Monday, February 28, 2011

Dilemma's of a displaced sports fan

Note: Song 15 in my 322-part series.

Song: Goodbye
Artist: Hootie and the Blowfish

ESPN’s Bill Simmons has an extensive list of the rules of being a sports fan, including a non-negotiable prohibition on sports bigamy with exceptions for certain instances. Simmons is a Boston Celtics’ fan who lives in Los Angeles, where he holds season tickets to the L.A. Clippers and flirts with the line between wanting tickets to NBA games without paying the prices charged by the more popular L.A. Lakers and actively rooting for the Clippers success. Granted, when push comes to shove, he’d at least consider offering his daughter as a sacrifice to the basketball gods to ensure a Boston victory.

So how is it that a man who literally wrote the book on basketball (ok, technically, it was The Book of Basketball, but still) can devote the first 30 years of his life to the Celtics and then, slowly begin to become a fan of another team, thus violating his own rule. The answer is simple. He moved 3,000 miles from Boston to L.A. (Well, that and the Lakers are the archenemies of the Celtics. For our younger readers, think of it as being on Team Jacob and then moving next door to Edward. No matter how friendly you want to be with your neighbor, you’re a part of Team Jacob and secretly hope that Edward’s yard develops crabgrass and the roof develops a leak.) The parenthetical statement was greatly assisted by Google. I don’t even know what sports Team Jacob and Team Edward play, and why they’ve chosen such boring nomenclature for their squads, but I suspect they play in the same league as Team CoCo.)

Go Eagles!
I bring all this up because up until the past year, I’ve never had to struggle with sports bigamy. I moved to Statesboro, Georgia in the winter of 1984 at the age of five. Twelve months later, Georgia Southern (conveniently located in Statesboro) won an improbable national championship in football. One year after that, they won a second title. (The next year, they lost to Appalachian State in the playoffs, which was the beginning of my sports hatred of the school.)

 In 1989, Statesboro hosted the national title game, which Georgia Southern won again (and I was fortunate enough to have attended – thanks mom and dad.) The following year, Eagles won their fourth title in six years, and being 11 at the time, I assumed it was a regular thing, so much so that I didn’t go to the game or watch it on television, choosing to play football outside with my friends. So I came about my Georgia Southern fandom honestly. I ended up getting my undergraduate and master’s degree from there and pretty much spent 25 years of my life in Statesboro, cheering for the Eagles.

What's with the left-facing logo?
That was until the Summer of 09 (which will undoubtedly not be a song by Bryan Adams) when the Familia de Martin made the move to Wilmington, North Carolina, home, not coincidentally, of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The school is conveniently located five miles from the beach and not so conveniently located 350 miles from my beloved Eagles. (They also don’t have a football team, which makes Fall Saturdays not so great (well, except for the beach.) That left two choices. Go to UNC-Wilmington games as a neutral observer or struggle with becoming a sports bigamist. As much as I enjoy watching a baseball (or softball, basketball, soccer, ect.) game, watching without a stake in the outcome, even as a fan, is not something I do well. (There’s a long list of things I don’t do well, so the fact that impartial sports observer is on there shouldn’t be that shocking to you.)

I managed to hold out for a year, following Georgia Southern baseball on the internet and avoiding UNC-W games. But eventually it became too much. I missed being at the games. I missed the peanuts and Cracker Jack. I don’t care if I ever get back, I’m going to root, root, root for the home time and if they don’t win, well, it’s a shame (unless they’re playing the Eagles, which, despite being relatively close, is very infrequently. Come on coaches of GSU and UNCW, help me out here and schedule some home-and-home series. I don’t care if it’s JV tennis, I’ll come watch, I promise.) I even broke down and ordered a UNC-W hat. They pay my wife’s salary, or, to paraphrase Chuck Dickens, they are the ‘founder of the feast.’ Because they’re providing the feast, I’m willing to say goodbye to my sports monogamy.

As I was writing this, I saw a friend on facebook struggling between cheering for his alma mater (the Miami (OH) Redhawks) or the UNCW Seahawks as they prepared to square off on the baseball diamond. He eventually settled on the safe answer of saying ‘Go Hawks’ and reported back that the Hawks won 7-3. (UNCW won.) That inspired me to take a slightly more generic take as I now cheer for the ‘Birds of Prey,’ both the Eagle and Seahawk variety. Unlike my fence-sitting friend, should the two ever meet (I’ll watch the cross country meet, I promise. For the love of all that is just and right in the world, just schedule something here in Wilmington,) I’ll cheer for the Eagles.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mysterious Heroes

Sorry I’ve been gone for a little while. I’m hoping to get on a more regular writing schedule, but life gets in the way sometimes. Don’t worry (I know you weren’t), this is still a priority for me, despite the following joke.

Note: Song 15 of my 322-part series. We lost a song from my iPod in the transition to a new computer, which increases my odds of finishing the entire series by .000016 percent.

Song: Mysterious Ways
Artist: U2

The Lord, Bono and Ninjas work in mysterious ways. Well, Bono not so much. He writes songs, people, like me, like them and buy them. He and the rest of U2 go on tour, people like me buy tickets and t-shirts and then they repeat the process every few years. Not exactly rocket science.  It’s barely above the ‘recognize the pattern’ problems in my two-year old’s books. And since I can’t figure out a way to write about God working in mysterious ways that’s both humorous and not sacrilegious (at best) or blasphemous (at worst), I’m stuck writing about ninjas.

Unfortunately, most of what I know about ninjas I learned at an early age. And by early age, I mean ten or eleven. And by ninjas, I mean ninja turtles of the teenaged mutant kind. I assume those four ninjas are a representative sample of all ninjas everywhere. Granted, the other ninjas lack the same marketing prowess of the turtle ninjas, but if there’s one thing kids love, it’s comedic violence inflicted by animals that are typically slow-moving unless they’ve been touched by some sort of primordial ooze and trained by a sewer rat who played in that same ooze but is, for some reason, much older and wiser. And how is it they learned English? I assume turtles don’t speak in English and there was never any mention of the ooze having special language powers.

I also find it interesting that all ninjas are named after renaissance artists. I don’t know if it’s like some sort of Papal naming thing where there’s a Leonardo II and so forth. Being that I’m not a ninja (shocking, right?), I guess I’m not privy to that kind of information.

All ninjas are like this, right?
What I do know is that ninjas are on the leading edge of “cool” language. If an accountant tried to make the word “cowabunga” fashionable, it would likely not have caught on. Then again, they did make the word “derivatives” popular, so maybe they have more juice in pop culture then I realized. While I’m not hip enough to bring it back, I do hope word’s like "bummer," "dude," "bogus," "radical," "far-out," "tubuloso," "bodacious," make a comeback outside of the surfing community. Ninja community, I’m looking at you. Well, not really since you lurk in the shadows, but I’m looking your direction to make that happen. And while you’re at it, can you make “factually correct” popular, or at least accepted enough that I don’t get strange looks when I use it.
But most of all, I learned that ninjas have only one archenemy and their only mission in life is to defeat that enemy at all costs. Even if those costs are three live-action movies, television shows, appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show and countless lunchboxes, action figures and even stuffed animals. Having those things will ensure that, if nothing else, your archenemy will never truly die because there’s always money to be made in a sequel, no matter how unnecessary that sequel is. It’s even better if you can work in some product placement with the national pizza chain of your choice. (And does the delivery of pizza in any way hinder your objective of staying hidden in the shadows? Or is this a Home Alone situation where you put the money out the door and then play Angels with Dirty Souls to convince the delivery boy there’s, a human inside?

Unfortunately, all these questions will remain a closely guarded secret of the ninjas. And because I am not a turtle and don’t have radioactive ooze just lying around the house, I guess I’ll never know. However, any of my readers who have special ooze and are turtles who want to become teenage mutant ninja turtles and relay to me the secrets, I promise not to publish them on a widely read blog, just this one.

Next Song: Goodbye
Artist: Hootie and the Blowfish

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentines, Baseball and the Whig Party

Song 14 in my 323-part series. This is harder than I thought it would be, and I knew it would be hard.

Song: Boys of Summer
Artist: Don Henley

First off, yes, I know the song isn't about baseball as much as it a love song. Second, it's not all that sentimental song as he only promises to love her after the boys of summer are gone. So when the holidays roll around and he wants to head to Miami to avoid his family and you want him to meet your parents and your six cats who still live with them, he only promised to stick around until October, so you're out of luck.

So even though it's a love song, it's used by every network that has thought about showing a baseball game, thus making it a baseball song - if not in reality, at least in perception.

Wish I Was There
That makes this song the perfect Valentine's day song. A day commemorating love, passion, dedication. It also happens to be the day we celebrate our love for our significant others. Valentine's Day, for whatever reason, is traditionally the day when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, which makes it the unofficial beginning of Spring. (Also marking the unofficial beginning of Spring: the stupid groundhog, birds flying north, bears waking up from hibernation . . . really there's just a lot of animal signs in addition to baseball.) It also signals the beginning of my fantasy baseball prep work in anticipation of my drafts and the end of my attentiveness to my kid, dog, wife, appearance, cleanliness and the Asian financial markets.

Among the biggest reason I look forward to baseball season is the fact that it's my wife's favorite sport. She enjoys sitting on the couch on a lazy summer evening and turning on a game or going to the ballpark and getting a "game dog" and spending a few hours in the stands. (She can't explain why hot dogs taste better at baseball games then they do at home.) There's also the benefit of having "Dollar Beer Night" at the summer league stadium conveniently located less than a mile from my abode. It's just far enough that my kid can't quite make the walk, and as far as I know, there's no law against pushing a stroller while buzzed, so it works out for everyone involved.

Spring Training also means I get to start the season with hope. I'm not talking about President O'Bama's hope, but the hope that can only come from more than a century of not winning the title. I guess it's more like the kind of hope the Whig Party has every election. Anything is possible and if everything goes just right, this could be the year.  But more likely than not, it's going to end the same way every other year ends, with the Cubs not winning the World Series and me be resigned to that fact by early June, just as the Whig Party candidate realizes his chances of winning are doomed right about the point the two major parties decide to actually nominate someone.

So welcome back, boys of summer, even if you do report for Spring Training when it's still officially winter.

Next Song: Mysterious Ways
Artist: U2

Monday, February 14, 2011

Unsolved Mysteries

Note: This is song 13 in my 323-part series.

Song: Black Rock
Artist: O.A.R.

The black rock is where I spend my time
Writing a memory or writing a rhyme
Thinking about what is right or wrong

I’ve got to be honest with you. I’ve got nothing for this one. I’m going to give it a shot and see what happens, but there is a very good chance I’m about to waste a few minutes of your time (even more so than normal.)

One of the challenges of being a stay-at-home dad with a borderline workaholic wife* is that I don’t get a lot of time for just me. (Sure, there’s nap time, but that’s time reserved for lunch, cleaning, dishes, ect. And maybe a chance to watch something other than Thomas the Train or Blue’s Clues.) When my wife isn’t working, she believes we’re supposed to be a “family” and do family things, like going to the park or going to the playground or not spending all afternoon watching football. Something about being in a relationship and spending quality time together or something. I wasn’t really paying attention.

*She’s not really a workaholic. She just takes a lot of pride in her work and wants it done really well. While that’s an admirable trait, it can lead to working long hours to ensure things run smoothly.

So when I do get some time to myself, it’s like a gift from the gods on par with Anne Hathaway asking me to the Oscars after-party with her. What that means is I have to make my own time. Most often, that means loading the little guy up in the stroller and hoping he doesn’t want to talk as I fire up the ol’ iPod and hope there’s an interesting podcast on tap.

All that is to say I don’t get as much time as I’d like to just sit and contemplate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As far as I know, they still exist. I just don’t have (or make) the time to examine what those entities mean in contemporary society. It also means I can’t examine the other pressing issues of our day – What does the upheaval in Egypt mean for the Middle East? What does the Republican Party’s shift further to the right mean for the future of the party? And most importantly, what players are going to exceed expectations and which will fall below expectations this year so I can adequately assemble my fantasy baseball team?

Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. I’m not sure how much examining I’m supposed to do to ensure my life is still worthwhile. I check each day to make sure I’m still breathing and I make sure I don’t have anything stuck in my teeth before I leave the house. Is that enough? Did Socrates leave a checklist of things to examine? Why do I resort to a Donald Rumsfeld style of asking myself questions in these blogs? Was that last question an examination of myself?  And if it was, is it bad that’s the most insightful thing I’ve discovered about myself since I figured out that shapes, clouds and a blanket meant that Blue wanted to look at the clouds and see what shapes they could find?

Eventually I’ll take the time to figure out the mysteries of life. Right now, I’m figuring out the mysteries of Blue and his blasted clues.

Next Song: Boys of Summer
Artist: Don Henley 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pardon the Interruption

 We (err, I) interrupt your normally scheduled trip through my iPod to bring you a few thoughts from the world of sports.

It's not riveting television
Wednesday was National Signing Day, the day when college coaches pin their hopes (and careers) on 17 and 18-year old kids and their success on and off the field. It’s the day when . . . wait, did I say “off the field?” That can’t be right. Sorry, the day when coaches pin their hopes and careers on 17 and 18-year old kids and their performance on the field and hope and pray they don’t flunk out, get arrested (the number of times they can be arrested is directly proportional to their importance to the team’s success), or fail to live up to the potential the coaches see in them. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t get all worked up over players who may or may not actually impact the team. When they get on the field and start performing, I’ll start caring. Until then, I’ll save my excitement for games on the field and not on the recruiting trail.

You may have heard the Super Bowl is this Sunday. (If not, you heard it hear first. Expecting the Spanish Inquisition: The Third-Most Trusted Name in Really Obvious News.) There are countless sites where you can get a breakdown to the keys of the game. (Well, maybe not countless. Google probably has a pretty good count.) Instead, I’ll give you the most important key to the game. The key to the bus. As Woody Allen said, “90 percent of life is just showing up,” so the bus to the game is key. After that, it’s anybody’s game. (Prediction: Green Bay 24, Pittsburgh 20.)

The four greatest words in the English language are “you’ve won the lottery.” The next greatest words are “Pitchers and catchers report.” On that day, every team has hope, at least until their star pitcher gets hurt and their catcher falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his collarbone. But until that happens, even us Cubs fans can believe that if all goes well, and we catch a few breaks, this could be our year. Unfortunately, we’ll probably be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by the time Opening Day arrives. Those Spring Training days, however, will be as hope-filled as I am all year.

Finally, with Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl set to air on Sunday, I give you this, one of my favorite posts from 2010 – an interview with the 2010 Puppy Bowl MVP.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Six Seconds with Christina Aguleria

Title: BS Report Part 1 (Jan. 31)
Artist: Bill Simmons

Note: A friend asked me to find something on my iPod to write about Super Bowl Prop Bets, so I found a podcast about Super Bowl Prop Bets to use as my inspiration. Actually, it was the one I listened to yesterday, so it kind of worked out. All bets listed below were, as of Tuesday afternoon, actual things you could bet on. You know, if betting were legal outside of Nevada.

Hoping for a Grand Finale
More money is bet on the day of the Super Bowl than any other day. I don’t actually know if that’s true, but it sounds plausible enough that we’re going to forgo fact checking and work off the assumption that it is, in fact, accurate. Most of that money is wagered on hockey games played that day, so in an effort to drum up interest in the Super Bowl, casinos offer prop bets. (Again, we're assuming that's true.) Prop bets are basically betting on things other than the outcome of the game. They can be as benign as ‘How long with Christina Aguleria hold the last note of the Star Spangled Banner?’ (over/under is set at six seconds – I’ll take the over, and I'll take this as an excuse to post her picture) to ‘Will there be a scoreless quarter?’ (I’m going with ‘No.’)

I’ve found that compiling a list of prop bets and then wagering with Yes Dear makes the game more enjoyable for her and doesn’t deplete my already sparse goodwill account with her when I want to spend all day reveling in Super Bowl excesses.

After a bit of searching, I was able to find a list of various prop bets. Below are a few of my favorites (as well as my guess in each of them.)

Will Christina Aguleria wear a cowboy hat while singing the National Anthem? (No.)

What Color will the Gatorade be that is dumped on the Head Coach of the Winning Super Bowl Team? (Clear/Water)

Will Christina Aguilera's hair color be anything except completely blonde when she sings the National Anthem? (completely blonde)

How Many Times will FOX mention “Brett Favre” on TV during the Game? (Over/Under is 2.5. I’ll take the Over, way over.)

Team to Kick the First Successful Field Goal in the Game? (Packers)

Who will FOX show first on TV during the game, Jessica Szohr (Aaron Rodgers’ Girlfriend) or Ashley Harlan (Ben Roethlisberger’s Fiancee)? (Ashley Harlan, there's a Roethlisberger sexual assault joke in there somewhere, I just can't seem to find it now.)

Who will the Super Bowl MVP of the Game thank first, Coach, Family, God, Teammates, Does Not Thank Anyone? (Teammates)

What will be the result of the coin toss, heads or tails? (Heads)

How long will it take Christina Aguleria to sing the National Anthem? Over/Under is 1:54 (Over)

Will Fergie be dressed as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader at any point during the Halftime show? (No, please dear God no.)

There are countless others, especially if you want to get into the details of the actual game (who will catch the first pass for the Steelers? Will Packers’ third-string running back John Kuhn rush for more than 5.5 yards? Will Packers’ Defensive Lineman B.J. Raji play on offense?)

So enjoy the game, enjoy the wagering and please don’t turn into a degenerate gambler because of me. Or if you do, please send me five percent of your winnings and don’t blame me for your losses.