Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Classic card of the week

Hakeem Olajuwon, 1991 Skybox

When I was a kid, yeah –- basketball was cool and all. But what I was really interested in was how well or not-so-well the basketball players that I liked dressed when they weren’t playing basketball. Fortunately for me and other kids of my ilk, GQ Magazine –- a must-read for every 10-year old boy –- aligned forces with the Skybox brand of basketball cards in order to reveal to us which basketball players dressed especially well.

For example, I bet you thought that Hakeem Olajuwon just played basketball. Well, wrong! He wore clothes, too. And he wore them well. For further evidence of how appropriately Hakeem Olajuwon dresses, let’s find out what impartial New York Knicks’ announcer John Andariese has to say:

“Knicks announcer John Andariese kids that Hakeem ‘is a good dresser, but everything is lizard.’

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Lizard. John Andariese kills me. Also, I don’t get it. His clothes are made of lizards? As opposed to Andariese himself, who only wore alligator boots and endangered woolly mammoth parkas? But hey, that’s John Andariese for ya’! Besides being able to call basketball games, he was king of the fashion-conscious insult. He once quipped during an actual game that he wouldn’t wear John Stockton’s shorts with Bea Auther’s hips.

But let’s find out more about Hakeem Olajuwon’s outfit:

In this elegant look, though, Hakeem could crash the boardroom any day.”

Indeed, he could. Especially if, in the boardroom, everyone was discussing how they could transform the Cosby sweater into a line of ties. Wow, that was catty on my part. I feel like one of those people who comment on E! during a red carpet event and make ridiculously mean-spirited comments about people they do not know under the guise of “humor.” I’m sorry, Hakeem. You should not bear the brunt of early 90s fashion by yourself.

When all is said and done, we will remember, most of all, that Hakeem Olajuwon made GQ’s “NBA All-Star Style Team.” We will marvel at how this occurred before the David Stern induced dress code, and that Hakeem wore his fine –- albeit lizardy –- clothes voluntarily.

And that is an accomplishment you can hang your Kangol on. The championships were cool, too.

Did you know?

You could crash a boardroom naked as long as you are carrying a dozen donuts.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Fiesta Bowl: a fiesta indeed for those in charge

Note: This column appears in the 12/30 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 12/31 issue of the Peoria Times

Finding out about corruption within the seedy world of college football is like –- hmmm, what’s a good analogy here? Oh! –- finding out about corruption within the seedy world of college basketball. Yes, that will do.

So hearing about alleged political “contributions” from Fiesta Bowl employees was less than shocking. But because the Fiesta Bowl is local, right here in Glendale, and because it plays a major role within the local economic structure, my interest was slightly piqued. And I don’t know if I was naïve or indifferent, but delving a little further into this mess was an eye-opening experience for me, and should be more than that for the city that hosts this annual charade.

To quote from the Arizona Republic, which broke the story: Over the past decade as the Fiesta Bowl worked to maintain its elite position as one of the top postseason college-football games, employees made contributions to politicians friendly to the bowl, including some donations that may violate campaign-finance laws.

Let me start by stating that the Fiesta Bowl is, in essence, a football game. To discover that it has a corporate structure similar to that of a Fortune-500 company was a surprise, as “Fiesta Bowl employees” had, to me, connotated those people who sell hot dogs at the Fiesta Bowl. Boy was I wrong. Instead we have a football game that has a CEO. This would be like me saying that I am the vice president of the Suns-Rockets game next Wednesday. (Which, by the way, I am.)

Also, “politicians friendly to the bowl?” Ya’ know, my father was friends with a bowl once. It did not end well. That’s all I’m saying.

The alleged contributions are separate from the, apparently legal, $4 million that the Fiesta Bowl has spent since 2000 to wine and dine the officials in charge of the Fiesta Bowl. So basically, for a decade, the Fiesta Bowl has spent $4 million taking itself out to dinner. No wonder this bowl has so many friends.

Possibly most damning is the Republic’s allegation that the employees responsible for the donations were reimbursed by the Fiesta Bowl. Of course, donations that are reimbursed cease to be donations, and while Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker is denying any wrongdoing, there is too much money changing hands here to honestly believe that everything is on the up-and-up.

I don’t think there’s any better evidence than this of why there is no college football playoff system. Too many old rich men would lose money. Bowls would be left friendless, roaming the streets.

Three years ago, the Fiesta Bowl proved to be one of, if not the most thrilling college football game ever. And while we can always talk ourselves into the purity of the actual game, these latest allegations -– though certainly not shocking –- do highlight the corrupt structure of the landscape itself.

So what will the city do? Probably the coin toss. The city and the Fiesta Bowl are, after all, friends. And not just on Facebook.

But come this Tuesday I think I’ll take my own little stance, which will be: not watching. Besides, I have a lot of work to do for this Suns-Rockets matchup. These games don’t play themselves, ya’ know.

Tostitos! There's a party in every bag! There is also $4 million.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Classic card of the week

Placido Polanco, 2001 Stadium Club

I realize that the baseball season is either long gone or very far away, depending on how you look at it. But all of this hot stove talk has me excited enough to dip back into my stash of pointless baseball cards a few months earlier than usual. Plus, as mentioned ad nauseam over the past few months, my treasure trove of worthless non-baseball cards is dwindling.

(That is, btw, yet another hint to all four of my loyal readers out there. Send me something. Please.)

I have to admit that my heart skipped a beat while flipping through this deck of cards, for I had thought –- for one split second –- that I had found an Albert Pujols rookie card lost in my shoebox-shaped island of misfit players. But alas, it was only a picture of Placido Polanco doing what Placido Polanco is wont to do, which is: hitting the ball the other way so as to move a runner over or some other thing that will produce either one, or more likely zero runs, but surely at least one out -- an accomplishment for which he will be lauded by the announcers, his teammates and other people who enjoy outs.

That was very harsh. I am obviously taking it out on Placido Polanco for not being Albert Pujols. I apologize, Placido. To make it up to you, allow me now to mention some of your ANALYSKILLS, which -– as we all know –- are a complex system of skills, analysis, and the analysis of those skills, which are analyzed. With skills. Of analysis. Here:

ANALYSKILLS: Extremely valuable and unsung

In 2000, the year before this card was released, Placido Polanco slugged .418 and was 50% in stolen base attempts. So I would like to reword his first ANALYSKILL, if I may, to read: Somewhat valuable and properly sung.

(I would also like to mention something. Many baseball fans are aware that Polanco has –- for lack of better phrasing –- a fairly large domepiece, a fact that I was not going to mention here due to its pettiness and irrelevance. But I went on his baseball-reference page for stats, a page that is sponsored by an entity called “The Fightins.” Well, they have an invitation for you:

For all the news concerning the size of Placido’s melon, head over to The Fightins.

Baseball-reference, I had thought, was like, a legitimate source. Now am I not so sure. Furthermore, how much breaking news is being released with regards to the size of Placido Polanco’s head? Is it getting larger? I am scared to find out.)

Anyway, more ANALYSKILLS:

…Rarely whiffs…

I realize that this is very childish, but if “whiffs” means “farts,” then that ANALYSKILL is not only hilarious, but evidence of Polanco’s aforementioned extreme value. In which case: I stand corrected.

…Able to come off the bench…

Far be it from me to question the inherent validity of ANALYSKILLS, but it would seem that most, if not all, major league baseball players would possess the ability to physically remove themselves from the bench and then insert themselves into a baseball game. It could also be argued that a player that possessed a more refined set of ANALYSKILLS would not find himself on the bench in the first place.

But again, far be it. From me.

Did you know?
The Fightins were the first to break the story of Sammy Sosa’s face.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mall Santa an initiation for every parent

Note: This column appears in the 12/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/24 issue of the Peoria Times

Last weekend we took our hopefully-soon-to-be-daughter (this is how she will be referred to for the time being) to see Santa Claus.

We had heard that Santa would be making an appearance at Walmart, and so that was our initial plan, for no other reason than it was the closest stop on Santa’s world tour. But when I called ahead to make sure, I was told that he was there last weekend, and had since returned to the North Pole Walmart. In the end this was probably good news, as I wouldn’t have to resist the temptation to ask Walmart Santa if he was receiving proper health benefits. More importantly, it saved us a trip to Walmart. A little piece of me dies every time I have to go there.

Whatchu mean you ain't got no Santee Clauses?

Unfortunately, this forced us to acknowledge the inevitable: we were going to the mall. On a Saturday. Just before Christmas. To see Santa. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this, based on my vast experience of walking past the mosh pit that is the mall Santa area and thinking to myself, “I am so unbelievably happy that I am not in that situation right now. I think I’ll get a pretzel.”

Even with the dread of the impending holiday mall crowd, there was never even a consideration of not going to see Santa. My wife even mentioned that she didn’t care about the pictures -– she just wanted her to see Santa. I had to remind her that part of the allure of meeting Santa Claus is getting the proper documentation, especially when you’re dealing with a three-month old who wouldn’t know the difference between sitting on Santa’s lap and sitting on a pile of dirty laundry.

Even as we pushed a stroller down the endless mall parking lot and then weaved our way through the indifferent and inconsiderate human traffic of JC Penny, I was oddly excited. When we got to the mall and discovered that the line to see Santa Claus was eight miles long, I didn’t care. In fact, I was happy. Standing in line in a hot mall amidst a flurry of foaming-at-the-mouth children just so you can have your own child -- who will either be haunted by the experience or not remember it at all -- sit on the lap of a total, albeit jolly, stranger is a rite of passage for parents. And I think that’s what made me so happy.

I felt like a parent.

She met the big guy, and we have the pictures to prove it. Our hopefully-soon-to-be-daughter slumped over in the middle of Santa’s lap, with her big brown eyes wide open, seemingly marveling at the wonderment of Christmas, but in reality just reacting to the loud toy the camera girl was shaking to get her attention. She won’t remember it. But we will.

Another thing I’ll remember is to never go near a mall food court, especially on a Saturday during the holidays. Mall food courts make Walmart feel like a Hallmark store. I almost got killed just passing Sbarro. Stupid parents.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Classic card of the week

James Worthy, 1992 Topps All-Star

Is that the look of an All-Star, or is that the look of an All-Star? I doubt we even need the “All-Star” designation on this card to deduce that the man in question is, indeed, a star among others in his chosen profession of basketballing. Besides, the All-Star uniform is a dead giveaway. As are the oversized goggles, shin-high and scrunched-up tube socks, short shorts, and the knee braces placed ever so slightly below the knees, so as to protect the knees from something that might land just below them.

Of course, we kid with James Worthy because we love him. In fact, this is his record third appearance on Classic Card of the Week. Amazingly, none of the aforementioned appearances have been solo, including this one, which is unnecessarily shared with the uber-intense Kevin Willis -– no stranger to Classic card himself -– who is only not uber-intense when he’s pretending to play defense during a meaningless All-Star Game. But alas, such is the plight of one James Worthy, who has always toiled in the formidable shadows of other peoples’ classic-ness. Don’t believe me?

For the Los Angeles Lakers, he has toiled in the formidable shadows of such players as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson,

Toiling in formidable shadows is a fate that I share with James Worthy. I sit here right now penning awesome lines about random James Worthy cards, yet I can barely see as a result of the dark shadow cast by James Worthy, who is literally standing behind me right now and making sure that I don’t make fun of his goggles again. Nevertheless, let us continue:

but James is more than

Wait! Lemme guess…”deserving?”


Oh. Makes sense.

of his seven consecutive NBA All-Star Game selections.

I must inquire: How does one escape the all-encompassing and formidable shadows to earn seven straight All-Star Game selections? Are the shadows transparent? Or is James Worthy’s toiling just too good to go unnoticed, regardless of its inferiority when placed against the toiling of his most immediate peers?

Whatever the case may be, I commend James Worthy for both his toiling and its recognition by others. And may I also add: nice goggles, dork.


Did you know?
"Formidable are
The shadows you toil in
An All-Star shines through" is a haiku that I wrote in 90 seconds.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas spirit comes better late than ever

Note: This column appears in the 12/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/18 issue of the Peoria Times

It hadn’t really felt like Christmas.

For one thing, my wife and I decided weeks ago that we wouldn’t be going back east for the holidays this year. Knowing we wouldn’t be with family subconsciously and adversely affected our Christmas spirit.

Having to return our two foster kiddos just before Thanksgiving didn’t help either. And all of the chores, purchases and appointments that we’d avoided in the past months as a result of being too busy had kept us too busy to notice the holidays were, in fact, here.

(It should also be mentioned that, in my annual attempt to force myself into the Christmas mood, I started listening to the “Christmas music only” radio station way too early yet again. If I hear another version of “Jingle Bell Rock” I am going to bash my car radio with a baseball bat.)

But all that changed last Monday. We had a storm come through here that brought overcast skies, rain, wind and cold (at least by Arizona standards). I was off of work that day and my wife didn’t have to go in until the early afternoon. Our television was tuned to the holiday station and we had our coffees and all of our decorations were up.

None of those things however, served to explain why it finally felt like Christmas. Because the best part of that day was spending it with the three-month old baby girl who we hope to call our daughter one day very soon.

Allow me to explain. The week our foster kiddos went back we received the amazingly great news that we were chosen to be the prospective adoptive parents of a baby girl. The process that ensued served to explain why the holidays had gotten away from us. Of course we were thrilled at the joy this Christmas could bring, but we were also anxious to meet her and find out more about her and have her in our home.

It had been a whirlwind of car rides here and there, meetings, phone calls and paperwork. Everything felt right to us from the beginning, but meeting her was better than we ever could have hoped for. And while nothing is quite official and won’t be until at least the middle of this upcoming year, there’s no going back now. It’s already too late. There was no going back when we first laid eyes on her.

We brought her home on Sunday and last Monday was her first full day in her new home. The wind howled outside and the rain pounded the windows, but for most of the day she slept peacefully in her boppy on the couch. When my wife left for work I had her all to myself, and we played and I fed her and we watched bad Christmas movies on TV until she would doze off again.

All of a sudden it felt like the holidays more than it ever had back in the cold and snow of New Jersey. And even though we won’t be back east this year for the first time in our entire lives, it turns out we’ll be spending Christmas with our family after all.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Classic card of the week

Issiac Holt, 1992 Collector’s Edge

You probably have noticed that I have many, many cards from this set – the ‘92 Collector’s Edge.

The reason that I have so many cards from this set is unbeknownst to even me. That I continued to buy packs of this set after seeing just one card from it is proof of not only my youthful naïveté, but also of my suspect investment practices. The reason that I continue to post so many of these cards is because of their aforementioned awfulness. An actual good sports card cannot attain the sarcastic label of “classic.” I am also running out of football cards.

I had always thought that the 1989 Topps set of baseball cards (or the Bowman 1990 set) was the worst and most boring set of sports cards ever produced. But the more cards I find from this Collector’s Edge edition, the more I am convinced of its unparalleled pointlessness.

Take this card. Please! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!! Whew. That was awesome. But seriously. What is going on here? And more importantly, why am I looking at it? Which player is Issiac Holt? And why do I care?

The thing is, almost all of the cards from this set are just throwaway snapshots of random and irrelevant NFL moments. The pictures weren’t taken – I would hope – with the intent of creating a football card. They were just taken. And hey, it just so happens that Issiac Holt is in this one. So…wala! And Issiac Holt football card. Cross him off the list. Let’s throw it in a pack and charge a dumb kid $2.50 for it.

Sure, I enjoy the pseudo-Heisman mid-air pose. And the unintentional yet strangely homoerotic and desperate reach-for by an anonymous defensive lineman who has just failed at his job. But these things are all happenstance. I feel patronized by the lack of visual evidence with regards to Issiac Holt’s football-playing abilities and/or ability to pose and look me in the eye.

And what about Issiac Holt the person?

Okay, so he has a mustache. Cool. Nothing else? Does he have kids? Why does he spell his name in that roundabout manner? Does he like the Beastie Boys? Can he cook a mean beef steak provencale?

I want my money back.

Did you know?
A 1993 backyard barbeque-off between Issiac Holt and Howie Long ended in a draw after Long’s shish-kabob medley was disqualified for plagiarism.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Please truck, come home for Christmas

Note: This column appears in the 12/10 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/11 issue of the Peoria Times

When I lived back east I drove a pick-up truck and appeared, on the surface –- with my facial hair and, ya’ know, pick-up truck -– like a man who knew a thing or two about motor vehicles. But that was a front that was easily exposed when anyone asked me how many cylinders the truck had, to which I would reply: “many.”

So when I moved here to Arizona I wanted something simple and cheap and fuel-efficient that would get me to work and occasionally to Old Navy. I settled on a Subaru Impreza, and so for the last few years, on the road, I have appeared as what I truly am: a vegetarian man who drives a small car and listens to soft British rock. The good news? Nobody asks me about cylinders anymore.

(It should also be mentioned that the irony of me being the only person in Arizona that doesn't drive a truck is not lost on me.)

Things were moving along fine until I recently noticed what appeared to be some paint splattered on the passenger side of the car. I took the car to get washed but the paint remained. So I took it to the detail shop of the car wash and had them look at it. They could not get it off. Also, it wasn’t paint. It was stucco.

Now my car has the same exterior finish as my house. I do not know how this happened, but I imagine that it occurred while I was driving through one of the 26 construction zones I pass through on a daily basis. Believe me that if I owned this car there’d be a better chance of me stuccoing the rest of it than getting what’s on there removed. Because I don’t care. But the car is leased.

Which leads me to another issue. When I leased the car I managed a 12,000 miles-per-year agreement. They had originally offered me 10,000 miles annually, and so I walked out of there feeling like a true negotiating genius. Little did I know at the time that my job was 80 miles from my house. So now with one year remaining, I will be over the mileage like, tomorrow.

Then the other day I got a letter that began as such: We would like to thank you for selecting a 2005-2008 Subaru Forester or 2005-2007 Impreza with a 2.5 Liter engine (non-Turbo). So sincere! But it turns out my engine is not turbo, which was disappointing, though not shocking.

The letter goes on to explain that I need to take my car in for service immediately because the one-way fuel valve in my vehicle’s fuel tank is faulty and may damage my catalytic converter. Also, Merry Christmas.

So now I am driving a small car that is caked in stucco and that is already over the allotted mileage and that has a catalytic converter (?) that could spontaneously combust at any moment.

I realize only now that I took my truck for granted. Sure, I had to fill it with gas every six hours and it was so out of alignment that when I took my hands off the wheel I did donuts. But I miss being perceived as a man. I mean, if I had a truck with a ton of miles on it that was splattered with foreign substances, John Mellencamp would be signing about me. And trucks don’t even have catalytic converters.

See? If I drove a truck you would have believed that. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Nitpicky item of the week

Jerome Bettis has a column featured on the homepage of Sports Illustrated today, with the tagline:

What's wrong with the Steelers?
Tough to pinpoint their problems.

I'm sorry. But why -- other than the fact that it is authored by literary marvel and former running back Jerome Bettis -- would I click on that link? I mean, it might as well read:

What's wrong with the Steelers?
I don't know.
- Jerome Bettis

I mean, this is the kind of stuff that often forces me to remove myself from the presence of all sports-related media, which has exceedingly become an unstoppable avalanche of nothingness.

Now granted, I didn't actually click on the link, so it may very well contain an in-depth and accurate assessment of what is ailing the Pittsburgh Steelers and a viable solution, the toughness in pinpointing this information notwithstanding.

Wait. I clicked on it. It doesn't. But it does include the line:

I wish I knew the answers, Steelers fans.

No worries, Jerome. We can't all have the answers when it comes to the age-old question of: Why have the Steelers lost several football games in a row? The point is that you tried. Kind of. But not really.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Classic card of the week

Larry Bird, 1993 Upper Deck FaniMation series

Perhaps you are familiar with “FaniMation,” a process by which a particular athlete who boasts many fans -– in this case, Larry Bird –- is transformed into an animated superhero and then placed onto a confusing basketball (?) card for the purposes of alienating both sports fans and comic book fans alike.

Today’s FaniMation installment -– there will be no others -– features a person who looks nothing like Larry Bird shooting over a team of undersized robots during what appears to be the apocalypse. All I know is, I hope the green team wins, because it looks like there’s a lot at stake here.

Back of the card?

Name: Larry Bird
A K A: Birdman

Clever. Again though, it appears as though they took some liberties in making Birdman appear like a genuine superhero and not like an awkward white dude from French Lick, Indiana. I’m just saying.

Special Gear:

Tube socks, mullet.


Series XX Argotec Ball-Tracking Device with guidance capabilities;

Oh snap! One question though: Why wouldn’t a Series XX Argotec Ball-Tracking Device have guidance capabilities?

The Claw (classified)

Wait. But you just told me about The Claw. How is it classified? I want to see The Claw. Now!

But first, there’s more:

Birdman is a living legend in the NBA.

Well, Larry Bird is. Birdman? Most certainly not.

His Argotec ball-tracker tells him where the ball is at all times, giving him an advantage on defense.

Weird. I also have a device that tells me where the ball is at all times. It’s called “my eyes.” Although I did once did use an Argotec ball-tracker during a game back in high school. By the time it had processed where the ball was, my guy had scored 83 points.

Once he steals the ball from the evil Droids, he uses his Argotec guidance system to put up three-pointers.

What the hell is going here? Can I get a back-story or something? Why is Birdman playing basketball against the Droids? And why would the Droids even play against Birdman if they obviously have no chance? And why is everything “Argotec?” It sounds like a Columbia-brand winter jacket.

He is also equipped with “The Claw,” a top-secret device that he uses to manipulate the ball while driving to the hoop.

I thought that information was classified! You are compromising the integrity of this operation! What if the Droids find out that Birdman uses The Claw to manipulate his balls?

That’s it. I’m calling the Super Globetrotters.

Did you know?

In their franchise's long and storied history, The Droids have only one victory, which came against the 2009 New Jersey Nets.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Good news mixed with bad news means no news at all

Note: This column appears in the 12/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/4 issue of the Peoria Times

Whenever I hear a statistic regarding some thing that seems impossible to measure -– i.e.: 43% of Americans believe that Lady Gaga is an alien -– I am skeptical. Whenever I hear a statistic released by some branch of federal or state government that attempts to accurately reflect some aspect of this state or nation, I am skeptical. Whenever I hear a statistic released by some branch of federal or state government that is seemingly in direct contrast with a different statistic they have released, I am skeptical.

So you cannot blame my skepticism at the news released a couple of weeks ago that Arizona is steadily gaining jobs…while the unemployment rate continues to rise.

Arizona is watching its employment and unemployment rate rise simultaneously. I mean, what’s the confusion? You’re hired! But you’re also fired.

According to the Arizona Department of Commerce, the unemployment rate has risen from 9.1 percent to 9.3 percent over the past three months. In that span, the state has also seen an increase in jobs, mostly in the private sector. When asked to elaborate, Frank Curtis, director of data systems for the commerce department said, “Seasonal hiring is much better. It was almost nonexistent last year.”

One explanation: seasonal hiring. I am left to assume that “seasonal” jobs are simply ignored by those tallying unemployment statistics. You’re Santa Claus? Pfftt. Doesn’t count. Consider yourself unemployed. Also, considering that these statistics range from August through November, I am left to believe that Arizona witnessed a huge boom in its Labor Day workforce for 2009. How apropos.

Nevermind that the explanation of “seasonal hiring” also contrasts a feature from the Arizona Republic stating that Glendale and Peoria businesses in particular are altering their holiday strategies this year. A strategy that includes hiring less help. Quote: “{The adjustments} include earlier holiday sales, a wider selection of lower-priced goods and fewer salespeople working showroom floors.”

So, to recap, Arizona is gaining jobs. But Arizona is also losing jobs. But the reason we are gaining jobs is because of seasonal hirings. But seasonal hirings are down. Smiley face :) Also, frowny face :(

I believe that statistics like unemployment rates and hiring percentages and the like are researched and computed and released as a means of giving the general public some kind of feel of what is going on. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what is going on. The data has failed us. It’s like that time I discovered that 90% of Snapple facts are false.

To me it seems like, as a result of the current economic climate, we’re often grasping at straws for some good news and statistics to back it up. Only thing is, that data usually includes some caveat that things really aren’t that great after all. This renders almost everything we’ve heard pointless and irrelevant.

Kind of like this column. Regardless, happy Labor Day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Classic card of the week

Jacque Vaughn, 1998 NBA Hoops

If you have not already figured it out, I will never stop posting these NBA Hoops cards with the amazing write-ups on the back. Never.

That said, here is a picture of Jacque Vaughn –- the encapsulated “V” is for “Vaughn!!!” –- making a mundane basketball motion look super intense. But it’s not what’s on the front of this card that I’m concerned with. Slam-poet commissioned to write these cards, hit us off with the realness:

Auntie M, Auntie M.

Jacque Vaughn played his college ball at Kansas. But we’re not in Kansas anymore. We’re in Utah. Which is totally different than Kansas, with its big-city lifestyle and diverse populace. So anyway, they went with the "Wizard of Oz" reference. Kind of presumptuous if you ask me. I would have started it off: Carry on my wayward Vaughn. But what do I know.

The only thing JV here is your initials.

Indeed, Jacque Vaughn plays for the Varsity Jazz. He also dates the head cheerleader who oftentimes can be seen donning Jacque’s Varsity Jazz jacket, with its obnoxious surplus of patches.

Tops all-time in assists at Kansas.

That was weird. Something that actually has to do with Jacque Vaughn. I’m confused.

Nice tutor you got there in Utah.

Sure, if by tutor you mean short-shorts-wearing white dude who is so beloved and so much better than you that you will never play basketball again, then yeah…nice tutor. It should be mentioned however that John Stockton did help Jacque Vaughn pass his test on the French Revolution.

See you on down the road.

I’m not sure if they are referring to the yellow brick road here in an attempt to bring this oddness back full circle. Either way, an interesting formula of “Use Wizard of Oz quote – refer to high school sports hierarchy – give stat about Jacque Vaughn – allude to the reason he will never play for the Jazz – tell Jacque Vaughn that you will see him later.”

Nevertheless, if you have indeed been following Jacque Vaughn down the road of life, you must be very tired, as that road went from Utah to Atlanta to Orlando back to Atlanta to New Jersey –- holla! –- and to San Antonio. And that is why I think “wayward Vaughn” would have worked much better.

Did you know?

John Stockton actually has an Auntie M, whose birthname is Mildred Constantine, and who is not really his aunt, but a really, really good friend of his mother's.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On giving thanks for not giving up

Note: This column appears in the 11/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/27 issue of the Peoria Times

We’ve had a few “I can’t do this anymore” moments as foster parents.

The first of these moments occurred when CPS came and rather suddenly picked up our first foster child just ten days after we met him. The next moment occurred when two children –- a two-year old and a three-month old –- arrived at our doorstep. There were a few moments after that as well, but one in particular sticks out very vividly in my mind.

We were about a month into our placement and had yet to really settle in. My parents were visiting from back east, and the quality time we were used to spending with them on their visits was lost amidst the chaos of having two foster kids. I got back from work that Monday feeling very sick, only to discover that our foster daughter most likely had pink eye. I felt terrible for my parents, but my wife and I were going to have to bring her to urgent care. We also needed to decide who was taking off the next day, as I had taken off work one day the previous week because the baby was sick. We were completely overwhelmed.

I sat in the doctor’s office and thought about what time in the morning I should call CPS to have someone come get the kids. I was dead serious. We were done.

This too shall pass. Luckily, that feeling of dread did just that. Shortly thereafter, something clicked. We just completely settled in. We had our routine down pat, and nothing could stop us. We were like a machine –- a machine working on 20 hours of sleep per week and stained with spit-up and urine –- but a machine nonetheless. Before we knew it we had potty-trained a child, took her on a cross-country trip back east, helped diagnose some lingering health issues for a vulnerable baby, and then watched him develop into a little boy.

One of my favorite truths goes like this: “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.” We had no equipment –- we didn’t even have a crib! Seriously -– but we did it. For almost eight months, we did it.

I thought of these things as we made the drive up north to officially return our two little foster kiddos to their family last weekend. The fear and uncertainty of their arrival at our house, which had morphed into the anxiety of them being in our house, had now become a deep sadness at the reality of them leaving our house.

After an emotional farewell, we returned home to a quiet, clean house, and had a chance to reflect on eight months that felt like three years, that felt like three days. What overwhelmed the emptiness inside was the feeling of gratefulness I felt to be a part of their lives. I was so unbelievably happy that we never caved to the pressure.

I’m also grateful for the confidence this experience gave me. Going from zero to two kids was almost more than we could handle, but like I told my wife the other day -– I now feel like I could spin one kid on my fingertip like a basketball. One kid? Pfftt.

That said, I think it’s time for a little break. We have a ton to be thankful for this year, so I think we’ll especially enjoy Thanksgiving this week.
And besides -– we need to clean the machine.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Classic card of the week

Yancey Thigpen, 1998 Upper Deck

Sometimes when I am doing research before posting a classic card, I stumble upon some amazing factoids that I would never have discovered were it not for my extreme dedication to reintroducing worthless and ugly sports cards to the insatiable American public. For me, it just kind of reaffirms the fact that: This is my calling.

Case in point. Here is an Upper Deck, Black Diamond Series Yancey Thigpen card. Not much to see here. In fact, my stable of post-worthy football cards is growing very thin. So many times I will Google a player from an otherwise unexciting card to see if there are any worthwhile goodies. This often -– and by often I mean always -– leads me to Wikipedia, which is pretty much my favorite site. As the great Michael Scott once said: “Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you’re getting the best possible information.”

The very first thing that I discovered while navigating this Wikipedia page was that Yancey Thigpen’s middle name is Dirk. So here we have an odd first name that seems to purposely defy an original, more common name.

Mother: Your father’s name is Clancy, but I really like the letter “Y.”

Father: How about we add a second “y.” Clancyy.

Mother: No. Screw it. He shall be called “Yancey.”

Father: I want a divorce.

To combine this uncommon first name with the abrupt and very weird middle name of “Dirk” pleases me in a way that I cannot fully express in words. It rolls off the tongue like a thing that does not roll very easily off a tongue. But even though I have wasted much time in examining this name combination, that is not why I am here today.

The reason I am here is because I think -– nay, I am almost certain -– that I have discovered the greatest sentence ever written. In order to provide the necessary context, here is the preceding thought:

In 1998 he signed with the Oilers with a contract that was then the highest known for any wide receiver and played with them for the final three seasons of his career, assisting the team (now known as the Titans) to Super Bowl XXXIV in the 1999 season.

Okay. Not exactly Tolstoy. Lot of “withs” in there. But whatever. Here’s the follow up. Be ready though, because it is extraordinary:

Thigpen's greatest accomplishment in this endeavour might have been the signal from his contract the role Wide Receivers would play in the future.

I have read this sentence approximately 700 times, and I cannot wrap my brain around its awesomeness. Let me start though by acknowledging that the faux-British spelling of endeavor adds a certain class and je ne sais quoi to the sentence overall. I respect that.

So let’s see…”Thigpen’s greatest accomplishment in this endeavour...” In the endeavour of “assisting the team to Super Bowl XXXIV,” Yancey Thigpen accomplished many, many things. For one, he caught some passes. Probably blocked a few guys. He also literally drove the team to the game. And assuredly he assisted the team in other ways that will forever remain unknown and undocumented. Yet, no accomplishment was greater than the signal from his contract.

Yes. Yancey Thigpen’s contract included a signal. It was like the Bat-signal. Except it had a dollar sign. And it alerted other Wide Receivers -– capitalized with a purpose, so as to express the inherent godliness of men who catch footballs for a living –- as to the role they would play in the future. That role? Probably wide receiver. But for more money.

It’s difficult to say how the signal from Yancey Thigpen’s contract specifically affected other Wide Receivers, mostly because that sentence is bereft of the necessary predicate. But we can credit Thigpen himself, because we know it was his accomplishment. In the endeavour.

Unfortunately, Yancey Thigpen’s greatest accomplishment in assisting his team to Super Bowl XXXIV did not assist his team in winning Super Bowl XXXIV. The Titans lost when Wide Receiver Dirk Dyson –- frustrated at not receiving the signal sent out from his teammate’s contract -– was tackled at the 1-yard line to end the game.

Did you know?
Yancey Thigpen's career was not one-dimensional. As his Wiki page mentions: He also rushed for four yards.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One three-year old’s tactics prove difficult to overcome

Note: This column appears in the 11/19 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/20 issue of the Peoria Times

Our foster daughter has recently begun employing the strategy of reminding us that she loves us when she’s in trouble.

For example, last week, after being reprimanded for the third and final time for sitting way too close to the television, she sullenly walked over to me, hugged my leg and said, “I love you, Michael.” (Fyi: She calls me Michael. I tried in vain for months to get her to call me Mike, but she prefers Michael. She’s very formal.)

This is a very shrewd tactic, especially for a three-year old girl who, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, consistently replies: “a Care Bear.” It’s so obvious and transparent in its efforts, yet still so disarming. For one thing, it’s funny. I also feel obliged -– no matter what other disciplinary schpiel I delve into –- to remind her that yes, I love her too. Both of these factors take the edge off of any anger or frustration that I am presently feeling towards her.

We also do not know where she learned this from. Between preschool, daycare, and her weekend visits with her biological family there are certainly enough opportunities for her to absorb new things, even if “absorbing new things” isn’t necessarily her forte. And I think that’s what makes this so endearing – most days she cannot tell me what she had for lunch. That she possesses a survival-instinct-type tactic for getting out of trouble makes me smile.

Her strategy however, was put to the test a few days ago. While I was playing with her and her brother outside in the backyard, she inexplicably jumped on the dog. Like, full on jumped on him, as hard as she could. I could barely contain my anger as I immediately sent her to the stairs for a timeout. She cried uncontrollably (another tactic) as I informed her that she lost her television privileges for the evening and her nighttime story.

I was left incredulous at what she had just done. As sweet and good-natured as she is, she can also make us wonder what is going through that head of hers sometimes. When the dust eventually settled, I explained to her why she was wrong, why a true Care Bear would never do anything like that, and made her – yes – apologize to the dog.

A few minutes later, she walked up to me, tears still in her eyes, hugged my leg and said, “I love you, Michael.” But this time was a little different, and I started to wonder.

When she came to us she had barely ever experienced discipline before. It is still the case now that when she’s not with us, she runs the show, and although it seems great to her to at the time, it physically and mentally drains her. As she stood there clutched to my leg, I wondered if she was genuinely thanking me for providing her the discipline and structure that she inherently craves.


Nah. She was probably just trying to get back on my good side. Either way, I'm pretty sure she mans it. And that makes me smile.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Classic card of the week

Brad Lohaus, 1992 Fleer

Brad Lohaus, a.k.a. Toby Flenderson, was a prisoner in his own body:

A small shooting forward trapped in a seven-footer’s body

“Ahhhhhhh! Get me out of this seven-footer’s body!” is what the 5’11” shooting forward version of Brad Lohaus would scream from inside the robotic walls of his gargantuan master. These screams often came at night, waking the children.

And –- nitpicking alert! -– why is it a small shooting forward that’s trapped in Brad Lohaus’ body? Just to provide more contrast to that silly statement? I mean, why couldn’t it be an average NBA-sized shooting forward trapped inside? Also: what is a shooting forward? That’s not really even a thing. Why didn’t they just say: “A shooting guard trapped in a seven-footer’s body?” That way I could humorously picture Hubert Davis trying to awkwardly operate the arms and legs of Brad Lohaus. I smell sitcom!

I would be remiss not to mention that I myself am a 6-foot, 195-lb Hawaiian fullback trapped inside of a 6’ 3” lanky white dude who blogs. I will clear an aisle at the supermarket like nobody’s business.

But let’s continue. From the top:

A small shooting forward trapped in a seven-footer’s body, Lohaus is a shot-blocking

I just want to cut it off right there to illustrate a point: Highlighting Brad Lohaus’ shot-blocking ability first and foremost in no way justifies how or why he is a small shooting forward trapped in a seven-footer’s body. In fact -– based on his shot-blocking ability alone -- it’s more likely that he is a seven-footer trapped in a small shooting forward’s body. Or, more simply, a seven-foot tall person.

Okay, I am done. From the top. Again:

A small shooting forward trapped in a seven-footer’s body, Lohaus is a shot-blocking, three-point specialist

Okay. So there it is. Brad Lohaus is a really good shooter for a big man. Got it. Wait, what? There’s more?

who runs the floor well

“A small Kenyan trapped in a seven-footer’s body…”

Did you know?
R. Kelly’s next groundbreaking project is entitled: Trapped in Brad Lohaus.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Search for trash receptacle proves difficult, ends happily

Note: This column appears in the 11/12 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/13 issue of the Peoria Times

After months of deliberation and weeks of searching, my wife and I finally made the important life decision to buy a new garbage can.

Now, this wasn’t a decision made easily or without much heartache and gnashing of teeth. What happened was this: The springs on our original garbage can, which we had always kept under the sink, broke. This meant that I could no longer simply pull down the handle and experience the grand convenience of having the lid pop open, thus allowing me to easily dispose of waste. No, instead I had to drag the can out from underneath the sink, open the lid manually and, in the process, get hit with a brick wall of funk made possible when dirty diapers meet onions.

So we were in the market for a new garbage can. As a result, I was unusually excited about the normally loathsome trip to Bed Bath & Beyond. Their entire back wall was full of garbage cans as far as the eye could see, and I felt like a kid in a garbage can store! Unfortunately, each one cost about a million dollars.

Listen, I like to splurge every now and then just as much as the next guy. Just last month I paid $1.29 for one song on iTunes, which is just ridiculous. But I refuse to pay good money for something I am going to consistently defile with trash. Most of their garbage cans were stainless steel with laser sensors and built-in alarm clocks, which are, by my standards, unnecessary conveniences for something you’re throwing garbage into. My wife however was lured -– as many people are –- by the fantasy of a modern garbage can and all the social advantages it entails. Instead I managed to find the only plastic one there, which cost like eight bucks. It had one of those flip lids! It was going to be the best day ever.

We then got into a heated discussion as to whether or not the garbage can I chose would fit underneath our sink. I was convinced it would. My wife didn’t think so. I am sure you can imagine how that one ended, but I do need to mention that it wasn’t even close. If I had cut the garbage can in half, it still wouldn’t have fit.

So we were in the market for a new garbage can. We continued to search and search, unable to find anything in our (my) budget. Also, the harsh realities of modern waste disposal forced us to reconsider if under the sink was a feasible location. I was obviously distraught.

They say the best time to find something is when you’re not looking for it, and wouldn’t ya’ know that when we had just given up hope, we found one! I won’t say where, as it may offend some people (my father) who have boycotted this store for various reasons. But still.

It didn’t come without compromises though. It’s not plastic, and it won’t go under the sink. But it’s small, which means it’s not an eyesore, although it does mean that I have to change the bag every 45 minutes. Most importantly, it has a foot pedal. Now, when people come over, they don’t have to look in every cabinet for our garbage can. It’ll be right there, and they can use their foot! And they will think that we’re rich.

A foot pedal? Pfftt.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Classic card of the week

Doug West, 1996 Skybox

Quite possibly you recall a mysterious yet magical time when Kings’ forward Michael Smith was catching hot flaming balls. Now, you can believe this or not -– your call –- but other NBA players at the time enjoyed a similar experience. In order to sway your belief in what I have just mentioned, I will now post several cards as proof of my honor:

Here is the patented Charles Barkley: “Ouch! This flaming hot basketball is hot!” face.

And here is Dale Davis with the “I realize that this basketball is, literally, on fire. But I am going to rebound it anyway. Here goes…mother f-!” maneuver.

And of course, what would a flaming hot basketball feature be without Gheorghe Muresan’s famous “I am 10 feet tall, but this comet ball still alludes me!” low post move.

Which brings us back to Doug West. Now, let’s say you are the Skybox Company of basketball cards. Your ace young executive has just wowed the boardroom with her -– yes, her –- idea to feature NBA players catching flaming hot basketballs. It is a fail-proof idea. Why? For one thing, it makes sense. Secondly, who doesn’t love a good hot ball card? Nobody. That’s who. And also, this idea is versatile. There are a million ways you can go with it.

You can have a guy rebounding a flaming ball. Awesome. Or, shooting a flaming ball. Even awesomer. And hey – how about passing a flaming ball? Crazy awesome. That is three ways right there. Add a few more and you have a million. But here is where Skybox refused to rest on its laurels. Because check this out: How about having a guy calling a timeout within the comet tail left by a flaming hot basketball?

Think about it.

Skybox did. And the rest is history. Notice how the flaming hot basketball doesn’t even make an appearance, so that the card -– taken out of the context of other cards in the series –- makes absolutely no sense. And that’s not to mention that the series itself is largely nonsensical.

But you go, Doug West. Only a true leader realizes that when an escape comet-like, flaming hot basketball has mysteriously surfaced, you call a time out.

You don’t want to get burned like stupid Barkley.

Did you know?
This idea was an offshoot of the popular video game NBA Jam, in which the ball could catch fire when a player was “hot.” Said Skybox executive Consuelo Finkleberg with regards to the concept: “There's obviously a market out there for flaming balls. We're just trying to tap into it.”

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

When pretending not to be home doesn’t work

Note: This column appears in the 11/5 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/6 issue of the Peoria Times

My wife and I are utterly annoyed by –- and sometimes scared of –- people coming to our house and trying to sell us stuff.

This wasn’t much of an issue back east, for the most part. With the exception of Jehovah’s Witnesses –- who, long ago stopped coming to my parent’s house lest they be dragged into a dialogue with my Catholic deacon father -– people stopped ringing doorbells years ago. I think it was 1985 when the chances of getting injured or killed began to outweigh the chances of making of a sale.

And the fear was mutual. One year back in NJ, a few days after she had watched a special on Oprah about home invasions, my wife called me on my cell phone in a panic. She was at home, and pretty much hiding under her bed, and yelling for me to come home because “somebody keeps ringing the doorbell!” Luckily, I was just around the block at my sister’s house. When I pulled up to our place, a frustrated flower delivery guy was standing there on his cell phone. My in-laws had sent my wife flowers. Because it was her birthday.

The fact that we are abnormally skeptical about people coming to our house on our birthday is a testament to the fact that we would prefer that nobody came by during every other day of the calendar year. But alas –- such is not the case here in Arizona. In fact, I am fairly certain that a Valley-wide alert went out to every business within range when we first moved here. Every single time the doorbell rang and I thought it was a friendly neighbor who had baked us a “welcome to the neighborhood” cake, it was instead a 20-year-old dude who wanted to sell us bug spray services, a soft water system, blinds, or the irony of a home security system to keep out intruders.

Shooing away unwanted –- they are all unwanted –- solicitors has not been an issue. Were it not for the hassle of getting to the door, it can be a pleasurable endeavor. But most recently my wife and I have begun the unpopular campaign of shunning children.

I’m just going to say it: Kids selling stuff is the worst. And believe me, because I was one of them. I used to have to sell 800 Reese’s peanut butter cups just so our Little League team could have socks, half of which I ate myself (the candy, not the socks) and my parents had to pay for. But it’s not the kids themselves we’re against –- sort of -– but the entire process.

First of all, kids have no idea what they’re talking about. They can’t give you any information –- you’re just supposed to buy it because they’re kids. Well, that’s not how we roll. Consider us scorned.

A few months after we moved in, two girls came to our door. They were selling candles for school. Why? I don’t know. The one girl talked too fast and the other girl was facing the street. I felt bad, so I ordered one. They didn’t take any of our info -– except our money –- and I got no receipt. About six months later, I suddenly realized we never got our candle. I had to call the school and after weeks of research, we eventually got it.

Since then, we have unabashedly turned kids away.

And so this past weekend we were driving home and saw a woman standing on the corner. We waved. She did not wave back. We pulled into our driveway and began the process of getting the kids and all our bags out of the car. From behind the car emerged a boy scout. Amidst the chaos, he nervously mentioned he was selling popcorn. We realized it was his mother who was standing on the corner. We told him sorry, but it wasn’t a good time.

We didn’t buy popcorn from a boy scout because we were too busy and he was too timid. But mostly because his mother didn’t wave to us.

I don’t think we are getting a cake from our neighbors anytime soon. This is all Oprah’s fault.

I can tell by the excitement in your face that you are interested in our brand of organic shutters. And according to my clipboard, you also need a kidney. Well, I'm glad I stopped by...

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Underground

This is the first line of Peter King's Friday column:

Brett Favre's pretty much gone underground this week, except for his regular Wednesday press conference, Thursday's NFL Network interview with Steve Mariucci and a one-on-one with Terry Bradshaw, which will air on the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show.

That guy is like a hermit!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Classic card of the week

Oliver Miller, 1992-93 Topps

Here is a “Time-Life Magazine”-worthy floor shot of Oliver Miller throwing it down with lukewarm authority. How he got down the floor before everybody else on this play is anyone’s guess. Though my hypothesis would be that he was not an active participant in the previous defensive series.

But let’s see how long it takes the back of the card to mention Oliver Miller’s weight:

They called Oscar Robertson “The Big O,” but the massive Oliver Miller gives new “dimension” to that nickname.

That dimension is fatness. I also appreciate how “dimension” is in quotes, as to imply that Oliver Miller is so fat -– How fat is he? -– that he can only fit in an alternate dimension. That is not nice. But what else?

On offense, Miller was nearly “automatic” –- the Razorbacks’ most accurate shooter ever.

I am at a loss as to why “automatic” is in quotes. As far as being Arkansas’ most accurate shooter -– that is what happens when you do not/cannot move from the five-square-foot parameter directly underneath the basket.

So we know about Oliver Miller’s weight issues. But can Wikipedia shed any new light on his basketball career? Of course they can:

In December 2001, after another brief term with the Globetrotters, Miller was released for showing “no appreciation for what it takes mentally and physically to be a Harlem Globetrotter.”

Let me start by saying this: You can get released by the Globetrotters? To the point where they need to issue a statement? I had no idea. Also, how in the hell do you lollygag it on the Harlem Globetrotters? They’re whole shtick is bringing energy and excitement to the crowd by executing incredibly difficult and detailed basketball trickery. What did he expect? I can just picture Oliver Miller standing on the court, holding a stick with a spinning basketball on top of it with one hand, and a hot dog with the other, and then taking a pass to the face because he wasn’t paying attention to the rest of the routine. Then he gets chewed out by the head Globetrotter as the confused crowd looks on, wondering whether or not it’s all part of the act. And if you think that’s a hypothetical scenario, believe me –- I was there.

So anyway, if you’re the Phoenix Suns, how can you not draft a 300-lb center with your first round pick? And was that shot at the Phoenix Suns just sarcasm based on retrospect? Possibly. But please allow me to relay a question that, for me, has become one of the great mysteries of life: How can you play basketball and, simultaneously, be fat?

Honestly. This is something that has absolutely, positively befuddled me for years. I mean, basketball is one of the most physically taxing sports out there. You can burn up to 80 calories just watching a game of basketball. For the average person who plays the sport consistently, it is near impossible to not remain in adequate shape. To play the game professionally -– as in, it’s your freakin’ job to play a game that intrinsically prevents you from being fat -- and to remain overweight in the process shows an uncanny lack of discipline and effort both on and off the court.

I guess I just answered my own question. Still though.

Did you know?
Oliver Miller was the reason Krusty the Clown bet against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Smashmouth: "All Star," explained

Today we continue our randomly strung-together series breaking down "classic" songs that I am reminded of when I hear them somewhere and suddenly come to the realization that, "Wow, that song is stupid." Featured here is Smashmouth's "All Star," which you may have heard during every movie you've ever seen within the past decade. Please enjoy.


Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me

Allow me to begin my endeavor by acknowledging the popular adage: The world is gonna roll you. This is a clever way of saying that the world –- which is like a ball -– will eventually roll you over. With hardships. As far as the “somebody” who told me? None other than William Franklin Shakespeare. Yeah. I drew the line from the wonderful yet largely ignored Shakespearean play entitled “All-Star,” in which the antagonist, “Smashmouthikus,” utters the dramatic line, “Thy world shall roll thee.”

I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed

Allow me now, as a follow-up to my previous sentiment, to acknowledge that: I am a dumbass.

She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an “L” on her forehead

I hope you have enjoyed the imagery of a female character I have yet to introduce making the “loser” symbol on her forehead. How this relates to any other part of this song has yet to be determined. Is she making the loser sign at me because I am a dumbass? Or at herself because she is also a dumbass? It’s difficult to say. I do however, find it interesting how “shed” sort of rhymes with “forehead.”

Well the years start coming and they don’t stop coming

New thought alert! Listen -- I graduated with a 2.9 GPA from the Northeast Technical Institute of Smartness. I have done an exhaustive amount of research on the subject, and was awarded the Achievement in the Field of Excellence trophy by my brother-in-law at our annual family reunion, which is where I revealed my thesis. And what I had discovered is this: Time does not stop.

Seriously. One year it’s this year, and the next year it’s a different year. It’s crazy!

Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running

This line has two meanings. On one hand, I equate rules with hungry animals. And society always tries to feed me to those rules. Because rules, like caged animals, are insatiable in their hunger for obedience. On the other hand, I am also fed up with those rules. So, in my quest to rid myself of being eaten by rules or to simply avoid adhering to them, I have decided to hit the ground running, which is just a nonsensical cliché that cannot actually be incorporated into any aspect of my life. Take that, rules!

Didn’t make sense not to live for fun

Ya’ know what I realized doesn’t make sense? Anything in life in which the end result does not equal fun. I thought of this while trying in vain to put together a rolling filing cabinet that I bought from IKEA. So I just dropped those mini tools, ran outside –- hitting the ground running, mind you -- and got drunk. It was the funnest day ever! I assume that this philosophy of living solely for fun can be easily translated to all areas of everyday life. Like parenting.

Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb

I hate it when your brain gets smart but the rest of your head -– all the parts that can neither retain or reject intellect, as they do not themselves have brains -– get dumber. This only happens to me on two occasions: 1) when I’m living for anything but fun, and b) when I am reading James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man” while drinking a Big Gulp slurpee.

So much to do so much to see so what’s wrong with taking the back streets?

There is too much to do and see in life to waste your time in getting there faster by taking I95. What you need to do is live life to the fullest by taking the back streets, so that you can see what life really has to offer. Which is mostly residential housing.

You’ll never know if you don’t go

You cannot really know anything unless you actually go there. For example: South Dakota? I remain skeptical.

You’ll never shine if you don’t glow

“Shine” and “glow” are both figurative terms used to describe standing out. So this is sort of like saying, “You’ll never stand out if you don’t stand out.” Pointless? Possibly. But you cannot deny it as a truism. It should also be mentioned that this song reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Hey now, you’re an All Star, get your game on, go play
Hey now, you’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid

I hope that I have adequately motivated you do something via my song-writing technique of randomly strung together words and awful clichés. What’s that? You’re still not going to hockey practice or your clarinet lessons? Hold on…

All that glitters is gold

This is actually in direct contrast to a truer and more meaningful cliché. Nevertheless, I recommend you get out there and glitter as a means of displaying your overall worth as a human being.

Only shooting stars break the mold.

You? You are a shooting star! Now get out there and break the mold with your glitter! And bygone it -– don’t forget to shine! And when you go, take the back streets, and try not to get a dumb head, okay? Just remember –- hit the ground running and don’t look back at the rules that are trying to eat you. And hey -– live for fun, alright? Because time doesn’t stop! And pay no attention to that girl making the loser sign at you. That’s my sister. And she’s a bitch.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Classic card of the week

Jeff Hostetler, 1992 Collector’s Edge

If I’m Jeff Hostetler, I am pissed. In fact, let’s for a second just pretend that I’m Jeff Hostetler, okay? Okay.

Hi. I’m Jeff Hostetler. And I am pissed. Seriously. I mean, I am the starting quarterback of the New York Football Giants. I led my team to a freakin’ Super Bowl title like, a few months ago. I have a ‘stache to die for. Don’t believe me?

So yeah, I’m pretty awesome. As a result, I think that my own football card should reflect at least a modicum of my awesomeness. So how does the Collector’s Edge brand of football cards honor my Super Bowl-winning awesomeness? By showing a picture of me with my eyes closed, getting sacked by some dude on the Rams, and almost certainly about to turn the ball over. I mean really. You could have snapped a picture of me with my jersey on taking a dump in the locker room stall and it would have been more flattering than this.

Oh hey, one other thing. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank O.J. Anderson for picking up the weak side pressure on this play. Thanks, buddy! You were just in time! Ya’ know what? Next time just tackle me yourself, okay? It will lesson the chances of me breaking my back, which is exactly what happened to me last year, amazingly not on this very play.

In fact, ya’ know what I’m going to do? Because I am Jeff Hostetler –- Super Bowl-winning quarterback –- and I am so insanely proud of this football card of me, featuring me, with my eyes closed and getting my ass kicked, I am going to blow this baby up and hang it on the wall of my bagel shop. That’s right. I’m going to take down that stupid picture of me hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy and replace it with this very picture. That way, customers can come by, grab an onion bagel with some lox, and enjoy it while staring at the most unflattering picture of the namesake of the very bagel shop they are at.

What? You don’t think a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with a ridonkulous ‘stache can have a bagel shop? Why not? Everybody loves bagels! Listen man, football is fleeting. But bagels are forever:

Hostetler now lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, and owned Hostetler Bagels. He closed his bagel shop in 2005.

There was a strike, okay? I don’t want to talk about it.

Did you know?
Former Giants’ head coach Ray Handley once said that choosing between Jeff Hostetler and Phil Simms was like “trying to pick between a beautiful blonde and a brunette with a mustache, except the blonde is always injured and can’t play football.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kids, Saturdays make Halloween worth the trouble

Note: This column appears in the 10/22 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/23 issue of the Peoria Times

I was in seventh grade the last year I went trick-or-treating for Halloween. It was that awkward time where I was too cool and definitely too old to go trick-or-treating, but I still liked candy. So I went after school and told various homeowners I was dressed as a “Catholic school kid.” After several dirty looks and fewer Reese’s than I expected, I decided to retire.

Since then, Halloween has just been ehhh. There was brief resurgence in college, when I got to dress inappropriately and act like an idiot for a day, which made the holiday really no different than any other day, I suppose. But Halloween hasn’t been something I’ve really looked forward to in quite some time.

Until this year, that is. The main reason being we actually have kids to celebrate it with. The joy and anticipation of Halloween gets renewed when kids are involved, as you get to live vicariously through them. And eat their candy. And also dress them in silly outfits that make them uncomfortable and possibly give them rashes. In our case, our foster daughter wants to be a cat –- a costume idea that will no doubt disappoint her the very second she sees a better costume –- and our nine-month old foster son will be sweating the excess pounds off in the bumblebee outfit my wife bought for him. It’s going to be great. I think.

But another reason that I’m looking so forward to Halloween this year is that it falls on a Saturday. This really gets the adults involved because -– let’s be honest –- no rational person wants to dress like Winnie the Pooh on a Tuesday.

As for me, I’m keeping it simple this year. I learned my lesson the last time I dressed up for Halloween, which was, coincidentally, the last time it fell on a Saturday. My wife was Sonny and I was Cher. I couldn’t have possibly made an uglier woman, and when the initial shock and laughter of it all wore off at our family Halloween party, I was left hugely uncomfortable and unable to sit down in a manner that did not reveal all of my body parts. To boot, I found it impossible to carry on a moderately serious conversation. A question as simple as, “So, how’s school?” cannot be answered when it is asked by a hairy 6’3” man in a dress and lipstick.

In trying to decide my costume for this year, my wife recommended – because of my omnipresent beard – that I go as the bearded lady. But I nixed that idea immediately. Instead I went to the store over the weekend and, frustrated by the audacity of $50 costumes that you’d only wear once, bought a $7 ship captain’s hat.

I have no other parts of the outfit. I don’t even own any white clothes. But this is my new Halloween philosophy: Buy a hat, and work around it. And hope that nobody asks what you’re supposed to be. Since I’ll be rolling with the cutest cat and bumblebee ever, I don’t think anyone will care.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Classic card of the week

Ray Durham, 1996 Topps Laser series

This card is part of the Topps’ “Laser series,” in which Topps printed a set of baseball cards and then had a laser come through and destroy about 35% of each card. Pretty cool, huh? Said Topps executive Bart Swingleman in 1995: “We wanted to draw attention away from the player featured on the card, so that kids could focus on the awesomeness of our lasers. And I think we accomplished that.”

Indeed they did. I am having trouble focusing on Ray Durham boringly crossing home plate, as I am distracted by the nondescript, yet very red and very lasery ballplayer to the right, who is jogging out of the card! Amazing. But I need to refocus here. What about Ray Durham? Let’s check some “spotlight stats” on the back:

.640: Winning pct. by 1995 White Sox when Durham scored

Now, the naysayer might say: “Nay. I am unimpressed by the fact that the White Sox won 64% of the time when Ray Durham scored, as runs scored invariably increases a teams’ chances of winning, and so that stat is less a reflection on Durham himself, but more on the effect of scoring runs in general.” However, what the naysayer -- in this case, author and question-mark suit wearer Matthew Lesko, who actually said that –- did not know was that when Ozzie Guillen scored a run, the 1995 White Sox lost 89% of the time. So obviously Ray Durham’s runs had a more positive effect.

But what more about Mr. Durham? Wikipedia?

Ray Durham (born November 30, 1971 in Charlotte, North Carolina), nicknamed The Sugarman

Never in my entire life have I ever heard anybody refer to Ray Durham as “The Sugarman.” If I were at a fantasy baseball draft in 1996, and somebody said, “I’ll take the Sugarman,” I would not know what to write down on my sheet, because I would have no idea what that person was talking about. Since Wikipedia declines to expand on this, I am left to wonder about the origins of this nickname. I will simply read on:

He was a bit of a womanizer because of his amazing looks.

Ray Durham has/had amazing looks? I am beginning to feel as though I know little to nothing about Ray Durham. I can only assume that this reputed womanizing earned him The Sugarman nickname. I may not know a lot about Ray Durham, but I know that women = sugar. And Ray Durham had a lot of sugar. Because of the sex he had with women. May I also suggest that a “spotlight stat” involving the amount of sugar attained by Ray Durham would be more interesting -– to me -– than a stat about runs scored. Unless by runs, they mean women.

Ray Durham has also gained fame and popularity through his nickname: “Ray-Ray.”

First of all…what? I thought his nickname was “The Sugarman?” Secondly, I was also unaware of the “Ray-Ray” nickname, so the fame and popularity he gained through it was, once again, lost on me. It should also be mentioned that Ray-Ray is not to be confused with Ray-J, who is also known as The Sugarman.

Did you know?
Ray Durham also played baseball.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Please recycle after reading

Note: This column appears in the 10/15 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/16 issue of the Peoria Times

I have always been interested in recycling.

Not interested in the sense that I’d like to make a career out of it, but interested in the sense that when I throw something in the recycling bin, I wonder for a split second what will happen to it. That is the extent of my interest. As a result, I have written a column.

My family has always recycled, for as long as I can remember. I recall my dad tying up old newspapers and leaving them on the curb to be picked up, at which point it would rain, rendering everything non-recyclable. Those were great times.

I also recall being appalled when we first moved here upon discovering that Peoria did not recycle. I knew things were slower out west, but it nevertheless surprised me that the simple concept of using stuff over again as a means to save money and the environment had yet to “catch on,” as if it were some kind of fad, like the Internet. Luckily it was only a few months later that we received our giant, city-approved recycling bin, at which point we were instructed to throw all of our recyclables inside.

Again I was surprised. Back east we had to separate our paper from our cans, our cans from our cardboard, our hedge clippings from empty bottles of Absolute. Peoria didn’t seem to mind, which made me wonder if their recycling program was a big sham, and our giant bins were just emptied into the rest of the trash.

More disconcerting was the ever-present struggle between my wife and I on recycling-related issues. She prefers to recycle everything. Tin foil, hair, straws, pens when they run out of ink…anything. If I tell her we can’t recycle something, then she tells me to use it again on my own, which is why I’ve been using the same sandwich bag for six years. We have gotten in serious arguments about whether or not to recycle those things that eggs come in and the hard tin foil that pies come in, an issue made all the more complicated considering that we only eat eggs and pie. Also, my wife doesn’t think recyclables need to be washed. She’ll just throw an empty bottle of ranch dressing in the bin without even rinsing it out, and I’ll ask her what she expects the government to do with that, and then we get in a fight. It is terrible.

Recently I decided to do a modicum of research that put to rest some of my recycling concerns. For one thing, did you know that we’re not supposed to recycle pizza boxes or glass windows? Me neither. Every week I attempt to recycle at least four glass windows. I am embarrassed. Believe it or not, my wife was right about tin foil and pie plates – they can get recycled -- but I was right about them having to be clean first.

I discovered that the co-mingled recyclables that Peoria collects are separated in a processing facility. By a guy named Bert. Also, I had always assumed that like, a recycled can of Dr. Pepper was crushed, and then turned into a can of Mountain Dew or something. I was wrong. According to Peoria’s website, aluminum cans are turned into can sheet (?) and castings…cool! Old newspapers are recycled into food for the Internet, and plastic bottles are morphed into auto parts and fiberfill.

And that is why my muffler smells like ranch dressing.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Classic card of the week

Danny Heep, 1991 Score

This is Danny Heep. Let us begin:

Danny’s 1990 season was not a heap of fun for him

I thought maybe they were going to wait for it; wait to cash in on the gold mine of comedy and literary device that is Danny Heep’s surname. But they did not wait. If I may, in my own feeble attempt to combine baseball terminology and Danny Heep wordplay, I would say that they hit us off with a heap of it, right off the bat.

for he missed a large portion of it because of a herniated disc suffered in late June.

That is a heap of herniation right there. When Danny Heep felt the disc in his hernia area burst, he knew immediately that he was in a heap of trouble. Shall I continue? I am going to continue.

But he did cause a few laughs

A heap of laughs? No? Just a few? Okay.

When he became the first Red Sox position player in 38 years to pitch in a game. The Sox were losing 15-0

That is a heap of runs.

to the Twins and Danny finished the game by giving up four hits and one more run. His ERA: 9.00.

I know how to compute ERA when somebody gives up one run in one inning, thank you very much. Also, to this point in the discussion –- and the discussion is finished –- I have not learned anything worth knowing about Daniel William Heep. I know that he herniated a disc, and that he was asked to pitch in a blowout when the Red Sox ran out of pitchers and did not want to risk injuring one of their better players. Do I have to consult Wikipedia for more info? Because I will:

In 1986, while playing with the Mets, Danny Heep became the first player in a World Series to be a designated hitter (DH) with the initials “D.H.”

See, now that is the type of useless information I am looking for! If Danny Heep were the first player ever to DH with his initials, that would barely fall into the category of something that somebody would ever include in some kind of trivia format. That he was the first DH in a World Series with those initials is so obscure and “when or why did somebody even figure that out”-ish, it’s not even worth taking up the space in my brain. But now it’s too late. What else, Wiki?

Earned the profane but in good fun nick name Danny “Heep of Shit” from Mets fans.

How is that in good fun? God, I love New York.

Did you know?

One heap equals a baker's dozen minus several.