Monday, July 25, 2005

Just Musing, But...

...When did the tie stop going to the runner? You know what I'm talking about, so wipe that look off your face. It's a rule, right? Well, no, since the rule of thumb is that it's impossible for an umpire to judge a tie, and that a runner is either out or safe. But tell that to the guy who gets called out on a highlight-film close one at first. We've all seen them: Jason Kendall or Jim Thome or some slow guy hits a ball in the hole or up the middle, shortstop falls over, does two cartwheels, bakes a bluebery pie, does his wife's taxes, counsels wayward children, sets up his home entertainment center, and finally throws the ball across the infield with enough velocity to come close enough to make the play interesting. And he's usually out, because the runner is a catcher or a 38-year-old pitcher, and with a normally speedy runner the issue is moot. But it seems like every night there's one ump who gives the defense the out just because the play made it close. Baseball umpires are incredibly learned and exceptionally accurate. But that "effort appreciated, credit given" shit needs to go away.

...Did L'oreal Men Express think we wouldn't notice they've given voice-over work to Dennis Miller? Why, L'oreal? why would you do that? Let me put it in Mileerese for you. L'oreal: This guy's more tired than a two-year-old at a New Year's Eve party. Dennis Miller is more over than the bear and the mountain, Cha-Cha.

...What's the deifference between Terell Owens holding out from the Eagles "for [his] family" and Larry Brown leaving the Detroit Pistons early "for [his] family"? Aside from an annoying agent who includes himself in his clients intended actions, I mean. Like Drew Rosenhaus is strapping on pads. He'd weep like a baby if he saw these guys on the Eagles defense coming at him.

...As would I.

...Seriously, Owens is being regarded as a Benedict Arnold, especially in Philly. The "doing it for the family" thing doesn't seem to be doing him any favors, nor are Rosenhaus's hardball tactics. (Drew, take a look at the media coverage being afforded one Thomas Cruise Mapother IV right now. Now sssh.) But Brown appears to be doing the same thing to his team that Owens is, leaving the Pistons in the lurch while stating that he's doing it for his family. (And as of right now, Brown's gone, whilst TO is only threatening to hold out. Not like that's a comfort to fans in Philly.) I can't doubt either fellow's inentions, because I don't know them or their families. But TO is getting pilloried and Brown's getting yawns. Why? Is it because TO is a self-aggrandizing loudmouth? Is it because Brown is a famously nomadic coach who can't be expected to finish what he starts? Does Brown really think his medically-induced stress problems are going to abate if he takes a job coaching the New York Knickerbockers? Oh, you dmon media, you need to apply those nutty standards you occasionally love to flex. Evenly, if you please.

...Think George Bush would miss Karl Rove if he has to fire him in the next couple of weeks? Nah, 'cause a Supreme Court nomination's not that big a deal. Like a ten-cent soda doesn't cost a dime.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

First, You Cry. Then You Suck.

So I'm watching the Cubs blow a 5-1 lead to the Cincinnati Fucking Reds, aka The Worst Team East of the Rockies, and marveling at how many ways this team can lose a ballgame. And give this shitty Reds team a split.

They can fall behind early and not give a shit (if formula is Kerry Wood=Curt Schilling{-blood/World Series rings}), as they did last night and in the doubleheader at Atlanta,

They can match another team run-for-run and end up losing 12-10,

They can end up in a 2-1 nobody-hits, nobody-cares game,

They can rally twice and fall short in extras, as they did against Washington before the All-Star Break,

Or they can score a passel of runs early and think they'll coast to victory while the bullpen decides getaway day was yesterday.

Like they did today. Against a team so bad you'd have to walk them a ton to let them back in a game, then BALK in the tying run, forget how to throw from the outfield, and then give up a single to a guy who just got back from the MINORS to lose the...oh.

Wild-card fever: Catch it. Not.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

How Fucking Hard Can It Be?

No offense to Zach Duke, but if you come to the plate as the tying run in the 9th inning and swing at the first pitch, you deserve to lose.

God Damn It.

Why am I the only person who seems to think there's a correlation between swinging at the first pitch all the fucking time and losing a lot of fucking ball games?

I only rant about this shit because it seems so, you know, elemental. Take one pitch, maybe you take four, maybe you're on base for the next guy, who takes a few pitches to, you know, SEE WHAT THE PITCHER HAS, then he singles, then
the next guy maybe sees a first ball fastball, then he can drive it into the bleachers, because it's first and third and the pitcher's thrown God knows how many pitches so he's got to get something over. So he hangs it and your guy bangs it.

The Cubs, however, can't seem to get this fundamental baseball skill into their collective blue head, although I'd like to think it cost Corey Patterson his Major League job. So what the hell? Why does this shit keep happening? And when does a manager praising his team for aggressiveness at the plate become a causal liability?

And can we now give me a medal, please, for exactly what I've been saying for two years now? Greg Maddux pitched a fine game this afternoon giving up three runs on five hits. That's that great pitching the pundits are telling us is going to carry the Cubs all the way to the post season.Yeah. But then a bunch of guiys swing at the first pitch with a man on and one out, and the Cubs ground into four double plays. Jesus. It's one game, but it's not. It's the season in a Goddamned nutshell.

Hate that shit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

About Damned Time

The National Hockey League (remember the National Hockey League?) and the NHL Players Association (remember hockey players?) agreed Wednesday in principle to end the owner's lockout that had plagued the sports landscape of North America for the last year. Game on, y'all. GAME THE HELL ON.

The NHLPA is claimimg they took the biggest hit, agreeing to a salary cap under 40 million dollars and agreeing to cost certainty to appease the owners, who agreed to restructure free agency, rolling age limits back from 31 to 27. If you're still with me, that's the sexy part. I'll spare you the rest, because I don't get it either, but the millionaire players will once again do their best to fill the stadiums of the billionaire owners.

I personally won't pay to see the Chicago Blackhawks, who are easily the greatest American hockey franchise, because owner Bill Wirtz is still the owner. He's almost single-handedly driven this once-proud ord-ni-zation, with the greatest uniform in sports, a once-rabid fan base, a great facility (not as great as their old one, but whatever), and fertile ground for developing the next two generations of hockey fans, into the nether regins of the standings, having made the playoffs once in the last sevn years.

Wirtz's biggest crime is perceived to be frugality. There's a story that he once told his GM, and I paraphrase, "Don't you go getting any ideas about winning any Stanley Cups now. They're too expensive." So, great. The Hawks have gone with unproven youngsters for many years now, trying desperately to develop talent instead of shopping for free agents, and it ain't worked. They have a fine goalie in Jocelyn Thibault, and two fine young players in Tyler Arnason and Kyle Calder. (I know they're fine young men, because I've met them.) That's the good news. The better news is the Hawks were not hawkish with the purse strings before the lockout (and remember, it was a lockout instigated by the owners, and not a strike by players) and now have a little more money to play with than some other teams. What they'll do with it, I have no idea. They also have a new coach in Trent Yawney, whom I remember best from being spun in the air and landing thud on his helmet near center-ice in Montreal about 15 years ago. He's unproven as a top-level coach, but the Hawks (and their plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose GM Dale Tallon) seem high on his go-get-'em style.

Here's the problem: The sins of the past. Wirtz has nearly killed the sport in this fertile delta for hockey. As long as I've been cognizant of what TV and radio are, the Blackhawks have never shown their home games on television. Comes the FOX-TV contract in the mid-90s and hey presto, they actually showed a few Hawks home games in the mix. But not many. When critics wail, Wirtz has always preached loyalty to his season-ticket holders, saying that showing home games on (once) free or (now) cable TV would be a slap in the face to the thousands of loyal season-ticket buyers. There's some antiquated, yet perverse logic in that concept, but here's the dilly-yo, Billy-o:

Y'all ain't got a season-ticket base anymore.

I don't know what the figures were or are, but my guess is that Chicago hockey fans, who join the rest of the NHL as the smartest of any of the big four sports' fans, once numbered well over ten thousand and made a big noise in the old barn on West Madison. As the Hawks drifted on the ice floes (ha) of mediocrity over the past decade, the season-ticket base, and indeed the general attendance at the United Center, dwindled significantly. So Wirtz's season-ticket holders occupy less landscape than ever before. How long will that argument work? Well, long as he continues to make it, because what he sez, goes. But more important than my righteous indignation over never seeing home games on the tube is the fact that by depriving us of not only TV hockey at home, but also good hockey anywhere, he's killed the sport here for at least the next generation.

True story, repeated often:Between 1998 and this past spring, I was a costumed character at a famous and well-loved Chicago tourist attraction. (I won't divulge the name but here's a hint: It rhymes with "Gravy Beer.") As performers, my cohorts and I represented different aspects of the city of Chicago. Due to my knowledge of sports and my build, I was the "Sports Guy," and was kitted out in jerseys and caps and shorts with aevery team on them. Kids would come up to me and I'd always end up playing the same game. I'd point to a Cubs logo and say "Who's this?" They'd say "Cuuuuuuubs!!!" Point to a Bears logo and they'd yell "Beeeeeaaaaaaars!!!!" Bulls, Sox, same thing. Then I'd point to the great Chief Blackhawk logo and say "And who's this one?" And the kids would say,

"Indians." "Indians?"

Yeees, Bill, in a winter town where sports are more than a way of life, where sports are a fucking birthright, there's a whole generation of kids out there who have no idea who the Chicago Blackhawks are. Not because the franchise hasn't been around since you were in short pants, not because Hawk fans were the first to stand and applaud during the National Anthem, not because they'd walk through broken glass on their knees for a winner, no. Not because of these things. Kids today have no idea who the Chicago Blackhawks are because they can't see them. Anywhere.

The Hawks are ten years away from doing anything meaningful for this city. But finally at least, there's pro hockey again.

Here's what I'm getting to, Bill: Sell the team. You cry poorhouse all the time. So sell. Chicago hates you anyway, so sell to the highest bidder, who would certainly shell out some PHAZZY PHAT CASH to own the Hawks, then watch that 21st century man line up a swiggety sweet cable deal with Comcast. All Hawks, all the time. And Bill Wirtz, sitting at home, would be watching from atop his big pile of phat cash.

Sell, Bill. Sell.

Hockey's back. At the least, it means less World Poker Pros Tour. I hope.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Just Musing, But...

I watched a little of the Whatever Pepsi Whizzo Snack Assortment Sheetrock 900 NASCAR race from Joliet Raceway on NBC on Saturday afternoon, and aside from having the cojones to call Joliet "Chicagoland," what set me most to musing was a short interview they did with someone from either CNBC or MSNBC (Boy! Imagine the red tape to get that interview!) who was preparing a short film for the cable channel about NASCAR.
Three things the filmmaker (I use that phrase as a catch-all; he may be the film segment's producer, I wasn't paying that much attention) said got my muse working. First, he said he had no idea when he started his research that NASCAR was so popular a spectator sport. (Dude, Sports Illustrated scooped you about 8 years ago on that one. Open a magazine once in a while.) Then he opined that the reason for this success was that NASCAR audiences enjoy the closest relationship with the athletes of any sport in America. I have no idea what he meant by this, but it sounds like a completely objective crock of shit; does NASCAR let a fan or two ride along in Jeff Gordon's backseat at Daytona or something? Is every Sunday "Have a NASCAR Driver to Dinner" Night? Because, you know, baseball and hockey players still sign autographs, and most of them don't swear on TV (Mr. Roenick...).

Third, he said that NASCAR is great because it's run and controlled by one family. Great. Now corporate hegemony is getting a free pass on NBC.

Obviously, this guy was puffing the cartel up for his thing to be seen by as many poeple as possible, but still. Be a journalistic filmmaker, be a propagandist, but don't be both.

Woe to the Republic.

Friday, July 08, 2005

It's the Offense, Stupid

That's it. End of discussion. The Cubs are done. Finished. Turn them over 'cause they're done on this side. Sell the bedspread and the Playboy collection, Ma, because they ain't coming back. They're Finnish like Helsinki.
The Cubs lost a doubleheader today to the Braves and looked pathetic doing it. They got three-hit and shut out by a rookie in the first game and gave up a 4-3 (wait, they scored 4 runs?) lead in the 8th as the bullpen collapsed like a card table. Again. That's eight straight losses, and they're done for this season. What the screaming hell is Jim Hendry thinking?
Everyone raves about the phenomenal arms the Cubs have, and I'll go along with that: It's an exciting young rotation, and it's the reason they won the NL Central back in 2003. (It's also the reason they lost the Pennant, but I'll get to the why of that.)But I think that since Wrigley Field is such a great hitter's park, the Cubs don't quite need all the pitching they have. I guess it's true that you can never have enough good pitching, nut runs will be scored in Wrigley no matter what pitching styaff you roll out there. Greg Maddux gives up lots of homers, he just walks about 2 guys a year so it hurts less. (See also Jenkins, Ferguson.)
Although it wasn't the case in '03, the Cubs usually have to outscore the rest of the league to win, as they did in 1984 and 1989. They were up there in the Wild Card season of 1998 as well, when I personally saw them score 40,ooo runs, courtesy of Sammy Sosa, Mark Grace, Orlando Merced, Gary Gaetti, Henry Rodriguez, and Matt Mieske.
Ah, yes, the offense: What was it?
If it wasn't for the great season Derrek Lee has had thus far, the Cubs would have no offense whatsoever. I know, I know, Jeromy Burnitz is pretty cool and Neifi Perez has played OK for a replacement who was supposed to resemble a tomato can, and...ah...
No. They suck. And they will continue to suck this year, and probably next year, and into the future, but look at the arms, man! Because losing 1-0 isn't really a loss! Except it totally is, God Damn It!
Many folks have criticized Manager Dusty Baker for manhandling the talent, and one could point to Iowa-bound Corey Patterson as Exhibit A. A player with genuine tools and no tool belt on which to hang them, Corey swings at the first pitch more than anyone in the NL, never walks, hits for decent power, and strikes out like I drink Diet Pepsi. (All the time.) So, let's lead him off. Brilliant. It didn't work last year, didn't work earlier this year, and it led to his ultimate demise in the Majors this year. (He'll be back, for obvious rea$on$.) Yanking him in and out of the order, filling the leadoff role with Nefi Perez, whose on-base percentage is only slightly better than Patterson's, and then giving it back to Corey because he really, really wanted it, is enough for Cubs fans to scream bloody murder. (Hey Dusty, I really, really want a Tony Aweard. What can you do for me?)
The Cubs just don't hit well. I'd love to sugarcoat it, but they do the little things so badly it's impossible to dismiss the malaise. If Dusty wants to bring the run totals up, he should fine EVERY PLAYER who swings at the first pitch 50 dollars for the REST of the YEAR, then YELL at them in UPPER CASE LETTERS. I bet the run total would go up at least a run per game. Just a few damn walks; take a pitcher deep in the count, deep into the ballgame. Wear a guy out. Take somer damn pitches. That's a start.
Next, stop trying to be Sammy Sosa, y'all. I know, it's the ballpark, everywhere you go you see the ghosts of Ernie Banks, Hack Wilson, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, and Joe "Tarzan" Wallis, cackling, cajoling, saying "You can do it. Swing, man, swiiing!!!!!" So everyone thinks they can produce like Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. It's a sickness. Offensium Machomannum, if you will. But Neifi won't hit 40 home runs. You don't want him swinging like he does. Todd Walker isn't even the power hitter Todd Hundley was. Take a few walks, my man.
Ah, screw it. I'm tired. I'm going to bed. They know what they have to do. And if they do, if this offense can right itself and win the Cubs a title this year, I'll kiss your ass in Bloomingdale's window.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My Very Own 1900 House

I wake late this morning and pad off to the water closet to do my morning, um, ablutions, and the toilet won't flush.
I jiggle the handle, which I never do, for the same reason i think people who try a locked door twice are luggage brains. But my toilet won't flush. So, jig jig jiggety jigaw, God DAMN it.
I try the sink. No.
The shower. Nada.
The kitchen sink. No way, Holmes.
Son of a bitch. Now, of course, my morning hands are about to get 50 times dirtier, and I can feel my teeth crusting and calcifying over, and I'm going to be swimming in my own sweat even mre than usual, and it'll mixed with the inevitable grime of cat hair and dust in my already dusty-ass apartment, and I'm sure that my hair looks like Nicolas cage's in Raising Arizona, and my cat can't get fresh water and MY GODDAMNED TOILET WON'T FLUSH!!!!!

God be damned, I'm living like they did on the frontier. (Except for the computer I'm typing this on, heh heh.)
My phone rings. My temp agency calls and asks me to go in last minute to the place I've been three times in the past two weeks. (I guess they like me.) I calmly explain to my girl Melissa the situaysh and she's almost beside herself with horror. She hopes I can make my assignment for tomorrow. Me too, sez I. I call the woman with whom I hane a counseling session this after, and she, too, weeps for my plight. We reschedule and I weigh my options.
By noon, I check my frontier email and then I throw something on and decide to go to a local restaurant, partly because I don't feel like cooking and mainly because, well, when I'm done with lunch there I can do something there that I can't do at home, God Damn It.

After a lovely lunch (yeahhh) I come home and GDI, still no water. The fuck? At first, my semi-paranoiac mind thought this was an anti-squatting thing, since my landlord hasn't given me a lease and maybe he's trying to get rid of me. But I call him and make him aware of both fears, and he assures me they're on the water thing, which is odd because I can't even find the handyman, but at least it's not just my apartment, so good. He also says he'll get on the lease thing. Good. And now I give to you, the dirty, dirty details of my day thus far.

Hope you like it. It was either this or write about Corey Patterson.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Tom, Meet Alan

So it seems that Tom Cruise is all over the news and the media these days. I know! It's like he's famous now! And he's been acting a little, shall we say, exuberant. Like "Exuberant." Like a ten-cent soda doesn't cost a dime.

I'm sticking a pin in his faux-mance with Katie Holmes, cooked up by cynical movie-whoring motherfuckers to build up publicity for their two summer-blockbusters-that-won't-be, Batman Begins and March of the Penguins. (Just kidding. Tom is in War of the Worlds. March of the Penguins is a doc about the 70-some mile journey Antarctic emperor pens make every year to hatch and raise their young. Looks worth seeing. That's one.) We'll put his Oprah-fied exuberance on the wall for a later date. So, too, his exuberance for using the legal profession as a razor-sheathed club with which to beat those who suggest he's less than All Man.
No, the exuberance we're discussing is his relentless railing aginst the perceived evils in the psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries. Tom Cruise is a Scientologist who, we are told, had a less-than-satisfactory childhood. His faith and his belief systems are hius own. But his relentless adherence to a party line that psychs are evil, it's a pseudoscience, all drugs are dangeroudsly addictive, etc., puts me in mind of another charismatic public figure who may very well be out of his mind:

Tom Cruise, meet Alan Keyes.

Mr. Keyes is a hard-line, family-values conservative Republican from Maryland who, among his other hijinks, parachuted into Illinois last summer to run the Worst Senate Campaign Ever for the vacant seat which was won by Democrat Barack Obama by a roughly 20,00-to-1 margin. Oh, and both of these gentlemen are black. (Keyes and Obama, I mean. Duh, Tom.)
Keyes said a lot of inflammatory things during his campaign, playing to the far right of the Republican party (probably wise, he wasn't going to get anywhere else in Illinois), saying Christ would vote for him based on Obama's pro-choice stance, and labeling gays, the Vice President's daughter included, "selfish hedonists," while apparently blind to the fact that his own daughter was coming out via a tortured-sounding blog of her own at the time.

So. Two charismatic, successful men. And look at them! Point and laugh! Because both Cruise and Keyes, who may have absolutely no more in common than this, are men of seemingly inshakable principles, who get points for standing tall in their beliefs while the scenery topples behind them.
And then they get those points taken away, and immediately, for being absolutely batshit insane.

Yes, whether you're trashing gays for their selfishness or trashing depressed post-partum mothers for, well, their selfishness, you're guaranteed the ink, it seems. So is that why they did it? Publicity? Cred? I don't think so. Remember:Bat. Guano. Cuckoo.

Tom, meet Alan. Now go away, the both of you.