Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where my cameras at?

My first job out of college was working for a small newspaper about an hour from where I grew up. It was in a military town that, at one point, was one of the fastest growing communities in the country. However, by the time I got started working there only a few months after September 11, 2001, the majority of the soldiers on the base had been deployed and many spouses and girlfriends had either moved back home or back to their parents or back to somewhere that wasn't there.

It was a small paper that consisted of one sports writer, three news writers (including myself) and an executive editor who was, frankly, there all the time. One day shortly after I started working there, I got a call about a retail box store who was making a $1,000 contribution to a local charity. It could have been the Boys and Girls Club, the Library Foundation, or something else, I don't remember what it was. Anyway, I went and took the standard photo you've all seen a thousand times (well, you did if you read newspapers) with the giant check and the handshake and smile. They are all the same photos and with a little Photoshop skills, you could replicate the photo for any giant check presentation without having to go through the effort of going to take the picture.

I get back from the event only to learn that the paper's policy is to not run those kinds of photos. Otherwise, the paper would be inundated with picture after picture of organizations donating to charities for the sole purpose of getting their name and picture in the paper. Because the idea of donating money to a charity without some sort of media recognition is just crazy. Why would you donate to the American Cancer Society unless there was a chance to get publicity for yourself.

So you'll forgive me if I come across as cynical after watching CBS' new show Undercover Boss. It's the show in which the CEO of a company goes 'undercover' to work the front lines of his company to learn about what it takes to make his or her business run. He disguises himself and spends a week doing random tasks, all while conveniently being trained by someone with some sort of hardship they've had to overcome in their life. Oh, and there's a camera crew who are explained by saying they're doing a documentary on people doing entry level jobs or some stupid excuse.

Usually the boss is shocked at how hard it is to do these jobs and is impressed with the dedication of his employees who help make whatever company so great. At the end of each episode, the boss summons the people who trained him to corporate headquarters to reveal his true identity and explain why he did what he did. Often, the boss is impressed with the employee and does something to help make their lives better (a raise, institute a new policy or program in response to a need of that employee . . . and yes, they're typically warranted.)

But as I watch the show, I can't help but wonder why the bosses needed cameras around to do this. I mean, aside from the one hour of prime time exposure on a Sunday night for their company and a chance for some really, REALLY good public relations work to be done. It would be just as easy for a CEO to go undercover without the cameras around, but in doing so, they wouldn't get the opportunity to showcase their company in front of millions of viewers (in the case of this past week, roughly 15.5 million viewers).

Whether it's a check for $500 or a chance to showcase your company in front of about one percent of the US population without having to pay for advertising, the idea is the same. Unless there's cameras around and publicity to be gained, doing something nice is overrated.

(My wife demanded I point out that she A) Really likes the show; B) Thinks I'm far too cynical; and C) Thinks the show demonstrates that there are still good people in the world.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The reality of fantasy

Every year a group of friends and I spend a few hours online drafting fantasy baseball teams and spend the summer managing (errr . . . micromanaging) my team in the vain hopes of winning nothing but bragging rights for the next year. And every year, my wife asks me why I'm doing it with the crazy thought that I might stop playing.

I spend hours obsessing over my fantasy teams - named the Fighting Squirrels for reasons which I'll write about at a future time -  (which is different from spending hours obsessing over my fantasies). Who should I draft with my 6th round pick? When do I take a closer? When is the appropriate time to subtly mock the other people in my league for their most recent pick? (The answer to the last one is 'always,' even if you wanted the guy the person just picked.) But for what? When the season is over, what do I have to show for myself other than not finishing in first place (again) and more knowledge about the Texas Rangers' bullpen than my wife's favorite flower (I think it's daisy, but it could also be tulip. I don't think it's roses.)?

On one hand, there's the increased knowledge of baseball teams, their players, and their relative strengths and weaknesses. Granted, this knowledge isn't exactly marketable. There's the season-long camaraderie  with friends who have moved to various places across the country (one league I'm in stretches from Indiana to the southern part of Georgia.) And in all honestly, the only time we ever talk is during fantasy sports season, so it's nice to catch up with them, even if 90 percent of the conversation consists of trying to get his starting shortstop for a bag of magic beans and a crappy starting pitcher). I've also learned about the advanced metrics being used to evaluate baseball players (ERA+, VORP, UZR, and a plethora of other alphabet-soup inspired acronyms.) The downside to this is that very few, if any of my friends are also into this, so I don't get to discuss this new information with anyone. (The plus side is I can brainwash my son with this and make him like the kid in the ESPN Radio commercial from a few years ago.)

On the other hand, well, I'll spend countless hours watching games, reading websites, evaluating players (in an elementary level compared to people who know what they're actually doing) all in the empty pursuit of interweb glory. (To be fair, I'd probably watch games, read websites and evaluate players even if I wasn't doing fantasy baseball.)

On the third hand, fantasy sports has led to my most popular running segment of my blog . . . the fantasy update. (For those new to my blog, look for the fantasy update starting the week of April 12 . . . also note that each fantasy update is just a paragraph or two long, there won't be weekly blog updates detailing my fantasy teams.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

When fact is fiction and TV reality

If Socrates was correct and the unexamined life is not worth living, then based on this blog, I have not taken time to examine my life. Instead I've focused on such matters of consequence as Jersey Shore, Tiger Woods' sex scandal and other matters of great societal importance. However, that could all easily be construed by a pop-psychologist as a way for me to avoid looking inward and examining my life. In an effort to alleviate that concern, I've decided to tackle the question that is surely at the heart of what it means to be a 31-year-old married man in America today - If I could go on any reality show currently airing, which one would it be and why? (What, you were expecting something less important?)

To truly examine this question, first we must set some ground rules. First, trivia-based game shows are not considered reality shows, so that means The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Wheel of Fortune are eliminated from contention. Second, this wouldn't necessarily be a show that I think I could win, but one that I would find the most enjoyment in participating in.

Ok, with those simple rules, let's begin.

Shows I would not want to appear on:
Survivor: It's not that I don't like the idea of traveling to exotic locales and enjoying nature, it's just that my idea of 'roughing it' means I have to watch The Daily Show on my laptop at a campsite. Eating bugs, building shelter to escape the elements and not getting a true shower for thirty-something days is not my idea of a good time.

On a slightly-related note, do the cameramen for Survivor have nice accommodations? I hope they get to stay somewhere nice and talk amongst themselves about the delicious food they get to eat just loud enough for the contestants to grow to resent them.

American Idol: I lack singing talent, and fortunately, I have friends and family members who will tell me that I suck.

Biggest Loser: Guys on that show can lose more than 125 pounds. If I did that, I'm fairly certain I'd die. However, the chance to meet Allison Sweeney might be worth it. That and I'd try to set the record for most weight gained in one week on the show. Also, I hope the cameramen for this show do the same thing I suggested for the Survivor cameramen.

The Bachelor: It's not that I don't want 25 pre-screened, desperate, beautiful women doing whatever it takes to win a show with a terrible track record for actually producing life-long relationships, it's that my wife would spend the better part of the next month finding a hit man to kill me if I was on that show. That and I would hate trying to find out which women were in it for the 'right' reasons.

The Bachelorette: 25 guys, one girl. I wasn't a math major, but I don't like my odds in that scenario. Oh, and the whole 'I'm married' thing would make this a tough one to pull off.

Any VH1 reality show: I'm not a celebrity, so I don't really have to worry about being given the opportunity, but none of those shows seem like something I'd want to do.

Intervention: I don't want to develop the serious drug, alcohol or other problem that would lead me to be on this show.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: While I think everyone would like a new house, until they start building new, extreme homes for normal people who don't do anything special for their community and don't have major obstacles in their lives to overcome, I don't think I'd qualify for the show. But if they change the criteria, sign me up.

Real World/Road Rules/Real World Road Rules Challenge/Jersey Shore: Really, any MTV show, mostly out of fear I would catch some kind of terrible disease just by breathing the same air as some of the people on those shows.

So where does that leave me? I think that essentially leaves me with the Amazing Race, which I'd pass on mostly because I've only watched it once and and I'm not overly clear on the rules, thus making it difficult to compete and win, and Big Brother.

For me, Big Brother would be the most fun because it would involve the biggest mental challenge of any reality show. You're locked in a house with 13 strangers and they are the only people you see all summer, except for CBS' Julie Chen, and you only see her on a video screen until you're voted off. The idea of playing mind games with people you've just met is intriguing. I like to think I'm an easy-going guy and could get along with most everyone, though some of the past contestants would have grated on me to the point I'd have spent every waking moment doing what I could to turn everyone in the house against them, though subtly enough so that it doesn't get traced back to me.

So now that I've examined my life, I figure it's still worth living and now I can go back to writing about more important things in life, such as why Texas requires a fiddle to be in the band if you want to play there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Owls and Tiger

The following in a transcript from the staff meeting at the Augusta, Ga. Hooters this afternoon shortly after Tiger Woods announced he would return to golf at The Masters Tournament held in Augusta.

Alright ladies, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity coming to town. As you may have heard, Tiger Woods is returning to golf at the Masters. Ever since that Thanksgiving night car crash, we've heard nothing but Tiger and his harem of women. There was something like 14 in all, well, 15 if you include his wife. However, judging by how upset she was, I don't think she was included in any of those other 14.

Anyway, he's since gone to sex addiction rehab, even though sex addiction is a debilitating addiction that controls every aspect of your life and would make it virtually impossible to achieve the kind of success he's achieved on the golf course. You can't be as devoted and dedicated to golf as Tiger was and have a sex addiction. It's more likely that he just really likes having sex with women that aren't his wife. And he'll bang anyone, apparently. It didn't seem to matter if they were hot or not. I mean, did you see that Perkins waitress? Really?!? Each one of you ladies is infinitely more attractive than that woman.

But for the past four months, all we've heard about is how Tiger slept with that Perkins waitress. Do you know what kind of exposure that gave to the Perkins chain? Every guy in America now wants to go to Perkins because he knows there's a chance he could end up getting service from the same woman who 'serviced' Tiger. Perkins' stock price has risen 74 percent since news broke that Tiger was sleeping with one of their waitresses (Editors Note: Please don't fact check that). They've also risen to the second-ranked casual dining restaurant in the country (Again, please don't fact check that.) All this because Tiger decided that sleeping with an ugly waitress was a good idea.

Now I'm not suggesting that you should sleep with Tiger Woods if you get the chance. But I am asking that you at least consider it. I mean, we're only 1.2 miles from the course. And you just know that some of Tiger's other competitors are going to ask him to join them for drinks after the round, and what better place invite him than a place where beautiful women will flirt with him as he winds down from a long day. It's the perfect place for him, and we need to be ready to give him everything he wants. And I do mean everything.

When The Masters is over, I want people talking about Hooters even more than they are about the winner. I'm not saying this because I want Tiger's wife to leave him so I'll have a shot at her, although if that happens I'm open to the possibility. No, I'm saying this because I want this Hooters to be the best in the country. You are an incredible team and together, we can make this the most famous Hooters location in the country.

And if you do end up either seducing or being seduced by Tiger, if you wouldn't mind wearing your uniform when the paparazzi get their photos, that would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An invention as useless as the rockies

There are things in life that, when invented, causes mankind to stop and say 'how did we ever live without this?' Creations that so alter the way of life for society that their development is looked upon as monumental leaps forward in the history of humanity. From the single greatest invention of the last millennium, the printing press, to slightly lesser important developments such as the airplane, radio, air conditioner, internal combustion engine, remote control, and toilet paper, each of those significantly changed the life for humanity.

This blog isn't about anything nearly as important.

Instead, let's turn our focus on to a development that really wasn't needed and, as best as I can tell, doesn't actually serve any useful purpose other than to make people stop for a second and say 'that's cool, if ultimately unneeded.' I'm referring, of course, to the Coors Light 'Cold Certified Technology' that has its mountains turn blue when your beer is cold. As best as I can tell, there was a rash of people who, through no fault of their own, were reduced to drinking warm beer. It's not as though they could actually pick up the can or bottle and figure out if it was chilled to their desired coolness. Fortunately, never again, will people choosing to drink what Coors passes for beer. And it's not just limited to their cans and bottles. Now they have glasses that will do the same mountains-changing-color trick. You know, if you couldn't tell by picking up the glass and feeling if it was cold.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Idiot's Guide to being an Idiot

Last Friday night, I found myself with 45 minutes to kill and my local (errr... national chain) bookstore nearby. So, like any pseudo-intellectual who uses words like pseudo-intellectual, I went to peruse the titles and see what the latest vampire books and romantic soon-to-be-made-into-a-movie-that-boyfriends-will-hate books were out. Of course, I was also drawn to the baseball section (or, in this case, baseball shelf with about 20 titles on it) where I found a couple that seemed interesting.

Eventually I made my way past the childrens section where a young family was on the floor reading to their daughter (or, as the book store likely calls it, stealing from them.) From there, I meandered through the music section (where apparently Michael Jackson died . . . no, no, he didn't die in that particular music section, he died and writers and publishers looked to capitalize on his death by churning out books about him. I hope when I die, there's a rush to get poorly written and likely error-filled books about my life to book stores or kindle stores or whatever it is people will be using to read in the future.) After a very quick tour through the politics section, where I learned liberals will abort your fetus and dine on it for dinner while charging exorbitant taxes for the honor and conservatives won't be happy until there's a crucifix in every pot and holy water running from every faucet, I wandering through the self-help/philosophy section.

It was in this section that one particular title caught my eye. To be honest, I find a lot of the self-help genre to be nothing more than psychobabble repackaged in various ways that make people feel better about themselves without offering any kind of lifestyle changes, so I'm skeptical to begin with. But this book, all 336 pages of it, seems to have no business being written. The fact that it was both written, published, and carried by a major retail bookstore makes me think that those involved didn't really think their plan all the way through. (Then again, if it was written, published and selling, apparently they did think their cunning plan all the way through.)

The title of this book of which I speak is "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Going Back to College." Now, I have nothing against people seeking to go back to college. I went back to college more than six years after I went the first time. I applaud people seeking to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the world around them as well as gaining additional tools to help them make sense of it. But I'll be honest, college isn't for everyone.

Especially complete idiots.

There are reasons schools have admissions standards.  Among them, I can only assume, is to keep complete idiots out of the school so the partial idiots like me could try to learn something.

However, because I like to think of myself as a nice guy (I also think I have dashing good looks, the wit of Jon Stewart and the intelligence of Steven Hawking, so it's safe to say my ability to judge myself accurately may be lacking somewhat), I've taken the time to summarize what I can only assume to book to be about. You're welcome.

Complete Idiot's Guide to Going Back to College:

Chapter 1: You're a complete idiot, college is not for you.
Come on man, you barely passed high school basket weaving. Do you really think you're ready for such challenging college courses as Underwater Basket Weaving? Don't forget, you're a complete idiot. By the way, remember to breathe while reading this. And don't eat anything greasy because reading with your fingers will only cause the words to smudge and become unreadable.

Chapter 2: Have you seen the job market, why would you quit your job to go back to school?
Sure, being the person who cleans the pool after all those college kids finish Underwater Basket Weaving class may not be the most glamorous job, but it's more than those poor kids will have when they graduate. Why would you throw all that away?

Chapter 3: Picture of a doggie

Chapter 4: Hey, remember when you read Chapter 1, that hasn't changed
College still isn't for you.

Again, I can only assume that's how the book goes. I didn't bother to pick it up and even thumb through it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare my application to be the assistant pool maintenance person who cleans up after underwater basket weaving. I had a job, but quit it to go back to school. So I guess that would make me a complete idiot.