will call my books The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, and Nights in Rodanthe the classics. Me, Homer, and Shakespeare. Sounds about right.

Record: 84-78

2. Chicago Cubs - Speaking of assholes, here's what Chicago's own Roger Ebert said about me: "Sparks recently went on record as saying he is a greater novelist than Cormac McCarthy. This is true in the same sense that I am a better novelist than William Shakespeare. Sparks also said his novels are like Greek Tragedies. This may actually be true. I can't check it out because, tragically, no really bad Greek tragedies have survived ... To be sure, I resent the sacrilege Nicholas Sparks commits by mentioning himself in the same sentence as Cormac McCarthy. I would not even allow him to say 'Hello, bookstore? This is Nicholas Sparks. Could you send over the new Cormac McCarthy novel?' He should show respect by ordering anonymously." Pffft. How come you're not making TV appearances anymore, Mr. Typedy-Type? I'd give you a knuckle sandwich if you didn't have to liquefy it first.

Oh, and the Cubs eat ass.

Record: 85-77

1. St. Louis Cardinals - Answer something for me - is Albert Pujols the me of baseball, or am I the Albert Pujols of literature? That's a tough call. Tough call.

Record: 91-71
Loss in NLDS

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Snuggie Previews the American League West

You know when you're laying on your couch, watching TV, and you have your laptop on your stomach? You're updating your facebook status, or shopping for Faith No More t-shirts on ebay, or whatever. Then you flip to Comedy Central and Bachelor Party is on, and then - BAM! - random erection?

Oh, did I mention it's kind of cold in your apartment? And you're trying to cover yourself with that multicolored Mexican blanket you inherited in college when Andy left for the Peace Corps?

It won't work. No access. The laptop's sliding all over thanks to the low-level Richter-scale rumblings going on, you can't adequately keep both your legs and torso/arms warm ... it's a mess.

That's why you need me.

Snuggie, bitches.

4. Oakland A's - I've got a problem with sheets. Namely, how the fuck do you fold those things? Christ Almighty. You're supposed to pull the corners in or something, but that shit never works. You just end up folding it over and over itself, like a croissant. Awful. Why not wear a Snuggie to bed? But I've also got a problem with Ben Sheets. It's not his name, though - it's perfect. He's a ghost of his former self! I do like Jack Cust, however. He swings and misses so much a cool, cool breeze eminates from his whiffs. And what do you need when it's chilly? That's right - Snuggie!

Record: 75-87

3. Texas Rangers - Have you ever been up all night, doing rails of coke, smoking cigarette after cigarette after cigarette while forcing down a lukewarm PBR and bitching about your stubborn-ass sister who won't leave that jackass that treats her like shit, only to somehow segue into how the Lord of the Rings trilogy is great to watch in parts but not all in row, before finally trying to fix that goddamn wobbly leg on the coffee table? And then you wake up on the recliner, cold and shivering? Better get a Snuggie, motherfucker. Call me, Ron. We'll talk.

Record: 79-83

2. Anaheim Angels - Torii Hunter got into a lot of hot water recently after saying that Latin American players were "impostors" and not really African-American. I feel you, Torii. I really do. Ever heard of the Slanket? I bet you have. Those wannabe cocksuckers. More like the Skanket, amiright? Huh? In all seriousness, though, we've bought all the lighter fluid in the Tri-County area, and we're armed with more matches than a fraternity bathroom. We're coming, Slanket. Get ready.

Record: 84-78

1. Seattle Mariners - With the acquisition of lefty Cliff Lee, the Mariners have what could be the best 1-2 punch in the game at the top of their rotation. But who is the defacto #1? Felix Hernandez, AKA King Felix. And who would look more regal in a Snuggie than a fucking king? That's right - flowing robes in the team's colors, leaving the arms free to throw backdoor 0-2 breaking balls on the outside corner at the knees ... just beautiful. The only person who would be more befitting of donning a team Snuggie would be a two-time reigning Cy Young winner.

Oh? Shit.

Record: 87-75
Loss in ALDS

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stephen Tobolowsky Previews the National League East

I was having lunch with Sam Trammell the other day - we're in an upcoming movie together - when I asked him what it was like to play a character who could transform into anything. He took a bite of his salmon croquette, swallowed, and looked at me and said, "You should know, Steve. You're the ultimate transformer."

Oh, that Sam. Such a devilishly handsome rogue.

5. Washington Nationals - I hear they've got their own Stephen, a young man named Strasburg who can really bring it. But they probably won't have him up in the big leagues this year. Kind of like when I played Ranger Steve Neely in Spike Jonze's Adaptation. My scenes were cut from the final film. But oh, boy - Meryl, Nic Cage, Chris Cooper. What a roster! Not like the Nationals' which, minus Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman, is poopy.

Record: 68-94

4. Florida Marlins - Despite some quality talent (Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Josh Johnson) the Florida Marlins routinely play in front of thousands of empty seats. Kind of like when my movie Mr. Magoo opened. Pee-eww! That movie forever answered the question, "What would a nuclear bomb made out of celluloid look like?"

Record: 79-83

3. New York Mets - Oh, those Metropolitans. A lot of money. Some decent talent. Problems, injuries, and middling results. Reminds of a movie I was in once, have you seen it? The Glimmer Man? No, you haven't seen it. I fired my agent after it made back less than half its budget. Of course, I hired him back a few days later and he's still my agent to this day. But for about 48 hours or so there, ol' Sammy was sweating!

Record: 84-78

2. Atlanta Braves - Good lord, have you seen this Jason Heyward?!? Heavens to Betsy, what an Adonis! He's like a building with arms. His spring has been a revelation, just like Guy Pearce in Memento. Powerful, powerful stuff. Gut-wrenching. And let me tell you something - I was in that movie, and to this day I still can't follow it! Let's hope the Braves don't play their season in reverse.

Record: 89-73
Wild Card; loss in NLCS


1. Philadelphia Phillies - The Phillies let Cliff Lee go, but they picked up Roy Halladay. For about six or seven years he's been arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and that was in the American League East, the best division in the best league. Those lineups he regularly faced? Hoo boy! Brutal. Now he'll get to pitch against the Nationals, and other awful offensive teams like the Padres and Giants. That's a prescription for success! Speaking of "Doc" Halladay stealing the show, how about that Val Kilmer in Tombstone? Amazing. I wasn't in that one. I was in Deadwood, though.

Record: 93-69
3rd straight NL pennant; loss in World Series

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Ouch

Not only is a torn ulnar collateral ligament a very, very bad thing for a pitcher, it puts Joe Nathan on the shelf indifinitely.

Is that bad news? Difinitely.

Difinitely.

Monday, March 01, 2010

For Just Kicks

I saw some Asian man in his late-20s/early 30s wearing these on St. Marks this past weekend. I had to take a picture.

I stopped him and asked if I could, and of course he didn't speak English. So when I tried to tell him that "that's my favorite team," he must've thought I was asking if I could eat his shirt.

Fuck, those are some sweet shoes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Must Watch This

We don't really advertise things around here (except stupid people and awesome music criticism), but I do have something that's tangentially sports-related to shamelessly promote to all nine people who accidentally come across this blog.

Tonight, at 10 pm EST, Blue Mountain State premieres on Spike TV. A good friend of mine, Drew Hancock, was in Montreal all last summer writing and working on the show. Drew never played football, but I don't give a shit about that. Drew partied his little ass off and he's incredibly funny. So you should watch it, or at the very least, DVR it and watch it tomorrow. Or Sunday after football.

If you don't, I'm going to find you and karate chop you in the genitals.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Ugly, Ill-fitting Sweater

Before this manic-depressive Denver season comes to a merciful end, I thought I'd finally write something about the Broncos that referred to the team itself, and not a deceased icon in the stands.

I haven't written about the Broncos this year for a myriad of reasons, the biggest one being I haven't cared enough. As a fan that's tough to say, and almost tougher to write, but it's true. My heart just wasn't in it this season, and I think I can live with that.

It started with the tumultuous, whirlwind beginnings of the Josh McDaniels era, a coach just a few years older than myself. I mean, I'm an unemployed, waste of space at 30 - how the hell was this grinning, baby-faced geek going to do anything meaningful or ground-breaking while helming one of the classiest, most well-run organizations in football? We quickly found out as he alienated Jay Cutler, banished him to Chicago, then set about putting talented-but-petulant receiver Brandon Marshall in the doghouse for the better part of his Denver tenure.

Whoops.

So already my expectations were nil. I expected them to win five, maybe six games at best. Then the season starts with them stealing a win, and building on that momentum to start 6-0. In the last two of these games, they beat the Pats at home in OT - culminating in McDaniels's spirited fist-pumping toward his family and the crowd, a moment that gave me goosebumps - and beat the Chargers on the road on a Monday night, winning (mostly) in a way the Broncos never do: with special teams.

And then ... and then the inevitable. During the start, the defense played far over their heads, especially in the 2nd half when they played out of their fucking minds. We knew that couldn't last, and it didn't. Only it had to, because the offense was not built to make up ground, only sporadically chew it up. Losses to more physical teams came, and they came quickly and furiously. Then a loss at home to the Raiders. Then a mini-miraculous comeback on the road at Philly, only to fall a field goal short.

So here they sit, at 8-7, needing to beat the Chiefs at home - without their Pro Bowl receiver, natch - and get a little help to make the playoffs. It doesn't matter, however, because this is not a playoff team. They don't deserve to be watched, at this point, by the whole country, in a Wild Card game. Ultimately they deserve to eke out an ugly win, secure a winning record, and begrudgingly call Year One of the Post-Shanahan era a (beguilingly dismal) success. Success in the way Bart Simpson defines success: spelling it S-U-C-C-E-E-S, and then falling off a roof.

So in this way this Broncos season has been the ugly, ill-fitting sweater. Like when your parents or somebody asks you what you want for Christmas, only you're an adult so you either tell them one reasonable thing you need (a new wallet, an iPod case, a flask) - knowing full well they'll get you that one thing you want and you'll be done with it - or you say "Oh, you don't have to get me anything." Because you're an adult. Or perhaps you're spending the holidays with the family of friends or a loved one, and they don't know what to get you. So they get you a sweater, either to give you something so you feel included, or as an addendum to the one thing you actually wanted. Because everybody loves sweaters.

Only it's not something you'd ever wear, because you don't like turtlenecks. Or the color or pattern is horrific. Or it's itchy. Or it's too small.

This season was all that. It was unexpected, sure, but not in the back of your mind. Somewhere, you knew it was coming. And sure, it's a nice gesture. You appreciate that. But you're holding this thing, saying you like it even though you know you hate it. And at some point you'll have to re-gift it, or try to return it.

And, in all honesty, you wish you'd never been given it at all.

Update: And there it is. To be honest, I expected it. They beat the Raiders by 20 early in the year, then lost to them by 3 when they needed to win. So, since they won in Kansas City in December for the first time in forever (by 31, no less), it only made sense that they would lose by at least 15 at home with a win and a possible playoff berth on the line.

Thus, for the second straight year, and basically the fourth in a row since they reached the AFC Championship game in 2005, this team wallows in mediocrity. Only it's worse since they play well early, get their fans' hopes up, and collapse spectacularly and miserably toward the end. I've never played pro football, and I'm just the proverbial blogger in his parents' basement, but it seems to me that this team has no fucking heart. Maybe there's a stock ticker where that essential organ should be, but there's no fucking pride in putting on the orange and blue. There's no urgency. Just complacency.

I want this team to be relevant again. I want it to succeed. I want to have a reason to watch, to feel attached. But only Josh McDaniels can fix this. Somehow. He holds the key. Unfortunately, it's a complicated and ugly fucking lock.