Friday, October 27, 2006

Back to the good stuff

It’s Friday, and I have roughly an hour left in my workday. I just finished up a project (yes, I do actually do work at work) but there’s not enough time to really get into a new one. Plus, like I said, it’s Friday.

So I thought I'd write a bit. And while I don’t have a cohesive column to put forth, I thought I'd do a throwback to the original days of this blog when I would just throw out random observations at the end of every column.

I love writing observations, because:

A.) They don’t take a lot of thought

B.) I have a short attention span and so do most people I know

C.) They don’t take a lot of thought

Observations can really be anything: random thoughts floating through that vast-spacelike organ between my ears; points ripped from email exchanges I’ve had this week with friends; things that may not mean anything to anyone but me. I apologize for that, but this is my blog after all. So deal.

Without further ado, here are (drum roll please) my observations for this week:

I love Derek Jeter. Every Yankee fan does. But ESPN’s Buster Olney is exactly right—Jeter needs to get his head out of his ass and start speaking up for A-Rod. Like Olney said, there’s no downside for Jeter. Plus, it will make him look less like the self-absorbed ass he’s starting to sound like in the media because he will stick up for everyone but A-Rod.

A-Rod’s not going to be traded, just like Manny won’t be. Why? For starters, there is only one scenario that you would trade these guys for: young, proven pitching. Aka, Verlander, Zumaya, Liriano and oh yeah the list stops right around there because there aren’t many guys who fit that description. And no team is going to trade young proven pitching. So amongst the 2,000 other reasons (hall of famers for .50 on the dollar, etc) it’s just not going to happen. Can we start talking about something else?

I’m deeply saddened by the end of the Drew Bledsoe era in Dallas. I mean, his presence alone pretty much guaranteed the Giants at least a split with the Boys every year. And you knew he’d work hard to keep the opposition in every game. I’m going to miss him playing hard for my Giants, for the Skins, and for the Eagles. He was a great addition to our teams.

Though, if the entire Tony Romo Era is anything like it started out, I’m also going to thoroughly enjoy him too. His mobility buys him time to complete more interceptions.

As bad as Dallas played, the Giants looked good during the highest rated television broadcast in cable history. Other than Eli being Eli (which I like to describe as “periods of brilliance surrounded by moments of sheer terror”) the team looks like its really coming together. Someone finally told the defense that the preseason is over and the scores actually matter now, which is good. Hopefully losing Arrington for the season and Osi being out a week won’t bite them in the arse too badly. I’m not going to go as far as saying I think the Giants can make the Super Bowl, but I think the Giants can probably make the Super Bowl.

I guess I have to say something about Tiki’s retirement. Here’s what I think: have you seen Brandon Jacobs run the ball? Seriously? The man is a hybrid between a Sherman Tank and an Indy Car. Shades of Christian Okoye, except with speed and agility. To use a popular Giants phrase, he’s Thunder and Lightening in the same guy. If he learns how to catch a ball, look out. I’m not saying he’s as good as Tiki, but I’m saying I like my chances with him. (As for Tiki, I can’t wait till he’s doing the Today Show five years from now and cracking uncomfortable jokes with Matt Lauer and Al Roker’s stapled stomach.)

I like beer. Really, that’s not news, but it’s almost the weekend, so I just thought I’d throw that out there.

If T.O. had actually committed suicide, would you really have been sad or would you have just acted like it?

I think the Red Sox are going to suck royally next year if they don’t make some moves for more bats and get some pitching. Seriously, I’m thinking like 70 wins. I’m not kidding. That bad.

I think Bill Simmons’ wife is getting to be funnier than he is.

Mike Mussina may not be on the Yanks next year, and please GOD let them trade Gary Sheffield. Everyone thinks Alex is clubhouse problem. But Gary is the original clubhouse malcontent on this team. Don’t forget that. He’s certainly not worth $13 million to play first base. You think it’s chance that the Yankees were playing better baseball when he was on the bench and the bats immediately went cold when he came back? Um, it wasn’t. He craps on the chemistry of that team worse than anyone else. He needs to go. As for Mike, hopefully they can restructure his deal and keep him as a #3 or 4.

I made a trade for Steve Smith for my fantasy team this past week. (Frank Gore, who I got for Chad Johnson.) I’m shaky excited for the rest of the season now. I mean, I know it’s not possible for a fantasy team to have a chemistry problem, but mine did. Seriously. One week Julius Jones would go off, but no one else, the next Ronnie Brown would have a decent game, but neither Jones brother would, etc. I was mired at .500. If my team were real, analysts would be talking about this trade and throwing around phrases like, “this is just the kickstart this team needed” and “there’s a palpable excitement brewing in this imaginary locker room.” Yes, I think about this stuff too much. I know.

Whatever happened to the discount airlines? JetBlue? Song? Ted? Remember, they were supposed to be a cheap alternative to the juggernaut airlines. Now JetBlue wants $703 dollars for a round trip from NYC to Long Beach. Seriously? Sure, we’re at war, there’s an oil crisis, I get it. But $703 just to fly across the country? I refuse to believe no one can come up with a way to have an actual discount airline. I’m talking $75 roundtrip to NYC from Boston. And I mean Logan to LaGuardia, not Manchester to Islip. Is that too much to ask? (That’s another annoying trend with airlines. Manchester is not a local Boston airport, and Islip should never be referred to as an NYC alternative. Islip might as well be in Rhode Island. Really, I want to take a $340 cab ride to the city.)

Instead of betting on outcomes of actual football games, I want to bet on stuff like, “Steve McNair will get hurt and Kyle Boller will come in and throw two deflections that will somehow go for touchdowns.” On second thought, it’s probably better we can’t because I’d throw half my salary on this stuff.

I keep reminding myself that the Tigers were a horrible team as little as three weeks ago. I suppose I have a slight confession to make: I haven’t been watching the World Series, at least not without interruption. Programs I’ve chosen over the WS: Studio 60, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, How I Met Your Mother, MNF, and Sunday Night Football. (Keep in mind I have a DVR and I could watch any of those at any time, but I consciously chose to watch them instead of watching the WS.) Which explains the all-time low ratings. I mean, if a guy like me doesn’t really care, how can an average sports fan?

If you think baseball’s steroid problem is under control, just remember that Jeff Suppan was the NLCS MVP and Kenny Rogers hasn’t allowed a run in 23 innings in the postseason. So, either all the hitters were on steroids and now aren’t, or all the pitchers are now on them.

I have a bit of a reputation for coming up with really good Halloween costumes. (One year, I was the Verizon guy, last year Ron Burgundy, complete with red suit, turtleneck, moustache and Channel Four Action news mike.) This year I had the perfect Halloween costume lined up. I mean, I was excited about it. I was going to wear a #12 Jets jersey over a turtleneck with jeans and my girlfriend Mary Kate (no sister named Ashley, sorry) was going to wear a yellow coat, put her hair up and carry an ESPN mike. That’s right, Joe Namath and Suzy Kolber. “I just wanna kiss you.” And then Bill Simmons had to go and list that in his column this week. (see link above) Damn him. Not only does he have my perfect job, but he’s also giving away my costume ideas. Plus, he’s getting schooled by his wife in football picks. He needs to pull a Tiki and retire in his prime.

Did I mention I like beer? Maybe I did.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Not in my Stadium: Rules for fan gimmicks

So the Mets went down in historic fashion, a game in which the worst pitching matchup in Game 7 history all but solidified the fact the National League is officially AAAA level ball. (And when the Tigers sweep next week, will anyone be surprised?)

But the biggest disappointment was not the game, but the Mets fans. I don’t really like the Mets, but I respect Mets fans. Mets fans are real fans, fans who know the game, respect the game, and respect the traditions of the game. They’re down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth types. Guys you would shoot the shit with you if you sat next to them at the bar, and girls who wouldn’t mind sitting on the couch watching football with you on Sunday.

But the first cut FOX made to Shea last night showed nearly the entire stadium waving around towels like a bunch of mindless bums who couldn’t tell you the difference between a suicide squeeze and a sac fly. For a minute, I thought we were in Anaheim or Chavez Ravine. It looked like someplace where the majority of the fan base spends the year tanning in 80-degree weather, essentially making it impossible care about anything more serious than “I need a manicure” and “Is that Ben Stiller!? It IS Ben Stiller!!!”

I even laughed when I read the Sports Guy this morning—he had the same thought:

Hey, what about the Mets fans waving these white hankies? What is this, amateur hour? I thought the Mets had real baseball fans? I'd expect that crap at Tropicana Field or Chase Field, but not a place like Shea. Come on.

And it even came up with my friends Alana, a NYer (but Yankees fan) and Josh, a former NYer (and Mets fan) when we did our traditional morning after e-mail recap. Clearly, we were not the only ones who cared about this.

Alana was very opposed, but Josh didn’t mind, because “It looked cool on TV.” If I didn’t know Josh was a very good Mets fan I would question his integrity, but I’ll let that slip.

All this got me to thinking: what gimmicks or traditions are acceptable at what sporting venues? Are towels okay everywhere? Rally Monkeys? I think it’s time we got a ruling on this. What you are about to read is most definitely a work in progress, but I think this is an important topic if you give a crap about sports and have no work to do on a Friday.

I’m not quite sure how to characterize this, (By Stadium? By gimmick?) so I’m just going to set forth some ground rules for gimmicks and then maybe we can go from there. I’m not going to run down every gimmick, because there are sure to be some I’m not even aware of, but just set some guidelines.

Before you participate in a gimmick, such as towel waving, these are the questions you need to consider:

1.) Is the gimmick original to your stadium/fan base, or has the “statute of limitations” expired on it so long ago that no one really remembers where it started?

For example, towel waving is clearly indigenous to Pittsburgh, whose denizens have proudly waved the patented Terrible Towel for as long as I can remember. Now, I could be wrong, and this could have started elsewhere, but the point is that Pittsburgh fans took this idea, made it their own, even copyrighted it to the point that when you think about fans waving a towel Pittsburgh is what you think about. Therefore, unless you are in Pittsburgh rooting for a local Pittsburgh team, you should not be waving a towel.

By this rule, that also means other native traditions such as the cool octopus tossing in Detroit and the incredibly stupid rally monkey in Anaheim get grandfathered in. Which makes me think rule number 2 should be:

2.) Is the gimmick stupid and completely out of the blue?

Now, what on God’s Green Earth does a Monkey have to do with Baseball or Anaheim? Are the streets of Anaheim overrun with baseball-loving monkeys who eat bananas and discuss the merits of grass over Astroturf? I’ve never been there, but I’m guessing that’s not the case. I tried to find the origins of the Rally Monkey, but this was all I found on a random Web site not even worth linking to:

He was born by accident on June 6, 2000, at Edison Field during a game against the Giants. When the Angels trailed by six runs in the sixth inning, the video board operators showed a clip of a monkey jumping up and down with the words "Rally Monkey.

Right. So can we all agree that this: A.) Has nothing to do with baseball, and B.) Any gimmick that makes people bring stuffed animals to a baseball game is wrong. I think we can agree on that.

However, Octopus tossing? That’s permissible. Why? Because: A.) There’s a good reason for it B.) that’s just creative, C.) They toss real octopi, and D.) It’s just fun to say “octopi”.

Now, if the folks at Anaheim tossed live, crazed, shit-tossing monkeys on the field at Anaheim, I’d be all for the Rally Monkey. I’d probably move to Anaheim and buy season tickets. Or even if they tossed rotting monkey corpses. That would be interesting, if just to hear Joe Buck get indignant about it.

Until then, I’m declaring the Rally Monkey dead. Moving on. Let’s discuss gimmicks that include fans dressing up:

3.) If there’s a general A.P.B. out that tells fans to dress up in a certain color, is that okay?

The quick answer here is: Yes. Absolutely. In fact, if you attend an important game, like a playoff game, and don’t wear your team color, everyone in your section has the right to one free punch in your face. However, there is one important thing to consider:

3B.) Is the color we’re dressing up in actually a team color?

I know, it sounds like a dumb question. But if you’re sports fan, you already know who I’m getting after here. Everyone in Miami, I hate to break it to you, but White is not a “team color.” It’s just not, unless you are Penn State. The White Out can get away with it, because their most popular uniforms are about 98% white. I’ll give them a pass, but White is actually not even a real color in the technical spectrum—white is a combination of every color. Every team in every sport has a white uniform, or a uniform that has white on it. White doesn’t count.

I couldn’t even find the Heat’s official team colors on the official website, which I should have expected from a Miami sports franchise. I had to go to Wikipedia—which is equivalent to getting your news from Geraldo—where I discovered the Heat’s colors are Red, Black, White and Yellow. First, that’s wrong, because no team should have four freaking colors. And also, because as we’ve discussed, white is not a team color, unless you’re Penn State. So Miami fans—and I use the term loosely—please dress in RED next time. Seriously, the rest of the sports world will have a lot more respect for you if you do. The general rule should be, whatever your team’s primary color is, that’s what you should dress in. It’s not hard, people.

And those rules are general enough that they should cover just about every gimmick out there, I think. I just want to close with one additional rule that I believe anyone who is actually a fan of sport and not just “there for entertainment or a fun night out” will appreciate.

4.)Under no circumstances, and I mean, none WHATSOEVER, should you ever, ever, EVER, touch a thunderstick, let alone bang two together.

Seriously, treat thundersticks like they have herpes. Don’t even touch them. Step on them and pop them. They are the curse of the true fan. The annoying kid behind you will bang them incessantly. The drunk girl will wave hers around and hit you in the head, or worse, knock over your beer. Some guy 10 rows back will inevitably toss his toward the court like a penile javelin—but the damn things don’t fly straight, so they’ll smack you in the face on the way down. Which or course will cause your friends to make fun of you for getting hit in the face with a giant inflatable dildo. I’m just saying, they’re evil.

But there’s a bigger problem with those things: Who gave you the right to take the easy way out as fans? When I was growing up, you wanted to make noise, you wanted to be loud, you wanted to support your team in a tight spot, you screamed. You clapped. You chanted. You banged on the chair in front of you. When that chump missed that free throw or that pitcher threw ball four, you felt like you were a part of the team because you earned that break. No easy outs here, kids. If you don’t leave the game hoarse, you didn’t do your job. People that use thundersticks aren’t fans. Thundersticks are below Rally Monkeys on the fanolutionary chain.

At least until we get some live monkeys chasing Vlad Guerrero around the outfield. Then the Rally Monkey moves up to the one spot.

Monday, October 09, 2006

It’s time.

There is a lot of speculation that the Yankees will fire Joe Torre. From the headline above, you can guess what I think about it.

The bottom line is, Joe didn’t get it done. I know it sounds insane to say that about a guy who holds four World Series rings, but it is the simple truth that the last of those rings came in 2000. That is an eternity ago in Yankee time.

Let’s think about Joe’s postseason results since 2000.

2001: The Last Night of the Yankees Dynasty as Buster Olney has now famously called it with his book of the same name. Torre was one inning away from a fifth ring, and maybe you can’t pin this one on him so much as you can give it to the Diamondbacks.

2002: First round loss to the Angels, 3 to 1. That, by any stretch of the imagination, is a failure.

2003: Lost in six games to the Florida Marlins in the World Series. Not a complete failure, but short of the ultimate goal.

2004: The greatest collapse in sports history to the team’s ultimate rival. This isn’t just failure, but failure on a historical level. And you have to think that most any other manager gets the boot after this. Torre’s past rings saved him here. I don’t want to use the phrase “A good manager would have prevented this” because Torre is an excellent manager, but that’s the general sentiment I’ve always had about that collapse.

2005: The Angels again, ALDS, in five.

2006: The Tigers, ALDS, in four. As you know.

The bottom line is Torre has consistently been given the tools other managers only dream about, and he has failed to make it out of the first round three of the last five years. He lost four straight to the team’s arch rival in the ALCS. Lost in the World Series twice. (And, we now forget, how close they came to losing in the 2003 ALCS.)

Unless you buy into Billy Beane’s Moneyball theory that “Whatever happens in the playoffs is complete luck” you have to agree that Joe Torre has failed in the postseason for the past six years.

And you can’t blame it on the players without the blame falling on the Manager’s head. That is the understood and accepted truth. There will be speculation that another manager (a feisty Pinella?) could have gotten production out of A-Rod. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. But the Yankees’ post-season failure has been occurring since before A-Rod donned pinstripes, and it continues after.

I’ll say it again: with the tools he has been given, you have to believe that not winning the World Series is a failure for these teams and therefore a failure for the team’s manager, Joe Torre.

And that’s why I say it’s time. Even if it hurts for me to say that. Bye, Joe.