Thursday, August 28, 2008

Classic card of the week


Greg Harris, 1987 Topps

There is nary a thing I enjoy more than a “looking off into the distance” shot. And not just in baseball cards either. I particularly appreciate this journalistic style when it comes to a family portrait session at the local Sears. Or a sixth-grade glamour shot. Or even a classy watercolor portrait of Napoleon. Look at me, looking off into the distance, contemplating your demise! Do not bother me with your devices…but make sure you get my good side.

The hopes and dreams of one Greg Harris could not have been captured more adequately. What he is thinking about, we may never know. We can only speculate. It could be that he is already auditioning for the role of Uncle Rico: How much you wanna bet I can throw this baseball over them mountains? Or maybe he is thinking about which arm he would prefer to throw with during the upcoming season. He could be wondering what it feels like to have a fully-grown mustache. (Greg Harris made Dave Wannstedt look like Rollie Fingers.) Or, he could be wondering where he left his backpack:



Greg enjoys backpacking in his leisure time.

Well alrighty then. During the previous offseason, Greg Harris had backpacked through the vast Sri Lankan terrain, and had met with the locals, and was able to add a handmade face towel to his already burgeoning backpack. Unable to think of what could possibly top that trip -- backpacking through Europe was sooooooo 1983 -- Greg Harris had an epiphany: Next stop – the moon!

Unfortunately, Greg Harris’ trip to the moon occurred during a time when it was fashionable to wear your backpack off of one shoulder, and thus, his backpack is now aimlessly traveling throughout outer space.

Did you know?
Working Napoleon Dynamite and the real Napoleon into the same post was an honest coincidence, yet undeniably inspirational.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Preseason game decides one thing, at least

Note: This column appears in the 8/28 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 8/29 issue of the Peoria Times

The Cardinals faced the Raiders in Oakland this past Saturday evening. I figured that not only would this game help the Cardinals work out the kinks, but it could help me try and get into form as well. After all, I have a full season of groundbreaking columns to write. With that in mind, I decided to do a running log of Saturday’s game. Here is what followed:

6:00: Our announcers for this evening are the preseason team of Mike Goldberg and Bill Lewis. They are a bit rusty.

1sr qtr: Matt Leinart is equally rusty. His first pass is intercepted. Actually, let’s hope that’s rust, and not Matt Leinartness.

1st qtr: So far -- and this game is about five minutes old now -- Goldberg has referred to Raiders’ quarterback JaMarcus Russell as: ChaMarcus Russell, Marcus Russell, Darren McFadden, and, occasionally, JaMarcus Russell.

1st qtr: There has been a penalty flag on every other play.

2nd qtr: Leinart is intercepted by Stanford Route, who then knocks over a referee and is then tackled by Leinart. The theme to “Benny Hill” is oddly not played during the replay.

2nd qtr: Penalty flag.


Exciting!

2nd qtr: The Cardinals are on their own 5-yard line. The announcers throw it down to the sideline reporter before realizing that there’s a fumble on the field. Much awkwardness ensues.

2nd qtr: Matt Leinart drops back to throw the football. You can guess what happens.

2nd qtr: I can’t tell if the Cards’ D is playing that well, or if the Raiders are playing that poorly.

2nd qtr: Kurt Warner is in. Leinart’s line: 4-of-12 passing for 24 yards and three interceptions. So, yeah.


Screw it...what do I have to lose?

2nd qtr: Goldberg describes Cardinals’ tight end hopeful Brent Miller as “6’5” and 237 yards.” I may never watch a preseason football game ever again.

2nd qtr: Allow me to recap the remainder of the first half: Flag, flag, bad pass, flag, somebody falls down, flag, flag.

3rd qtr: First offensive play of second half: flag.

3rd qtr: Warner hits Anquan Boldin for a big gain, which is followed by a Tim Hightower touchdown run, his third of the preseason.

3rd qtr: Bill Lewis firmly announces that Hightower has won the backup running back job, which is immediately followed by J.J. Arrington running for a 67-yard touchdown. Sure, the job probably is Hightower’s, but that was still funny.

3rd qtr
: The starters are out, and my game log is finished.

Speaking of the starters, the culmination of Leinart’s poor performance on Saturday ended up being his undoing -- Kurt Warner was reportedly named the starting quarterback the following day. If Matt Leinart was a “kink,” it looks like that’s been worked out.

So at least this game decided one thing. As for everything else, the defense looked fantastic, the offensive line blocked well, but penalties -- the Cardinals had nine of them during the 24-0 win -- remain an issue.

There’s still just over a week until the start of the season, which is good, because almost everyone has some things to work on, especially a newly anointed backup quarterback. And that includes myself. I mean, this isn’t even really a column. It’s just a random account of things that happened almost a week ago.

So, yeah.


Hey Mike, mind if I write your column next week? I think it gives you the best chance to be funny...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Classic card of the week


Harry Hamilton, 1989 NFL Pro Set

In honor of it being almost the start of the NFL season, we present to you yet another installment from Bill’s collection. Today we celebrate, amongst other things, how not to tackle an opposing football player.

Quick true story: In my first ever Pop Warner football game, on the very first play, I got the wind knocked out of me. The trainer was on the field and everything. My dad was so proud. For a few seconds I thought I was dead. I see Blue, he looks…glorious! If you’re wondering how this happened, and, even better, if you would enjoy a dramatic still-photo reenactment in which I am played by a 6-foot tall African American man, please feel free to reference the above-featured card.

It is uncertain how this particular play ended, although I am going to assume that it ended with Harry Hamilton firmly entrenched in the turf, unable to breathe, with two parallel tire tracks spanning the length of his body. Of course, you can’t always make tackles by the book and, believe it or not, Harry Hamilton was a tackling machine! Exhibit A: his side ‘fro.



One of Harry Hamilton’s secret weapons was that he had a naturally produced helmet underneath his helmet, which gave him the ability to easily absorb helmet-to-helmet contact. (While at Penn State during his freshman season, Hamilton reportedly forgot his helmet for a road game at Michigan. Unfazed, a trainer helped him dye his hair white with a blue stripe down the middle, and Hamilton made 27 tackles during the Nittany Lions’ victory, all solo.) Not pictured in this photo is Harry Hamilton’s distinct chest ‘fro, which enabled him to tackle even the fullest of fullbacks whilst standing straight up. Further evidence of Harry Hamilton’s tackling prowess that does not include his body hair can be found in his actual tackling statistics -- he was top-three in tackles for the Jets for three straight seasons. So there’s that.

But this wouldn’t be a Classic Card if we didn’t confirm our findings with Wikipedia:

he went to school at greater nanticoke area

No capitalization, no punctuation, grammatically incorrect, and not relative to anything whatsoever. I should really find another source of online information. But I won’t.

Did you know?
According to his mother, Hamilton modeled his mustache after his legendary great-grandfather, Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Penalties serve as an indictment of Whisenhunt

Note: This column appears in the 8/21 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 8/22 issue of the Peoria Times

I think Ken Whisnhunt is a good head football coach. Why? I am not really sure. That is what I like to call my “thesis.” Please read on.

Whisenhunt has forgotten more football than I will ever know, so I am not really one to say anything about the technical aspect of his job. (On the other hand, he probably couldn’t write a weekly, quasi-humorous, sometimes-sports-related column for a community newspaper. -Awkward pause- Okay, he probably could do that, actually.) But I am a football fan, and it is my right to stand firm on the foundation of baseless opinions. With that mind, I still must have reasons for believing he is a good coach, as arbitrary and juvenile as those reasons may seem.

For example…

I think Ken Whisenhunt looks the part. He’s young and in shape, which shows me that he’s a) not old, and b) physically capable of kicking some tail if necessary. He, at least sometimes, has a mustache, which simply cannot be understated. When a guy with a mustache is talking, you listen. Case closed. Maybe even more important than that -- if you could imagine -- is the fact that he’s been successful. He’s earned a Super Bowl ring as a coordinator, and has helped a previously stagnant organization make major strides as a head coach.

I appreciate how a former offensive coordinator has overseen and orchestrated a defensive renaissance. I like how he always at least looks like he’s got a plan. I like how he admits when he made a mistake. I like the way he stands with his arms folded on the sidelines, keeping his cool while expletives fly around in his brain. To be honest, I sort of have a strictly-football-related crush on the man.

But there is a flaw with the Arizona Cardinals -- one that falls squarely on the shoulders of Whisenhunt -- that is glaring, and could cost the team its season. This flaw is also so bizarre in that it seems to contradict everything that Whisenhunt otherwise represents.

Penalties.

It’s the same old story. The Cardinals led the entire NFL in penalties last season with 137. It seemed like they added 137 more in their first preseason game against the Saints. This is definitely as issue, and a big one.


Jim, Dale, listen -- I am literally going to kill both of you if you don't stop throwing those stupid flags. Like, with a gun.

This is very bad for several reasons. For one, there is nothing more frustrating than watching your team have big plays negated by penalties. (Unless you’re a jaded Raiders fan, as this situation is called “Sunday.”) Furthermore, the nature of the Cardinals’ penalties -- false starts, unsportsmanlike conducts -- are strictly disciplinary.

Darnell Dockett loses his cool. Adrian Wilson takes a cheap shot. Leonard Pope doesn’t know the snap count. It’s getting pretty old, and the last thing that the Arizona Cardinals need to deal with in their quest for respectability is dumb penalties.

Whisenhunt himself has most definitely recognized the problem, and has made some not-so-veiled threats that certain guys could be losing playing time if it persists. But the thing is, it has persisted. For a while now. On Whisenhunt’s watch. What gives?

How has the same man whose disciplinary aura I’ve come to admire and respect allowed this to happen? Is it all just a fa├žade?

If their last preseason game is any indication, maybe not. The Cards racked up just three penalties en route to a solid victory against the Chiefs. Maybe Ken Whisenhunt has made his point, but whether that kind of disciplined play can sustain itself remains to be seen.

In the meantime, as far as my unabashed, strictly-football-related crush is concerned, I recommend a thicker mustache. It certainly can’t hurt.


The 1946 New York Knights? Zero penalties.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Classic card of the week


Geno Petralli, 1991 Donruss

Geno Petralli, how is it that you are not Rafael Palmiero? I do not understand. In my mind, I am imagining that the Texas Rangers lineups of the 1990s featured only mustachioed left-handed hitters whose names stereotypically gave away their ethnicity. Players that included Deion Freeman, Ming Sing Chu, and Patrick O’Flaherty.

But what were Geno Petralli’s career highlights? Horrible question. But I will answer it anyway. Back of the card, do your thing:



Ranked 4th on Rangers in batting in ‘89

That highlight is lukewarm, at best. That is such a random and arbitrary statistic. Did you know that my Uncle Tom ranked sixth in two-out walks for the San Diego Padres in 1977? That is not true, but if it were, would you care? Exactly. Also, Geno Petralli’s fourth-best-on-team (FBOT) .304 batting average in 1989 was a result of a scant 184 at bats, which, at the time, did not even make him eligible for speech therapy, much less the team batting title.

I need other career highlights for Geno Petralli or I will self-combust. Where can I turn?

Oh, wait…I know!

Let me begin by saying that Geno Petralli’s Wikipedia page should contain approximately 93% less content than it presently does. Geno Petralli was a former major league baseball player who was not Rafael Palmiero. The end. Apparently, Geno Petralli “knows a guy” who knows about this here Internet. Which is why it’s so strange that the “Career Highlights” section is mostly filled with lowlights. First sentence:

Petralli gave up 95 passed balls in his career.


That is a “highlight” only if Geno Petralli caught 3,096 baseball games in his career…without a catcher’s mitt. Which is not the case. The gist of this Wiki page is that Petralli caught knuckleballer Charlie Hough, which explains his high passed ball totals. And by high passed ball totals, I mean that Geno Petralli owns every passed ball record in MLB history. This = highlights. In short, this was a similar situation to Doug Mirabelli (can only Italian guys catch the knuckler?) catching Tim Wakefield. The only difference being that Mirabelli could actually catch a knuckle ball, while Petralli would often choose to let it roll past him while a 73-year old Charlie Hough rushed to cover home plate, breaking his hip in the process.

Did you know?
When Geno Petralli went before Congress to testify to his steroid use, Commissioner Bud Selig sat in the crowd with a brother Geno hadn't seen in years. Geno then publicly backed off of his original sworn statement while emphatically wagging his finger.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cardinals campaign for our attention, and it works

Note: This column appears in the 8/14 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 8/15 issue of the Peoria Times

Few things in life excite me like a good television commercial. I will buy whatever you are selling if you can produce a commercial cool enough for my exquisite tastes. I mean, I may not buy it literally, but still.

When it comes to football season, I am bursting at the seams as it is, so when I see a commercial promoting the upcoming NFL season -- and I judge said commercial to be particularly awesome -- my heart skips a beat and I can’t sit still for the next several hours, or days, depending on my mood. In that respect, there are two commercials out now that I think should win Oscars. Or Peabodys. Or whatever it is that commercials win.

First, there is the Reebok “Migration” commercial, which features an eerie and amazing song (which I immediately downloaded) and players “migrating” to their home stadiums in a V formation. For example, Eli Manning and the Giants are on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Cowboys are in the desert (looking in vein for strip clubs, I assume). I honestly think that this is the greatest commercial ever produced. Even better than the Sanderson Ford commercial that features random images of basketball games and bald eagles and has nothing to do with cars and makes no sense.

The Cardinals -- whose mascot is a bird, which is an animal that migrates in a V formation -- are strangely absent from the “Migration” commercial. But that is okay, because they have their own commercial, and I’m sure you’ve seen it by now. The theme is “together,” and it starts with head coach Ken Whisenhunt -- who I have never met but who I’m sure could easily convince me to step in front of oncoming traffic just by staring at me -- explaining how the Arizona Cardinals are going to accomplish things together. Then there are shots of the players lifting weights, executing drills, and making plays in practice. Larry Fitzgerald chimes in to remind us that the team will be working together, and winning together. And guess what? I am sold.

Listen, I’m not even a fan of the Cardinals and this commercial gets the juices flowing. And that’s the point (I bet you thought this column didn’t have one!): I believe in them.


Cut!

So, yes, based on a television commercial, I believe the 2008 Arizona Cardinals will be successful. This may sound weird and stupid and nonsensical, but I think this ad represents where the Cardinals are at right now as a team and as an organization.

For longtime Cardinals fans, the fact that the franchise paid to air a commercial at all should tell you something. (For example, back in 1994, the team only ran a 20-second infomercial that aired once at 3:21am on Lifetime, which was hosted by an Ed McMahon lookalike.) And sure, it’s not like Scorsese directed the thing, but it’s not like watching Leandro Barbosa trying to sell cars on local cable either.

Hey, the Cardinals were 8-8 last season. They have a lot of talent and play in the up-for-grabs NFC. Their head coach is on the television explaining that his team will win, together, as one. I believe him. Sue me.

Who knows, maybe next season the Cardinals may actually be featured in a national commercial. Migration Part II. That remains to be seen. Right now it’s just mid-August, and there’s only one thing that we know for sure:

I watch too much television.


But if you act NOW, we'll throw in this exclusive Arizona Cardinals'...something or other, absolutely FREE!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Classic card of the week


Bob Kipper, 1987 Topps

Yes, it is true that the Pittsburgh Pirates hats of the mid-80’s were the single biggest offense against baseball and society ever recorded in the history of the universe. That said, never has the hat in question looked as unbelievably ridiculous as it does right here. Congratulations, Bob Kipper. You look like a fool.

Let’s get know Mr. Kipper a little bit:



Bob won 8 letters in baseball, basketball and football at Aurora (Ill.) Central Catholic High School where he fanned 20 batters in one game.

Awesome. Good stuff there. Bob Kipper was probably a popular guy in high school. A hard worker, dedicated to excelling in athletics and maybe in the classroom, too. He attended a Catholic school, so Bob Kipper was most likely a God-fearing man as well. Good parents. These are a lot of assumptions, but I’m going to run with it here. Bob Kipper was a good, humble, well-meaning guy, just trying to make a living on the baseball field so he could provide for his family of a wife and four children and two puppies and a parakeet.

So what do the Pittsburgh Pirates do? Well, they believe in the guy, so they acquire him from the Angels. So far, so good. They like his makeup. They’re gonna bring him around. So they say, “Hey Bob, listen. We believe in you. You’re going to help this team win, we know that. So what we want you to do is, put on this ridiculous top hat, and stand in front of that camera over there. This is gonna be great. Your family’s gonna be so proud of you, especially years down the line, when you’re not playing ball anymore and your kids want to reminisce about your career. Now what we did here is, we actually added another level of ridiculousness to this particular hat, for added effect. You’re going to look like a train engineer slash bee keeper that plays for the Pirates. Your kids are gonna think you had three jobs! You can thank us later, Bob. Oh, and one other thing -- can you put this rabid squirrel underneath the hat just for the picture? Jim down in the equipment room thinks that would be hilarious. Appreciate it.

Thankfully, the Pittsburgh Pirates, to this very day, are still paying for this atrocity.

Did you know?
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a former major league baseball team that played in Pittsburgh, a town rich with pirate-related history.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Classic card of the week


Reggie McElroy, 1989 NFL Pro Set

I have no column this week because I was on vacation last week and that’s just how I roll. (Feel free to voice your frustrations in the comments, if you can find room amidst all the other comments.) As usual when I don’t have a column, I will now write about Reggie McElroy.

I should first mention that this card comes courtesy of the always-reliable Bill, a Jets fan himself who credits most of his personal successes to Reggie McElroy for reasons that cannot be explained. Anyhoo, I urge you now to travel back in time, to 1988, to an era when a 6’6” 290 lb picture of raw athleticism is playing tackle for the New York Jets instead of tight end. That’s Reaganomics for ya’!*



The back of the card -- as back of the cards tend to do -- lists McElroy’s career accomplishments. To waste time and space, I will reprint them now:

One of only two players to start all 16 games on Jets’ injury riddled offensive line in 1988…Recovered fully from reconstructive knee surgery that sidelined him second half of 1986 and first half of 1987…Came back to start final five games of 1987…Had not allowed sack in 1986 prior to being injured…Jets’ second-round draft choice from West Texas in 1982…Missed all of 1982 NFL season with knee injury…Four-year starter at tackle for West Texas State…Was ROTC cadet major…Second lieutenant in U.S. Army.

That seems like a lot to remember. Especially the part about Reggie McElroy. Allow me, if you will, to help matters a bit by providing an even briefer synopsis of the career of Reggie McElroy, and by placing these extraordinary events in chronological order. Here goes:

West Texas State…ROTC…drafted by Jets…injures himself getting drafted…knee injury…unaccounted for…does not allow a sack, but is injured doing so…injured…knee falls off…knee surgery…injured…1987…kind of plays a little bit…in irony of ironies, plays entire 1988 season while remainder of Jets lay in hospital…final score of 1988 season finale: Bears: 312, Reggie McElroy and Al Toon: 2…assumed decade of injury…Second lieutenant in U.S. Army.

Also, I think that Reggie McElroy looks like Cee-Lo, but I am probably wrong.

*Makes no sense

Did you know?
When Reggie McElroy was informed that West Texas was actually NOT a state, his knee exploded.