Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why I’m not a teacher

There are a lot of weird kids out there, and I know this because we have a swimming pool in our development, and that is where all of the weird kids in the world go to hang out, and challenge each other in various Olympic aquatic events, like who can eat the most sour cream & onion potato chips in the pool.

A few weeks ago, I went to the pool after work to relax, and once I hit the lounge chair, I was out, which was amazing in itself since a) there were about 89 kids there that day, all screaming at the top of their lungs in unison, and b) I was in close proximity to the pool, and was constantly getting wet because kids have absolutely no regard for who is around them when they are jumping over the “no jumping” sign in an attempt to splash as much water out of the pool, and onto innocent bystanders, as possible.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was in a deep late-day slumber, until I was steadily awoken by a voice repeatedly saying, “Excuse me…excuse me…excuse me…EXCUSE ME!” When I opened my eyes, the sun was still blaring, and I could only faintly see the heavenly image of what at first appeared to be Cupid coming down from the sky, but which then took the form of a nine year-old overweight boy with a towel wrapped around his shoulders. When he saw that I was awake, he took a deep breath, and prepared to relay to me the information that could no longer wait, which was, (drumroll please)…”Ummm…that boy has a frog.”

Now – if I had been completely awake, I probably would have had a more appropriate reaction to this statement, if there is such thing as an appropriate reaction to this statement. Like, if I were walking through the mall, and some random fat kid came up to me to inform that some OTHER random kid had a frog, I probably would have had something charming and witty to say, like, “Well, maybe if you’re a good boy, and you stop eating ice cream for breakfast, Santa Claus will get YOU a frog one day. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m on my way to Old Navy, so if you’ve lost your parents, the information booth is over there.” Or something like that. But, since I was still so groggy, and utterly taken aback by this information, my reaction was simply to squint harder at him while saying absolutely nothing.

Once again, “That boy…has a frog.” Still, nothing from me. Then, his eyes led me in the direction of a group of kids huddled in the far corner of the pool. I realized that one of the kids had found a frog in the nearby bushes, and brought it into the pool to show everybody else. I suppose that this kid had assumed, once I realized what was transpiring, that I would immediately jump out of my lounge chair, put and abrupt end to all of these frog-like shenanigans, and give him the Gold Medal for Courage for alerting me to this dire situation. But, instead, I turned back to him and, still not sure what to say, uttered, “Uhhh…I’m not the lifeguard.”

All hope was lost. “Hey kid – guess what? The tall, skinny guy who’s passed out in his lounge chair, which is facing AWAY from the pool while 89 kids are in potential danger of drowning ISN’T the lifeguard. In fact, the first question on the lifeguard exam is multiple choice – ‘To be an effective lifeguard, you must be a) awake or b) asleep?' – and the answer isn’t ‘b.’ Maybe the next time there’s a frog-related emergency, you can alert one of the nine 16 year-olds wearing bright red shirts that say ‘Lifeguard,’ OR, you can stop being such a tattle tale and go pet the frog like everybody else. I could care less about the frog, especially considering it’s probably the cleanest thing that’s been in the pool all day. And furthermore, where are your parents? Don’t you have a more immediate authority figure in the area that you could have alerted, or did they just drop you off at the pool this morning, and tell you that if you happen to see any slimy amphibians, to contact the person closest to you who seems most capable of diffusing such a situation, and if this person is sleeping, do not hesitate to wake him up?” These were my thoughts as I drifted back to sleep.

One of the real lifeguards eventually came over and removed the frog from the premises, which allowed the fat kid to go back into the pool, so he had somewhere to blow his nose. Word has since leaked to all of the other pool kids that, if any outside animals manage to make their way into the pool waters, I am NOT the person to approach. I have placed a sign on my lounge chair that says as much, which includes an illustration of a frog giving the middle finger. Nobody wakes me up anymore, but they still splash me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Golden Bear takes a seat, attacks writer

With the 2005 British Open getting underway on Thursday, it's time to say goodbye to Jack Nicklaus, who, a couple of months ago, announced that this would be his last tournament, except for maybe some other tournaments that he will play in, whatever that means. Needless to say, Nicklaus has been in high demand these days, which is why I wasn't that surprised when he never answered my e-mail requesting an interview, especially considering that the subject title of my e-mail to him was "Yo, Jack — holla back." Bad choice on my part. Nevertheless, Jack's "people" have given me permission to print what I think he would say with regards to several important topics. And by "Jack's people" I mean no one in particular. No matter. Let's get started.

Me: Hey Jack! Good to see you. You look much slimmer in person.

Jack: What's that supposed to mean?

Me: Nothing. Anyway, according to my notes, you used to be pretty good at golf. Is that true?

Jack: Well, I don't want to brag, but I DID win 18 major tournaments.

Me: Wow — that's a lot. But what do you consider to be a "major" tournament? Would it be one with like, free hot dogs at the end?

Jack: Ummm, actually, it's nothing I personally consider to be "major." The PGA has defined the four "major" tournaments as The Masters, The British Open, The U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship. I'm glad to see you've done your research for this interview.

Me: Was that a zinger? I think it was. I'm glad we can joke around like that, Jack. Actually, you and I have a lot in common. For example, we both have two first names. Isn't that weird?

Jack: Uhhh, yeah. I guess.

Me: Okay, let's get down to business. Why have you chosen the British Open as your final tournament? Don't you think it's unfair to give only British people the pleasure of seeing you play one last time? What about us Americans, who supported you for all these years by clapping ever so softly after a nice chip shot?

Jack: Well, I certainly didn't mean to slight anybody. I chose the British Open because the St. Andrews course holds a special place in my heart. I've had much success here in the past — I won here in '70 and '78 — and it just feels like the perfect place to leave it all behind.

Me: Would you say that St. Andrew is the patron saint of courses you like to play on?

Jack: Uh, I don't think I'd put it that way, but I do like playing here.

Me: When you say "here" do you mean St. Andrews, or my basement, which is where we actually are right now?

Jack: St. Andrews. Your basement actually smells like a litter box.

Me: Listen — I had an idea that I wanted to run by you. When you're walking the 18th hole for the last time, why don't you carry a torch that says "World's Greatest Golfer" instead of your putter, and meet up with Tiger Woods on the green, and pass it to him as a symbolic gesture that you are passing the torch to him, but instead of "symbolically," the announcers can say "literally." And then you can hug each other, but make sure that you don't catch on fire, because that would ruin the whole thing. What do you think?

Jack: That's probably the worst idea I've ever heard. For one, I'm in no position to name Tiger Woods the "greatest golfer in the world." It would be a slap in the face to all of the other great golfers on tour. And this isn't the freakin' Olympics — torches aren't normally allowed on golf courses. Plus, I don't want to make a spectacle of myself like that. It's just a bad idea all around.

Me: Are you shooting down my idea because you hate Tiger Woods, and because you're worried that he will break your precious record of 18 majors?

Jack: No, I shot down your idea because it stinks. And I don't hate Tiger Woods. Records are made to be broken, and if he does ever break my record of 18 majors, I'll be right there to congratulate him.

Me: With a torch?

Jack: No — with a handshake. Forget about the torch already.

Me: Is it true that another reason you are retiring is because you are sick and tired of people confusing you with Jack Nicholson?

Jack: People don't actually confuse me with Jack Nicholson — they just mix up the names sometimes. It's not like people are stopping me on the street and saying, "I loved you in 'Batman.'"

Me: Yeah, me too. Jack — you won The Masters in 1986 at the old age of...however old you were then. But you're much, much older now. Do you think you can actually win the British Open this year, and quiet all of the critics who have complained that you haven't won a major in almost 20 years?

Jack: Well, I think that my critics realize that I'm well past my prime now, and nobody feasibly expects me to win the Open this year, including myself. I'll be happy just to make the cut. Although it would be nice to go out on top! (laughs)

Me: Like Jay-Z, right?

Jack: Who?

Me: Nevermind. Anyway, it's obvious that you've had a brilliant career, and it's hard to believe that this very weekend, we'll be witnessing your final tournament on the PGA tour. I think I speak for the entire golf-loving community when I say that we're going to miss you, Jack Nicholson.

Jack: That's "Nicklaus."

Me: Hey — you have two first names!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

An ‘on-line’ chat with Ricky Williams

In an unprecedented move with regards to recent sports history, Ricky Williams retired, and is now coming back.

Okay, so maybe that HAS been done before. But the circumstances involving Williams’ sudden retirement in particular are truly original in nature. For example, everyone in the NFL soon discovered that the Miami Dolphins’ Plan B following Williams’ departure consisted of just punting on first down to get it over with. Following the 2004 disaster, then head coach Dave Wannstedt has since been replaced by Nick Saban (who doesn’t have a similar one-sided moustache, but may be a better coach), and Williams himself will apply for reinstatement into the league at the end of the month, on the same exact day that he sent in his retirement papers last year, thus paying homage to one of the strangest moments in sports history, not counting Wannstedt’s moustache.

I caught up with Williams’ recently on line at a local 7-Eleven. At least I think it was him. He had a Ricky Williams’ jersey on, and that was all the proof I needed, since I figured that everyone else who had previously owned one had tossed it into a bonfire of sorts. He graciously granted me this on-the-spot interview, but asked me to not print it. Then I said that HE once promised the Dolphins he would play football, and we both had a good laugh. Anyway, here it is.

Me: Hey – You’re not getting rolling papers, are you?

RW: Ha. Ha. Very funny. No, I came here to get my pizza-flavored Combos, and be out.

Me: That’s cool. I’m just waiting for them to reheat the Cheese Whiz. But while we’re here, let me ask you – how does it feel to be considered the most mentally unstable athlete in sports, including Ron Artest?

RW: It doesn’t really bother me. People may mistake my actions for insanity, but I know how I was feeling at the time, and walking away from the game was the right thing to do.

Me: (Tilting my head sideways, with eyebrows raised.)

RW: Really, man. No joke.

Me: (Still tilting)

RW: Okay, fine! I messed up. I should have just taken the four-game suspension for testing positive for marijuana for a third time, and then came back to finish the season. I would have saved myself a lot of flack, and a boatload of money. But in all honesty, the time off was good for me. It really helped me to clear my head.

Me: Of smoke?

RW: Yeah, I guess. And other things too, like reruns of Looney Tunes. I used to just come home from practice, light up, and watch cartoons for like 12 hours straight. Daffy Duck is crazy, man. I’m telling you – crazy. When Wannstedt used to talk to me on the sidelines, I would just see these huge duck-billed lips, and he’d be quacking away about some formation or something. It was crazy.

Me: Why did you travel to India and live off the land like a weirdo?

RW: I don’t know. I guess I just needed to get away from it all. In Miami, those people are nuts about the Dolphins. Just nuts. They wake up, and they’re like, “Hey - what happened with the Dolphins while I was sleeping?” And it’s March. And I’m like, “Nothing happened, you idiot. It’s not even the season yet. Go back to sleep.” So when I retired, I actually feared for my life. It was kind of ironic though, because so many people GO to Florida to retire, but I was leaving to retire, because people were trying to kill me.

Me: I’m going to be honest with you – I don’t care at all about what you did to the Dolphins. I’m a Giants’ fan from Jersey. Actually, I thought it was kind of funny. But seriously – from a fantasy football standpoint, what am I supposed to do with you? Should I pick you up? Because if I pick you in the draft, and you retire again, I will hunt you down and pour hot Cheese Whiz all over your head. Even if I have to go to India. It costs me $25 to join this league every year, and I’m not about to waste a pick.

RW: Naw, you can go ahead and select me. I won’t let you down.

Me: Speaking of letting others down, how have your teammates reacted to your application for reinstatement?

RW: When I first walked back into the locker room, there was a cardboard cutout of my face on Cheech Marin’s body, with a word bubble that said, “Don’t worry - you guys will be fine. You have Travis Minor! If anyone needs me, I’ll be in India.” And my face had knives stuck in it. So that was kind of awkward. But I think they’ll start warming up to me again after I get into the end zone a few times.

Me: Do you think the fans will ever accept you again?

RW: Well, that depends. JETS’ fans love me. They’re always offering me weed, and telling me that I made a great decision. But if you’re talking about DOLPHINS’ fans, then no. I don’t think they’ll ever accept me, but that’s okay. I’m here to play football, not to run for mayor.

Me: If you were the mayor, would you legalize marijuana?

RW: I’m not sure that mayors have the authority to do that. But to answer your question, yes.

Me: Hey – you’re next. The cashier is waiting for you. But before you go, tell me – how are you getting along with the new coach?

RW: Who do you mean? Oh – Daffy? He’s cool.

Me: On second thought, maybe I won’t pick you up in the fantasy draft.

RW: Whatever.