Saturday, October 30, 2010

Winning isn't everything, but it is one way to get from Florida to the Packers-Jets game tomorrow. (So They Made A Play About Sports?)


You'll have to read all the way to the end of the post to figure out that picture at the right.

Anyway, like that headline? I figured mangling Lombardi quotes into awkward phrases was the way to go after I read the collection of "Lombardi: The Broadway Play" review blurbs on Broadway World.com. See what they've wrought:

"There's a place for LOMBARDI in the Broadway huddle... It is theatrical catnip for husbands or boyfriends otherwise reluctant to see most Broadway shows: Football! Vince Lombardi! The legendary Packers!", said The Associated Press, using a typewriter with a stuck exclamation point key.

"Even if you never cared about Lombardi, you will enjoy LOMBARDI. And that really is everything." That's Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post, who made an even more tangential connection to Lombardi's famous quote than I did.

Then there's Roma Torre, of something called "NY1," who said "Sports fans will get a huge kick out of the it, but there's plenty for the uninitiated as well. As entertainment, LOMBARDI scores points."

Unlike the present-day Packers! (Ba dum bum!)(Look, I know they score a lot of points, but I had to take a shot at the Pack anyway, okay?)

And finally, there's Peter King of SI, who wrote "I know what I like, and I liked this show." Which doesn't have anything to do with Lombardi quotes, but I wanted to include it because Peter King has a feature in SI titled "Things I Think I Think," in which he says stuff he thinks he thinks, proving that Peter King in fact does not know what he likes; if he's unsure whether he's thinking something, how can he be sure what he likes?

If you decide to listen to what Peter King thinks he likes, and want to see a Broadway play featuring Wonder Years' Dad making more of his living recreating stern people from the 60s, you'll get not just that, but a guy named "Michael McCormick," talking like an extra who didn't make the cut for Guys & Dolls:



True story: I worked with a lawyer named Michael McCormick, so I'm practically part of the Lombardi story.

Also, if you see Lombardi, you'll get to see Wonder Years Dad recreate that famous scene where a desperately lonely Vince convinces the paperboy to kiss him.

And you might just run into Bill Nelson (shown at right), of Bradenton, Florida, who won tickets to Lombardi! on Broadway, plus two tickets to the Jets-Packers game tomorrow, plus an all-expense paid trip to New York, plus he gets the jar containing the pickled hand of Vince Lombardi that's ordinarily kept on Ted Thompson's desk.

Okay, I made that last part up. There's no way Thompson will give that up. After all, legend has it that tragedy will befall any person who gives away The Lombardi Hand. Why do you think Favre is doing so poorly this year? He had the jar with the Lombardi Hand in it until Thompson's goons broke into the Vikings' locker room last year and got it away.

And that explains everything.

No, I don't know what I'm talking about anymore, either. Something about Lombardi, I think. Off to lunch!

In the upcoming Deer-vs-Man war, we'll all have a part to play. I've selected mine.


How much time would you lose if you were in a foot race and collided with a deer?

And, more importantly, are our runners under attack by deer?

That's the question raised by an alarming set of news stories I dug up and/or heard while driving.

First up, Sarah Glidden, of Hortonville High School. While running a cross-country race on October 22, Sarah was only about 100 yards from the finish when a deer bolted from the woods in front of her, and Sarah hit the deer.

She was spun around, but she and the deer continued on their respective ways, with Sarah suffering only a bruise and some deer fur on her. She didn't qualify but finished 18th overall, with a time of 17 seconds slower than her previous time a few weeks ago.

Seventeen seconds is all she lost by hitting a deer? And she finished the race? I think we all need to remind Sarah that this is America, and when you run into a deer during a race, you do not finish the race. You drop to the ground, yell whiplash! and sue everyone within a 200 mile radius, including the deer.

Glidden says she's a magnet for deer and has gotten offers to join hunting parties. Glidden's coach, meanwhile, said no big deal, this happens all the time:

"When I was coaching in Virginia, I was at the state meet years ago and it was the same kind of deal," said Sours, who has 20-plus years of coaching experience. "A deer cut across and hit the lead girl runner."

Glidden's coach may be right: Anna Phelan, a 10-year-old elementary school runner was knocked down by a deer just a week earlier while walking during a portion of a cross country run. Reports the "Thaindian News" site:

The school children were singing through the bush during the even and that might have startled the animal.

No word on what they were singing -- probably a Lady GaGa song. Deer hate those. Especially Canadian deer, who also seem to hate young Canadian cross-country runners, given that 14-year-old Emma Ashby was also run into by a deer during what was billed as a "midget girls' 3,000 meter race," back in 2009.

Even earlier, the ironically-named Emily Buck was hit, all the way back in 2007, by a deer during a cross-country meet. Emily, who weighed just 78 pounds at the time, was smacked into by a deer and didn't finish the race.

It all just goes to show that this:



Was just a precursor. Obviously, we're in the early stages of a Deer Uprising, one in which our brave young cross-country running girls must risk life and limb in order to run 3,000 meters.

What can you and I do to help them? You can get out to the woods and cheer them on, for one thing, and form a human barrier against deer attacks all along the course.

I'll do my part by by hunkering down to watch The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Let me know how things go for you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nobody knows what a haiku really is; it's The LeBronocalypse!


Did you even know that NPR was holding a LeBron Poetry Contest? Of course you did -- you, like everybody else, not only diligently follow the NBA but also tune in every week to A Prairie Home Companion, and read The New Yorker, right?

So it's just me, then?

Okay, then. To fill you in, here's the scoop:

NPR held a LeBron poetry contest, inviting people to write poems about LeBron, thereby further transforming him into a sort of the Red Wheelbarrow of the 21st Century -- a vessel into which we will pour our thoughts and symbols, our fears of our life and our remembrances of a life that we once had. Or maybe never had, but wished we did.

Too high-falutin' for you? Sorry about that. It's all that Garrison Keillor on my iPod. Anyway, here's the winner of the LeBron poetry contest, who got herself two tickets to a Heat game and a reading of her poem live on NPR:

Untitled LeBron James Poem
by Crystal Booker
Letting go is hard, we know.

The King is here, and we've warmed up his seat.
Cleveland, go ahead and spit flames.

You can't burn up the Heat.




That wasn't the only entry, though. There was also

LeBron Haiku,
by Mary Cox

So not a sports fan.
Must sheepishly admit first response,
LeBron who?

Which, I must point out, is not a haiku, because haiku typically is about nature and seasons. What Ms. Cox has written there (and what TMQ writes over on ESPN) is a senryu -- a satirical or ironic poem written in the manner of a haiku.

There's also:

Ten Years Of Dating,
by Paul Cance

Ten years of dating, she wants to wed.
Take me to the altar, she said.
What can I say to string her along?

A ring, you'll have, before LeBron.

Content with that, she brings me a beer.
And now I'm good for another ten years.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hi-Yo Silver & Away! It's Whodathunkit?!: The Three Things You REALLY Want To Know About The 2010 World Series.


Whodathunkit!? is a joint venture between The Best Of Everything and Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! So you can read it twice -- saving you money!


The World Series is set -- so it's only about 2 weeks until I don't have to worry about baseball box scores showing up in that little box in the corner where I check to see if the Buffalo Bills have scored any points. (Note: They haven't.) And when they do run that score, at least I won't have that momentary confusion that comes sometimes when the baseball teams share an abbreviation with the football teams. Seeing "SF: 0 NY: 3" just gets my hopes up that there's a football game on somewhere -- even a football game between two teams I don't care about is better than a baseball game, in almost every instance.

And yet, I like the World Series. I don't watch it. That'd be nuts. Who has time to watch the World Series? Or any baseball game? It's so slow. Election returns come in faster than a baseball game -- and it takes 12 hours from the start of voting for us to get some news on who's winning.

No, I don't watch the World Series, because baseball games are too long (mirroring the season that's too long.) Cut those games to five innings and I'd give it a shot. I'd devote about an hour of my time to watching the game, and in exchange I'd get to see only good pitching, as without 9 innings to cover teams could pitch only the starter and jettison some of the dregs they keep around as "middle relievers." With fewer opportunities to score, teams might try more aggressive base-running and batters might be jumpier about swinging, so there'd be more action.

Plus, you only see about 3 pitchers in the postseason anyway -- teams throw guys like C.C. Sabathia about every 3 hours, on "short rest" or "long rest" or "whatever rest," so it's not like having 5 or 7 games with 9 innings (or more) guarantees you'll see other pitchers; it's just a guarantee that you'll see C.C. when he's fresh, then when he's a little tired, and then when he's exhausted. My plan would at least avoid seeing him exhausted.

Faster? More action? Better pitching? I realize that baseball purists are shuddering right now, but baseball purists are losers, so I don't care if I offend them.

In any event, I doubt that Bud Selig will make the change anytime soon; less is more is not a mantra that baseball, or any sport, wants to take up. Leagues get bigger, games get longer, seasons get longer, star players become more widely dispersed around the bigger leagues, the quality of play suffers, revenues drop... and ticket prices still go up while owners still get rich, so nothing will change, although leaders of the sports will talk about doing something like contraction in order to pressure players into taking less money.

So you and I are stuck with 162 baseball games per year -- 150 more than anyone watches, I bet -- plus countless playoff games plus a World Series that could end as late as November 4. What are you going to do to kill all that time, besides wonder what sexy costume you're going to wear this year to the Halloween party? (Sexy Big Bird appears to be the hot commodity this year, by the way.)

The answer is: You're going to learn The Three Best Things You Really WANT To Know About the 2010 World Series -- as Whodathunkit?! cuts past the wheat and the chaff of "sports stats" and "predictions that aren't" and "Mike & Mike" to give you information you can use to impress people at your World Series party.

But, since nobody has a world series party -- the Series stretches over a week, after all -- you could just mention these at the next office meeting to prove to the Boss that you're good for something. So here goes:

1. How'd The Lone Ranger Become The Lone Ranger?

The Texas Rangers Baseball Team are named for the Texas Rangers Law Enforcement group, which raises a question: If announcers constantly feel the need to say "The New York Football Giants" even though there's only one Giants team in football and it's in New York, so that if you just say "New York Giants" everyone will know you're talking about the football team, how come announcers don't feel the need to say "The Texas Rangers Baseball Team" to avoid confusion with the Texas Rangers Law Enforcement, which, after all, still exists? Think how confusing this hypothetical headline might be without that clarification:

Texas Rangers Beat Up Santiago Casilla.

Without clarification -- that it's the Baseball Rangers -- you might think you're reading a wishful-thinking headline from an Arizona resident.

The Lone Ranger was, of course, a Texas Law Enforcement Ranger, equipped with the pistol and white hat that mark the Texas Rangers to this day -- apparently they do wear them -- and equipped with a mask which was of dubious utility in hiding his identity -- and it's not clear why he needed to hide his identity in the first place.

According to The Texas Rangers Hall Of Fame (Law Enforcement Division):

The Lone Ranger is the sole survivor of an ambush that killed five of his Texas Ranger comrades. With the help of Tonto, a friendly Indian who cames to his aid, the Ranger buried his five companions and recoverd from his injuries. In order to mislead the outlaws into thinking that all of the Rangers died, the Lone Ranger dug a sixth grave which was left empty. Hiding his identity with a black mask, he set out with his new friend to track down and apprehend the outlaws.

Now, I don't know how much to trust that site -- how credible is a site that also claims Buck Rogers was a Texas Ranger (Space Division, apparently?) But I'd question it even without the addition of the Space Cowboy stuff -- because of this:

The Lone Ranger wears the mask to keep the people he's hunting from... knowing that he's hunting them? And he dug a fake grave just in case the outlaws were to go back and check?

Think about that: assuming the bad guys did go back and check on their handiwork, who was supposed to have buried those bodies? The outlaws thought they'd killed all six of the Rangers -- so how'd the bodies get buried? A supposed master of disguise, the Lone Ranger (who's name is usually given as John or Dan Reid) had blown his cover before he even left the scene of the massacre.

And the people who were supposed to have massacreed him? Supposedly it was "Butch Cavendish" and "a man named Collins." Collins had infiltrated the Rangers (Law Enforcement Division) and was, for his troubles, later shot in the back by Butch Cavendish. That information comes from the Wikiepedia page on The Lone Ranger, and to show you how reliable Wikipedia isn't, consider that the page on The Hole In The Wall Gang correctly lists the leader of the Hole In The Wall Gang as "Butch Cassidy," but I didn't need them to tell me that: I knew it already, because as a kid, I took piano lessons, and one song that I was asked to learn to play was "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," a song my dad wanted me to learn because he liked the version of that song that played in the movie Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. That became the only part of that movie I ever watched:



And you can see that my ability to go from a baseball team to a Robert Redford movie in a conversation is what makes me such a great addition to any party. But don't bother inviting me; I'm pretty antisocial and don't go to others' houses to watch sporting events, which means that usually, I end up just saying this stuff to The Boy or Sweetie until they get bored and walk away, leaving all the salted-in-the-shell peanuts for me.

So there's method to my madness.

2. What's the most popular walk up song ever?

Also called "at bat" songs, the walk up song is an only-sometimes-noticed thing in sports: The last mention of it I could find on ESPN was in 2004, when they listed the at-bat songs for all 30 major league baseball teams' starting lineups -- on Page 3, a spot I didn't even know existed on their website. The Giants' roster was heavy on light metal and pop rock -- ZZ Top and Van Halen made the list-- while the 2004 Texas Rangers (Baseball Edition) went with a stranger mixture of hip-hop and movie themes: In talking about OF David Delluci's choice of "The Godfather Waltz," the site notes:

Recently, Dellucci requested "The Godfather Waltz," a k a "The Godfather Theme" as his at-bat music. An Italian American, Dellucci thought the tune fit him well. Right before the next game, the outfielder got cold feet and began debating whether to use the song or not. The Rangers staff played it anyway, and it has become all the rage in Texas. Fans call up the stadium by the dozens asking what the song is from, and why they recognize it. In turn, Dellucci has become a fan favorite.

Delluci's apparently not playing baseball anymore
, but here's his song:



MTV picked a 2010 all-star roster based on the at-bat songs chosen by players, and some usual suspects showed up there -- "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne, "Enter Sandman" for a closing pitcher, that kind of stuff.

The weirdest song on that list -- it's not just me saying that, but MTV, too -- was "My Chick Bad," the song picked by Phillies SS Jimmy Rollings:



MTV heralds that as "pushing the envelope." The lyrics to the song, though, make it clear that in playing that song at a public ballpark, it's not so much "pushing the envelope" as it is "finally proving that Tipper Gore lost her fight."

A site called "Operation Sports" has what purports to be an updated list of walk-up/at bat songs for the San Francisco Baseball Giants, and outside of my iPod it's the only list you'll see featuring both BeeGees and Led Zeppelin. (The official SF list is here.) The Texas Rangers (Baseball Edition) have their own list, on which appears "Crawl" by Kings of Leon...:




That's not how you know "Kings of Leon," though. You know them from the song "Molly's Chamber,"



...a song featured in a Jetta commercial. I was going to put the Jetta commercial on here so you could see it, but Jetta has forbidden embedding the commercial -- so they want you to see their commercial, but only when they feel like showing it to you. In response, I suggest that Volkswagen owners begin pretending their cars are subject to sudden unexplained acceleration, the way Toyota owners did last year. We'll show them not to forbid embedding videos.


Fernando Perez of the Rays said that during college, he chose "The Price Is Right" theme for his walk-up music:



But I couldn't find, anywhere, anything purporting to claim what has been the most-used at bat/walk-up song in Major League Baseball. So, since nobody else anywhere has determined what that song might be, I've decided that I will simply pick it for myself -- that's how facts work, right Republican Party? -- and I've decided that it's a fact that the single most popular walk-up/at bat song ever used by Major League Baseball is...

"Una Paloma Blanca," by The George Baker Selection:



Watch for it in the Series.

3. It's a World Record! Or not - -while records may be set, or not set, in the World Series, do you really care about those baseball records? Evidence* (*my personal opinion) suggests no. Since it's a proven fact** (**see foregoing note) that every single baseball player, ever, has taken steroids and also been helped by Delaware-candidate-style black magic*** (***my last chance to make fun of Christine O'Donnell before she goes down by 20 points next Tuesday), we all know that Major League Baseball records are meaningless.

But what about records tangentially involving baseball? Well, those obviously have all kinds of meaning, and can be used to sprinkle into the conversation whenever the action in the game starts to lag**** (****which will be constantly; it's baseball, after all.). So here's a few baseball-related World Records to keep in mind while you don't watch the World Series:

Fastest Mile Run While Balancing a Baseball Bat? 7 minutes, 17 seconds -- which is faster than I can run a mile not balancing anything. The farthest anyone's walked while balancing a baseball bat is 7 miles, according to that same site. The longest throw of a baseball belongs to Canadian -- finally something for Canadia to celebrate!-- Glen Gorbous, who threw one 445 feet, 10 inches, back in 1957. Women, you're lagging behind. The longest throw by a woman was only 296 feet, back in 1931. (No 21st Century Woman has challenged that throw?)

"Sensei" Karl Varley of New Zealand -- what is it about New Zealand and World Records? -- claims the not-officially-recognized-by-Guiness record for most baseball bats broken in under 60 seconds:



I didn't count, but apparently it's more than 23. But for weirdest-baseball-related records, I'm going with largest toast at a single venue. No, it's not a giant piece of toast, much as I'd like that; it's the 27,126 people who simultaneously toasted each other after the fifth inning of a game between the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and the Hanshin Tigers.

What's interesting to note about that record is that there were 27,789 people at the stadium -- so over 600 people refused to take part in that toast. Spoilsports.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm Finding It Harder And Harder To Root For Favre. (Road To A Championship, Video Edition)

On the eve, or something like that, of LeBron's debut, let's check in on Road To A Championship (Or At Least A Roster Spot) to see who's winning -- TO, Favre, or LeBron.

In first place by virtue of not having done anything amazingly stupid lately, and because he has yet to play a meaningful game with Dwyane Wade's team, is LeBron, who's latest move is a Nike Commercial that is controversial enough to get itself embedded into Dan Patrick's website (among others?)



Poking fun at Charles Barkley (and eating a doughnut) is good enough to get that ad to go... what's the corporate version of viral? It's not really viral marketing if it's all corporatized, as all Nike/ESPN ads are... how about corporatal. The ad goes corporatal as various "news" outlets discuss the "news" that LeBron is confronting his critics in the classicly confrontational style of selling overpriced shoes to basketball wannabes -- but give credit, as this commercial does a little philosophizin', as LeBron asks at the end "Should I be what you want me to be?"

To which I think the answer must be a resounding Yes. How can America go on without LeBron personally being what each and every one of us wants him to be? You know, kind of like what Obama was for the first 60 days he was in office, before the tides started rising again and Jim Bunning kept getting his way.

In second place is TO, who, in spite of his team's 2-4 record is at least averaging 6 catches per game for an average of 14 yards or so per catch -- that's on pace to get 96 catches for more than 1300 yards -- and who also can tie a tie:

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&brand=foxsports&from=foxsports_en-us_videocentral&vid=740c033b-c544-4150-9d2e-ae504e73bca5" target="_new" title="Cubed: Terrell Owens Fashion Consultant">Video: Cubed: Terrell Owens Fashion Consultant</a>

And, TO is hosting a Celebrity Bowl! You can "Join Terrell Owens, His Teammates, and Celebrity Friends" on December 6 to bowl in benefit for the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. The "Celebrity Friends" aren't named anywhere that I can find, but I'm sure it'll include a Kardashian.

And last... plus least... is Favre. This sums it up:

Is That Really The Test The NFL Uses To Determine A Good Call? (Quotent Quotables.)


You know who never gripes about a bad call? The team that won by 30. If your team wins by 30, you don't care how many bad calls there were in the game.

If, on the other hand, your team is barely eking out victories (or barely not eking them out and losing), you'll complain and complain and complain about bad calls and bad decisions by your quarterback and (for all I know the crummy food) they serve on the plane to Lambeau because all that distracts the press from noticing that you, yourself, didn't do so hot a job coaching.

Right, Not Really The Coach Brad Childress? Right -- and listen to how NRTC Childress criticized the refs for blowing the call on Shiancoe's Emanuel-style catch Sunday night:

They said he didn't control it, and he controlled it... the litmus is 50 drunks in a bar. Those 50 drunks say that's a catch."

And at the sound of the words "fifty drunks in a bar," Ben Roethlisberger yelled out "Hot damn, I've got dates for Halloween now."

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Weekend Happened:


You watched sports; I did too. And here's what we saw...

Pumpkin Carving Happened: Shown at right is a pumpkin from a few years back. I can't take pictures of the pumpkins Mr Bunches and I carved last night because we don't have lights for them yet. But we carved 'em -- four of them: A sarcastic pumpkin, a spider, a Heffalump pumpkin, and the Sad Little Pumpkin. Then we threw out the spider pumpkin because Mr Bunches was afraid of it.

Brad Childress Not Reading This Blog Happened: Did you watch the battle of the teams that didn't want to win on Sunday night? And did you see that Brad Childress, with his fear of The Two and his obvious failure to have Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! bookmarked, blew the game?

Favre's three picks are taking the blame for the loss today, but a bigger contribution came when, down 28-17 after Favre's second interception of the night, the Vikings scored a touchdown to make it 28-23. I mumbled to myself (because Sweetie was sleeping): "Use The Two!" It was the perfect time for that: You're down by more than 3, whether you make the EP or not: If you kick the point, it's 28-24 and you need a touchdown to go ahead. If you Use The Two and miss it, you're down 28-23 and need a touchdown to go ahead. But if you Use The Two and score, a field goal will tie the game. It's Win-Win! Unless you're Not Really The Coach Brad Childress, who followed up his meek decision to sit on the ball at half with the meek decision to kick the meaningless point-after, which is what led to the need for a touchdown on that last drive. How much easier would it have been for the Vikings to simply need a field goal to tie it up? We'll never know.

The World Series With Actual Baseball-Type Weather Happened: Remember when Kenny Rogers -- not that Kenny Rogers -- had to cheat in the World Series because baseball plays 130 more games than people care about, pushing the World Series back to Thanksgiving? At least this year, with games in Texas and San Francisco, you'll be able to not care about the Series taking place in warmer weather; when they break into football with highlights, the players won't have to be wearing parkas.

And, if you know this sports blog -- know it like Brad Childress doesn't -- you know that with the World Series starting, a Whodathunkit?! is on the way!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Use The Two!


What's the one thing your football team can do to really improve their chances of winning? Get more free agents? Run the ball more? Pass the ball more? Use the pass to set up the run? Vice versa? Hire a new coach? (Maybe so, in Dallas and Green Bay.) Stop turnovers? Switch to a 3-4 defense? Switch to a 4-3? Get a new stadium? Use the spread more? Bench Jay Cutler?

Odds are, you all answered that one -- or more -- of those were the answer for your football team, the one thing (or several things, or Jay Cutler-y things) that were keeping your team from being truly great.

But you're all wrong. The one thing your football team can do to really become a better team, to really win more games, doesn't cost a thing. It doesn't require any personnel changes. It doesn't happen on draft day. And it doesn't rhyme with mench May Mutler.

The one thing your team can do that will improve its chances of winning each and every game without spending a single dollar more on anything is this:

Go for the two point conversion, every time.

In sports, you win by scoring points. Not by defense, not by pitching: Defense keeps people from scoring, making it easier to win by scoring fewer points, but it doesn't put points on the board (not often, not enough.) Offense puts points on the board, and points on the board is what makes a team win, specifically having more points than the other team.

But, given the chance to put more points on the board, coaches in football games routinely leave a point laying around without ever trying to score that extra point; rarely do coaches go for 2 after a touchdown. Instead, they kick the extra point and walk off the field, a point short of where they could be.

I've written about this before, but it's on my mind again now because I've followed the controversy about Wisconsin's coach Bret Bielema going for two late against Minnesota (and then blaming it on the card, as though coaches have no discretion about it.) And then I watched as the Packers this past weekend scored a touchdown late and opted to tie the game by kicking the EP rather than win it by going for two. And it's happened other times this year that teams which should have gone for two for the win didn't -- and lost. And there have been precious few times when a team that was down in a game did the right thing by going for two; the only one I can think of is Tampa Bay this past weekend, against the Saints: down 24-0, the Buccaneers scored to make it 24-6, and then went for 2. The attempt failed, but the Bucs were on the right track, there.

I don't get it. Now, granted, there are lots of things I don't get in football, including how Wade Philips and Norv Turner keep getting jobs, but this one seems to me to be not so much a "football" thing as a "common sense" thing. You have a chance to score more points; why not take it?

It's so rare in any sport that a regular play can be turned into an extra-point play, giving a team a chance to score a little more for doing the same thing. Baseball and hockey and soccer don't allow it at all: every score is 1 point. Basketball only allows it sometimes -- a 3-point shot or a basket-and-foul. But football allows it every time you score a touchdown: Every single time a team passes the goal line, the game lets them try to add 1, or 2 -- and coaches almost uniformly, and meekly, take the 1.

Fans get upset when teams don't go for it, when they don't score touchdowns, when they seem to be not trying their hardest to win; why not demand your team try to put more points on the board?

Imagine the effect of a team going for two every time it scored a touchdown. Going for two, and making it, instantly puts pressure on the other team to do that, too: Your team is suddenly up 8, not 7, and the other team is going to have to respond by trying to get 8, not 7, points. So getting the two-point conversion is instantly helpful.

But missing it doesn't hurt you that badly: Assume my team scores first and goes for 2 and misses. The score is now 6-0. Your team then scores, takes the 1, and makes it. It's 6-7. My team can take the lead again with a field goal, anyway, and another touchdown and 2-pointer would make it 14-7. If my team scores another touchdown and misses the 2, it's 12-7. Even after another score and EP by your team, my guys are still only a field goal away; your team has to score four touchdowns and four extra points before my side can't make it up with one field goal.

And if your team is going to score four touchdowns, it's not very likely my team's going to win.

The traditional argument against going for 2 is that it doesn't work all the time. Coaches and "analysts" routinely say that 99% of point-after kicks are made, while the two-point conversion works (they say) only about 50% of the time.

If that's true -- and I'm not saying it is -- but if it's true, then it's an argument in favor of going for two. Scoring 1 point on almost 100% of your point-afters is the same thing, mathematically speaking, as scoring 2 points on about 50% of your point-afters. If coaches were not mathematically challenged, and pathologically conservative, they'd see that.

The 2-point conversion -- a feature of the AFL -- was reintroduced to the NFL in 1994. Since then, it's had varied success rates that were pinned by one New York Times story at about 50%. And yet, according to the Times story, coaches still don't know when to use it or how to use it and haven't ever figured it out. Each coach has their own rules for when they will and when they won't -- Failed Coach Herm Edwards wouldn't consider going for 2 anytime before 12 minutes were left in the game, for example -- while other coaches tried to have some logic in when they went for it and when they didn't. Says the Times:

Brian Billick, a former Ravens coach, said he was more likely to try 2-point conversions on the road because he thought his team was more likely to convert one play than to complete an extended drive in overtime.

Which seems like a good philosophy, except that the one play is going to be the final play of the game, a winner-take-all play in which the home crowd could get the home defense fired up, while an overtime would allow for a brief break in the action and possibly lull the crowd, while also allowing for special teams breakdowns (such as a kick out of bounds or fumble) that could result in a short field.

But you don't need me to argue that Billick's strategy was flawed, as in that same article he undercut his own thinking and said he was lying about going for it, as the Times reported:

Billick said he would usually rather play for a tie and go to overtime than try for 2 for a win because his defense was good enough to stop offenses in overtime.

Which also is flawed, because while his defense was good, getting a stop doesn't help the offense, which Billick didn't trust to complete one play or a sustained drive.

Other coaches don't seem to get it but actually show a greater understanding about how to Use the 2: Tony Sparano -- whose name is the generator of the most annoying pop culture references from lazy sportswriters-- went for 2 against the Jets after his team had gone up 30-19; the attempt failed and critics said it wouldn't have helped anyway. Asked his thinking on the move, Sparano said:

“I just didn’t know how many more at-bats that team was going to get, O.K.? The way the game was going, and with where we were offensively in this football game, I had no idea how many more at-bats that team was going to get.”

Which doesn't sound smart, but it is: coaches don't know how many times they'll get the ball, so why not try to score as much as possible. In that game, the Dolphins' offense managed to gain only 104 yards, while the Jets scored four times in the second half alone. While the 2-pointer failed, it was a smart move on Sparano's part: get points while the gettin's good.

That was a thought that legendary cryer Dick Vermeil would have after his Chiefs failed to go for two against the Patriots* in 2002, kicking the point after and losing in overtime. The Chiefs had gained nearly 400 yards in that game, and Vermeil later said he didn't factor in the ease with which they'd moved the ball.

One problem is that when coaches go for two, and miss it, they get the blame for losing the game. Consider this blurb from Doc's Sports Service:

Much more recently, it can be argued that Carolina Panthers Coach John Fox may have cost his team a chance to win Super Bowl XXXVIII for his decision to go for two with more than 12 minutes left facing a five-point deficit. In this case, the Panthers missed the try for two but then scored six minutes later to take a one-point lead. At this point they pretty much had to go for two, which failed again, to try to make it a field goal game as the fourth quarter began to wind down. In what would turn out to be one of the most entertaining fourth quarters in Super Bowl history, the Patriots marched right back down the field scoring a touchdown of their own to reclaim a five-point lead. With less than three minutes to play Patriots Coach Bill Belichick's decision to go for two, which succeeded, required very little thought. Down by seven, Carolina went on to tie the game before losing on a last second field goal. The point is if they had not gone for the first two, they wouldn't have been compelled to go for the second try.

So John Fox got blamed for trying to scored as many points as possible in a football game, while the Panthers' players, the ones who'd actually failed to complete the attempts, were let off the hook. That's a syndrome that Tuesday Morning Quarterback has blamed for punts in the opponent's territory: Coaches would rather do the call fans expect, then the call that's right, because when they call what the fans want and it doesn't work, fans don't get mad at the coach and the coaches don't get fired.

And experts can't agree on it anyway: one blogger said that teams should never or almost never go for two. Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks like me: the 2-pointer is underused.

People who are against going for two uniformly cite the low success rate - -sometimes as low as 35%, usually around 50-55%, according to Football Prospectus, but those people don't factor in one other thing. Just as I pointed out that going for two (and making it) will make other teams also have to go for two -- as happened in the Panthers-Patriots* Super Bowl-- going for two will make your team better at it.

Practice makes perfect, right? Teams right now go for 2 only rarely -- 53 times in 2009, according to that Times article, and 35 times in 2006. There are 256 games in a regular season - -that's a tiny rate of attempts for play that's usually needed when everything's on the line. Teams actually make the two-pointer less effective than it could be by never using it... and then calling out the play when it's all-or-nothing.

Why use a rarely-practiced play on one of the most important snaps of the game? Going for two every time would mean that your team gets good at it - -and converts more of them. Then, when it comes down to the end of the game and Aaron Rodgers had just snuck in to put your team in striking range, the guys will be ready, knowing that they've done the 2-point conversion numerous times before and have made it on many of those plays. It'll be routine -- and your team will have a chance to win in regulation rather than risk it in OT.

I don't expect that we'll see teams going for 2 more often than we do now -- at least not the pro level. There are high school teams that have adopted unique approaches: one team never punts, for example -- and college teams that want to make an impact adopt seemingly-wacky schemes that then take over the football universe. Maybe one of them -- Boise State, perhaps?-- would take up the mantle of Use The Two and start being more high scoring and impressive.

But the rest of us will have to just sit and watch our teams leave points on the field and off the board - - and know that it's because the coaches and players don't really want to win. They just want to play it safe.





Monday, October 18, 2010

A-Rodg vs. McCarthy, Catbugs, and What's Right About The BCS: The Weekend Happened.


Stuff I did while you did the stuff you did...

"Catbugs" happened:
Shown at right: A caterpillar crawling on the nature trail where Sweetie
and I and Mr F and Mr Bunches went for a hike on Saturday -- climbing up to the highest point in Middleton for a scenic view of... some of Middleton. (Middleton's highest point is not really very high.) The highlight of the walk was the abundance of caterpillars trying to make their way across the path. I picked one up to show it to Mr F and Mr Bunches, and Mr Bunches proclaimed it "a bug." I then said "It's a caterpillar," to which he replied "Catbug."

Wisconsin's Victory Happened: When you beat the number one team, shouldn't you be the number one team? Especially when you beat them handily and prove a local blogger wrong in his prediction of bad things happening on Saturday night? I actually watched the game on Saturday with Sweetie... and, yeah, I know it was Sweetest Day, more on that in a moment ... and found it entertaining. Wisconsin played well, appeared well-coached despite still being coached by Bret Bieleman, and earned the victory. And this person:With their "OH ST BUX" personalized Wisconsin license plate probably feels a little more conflicted than ever this morning.

Don't worry, OH ST BUX. Once Ohio State raises the payola for its players, order will be restored to college football.

Kentucky's Victory Happened: When you beat the team that beat the former number one team, shouldn't you be... well, forget it. I was curious to see whether the Gamecocks could win again. Not curious enough to watch the game, but curious enough to check the scores at the bottom of the screen and watch the highlights about how Kentucky pulled out a victory over Spurrier's team. I bring this up because everyone knocks the BCS and the polls -- but it's the BCS and the polls and the fact that one loss can end your season that makes college football so exciting; I wanted to see if Spurrier's team could go on winning, or if somebody would knock them off.

There's no other sport where every single game counts as much as it does in college football, and changing a single thing about that would not be a good idea. You've got a system, college football, that gets people like me -- casual fans -- watching games and talking about them. The BCS ain't broke, and you know how the saying goes.

Rodgers' Sneak (And Disagreement With His Coach) Happened: Did you catch the great 4th-and-Goal play the Packers made to tie things up before going on to lose in OT against the Godawfulfins? Rodgers' sneak fooled even me -- not saying much -- as Kuhn motioned out of the backfield. I'd been telling The Boy that 4th-and-goal requires motion and trickery, because the previous three plays have been stopped, and when Kuhn went running out I figured that the was the trickery, but A-Rodg had even more up his sleeve, moving up like he was changing a play and then just taking the snap and walking into the end zone. Shades of Marino!



Even more interesting is the continued sniping back and forth between A-Rodg and coach Mike "Mike" McCarthy. SI pointed out not long ago that there was bad blood between Rodgers and McCarthy when McCarthy first became the head coach: Rodgers hadn't forgotten that McCarthy was part of the group that took Alex Smith over him for the 49ers.

Then, Rodgers took on McCarthy and the "lack of identity" on offense about three weeks ago. Then, Rodgers said his concussion didn't happen on the last play of the Redskins game, as McCarthy claimed it had. And now, Rodgers and McCarthy seem to disagree on whose idea, exactly, the sneak was:

According to [Offensive Coordinator Joe] Philbin, the play is designed to give Rodgers the option of simply taking the shotgun snap and trying to throw for the touchdown or, if he sees a favorable alignment up front from the defense, moving under center and keeping the ball on the sneak.... “It’s a built-in thing. He sees a soft spot in the defense and takes it,” Philbin said.

But Rodgers sees it differently and says the play idea came up in the huddle:

“They called timeout right before that and we were in the same formation. The line said, ‘Hey, if they line up with nobody over center again, let's just sneak it.' So we talked about it real quick,” Rodgers said. “They actually lined up with a guy over the center, but the next guy out was, I think, outside the tackle on the left side. So I just told them I was going to act like I was changing something and then just went up there and quick-snapped it and got it in there."

Designed play? Or Rodgers' quick thinking? It seems there's trouble in River City as the "Coach" and "The Anointed One" continue to disagree.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Short Stories (With Long Titles)

Based on a true story.  A true story you never heard about and didn't care about if you did.  But it's an important true story nonetheless.



If you are going to write about giraffes, the temptation is to call them all names like "Gerald" or "Rafael," but if your story is one in which a boatload of giraffes goes to war in the beginning of time then... wait, "Rafael Giraffe" actually sounds pretty good. It was the beginning of time, and the giraffes had just found out that Human God was going to flood the world.  But Rafael has a plan.  He has TWO plans, in fact. Neither works. 




A story in which the main characters are a dinosaur and a baseball player but they never meet and may not, in fact, have anything to do with each other at all, depending on how much you think about it.  Piatnitzkysaurus like chocolate.  The baseball player likes card tricks.  See what I mean about not having anything to do with each other? 



A rook is not a castle. That is true. It is also true what it says in this story about the number of possible configurations of a chess board, but that does not become important until the end. You are going to love the main character of this story, who is a rook.  That's right. A chess piece. But he's a very optimistic chess piece and in the end, isn't that what it's all about? 



Buzzards Loop:  originally published at The Truth Magazine, then in my collection Just Exactly How Life Looks.  Meet Presley and Josh, two cowboys wanderin' in the desert, talking about having sex with women in Albuquerque.  Well, one of them is talking.


If An Aardvark And A Komodo Dragon Were Actually To Decide To Engage In Combat, It Almost Certainly Would Not Go Like This, But, Then, Maybe It Would As There Are Many Things About The Natural World We Do Not Yet Understand.  
The title tells it all!  Not really.  But the title tells you what the story is about!  Story is here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In times of trouble, our nation turns its lonely eyes to Vigilante Cheerleader.

Sometimes sports writers get it wrong, and sometimes they get it really wrong. Which is why this blog exists -- to get you the information about sports that sportswriters (and sportstalkers on the radio, and sportssitters on TV) don't get you.

So this week, while the rest of the "sports" "world" was focused on that huge Brett Favre story -- no, not that one, but this one:




Where was I? I'm sorry. I lost my train of thought. There is nothing funnier that "Football To The Groin." Right, Homer?




From which you can see that the big story the "sports" "media" was following this week was the Vikings have decided to plagiarize The Simpsons. Which is dumb of the "media," because plagiarism isn't a story; it's common in the sports world. ( As I learned.) It's a little-known fact that J."K" Rowling got her start in sports writing, which may explain why this keeps happening. (J."K." also recently said she may write another Harry Potter book, which I can only hope is called "Harry Potter And The Golden Snitch To The Groin.")

BUT, while "sports" "people" were talking about J.K. Rowling throwing footballs at Brett Favre's groin, I was noticing other stories that not only went more or less under the radar, but also in which the basic point was missed... and I'm talking, of course, about Mackenzie Putnam, Vigilante Cheerleader.

From NPR.org comes a story that also appeared as a blurb in Sports Illustrated about two weeks ago -- a story that deserves far more attention than NPR. I'll give you their take on it with the two lead paragraphs

Jacksonville receiver Kassim Osgood leapt out a second-floor window to escape a gun-wielding man who attacked him and a 19-year-old Jaguars cheerleader, according to police.

The armed intruder exchanged gunfire with his ex-girlfriend, Mackenzie Rae Putnal, after putting a gun to her head Monday night, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

That's under a headline about a Jaguar's receiver being attacked in a cheerleader's home. You have to read five paragraphs later to get to this:

Putnal and Osgood were watching television around 11 p.m. in an upstairs game room when a man walked in with his face covered with a plastic bag and pointed a gun at them. Saying "I can't believe you're with that guy," the man pulled Putnal around the room by her hair and hit her with the gun and his fists before hitting Osgood in the head with the gun, according to the report. The gunman took Putnal's cell phone and tackled her as she tried to flee. When he ordered the couple to sit on the floor, she escaped downstairs in her parents' home and grabbed a gun, police said. They shot at each other and both missed.

So the Cheerleader saved the football player? Forget Save The Cheerleader -- Vigilante Cheerleader doesn't need your help, man.

Even that version, from NPR, seems a little weak compared to the SI blurb, which says that as they were attacked

Putnal escaped by jumping downstairs, over a balcony, and used a laser-sighted pistol to trade shots with the intruder.

And here you thought dental hygiene majors-- Mackenzie Putnal's major -- were meek and retiring. I bet you'll floss now, won't you, scumbag?

And yet, all the stories focus on whether the receiver is okay. One even provided his stats (meager and unimpressive, like his behavior in this incident) while ignoring the fact that this cheerleader should be held up as a hero to everyone.

Seriously: I'm not in favor of people owning guns, mostly because have you seen people? We, as a general rule, cannot be trusted to carry around lethal weapons. But I'll make an exception for any cheerleader who's essentially Batman (only a Batman with an in-depth knowledge of gingivitis and a great repertoire of dance routines -- a SuperBatman -- if you will.) So as you go about your business today (your business being to giggle everytime you remember Brett Favre's football-to-the-groin), take a moment to thank your lucky stars that we're all a little safer, thanks to Vigilante Cheerleader:




Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wisconsin Football Fans Just Happy To Be There, Thanks.


Some places take seriously their sports' teams contention for national titles -- hoping (and requiring) that their team actually compete for a championship.

Not Wisconsin, where Cheeseheads are glad to just be invited to the party and won't ever require that their team really contend as one of the best.

This is on my mind because of Tom Oates' column in the Wisconsin State Journal today. Headlined with the innocuous-seeming title "Despite injuries, the Packers aren't drowning in this year's watered-down NFC," Oates helps give Packers Coach Mike "Mike" McCarthy a free ride this year by blaming injuries for how bad the Packers looked getting to 3-2, and then goes on to add that everything's okay anyway, because the Packers might still get to the playoffs, where they could lose to, you know, an actually good football team:

It would be helpful, however, if the Packers could find something beyond McCarthy's resolute optimism to hang their helmets on, something more tangible to help them maintain their status as a playoff contender. ... the best thing the Packers have going for them at this point is the sorry state of the conference. Go ahead and shudder at the thought of what might happen to the NFC champion should it meet Pittsburgh, Baltimore or the New York Jets in the Super Bowl, but if the Packers can keep their heads above water until they get their players back — the ones that are coming back, anyway — they could still make something of this season.

Oates finishes up by saying the Packers "still have a shot at making the playoffs in the NFC," which Oates seems to feel is good enough. So what if the Packers don't stand a chance of beating any AFC contender? So what if the mere thought of playing a good team should make the Packers "shudder." At least they can get to a playoff game, and isn't that good enough?

I question whether having your team get to the Super Bowl, only to get slaughtered, is good enough -- and I'm a Bills fan since 1990, so I know what I'm talking about -- but getting there may be all Wisconsin sports fans want.

After all, year after year, Wisconsin goes through the motions of claiming it wants to contend for a BCS title, only to then schedule teams like Austin Peay and San Jose State in their nonconference schedule -- scotching any chance (sorry, Scottish people, for that slur) that the Badgers could actually contend for a national championship.

Do Badgers' fans complain about that? They do not. While Wisconsin continues to go to mediocre bowl games and generally get featured on national TV only when a number one team comes to town (I'm predicting, by the way, Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 17), attendance remains high and there's no shortage of red on State Street on Saturday.

Remember fans -- of Wisconsin sports and other states -- you won't get more than you demand. If you insist your team just be in the hunt, the owners won't try to do more than that, and if they can stay in the hunt without paying top dollar for a running back available in a trade, they'll just stand pat and make a bunch of comments about "building through the draft."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm the Heir To A Potato Chip Empire, and Other Facts To Help In Analyzing the National League Baseball Playoffs The NC! Way!

Click here for the AL preview.

The Major League Baseball playoffs started this week, and I understand that the first few games were incredibly exciting to all three of the people who watched them.

Well, to two of the people who watched them. The third was a Mr. Myron Sedgwick, of Naperville, Illinois, and Myron only watched the baseball playoffs because his wife, Linda, had hidden the remote control on him to get back at him for "accidentally" deleting the Dancing With The Stars episode where David Hasselhoff did the rhumba. True story. And Myron will be damned if he's going to get up and change the channel manually. Myron didn't fight on Iwo Jima just so he could get up and walk across the living room like a sucker. (Myron didn't fight on Iwo Jima at all. He spent most of the Big One holed up in a bar in Tuscaloosa, working as a shipping clerk for a local office supply store. But Linda doesn't know that and by God, she never will.)

The return of the baseball playoffs means several things:

1. The excruciatingly long baseball season is just about over; we've only got two more months of baseball games to get angry about pre-empting our local programming, and

2. The NBA season is starting, and

3. It's time again for The Return of the NonSportsmanlike Conduct 100% Accurate, Never-Fail, Always-Right, Sure-Fire System For Picking The Playoff Winner (The NC100%ANF,AR,SFSFPTPW" for short.)

That's right: The NC100%ANF,AR,SFSFPTPW, which, as usual, is running a bit late (what do you expect from a guy who's only about 1/6 of the way through his NFL (p)reviews?) is back and for the somethingth consecutive year, the NC100%ANF,AR,SFSFPTPW will once again accurately predict who I think will win the World Series this year, using a patented method that over time, has proven itself, again and again, to be (as the name says) One Hundred Percent Accurate.

And remember, folks, that when I say one hundred percent, that's all the percents there are. People who promise you more than 100% are liars, and you should sue them, and you should then split the profits of that lawsuit with me because I gave you the idea. But if you get in trouble suing them, I'm going to deny I know you. Yes, even you, Myron.

Last year, you'll recall, the 100% System accurately predicted that the World Series would be the Cardinals vs. Groundbreaking artist Christian Faur, and that was a series to remember, wasn't it, sports fans? Let's see who, this year, the 100% System picks - -and get those bets ready, because you absolutely can't go wrong betting on the team the 100% System picks as the eventual Series winner.

This year, the 100% System has been tweaked a bit, as you'll see, but the basics are still there: I look at teams and judge them by their mascot and nickname, their craziest fan on Youtube, and the weirdest thing for sale in their pro shop. But this year, I'm going to drop "Politicians' bets" as a category, because if there's one group of society that's letting me down more often than scientists, it's politicians; they simply don't place good bets on their teams anymore. Instead, I'm going to substitute "Strangest Fact About Their City" as the fourth category. At the end, the team with the highest score in the NL will be the NL's entrant, and the team with the highest score in the AL will be the AL's entrant in the Fall (But More Like Early Winter) Classic, and the team with the overall highest score is the team that'll win the Series.

Simple. And, as I've noted several times now but I'll say it again because you seem skeptical, 100% accurate. I begin, as always, with the National League, because they're not going to win the Series anyway.

There are four teams from the National League vying to be the one to lose to the Yankees this year. They are: The Cincinnati Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Atlanta Braves, and the San Francisco Giants.

1. Mascot/Team Nickname: Of the four, the team that jumps out at me first is the Reds -- because why the Reds? And, as usual, when I have a question, I Google it, because that's how everyone answers everything these days, even scientists. Asking Google Why are the Cincinnati Reds called the Reds gets you to a site called "All Experts," where a guy named "Jacob Manser," who is apparently an expert (how else would he get on the site? Huh, Mr. Skeptic?) has this to say:


Hi Jen- I apologize for the time, I've been swamped lately..
Anyway, the Reds were originally the first team to wear red socks with their uniforms, and so it became their trademark and their team name became the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Over time, the name was eventually shortened to the Reds.

Which only leads to more questions, like Who's Jen? And What is Jacob Manser so busy with? And actually, it's more like what was Jacob Manser so busy with, back in 2005, when he posted that? Was it something to do with national security? Because, if so, Jen really should have cut him some slack.

And, also, this question: If the Reds were the first team to wear red socks with their uniforms, why did they get stuck with Reds while Boston got Red Sox?

Wikipedia, which for some reason I still check for answers despite the fact that Wikipedia is about as reliable as tossing a bunch of Scrabble letters into the air and hoping they land in intelligible form (which is how I passed the LSAT), says that the team was first the Red Stockings, then then the Reds, then the Redlegs during the heyday of Communist Witch Hunts, and then became the Reds again once we all calmed down and admitted that the federal government is going to control every aspect of our lives because we elected a Muslim.

I don't know what to make of all that. I mean, I like the nickname Reds, but I don't like that they caved to Boston and I don't like that they caved to Tailgunner Joe, and, also, I'm not sure I'm crazy about the name having its origin in the longer Red Stockings. Let's go with a one for the Reds.

Then there's the Braves. I'm not sure where, we, as a society, have ended up on Indian nicknames and symbols. Are we okay with them now? Are we not? Should it be okay that there's a team named the Redskins but they don't have a Native American on their helmet? There's so many unanswered questions about these things -- much like the set of unanswered questions I have about eggs, too -- because I'm not sure if eggs are healthy, or not, or partially healthy, or what?

In fact, I have a lot of questions about a lot of things, questions like While we're on the subject, what's "almond milk?" Because when I see the commercial, it kind of grosses me out.

So, because the Braves have me now thinking about almond milk and feeling a little queasy, I'm going to award them zero points.

That leaves the Phillies and the Giants. Last year, I awarded the Phillies one point for their mascot, but I didn't comment on the nickname Phillies, because I suspected, even then, that the Phillies would make it back to the playoffs this year and I'd need something new to write about, which proves that I know way more about sports, and writing, than you do.

This year, allow me to comment on how much I dislike nicknames that are merely derivatives of the city or area you play in -- the PHILadelphia PHILllies, for example, and the Houston Texans for another example. Those names are actually one step below the generic, non-offending names that were all the rage for kids' soccer teams throughout history, and pro sports teams in the past few years, like Wind and other such terms. Those, at least, had the benefit of being somewhat original: The Miami Heat wasn't very threatening, but it at least was kind of a play on words (because Miami is hot, you see.)

But Phillies and the other one I just thought of -- the Washington Nationals don't even have that. If everyone thought as unoriginally as the people who named those teams, we'd have nothing but Milwaukee Milwaukeans or Kansas City Kansas Citians or Buffalo Buffalos, which actually might be kind of neat, but I digress.

To top it off, a filly is a female horse -- so the Phillies are a generically-named female horse synonym. Zero points.

And then there's the Giants. They copy the New York Giants, which bothers me because while I'm not a fan of the New York Giants, I am a fan of football and many times throughout the year when I hear sportscasters say Giants I think New York Giants and get excited only to realize that they're actually talking about the team that kept Barry Bonds around until he could claim to have the home run record, cruelly denigrating the memory of a class act, Hank Aaron, by letting Bonds cheat his way to more home runs, all in the name of getting more money for themselves. I'm all for making money, but there's a limit, and when you support an obvious cheater's career for years in order to make money off of him while further watering down one of the great records in sports, you've crossed that limit. Minus one for them.

Score so far:

Reds: 1
Braves: 0
Phillies: 0
Giants: -1

2. Craziest Fan On Youtube. This category is always fun to judge. (Note: I'm using a little-known definition of fun; here, fun means "God, I can't stand looking at drunken idiots thinking they're hilarious any more. If I wanted to see that, I'd go look back at the videotape of me breakdancing at my friend Jeff's wedding reception.")

Oh, well, let's get on with it. We find the Craziest Fan on Youtube by going to Youtube and searching for "Crazy [insert team nickname] Fan." Then I just take the top-ranked video that search turns up.

Here's Crazy Reds Fan:



That one didn't get really crazy until the security guard appeared to rape him towards the end -- but this isn't "Sex Crazed Security Guards," it's "Crazy Fan," so I'm going with zero.

Here's Crazy Braves Fan,



And the notes to that video say that the guy "reeked of marijuana." He's actually not all that crazy seeming, though -- other than appearing to believe he's actually pitching. Not all that crazy until you realize that those hand gestures he did in the beginning are actually part of a secret Mayan incantation that has just-- because you watched it -- ensured that you won't survive the 2012 disaster. Sucks to be you; I didn't watch.

Here's Crazy Phillies Fan:



And he's not exactly the crazy I'm looking for -- although I like how the news camera crew didn't try to help and the news anchor just blithely assumed the guy was faking being hurt after falling off a car. Between cheering a possibly-paralyzed Michael Irvin, rooting for Dog Killer Michael Vick, and now laughing off a guy's injuries, Philadelphia's natives just sell their city, don't they?

Zero points.

And then there's Crazy Giants Fan,



Who is a football Giants fan. For God's Sake, SF, change your nickname. Quit riding the coattails of another team. Minus one.

That, overall, was the most pathetic bunch of "Crazy Fans" I've ever had for one of these posts. I oughta give you all demerits, but I'm still a little mad at the Giants, so I'm going to dock them another point and let that be a lesson to all you fans.

Updated Scores:

Reds: 1
Braves: 0
Phillies: 0
Giants: -3

3. Strangest Fact About Their City. This category oughta really shine -- especially compared to the lame set of Crazy Fans we just had to sit through. To get strange facts about a city, I could travel to that city, or ask a person who's from that city, or do some actual research about that city.

But that all sounds like work - -especially if the traveling is to Cincinnati, a city best known for being hard to spell, and also best known for being possibly located in Ohio. Instead of all that, I'm going to just go to a random website that promises to have weird facts about Cincinnati. This site, the blog "Time To Make Some Memories" by someone named "Sassy Marie," actually ranks higher than the official Cincinnati site in searches for weird facts about Cincinnati, so, money well spent, Cincinnati IT guys.

Sassy Marie, whose blog claims she's from Cincinnati, says this about her city:

Got Grippo? Comes from a family factory in Groesbeck...

I don't know what that means. I think it's a haiku.

But I dutifully Googled Grippo Groesbeck (sounds like a minor character in the Gasoline Alley comic strips, doesn't it?) and guess what I found: I might be the heir to a potato chip fortune!

"Grippo," it turns out, is a potato chip making company headed by Ralph W. Pagel.

Which is my last name! That's probably my Uncle Ralph, who I didn't know I have but who will, on reading this post, welcome me into some distant part of the family that I never knew about because my grandpa was feuding with them; my grandpa was always feuding with someone. Once, he got mad at a grocery store because they were charging fourteen cents more than another store for hamburger buns and wouldn't refund the difference.

Uncle Ralph notes that the company makes chips with distinctive flavors, including Pepper and sour cream, sweet Bermuda onion, salt and vinegar and a new cheddar-cheese-and-jalapeno chip. That, and they have a "distinctive" loop-shaped pretzels. I wasn't able to find a picture of them online, but once I'm installed as an Executive Vice President with a cushy corner office, I'll be sure to post a shot of me eating one. Call me, Uncle Ralph!

I'm going to award Cincinnati, my future hometown, 5 points for this one. But then I'm going to take away a point, because, in retrospect, I don't really understand how anyone can like "Salt and vinegar" flavored chips.

Atlanta, meanwhile, serves up its own set of strange facts, which I found on a site called "Facts About Atlanta," and run by something called "Atlanta Hostel." I'm torn between which fact is better, here, so I'll give you both:

1. Atlanta has "the second largest theatre organ in the nation - The Fox Theatre."

And

2. Atlanta has the "tallest escalator in the Southeast - at MARTA's Peachtree Center station - 192 feet."

I chose those two because first, I was curious about the tallest escalator in the Southeast. I'm pretty sure this is the Marta Peachtree escalator, if my Googling skills are any good (and they are; I'm the best Googler you'll ever find. I can Google anything.)


That looks pretty tall. Also, "Marta Peachtree" would make a good girlfriend for "Grippo Groesbeck," don't you think? I'm not even all the way through this post and I've pretty much created an entire 1930s comic serial.

The thing that really intrigued me about the two interesting facts was how they actually encapsulated the Atlanta Braves' embrace of America's newest sporting phenomenon, the act of "Losing But Claiming You Kind Of Won Somehow Anyway."

I've written about this before, but it's worth looking at again. By proudly noting that they've got the second best this or the second largest that or the biggest thing but only in this localized region, what you're really saying is We didn't win, but we're going to brag about it anyway. You've awarded yourself the silver, or bronze, or worse, medal. You've hoisted a pennant for being the Wild Card. The second-largest theater in the US isn't anything to brag about; it's not the winner. At some point in the recent past, the US went from wanting to be the Best In The World at everything to a nation that proudly proclaims how many silver medals it won at the Olympics. Look, great for you and all -- you got a medal. But you lost. Did you ever notice they don't give a trophy to the team that loses the Superbowl? The World Series Loser -- i.e., whoever plays against the Yankees-- doesn't get a placque on the wall.

But they probably will, soon, as the "We Almost Won" idea continues to sink in and takes root. And it's places like Atlanta that are helping it do that. Don't brag about your second largest organ. Don't write up your largest escalator [but only if you don't actually look at other escalators]. Don't talk up your silver medals. You want to brag, go out and build the BIGGEST organ. That's what Taipei did; they went ahead and built the World's Largest Skyscraper, beating the Sears Tower by a big chunk of height -- and Sears promptly folded its tail between its legs and sold its now-loserish building. (I think it's owned by Arby's, now.)

And that's what the people who proposed to build the "Burj Dubai" did, too, setting out to build themselves a new tallest building -- only to then be bested by the plans by another group to build an even newer, even taller, even more as-yet-still-hypothetical building, which also doesn't have a name.

So, apparently, there are two trends right now: Americans are content to claim that losing is winning, and the rest of the world is content to pretend someday they're going to build a skyscraper.


But you get my point, right? The point is, Atlanta's full of losers. Minus 2 points, Atlanta.

For Philadelphia, my search led me to "StrangeFacts.com." Putting the subject of your blog right in the URL is proof that all the stuff on that website is 100% reliable and written by a knowledgeable, rogueishly handsome expert (see, e.g., www.nonsportsmanlikeconduct.com), so I had no difficulty believing that site when it says that "In Philadelphia, you can't put pretzels in bags based on an Act of 1760." Unfortunately for Philadelphia, I'm going to be in the potato chip and pretzel business soon, so I take that personally. Minus one.

San Francisco is the type of interesting city you'd expect to find many, many strange facts about. The number one result for that search is "Go California" on "About.com." I don't know how one gets to be a writer on "About.com," but there appears to be no entrance exam and no formal requirements to write about a subject, so I wasn't sanguine about the reliability of that site and expected that most of the facts would deal with the yeti.

There weren't any yeti-based facts, though. Instead, I was offered a chance to click manually through 15 pages of supposedly interesting facts, or skip to the end and see the gist of things. I like the gist of things approach; I'm a busy guy. So I skipped and found this actual section:

Common Questions About San Francisco Answered * What caused the 1906 San Francisco earthquake? How big was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake? The San Andreas Fault ruptured along 296 miles of its length. People weren't measuring earthquakes with numbers in 1906, but for comparison, 25 miles ruptured in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and scientists say the 1906 quake was 16 times more powerful than 1989.4 * What time is it in San Francisco? San Francisco is in the Pacific time zone. Use the U.S. time website to find out what time it is right now. * What county is San Francisco in? This one is easy. San Francisco is both city and county. Same borders, same government. * What does San Francisco mean? The city's name was taken from the Spanish mission. He's called San Francisco in Spanish and Saint Francisco in English.

Really? Those are common questions about San Francisco? There are that many people wondering what time it is in San Francisco? And those people need a website to then help them work out the actual time?

I'm going to be charitable, because I like the city, and simply award zero points.

Scores so far:

Reds: 5
Braves: -2
Phillies: -1
Giants: -3

4. Weirdest Thing For Sale In Their Pro Shop: As a lover of dollar stores and that one catalog I get in the mail that sells bags of candy and weird party trinkets and costumes for Thanksgiving, I look forward to this part of the 100% System because it helps me get a jump on my holiday shopping.

To find really good weird stuff, you've got to know how to shop; you've got to generally skip the clothing and hats and go to sale and home decor. The Reds' pro shop sale section was a bit disappointing at first -- mostly Pete Rose stuff, as you'd expect -- but on Page 2 I saw this:



And knew that was the one for me. It's a bear wearing Ken Griffey Jr's. jersey, and I assume that Griffey used to be a Red, which would make that okay, except that the official title of the thing is the Seattle Mariners Ken Griffey Jr. Tux Awards Bear.

That's right. For just $7.99 plus shipping, you Reds fans can celebrate... the Mariners' player getting an award.

That's awesome. But in reverse. It's emosewa. -2.

For the Braves I started in Home Decor, because those Atlanta Real Housewives have got me thinking that Atlantans are all a classy bunch (as well as just being a vowel away from being residents of a lost continent.) I wasn't disappointed; there are tons of categories under that broad classification, ranging from towels to lighting to office decor. A person could, it seems, surround themselves with Braves' logos and colors, getting up from their Braves bedding to towel off under a Braves light fixture with a Braves towel... you get the drift.

I chose "Atlanta Braves Tools" because I, like any decent sports fan, find myself frequently stuck hammering shingles onto a roof, or sawing a 2x4, or ... doing other repair-y things... and I don't want to be doing those things without some kind of reminder of the team I love. What's the point in scraping the dead raccoon out of the attic if you can't do it on an Official Atlanta Braves Vermin-Scraping Shovel.

The Pro Shop had no Vermin-Scraping Shovels, and in fact had only two tools, a hammer and a screwdriver. Both had fancy baseball-stitching grips. I settled on the hammer because with it, I could both pretend to be throwing a pitch and taking out my frustrations at never having made it in the Major Leagues -- where, if I had become a starting pitcher, I'd have no doubt had the nickname the Hammer. So for just $23.99, you can live our your own major league dreams in a frustrating, why-does-this-nail-keep-bending way:


I'll give it a 1.

The Phillies Pro Shop was as hard to find as the others; sports teams should really crack down on imposters using the words "Pro Shop" in their stores and sites-- the Pro Shop should be the official team store, don't you think? Especially since, in the NFL at least, the money spent at the official pro shop goes directly to the team and isn't shared. Imposter Pro Shops might be hurting your team and helping, God Forbid, the Kansas City Chiefs!

The Phillies actual pro shop didn't disappoint, though, as under "Memorabilia," I quickly found the "New York Mets vs Philadelphia Phillies Connect Four."



Ordinarily, if I were to look at that and say "Recreate all the thrill and excitement of an actual major league baseball game, only using checkers stacked vertically in a sort of updated tic-tac-toe game," you'd think I was being sarcastic. But in this case, I think the Connect Four game might be more exciting than an actual Mets-Phillies game.

I myself am waiting for Interleague Connect Four. Bud Selig'll unveil that around 2015. But it won't have Instant Replay, because Selig wants to protect the integrity of the game by ensuring at least one terrible call per playoff game.

For reminding me of the great ad tagline "Pretty Sneaky, Sis!," I'll give Philly 3.

San Francisco, having the hip, weird, rep that it has, I expected to have something cool or kinky or weird in its pro shop. To avoid anything too uncomfortable, though, I went to the Pets section, because nothing says cool like dressing up your pet in sports gear. That was disappointing, though -- just some leashes and collars, which I assume in SF have a dual use, and a pet t-shirt. So I headed over to SALE, where I found that the Giants' front office is copying me in advance.

Here's what I'm talking about there. When I started writing this post a few days ago (obviously, it takes me that long because I've got other things to do, like watch reruns of the episode of Freaks and Geeks where James Franco wants to be a punker but then decides not to) I picked that image of Goofy playing baseball as the header photo to lead this off.

Then, here I am, on Saturday morning, shopping the SALE section of the Giants' pro shop, and I find this:


Obviously -- quite obviously - -the Giants are aware of what I'm going to post, and they decided to copy it in advance, plagiarizing me in a futuristic way that I'm forced to assume means that the Giants have implanted some kind of device in my mind and can read my thoughts. Which means that while the Giants are far better at secretly tracking Americans than, say, the FBI, (if you don't want people to know you put a tracer on their car, Feds, don't come running to get it the moment it's deactivated), their impressive ability to monitor my every move isn't going to win them any points from me. Also, I'm holding against them that they're selling Angels memorabilia on the Giants' website.

For secretly tracking my thoughts and not sharing the profits with me, -5.

Which leaves the Final Tally for the National League at:
Reds: 3
Braves: -1
Phillies: 2
Giants: -8.

And the Reds are going to be the National League's entrant in the Series! So sayeth the 100% System, so sayeth we all.



And, Giants, later on today I'm planning to go on a romantic date with my wife. You'd better shut that device off first.

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