Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Red Light Special

My mom was waiting at a red light in my hometown of East Brunswick, New Jersey, when she was approached by a man handing out flyers. (As a side note, while waiting to get on the GW Bridge last year, I was solicited by a man offering a telephone - not a cell phone - but a TELEPHONE that attaches to a wall in your place of residence, with wires and everything. Because, like most people, when I'm in the market for a new phone, I want one NOW. I don't have time to go somewhere like Radio Shack, and haggle with some employee who "graduated" from high school. I need a cheap, plastic phone, while I'm in my car, waiting to cross a humongous bridge, just like everyone else. Unfortunately for this particular individual, I was not in the market for a new phone that day.)

Anyway, back to my mom. The flyer she was handed turned out to be an advertisement for a gutter cleaning service in the area. It looked somewhat professional, with the name of the "company" on top, and a listing of what they actually do, which is clean gutters. And it was weird, because as my mom was waiting in the car that day, she was thinking to herself, "Man, I haven't had those darn gutters cleaned since I was pregnant with Mike. I've been meaning to get it done for some time now, but I wonder if there's a place in the area that does this kind of work?" And wouldn't ya' know it, as she rolled down the window to ash her cigar, she was handed that piece of paper.

So as I was saying, the advertisement looked fairly legitimate. But then my mom scrolled her eyes down to the bottom of the piece of paper, where she saw what appeared to be the slogan of this particular gutter cleaning service. And boy was it ever! Many companies are defined by their slogans. They even become second nature to the average American. For example, "Leave Off the Last 'S' For 'Savings'" has been behind many mattress purchases. Also, "Rock-Rock-Rock, Rock Away Bedding...YEAH!" has helped sell all of the mattresses left unsold by the former slogan. And although my mom has spent many years familiarizing herself with witty slogans, the one she witnessed that day took the cake. It was this:

A Lot of People is Switching Gutters to Us

Now my mom has been fooled by gutter cleaning services before (haven't we all?), but the second she saw this, she knew that she had finally met the people she wanted to give her hard-earned money to. After all, it wasn't just a "few" people that is switching gutters - A LOT of people is switching gutters! "A lot of people can't be wrong," my mom wisely figured. Plus, these guys must be so busy cleaning gutters, that they don't have time for "proper" grammar. I mean, who can focus on English when the world is full of dirty gutters?

But then when my mom read it again, she said, "Wait - are these guys selling gutters, or do they want to clean the gutters I already have?" But then she read the part again about how "a lot of people is switching," and she was sold. She was going to call them yesterday, but the phone in the house isn't working anymore. I told her where to go.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

For Giants, time isn't now...it's later

It's difficult to make generalizations about the New York Giants' season this early, unless you're me, in which case it's very easy. I would venture to say that the season is lost, and in order to find it, someone is going to have to send out the proverbial search party, where people wear yellow helmets with lights on them, except that those people will be searching for a while because a season is not a tangible object that can actually be found. So maybe instead of saying that the season is lost, I should instead say that the season is over, minus the little formality that the Giants have fourteen more games to play.

Yes, I am aware that the Giants won this past weekend, defeating the Washington Redskins 20-14. They even looked, dare I say "pretty good" at certain points. But the Redskins, who were working with the vaunted Brunnel-Ramsay two headed monster at quarterback, actually turned the ball over SEVEN times. Using my football mathematical equation, that means that the Giants should have won 95-3. Instead, the Redskins had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter, until they turned ball over. Again. I would like to give the Giants credit where credit is due, but I can't, because that would ruin this whole column.

You didn't need an expensive telescope to forsee how the Giants season was going to go, for several reasons. First, telescopes don't see into the future. Secondly, it was apparent from the outset that no major improvements occurred this offseason for a team that finished 4-12 last year, on the heels of an 8-game losing streak. And I know what you're probably saying to yourself, "What the heck are you talking about, idiot!? The Giants hired a new coach, drafted a franchise quarterback, and signed a two-time MVP with a grey beard!" And you'd have a point by saying that. But ironically enough, it is that very same grey beard that signifies the main problem with the Giants in 2004: Beards don't win football games (most of the time). Oh, and several players on the team aren't getting any younger.

To use an analogy that I think is quite relevant in this case, the Giants are like a football team - let's call them "the Giants" - that have several veteran players on the downside of their careers, and also several young, and very talented players that represent the future of the organization. The only problem with these "Giants," however, is that the future is NOT now. It's in the future.

So you can see how this scenario compares to the Giants, who are in a very similar situation, but from a football standpoint. For example, Kurt Warner is a former MVP, which is good and all, but the Giants would be much better off with a current MVP. Will Eli Manning, the new face of the franchise, ever be that "current MVP?" It's difficult to say. But I believe that he has a much better chance than say, oh I don't know, Kurt Warner. In fact, I would say that if Eli Manning ever manages to rid himself of that "I'm so scared I can't remember what to do" aura, that he will be the best quarterback the Giants have had since Kerry Collins.

The Giants also have a very young offensive line, which is, quite appropriately, trying to protect their grey-bearded quarterback, who, when tackled, sometimes actually just hands the ball to the other team. And any moron knows that it takes several years for an offensive line to jell, at which point they create an impenetrable wall of protection that eliminates sacks and produces 1,800 yard rushers with ease. For the Giants, this point isn't scheduled until 2007, so it's important for everyone to be patient.

The Giants are also fortunate enough to have one of the youngest, and most talented tight ends in the league, Jeremy Shockey, who can easily intimidate the opposition by making the first down signal after a three yard catch, even if he just dropped the last ball thrown to him. That is the kind of fortitude the team will need heading into the future. On the other side of the ball, the Giants boast several young talents all named Will - Will Allen, Will Peterson, and William Joseph - that have the potential to be the next generation of a tradition-based Giant defense. Plus, if you take the "son" off of "Peterson," then all of these guys have two first names, which is good news for a football player. Just ask Marcus Allen. And Lyle Alzado (minus the "zado").

Which brings us to the present state of things. The Giants are in a transition period, which is to say that they're trying to transition from 4-12 to 12-4. But this can't happen overnight. In the middle of that transition there is a period called "what the heck is going on here?" and that is where the Giants are at right now. The core of this team in 2000 - Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan, Amani Toomer, etc. - are still hanging around waiting to collect their 401k. Plus the organization brought in Warner, who management thought would provide "a chance to win now," except "now" really meant "four years ago." And "now" the Giants are stuck in an ultra-tough division with no way out, unless they get to play the Redskins at home for the rest of the year.

So the bad news is that the Giants aren't that great. The good news is that I have them winning the Super Bowl in 2007. But the bad news is that I had the Colts winning the Super Bowl last year. But then again, I didn't have my telescope.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Where the deer and the buffalo roam

"Either your neck hairs are strangely stubby, or you need to shave your back again." This is the kind of advice guys like myself get at the HairCuttery, where I go for a cheap haircut, and leave with grooming tips from 290 pound women who wear DMX t-shirts under their haircutting apron.

If you don't have back hair, consider yourself lucky. I am currently on a once-a-week back and neck shaving program, and if I go more than two weeks without shaving this area of my body, I can use styling gel to spike my back and neck hair, and make myself appear like a 6'3" walking hunchback, if I choose to do so. Not to mention, I have a mole on the back of my neck, and if I'm not careful shaving, I will cut it, and it will bleed for approximately three consecutive months, which means I have to wash a lot of sheets.

I don't know when I realized that I had back and neck hair, although I probably was aware at the time that most members of the opposite sex don't find this feature sexually attractive. I was hesitant to begin shaving there, fearing that the hair would just grow back thicker, but I had no choice, if I ever wanted to get married.

Now that I am married, clearing my back and neck of unwanted hair has become a team effort. A while back, my wife and I purchased a waxing kit. It's difficult to describe the sensation of having your upper back waxed, but I can say that it is probably similar to the feeling Mel Gibson experienced at the end of "Braveheart," except on your back. Also, it didn't work. Among other things, my back hair is wax repellent, and I don't consider that something to be proud of.

I just never want to be one of those guys I see in the gym locker room, who gave up caring about neck and back hair some time ago (if they ever did), and have a back-of-the-head hairline that reaches deep into the abyss of their gym shorts, where it most likely connects with lower back and ass hair. That is not the kind of man I want to grow up to be. Call me a dreamer, if you will.

The other day my wife excitedly showed me an ad for laser hair removal. While many young couples try and save some money for a romantic vacation, I am going to try to set some money aside so I can have my back hair surgically removed. Maybe they can do my mole too. That would be great.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Someone fought the bank, and I won!

Guess who's $0.49 richer thanks to a lawsuit that he didn't file? That's right - me!

Yep, I received my $0.49 check in the mail just the other day. Well, actually it was sent to my mom's house, at which point my mom proceeded to illegally open government mail with my name on it (I have spoken to my lawyer and he suggests suing her for upwards of $0.60, which he gets half of). Nevertheless, she did hand it over to me eventually at a family function, so everybody in my extended family could watch me open it, and then have a hearty laugh because I am still poor.

Apparently, some guy named Edell (Vladimir Edell, maybe?) sued the Bank of America because the Bank of America screwed him over in some way that was probably explained in detail to me through some correspondence, of which I most likely threw away because it wasn't a check. Nevertheless, he won his case, which resulted in me finally receiving the $0.49 I have been waiting for all of these years, that I didn't know I was entitled to.

I know what you're saying. "But Mike, I thought you originally belonged to Fleet Bank, but then left them because they're the worst bank in the world, and transferred all of the money you don't have to PNC Bank, formerly the Garden State Arts Center?" And you're right. However, what you're forgetting is that when I was in college, I was an esteemed member of Nations Bank, which is now Bank of America, because a branch was located conveniently right next to my dorm. That way, when I had to cash my $56.00 work-study check every other Friday, I could just go next door, and then immediately to buy beer, which kept my average checking account balance at roughly $3.05. That is how banks in college work.

So the whole time I was moving merrily along in college, working nonstop on history papers and resorting to stealing chicken fingers from the cafeteria just to survive, Bank of America was stealing $0.1333333333333333 from me EVERY year! Can you believe it? Me neither. But it's good to know that justice is finally being served, thanks to some guy who's name I already forget.

So if I ever decide to become a rapper - which, quite frankly, still crosses my mind every now and then - I have one-up (or is it down?) on the popular 50 Cent. My name could be 49 Cent, and I would most likely rap about how major corporations can screw you over if you don't pay attention, and how you better hope that some guy you've never heard of files a lawsuit so you get your money back, which is the kind of content all the kids are listening to today.

And if you (yeah - YOU!) don't think I'm depositing this check then you're crazy. Every little bit helps when you're newly married and a new homeowner and you're stealing chicken fingers from the supermarket just to get by.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fantasy football highlights, '04

Instead of making bold predictions about the upcoming NFL season, which starts in just a few days, kicked off by a very football relevant performance by Elton John (who, I hear, once watched half of a football game), I'm going to tell you all about my fantasy football draft from last weekend. The reason for this is because I have no idea what's going to happen in the NFL this year. I know that the Patriots will be good, I think. After that, I'm lost. If the Bengals win the Super Bowl, I won't even be shocked, unless they do so because every other team in the league gets trapped in an avalanche while mountain-climbing. So I'm not even going to pretend like I know how this season is going to turn out. But I DO know how my fantasy football draft turned out, because I was there, I was told.

For those who don't know, fantasy football is a game whereas people like myself draft real players (unbeknownst to the actual players) for fake teams, so people like myself can maybe win some money, which will hopefully earn people like myself back the $123 we spent on fantasy football preview magazines. Sounds fun, right?

Our league consists of 10 "owners," who are mostly my cousins and people they know from work, plus one guy who has a keg tap. If anyone out there has additional devices that will help us draw beer from a giant barrel, you are more than welcome to join our league. We are a close-knit group, except that one would think that we all hate each other if they were to see us on draft day, or any other day for that matter.

Some leagues do their live draft online, but we always decide to get together, because it is much more fulfilling to make fun of each other in person. And that's really what fantasy drafts are all about. It doesn't matter what players get picked, who does the most research, or even who wins the league. It's all about making fun of each other to the best of our abilities.

Jack is our fantasy commissioner, and he loves his job. In fact, he thinks it IS his job, and often misses his real job because he is busy contacting Yahoo! with regards to recent rule changes. Jack is the only member of our fantasy league who even attempts to maintain some semblance of rationalism as the draft wears on, mainly because he spent the previous night making unlimited charts and graphs that the rest of us eventually spill beer on. Without Jack however, none of us would even be in a fantasy league. We would just sit around and talk about it while we waited for Jack to come by and set it up.

As for the draft itself, we spent about five hours at my cousin Cara's kitchen table, flipping through newspapers and magazines with confused looks on our faces. I had the sixth overall pick, and decided to select a top tier quarterback, Peyton Manning, rather than a second tier running back. I did however, pass on Baltimore Ravens' running back Jamaal Lewis, mainly because he is awaiting a drug-related criminal trial beginning in November. Call me old fashioned, but I like my fantasy football players to be able to leave their house without getting shocked. (Just for the record, this is the second of my last three fantasy drafts whereas a star player dropped off because he was awaiting trial. And players don't earn fantasy points for being found "not guilty," but we may have to change the rules eventually.)

Some of the more interesting picks - and by interesting I mean horrible - involved Jeremy Shockey getting selected in the third round , Mike Vanderjagt getting taken roughly five rounds before any kicker should be, and Ron Dayne getting selected at all. Everytime the phone rang in the house, somebody would say, "That was Ron Dayne. He still can't believe he got picked. He wants to send a fruit basket" - or somethin to that effect - to a chorus of laughs. The Brett Favre selection set off a well-timed, "That was a good pick...in 1993." But the cream of the crop was Marvin, a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan, selecting Corey Chavous in the eighth round. And if you don't know who Corey Chavous is, exactly. That pick actually left us speechless. For about 10 seconds.

(As a side note, after Larry Fitzgerald was selected, my cousin John screamed out, "He's the worst running back EVER!" which may in fact be true, although Fitzgerald plays wide receiver. John did not have a good draft.)

The good news for me is that my best running back, the oft-injured Fred Taylor, had an excellent, and injury-free 2003. The bad news is that it's 2004, and Fred Taylor probably just broke his leg while I was writing this. But that's okay, because I also have Travis Henry, who is currently injured, and may lose his starting job anyway to Willis MaGahee. But overall, I'm happy with my team. Then again, I was ecstatic with my fantasy baseball draft, and I may finish that league in eighth place, which will leave me with no money for the upcoming fantasy basketball season.

Overall, the draft was a success, except for the fact that I got sick from eating approximately 22 pieces of fried chicken. Jack was at the computer until midnight inputting all of the team information determined within the last few hours. We all helped him out by watching the USC / Virginia Tech game. Ron Dayne never stopped calling. It was a great night.