Monday, December 29, 2008

Favricles, Prince Of Interception

As previously established by me on this site, God has nothing to do with sports. I mean, seriously, if God exists and has the ability to look the residents of New Orleans in the eyes and be like, “Sorry about that whole hurricane situation. But, whatever; I was watching baseball,” then shoot me in the face.

That said, every so often a sports storyline so epic, so Biblical, in proportions emerges that its hard to believe that it wasn’t somehow predestined by some kind of sports deity. Take for example this years battle between the Jets and the Mammals—I mean, Fish. Forget about God. This story is practically Shakespearean in nature. (Sorry, but Shakespeare did Biblical better than even the Bible.)

Let’s start with a recap.

As with any good dramatic narrative arc, we have our villain. An awesome villain. A bumbling, sociopathic, deer-hunting, self-obsessed Southerner who can’t pronounce his own last name and, from the appearance of it, either can’t read his team’s playbook or has a depth perception issue.

As with many an evil mastermind, this particular villain is deceptive. (Think Iago.) He has made a lifetime out of tricking the public into buying into the myth of his goodness. He begins by playing for one of the most beloved team in all of football—located in the most beloved region in all the country, I might add. (You know me and that Midwest.) He charms us with his buffoonery, blinds us with his scruff, never misses a game, forces us to all but overlook the sheer insanity that is the existence of his last name. And for years this went on.

But then. Of course. Starts with an R.

After several pathetic attempts to get our attention by threatening to retire, he finally actually retires. There’s a press conference where tears are cried, a ceremony scheduled to retire his jersey, a cornfield maze designed in his honor.

Oh, but wait. Suddenly after he has milked the whole retirement thing for all its worth, he realizes that retirement is kind of bullshit because you get an awesome amount of attention all in one shot and then basically no more attention ever again.

We all know how this story ends. Decision to unretire. Annoyance over the fact that the Packers refused to give him back his old spot despite the whole announcement of his retirement. Displacement of Chad Pennington. (By the way, he’s the hero of this story.) And suddenly it's like modern day Shakespeare with a Miami backdrop. Which works because it’s a comedy.

But this is just to set the stage. What makes it interesting is that as fate—or, rather the NFL—would have it, the Jets and the Fish were scheduled to meet on both the first and last days of the season. What makes it more interesting is that they went into the last game fighting for a spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, a win by both the Pats and the Ravens made the whole thing a little less high drama than it could have been because it meant that, regardless of the outcome, the Jets were destined to sit this January out. But whatever. For the season to end as it began—Pennington v Fav-ruh. Young screwed over player with his new team battling it out against old guy who stole his spot because he’s too chicken to retire.

There can be no doubt that Pennington has hit his stride this season with Miami. No one could have really put it better than Karen Crouse, who is a recent article for the Times wrote, “There is a lightness to Chad Pennington, as if in his move to South Florida to be the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback, he shed more than a couple of layers of clothing. The smile that was tighter than his spirals toward the end of his tenure with the Jets is now a luminous half-moon.”

OK. Not true. Lots of people could have put it better than Karen Crouse. But the imagery of the half-moon smile is truly evocative.

But it’s not just about the layers of clothing or the spirals or, you know, the half moons. Injury-free for the first time in a while, Pennington is finally living up to his potential. And, moreover, he’s helping the Dolphins live up to theirs.

Fav-ruh on the other hand—well, let’s just say that the last few weeks have really made evident just how much of a benefit he’s been to the 2008 Jets. Sure, they got off to a promising start with big victories against the Pats and the Titans. Hell, the way they were going for a while it was hard to believe that they wouldn’t manage a slot in this year’s playoffs. And, no, you can’t luck your way into nine wins. But you luck your way into a few. And I would say that on more than one occasion, a victory was earned despite and not because of Fav-ruh.

Seriously. It’s almost like the guy just closes his eyes, throws and hope for the best.

But yesterday Brett really reached new heights—I almost want to say dazzling heights—in his quest to shock and awe us with his special brand of throw-and-hope football. (Because, shucks? That’s how they done do things in the South?) It wasn’t just that he threw three interceptions, though he did throw three interceptions. For me, it was really the one in the second quarter that sort of blew my mind. You know which one I mean. The one that was so mind-boggling that it was practically epic. Even I was so flummoxed by the whole thing that all I could think to do was blink a bunch of times and say, “Really? Really?”

You’ll rarely hear me say this, but yesterday’s game did not constitute a team failure for the Jets. That’s what you call a one-man disaster.

Pennington, of course, went 22-for-30 for 200 yards and two touchdowns. I’m spacing on the number of interceptions. Oh, that’s right. CUZ HE DIDN’T HAVE ANY. And he’s obviously been the ultimate in graciousness about the whole thing. As always. I’ll tell you what. I think I have a crush.

And all's well that ends well. For almost everybody, anyway.

Mangini. We all knew it was coming. This one was always a win-or-get-packing game for Eric. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Mangini will have nightmares about Leon Washington from now until the end of time and that somewhere in the Mangini home there’s a voodoo doll with Fav-ruh’s name written all over it.

Fortunately for Brett, there's a good chance that Mangini will get the spelling wrong.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Putting The Puts Into Putz

Given my interest in names and New York sports, when J.J. Putz was traded to the Mets, everyone just assumed I would pounce on it. And, yet, somehow, I was never really interested. It was almost too easy. It doesn’t require a whole lot of wit or cleverness to poke fun at a name like Putz. A name that, in and of itself, is the insult. It doesn’t require any imagination, any sophistication, to be like, “Putz is a putz.” (You know, the way it requires imagination and sophistication to make fun of people with names that sounds vaguely like poop or a cereal.)

Maybe, if the name was not actually putz but sort of like putz, I’d feel differently. However, as it stands, J.J.’s name simply didn’t seem challenging enough to be worth my while.

That is, until I found out how he pronounced it.


As in, it puts the lotion in the basket. Or, it puts me in a better position to make fun of you when you pronounce the name Putz like puts.

According to Putz, he doesn’t opt to mispronounce his name because he thinks it will deter people from making a joke out of it. (And good thing because it wouldn’t.) He mispronounces his name because that’s the way they pronounce it in Hungary. Supposedly.

Well, there are definitely people in Hungary who have the name Putz—I discovered this through the use of facebook, a reference tool second only to Urban Dictionary in credibility. However, when I really went to test the mettle of his assertion with the assistance of a website called, my search yielded somewhat different results.

According to this site, the name Putz has its roots in Austria and Germany. Its meanings are sundry and perplexing. Putz is, for starters, the “topographic name for someone who lived by a well.” A little confusing because, back then—whenever then was—didn’t everyone live by a well? Like, as a matter of survival?

In addition to being a “topographic” name, Putz is apparently also a “habitational name for a place so named in Luxembourg.” Presumably a place in Luxembourg where they speak German rather than French or Luxembourgish. No, really. Luxembourgish is a language.

But wait. There’s more. Putz is also “from a pet form of the personal name Burghard.” Which makes sense because if you take Bur off of the beginning, replace the “g” with a “p” and the “hard” with “utz,” it’s basically the same word. Oh, and in case you were curious, Burghard means strong as a castle. But you knew that.

Last, but definitely not least, Putz is apparently a “nickname from a byname for the devil.” At this point we’re supposed to “see also Butz.”

While this is all fascinating, I’m sure you’re all asking yourselves the same question: What’s Hungary got to do with it? The best that I could come up with was that the name must have originated in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (I mean, I think it’s safe to say that anyone who was living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire who wasn’t a Habsburg was probably a putz.) And then when things got all broken up into different smaller countries, who could keep track? History and geography can be confusing. That’s why I just refer to all Asian countries as the Orient. The war in Iraq? I like to call that “Operation Babylonian Freedom.”

Still, I wasn’t totally satisfied with this line of reasoning, so I went to the multilingual dictionary to find a more tangible link between Hungary and the surname Putz. I discovered that if you translate the German word putz into Hungarian, it is apparently díszes kellékek. So, actually, if Putz wants to say his name the Hungarian way, he should simply refer to himself as J.J. Diszes Kellékek.

(For the record, according to this same dictionary, the English for putz is "trappings." As in, “anyone who pronounces a German name the Hungarian way has all the trapping of a putz.” And by the way, I can now refer to him as a putz and consider myself to be clever because the pronunciation is puts—like putz but not quite. See how that works? By putting the puts into Putz, you inadvertently put the putz into Putz.)

Anyone who has read anything I have had to say about Brett Fav-ruh (or Jhonny Peralta for that matter) knows how crazy it makes me when the spelling and pronunciation of a name are mismatched. In Putz’s case, however, I am especially affronted because I feel like the mispronunciation is a deliberate attempt to try to trick us into not realizing that his name is putz. The irony is that, in so doing, he draws more attention to his name than he would if he just let us say it like its spelled. It’s true that some infantile people out there might focus on his name as an opportunity for an insult. However, for the most part, Mets fans are so grateful to have a decent setup man that, assuming Putz doesn’t blow it, no one would dream of insulting him. In fact, I think that if he stops pronouncing his name the wrong way, eventually, no one will give it a second thought.

The way that I no longer think about toilets when someone says “Flushing.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Another day, another long-term, big-money pitching contract. First Sabathia, now the perpetually-injured Burnett. And, in order to help us understand the significance of last week’s acquisitions, Hank Steinbrenner commented, "A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Gotta love a good idiom.

Unfortunately, however, I don’t think that Steinbrenner went with the right one. When the phrase was originally coined by JFK, it was a reference to the economy. I can't imagine Steinbrenner is trying to imply that anyone other than C.C. and A.J. are going to benefit financially from this most recent insane expenditure of obscene amounts of money. Maybe what he meant to say was that the early bird catches the worm. (Of course, by early, I mean rich, and by worm I mean sought-after pitcher.) Or, more likely, it may just be a local usage of this particular idiom that’s commonplace amongst the people who come from Steinbrenner’s original hometown—the seventh circle of hell.

While I'm no, uh, idiom analyzer, if I had to guess, I would say that Steinbrenner is probably suggesting that, like a tide helps a boat, signing awesome players helps a ball club. Well, Hankus, that’s duly noted, but let me answer your idiom with another idiom: Slow and steady wins the race.

The veracity of my idiom probably depends on how you define “the race.” If “the race” is a 2009 World Series ring, then slow and steady may not be the solution. It may be more about the rising tides and the boats. However, if “the race” can be defined as the effort to build a solid, energetic cohesive ball club with potential for long-term growth, then slow and steady might actually be the way to go. Remember, the Yankees of the late nineties? That team was slow and steady. And it was also the last team of Yankees that actually played like a team.

Last year Cash decided against signing Santana and opted, instead, to hold onto Hughes, Kennedy, and Melky. After a combined no-win record for the two young pitchers and an abysmal season for Melky, that experiment has been deemed a failure. You know which other experiment was initially deemed a failure by the Steinbrenner formerly known as El Jefe? The Bernie Williams experiment. Had it not been for the intervention of Buck Showalter, Bernie would have been 86’d in ‘95. Fortunately, however, someone had the good sense to let him develop.

Melky is set to be sent to Milwaukee in a trade for Mike Cameron. (Though, as the days wear on, the agreement appears to be on the verge of collapse.) Cameron is a solid center fielder and was also thought to be potentially instrumental in luring C.C. our way. (In case the extra $20 million didn’t do the trick.) I like Cameron and don’t have strong objections to the trade on his account, but I just can’t help but feel as though we haven’t quite given Melky his fair shake. That he has the potential to develop into a player worth holding onto. And one, I might add, who’s significantly younger than Cameron.

As for Hughes and Kennedy, as it stands, they aren’t going anywhere, but having just paid such enormous sums for both Burnett and C.C., it’s hard to imagine that we’ll hold onto both. And for what? So that we could lock ourselves into two huge money multi-year contracts after having just been released from the bondage of one that has been for several seasons the bane of our collective existence?

You know what I say to all this? I say stop. No Pettitte, no Lowe, no Sheets. With a solid four-man starting rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Wang and Joba, we ought to allow Hughes a shot in the number 5 slot and keep Aceves and Kennedy around on the back burner in case he flounders. Or for when Burnett inevitably ends up on the DL. Reports from Arizona and Puerto Rico suggest that neither Hughes nor Kennedy are worth writing off just yet. And let’s not forget that these are young guys—22 and 23 respectively. The idea that a young player is only allowed a season or two to prove his worth is borderline preposterous. Not everyone is Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. Some players need time to settle in, hone their skills, adjust to the pressure. And what better way to take some of last year’s pressure off these guys then to allow them to alternately fill the number 5 slot in such a stellar rotation?

Look, I appreciate the tides and the boats and everything. And far be it for me to, well, look a gift horse in the mouth. I get that we have just signed two of the most coveted starting pitchers in the game. And I know that when trying to build the most solid team you can, all you really have to go on is your prospects' numbers. However, at the risk of sounding like Buzz Bissinger, I can’t help but think that there is an unquantifiable benefit to a player whose entire experience of the game is predicated on his relationship with his team. While players are always invested in doing their best, in winning the shiny stuff, I have to believe that there is an added significance for those players who have been brought up by their ball clubs.

Take Yogi Berra. He wasn’t merely a great catcher or a great player; he was a great Yankee. I think that the inevitable consequence of his tie to the Bombers was that, in a way, his pride in his team transcended his desire for personal success. A great team is more than simply the sum of its parts. It requires nine players on the field, not only striving for individual greatness, but with the ability to work well together.

Think that’s a sappy, sentimental, unrealistic load of hooey? Just sign Manny if you want to prove me right. A great player, if ever there was one, but I give him until the All-Star break before he has created a completely toxic and disruptive atmosphere in our clubhouse.

A rising tide may lift all boats, but one bad apple also spoils the bunch.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

That's Your Opinon

I have much to say about some of the recent offseason action. You’ll be hearing from me about that before the day is through. However, someone recently brought something amazing to my attention, so I felt I should bring it to yours.

From the site “Overheard in New York”:

Yankee fan, seeing girl in Red Sox hat: Booo! Boooo!
Red Sox girl's friend: Leave her alone! She's hot! Leave her alone!
Yankee fan: Booo! Red Sox suck!
Red Sox girl's friend: She's got big boobs, leave her alone!
Yankee fan: I've seen boobs before! Booo!
Yankee fan: Red Sox suck! Booo!
Red Sox girl's friend: Leave her alone, she's hot!
Yankee fan: That's your opinion! Booo!

Wow. Where to begin?

For the moment, let’s assume that the Chowda Head in question is actually as hot as her friend insists she is. That her boobs are truly impressively big. In what universe is that supposed to be an adequate defense for anything—let alone a decision to cheer for the Chowdas? Are her boobs so big that they have somehow stopped the flow of oxygen to her brain and rendered her incapable of exercising good judgment? You see, this is logic that only a Chowda Head would ever think to employ.

And, yet, there’s something almost genius about this line of reasoning. The idea that one can just draw on the strength of any particular attribute in order to serve as an adequate defense against any insult. I mean, there I was back in the days when Amber used to harass me trying to confront the actual substance of her criticism when all I needed to do was tell her to leave me alone. Because I’m hot. Or good at karaoke. Or freakishly exceptional at ping pong. Or whatever.

In a way, while seemingly unsound, this logic is not dissimilar from a proposal I made in one of my earliest entries—that no matter the occasion it’s always appropriate to say that someone’s got hands like tits. Maybe, similarly, “She’s hot and has big boobs” is just a go-to for this guy. An arbitrary response he has created in order to be droll regardless of the context.

But then, this is a Chowda Head we’re talking about, so it’s likely that I’m giving him too much credit. Moreover even if “big boobs” was meant to be a display of his wit and brilliance, it’s not without a fundamental flaw. It’s a comment that exposes itself to responses like, “I’ve seen boobs before” and “That’s your opinion.” Irrefutable comebacks.

But hands like tits? No one will ever tell you they’ve seen those before. I guarantee it.

At least, that’s my opinion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

CC Sabathia: Not A Business Decision

Well, without further ado, Sabathia has finally deigned to accept our humble offer and become a Yankee.





Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I’m supposed to be doing back flips. I just didn’t want to overwhelm him with my enthusiasm. The way he didn’t want to overwhelm us with his.

It’s been about a month since Cashman made his initial offer to Sabathia. Sick of waiting, Cash finally decided to take the bull by the horns and went west to give good old CC a talking to. Cash had said a couple weeks back that his offer to Sabathia wouldn’t be on the table forever. Apparently, what he meant by that was that it would only be on the table until he made a bigger one. That’s right; on his recent trip he offered CC both another year and an additional $20 million.

Is it just me, or is Cash not the guy you want doing your negotiating at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul for you?

It’s been so long since all this CC talk began that I had basically written him off as a viable option. The word on the street was that he wanted to stay west, wanted what was best for his family, was of the rare breed that couldn’t be bought. Earlier this week, a close friend of CC’s commented, "He's one guy, I'm absolutely convinced, whose decision will not be about getting the last dollar. That's not the way he thinks. This isn't a business decision for him. This is a life decision. So if he chooses New York, it will be because he wants to be there, not because they were the team that offered the most money."

Isn’t it just the greatest when the best life decisions also end up being the decisions that earn you $160 million? Sometimes, everything just comes together.

Ah, to have been a fly on the wall during that conversation with Cashman and Sabathia. To have listened in as Cash expounded on the benefits of big city living, sold Sabathia on the virtues of a private school system that allows famous people to bypass the normal hoops and nail biting that the regular rich people have to endure in order to ensure a quality education for their offspring. He must have told him about the camaraderie in the Yankee clubhouse, how the Bombers were essentially like a family where the allowances are enormous and the berating happens in public. I mean, given what we know about CC, we have to assume that he was ultimately won over by a quality of life argument rather than the offer of more money and another year, right?

And, yet, one can’t help but suspect that the mind-blowingly disgusting size of the offer—slightly insulting, perhaps to some of those hundreds of thousands of Americans who have recently lost a job with a normal salary—had something to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge CC his right to go where the money is best. I mean, it doesn’t make him a bad person. It just makes him a not exceptionally good person. That’s not what I take issue with. What irks me is his refusal to admit that it’s about the money. To shove down out throats the idea that he’s above all that. But the bottom line is that, in a perfect world, I don’t think New York and the Bombers were what CC had in mind. It seems to me that he had a price that made the sacrifice of the quality of life factor seem worth it to him. When the Yanks named that price, he agreed to the deal. And, sure, I know it’s insane to turn down tens of millions of dollars. But I also feel like, in a way, when you’re Sabathia, there’s no real reason not to make these decisions based exclusively on quality of life factors. Ultimately, any of the teams that were courting CC would have been prepared to give him more than any one person should ever have or would need in a lifetime unless he was going to buy a rocket or an island nation or something.

Hopefully, Sabathia will find a way to redeem himself. I mean, Lord knows the guy’s got skills, and, from the moment go, I wanted him in pinstripes. It would just be nice to feel like he was, like, at least a little bit more excited to be coming to play for the team where players become legends.

But whatever. Ever onward. Time to go chase another overpriced, injury prone former pitcher for the Marlins. We like to keep one around for good luck.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TARP-i Field

I know what’s on your mind.

Given the recent announcement of the staggering number of jobs lost in the month of November, the near collapse of the auto industry, the fact that you probably can’t afford to buy anyone a Hanukkah present, I bet you’ve all been sitting around feeling scandalized and depressed about the Citi Field naming agreement.

For those of you too ignorant to be scandalized and depressed, let me explain why you should be.

Recently, as we all know, the government (in other words, we, the taxpayers) bailed Citibank out of a jam to the tune of $300 billion. And rather than spend all that money on exclusively bank-y stuff, they decided to go ahead and use $20 million a year of tax money to honor a previously established deal with the Mets for the naming rights to their new stadium in Flushing. So, basically, these schmucks are using OUR hard earned tax dollars—7/100 of one percent per year of it—as part of a marketing campaign in a sports venue. Now, that’s chutzpah. Right?

Or is it?

Call me crazy, but isn’t marketing a must for all companies and not just a luxury for the already successful ones? If not, try explaining the Procede hair advertisements to me or the Brett Fav-ruh campaign for that battery brand no one’s ever heard of. Unfortunately, advertising works. It must, or we wouldn’t be forced to endure so much of it every time we tried to watch TV, read a newspaper or even leave our houses. Sure, I don’t get how it works because I’m too smart to be so easily manipulated. (Though, while I’m not totally sure what Chantix is, I do feel strangely compelled to take some every time I’m walking through a meadow.) But advertising makes the world go round. It makes a company thrive. Why else would they continue to invest so much money into crazy expensive, though seemingly too stupid-to-be-convincing ad campaigns? Because, somehow, in some magical way that I might better understand if I had paid closer attention in my Intro to Psych class, it works.

And want to know when it works the best? During sporting events. How do we know this? Because major sporting events constitute some of the most expensive advertising slots in existence. Probably, in part, because so many people watch sports. Probably also because they think those of who do are feeble-minded idiots. (Thanks, face painters, for enforcing the bad rap.)

The point is, if we are going to look at these bailouts as an investment, shouldn’t we be encouraging the companies that we are bailing out to do whatever they have to in order to succeed? Citi spent approximately $2.9 billion in advertising last year. It will cost them about one percent of that per year to honor their deal with the Mets. Even if they halved their advertising budget—which they wouldn’t—that’s two percent. $20 million less per year for them to spend on creepy and annoying rotoscoped commercials that actually serve as a deterrent. (Yeah, I’m talking to you Schwaab.)

Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m no great bank apologist. I just think that of all the things we have to be annoyed at Citigroup about, we’re focusing on the wrong grievances. And, jeez, give the poor Mets a break. They finally have a closer that inspires confidence instead of heart palpitations. (With all due respect, of course, to Billy Wagner, who I respect almost as much as Tim McCarver.) Let’s lay off and let them celebrate.

By the way, when I was making my list, I didn’t mention personal safety as something that you were thinking about because I am assuming that you heard the news. Apparently, the NYPD has sent investigators to Mumbai for a briefing on how to handle potential terror attacks this holiday season. Good thinking, fellas. You know what else you should do? Send someone to Liberia to ask them how to tackle our unemployment problem.

How about this: If we want to decrease the terror threat during future holiday seasons, my proposal would be that we make the holiday season a couple months shorter. Seriously, has Christmas really not happened yet? It’s getting to the point where I just want to say, you suck, “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Oh, and p.s., you suck Coco Crisp. (Seemed like a good segue.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Trapped In The Latin Quarter Club

I was recently perusing one of my favorite websites——a site exclusively dedicated to the discussion of baby names. During the course of my browsing, I happened to stumble upon the name Plaxico. Such a coincidence. Given, you know, whatever. Anyway, the name is apparently of African origins. As for it’s meaning: peaceful.

I know. You can’t make this stuff up, right?

And, well, that’s not the only thing about all this madness that you couldn’t make up. The cover-ups, the secret transportation of guns from clubs to Escalades to somewhere in New Jersey, the false accusations, the denials without an alibis, the mysterious emergence of Tiki Barber as hero to the wrongly accused. It’s like, well, it’s like it could be the newest installment of “Trapped in the Closet.”

Because, see, if there is anyone alive who actually could make this stuff up, it’s R. Kelly. And if you’re anything like me, then you are obsessed with Kelly’s Magnum opus to the point where the discovery of it almost tore your life apart. When it was initially released you found it hard to think or talk about anything else. You found yourself watching it again and again, addicted almost, to the insanity. Wanting desperately to wrap your brain around how something could be so simultaneously hilarious, outrageous, and strangely full of depth. You got in fights with friends who claimed that it was stupid, secretly judged them for being too dim-witted to understand its genius. You felt ashamed because you wanted the charges against Kelly to be dropped because, from jail, how could he provide us with more? For those of you who have not had the good fortune to watch this crazy display of epic brilliance, stop reading, click on this link immediately, and behold the magic. Then watch it again, with commentary. Three of the best hours you’ll ever spend.

To me, one of the most appealing aspects of “Trapped in the Closet” is how ridiculously implausible it all is. How little it bears resemblance to anything like life as we know it. And then Burress happened. For those of you who are familiar with the TITC, let me talk you through the events of last Friday night, and you tell me if it doesn’t seem like a reality that only a visionary like Kelly could have concocted.

Burress sets off a metal detector at a club called Latin Quarter, is pulled aside, searched and then ultimately allowed into the club with his gun on account of his famousness. Later in the evening, this same gun goes off in his pants and shoots him in the leg. He remains at the club for an hour and a half while figuring out what hospital will treat him on the sly. His friend and teammate Antonio Pierce sneaks the gun to the Burress family home in New Jersey. (Via the glove compartment of the Burress family Escalade.) Burress arrives at the hospital, says his name is Harris Smith, and purports to have been shot at Applebee’s. That’s right, he said Applebee’s. The hospital staff recognizes him but agrees to keep his secret.

Seriously? This all happened? In real life?

Meanwhile, in another part of town (R. Kelly loves a meanwhile), Derrick Ward is off somewhere having drinks. So he claims. He won’t actually reveal to us his exact location. I am sure in Kelly’s world, Ward would probably be off shtooping someone else’s wife. All he knows is that he insists he wasn’t at the scene of the crime, which is where he is supposed to have been according to a number of sources. And people don’t just claim to have seen him at the club—one witness goes so far as to say that he saw someone approach Ward to inform him that his boy had been shot. Ward, undisturbed, was alleged to have remained on his cell phone.

Then, for our grand finale, we have Tiki Barber swooping onto the scene to reveal the true identity of the third player at the club that night—Ahmad Bradshaw. And Ward is absolved.

To quote R. Kelly, “Who the hell is Roxanne?”

If there’s anyone who can appreciate the outrageously absurd nature of this tale, it’s me. Yet, still, I take issue with all the media coverage. I get that it’s been a slow time for news agencies--given how well everything is going in the world, given how two nuclear neighbors are not potentially on the verge of a standoff, given the stability of the economy, given that no one has made any announcements of import lately. But seriously. This story made the cover of the Times yesterday. From the Post, I expect this kind of inability to discern between real news and celebrity gossip. But et tu, paper of record?

And Bloomberg? I mean, I got nothing but love for his greenification of the city, but his approach to the administration of justice in this particular instance? Meh. Not so much.

Did Burress eff up? Yeah. A lot? Yeah. Do I think the Giants, who have reason to be annoyed with him anyway, would be acting reasonably if they penalize him in whatever manner they see fit? Yeah. Do I think the people of the State of New York need to demand that he get prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law”—fifteen years in this case?

No. Not really.

When Plax first purchased his gun in Florida, he registered it and got a permit—indicative of the fact that it was not his intention to subvert the law. He was stupid enough to let the permit expire, stupid enough to bring it out of state, stupid enough to bring it to the club with him. But this isn’t exactly the second coming of OJ. This is just an idiot who decided like an idiot that he ought to serve as his own security detail. And guess what? He got shot. I would rather repeat junior high than suffer through a day of the kind of this kind of public scrutiny and humiliation. Not to mention the physical pain. If all of this doesn’t teach him his lesson about trying to provide himself with his own security, I don’t know what will.

Bloomberg’s biggest concern here is that Plaxico be made an example of because he’s a public figure. Here's the problem with that. All men are supposedly equal in the eyes of justice, which means that to come down harder on a celebrity in order to teach society a lesson is basically a perversion of justice. Nothing against Bloomberg, who I’ve always liked, but stop perving out on justice.

Plaxico Burress has a kid at home who's a year and a half old. Call me crazy, but I don’t see how it could possibly be better for society to deprive that kid of a father for fifteen years so that we can use our city’s resources in order to punish someone for criminal idiocy.

Yeah,that’s what society needs—more kids with dads in jail.

Want to know what I consider to be the more troublesome issues here? For starters, what in tarnation were the people at Latin Quarter thinking by allowing him into the club with a gun in the first place? I get that certain courtesies are extended to famous people on account of their famousness—free drinks, VIP seating. But illegal concealed weapon privileges? And what of the people at the hospital—an actual hospital with doctors and codes of ethics—to contribute to this insanity with a willingness to cover it up? Here’s the thing; maybe if we all stopped treating celebrities like the rules don’t apply to them, they’d stop acting like it. No, I’m not saying that personal accountability shouldn’t exist for these guys—that they aren’t ultimately responsible for their own actions. But the bottom line is that this is a societal illness. We make spoiled, entitled monsters out of our professional athletes by indulging their every whim and treating them like gods, and then we act surprised and vilify them when they act like, well, spoiled, entitled monsters.

Does part of my plea for Plax have to do with the fact that I am a softy for him ever since I saw that NFL special about how much he loves his momma? Probably. At least a little. But that doesn’t change the fact that the right thing to do is to treat Burress like any other idiot who brought a gun into a club for his own protection and then accidentally shot himself. Because if he was any other idiot, I don’t see him rotting in jail over this for the next fifteen years.

Well, R. Kelly said it first, and he said it best: "This is some deep shit."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

La Cuenta De Marbury E D’Antoni

Thanks to the NFL, I think it’s safe to say we all got to spend more than enough time with our respective families this Thanksgiving. Not a single game slightly interesting enough that it might have reasonably excused a person from making small talk over her third helping of stuffing in order to glue herself to the television. (Not that that stopped me—I just didn’t have a reasonable excuse.) I even switched to college football in the evening, but Texas-Texas A&M had little better to offer.

However, while nothing of note may have been happening on the field (until Sunday, that is), there was plenty of excitement off the field. Particularly in the world of New York sports.

Plaxico Burress got shot. Accidentally. By himself. (He is apparently fine—fortunately he accidentally aimed for his already injured leg.) LeBron James called Charles Barkley stupid. (I put this under the heading of New York sports because LBJ might as well be a Knick at this point.) And, of course, yet another segment of my new favorite telenovella—La Cuenta de Marbury e D’Antoni.

Spoiler alert—in case you missed it and are waiting to watch it on your dvr—in this latest episode, D’Antoni asked Marbury to play, and Marbury refused.

Wait a second…

That sounds awfully familiar. A rerun for the holidays, perhaps? But, no. Because in the previous week’s episode, the game was against the Bucks. Last week, it was against the Pistons. But, still. What the hell’s going on in that writer’s room? Same storyline two weeks in a row? What is this? The Hills?

And it was more than just the nature of disagreement that reeked of stale cheese. As with last week’s episode, the two not only disagreed, but they disagreed about their disagreement. You see, D’Antoni is the only one of the pair who says that Marbury refused to play those games. Marbury claims that he didn’t.

I don’t know. This kind of plot twist—twice? It’s a little far-fetched. When dealing with an issue so clear cut, so straightforward, what possible grounds could there have been for such confusion?

Enter Stephon Marbury, the King of confusion.

While Marbury claims to have never said he wouldn’t play, he does admit to having expressed discomfort at the idea. You know, seeing as how everyone hates each other so much and he was deactivated for all those other games. So, apparently, when D’Antoni asked him to play, and he responded, “I actually wouldn’t feel comfortable with that,” he meant it as an invitation to dialogue. But a refusal? Never. Because that would be “insubordination.” (His word—not mine.) And Marbury is anything but insubordinate.

Marbury was fined and suspended as the result of his discomfort about playing Wednesday. The player’s union intends to file a grievance in response. Walsh and Marbury are going to have yet another sit down to talk about the possibility of a buyout, an idea which Walsh is opposed to in theory, but one that seems more and more inevitable as this insanity wears on.

It’s true that Marbury is a pain in the pujols. It’s true, also, that it has to be annoying to even consider buying out his full contract. But here’s the bottom line: This is a guy who is completely and utterly—what my people would call—meshugana. And his meshugas is not in any way tempered by the counsel of someone who might be looking out for his best interest. Someone, like, say an agent. Marbury doesn’t believe in those. In large part, it appears, because he thinks that everyone everywhere is always trying to screw him. This applies especially to D’Antoni.

If you want my completely unprofessional unfounded opinion that is based solely on conjecture, Marbury does what he does to show the world that he’s not a person to be made a fool of. (By anyone but himself, anyway.) When you couple his overly suspicious nature with the kind of borderline approach the Knicks have taken to dealing with him this season, the result is someone who feels he has been wronged and won’t budge until his version of justice has been served. In other words, Marbury is going to do what he does until he gets what he wants.

So, you know what, Walsh? Give it to him.

Do I think this is how to handle a spoiled child or peace negotiations in the Middle East? No. But this is basketball. Walsh’s decision is not going to affect the kind of adult a child grows up to be or whether we can finally put an end to a major conflict with far-reaching global ramifications. It will determine for how long he and the rest of us are going to have to put up with this headache. And the difference in cost will likely be an amount that is inconsequential to the Knicks in the long run.

As it stands, the Knicks are, for the first time in a while, not abominably awful. But we don’t get to read about that. We only get to read about how the Knicks are such a side show, circus, soap opera travesty. Oh, and how in two seasons they might be getting an awesome player.

So fix it, Walsh. No more of this: Don’t play, but come; dress but don’t play; play but only for a few minutes; don’t come. Despite the fact that Starbury wouldn’t trust D’Antoni to walk his dog (his words—not mine), they both seems to actually share the same goal on this one. To get Marbury out of there like now. So, capitalize on that common ground. Give him what he wants, wish him well even if you don’t mean it, and make a clean break.

For those of you in the viewing public who feel saddened by the possibility that our favorite series will likely be coming to its inevitable end, I know how you feel. The end of Veronica Mars nearly wrecked me. But take heart. I see both Starbury and D’Antoni as having major potential for successful spinoffs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

LeBron James -- Living In The Lake House

Man, have I been in a state. No, not a Fav-ruh-induced Jets just schooled the undefeated Titans state. A state that, incidentally, has prompted some rather troubling dreams in which the world is overpopulated with a species of Brett Fav-ruhs, and I have to decide if it’s ethical to hunt him--the way he hunts, well, just about anything with a pulse. Mine is a different kind of state.

You know when in a soap opera one of the characters gets into an accident and then when she wakes up all this time has passed but she doesn’t initially realize it until she looks at a newspaper or something? Well, that’s what I thought was happening to me. But it turns out it wasn’t the case. I wasn’t in an accident and it is, apparently, still 2008. I realized that when I got past the sports page and saw that we were still in an economic crisis and confused about which bailouts were going to rescue the good people on main street. What a relief.

The downside, of course, is that this must mean I’m crazy, right? How else could I have possibly gotten confused about the friggin’ year, for crying out loud. You might hear such a tale and wonder if I’ve been living in the lake house. But, in my defense, reading some of the following headlines, couldn’t you just as easily have gotten confused?

"Teams Prepare For the Courtship of LeBron James.” "New Jersey Nets Think Knicks Eyeing LeBron James." “The Knicks Get Ready for Their 2010 Free Agency Pool."

So, you tell me; who’s living in the lake house?

All this gossip about LeBron in New York has been pretty inescapable of late what with the recent Knicks trades that cleared salary cap space for the summer of 2010. And I get that people, sports journalists particularly, are intrigued by the recent developments. But, honestly, and I say this with all due respect, and nothing against sports journalists, but seriously, stop talking about it.

First of all, the Knicks have sucked so much for so long, and now we’re finally a little bit not so sucky. My thought? Let's focus on that. How do we capitalize on the current state of not-so-suckiness? This season. Maybe next season. Try, perhaps, to figure out how we can work through the communication breakthroughs that leave some players saying that they had been willing to play in certain games while other coaches are saying that they weren’t. Because guess what? People will be more likely to actually want to come play for New York if we can get through a year or two without all the dramamine. Well, that’s not true; if history is any indication of anything, people will want to play for whatever team offers them the most money. But you get what I’m saying. Can we, like, be here now a little bit?

Second, I am a Knicks fan as much as anyone can really be a Knicks fan—they make it hard. Would it be good for the Knicks if LeBron came to New York someday? Barring unforeseen injury or psychological disorder, obviously. Is LeBron currently playing in New York? No. Given that he’s playing for Cleveland, that he has established his fan base and stardom in Cleveland, is his obligation to tell everyone to shut their yaps because the only thing he’s focused on is bringing home a Cavalier championship this year? Uh, yeah. Kind of.

Even though it’s totally sacrelig for me to say so, I prefer LeBron as a Cav. The Knicks are like a dysfunctional family that you love because you have to but you wouldn’t really wish on anyone who you actually liked. LeBron will do what he wants at the end of the day, and, from I understand about him, he is ultimately his own chief advisor. But assuming for a second that we lived in some kind of fantasy world where what I said mattered to him, I’d tell him to stay put in Cleveland, where the team is awesome, the owner is salt of the earth, and the fans are Midwest like high fructose corn syrup—as is he.

Either way, like I said, until the time comes for the King to make his decision, I think it’s incumbent upon him to be making more of an effort to silence the speculation. To let people know that whether he’s a Knick, a Net, or a backup dancer for Beyonce come 2010, it's of little consequence because, currently, his only goal is getting the good people of Cleveland their trophy. Their shiny stuff, put in words that Stephon Marbury would understand.

But better do it, and do it soon. Because it’s no longer just about crazy futuristic headlines that confuse intelligent but, perhaps, easily disoriented people like me. That was just where it started. It has since evolved into this: “Knicks Could Help Lead CC to New York.”

Yes, the latest in this tiresome thread of news stories is that CC Sabathia is going to sign with the Yankees—not because they've offered him a a disgustingly enormous sum of money—but because in two years, he speculates the Knicks will probably go after LeBron and that he will probably say yes. And apparently CC loves LeBron so much that he is willing to make major life choices around the possibility that some day in the future they might eventually live in the same city, assuming a number of other things happen or don’t happen in the interim. And, by the way, Sabathia is married with two kids. But, yeah, I guess the prospect of staying up nights and watching old Golden Girls reruns with LeBron while braiding each other’s hair in their lofts in Tribeca TWO YEARS FROM NOW is a compelling enough possibility to outweigh any other considerations about what might be best for his family.

I’m going to hit you with a truth bomb—Tim McCarver style. Despite whatever conversations CC Sabathia and LeBron James may have had with each other in the past about how cute and fun it would be to play sports in New York—and, sure, maybe they have had such conversations—those conversations are not going to dictate the real life decisions they make. The ones that will determine their futures. Even if those conversations did involve pinky swears. Good God. These are grown ass men. And this is sports. Not camp.

Oh, Lawd. And I thought golf was crazy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

You Know Kay. Kay Hates Geeks.

Well, it’s official. Moose is stepping off the mound and tractoring off into the sunset, which, of course, begs the question: Can tractor be used as a verb?

But it also begs another question: Why so secretive Moose? I mean, you’ve know since last January and you didn’t think to tell us? What gives?

In response to that one, Moose has offered his sincerest apologies and said by way of explanation that he had kept his plan so hush hush because he didn’t want his retirement to become the focal point of the season.

(Fav-ruh, if you’re reading, I’m sure you’ve become confused and disoriented because Moose is speaking in a language that you aren’t familiar with. So, let me take a moment to translate for you. Whoops—can’t. I seem to have misplaced my English-to-Jackass Dictionary.)

Moose, a solid pitcher to the end, will retire with a 270-153 record and a 3.68 ERA over eighteen seasons. Having just completed his first 20-win season, he also retires on top of his game. Sure, he could have gone another few years and probably retired with 300, but Moose is putting his money where his mouth is. He has always said that, above all, he values spending time with his family. Well, he’s giving up millions of dollars and the opportunity to climb even higher up the all-time win and strike out lists so he can do just that. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; at the end of the day, he’d rather be at home.

When asked if he had had any second thoughts at all throughout the season, he commented, "I don't think there was ever a point where I looked around and said, 'You know what, I'm going to change my mind. It was like the last year of high school. You know it's going to end and you enjoy the ride."

So, basically, what he’s saying is that Fav-ruh is like a super duper senior.

On yesterday’s Michael Kay Show, there was some discussion as to whether or not Mike Mussina was a Hall of Fame pitcher. On the one hand, he’s an exceptionally consistent 270-win pitcher with 2,816 strikeouts and seven Gold Gloves. On the other hand, no Cy Young, no World Series ring, only one 20-win season and a high-ish ERA by Cooperstown standards.

After a lot of back and forth, Kay commented that it was such a source of lively discussion amongst so many people in the sports world that it make for a great topic for a school debate team.He then went on to say, “I wasn’t on the debate team. I wasn’t smart enough. I also wasn’t a big enough geek.”

I’m going to go with… A) You weren’t smart enough. Or was that not multiple choice?

Well, Kay, that you weren’t smart enough to join the debate team is no surprise to anyone who has ever heard you open your mouth. But if I needed further confirmation, you gave it to me in the form of your allusion to the age old idea that to be smart is to be a geek. Something you only suggest when you’re a fictional character in a teen movie from the 80’s or you’re an idiot.

Really, dude. Aren’t you like five thousand years old? Do you seriously still believe that intelligence is synonymous with geekiness. It’s lame to think that when you’re in high school, but like pathetic and depressing to think that when your old timey.

Tell me, Kay, if you had a Kay Jr. and he came home and said, “Hey, Pop, I decided that I want to expand my mind, learn about new subjects, and improve my public speaking skills by joining the debate team,” would you tell him to forget it? That that stuff's for geeks? That he should find something cooler to do with his time, like run around harassing athletes? Or would you just tell him to become captain of his college Chess Club like you did—because that’s so much more cutting edge?

Seriously, Kay, you make the part of me that likes to rebel against the existence of stupidity want to find a debate club to join. Just because.

Here’s a thought. Maybe, if you weren’t so opposed to not being dumb because you were afraid that it would make you uncool, you would be in a position to help ESPN Radio confront the unfortunate reality that is its imbecilic slogan: “You know us. We know sports.”

What is that? Like, free association?

It’s sort of like if I said, “I have dog. My dog eats food.” Or, “When it’s cold I wear a jacket. My jacket has pockets.” I am inclined to believe that the people at ESPN share a marketing team with the people at the Cubs. I know the stench of that slogan. It smells like “It’s Gonna Happen.”

In other news, it looks like my blog may have found a new home at I am not sure of the details of where you can find me or when you can find me there, but be assured that I will keep you posted. This move should be happening in the near-ish but not immediate future, so be advised and check in for updates. And if you want to help me stay afloat, visit me often. You can think of it as one of those charity sites where you click on the page to feed a homeless animal. Though, if you only have time to do one or the other on any given day, I guess go with the homeless animals. I think there might be a special place in hell reserved for me if I advised you to do otherwise.

In closing, the last song I heard last night on the radio and the first song I heard this morning was Beyonce’s “Put a Ring On It.” And, well, it made me think of someone special. Since I’m too lazy to call into the station, I am putting a link to the video up on my blog, and I’d like to dedicate it to Albert Pujols. Well, really Ryan Howard. Because it sort of reminds me of that thing Pujols said to Howard a couple of years back.

By the way, I am doing you all a favor because this video will blow your mind and change your life and make you fall in love with Beyonce all over again. That bitch can dance. And to quote someone who knows what she’s talking about, “I think it’s good if you can sing, but I think it’s better if you can dance.”

(Thank you, Jane, for bringing this video into our lives.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Putting The Oi Into Pedroia

And not cuz he’s Jewish. Cuz he’s not.

Having gotten that out of the way, let’s cut to the chase.

To no one’s great surprise, though to some people’s consternation, Pedroia has been named our AL MVP. Though, unlike other players who have been awarded the MVP this year (whose names I won’t mention out of respect and because they have funny names that sound like unfortunate body parts that people more juvenile than me might be inclined to make fun of), Pedroia didn’t say that he wasn’t surprised. In fact, one might say that he has handled the whole thing with, I don’t know, class and dignity. Which is whatever. Except, well, the dude’s a Chowda. And it makes the universe make more sense to me when the Chowdas are saying things like, “Manny being Manny, man,” and acting like disgruntled bad sports when people are beating home run derby records, and beating people up in dark alleys. (Watch Dateline long enough, Mike Lowell will eventually show up.)

But, instead, Dustin Pedroia responded to his victory by saying, “I really didn’t know what to expect. I was excited just having my name with all those players… For me, just to be in that category is an extreme honor.” So what gives, Pedroia? You reading my blog and think that just because you play cute and humble, you can avoid my wrath? Sorry, buddy, but you’re livin’ la vida chowda, and I’m afraid it’s not quite that simple. I’ve known you for—how long is it now?—a couple years. So one gracious moment does not an absolution make. I’ve seen into the depths of your soul. I know it to be red—and not in the Communist way.

It’s weird, eerie almost, that so many players should come out of one franchise being so strangely, well, the same. Cocky, rude, unsportsmanlike, unfamiliar with the virtues of showering. Yet, they keep churning them out. And Pedroia is no exception.

The thing Pedroia is most famous for other than knowing his way around the bat is that he likes to tell people all about how well he knows his way around the bat. Like, by saying embarrassing things before batting practice such as, “Get ready for the laser show.” If you think it’s too stupid to believe, this information can be easily verified by using one of the most reliable information sources in existence—urban dictionary. That’s right; Pedroia’s been urban dictionized. Look it up. Laser show: A fearsome and awe-inspiring display of line-drive hitting prowess, as made popular by Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Incidentally, while I was on urban dictionary, I decided to go ahead and look up ass clown just to see if it was truly a credible insult. Lo and behold, I discovered that an ass clown is one, who, through the fault of his parents’ conception, is a skid mark in society's collective underwear. So, my apologies for having mocked its merit. Be assured that when I use it in the future, it will always be in earnest. Like, when I say that Dustin Pedroia is an ass clown.

See, it’s not just the laser show thing, though that’s evidence enough of his ass clownery. There have been other offenses—the time Pedroia so tastelessly said that Jerry Remy stunk, the slap attack, the mouthing off to the press, and the fact that, whatever he’s saying or doing, it ultimately always seems like some variation or other of “Get ready for the laser show.”

Don’t get me wrong; I can almost sort of sympathize with Pedroia. There are people in the world for whom things seems to come easy. They are naturally endowed with talent, blessed with good luck, things just seems to go their way. Sports is no exception. There are players like Tim Lincecum who can eat crap before games and not ice their arms. Players like Derek Jeter who have the ability to make baseball look like ballet. Then there are the players whose success is largely dictated by their willingness to work at it, to overcome the odds that would suggest that, by all rights, they shouldn’t make it. My grandfather, who filled the alley by his house with sawdust so that he could practice his slide and used to pay kids to shag balls for him at the stadium on off days, was one of them. So is Pedroia. He has had to battle his whole life because of his size, fight other people’s expectations that he would fail, constantly work harder to compete with guys who were bigger. I respect that that takes grit.

But guess what, dude? You did it. You’re a major league baseball player. You have a World Series ring. You were Rookie of the Year last year. You’re this year’s AL MVP. (And Gold Glove AND Silver Slugger winner, by the way.) You’re Rocky post-victory with Apollo Creed, pre-plastic surgery old and pathetic era. So, by talking about lasers all the time, you’re not telling people to watch out because one day you’re going to make it. You’re just telling people to suck it.

Who knows? Maybe this whole MVP/Gold Glove/Silver Slugger thing constitutes a turning point for Pedroia. But I sort of doubt it. He’s so focused on how hard he’s had to work, so hung up on how hung up others are on his size, I don’t see him letting go of it. Despite his recent successes, he still feels compelled to say things like, “I'm not the biggest guy in the world. I don't have that many tools. If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't think I'm a baseball player. I think that's the biggest thing that drives me to be a good player. I've had to deal with that my whole life. I think that's just been instilled in my mind—that I have to overcome everything to prove people wrong. So far I've done that."

And that’s his bottom line: He needs to feel like he’s battling the world to find the necessary motivation to be good. Then, after he wins the battle, he needs to tell the world to shove it up its pujols.

That said, I do believe that it is truly an egregious offense to make fun of someone for his size. (And when it comes to Pedroia-hating, this is usually where people take aim. Stupid, right? Given how many other better things there are to hate on him about.) That shit's just mean. This may seem hypocritical because I like making fun of people for their names, especially when the people are jerks and their names rhyme with crapelbon—but the two seem somehow in different categories to me. A name is just a word—an arbitrary signifier so the world knows how to address a person. Physical attributes are the actual whole material portion of a person’s being. People are sensitive about it. And, for the most part, unless you want to have painful, expensive surgery, your physical features are unalterable. So I leave those alone. I do, however, make an exception for bad hair or facial hair, which I believe to be a reflection of taste and judgment.

Speaking of people whose names I like to make fun of: Holy Covelli. Coco Crisp is a Royal. No, not a royal pain in the pujols. Just a Royal. Like, from Kansas City. I wouldn’t have thought that any trade news from Chowdaville had the potential to break my heart—but, man, was I ever wrong. First Fav-ruh, now Crisp. It’s like all the fancy evil sports lords are having private meetings to discuss what moves to make to give me the most agita. Obviously, despite the trade, I can still tell Coco he sucks because suck is where the heart is. Whatever the hell that means. But now I’m going to have to accidentally make enemies with people from Kansas City, and I actually like those people and want them to like me. But I get it. No one needs two center fielders. And I guess you kind of brought this on yourself Coco Crisp.

Because you suck, Coco Crisp.

You know what? Still feels good.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Putting The Pu Into Pujols


It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving. Pitchers and catchers report in February, the season goes through October and, now, with Christmas upon us, they’re still stringing us along, doling out the awards. (Yes, Christmas officially starts the day after Halloween. It’s a policy that was implemented around 2005.)

Last week, of course, brought with it the naming of 2008’s Cy Young awards winners. This week? The National League MVP award, which went to Albert Pujols by a wide margin, despite the fact that people thought Ryan Howard might be a contender. However, not everyone was particularly surprised by the ease with which Pujols won his victory. Take for example Pujols, who said, “I wasn't surprised at all."

Holy mother of Krypton. Where’s Joe Torre when you need him?

Does the Midwest that I envision when I think about those great plains in all their friendly, well-mannered glory only exist in myth? First Lee, now this? I mean, I get that Lee and Pujols aren’t actually from the Midwest, but doesn’t something happen to you when you live there? Like don’t the niceness and sense of decency rub off on you or something? I mean, good God, Pujols. It’s like you have Renteria of the mouth.

But this isn’t the first time that Pujols has been—what’s the words I’m looking for?—oh, right, a totally ungracious piece of pu about the whole MVP thing. Back in 2006, the year after Pujols won his first MVP and a year when Howard actually did beat him out for the award, Pujols commented, “I see it this way: Someone who doesn’t take his team to the playoffs doesn’t deserve to win the MVP.”

And the Midwest keeps getting less Midwest-y by the second.

Fortunately for Pujols, who did not see his team to the playoffs this year, he clarified his remarks shortly after making them. He assured people that what he had meant was that this was the case unless one day he should happen to win the MVP without having led his team to the playoffs, in which case it was probably deserved.

I can’t wait until the announcement of the AL MVP award. Maybe Mauer or Morneau will take it and, in an effort to outdo their fellow Midwesterners say, “Yeah, well what did you expect? Those other guys got hands like tits.”

Here’s the thing—Lee and Pujols don’t not deserve their awards. But it makes me not like them when they act so ungraciously. And when I don’t like them, it’s hard for me to be happy for them. And I want to be happy for them. Not to mention the fact that all this obnoxious behavior makes me want to make fun of Pujols for his name. Granted, he bears quite a burden in that he would have to be an exceptional human to avoid having me want to make fun of him for that name. But it’s like he’s not even trying.

Meanwhile, breaking news: Manny Ramirez was suspended. Almost. Four months ago. Why, you ask, bother reporting on this news given the last two addenda to this statement? I’m not sure, but so many other news outlets were doing it I was worried I was missing something. So I figured I should mention it just in case. This may be the first and only time you hear me agree with Scott Boras (who I affectionately like to refer to as the Creature from the Black Lagoon), who said, "The fact is the intent to suspend is not a suspension." My gut feeling about something that didn’t actually happen a long time ago is that nobody cares. But must know a little more about what is interesting to people since more people are visiting their site than mine, so I humbly defer to their collective wisdom on all matters relating to everything.

Finally, I guess it can’t go unsaid that it looks like there may be some justice in the world. Mark Cuban is finally getting his comeuppance. Technically, it isn’t a crime to be a media-whoring, self-obsessed, unmitigated pain in the pujols. So they—the people—had to bring slightly more boring charges against him for insider trading. Though, presumably it’s some kind of cosmic punishment for the non-crime crimes listed above. (I said separation of church and sports—not separation of church and finance. I want someone regulating that shit.) Anyway, I’m not going to bother to compare him to Martha Stewart. Enough people have done that already, and I like to do my own thing. (Except for when I am stealing stories that I think are stupid about Manny Ramirez from I also think that it’s not a particularly apt comparison because, while their crimes maybe similar in nature, I don’t think Mark Cuban has done anything for society but badger and annoy us. Martha, on the other hand, taught us how to make pear-lychee tartlets and cut tomatoes in the shape of unicorns. I’m sure that the people who don’t order takeout every night for dinner are extremely appreciative.

Oh, and while we’re not on the subject, you suck Coco Crisp.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Lone Bright Spot

Forgive my prolonged absence. I’ve been taking a vacation. From my problems. And if you can name that reference, you can take one, too.

But it’s been a long time, so without further ado, let’s get down to business. Because—drum roll—Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum have joined the ranks of Cy Young Award winners.

While Lee was always the favorite for the AL Award, Lincecum’s landslide victory came as more of a surprise. Giants general manager Brian Sabean has summed up the events by saying “In Obama-like fashion, it wasn’t close.” Yes, and the similarity between these two victories probably has a little something to do with the fact that, like Obama, Lincecum launched his campaign on a platform that was based on the need to shore up our economy, rebuild strategic alliances, a 98 mph fastball and, seriously, what the hell are you talking about, Sabean?

Lincecum is a man of many nicknames. And if you know anything about me, it’s that I have an abnormally large number of pet hamsters for a grown-up, I hate when things don’t sound like they’re spelled, and I love a nickname. The most common of Lincecum’s nicknames is “The Freak”. A name that seems, perhaps, not so flattering but is in fact a reference to his freakish greatness. Not to this penchant for playing Dungeons and Dragons with Mike Mussina during the offseason. Tim’s dad, initially troubled by the possibility that the name was meant to be disparaging, called his son up one day to express his concern. Lincecum reasoned with his father, "O.K. is Michael Jordan a freak? Tiger Woods? Jack Nicklaus?" His father responded, "Yeah, I'd consider them freaks. Then, O.K., you're a freak.”

I’m sorry. I need a second. That story always gets me.

Among Tim’s other nicknames are “Seabiscuit,” a moniker he acquired from scouts back during his days in the minors. It’s a reference to the fact that he packs so much power into such a compact frame—five feet ten inches and 172 pounds compact to be exact. There’s also “The Kid.” Meh. Cutesey but not particularly original. And then the rest of them. Well, they are as much a tribute to the pathetic state of the Giants as they are the awesomeness of the Lincecum. There’s “The Franchise,” meant to imply that Lincecum is the Giants. Or, put more depressingly for Bay Area fans, the Giants are Lincecum. And, well, without Bonds, this assessment is sad but true. There’s “The Silver Lining.” (Which made me think, conversely, of a great nickname for A-Rod—“The Thorn.”) Then, there’s my favorite of the nicknames in that it truly speaks to the embarrassingly tragic state of affairs at AT&T Park. A nickname in which Dodgers fans must especially delight: “The Lone Bright Spot.”
If that’s not the sorriest reflection of how useless the Giants are, I don’t quite know what is. The guy might as well be nicknamed, “The Only Thing Keeping Giants Fans From Shooting Themselves In Their Faces.” Or, better yet, “What Am I Doing On This Team?”

What can we deduce from the fact that Lincecum has earned so many nicknames in such a relatively short period of time? (Other than that people shy away from using his real name because it sounds strangely like a cleaning product.) As previously established, a nickname is a term of endearment. So, to break it down Tim McCarver style, I’m going to go ahead and conclude that people are endeared to the Freak. And, it’s with good reason. The guy’s, well, endearing. He’s so unassuming that stadium security confused him for a bat boy when he was first called up. He would never use a word like instrument to refer to his arm or physique to refer to his body. On the contrary, he eats crap before starts and never even so much as bothers to ice after a game. All this probably doesn’t bode well for his longevity as a player, but it definitely makes him easy to like.

Some might argue that all this is just a reflection of the fact that he is juvenile, not particularly committed to staying in great shape. This is definitely true. And people would probably think his personal care routine was a little less adorable if he had a bad metabolism and a tendency to get injured. But I think the reason people appreciate the Freak’s approach is because it so clearly isn’t a reflection of his lack of investment. If anything, the Lone Bright Spot is so unabashed in his enthusiasm for the game that it’s almost refreshing. At the core of every professional athlete is an adolescent boy living his dream. The problem is that too many of them seem to forget to be excited about it or seem to think that it’s somehow unfashionable to let on that they are. Lincecum on the other hand? He seems not to have outgrown his teenage affection for and approach to the game he loves so well. Of course, this maybe suggests some arrested development and that he wouldn’t be the most awesome boyfriend in the world. But it makes for a pretty likable and compelling ballplayer. The kind who, upon hearing that he has surprised everyone including himself by winning the Cy Young Award at the tender age of 24, responds not with feigned composure but by shouting “Woo-hoo!” It’s fun to see someone care as much as we feel like we would if it was us. It makes us feel like they deserve it. And by us, I mean me, of course.

Lee, on the other hand, offered a different sort of response. When asked what statistic he was most proud of from the 2008 season, he responded, “I can’t really think of one. They all look pretty good to me.”

Come on, dude.

True, it probably would have seemed a little disingenuous for Lee to give us the Lincecum 14-year-old boy routine in response to the big victory given that he was such a shoo-in and that it’s not really in his nature, but that doesn’t mean necessarily meant that he had to be such an unabashed pujol about it. I mean, Lee went 22-3 this season and led the league in wins, winning percentage, home run ration, ERA and walk ratio. Out of all of those statistics, he couldn’t have just picked one and pretended it was his favorite?

For the record, Lee, I know being really good is a new thing for you, but in case it isn’t a fluke, let me give you an example of a correct answer to that same question. Lincecum’s answer. "I've always taken pride in trying to strike people out. I've always been that guy. That's the one (statistic) that kind of gets me fired up."

See how much less douchey that sounds?

The other big news on the beat is that we got Swisher. And if you know anything about me other than the fact that I have an abnormally large number of pet hamsters for a grown-up, I hate when things don’t sound like they’re spelled, and that I love a nickname, it’s that I have a real soft spot for the Swish. Last season was certainly far from his greatest, but I think that if he can tap into his real playing potential, we might just have ourselves a first baseman worth his salt. And I would have to imagine he’s the kind of guy you want in your clubhouse. So, sorry Betemit. Looks like we found our betta man. As for Sabathia, I guess we’ll just have to wait and CC.

Man, I’m sorry. That one was bad—even for me.

OK. Thaz it for now. But you can count on me to resume my regular irregular schedule of posting on a fairly regular basis. But since it’s been a while and you might be a person who needs reassurance, I just want to make sure you know that there are, indeed, some things that you can trust to remain the same despite the passage of time. Like the fact that you suck Coco Crisp.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Change We Need

Good morning. It’s time for riddle Saturday, which is a new event that I just made up and will probably never be repeated. Here goes:

What’s perpetually injured and useless and never going to get signed to a major league contract by anyone with half a brain for the rest of his sorry life?

Too easy? Let’s try another:

What’s old and tacky and has a gold thong that will hopefully never again be mentioned by a New York-based media outlet?

It’s the weekend. I don’t want you to overexert yourselves.

The point is that it’s been quite a week. A week of change and progress. New hope for a better, brighter future. No, sillies. I’m not talking about the election. I’m talking about the Yankees, who have taken a look at their options for next year and boldly decided: Out with the old, in with…well, probably the old, if I know the Yankees. But, still, it’s an exciting time. Without Pavano and Giambi and Marte we have positions that need filling, millions of dollars that need spending, and the world at our feet. It’s that rare but wondrous in-between time after you get rid of all the crappy overpaid players you don’t need anymore and before you do something stupid like, say, sign Manny Ramirez. A time when you can still be crazy enough to hope that maybe, just maybe, this year, it’s not gonna happen. And who knows? Maybe it won’t. Assuming we end up with Teixeira, we might be able to avoid degrading ourselves by engaging in that whole conversation.

Leaving aside the fact that he may serve as the one barrier that stands between the Bombers and Manny Ramirez, I feel good about Teixeira for a lot of reasons. First of all, he’s clearly a man of good judgment. How do we know this? He chose college over the Chowdas. Admittedly, college is awesome. But I like to think it had a little something to do with the fact that he thought anything—even playing for the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets—was preferable to playing for a team in Boston. I guess we’ll see how that theory of mine pans out in the next few weeks since the Chowdas will certainly be among his suitors.

Then, of course, there are all of the substantive reasons to like him—like the switch-hitting, Gold Glove first baseman reasons. But that goes without saying. It’s why GM’s across the country are going to be working their blackberries into overdrive in the coming weeks to get him on their rosters. Cashman says that, first and foremost, the Yanks are looking to shore up their defense, and Teixeira certainly helps on that score. And, while it may not be our priority, Lord knows no one’s going to kick that power hitting out of the lineup. So he’s a perfect candidate in every way.

My grievances are two. The first being the succubus that is his agent Scott Boras—an indication of maybe not-so-impeccable judgment. The second? To those of you who know me by now, this one should be obvious.

What the hell is going on with that last name?

In ways very different from Farvil’s, the spelling and pronunciation of this name bear little relation to each other. In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of any pronunciation that made sense for a name that was spelled that way. But the dude is Portuguese, so I am sort of prepared to let it slide. If you begin to chip away at the way they spell things in Portugal, you will eventually just wear away at the whole language. And that hardly seems right.

All this is nice of course, but I was never one to avoid pointing out the elephant in the room. In this case it is that, above all, what we need is pitching. In a way that is desperate, we need pitching. In a way that you need pitching if you only have two pitchers in your lineup, we need pitching. Which means, what? Which means that we probably pay an obscene amount of money for a multiyear contract in order to acquire Sabathia and pray that he doesn’t get hurt, go Pavano or lose his witch powers in the next few years. It wouldn’t be the first time. But, while I am always dubious about big money, multiyear contracts, the one thing Sabathia has going for him is youth—a refreshing change. We all knew that after the Kennedy-Hughes experiment failed so miserably, no one in the Steinbrenner family would ever be persuaded that the way to win pennants was to home grow talent. So, if we’re going to be buying an overpaid pitching staff, I’d rather not invest in goods that are like five thousand years old in baseball years.

Speaking of over-aged pitchers, we have also to wonder whether Mussina decides to hang up the old Gold Glove or try for one last good season. If you want my humble opinion, he just had a last good season. If I were Moose, I’d probably feel compelled to retire on top of my game, coach high school football, spend more time playing with my tractors. (No, that’s not a euphemism.) Of course, if I were Moose, I would also live in Montoursville, PA, so I can’t presume to totally understand how his mind works. Should Moose want back in the game, Cash has all but promised him a spot on the rotation should he want it, saying, "We just obviously have needs...”

Note to Cash: Try to avoid talking about gaps in your pitching lineup the way men who have affairs talk about sex.

Who else? Lowe, Burnett, Peavy, Sheets. Possibilities abound. Peavy’s probably a long shot for a number of reasons, but the Yanks are very persuasive when it comes to convincing players to part with their souls. As for Sheets, awesome as he is, I have a feeling we might be looking at the Second Coming of Pavano, so I say stay away. And, Lowe, well… You know what? I’m not going to make myself nuts. I’ve made a deal with Cash (about which he is unaware): He doesn’t go near Manny, I don’t give him too much grief about who he acquires or cuts loose this winter. Just no Manny. To prove that some things are sacred. That the Yanks know when to say when. That they’re capable of a little self-restraint. Not to mention the fact that Manny and Fav-ruh all in one year might be more than my fragile constitution can abide. Talk about a perfect storm. Slash the end of the world. Slash the seventh circle of hell. We would just need Mark Cuban to buy the Knicks and then we’d have a New York sports trifecta horrifying enough to send me fleeing to the Midwest never to be seen or heard from again

But, then again, maybe Manny will surprise us all and just accept the Dodgers’ offer and not force his contract negotiations into a media circus bidding war that brings us to the Super Bowl. It’s unlikely, but crazier, more awesome things have happened.

Which reminds me. Here’s one last riddle, just for fun:

What’s black and white and President all over?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Night Football

We are all aware of the theoretical separation of church and state. Well, I am. Presumably readers of my blog are. I guess I shouldn’t make any assumptions about the people who run the country and those who voted for them.

The other day, I touched on what I believe to be an equally important tenet. Ah, hell, we’ll call it a principle. That would be the separation of church and sports principle.

This brings us to our third and final in a set of related principles: The separation of sports and state. Obvious, right? Because what does a sports allegiance have to do with government? Presumably nothing, unless you live in a country full of people who vote for someone because they think that he’d be cool to have a beer with.

And, yet, it is a principle perpetually breached.

There was, of course, the famous scandal in 2000 over Hillary’s allegedly fake allegiance to the Yankees. Guess what? If you were going to vote for Hillary but ended up going with Lazio because you decided that she was exclusively a Cubs fan—congratulations, you’re a jackass. (Oh, and also, you were wrong. That bitch loves the Yankees something loco. Always has.)

Then, of course, there is the fact that, ever since 9/11, the people in the Bronx have decided to hijack the age old tradition of singing, “Take me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch by forcing us to first sing “God Bless America.” It’s become a time for us to honor our servicemen and women and the sacrifices they are making for our country by getting drunk and screaming at people that if they don’t take their hats off and show some respect we’re going to punch them in the face. Not that I could begin to presume to understand the sacrifices of our servicemen and women, but I am guessing that that is exactly how I would want to be honored if I was them.

I am all for giving both our country and military its due, but I don’t know that the ballpark is necessarily the proper arena. If you want to know the truth, I actually think it lets people off kind of easy to make them believe that all they need to do is get drunk at a ballgame, yell at someone to take his or her hat off and they will have shown their country the necessary amount of respect. I have some other ideas for more effective ways that people might demonstrate their theoretical loyalty to state, but I will spare you those at the moment.

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Tom Brokaw asked Republican Fred Thompson which was more likely—that the Titans would win the Super Bowl or McCain would win the election. Now, Fred Thompson is presumably not equipped to answer that question in a way that is statistically more satisfactory than any of the rest of us, for whom the answer to that question would obviously have been The Titans times a thousand. But not the point. The point is, good God, Brokaw, what the hell does that have to do with anything? You’re hosting “Meet the Press.” Not “Meet The Inane Prognostications.”

As for tonight. Well, it’s the Eve of the Election, so where else would Obama and McCain be other than giving interviews during halftime of the Steelers-Redskins game. Fair enough, I guess. People watch Monday Night Football. So that’s not the news that surprised me. What surprised me was the discovery that the outcome of this game will apparently determine the outcome of this election. (Awesome news for me because I’m SO sick of staying up past my bedtime to watch the returns.)

No, it’s true.

According to Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sport Bureau, you can gauge the outcome of a presidential election by what the Redskins do in their home game prior to Election Day. If they win, the party that won the popular vote in the previous election wins the presidency. If the Redskins lose, the reverse is true. Thus, if the Steelers win, it means Obama take the White House. If the Redskins win, we get McCain and Palin. So, either the Redskins have to forfeit to show that they care about our country or…

That’s the dumbest crap I ever heard.

Remember that time we all thought that Babe Ruth did witchcraft on the Chowdas for eighty-six years to make them incapable of winning and it turned out they were just really bad that whole time? So, it’s like that but kind of more of a big deal and therefore more outrageous to suggest that a football team with an offensive name could potentially predict the outcome of this election because the fate of our country and planet and universe depend on it. But whatever. What’s more likely—that the Steelers will win tonight’s game or that Steve Hirdt is—what’s that insult I like so much?—an ass clown?

I’m just saying.

I love sports more than the next person. Possibly more, depending on who the next person is. But sports has nothing to do with politics. And it has nothing to do with God. Period. I remember in 2004, I was taking the subway home from one of the Yankees-Red Sox LCS games, and some idiot Yankee fan (yes, there are a few of them) was saying, “John Kerry is from Boston, so if you don’t like the Red Sox, you shouldn’t vote for John Kerry.”

To which my friend Jane responded with the only comeback befitting someone stupid enough to suggest a link between the sacred but separate concepts of church, state, and sports:

“That's de-men-ted.” Clap, clap, clap clap clap.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Clear Eyes, Full Moon, Can't Lose

According to Mike Singletary, recently appointed head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, "I think you can be the greatest orator of all time, the greatest motivator of all times, but if those players know that you don't care about them, and you don't try to understand them, then they're never going to hear what you have to say. On the flip side of that, if those players know you have their best interests at heart and it's not about you, it's about them, yes, they do listen."

So, having eliminated oration as an effective means of getting across his point during halftime of last week’s travesty of a game against the Seahawks, Singletary did what any coach committed enough to show his players he cared would have done: He pulled his pants down.

Now, I’m sure that a lot of you are feeling a little judgmental about this whole incident. But visualize, for a second, that you’re Mike Singletary. You have just been named head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. You’re being demolished by the Seahawks. You lose this one, it constitutes your fifth loss in a row.

I know; worst visualization ever.

Anyway, you’re emotional. In a moment of passion, you do something crazy to make a point. (Exactly what point, no one can be sure.) You pull your pants down. Presumably, after the fact, you’re a little humiliated. The endorphins have worn off and you realize, “Dude. I just pulled my pants down in front of a room full of professional football players. I sort of wish I was dead.” I’m sure that, given the chance, Singletary would love to just be able to plead temporary insanity and forget the whole stupid debacle.


Or maybe not. In recent interviews, Singletary has said that he “can’t think of anything I would do differently.”

OK, Mike, I don’t want to be a jerk, but do you remember that you pulled your pants down? That you addressed your team without your pants on? I would go with, “I can’t think of anything I would do differently—except keep my pants on.”

But, no, Singletary has decided to stick to his guns, saying that the problem was not his inability to keep his pants on but the team’s inability to remember that what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. (Whatever. My motto is: If you see something, say something.) Singletary commented, "It's unfortunate ... we will find out who is leaking information out of the locker room because what happens in the locker room should be sacred and stay there."

Uh, nothing against Singletary, but if anyone on the Niners failed to see what was going on in the locker room as “sacred,” that one might sort of be on him.

One can’t be totally sure of what Singletary was attempting to communicate by de-pantsing himself. From what I gather, I think that he was trying to say, “You see how much I’m humiliating myself right now? Well that’s what you’re doing on the field.” Whatever the strategy, it didn’t appear to be particularly effective. The 49ers went into halftime down 20-3 and ended up losing the game 33-14.

While the removal of his pants may have been the most notable of the unconventional inspirational strategies that Singletary employed during his debut as head coach, it was not the only one. In this same game, he also decided to bench quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan, had a sideline beef with tight end Vernon Davis that ended with him sending Davis to the showers and, after the game, he made a public statement criticizing Davis, saying, “I'd rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else, rather than play with 11 when I know that right now that person is not sold out to be a part of this team.”

In the immortal words of Matt Yallof, “That not just hurts. It stings.”

While Singletary’s rash of crazy moves last week has met with criticism from bloggers and journalists alike, a number of his fans have come to his defense, citing his greatness as a player as evidence of his infallibility as a coach. A rock solid argument. Because, in the history of professional sports, there’s never been an amazing player who has failed to measure up as a coach Remember, for example Maury Willis and what a stellar job he did as the manager for the Mariners? Great player = great coach. Bottom line.

Among my favorite of Singletary’s supporters are those who wrote on his facebook wall. Yes, Singeltary has a facebook page. But don’t get too excited. You can’t become his facebook friend—only his fan. (How delightfully arrogant.) Also, to my great disappointment, he does not have a status message. If the guy had any sense of humor he’d write, “Mike Singletary is wearing pants. For now.”

He does, however, allow people to write on his wall. And the feedback was so overwhelmingly positive, so devoid of mention of any pantlessness, that it might almost give people the false impression that there was someone vetting the comments before they were posted. But, no. That’s just how much people love the guy. No one could have put it better than one of his many facebook fans who wrote, “Don't listen to fools like Len Wilson or Ben Tallman, Mike. You're a Niner, a FAITHFUL. Those guys are ass clowns. I'm ready to see Gore run wild again and good work putting VD in his baby place. 4154LIFE Mike!!!”

How better to know that you have arrived than to receive such a flattering facebook wall comment from a guy who has a photo of Vizzini from Princess Bride as his profile picture, uses the number 4 in lieu of the word for (and isn’t a twelve-year-old girl), and gives his point special emphasis by using not one, not two, but THREE exclamation points? That guy really said it, Singletary; you’re a FAITHFUL.

And he’s an ass clown. (!!!)

Friday, October 31, 2008

The "Winter" Of Our Discontent

I was at Starbucks yesterday. No, not because I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Moose in action—sitting in a corner drinking a soy chai latte and writing poetry. And, no, not because that’s where I like to get my coffee. (If you will recall, I have an edge.) But I was at the airport, and options were limited. I was waiting for my order when I glimpsed an ad for some new hot chocolate blend that they have coming out. It read:

Made with a mélange of exceptional cocoas. It makes “fall” feel more like “autumn.”

As always, I know what you’re going to say. How does John McCain find the time to write ads for Starbucks when he’s campaigning for president? You’re also probably going to say that that’s the dumbest crap you ever read. Because it’s like saying, “Drink this smoothie. It has lots of fruit in it. And it makes summer feel like summer.”

But, actually, if you read between the lines, this ad is totally brilliant, hilarious, and teeming with irony.

First of all, the word mélange is French. (It happens to be among my favorite French words because it is the word that comes up on people’s cell phones when they try to text my name. How fun is that?) It’s a well-established fact (in my mind) that the use of any French word in casual conversation is always meant to be ironic. As is the saying of a French word that has been integrated into the English vernacular—like croissant—with a French accent. Unless you are like a Proust scholar or something. And, actually, now that I bring it up, it is also my belief that people who are Proust scholars have chosen that career path as a way of making a clever and deeply hysterical joke. They’re just way more committed to irony than the rest of us.

Then, of course, there are the unnecessary quotation marks—and there is no greater ironic device than an unnecessary quotation mark. For a long time, the fact that people used quotes in ways that didn’t make sense made me completely insane. A few years back, I had a bagel store near my apartment that was actually called “Everything on a Bagel”—in quotes. I found it maddening. What was their meaning? Were they trying to suggest that the phrase, “Everything on a bagel” was some kind of famous saying? By…Socrates? Nietzsche? Then, of course, there are also all those delis that advertise “Healthy” Deli, “Gourmet” Deli. For ages, I agonized over the seeming nonsensical nature of the usage of all those quotations.

Until one day it hit me. It’s ALL a joke. Those quotation marks are all just a really clever way of being sarcastic. Because how many of those delis ever really offered anything even remotely healthy or gourmet? And obviously there are things that don’t actually belong on bagels. Hummus goes on pitas. Salsa goes on chips. Nutella goes on a spoon. “Everything on a bagel.” Ha! HILARIOUS.

So what were the people at Starbucks REALLY trying to say? What they were really trying to say was, “Your decision to order hot chocolate is obviously going to hinge entirely on whether or not that was what you wanted coming to the counter. But isn’t it funny how some companies think that by employing the use of ridiculous poetic language and fancy foreign words they are actually going to be able to affect your decision or make you suddenly take interest in a drink that has been around since the dawn of time?”

SUCH a good one.

So, I wanted to pay tribute to the brilliance of this ad campaign by making my discussion of the end of the baseball season an hommage, if you will, to its creators.

As I’m sure you all know by now—and you certainly must because it’s such a “historic” event—the Phillies finally went and won themselves a championship. C’est magnifique!

Various news publications have cited the fact that there has been a certain symmetry to the victory. The Phillies last win was in ’80. This year is, of course, ’08. (The Times was “helpful” enough to point out for us that those two numbers are the inverse of one another.) Additionally, When the Phillies won their previous championship—their only other championship—they closed the game on a strike out by Tug McGraw, number 45. This time? Number 54, Brad Lidge, closed it out by striking out Eric Hinske on a slider. Weird. What a “crazy” set of coincidences.

All in all, despite an outstanding season and October up until now, the Devs failed to deliver much of a performance during this series against the Phils. They underwhelmed in every way imaginable, never following through whenever they began to spark what looked like even the slightest hint of a resurgence. In fact, one might even say they made the “Fall Classic” feel more like “spring training.”

In any event, winter is officially upon us. Baseball winter if not actual winter. And that means that all I have to look forward to in the coming months is spending Sundays with “Farve,” wondering how someone who bungles so many plays still manages to win games. It means I get to sit around and wait to see what overpriced, over-aged pitchers the Yankees are going pick up during the offseason. It means I get to hear more than I wanted to know about what Frost-Tip has to say about “Kabbalah.”

To be honest, I can’t say for sure how I’m going to make it through. But, every year, I find a way. This year, probably with the aid of the timely arrival of a new season of 30 Rock, a lot of self-reflection, and the new Starbucks mélange of cocoas. (Whatever. It sounded good.)

What can I say? The crowning of a new champion is just so bittersweet. It always manages to makes the “end of the baseball season” feel more like the “end of the baseball season.”