Friday, December 29, 2006

Classic card of the week

Kevin Porter, 1991 Pro Line Portraits Series

What’s that you say, Kevin Porter? Would I like to see what’s behind that football? Ummm, no thanks. I’m cool. Really though. Actually, as a matter of fact, I brought my own football, so…yeah, don’t worry about it. Come again, Mr. Porter? Would I like to guess what’s behind that football? Uhhh, okay. Is it…another football? Kind of? Okaaay. Is it…a Herman Melville novel? Yeah, he wrote the book about the whale. I’m getting closer? Okay. Wait – I don’t really want to get any closer, now that I think about it. I give up, Kevin Porter. What’s behind the football? What the - a Chia Pet? For me? Why thank you, Kevin Porter! You didn’t have to go through all that trouble! And I didn’t even get you anything…I feel terrible. Wait, do you have any skin-tight spandex shorts, because I just saw a pair at Dick’s Sporting Goods…maybe I could buy them for you? Oh, you do have a pair of skin-tight spandex shorts? Several pairs? Oh my gosh - you’re wearing a pair right now. How did I not notice that? I think your Chia Pet was in the way. My bad. Do you have…a sleeveless turtleneck? You do? Crap! I know, I know – the sleeveless turtleneck is perfect for a late September afternoon. Oh well. But what the heck can I get you in return? Let’s check the back of your card: “…The only thing competition will do is make you a better person and player.” That’s it! I’ll get you some competition! What size are you…extra tight? Okay, I’m going to the store right now. When I get back, you are going to have the best competition money can buy! Wait, how much is competition? Can I borrow some money, Kevin Porter? What’s that? It’s in your back pocket? You want me to get it? No way those things have pockets. I am becoming suspect of your mysterious ways, Kevin Porter. You can keep what’s behind that football – I’m going home.

Did you know?
Kevin Porter wore this same exact outfit on his wedding day, except with a bowtie.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Classic card of the we-…YEAR!

It’s about time that I let you in on a little secret. Dwayne Schintzius is the inspiration behind this whole, darned operation. The very idea of “Classic Card of the Week” was modeled around the notion that someday – when I felt I was adequately ready to do so – breaking down these very cards. But unforeseen challenges lie ahead. For starters, our Dwayne Schintzius collection was always lying around the office somewhere, never more than a few footsteps away, nestled next to some coffee-stained newspapers and two-month old cream cheese. But, when I finally felt confident enough to take on the magnificence you see above (I have been training for months now, eating raw eggs and typing with my knuckles)…BAM!…they were gone. Suddenly and unjustly, like the NBA Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA, Dwayne Schintzius was nowhere to be found.

What was a man to do? I searched high and low, with no results. Through utter carelessness, I had managed to lose the Holy Grail of ridiculous sports cards. I didn’t know if I could go on. I arrived at work one day last week with full intentions of calling it quits. I couldn’t focus anymore, not without Schintzius. But then, a beacon of light appeared through my office door, and lying on top of my keyboard were the two Dwayne Schintzius cards, in all of their glory! It was a Festivus miracle! I screamed, “I’ll never lose you again, Dwayne Schintzius!” and we celebrated with cocktails and finger foods. Now I don’t know who, exactly, found Schintzius and brought him back into my life – no one at the office claims responsibility. But I’ll tell you this much: I’m a believer. In Santa Claus. That guy gets it.

Of course, just finding Dwayne Schintzius was only half the battle. Now that I had him, what was I going to say? What could I possibly say about a card where everything is already implied? I figured that the only person in the world who could even look at this card without being immediately flabbergasted by it was Dwayne Schintzius himself. And that’s when it came to me…

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dwayne Schintzius had never seen himself before. In his native land of Russia, where the average height is only 4’7”, the 7’2” Schintzius could never make eye contact with a mirror. And that’s if he was lucky enough to even be in the same room with a mirror, because mirrors were very expensive in Russia, and were actually deemed illegal under the Communist regime of Mikael Gorbachev, who himself was never made aware that he had a humongous glob on his forehead. Because they were government-owned, barbershops did not have mirrors, and for 20 long years, Dwayne Schintzius had been telling his barber, LeRoy, to “take a little off the sides, not so much in the back” without ever seeing the results.

Fast forward to the lay-up line of a late December matchup pitting the Spurs against the Mavericks. Schintzius had just completed a warm-up series of baby-hook shots that would inevitably be stuffed back down his throat during the actual game. He was casually returning to the San Antonio bench, as was his custom, when off in the distance, somewhere in the stands, a large mirror was being transported across the arena to replace the one that was broken in the luxury suite men’s bathroom, an accident that occurred when an irate Spurs executive realized that Dwayne Schintzius was on the Spurs. Not knowing what a mirror actually was, Schintzius quietly marveled at the humongous, mulleted phenom staring back at him. Then, growing increasingly upset, words were exchanged. Witnesses heard Schintzius have the following dialogue with the unsuspecting mirror:

“Yo, what’s your problem buddy? With your crazy mullet. Why you wearin’ my shirt? Why you…Wait a sec…(Tapping top of his head)…Holy shhh…”

The Upper Deck cameras, in what would later become Time Life’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Photo of the Year (1990),” captured the exact moment when 20-plus years of image-avoidance caught up with Dwayne Schintzius in one fell swoop.

By his own admission, Dwayne Schintzius was shocked by what he saw. In an awkward post-game locker room moment, Schintzius chastised various beat reporters for allowing him to leave the house in such a state, much less conduct public interviews. Probably most shocking of all to Schintzius was the realization that he was Caucasian. He blamed his parents for naming him “Dwayne,” which greatly added to his own, personal, misperceptions. Ironically, “Schintzius” is Russian for “Wade.”

Dwayne Schintzius’ locker room tirade, combined with the cost of one very expensive bathroom mirror, led to his demise as a San Antonio Spur. In the first ever trade that involved one unbelievably mulleted doofus for one robust guy who played basketball while wearing Blue Blockers, Dwayne Schintzius was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Antoine Carr in December of 1991. Advantage: Kings. Nobody in Sacramento had even seen defense like this before:

The story of Dwayne Schintzius is one of redemption. Instead of crawling into a humongous hole and hiding for several days, only to emerge with a shaved head and a pair of Nikes, Schintzius came to accept who he was. He said, “Hey, world! I’m Dwayne Schintzius. I am a seven-foot tall Russian who is actually from Florida, and I have the worst mullet in the history of the universe. Deal with it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to lace up my size 27 Converse and play some suffocating defense for the Sacramento Kings. That’s how I roll – Schintzius style.” In fact, Schintzius actually did what many thought was impossible, and ditched his coifed Aqua-Net part for a more apropos flattop. The results were, obviously, fantabulous.

Actual facts about Dwayne Schintzius (according to Wikipedia)
- He played the role of the “Russian player” in the 1996 Whoopi Goldberg movie “Eddie.”
- He accused former New Jersey Nets’ teammate Jayson Williams of killing his dog with a shotgun.
- His middle name is Kenneth.
- These facts are all true. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

Interesting anecdotes about Dwayne Schintzius (according to nothing in particular)

- He is the equivalent of Fabio in Russia, where his image often graces the cover of trashy, Russian romance novels, such as “From Russia, With Lust.”
- Former Seattle Supersonics forward Detlef Schrempf claimed that Schintzius was “an inspiration to mullet-wearers everywhere,” and often marveled at the sheer volume of his peer’s extraordinary mane.
- Antoine Carr said, “Trying to replace Schintzius in San Antonio was like trying to squeeze a cantaloupe into a rooster’s behind.”

Did you know?
“Rolling Schintzius style” is now hip-hop terminology for trying to orchestrate a four-on-five fast break because the humongous, mulleted center on your team can’t make it back down the court quickly enough.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Classic card of the week

*Special Friday edition
David Segui, 1994 Topps

David Segui is gonna bunt the shit out of that ball, so you might want to take a step back. David Segui once bunted a ball into the dead center field “black” at Yankee Stadium. David Segui will yell at an oncoming fastball and tell it where to go, even when he is bunting. He will say, “Go halfway down the third base line you stupid ball – Glaus is playing too deep – or I will KILL YOU! I will rip the seams out of your precious little round body, and then EAT YOUR REMIANS! ARRRGHHHH!” David Segui blatantly ignores the conventional wisdom with regards to how to hold the bat when you are bunting. He really doesn’t care. David Segui’s rationale is, “So what if a 94 mph fastball hits me right in the knuckles as I’m squaring up? My hands are made of straight steel, homie. Raffy gave me about 17 HGH shots right in ol’ caboose during BP – this ball could hit me straight in the temple and I will walk to first base as if I were just hit with a raindrop. I am an indestructible bunting machine. I hope this ball ricochets right into my mouth. Seriously. That’s what I am hoping. I will stop it with my teeth and then spit it down the third base line. Then when I get to first base I am going to punch the first baseman in the face for no particular reason. Who’s playing first today? Tim Salmon? That guy’s a bitch. I will eat Tim Salmon for breakfast, and then someone will have to call his family to inform them that daddy won’t be coming home, because David Segui ate him. I am so pumped up right now. I would really like to see this ball mess with me right now. I swear – if I foul this ball straight back, I am going to do some serious damage. I will run headfirst into the center field wall and knock down this entire stadium if this stupid ball doesn’t heed to my commands. Why am I even bunting in this situation? I should be swinging for the freakin’ fences! I’m on like, eight different horse tranquilizers right now, and coach is telling me to bunt? I am going to bunt this ball over the warehouse. Then when I get back to the dugout, I am going to say something very witty, like, ‘Told you I’d move the runners over, Skip.’ I am so freakin’ hilarious, I could just kill someone…”

Did you know?
David Segui once challenged a traffic light to a fight.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Spreading good cheer, and demanding socks in return

The Christmas season is all about a little give-and-take. “An eye for an eye,” as George Costanza would say. That’s what holiday spirit is all about. In that respect, and in honor of the holiday season, we’re going to do a little not-so-secret Santa thing. The higher ups here in the blogosphere have given me a modest budget to buy gifts for some of our favorite athletes and coaches here at “So, do you like...stuff?” But, in return, they have to get me something that I want, which is the most important part of this little deal. So, after a few phone calls, emails, and blackmailed photos of a compromised Drew Rosenhaus, we managed to set this whole thing up. (By the way, it’s more interesting if you picture all of us wearing Santa hats, sitting around a tree and sipping on some Grey Goose punch, which is exactly how this all went down.)

Chris Henry
His list: One “get out of jail free” card. No, wait…make that two.
Says I: I think I could manage a PBA card for ya’, Chris. But it doesn’t usually work if you’re throwing up on the cop’s shoes as you hand it to him. Just a word of advice.
My wish list from Chris: Your keys. And Odell’s.

Edgerrin James
His list: A time machine that goes back to March of 2005, at which point I can re-sign with the Colts.
Says I: Oooh, geez Edge, I mean, time machines are kind of costly these days. Maybe you could build one with the millions you got from the Cardinals. How ‘bout I get you an offensive line instead? Good? Good.
My wish list from Edge: My fantasy football season back. Save a spot for me in that time machine.

Manny Ramirez
His list: A one-way ticket out of Boston
Says I: Are you serious? Are you pulling my chain? You better not be pulling my chain, or else I’m gonna be pissed. Every year you ask for this, only to change your list on Christmas Eve to something like, the latest edition of “Scarface” on DVD. You’d better not be messing around…
My wish list from Manny: Your one-way ticket out of Boston.

Eli Manning
His list: A new last name.
Says I: No problem! How about, “Eli Testaverde?” No, wait! “Eli Leaf!” Sounds Scandinavian, yes?
My wish list from Eli: Grow a pair of you-know-whats, slap around Burress and Shockey for a good hour and a half, let ‘em know who’s boss, and then go out there and try and complete a freakin’ pass without looking as if your puppy just got run over before the coin toss.

His list: To finally be accepted as a New York Yankee.
Says I: Ughh, A-Rod. Another one of your strangely intangible lists again. Remember back in 2001, when you asked for “peace of mind?” What the hell? You want to be accepted as a Yankee? Try asking for .330/51/142, with a .999 fielding percentage, and a playoff appearance that doesn’t have you looking like a $252 million deer in headlights. And why don’t you stop talking for a while, champ.
My wish list from A-Rod: Socks. I don’t trust you to come through with anything big.

Isiah Thomas
His list: A clue.
Says I: What, you don’t want another shoot-first point guard? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…sigh.
My wish list from Isiah: Besides like, you leaving? How about a home win? Or, better yet, a home game that simply doesn’t end in World War III? Is that too much to ask?

Eddy Curry
His list: Three milkshakes, a super sized No. 3 value meal, a dozen donuts, a regular No. 3 value meal, and a diet Pepsi.
Says I: What’s that, breakfast? You’ll get nothing and like it!
My wish list from Eddy: You don’t need to buy me anything – I know you’re strapped for cash. Wink, wink. Just give me the treadmill that’s gathering dust in your basement. I have a “Spring Lake 5” to train for.

Eric Mangini
His list: I’ll have what Eddy’s having.
Says I: Okay, instead of that, how about an oversized, official NY Jets hooded sweatshirt that will cover up those jello jigglers as you’re roaming the sidelines?
My wish list from Coach Mangini: Call Bill Belichick your bitch. Ya’ know, for fun.

Paul Lo Duca
His list: The over on the Ohio State/Florida game, with $100 action points.
Says I: Uh, do you really need ME for that? Have you ever heard of the Internet, Paul?
My wish list from Paul: Some insider advice on the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

Bode Miller
His list: Another chance, at the 2010 Olympics.
Says I: What the…Bode Miller? How the heck did YOU get in here? Nobody’s heard from you in the past 11 months.
Says Bode: I heard there was gonna be Grey Goose punch.
Says I: Paulie, get this guy outta here, will ya’?

Albert Pujols
His list: My reputation as a good guy back.
Says I: Too late. Your arrogant surliness has rubbed too many people the wrong way. I think you’ve been hanging around LaRussa for too long. But I’ll tell you what – how about some B12? Just kidding! I’m kidding, right? I’ll get you a sweater.
My wish list from Albert: Your birth certificate. Twenty-six my ass.

Andy Pettitte
His list: To be home with my family. Wait, no! Sixteen million dollars.
Says I: Good call. Being home with your family is soooo 2004, am I right? But, you already got your 16 mil. You can’t fool me, Andy Pettitte. I’ll get you a gift certificate for a nice romantic dinner for two at Ruth’s Chris. Just you and Roger.
My wish list from Andy: Put down the ‘roids, get your act together, and try not to blow this.

Tiki Barber
His list: To win the Super Bowl, retire, and then parlay my good looks and intellect into my very own talk show, where I will interview important political people. And also do paternity tests.
Says I: Everything except the Super Bowl is inevitable anyway, so I don’t really have to do anything there. But you should start working on your portfolio, so I’ll get you a dope tie. And some body oil.
My wish list for Tiki: That Super Bowl thing would be real nice, so maybe you could shut up for like two seconds, and stop undermining your coach long enough to make it there. Oh, and winning a game would help, too.

Greg Schiano
His list: An extra 500 g’s annually, and three more scholarships. Then, watch the magic happen.
Says I: Anything for you, Greg! The world is yours! Well, New Jersey is yours, and that’s a start. Who wants Staten Island anyway, am I right?
My wish list for Coach Schiano: A Texas Bowl victory, and more chances to watch great, local college football for years to come. Also, maybe you’d be interested in coaching the basketball team? Hmmm?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Classic card of the week

Dan Saleaumua, 1991 Pro Line, Portraits series

Whoa, whoa! Back off, Dan Saleaumua! I was just kidding! I take it back – that is NOT just an extra-long shirt with shorts on over it. The last thing I need right now is for you to be practicing your martial arts moves on my groin. I’m not even wearing a cup! I don’t even work here! So please, relax. Thank you. So anyways…alright, why are you still looking at me like that? Are you messing with me? Let me check the back of your card…oh! Okay, you ARE messing with me: “To prepare for a game, I watch everybody else psyche themselves up, and it usually makes me laugh. Some guys bang their heads and some just sit there with their eyes closed…Some guys do different things, but I just goof around most of the time.” Dan Saleaumua did not believe in artificial motivation, such as “trash-talk clipboard material,” steroids, or Red Bull. He instead prepared for games with a steady diet of whoopee cushions and “Three Stooges” reruns. It was this free-spiritedness that forced the NFL to hand Saleaumua the coveted title of “Funniest Nose Tackle” for the year 1990. Because he believed that tackling was too violent – and against his religious beliefs (Hawaiian Methodist) – Saleaumua would instead opt to leave the opposing center in stitches. With laughter. Oftentimes an entire opposing offensive line would simply collapse when the ball was snapped, all convulsing with laughter because Dan Saleaumua had just told a hilarious joke involving a monk, three-quarters of scotch, and a homosexual dragon. (Stop him if you’ve heard that one.) This would open up a gaping hole for Saleaumua to reach the quarterback or running back, at which point he would grab them, stick his fingers through their facemask and poke their eyes while saying something funny, like “Wonka, wonka, wonka!” This often led to turnovers. In fact, Saleaumua forced more comedy-related turnovers in 1990 than any Hawaiian Methodist nose tackle in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs. Joe Montana, Saleaumua’s former teammate, tells a great story: “So we’re in the locker room after a brutal loss. 34-10 or something, in San Diego. Marty [Schottenheimer] is killing us…just killing us. Laying into our effort, cursing us out…he’s just irate. So he finishes his rant – there’s still smoke coming out of his ears – and out of the shower walks Dan, wearing nothing but a pink tutu and bunny ears. I’m telling you, coach wanted to kill him, but instead he started laughing so hard that he pooped his pants. Seriously…Dan Saleaumua made Marty Schottenheimer poop himself…and it wasn’t even the playoffs! True story.”

Did you know?
Dan Saleaumua’s favorite movie is “Patch Adams.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Classic card of the week

*Special Friday edition
Don Mattingly, 1991 Collectors Series

The similarities between Don Mattingly and Coca-Cola were endless, which serves to explain how a baseball card could, quite easily, confuse the two. For example, both were very red, with sideburns. Both went down extra smooth – Coca-Cola with its crisp, refreshing taste, and Mattingly with an effortless slide into home plate to win the game for the hometown ball club. Both produced much hyped, yet ill-fated experiments – Coca-Cola with “New Coke,” and Mattingly with “Kevin Mass.” Both had bad backs. The only real difference between Coca-Cola and Don Mattingly – if you can even call it a difference – was that Coca-Cola was a soda, and Don Mattingly was a person. But that’s about it. In fact, people confused the two all the time. Mattingly himself tells a great story about how he went to give teammate Roberto Kelly a high-five after a Kelly home run, and instead, Kelly turned Mattingly upside down and tried to drink him, and Mattingly was like, “Whoa, whoa, Roberto! It’s me, Donnie!” Stuff like that happened all the time. Nevertheless, the fact remains that this is one Don Mattingly baseball card extremely unique in its obvious omission of one Don Mattingly. But, as this card proves, you don’t really need to see Don Mattingly to understand him. So stop being such a doubting Thomas! Look, his name is there, you know his number was “23,” because it says so on top, you know the team he played for - the Evansville, Indiana somethings – and you know he was around during the year 1991. I mean, what else do you need to know? Do you need to know that Mattingly sold the space for his image on this card to the Coca-Cola Company for a paltry $43,000, just to earn back the money he lost in one sitting at a Casino in Atlantic City? Really, is that what you need to know? Are you calling him a “sellout?” Do you need to know that a can of Coca-Cola has won exactly as many championships as Donnie Baseball? Yeah, are you satisfied now, jerkface? Why don’t you go drink some Coca-Cola and stop asking me all these questions about Don Mattingly! He was a hero, I tell you! A hero!

Did you know?

Don Mattingly publicly accused his wife of infidelity when, in 1990, his third son – Elijah – came out looking a little too much like Pepsi.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A sitdown with: Jason Kidd

I’ve been receiving a lot of flack around here lately for ignoring the New Jersey Nets. Apparently, there are at least several people in the area who are fans of the Nets, which, I have to admit – I did not know. People are funny like that sometimes, like when they root for the Nets. The major sentiment among Nets’ fans is – they’re the local team, an actual New Jersey team, and they deserve our support. Also, they happen to be one of the better teams in the NBA. Okay. Counterpoint: They’re the Nets. They’ve been a brutal franchise for a quarter century, and now that they’re good, they’re most likely abandoning the Garden State for Brooklyn. Whatever side you may fall on, it is true that I have not paid them their due attention over these past few years, and thus, I’ve failed as a journa-…person. To make up for it, I’ve contacted the Nets’ super-duper guard Jason Kidd for an exclusive interview. He was as surprised as I was to find out about these “Nets fans,” and thus, agreed to sit down.

Me: Hey Jason! Welcome…

Kidd: Thanks for having me.

Me: J-Kidd, can I call you “J-Kidd?” My brain now automatically manufactures nicknames that are nothing other than the first letter of someone’s first name, combined with at least a part of their last name. Since your last name is only one syllable anyway, I literally had to put no thought into that whatsoever, which is perfect for me.

Kidd: Whatever.

Me: J-Kidd, you’ve been known to make everyone around you better. Do you think you can try your best to make me better today? Because I’ve done absolutely no preparation for this interview. I’m a mess, honestly. I left my cell phone at 7-Eleven this morning, and I’m totally hung over. You play for the Nets, right?

Kidd: Yep.

Me: What’s that like?

Kidd: It’s fun, I guess.

Me: Nice. You started your NBA career playing for the Dallas Mavericks, where you formed a rap group called the “J boys,” featuring yourself, Jamal Mashburn, and what’s-his-name Jackson. Do you remember that?

Kidd: It wasn’t a rap group, and it sure as heck wasn’t called the “J boys.” It was something the media had dubbed the three of us – Triple J – and yeah, it was me, Mash, and Jimmy Jackson.

Me: It didn’t really work out for you and the J boys though, did it? You know what they say about too many guys whose name begins with “J” trying to play basketball together…

Kidd: No, I don’t. What?

Me: I don’t know either. That they suck? I thought maybe you would know. Geez, J-Kidd, so far, you are not making this interview better.

Kidd: My bad.

Me: Of course you’re aware of the long-standing rumor that it was singer Toni Braxton that broke up the J boys. Tell me about that.

Kidd: Never heard of her.

Me: Of course not. Janet Jackson seemed to be the obvious choice there. Way to mess that up. Okay, then. After a forgettable stint with the Phoenix Suns, you were traded to the Nets for Stephon Marbury. How did it feel to be traded for the best point guard ever? A big ego boost, I’m sure.

Kidd: For him, maybe.

Me: In your first game as a Net, you shattered Yinka Dare’s career assist record. Was this a harbinger of things to come? And if so, what is a harbinger?

Kidd: I think it’s like, foreshadowing or something. But yeah, I think it was. I mean, we started off so strong back in 2002, that we forced people to take us seriously right out of the gate. From that point on, we were able to keep it going.

Me: The Nets were always like, the worst franchise ever. Even the Arizona Cardinals would be like, “Man, the Nets stink.” But then you come along and – Kazaam! – you’re in the NBA Finals. Do you take all the credit for the recent Nets’ run of success, or just 95 percent of it?

Kidd: I’m just a small part of this whole thing. The success we’ve had recently has been a result of a lot of things – Rod Thorn making some great moves, Richard Jefferson emerging as a star, getting Vince, and great coaching. I’ve only accounted for like, 91 percent of this, honestly.

Me: You are dropping a triple-double of modesty on me right now, J-Kidd. Talk about your coach, Lawrence Frank. What does he do?

Kidd: He coaches us. What do you mean?

Me: Really though, look at him. What could he possibly tell you guys that you don’t already know? I always imagine your practices going something like,” Uhhh, J – yeah, run the ball up the floor, and…throw it to Vince. Vince – dunk it. If Vince isn’t open, give it to RJ. RJ – dunk it. Keep doing that. And Collins – make yourself useful and try and grab a rebound or something, will ya’? I’ll be back in two hours, I have to get my muffler fixed.”

Kidd: No, man. Coach doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the job he does. He keeps us running like a well-oiled machine.

Me: Here’s something I’ve always wanted to ask you. When the Nets drafted Richard Jefferson, did you talk to him on the phone, and were you like, “Okay. We’re getting Tom Gugliotta. I can live with that.” And then you actually saw him, and you were like, “Wait a second…”

Kidd: Honestly? Yeah! I was blown away. I thought we were getting a spot-up shooter, and then I see this guy whizzing around the court as if it were some kind of athletic ballet. After speaking to him on the phone, I wasn’t even thinking about alley-oops. So yeah, it was a great surprise.

Me: Let’s talk about you for a sec here. Before every foul shot, you blow a kiss into the air out of respect for the Notorious B.I.G. How did that start?

Kidd: That kiss is for my son.

Me: Oh, really? Is he a rapper?

Kidd: He’s eight.

Me: Interesting. Speaking of rappers, the owner of the Nets is a rapper, is he not? I keep hearing that he’s retired, but I see him everywhere. He must have a very different view of retirement than I do, which involves me, a couch, and boxes of Polly-O String Cheese.

Kidd: Yes, his name is Jay-Z. He’s a cool guy.

Me: Did you know that I’ve been writing a dope rhyme about the New Jersey Nets over the past few years? It’s not finished yet, though. Wanna hear it?

Kidd: Not really.

Me: The Nets are here / You better stand clear / We’re a well-oiled machine / Yo, watch me set this screen / Nenad Krstic, got his balls to the wall / Don’t (bleep) with Mile Illic, unless you wanna brawl / Marcus Williams, he’s a super shooter / He’ll steal the ball, and then your computer…That’s all I have right now.

Kidd: That’s hot.

Me: J-Kidd, you’ve had some – oh, how should I put this? – domestic issues. Are you hoping that everyone forgets about this by the time you are inducted into the Hall of Fame, kind of like what happened with Warren Moon? If so, sorry I brought it up.

Kidd: No, I don’t expect anyone to forget. I made a mistake and I apologized. That was a long time ago, and we’ve both moved on. It will never happen again.

Me: If I were you, I’d blow a kiss to my wife on that foul line too. Ya’ know, just in case.

Kidd: Just in case what?

Me: I don’t know. Forget I said anything. J-Kidd, when information surfaced that the Nets were most likely moving to Brooklyn, you stated that you had signed to play in New Jersey, not New York. How would it feel to abandon a fan base that can’t sellout a playoff game?

Kidd: Well, first of all, I don’t even know if we’re moving to Brooklyn anymore. Nobody knows anything, because nobody is saying anything. Do you know anything?

Me: Me? Geez, no. I don’t know anything. I could ask around, though. My in-laws are from Brooklyn – they might know something.

Kidd: Thanks, I’d appreciate that.

Me: No problem. J-Kidd, your New Jersey Nets are currently in first place in the Atlantic division, with an 8-12 overall record. Are you guys playing this crappy just to make Isiah think that his team is moderately competitive? Or, has nobody informed Vince Carter that he’s in a contract year? Maybe somebody should tell him, like, as soon as possible.

Kidd: We are working on playing better basketball. And Vince plays hard every game.

Me: By “every game” do you mean almost every game?

Kidd: Yes.

Me: Okay, one last question before we go, ya’ know, for all the Nets’ fans out there. Wink, wink. When are the Nets finally going to win a championship, so we can have that much-anticipated parade through the abandoned parking lots of East Rutherford, New Jersey?

Kidd: This year, man. This is the year we go all the way!

Me: Promise?

Kidd: No.

Me: Okay. Whatever. Can you drive me to 7-Eleven?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Classic card of the week

Cade McNown, 1999 Collector’s Edge

Back in 1999, Cade McNown was a future legend. Now you may be asking yourself, “How does one ascend to ‘future legend’ status?” Good question. First, you have to be at least 200 lbs. (Cade McNown? 211 lbs. Check.) Next, you have to play quarterback, but not well enough to be drafted ahead of Akili Smith, who actually was also a “future legend” in the category of “failed draft picks.” (Smith, drafted 3rd overall, McNown, 12th. Check.) Finally, you must be deemed a “future legend” by the only authority capable of doling out such praise – a football card – and said football card must have utter disregard for the normal criteria that a stereotypical “legend” encompasses (i.e.: good stats, not named “Cade”), nor give two craps about naming someone a legend who has yet to take a snap within the field that they will establish their supposed legendary status within. (Check, check, and triple check!) Through this, it becomes clear that, yes, Cade McNown, in 1999, was a future legend. Unfortunately, nobody told the future about this, and what has transpired has been a huge misunderstanding of “Three’s Company”-esque proportions. On one hand, it is obvious from the card above that Cade McNown is a future legend. Look at him – does he look like somebody who is not about to become a legend? Even the floating menorahs in the background are trying to get out of the way of his rocket, legendary arm. (“Go deep, Chanukah!”) On the other hand, there is this: Cade McNown’s combined QB rating in his two years with the Chicago Bears? 67.7. Not very legendary, 1999! To boot, Cade McNown (though some may argue) wasn’t even legendarily bad, as he never once, like his counterpart Aaron Brooks, threw the ball backwards 30 yards. Whatever. In the case of Cade McNown, 1999 and 2006 will agree to disagree. What is important to remember here is that, while at UCLA, Cade McNown illegally used a handicapped parking pass to park his - I’m going to assume here - Jeep, making him, at the very least, a legendary douche.

Did you know?
This card represents the first half of the analogy, “…then Joe Montana is a bust.”

Worst. Christmas song. Ever.

Anyone that lives near this area of New Jersey is well aware that one local station a year continues the custom of 24-hour-a-day Christmas songs. This season the culprit is 106.7 FM, which began this tradition before Thanksgiving this year, meaning that it’s (looking at my watch) December 8th, and my holiday spirit has already been obliterated. Awesome. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the Rod Stewart/Dolly Parton rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which my wife so cleverly dubbed as the “date-rape Christmas song:” “Hey, what’s in this drink?” It’s SoCo mixed with GHB, Dolly - Rod is using the cold weather as an excuse to, at the very least, see your boobies. Merry Christmas!

But that’s not even the worst of it. I suppose that, when you’re trying to fill hours upon hours of airtime with Christmas songs, you’re bound to come across some bad ones. And one song in particular takes the cake. So, at the risk of sounding like an insensitive jerk that doesn’t understand the “true meaning of Christmas,” I’m throwing this out there: I hate the “Christmas shoes” song.

There. I said it.

As far as I’m concerned, this song is the equivalent of one of those Volkswagen commercials that scare you into safety by showing a ridiculously sudden and realistic car accident. (Hey, thanks Volkswagen! I nearly just soiled myself again, innocently under the impression that I was watching a normal commercial. Great.) The “Christmas shoes” song is so pretentious in its shameless attempt to make us embarrassed by our own Christmas cheer, as it serves to remind us that death is always around the corner. (“As you’re exchanging your presents and drinking eggnog this season, don’t forget that millions of American mothers die shoeless every year.”) Hey, thanks Christmas shoes song! For ruining the holidays again. Seriously, thanks.

Maybe the worst part of this whole deal is that my wife loves this song. Loves it. Honestly, I had never even heard this stupid song until a couple of years ago, while I was driving with said wife. I could not believe the absurdity of what I was hearing, though meanwhile, my wife is singing along to it, while trying in vain to hold back the tears. In fact, if my wife AND mother-in-law are in the car at the same time when this song comes on, forget it. They let out audible gasps throughout the entire song, as if they’re hearing it for the first time, and will frequently turn to each other with sad, puppy dog eyes, saying things like, “He bought him the shoes,” and, “His poor mother.”

Unbelievable. And quite honestly, I’ve had enough. Let’s break the Christmas shoes song down, and never put it back together…

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Okay, first of all, why is the boy all dirty? He’s not homeless, is he? No, he’s not. He lives with his parents. And even if his mom is sick, I’m sure his father hasn’t been neglecting to occasionally give him a bath or something. Just a ludicrous attempt to paint this boy as some kind of downtrodden, sympathetic “Tiny Tim” type of character. I’m surprised this song doesn’t have the kid on crutches, coughing up a cloud a smoke like Pigpen or something. Ridiculous.

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

Whoa, whoa, whoa. “Daddy says there’s not much time?” Okay, first we got a dad who doesn’t wash his kid. Now we got a dad who scares the crap out of his kid by telling him to rush to the store – by himself, mind you – to buy shoes for his dying mother, telling him there’s not much time. I mean, are shoes really necessary at this particular moment? Maybe little Billy (we’ll call him Billy) should be rushing to the store to get his mom some, oh, I don’t know…medicine. Or – and I know this sounds crazy – maybe Billy’s dying mother would prefer to spend her last moments with Billy, and not waiting for Billy to get back from Payless with a pair of stupid shoes. Plus, we’ve already established that this is a family that doesn’t bathe their children during dire times, so why, all of a sudden, are they so obsessed with appearance?

By the way, the last line is such a shameless tug at the heartstrings. The mere mention of Jesus makes any criticizer of this song (me) come across like a total jerk. But I’ll tell you this much – if Jesus cares what you’re wearing when it’s your time to go, then I never learned anything in Catholic school.

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes

Hey, cashier – I hope you enjoy that coal in your stocking this year…dick. Of course, the cashier is only playing the “Scrooge” roll in this stupid song. And let’s give another shout-out to the dad here, who not only sent his kid to the store at the worst possible time to purchase the most inexplicable item – he sent him with pennies. Hey dad, not sure how much shoes cost the last time you left the house, but they’re more than 28 cents. I know, inflation’s a bitch, huh? I mean, geez – this kid couldn’t have purchased Stephon Marbury’s shoes with that kind of cash flow. And, then there’s this: ”Mama made Christmas good at our house, though most years she just did without.” Ummm, huh? Did without what? Did without Christmas? But I thought she made Christmas “good,” as Billy so eloquently put it? Did without shoes? I’m confused…

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

Really though, was there another way for this scenario to end? Saddam Hussein would have bought the freakin’ shoes for the poor kid. By the way, I always imagine the line that never made into the song was the a-hole cashier singing:

Thank you sir, for your purchase, that was very nice
But if this boy has an ailing uncle, the second pair is half-price!

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

Sure, sure. It’s AAAALLL about you, buddy. I’m sure God wanted to show you the “true meaning” of Christmas so badly, that he killed off a dirty boy’s mother just to do it. Seriously, I’m sure Billy will always look back on his motherless childhood fondly, knowing that, for at least one holiday season, he was able to share the true meaning of Christmas with you, a random guy who just wasn’t “in the Christmas mood.” I hope you’re proud of yourself – there’s blood on your hands.

In my own extended version of this song, the mother lives - no thanks to the shoes, which gave her bunions - she divorces the good-for-nothing dad, gives Billy a bath, and becomes the first female ambassador of Turkey. Then, one day on Christmas Eve, she gets in a really bad car accident, blindsided by a drunken Dolly Parton trying to escape the Rod Stewart mansion. Billy rushes to the scene holding a pair of Keds, only to be brushed aside by the paramedics.

But fortunately, the mother survives. She was driving a Volkswagen.

You're a dirty, dirty boy...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Classic card of the week

Barry Sanders, 1998 Playoff Co. series

Barry, no! You’re running the wrong way! The “endzone x-press” is that-a-way! It’s easy to forget – because he was so freakin’ awesome – that Barry Sanders was, in fact, a Detroit Lion, and Detroit Lions tend to do stupid things, like disobey a smorgasbord of arrows leading them in the direction of the correct endzone. Only a Detroit Lion would be going the wrong way on a football card with the inscription “momentum” in the top right hand corner. Then again, this could have been one of those scenarios where the Lions’ offensive line immediately collapsed the exact second the ball was snapped, forcing Sanders to run backwards 20 yards, just so he could get some room to go forward again, which was when he was at his best. Or, it could have been a play call by the mastermind himself, the immortal Wayne Fontz, who most likely used the rationale, “Well, nobody seems to defending the endzone behind us…that would seem to be the easier option here.” Amazingly, the Lions have been unable to locate the “endzone x-press” to this very day, even though new mastermind, G.M. Matt Millen, has been searching on mapquest for the past five years. The symbolism contained in this card is also extraordinary, as even the mini-Lion in the lower right hand corner – read, “the entire Lions organization” – is also going the wrong way, and seems poised to get run over by an oncoming tractor trailer at any given moment. And while I would joke that Millen himself is driving the tractor-trailer, which contains a truckload of failed first-round draft picks, that would mean that Millen is following the arrows correctly, which is implausible. He is probably far off in the distance of this card, driving a go-cart in circles, and asking any mini-lion that passes if he knows how to get to the “endzone x-press.”

Did you know?
Even when running uncontested to the incorrect endzone, Barry Sanders would always get caught from behind at the five-yard line.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Book review - "The Best New York Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Fans"

Those of you who follow this site regularly are aware that I have never pressured you into reading anything other than my own material. Call it good business. I have food to put on the table, and leading you in the direction of others who have the capability of exposing my own inadequacies doesn’t make much sense now, does it? Well, whatever. I’ve got a book for ‘ya.

This is a New York-centric blog, which is why I’m taking the time to put you on to a New York-centric book. That, and because this book is – in literary jargon - freakin’ awesome. "The Best New York Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Fans” hits bookshelves today, Dec. 5. My advice? Get it.

The title speaks for itself. Author Peter Handrinos goes in-depth on all things involving New York sports, and leaves no stone unturned. I’ve read “sports argument” books before – most recently Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s enjoyable “The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time” – but there are several aspects of Handrinos’ work that set it apart from the rest.

For starters, it’s all about New York, and it’s contemporary in its appeal. Let’s be honest here – guys my age (mid-to-late 20’s) are getting a little bored of reading books about Sandy Koufax, Joe DiMaggio, and Y.A.Tittle. It’s not that we don’t enjoy and appreciate such works, and the historical perspective they provide, it’s just that, well…we weren’t there. We want to know more about our generation. (Ask anybody my age the name of the best baseball book they’re read in the past few years, and 90 percent will tell you Buster Olney’s “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty.” Why? Because it was about our team.) And it’s certainly not like Handrinos ignores history. On the contrary, he explores it, asking such questions as, “Were the ’62 Mets the worst team of all time?” (they had nothing on the 1916 A’s, he argues) and “Did Joe Namath deserve to make the Hall of Fame?” (the public embarrassment HOF maybe, but not the Pro Football one, by Handrinos’ account). What sets “New York Sports Arguments” apart is its inclusion of specific, modern, bar room discussions. “Did Brett Favre lay down for Michael Strahan’s sack record?” I think we all remember where we were for that, am I right? (And yes, he did.) Who was more dominant in their prime – Dwight Gooden or Roger Clemens? (The Rocket couldn’t sniff the Doc’s jockstrap in the mid ‘80s.) The book weaves in and out of the timeline of New York sports – from the Brooklyn Dodgers pennant collapse of 1951, to Isiah & friends’ dismantling of the current Knicks.

Handrinos’ subject matter is New York in content, and his writing style is New York in nature. He pulls no punches. There will be no confusion as to where, exactly, the author stands on a particular topic. There are no cop-outs. You’re not going to find an argument that settles on a conclusion of “toss up,” or “both.” And that’s the fun of it – you are not going to agree with everything he says. That’s why they’re called arguments. There are going to be moments throughout the book where you’re thanking the Good Lord that somebody had the cojones to blast the New York Giants for covering up Lawrence Taylor’s drug abuse. Which is funny, because a half an hour ago you wanted to throw the book out the window after he had the audacity to argue that the sport of golf will never make it big in New York (a sentiment I’m sure the legendary gallery at Bethpage Black for the 2002 U.S. Open would also take issue with). At least, those were my experiences. To each his own, I suppose.

Obviously, Handrinos’ arguments are backed up by facts. Fascinating facts. Facts that often defy popular opinion. For example, his most scathing chapter is that in which he – bear with me now – argues that Alex Rodriguez is a better player, leader, and clutch hitter than…Derek Jeter. I know, I know. Blasphemy, right? Well…just read it. The only fault in this particular argument is that it was penned before the 2006 season, when Jeter finished second in the AL MVP voting, and A-Rod became an official NY punch line. Nevertheless, it still holds weight with regards to their overall careers. Believe me – if you’re not 100 percent convinced after reading this chapter, your mind will be sufficiently blown.

And speaking of shocking, remember all of the hoopla surrounding the passing of Giants’ owner Wellington Mara last year? Well, see what Handrinos has to say about the former Giants’ patriarch. I’m telling you – this guy is fearless.

In fact, so many misconceptions involving New York sports are exposed throughout the book, from the perceived dominance of a young Brooklyn-born Mike Tyson, to Keyshawn Johnson’s supposed laughable criticisms of Wayne Chrebet. It’s an intriguing read – Handrinos will have you thinking twice about subjects you have taken for granted as common knowledge throughout your entire existence as a New York sports fan.

The author’s knowledge with regards to his subject matter is paramount, obviously, but what really comes across in the book is the passion with which Handrinos writes. Turn on ESPN at any given point in the day, and you can find guys arguing about sports, mostly for show, mostly for the sake of arguing, often without the necessary facts to back anything up. (Hey, Jay Mariotti thinks Jessica Simpson may cause Tony Romo to lose his focus!…ugh.) “The Best New York Sports Arguments” strikes a chord because Handrinos is so passionately committed to what he is saying. You get the impression that the author would sooner ride the subway naked than back down from his stance on any one of the subjects he introduces. The passion with which Handrinos writes is equaled only by the passion with which we as New York sports fans root, which is why you’ll find it so difficult to put the book down, especially after turning the page to take a peak at the topic of his next dissertation.

I’d be hard-pressed to find a sports fan in this area that wouldn’t benefit from something in this book, because everything is covered. And I mean everything, from the status of hockey as a “major sport,” to the inherent awesomeness of “Mike & the Mad Dog.” It’s an intelligently written, often funny, no holds barred exploration into the unique world of New York sports. You may not agree with everything he says, but Handrinos comes so well prepared that organizing your counterargument will pose the same uphill battle as fixing the Knicks.

Interested? You can buy the book here.

Author Peter Handrinos has a lot of, ummm...facts.