Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The ‘Big Blur’ theory

I’ve been thinking about college a lot lately, and how it has influenced my life. For example, I can’t remember anything I was taught in college, and my current career choice has absolutely nothing to do with my former major. But on the bright side, I still have approximately $18,000 left to pay off in student loans, and I made great friends with people who I now speak to at least twice a year.

My major in school was History, and I have used that knowledge to do things like watch reality television, and set up this web blog, which my friend Pete had to help me with because he’s good with computers, although he knows very little about history, because he’s too busy making money in the real world. Speaking of history, my wife likes to do this fun thing where she quizzes me about some completely random historical fact (for example: “I was watching the Discovery Channel the other day, and they mentioned something about this Aztec leader. What was his name again, Mr. History Major?”), and when I don’t know the answer, she calls me an idiot, and ridicules me for having the audacity to have a degree that says “History” hanging in my closet, or wherever the heck that thing is. You see, her major was Speech Pathology, a field in which she is currently working on obtaining her Master’s Degree in, and a field which relegates itself to such topics as “speech pathology.” She doesn’t seem to understand that history comprises everything that has happened since Adam and Eve were created via the “Big Bang,” up until the “Ricky Lake Show.” That’s a lot of history, and it’s impossible to know everything, which is why I had to specialize in only limited areas of history in college, like the French Revolution, and Aztec Leaders.

Anyway, I’m approaching my five-year anniversary from graduating college, and I can’t seem to get a grasp on what college did for me, something I’m sure my parents would be proud to hear. I know college happened, but I’m not exactly sure why. And it wasn’t like I didn’t HAVE important knowledge at some point. I just seem to have forgotten it all. Like, my senior year in school, I took this seminar on “Apartheid in South Africa during the 1970’s” and it was an amazing class, and I learned so much on the travesties of the region, and the hypocrisy of the American government during this time period. But now, if that subject comes up in conversation, I’ll say, “Yeah — I took a class on that in college,” which is immediately followed by, “Really? Then you’d be the perfect person to shed more light on the topic. What’s your take?” And then I’ll say, “Man, it really sucked. I have to poop. If you see the waitress, can you get me another beer?”

It’s kind of embarrassing, really. Somehow the best four years of my life have turned into one big blur. The weird thing is, I can remember certain things from the blur, like that one Halloween when my friend Brandon got lost in a bad part of downtown Baltimore dressed like a giant M&M. That was great. I think we were drinking that day. But I can’t seem to remember anything about that French Revolution. I mean, I know they revolted and all, and I'm pretty sure it took place in France, which was then known as "Istanbul." But that's about it.

Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter, since history is no longer required to be my field of expertise anyway. And there’s NOTHING you can tell ME about reality television that I don’t already know! I mean — can you believe that freakin’ Freddy and Kendra won the “Amazing Race?” Man, that really sucked.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Steroids: The whole truth

There’s always been a stigma associated with steroids, but the public also seems to be largely in the dark regarding what, exactly, steroids are, and what they do. For example, we know that steroids are not as healthy as say, bananas. But are they REALLY that bad? If so many of our beloved professional athletes — and Jose Canseco — have been more than willing to use these performance-enhancing drugs, then what’s the big deal? Sure, steroids have completely warped the average sports fans’ preconceived notions of fairness and the innocence associated with athletic contests. But who cares about the average fan anyway? Certainly not me. I’m more interested in drugs.

Could it be that trusted people within the community like our parents, teachers, and pharmacists have been lying to us all along about steroids? After all, in his new book, Jose Canseco argues that steroids are good, and I can’t remember the last time Jose Canseco was wrong. To learn more about steroids, I have contacted Victor Conte for an exclusive one-on-one interview. Conte, as you may recall, was the brains behind BALCO (Big Arms Lead to Contractual Overload), a lab responsible for creating designer steroids for professional athletes. He made news a few months ago by doing a revealing “20/20” interview, so I guess THIS interview is not as exclusive as I had previously claimed. Also, for legal reasons, what you’re about to read is not actually Victor Conte. Once again, he did not return my calls, but his secretary has given me permission to print what I THINK he would say if he were sitting in front of me right now. Nevertheless, let’s get this exclusive interview underway.

Me: Victor — Can I call you “Vic?”

Conte: I would appreciate it if you did not.

Me: Great. Vic, what ARE steroids?

Conte: I’m glad you asked. Steroids are delicious heart-shaped tablets that are ground into dust and then injected into athletes’ butts by Jose Canseco, or another untrained professional.

Me: Okay. Why?

Conte: The steroid dust spreads throughout the bloodstream, causing larger muscles for strength.

Me: That doesn’t sound very scientific, Vic. Do you have a degree in medicine?

Conte: Listen — I’m not here to bore you with science. I may not be as charismatic as “Mr. Wizard,” or as knowledgeable as the doctor from “Melrose Place.” Let’s just say that steroids are as harmless as apple pie. Or asbestos.

Me: Is the “apple pie” you speak of filled with razor blades?

Conte: In some cases, yes.

Me: The term “human growth hormone” seems to imply “safety.” Nevertheless, what ARE the short-term side effects of steroids?

Conte: Increased sex appeal, bigger muscles, smaller private parts, more home runs, Bill Romanowski, gigantism of the head, loss of dignity, road rage, bleeding, and sometimes sporadic coughing, however, the coughing only occurs in extreme cases. Did I mention more home runs?

Me: Yes, you did. That doesn’t sound so bad. (You can’t actually see me now, but I’m winking sarcastically at the cameras). Now, what are the long-term effects of steroids?

Conte: Coughing, divorce, nagging injuries, and sometimes death.

Me: Wouldn’t you consider “death” a harmful long-term side effect of steroids?

Conte: Not really, whatever your name is. You see, death can be a side effect of anything, because we all die. Like, some guy could take out the garbage tomorrow, die in forty years, and then some “doctor” could say that death is a side effect of taking out the garbage. That’s why I make my wife take out the garbage. Ha, ha, ha!

Me: That’s hilarious. Do you think it’s fair that steroids have become so rampant in professional sports, especially baseball?

Conte: Fair to who? The steroids are out there. If some guy decides that he wants to get by on just hard work, talent, and dedication, then that’s HIS problem! Then HE’S not being fair to himself, OR the fans. You see what I mean?

Me: Sort of. But not really. Vic, give me an argument FOR steroids.

Conte: That’s easy. I’ve got three words for ya’: more home runs.

Me: Well, I’m sold. Maybe we should wrap this up. But before we do, is there anything else that you’d like to make the public aware of regarding steroids?

Conte: As a people, we need a complete alteration of our perception of steroids. Remember when everyone thought that the world was flat, and Copernicus had to sail to Mexico to prove everybody wrong? Or what about the ‘80’s, when everyone thought that crack was so bad? What ever happened to THAT? The same thing goes for steroids. Years from now, we’ll all be sitting here laughing at the fact that we ever thought steroids were bad.

Me: Except for all the athletes who died from steroids.

Conte: Yes, except for all th…HEY!

Me: Thanks for stopping by, Vic. You really shed some light on our ignorance regarding steroids. One last question: Do you think all of Barry Bonds’ records should have an asterisk?

Conte: No.*

* Note: Anyone who thinks that steroids are a good thing is an idiot. That goes for you too, Jose.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

State of the Knicks Address

Something seems to be plaguing the New York Knicks, and this time, it’s not Michael Jordan. It’s indifference. The state of the New York Knickerbockers is such that nobody even seems to care anymore, and I’m not just talking about the players. I’m talking about me. And you. And everybody else. And don’t forget about the players.

Six years ago, Madison Square Garden was the place to be for a Knicks’ game. I can still remember the scene when Larry Johnson got fouled after hitting that three-pointer in the playoffs, and the place simply erupted. People cared about this team back then. This year, halfway into the regular season, the Garden is a dark and cavernous arena, where opposing teams come to feast on a once-proud franchise, as G.M. Isiah Thomas stares blankly into a wasteland of immovable contracts and missed jump shots. If Larry Johnson were still around, he’d be shaking his head in disgust.

The Knicks are in a perpetual no-man’s land, and have been for some time now. When Isiah Thomas came on board one year ago, he made some waves by trading for Stephon Marbury, but in reality, that move simply guaranteed a deeper decent into the abyss of mediocrity. As usual, the Knicks are a team that, even with an 18-27 record and sole possession of last place in their division, MAY actually be good enough to make the playoffs, thanks in large part to a brutally terrible division. At the same time, they’re a team that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of sniffing the NBA Finals. They’re in basketball purgatory, paying for the sins of former G.M. Scott Layden and others, while at the same time, trying to convince everyone that they’re just one step away from heaven. Even Phil Jackson couldn’t play savior here.

Where to begin with the problems surrounding this franchise? For starters, they’re so over the salary cap that it’s a virtual miracle that the team has enough funds to pay for their mascot, which is probably why they don’t have a mascot. Allan Houston, the $100 million man, hasn’t played in 12 years, and may be on the brink of retirement, thus transforming the phrase “take the money and run” to just “take the money.” The team itself is comprised of shoot-first players, who have no chemistry together, and quite simply, do not know how to win. They have no center. One of their tallest players, 6’11” Tim Thomas, wouldn’t go inside the paint on a dare. Luckily, he can shoot. Except that he can’t. In fact, the Knicks do not have one pure shooter. Not one. To say that the Knicks pride themselves on defense would be saying that the Knicks have no pride. Two weeks ago, they lost to the Phoenix Suns, at home, by a score of 133-118. They have no legitimate coach. In his one year on the job, Isiah Thomas is already on his third head coach, and that guy, Herb Williams, is an interim coach. And the funny thing is, amidst all of these problems, the biggest issue with the New York Knicks is that nobody is doing anything about it.

The biggest, or rather the ONLY, headlines the New York Knicks made this season was when Stephon Marbury laid claim to the title of “best point guard in the NBA,” which would have been a true statement, if there weren’t 29 other teams in the league. Marbury’s sound bite was the New York Knicks in a nutshell. Everybody seemed to realize the ridiculousness of that statement except the person who actually said it.

And nobody really cares. Even those “headlines” were barely that — the back pages of the Daily News and the New York Post had more important things to reveal, like how the Yankees are faring two months before the start of the baseball season. The fact that Stephon Marbury considers himself the best point guard in the NBA, especially when Suns’ point guard Steve Nash is the obvious front-runner for MVP, raised nary an eyebrow in a city that’s usually poised to jump on the tiniest perceived falsity, and tear it to shreds. Chalk it up to indifference, I guess.

The Knicks went to the NBA Finals in 1999, and when injuries, back-loaded contracts, and the resignation of then head coach Jeff Van Gundy began to weigh on the franchise in subsequent years, everybody was reluctant to start over. Owner Jim Dolan did not believe that the city of New York would accept a rebuilding phase, while at the same time, being asked to pay good money for tickets to a New York Knicks game. He underestimated the fans of this team, who would rather have watched a collection of youngsters go out and compete. Several years of losses would have been acceptable if there was even a hint that a championship-caliber team was under construction. As a result of these decisions, the Knicks are so far beyond the point of no return, that the legend of Patrick Ewing is growing by the second.

My own perception of this team is that everyone knows what’s wrong with it except the people who are on it, and responsible for it, because if they did, things certainly wouldn’t remain like this. Right? Either this franchise is in denial, or is completely inept, and I don’t know which is worse.

The basketball team that represents the greatest city in the world consists of a rent-a-coach overlooking a bunch of overpriced underachievers. It’s no wonder that nobody really seems to care anymore. No man’s land is a lonely place.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Honey, you...are my shining star...don't you fade away

In an attempt to lure the genre of "moronic guys who love sports" into the field of wild romanticism, WFAN in New York has been airing commercials encouraging guys to name a star after their significant other this Valentine's Day. And it seems to me that, hopefully, these guys REALLY like sports, cause that's all they're gonna have to fall to back on if their idea of a gift consists of a certificate claiming that some part of the galaxy is now named "Stephanie."

For starters, I'm not exactly sure who the authority is in this matter. Who decided that it would be romantic to name stars after women? Was it that infamous group of playboys, the astronomers? Or was it the astronauts? Or maybe it was God, who seems to me to be the only feasible authority when it comes to labeling various parts of the universe.

Whoever's idea this was, it is truly American. Only in this country could somebody begin the process of convincing guys that women would rather be unofficially named after a mass of gas than receive jewelry, and then charge them to do so. I'm sure the Native Americans - who never believed in the concept of owning land until we kicked them off of it - are getting a big kick out of this one. Wherever they are.

And I don't know how the actual process works, but I imagine that it goes something like this:

Them: "Star Registry, how can I help you?"

You:"Yeah, I'd like to name a star after my wife."

Them: "Okay, great! Did you have one in mind?"

You: "Ummm...yeah - the yellow one."

Them: "Okay...which yellow one?"

You: "Oh - sorry! I'm an idiot. The yellow one in between the two yellow ones."

Them: "Are you talking about the one over Staten Island, that blinks every 4.7 seconds?"

You: "Yeah - that's the one!"

Them: "Ooohhh - we're sorry. You must be talking about 'LaChondra.' She's obviously, already taken. But, let me look at my list of available stars. Okay...I see that I have a yellow one here, not far from the moon, with a great view of Kashakistan. How does that sound?"

You: "Uh, yeah. Whatever."

Them: "Wonderful! Now, what's your wife's name?"

You: "Amy. Actually, I just had a quick question. How do you know that this process isn't available elsewhere throughout the world, and that someone in say, Bosnia, didn't already name THIS star after HIS wife?"

Them: "That's a great question - one that we hear quite often. First, other countries are poor, and don't have time to concern themselves with naming things that aren't really theirs after the people that they will eventually divorce. They are too busy looking for food. Also, people in other countries just aren't as romantic as you. Their idea of romanticism involves a beautiful dinner, followed by a long, sensuous night of powerful love-making."

You: "Wait, that doesn't sound so ba..."

Them: "That'll be $300."

You: "Umm, okay. Should I make the check to out God?"

Them: "Why don't you just make it out the 'Star Registry' of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, and one of our guys will give it to God when he goes up to outer space to put a sign on 'Amy.'"

Hey, while we're at it, let's name everything! We're Americans, gosh darn it! I won't sleep until I start hearing conversations like this:

Guy: "Hey honey - Happy Valentine's Day!"

Girl: "Happy Valentine's Day to you! I got you tickets for the game tonight!"

Guy: "Wow - that's great! Thanks so much, honey. Now it's time for YOUR gift. They ran out of stars, so I named that patch of air over there after you. Try not to breathe it in. I didn't know who to pay, so I just flushed $300 down the toilet. And then I named the toilet after you. Happy Valentine's Day!"

Girl: (stunned silence)

Guy: "Sooo...do you want have sex now, or wait until later?"

Thank God for sports.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The female's guide to Super Sunday

I know that there are some big-time female football fans out there - the kind who would rather spend their Sunday afternoons watching NFL contests than, say...planning for a wedding. Or even going to a wedding. Or even getting married. The problem is that I don't know any of these women personally. I'm told that they exist, but I'm not exactly sure. For example, my wife does not know what a "first down" is, and she pretty much heads the list of "women I know." For most women, like my wife, the Super Bowl marks the completion of a seemingly endless list of Sundays spent "doing nothing except watching stupid football and listening to you go on and on about your stupid fantasy matchup and I couldn't care less if Edgerrin what's-his-face fumbled the ball inside the red area." Hypothetical situations like these seem to exist in households across the nation every Sunday during the fall and early winter months, and the Super Bowl is great for most women, not because they will finally discover who will lay claim to the title of "best team in the NFL," but because the season is over. This will probably never change, but that does not mean that women cannot enjoy the Super Bowl, and even impress their significant others while they're at it.

I have conducted a poll of various women who are self described "football haters," and, in an attempt to lure them into the world of professional football, for at least one day, I have allowed them to ask me their most pressing questions about the game of football in general. In return, they have each promised me that they will listen intently to my answers, and that they will then make this the "best Super Bowl ever" for their significant others this weekend, by taking their newfound knowledge to the front lines on Super Bowl Sunday. To assist in this matter, I have even included a statement that each woman can use during the Super Bowl that will not only relate to their question, but will also impress everyone in the room. So let's get started.

Question No. 1: "Why do they always run that stupid play where that guy runs right into all of those other guys and doesn't even get anywhere?" - Jill, 25

Because Marty Schottenheimer's coaching. Ha ha! Just kidding Jill - that's a great question. It may seem strange to a lot of women why so often, running backs seem to be running right into the heart of the other team's defense. In this case, what is SUPPOSED to happen is that the offensive line (those guys in front of the running back) blocks the defensive guys in a manner that will create what is described in football terms as a "hole" for the running back to "run through." Of course, this doesn't happen all the time because a) the offensive line did not block accordingly, b) you are watching the Miami Dolphins, or c) Ron Dayne.

Super Bowl scenario statement for Jill: "Boy, that Patriot O-line is really opening things up for Corey Dillon. Who needs another beer?"

Question No. 2:
"What's with all those yellow thingies?" - Patti, 54

Those are penalty flags. The referees toss those flags out whenever something illegal happens on the football field, like the Oakland Raiders. Or pass interference.

Super Bowl scenario statement for Patti:
"Oh, THAT play is coming back. Nice job morons. Way to ruin the only positive yardage you've seen all day long.

Question No. 3: "Why is Tom Brady so darn cute?" - Cara, 29

Ummm...Genetics? Excellent grooming habits? I'm not exactly sure how to answer this.

Super Bowl scenario statement for Cara: "Tom Brady makes Brad Pitt look like Brad Johnson."

Question No. 4: "There's too many lines on the field." - Kelly, 29

That's not really a question, but I'll answer it anyway. The white lines are the yardage markers. They're real. The yellow line is the first down. That's fake. The blue line is the line of scrimmage. That's fake. The red line represents feasible field goal range. That's fake. The black and white lines are the referees. They're real.

Super Bowl scenario statement for Kelly: "I know the yellow line is not the 'official' first down marker, but that looks like a bad spot by the referee. I think Andy Reid should challenge that spot. Also, I think I'm going to make some nachos."


Question No. 5:
"What's a point spread?" - Judy, 50

The 'point spread' is how many points a team is favored to win by, or how many points the other team is expected to lose by. For example, if Team A is -6, that means they have to win by at least seven points for my cousin-in-law Steve to win money. Unless he teased it with the over/under. That's enough questions out of you.

Super Bowl statement for Judy: "If you ask me, it's ludicrous that the line moved from +6 for Philly to +5, just because of T.O. I mean, he's not even at full strength! If I push, somebody's gettin' their head smacked in!"

Question No. 6: "What else is on TV?" - Anna, 51

Nothing.

Super Bowl statement for Anna:
"Don't even think of putting on 'Trading Spaces' - this is the Super Bowl!"

Question No. 7: "What the heck IS a 'first down' anyway?" - Anonymous, 26

When a team gains possession of the ball, they get four chances to advance at least 10 yards. These chances are called "downs." When they reach, or surpass that point, they get a first down, thus four more chances to go 10 more yards. On fourth down, depending where they are on the field, a team has to decide whether to a) punt, b) attempt a field goal, or c) go for another first down. I don't know how many times I have to explain this.

Super Bowl statement for Anonymous: "It looks like Westbrook got the first down on that play, but they may have to bring out the chains."

I hope this information has helped all of you "football hating" ladies out there to understand the game of football a little bit better. I thank you for all of your excellent questions, and I hope that all of you can try your best to make this the best Super Bowl ever! As a matter of fact, if it makes it any easier, consider writing down some of my proposed "Super Bowl statements" on a wristband that you can wear on the big day. This way, if you're having any trouble remembering what to say in certain situations, you can just glance at your wristband, like Ben Roethlisberger does when it's time to call a play.

Question No. 8: "Who the hell is Ben Roethlisberger?" - Anonymous, 26

Aw, forget it! Just watch the game.