Friday, May 26, 2006

Classic card of the week

Kirt Manwaring, 1994 O-Bee-Chee

The most amazing thing about this card – besides the obvious – is the fact that there was NOT a play at the plate. The Atlanta Braves player pictured had just hit a solo home run, but Kirt Manwaring wasn’t having it. It was a 0-0 game in the top of the seventh inning, and hell was going to freeze over before the Braves scored on Kirt Manwaring’s watch. (Speaking of Kirt Manwaring’s watch, if an unsuspecting teammate happened to ask him what time it was in the clubhouse, Manwaring would look at his bare wrist and respond, “Time to throw down.” Then he would tackle the guy and try to bite him until the trainer broke it up.) And I don’t think I have to tell you that the Braves did not score on this play. (In fact, Manwaring gave the umpire a noogie until he agreed to take away a run from the Braves, making the final score 0 - -1.) It was reported that, after this particular game, the grounds crew spent fifteen minutes picking up chunks of raw flesh and torn jersey fragments out of the batter’s box. All evidence pointed to Kirt Manwaring. No charges were filed. In 1991, Manwaring drove in 19 runs, and also bit the backsides of 11 opposing players, a league record. Another interesting tidbit on the back of this card, made more so not by the stat itself, but by the choice of words as it relates to the picture on the front: “Kirt nailed 42.3% of all potential base stealers in 1993.” The lesson here: If you’re innocently walking down the street, and Kirt Manwaring finds you, points at you and yells, “Hey! That’s my base,” run. Run as fast as you can. And cover your ass.

Did you know?
When Kirt Manwaring makes love, he always wears his shin guards, just in case.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tips for the Spring Lake 5

This Saturday will be my third consecutive year running in the Spring Lake 5, and, let’s be honest here – I’m kind of a veteran of the race by now. There’s pretty much nothing you can tell me about this race that I don’t already know, unless of course, you bring up the subject of actually winning it. That is something I don’t know how to do, although I imagine it requires significant training, the eating of many raw eggs, and “Eye of the Tiger” on a constant loop, and I am just not ready for that kind of commitment. Nevertheless, this is my third time around, and thus, I feel it necessary to dole out some useful advice to the newbies out there running this race for just the first or second time. Ha!…rookies.

For those who don’t know, the Spring Lake 5 is probably the most famous road race in New Jersey, held annually on Memorial Day Weekend in – you guessed it – Spring Lake, New Jersey. It’s a five-mile race, and besides rounding about 10,000 locals into shape, it also forces all the Spring Lake well-to-dos to get their panties in a bunch because thousands of outsiders are invading their town for a good cause. So if you see some elderly woman wearing an absurdly big hat standing on the porch of her multi-million dollar home, shaking her fist at you as you run by and yelling for you to “get off her lawn” even though you’re on the street, just ignore her. Or wave back (with your finger).

So consider that my first tidbit of advice. But wait - I have more. There’s a lot you need to know about running in this race, and that’s why I’m here. I’m going to break down the “Do’s & Don’ts of Running in the Spring Lake Five” into three parts – before the race, during the race, and after. Let’s do it.

Before the Race

Don’t: Drink coffee. Sure, a nice cup of coffee before the race will put an extra hop in your step as you approach the starting line. But that hop will turn into a painful Texas two-step as you attempt to hold in that special kind of digestive release that coffee is often known to produce. You do not want to be the runner who interrupts their race by running up to a stranger’s house and ringing the doorbell as you hop on one foot on their front porch and beg to use their bathroom. And the Port-A-Johns are out of the question. I repeat – out of the question. So save the mocha choca latte until afterwards.
Do: Drink plenty of water and/or juice. But not prune juice.

Don’t: Wear something stupid to get attention. One of my favorite pre-race traditions is surveying the crowd to see what crazy get-ups people have on. You just gotta love the people wearing the huge Dr. Seuss “Cat in the Hat” hats for no apparent reason, and the scraggly looking guys wearing t-shirts that say, “I’m so broke, I can’t even pay attention,” with their gut hanging out. Giant sunglasses, Zubaz pants – you’ll see it all, and none of this has anything to do with the race, which is what makes it so enjoyable. Actually, people like this are crucial to the enjoyment of a race like the Spring Lake Five. Just don’t be one of them.
Do: Wear something. Hey guys – it’s 8:00 in the morning, by the water, at the end of May. It’s not mid-August in the middle of the Mojave Desert. So put a shirt on, for crying out loud. I didn’t come here to see your hairy nipples. And put some pants on while you’re at it. I have boxer shorts longer than that.

Don’t: Try and meet up with someone right before the race. It’s impossible. There are 10,000 people at this race, and unless your friend is wearing a Dr. Seuss hat (in which case, you shouldn’t be meeting up with them anyway), you’re not going to find them. You’re going to be on your cell phone 30 seconds before the starting gun goes off, saying things like, “What…WHAT? Where? I TOLD you, I’m by the beach, in the street. By the HOUSE!” If you have to meet up with friends, do it early, and pick a good meeting spot far away from where everyone congregates.
Do: Bring someone who is in charge of watching all your crap. Most of the people who run in the Spring Lake 5 are not from Spring Lake, which means most people arrive with keys, cell phones, pocketbooks, slingshots, watches, Blackberries, etc. So if you know someone who’d like to come along to the race and not run, put them in charge of all your stuff. In the case of my family, Uncle Dave has the honors, and, to be honest, I wouldn’t trust anybody else. So if you know what my Uncle Dave looks like, feel free to find him on Saturday. He’ll hold your stupid cell phone.

Don’t: Show off by “warming up” for a five-mile race by running two miles before the race. That’s just arrogant. You’d be surprised how many people are actually breaking a sweat before the race even starts. Geez, give it a rest, Carl Lewis.
Do: Stretch. A lot.

During the race

Don’t: Wear an iPod. Well, this is kind of a preference thing, I guess. I don’t like to wear my iPod when I run outside, because I’m scared I’ll get hit by a car. (“He couldn’t hear the car horn – he was listening to 50 Cent’s ‘P.I.M.P.’”) And if you get hit by a car during the Spring Lake 5, chances are, you veered off course. But still. There’s a lot of cool things going on during the race that are nice to hear, like the people cheering you on, the speakers blasting music at various mile markers, the trampling of the plastic cups they hand out, and that natural sound that your body emits when you’re about to collapse in the street. Plus, hearing the footsteps behind you always provides motivation. Not to mention, there are certain points during the race when you can get sprayed with water to cool off, and you don’t need your precious iPod getting wet and conking out. Besides, do you really need your “Kelly Clarkson playlist” to get you pumped for a race? Really?
Do: Start off fast. A lot of people are going to be reminding you to “pace yourself,” which is true. But to anyone who has never run in one of these races, you have to start off fast, because you have to separate yourself from the cluster of people running. Also, if you don’t, you’ll get trampled (unless you’re there to walk – just start off in the back, and you’ll be fine). Personally, I like to run the first mile fairly fast, and then pace myself for the next couple of miles. That is how you come in 4,234th place, rookies.

Don’t: Run with someone who wants to spend the next five miles talking to you about their relationship problems. Listen, I know this is a fun thing, and everyone’s supposed to get together and enjoy themselves. Fine. But this isn’t the Fun Time Happy Walk – it’s a race. You want to do your best. Even if you think you’re going to approach it as casually as possible, once it starts, the juices start flowing, and you want to do well. So don’t run with someone who’s going to hold you back by blabbing away about what they did last night. In fact, don’t run with someone who’s going to talk to you at all. Talking takes breath, and you’re going to need all the breath you can get for this. So don’t waste it.
Do: Run with someone who’s going to push you. Even if you don’t know the person, find someone during the course of the race who seems on your level of endurance, but who will also be a challenge to keep up with. Use this person as the proverbial “carrot at the end of the fishing hook.” But if this person falls back, step on them as you pass, and find somebody else. After all, this isn’t a charity run. Am I right?

Don’t: Get frustrated at the hoards of 10-year old kids who will be whizzing by you constantly. Remember – kids have a ton of energy, but they are also quite stupid. The same lanky third-grade kid who sprints by you at the first mile marker will be walking with his hands on his hips when you pass him at mile four. That is what a steady diet of Cocoa Puffs, PlayStation, and Snickers will get you. Darn kids today!
Do: Get frustrated at the guy on crutches who just passed you. Believe it or not, this actually happened to my mom during a race we ran last year in New Brunswick. And it wasn’t even close, really – the guy on crutches beat my mom by several minutes. We had some fun with that one.

Don’t: Let up, no matter how much you’re hurtin’. You’ll regret it when the race is over if you do. Find that extra gear…it’s always there.
Do: Save some energy for the end. When you can see the big clock, finish line, banana stands, and t-shirt tents, exert yourself! The race is almost over, and once you cross the finish line, you’ll have the entire rest of Memorial Day Weekend to relax. So sprint if you have to! Pass some people, and take chunks off your final time.

After the race

Don’t: Develop an ego. Remember, this race is less than 1/5 of a true marathon. You’ll have a whole new respect for distance runners after this.
Do: Pat yourself on the back. Five miles is a lot of miles, and you could have been sitting at home watching a “Mama’s Family” Memorial Day marathon instead. So way to go!

Do: Party hardy.
Don’t: Drive home. Remember, Uncle Dave has your keys, and he will not hesitate to hold onto them until Sunday.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Classic card of the week

1996, Glenallen Hill, “Metal Universe” series

“And on the seventh day, God created Glenallen Hill.” Of course, that’s what the Bible would have you believe. But as you can see, Glenallen Hill was actually formed during a nuclear explosion of sunlight, lightening, and gaseous fumes, all of which (obviously) gave him extreme super powers. And if you don’t believe me, check out his 15 home runs in 1993. One of my favorite things about this particular card – besides the fact that it is, quite possibly, the ugliest card ever made, and generally ridiculous – is the expression on Glenallen’s face. If you look at it real quick, you would think a determined Glenallen Hill is about to steal a base. But if you look closer, it appears as though he’s about to cry (check the bottom lip). One thing’s for sure though – he is NOT happy that several rays of metallic light have just burst through his chest cavity. And who can blame him, really? Also, Glenallen Hill blasted 16 home runs as member of the Yankees in 2000, which was motivation for Yankee announcer John Sterling to coin his famous phrase, “Have you had your fill, of Glenallen Hill?” This was a rhetorical question to the opposing pitcher, but as everyone knows, it’s impossible to have enough of Glenallen Hill, because he always leaves you wanting more. He’s funny like that.

Did you know?
A recent poll suggested that 99.9 percent of humanity stopped collecting baseball cards after they saw this card.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Don’t get bitten by a dog, starting…NOW!

It is often the case, in America, that completely random people will get themselves “a day.” This is done mainly so that morning radio talk-show hosts can say things like, “And remember – today is national ‘travel agent’s day,’ so don’t forget to pick up some flowers.” There are other days too, like “Secretary’s day” (more commonly referred to as “Administrative Assistant’s day”…it just sounds sexier), “High School Basketball Referee’s day,” “Morning Radio Talk-Show Host day,” “Columbus day,” and “Community College Professor” day. There are also days dedicated to the earth, most notably “Earth day,” so don’t forget to pick up some flowers, but not directly OUT of the earth’s soil, because that would totally defeat the purpose.

So random people and the earth get days, and we all know that the study and awareness of black history gets a month. This all makes complete sense, obviously. But, you may be asking yourself, “In the context of the calendar year, where does that leave ‘the week?’” Well, I’m glad you asked.

The week is given out for causes. For example, we are all undoubtedly familiar with “Computer Virus Awareness Week,” which is always the third week in August, and is accompanied by popular blue wristbands that read, “I have a healthy PC.” But there are other weekly causes that get less notoriety, and it’s about time we as Americans stand up and take notice.

For instance, I was at the post office yesterday, and I noticed a sign declaring that next week, May 21-27, is “National Dog Bite Prevention Week.” I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Ya’ know, it’s about friggin’ time.” It is my opinion that the plague of unwanted dog bites in this country has reached “orange alert” status. Who is doing something about this? Certainly not the president. Certainly not dogs – they don’t know what’s going on. It is our responsibility as humans to fix this problem, and we have until Sunday to figure out a plan, and then until next Saturday to execute said plan, and then we can move on to the next cause. That is how America works. On a weekly schedule of random causes.

I am not sure that just signs declaring that it is “National Dog Bite Prevention Week” will suffice, even if those signs have a picture of a dog on them, and it looks like the dog is about to jump out of the sign and bite your head off. And obviously, the Center for Disease Control, the brainchild behind this most special week, have no idea what they're talking about. And if you don't believe me, check out their website, where they provide such useful tips on preventing dog bites as, "Do not run from a dog and scream" (instead, hit the dog with the nearest stick), and, my personal favorite, "If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., 'be still like a log')." Let it be known that I did NOT make up that last part in parentheses. Apparently, nobody at the Center for Disease Control has ever been knocked over by a dog, because if they had been, they would know that the first thing to do in such a situation is to start kicking your legs frantically until an ambulance arrives. So I am taking it upon myself, as an American citizen, to outline some things to remember that will make THIS the best “National Dog Bite Prevention Week” ever!

- Do not get involved, in any way, shape or form, in the culture of pit bull fighting. Through my research, I discovered that 100 percent of unwanted dog bites come from a pit bull that was trained to fight other pit bulls by a 12-year-old kid with no chance in life. That pit bull will undoubtedly turn on an innocent human bystander at some point, so watch out! Just stay away from that situation altogether. Like, if you’re walking down the street, and somebody approaches you and says, “Hey, would you like to referee a pit bull match tonight?” it is very important that you say, “no.” Also, if your neighbor has a pit bull, move immediately. But not to the Bronx – there are way too many pit bulls there.

- Do not stick your head inside of a dog’s mouth, even if you are drunk and somebody double-dared you. This should go without saying.

- Do not pet an unknown dog, even if it is a sunny day in the park, and the dog is on a leash, and the dog’s owner is looking at you, smiling, like, “Go ahead – pet him! He doesn’t bite.” That situation has “rabies” written all over it. Also, don’t pet any signs with pictures of dogs on them, just in case.

- Do not buy a dog under the following conditions: a) you are in college, b) you are a worthless piece of crap who can’t take care of his kids, much less a dog, c) the dog is a pit bull, and d) there is a good chance that, at several times throughout the course of a given day, you will have no idea where your dog is.

I think that, if everyone can follow these simple rules, we’ll all be dog-bite free! And if not, we could always put Hannibal Lector-style masks on every dog just to make sure. It’ll just be for a week, and, to be quite honest, I don’t want to be the one enduring the embarrassment of having MY dog bite someone during “National Dog Bite Prevention Week.” Not that I have a dog, but you can see what I’m saying. And another thing. I have heard on several occasions that “every day should be Earth day.” Well, in that case, I think that every week should be “National Dog Bite Prevention Week.”

Except, of course, for the second week of November, which is traditionally “National Try Not to Get Stomped By an Elephant Week.” And by the way, we still haven’t thought of a plan for that one yet.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Classic card of the week

1986 Topps Rance Mulliniks

Like many young Americans of the 1980’s, I was left utterly confused the first time I laid eyes upon a Rance Mulliniks baseball card. “That’s a misprint, right? His name is really Lance Mulligan, right?” Here is the answer to those questions: wrong. Truth be told, the parents of Rance Mulliniks – the Mulligans – actually had plans to name their first boy “Lance,” but he was born in Asia (racism), and when the birth certificate was filled out, many things were lost in translation (including his middle name, “Rarry” ((terrible))). The Mulligans had intentions to legally change their son’s name back to normal, until Rance hit three triples in a tee-ball little league game. It was too late, because a star was born. Unfortunately, that star’s name was Rance Mulliniks. On the positive side, Rance Mulliniks, like Peter Pan, never ages, and he eventually DID change his name to Jeff Kent. As far as that thing on his neck, I don’t know if it’s a birthmark, or some undetermined residue that happened to creep into my shoebox of old baseball cards. I’m thinking the latter because, believe it or not, my collection of Rance Mulliniks never seemed to require protective plastic sleeves.

Did you know?
Larry Bird once said of Rance Mulliniks, “He is like God in baseball cleats.”

Monday, May 08, 2006

Classic card of the week

Kenny Lofton, 1997 Upper Deck

I have heard many people say things along the lines of, “Oh, you gotta see my friend so-and-so…he’s SO fast!” To this, I would reply, “Oh really? Is he SO fast that he is required to wear a parachute on his waist AT ALL TIMES just to slow him down?” Then, the person I was talking to would run away in shame, crying. Score one for me. And yes, as you can see by this card, Kenny Lofton, in his prime, was THAT fast. Here is the story. Lofton was the fastest person in the world in 1989 – a world that included the Houston Astros AAA club. The Astros didn’t know what to do with him, because he was actually too fast. One time, he bunted with the bases loaded, and he beat the runner on third to home plate, but the umpire called him out. Lofton did not know that you were not allowed to do that. But there was no containing his speed. So the Astros traded him to the Indians. During his first game with Cleveland, Lofton hit a double, but was traveling so fast that he could not round second base, and ended up running through the left field wall, injuring his sternum. It was then that Indians’ base running coach Roddy McRoderson, whose brother-in-law was a professional plane jumper, constructed the parachute device for Lofton. The rest, as they say, is history. Amazingly, the parachute had to be activated via remote control from the dugout, because Lofton had such blazing speed, that he himself did often not know where he was, or how fast he was going (one time he went for a jog outside of his home in suburban Alabama, and ended up in Mexico). The parachute was eventually outlawed by MLB in 1994, after White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen got tangled up in it during an attempted Lofton steal of second base. The game was delayed for three hours, and no one has heard from Kenny Lofton since. That is the end of this story. I wish I had better news.

Did you know?
Kenny Lofton played in the NCAA Final Four as a member of the Arizona Wildcats, and then had a successful NBA career under the alias of “Gary Payton.” It’s true!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Classic card of the week

1987 SportsFlics John Kruk

There may be no greater evidence of the excesses of the late 80’s than the introduction of the hologram baseball card. At the time, these cards cost baseball card companies approximately $12,000 each to print (hologram technology involved expensive lasers), even though the retail value of the most exclusive hologram card ever made (the 1989 Steve Sax, which showed him partially naked when you turned it 85 degrees to the southeast) never exceeded $1.25. Not a good profit margin. Nevertheless, the hologram card remains close to my heart. Where else could you find a card that combined upwards of THREE indistinct images into one, even blurrier image? Nowhere. That’s where. I chose this John Kruk hologram because it’s the only one I could find (my other holograms are in a fireproof box at an undisclosed location in my house, along with my passport, several Hypercolor t-shirts, and other valuables). This particular card shows three Kruk images – one of him swinging, one of him staring back at me (or you, depending on who is looking at the card), and one of him eating a chocolate-glazed donut. Besides their ability to violently redirect sunlight, another great advantage of the hologram card was its extreme thickness. And while the thickness felt good to the touch, one had to be careful. Young people everywhere had to stop sticking baseball cards in their bicycle spokes shortly thereafter, because a kid from Kentucky tried to do just that with a hologram card in 1988, and he flipped over his handlebars. That is why you should always wear a helmet.

Did you know?
SportsFlics sucked?