Friday, January 30, 2009

Classic card of the week

Greg Briley, 1991 Score

See? Now this is a sweet-lookin’ baseball card. Horizontal is the only means by which to capture the slugging nature of one Greg Briley. Let’s find out more:

Greg, who is barely 5-8,

If this is nitpicking, I don’t really care. 5-8? Greg, who is barely 5-8 years of age, has provided surprising pop and a flourishing mustache for the Little League Mariners of Maricopa County. Or, Greg, who is barely 5-8 hours away from being called down to the minors, likes wonton soup. Thus ends our segment: “Fun with grammatical errors.” This should read -- as it does below his picture:

Greg, who is barely 5’8”

The point of all this is that Greg Briley is small. He was the latter day, and black, David Eckstein. Latter-day Blaeckstein is what his friends referred to him by. Or, as his Wikipedia page mentions, Pee Wee. Greg Briley was a man of many nicknames. Where were we? Oh yes:

Greg, who is barely 5-8, proved that size is no deterrent in the major leagues, if you have talent and desire.

In this formula: Being small + talent + desire = Not being small + talent + desire. Greg Briley proved this formula by hitting five home runs in 1990. Everybody can play major league baseball if they want to. Size is of no consequence. I am starting a team tomorrow. Manute Bol is going to play center field, Emmanuel Lewis will be our third baseman, and a talented newborn baby Chihuahua will pitch. I will call this team the Kannapolis Intimidators. I hope that name is not taken.

“He is all muscle and he’s the best fastball hitter on the club,” said manager Jim Lefebvre. “He reminds me of Joe Morgan. The kid is going to be great.”

I have never seen Greg Briley with his shirt off, but if he is indeed “all muscle,” then he is Ned Flanders. Also, if Greg Briley is the best fastball hitter on your club, then you should probably get another fastball hitter, because your club is going to finish 73-89 in 1989, due mainly to their inability to hit fastballs out of the ballpark. Also, Jim Lefebvre should not be managing a baseball team. Also, I just looked up Jim Lefebvre’s Wiki page and here is what happened:

Jim Lefebvre had roles on several television shows including Gilligan’s Island and Batman. His role on Batman was of a henchman for the Riddler.

I have no idea if this is true, but it does serve to explain the previous anecdote:

Greg Briley is the next Joe Morgan. And I should know, because I used to work for the Riddler.
-- Jim Lefebvre

Speaking of Wikipedia, one more note on Greg Briley:

For 2009, he was named the hitting coach for the Kannapolis Intimidators

Darn it.

Did you know?
Thus concludes my humble ode to the folks at the now-defunct FJM, the greatest website ever invented. And I really mean that.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Classic card of the week

Storm Davis, 1989 Topps

The idea of a young Storm Davis growing up to be a major league pitcher seemed as unlikely as a young Donnie Baseball growing up to be a Channel 7 weatherman. Nevertheless, it happened, and the world is a better place because of it, if you don't count all the storms. But before we get into any of his career accomplishments, I would first like to set the record straight on the sibling situation of Storm Davis. Back of the card:

Storm and Astros’ Glenn Davis (no relation) played high school football and baseball for Storm’s father at University Christian HS, Jacksonville, Florida.

Okay, I’m glad that’s cleared up. Because for a second there I was thinking, “Storm Davis and Glenn Davis have the same last name, which is Davis. I sincerely wonder if they are related in some fashion.” Turns out: No, they are not. But it remains a strange coincidence that they DO share a long and storied history, both playing for Storm’s dad -– Stormy David Davis VI –- in high school. Anyway, to reiterate, the two are not related. We should move on.

So as I was say-…Wait. Wait a second. I’m getting a call from the accurate and reliable folks over at Wikipedia. They have a message for me:

Davis’ parents are also the adoptive parents of Glenn Davis, also a former Major League baseball player.

Shut down the Internet. I need at least twenty minutes to recuperate from this conflicting information. Is somebody trying to tell me that Stormy David Davis VI and his wife, Casandra Appleton (she kept her last name), decided to adopt their son’s high school teammate, who was already named Davis? ??? Or did they name him Davis after adoption, as his given birth name was Hurricane Glenn Glennnerson? Or did they adopt him at all? Because the card states the two were not related? Or is the card saying that, technically, the two men are not blood related, in which case: Why would the card not state instead that they are adoptive brothers, because that is a 10-times more interesting tidbit than the fact that they played baseball in high school.

I am leaning towards Wikipedia on this one based on their reputation for truth, as evidenced by the tidbit before the aforementioned other tidbit:

According to Davis’ 1987 Topps baseball card, his nickname was derived from a character in a book his mother was reading while pregnant.

I enjoy how this particular tidbit of information is taken from the back of a baseball card, while the tidbit that immediately follows it is in direct contradiction to the tidbit on the back of different baseball card. Also: One should not read Danielle Steele novels whilst preggers.

In conclusion: Storm Davis had a 3.26 ERA in 1987. He may or may not have a sister.

Did you know?
Davis' many groupies were dubbed "Storm chasers."

On becoming self-aware about being self-absorbed

Note: This column appears in the 1/29 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/30 issue of the Peoria Times

Nobody, for the most part, thinks that they’re selfish. I sure didn’t. But I always thought of selfishness in the context of material things. Like, for example, if I were eating a sandwich in the park and a homeless man came up to me and asked me for a bite, I’d be like, “Sure, dude. But you better have a knife and fork because you are not putting your mouth on this. Also, I’m a vegetarian, so I hope you like lettuce.” Then I would cut him a (small) piece of my sandwich, and proceed to mentally pat myself on the back for being so selfless. This is a hypothetical situation of course, but I am pretty sure it’s an accurate assessment of my potential character.

So, I would say, that after the age of four -- when you would rather hold your breath for 15 minutes straight than share something with even a sibling -- it becomes rather easy to be selfless when it comes to things. But what about time? Hmmm…

The perception that I had of myself as not being selfish came crashing down to earth a few weeks ago, when my wife informed me that one of the families that she works with had invited us over to their children’s birthday party. It was on Sunday morning at eleven. The exact kickoff time of the Giants-Eagles playoff game. Before she could even finish informing me of any additional details, I interrupted her with random phrases of refusal: “No. Babe. Can’t do it. Giants game. Sorry.”

My wife didn’t even give me a hard time. She knew it was the playoffs. More than anything she was upset that she’d either have to go by herself or not at all. On Friday she excitedly called me to say that the party had been pushed back to 12:30. “That’s halftime, babe. Can’t do it.” I could sense her deflating on the other end, as she relented and said, “Well…just think about.”

Those words stuck in my head for the next few hours. Just think about it. In doing just that, I realized that the only person I was thinking about was myself. In fact, I was thinking so much of myself that I refused to even entertain the thought of not doing exactly what I wanted to do. I was selfish after all. And this wasn’t an isolated incident either -– my free time typically revolves around my own will.

So, a compromise was in order: We’ll watch the first half, and I’ll DVR the second half and watch it after the party.

So there I was. My favorite football team was in a heated battle with their division rival for a chance to go to the NFC Championship Game, and I was sitting in a kitchen listening to Thomas the Train songs. Behind all the kids was a huge flat screen TV that wasn’t even turned on. Taunting me. But a funny thing happened on the road to selflessness: I was having a good time. I was drinking -- which helped -- but I also met a few really nice people, had some good food, and got to see my wife smile, which she rarely does on football Sunday.

Turns out I would have enjoyed watching Thomas the Train episodes more than the second half I was so anxiously waiting to see. At least I was comforted by the fact that, for at least an afternoon, I wasn’t a selfish jerk. Possibly you think that you’re not either. To which I say: Think about it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Classic card of the week

Allen Iverson, 1998 NBA Hoops

This is the third card from this series that I have posted. It also will not be the last. I’m sorry -- I can’t help myself. The write-ups on the back of these cards are simply too good to pass up, and I had an inkling that the Allen Iverson one would be gold. It did not disappoint:

What? No socks? AI, you’re “breaking ankles” with all your skating. Fifth in the league in rips and eight in points. I have a CB…we know you’ve got handle.

I am on nonsense overload right now. Let’s break this one down bit by bit:

What? No socks?

I don’t understand the question. Allen Iverson wears socks. Every basketball player wears socks. I can think of few things more disgusting than the thought of a basketball player not wearing socks. For evidence of Allen Iverson wearing socks, please reference: this card.

AI, you’re “breaking ankles” with all of your skating.

I am unsure if the socks comment is in relation to Allen Iverson’s ability to break ankles. If so, I don’t understand the question. I don’t know how socks relate to getting your ankles broken, and whether or not Allen Iverson does not wear socks -- which he does -- when he breaks ankles, or if his opponent should not bother wearing socks because his ankles are going to get broken regardless. In any case, if I was a) going to break someone’s ankles with my skating, I would wear socks, and if I was b) about to get my ankles broken by Allen Iverson, I would wear lots of socks.

Also: For all of the crap spewed on the back of these cards, I enjoy how “breaking ankles” is in quotes. The only phrase that I actually understand out of this whole thing is in quotes. I think this is awesome.

Fifth in the league in rips and eighth in points.

“Rips” should be in quotes. If I were to say to a person who had just finished playing in a basketball game, “Hey man, nice game. How many rips did you have?” that person would have no idea what I was talking about. If I did the quotes-motion with my hands when I said “rips,” that person might be able to deduce that I meant “steals,” but they would also think that I was a very strange person. Therefore, “rips” should be in quotes.

I have a CB…we know you’ve got handle.

You have a CB? Congratulations! That is awesome! What is a CB? Seriously. I am not even joking right now. I do not know what a CB is. Currently, I am assuming that it is a device that can figure out whether or not an NBA player has got handle. If I am incorrect, please do not email me, because I would prefer to think of a CB as such, and I would like to purchase one online, if possible. In conclusion, I will now post this write-up in full with quotes where I deem necessary:

What? No “socks?” “AI,” you’re breaking ankles with all your “skating.” Fifth in the league in “rips” and eighth in points. I have a “CB”…we know you’ve “got handle.”


Did you know?
In 1992-93, Iverson predecessor and confidant Mark Price dished more than thrice as many dimes as he had rips.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A day of accomplishment for many in Arizona

Note: This column appears in the 1/22 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 1/23 issue of the Peoria Times

One of the best parts about finishing a road race is getting a medal. It’s so Olympian. Here is your medal. Wear it proudly. We don’t hand these out to just anyone. Only the 30,000 or so other people who did the same exact thing you just did, many of them faster. Congratulations! Now please proceed to the bananas.

And it is with that in mind that I am proud to say that I completed the PF Changs Rock N’ Roll Arizona ½ Marathon this Sunday. And I have a medal to prove it, which I donned immediately after the race while double-fisting my free Michelob Ultras, just like a true Olympian would.

Someone who deserved a medal much more than me –- besides, you know, all of the full marathoners, but whatever -- was my mom, who flew here from New Jersey to fulfill a personal goal of fast-walking 13.1 miles, which she did in excellent time. Unfortunately, she now associates Arizona with extreme pain, so I still have a long way to go to convince her and my dad to move here.

Honestly, running this race had been on my mind since I signed up for it, evidenced by the 17 columns I’ve written about preparing for it. I was pretty much dreading it. So I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. And it wasn’t in retrospect either like, “Wow, that was terrible. But I’m glad I did it.” The race itself was actually fun. Yes, it was difficult, and I may never run again for the rest of my life. But it was hard to focus on the pain while running in the 70-degrees-and-sunny-with-a-cool-breeze Arizona weather, along with thousands of other dedicated strangers running alongside me, for reasons ranging from honoring a lost loved one to just because.

The race began in Phoenix and ended in front of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Along the way thousands came out to cheer on the runners, most of them wearing Cardinal red to support a team that would earn a trip to the Super Bowl later that day. I felt like I was an active part of one of the greatest days in the state’s history. From now on, when people think about January 18th 2009, they will remember my name. And maybe Larry Fitzgerald’s, too.

It was one big party after the race. It’s amazing how many people you end up meeting when “Congratulations!” is the universal icebreaker. I was taking pictures with people I would have considered strangers two hours ago. I think I high-fived a guy who was wearing a cape. I also got a little sunburned, which is something that happens in the middle of January here in Arizona. Oh well.

Whether or not I do this race again next year is up for debate. But if you happen to be reading this and you’re wondering if you should give it a go, all I can say is, you won’t regret it. In the meantime, I can now turn my attention to the amazing fact that the local football team is headed to the Super Bowl.

Which reminds me –- I wonder if the Cardinals got a medal. They probably should have.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Classic card of the week

Vlade Divac & James Worthy, 1993 Upper Deck "Final Preparations"

After staring at this card for 24 hours straight, I have several questions:

a) Is that really the training room of the Los Angeles Lakers, arguably the proudest and most affluent franchise in professional basketball? It looks like the athletic director’s office at Lakeside Technical High School.

b) Why is James Worthy, and not, say, the trainer for the Los Angeles Lakers, taping up the ankles of Vlade Divac?

c) What is James Worthy wearing? Are those gold khakis? It looks like he’s been at his 9-5 job all day at Orange County Communications, walked into the locker room around 6:15, took off his shirt and tie which revealed a Lakers jersey he recently purchased at Champs Sports, and mysteriously began taping the ankles of his Serbian teammate.

d) Why is Vlade Divac smiling like that? What is he up to? I just don't trust that guy.

e) What would somebody have to pay me to touch the feet of Vlade Divac without wearing seven pairs of latex gloves?

It’s time for answers. Back of the card, explain:

In order to survive in the NBA, every team and player must be fully prepared for each night’s battle.

Okay. But is there more than one way in which a player must prepare for battle?

Each player has to prepare themselves in several ways.


They must be prepared mentally, which is something they have to do on their own.

Vlade Divac
: Hey James, I was wondering…Can you do me a solid and help me prepare for tonight’s battle mentally?

James Worthy: What do I look like, the Horse Whisperer? Damn fool -- preparing mentally is something you have to do on your own! I can’t tape up your brain!

Other preparations, such as taping, sometimes requires the help of teammates.

Divac: Oh, alright. My bad. But hey -- would you mind taping up my ankles?

Worthy: What? Where the hell is the trainer?

Divac: He’s uh, massaging Van Exel’s groin.

Worthy: Geez! Fifteen guys on this team and that freakin’ dude needs his groin massaged every two seconds. My groin ain’t feeling too great either ya’ know, but I got two hands! (Starts furiously pounding his groin with his fists…) Gimmie that tape.

These final preparations not only help the individual, but also the team, as it generates team unity and teamwork.

Divac: Ya’ know James, I really feel like this experience is bringing us closer together as teammates.

Worthy: Man, shut the hell up.

Did you know?

Flopping does a number on the ankles.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Getting ready to rock the ½ marathon, or something

Note: This column appears in the 1/15 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/16 issue of the Peoria Times

The PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon is this Sunday. The question posed on the front of the packet I received in the mail one month ago reads: Are you ready to rock Arizona? Well, I don’t know. I’m not even certain if I will last 13 miles, and if I do, I am unsure whether that feat in and of itself will sufficiently rock the state of Arizona. We’ll just have to wait and see.

As of right now, I have one more training run left before race day. In physically preparing myself to run a ½ marathon, I am left with one serious question: How does a person run a marathon? Honestly. I just don’t understand. I have been training to run, literally, half the distance of a full marathon, and by the seventh mile, I can no longer feel my legs, and I am left running on a cloud of self-admonition and artificial adrenaline pumping into my ears from my iPod. If someone were to say to me, at that point, “Alright, you’re a quarter of the way there!” I would kill them. Then I would go home. I mean, I know it’s possible to run a marathon -- thousands of people will do it on Sunday, and I think even P Diddy did it once -- I just don’t understand how it’s done.

In fact, one of the most difficult things about training for this race -- besides all of the running and stuff -- is figuring out exactly how far I am going. Luckily, one of my many race-related Christmas gifts was something called a pedometer, which is a device you wear that measures how far you are running. The only thing is, you have to measure your stride length and input it into the device. I’m not even sure if I input my info correctly, even though I spent an hour on the sidewalk in front of our house running back and forth with a tape measure and a calculator. My last time out, I ran for about an hour and a half and the pedometer registered that I ran "pi kilometers." Not sure what that means, but I feel ready!

Amidst all the preparation, race day is going to be much different. I won’t need the pedometer, thanks to the mile markers, which are both a blessing and a curse. It will be near freezing at the start of the race, and warm and toasty by the finish. There will be thousands upon thousands of people there. After the race -- assuming we make it that far -- I probably won’t be able to find my mom (who is coming in from NJ just to partake in this) until Monday. Just being aware of all this going in is half the battle. I think.

Overall, I am just really excited to be a part of something like this, especially with family involved. I remember watching the race on TV last year, and thinking, “Man, I’d really like to do that sometime.” Then I took a nap. On Sunday I’ll actually be there, for better or for worse.

I hope all this training pays off. Just do me a favor -- if you’re sitting in your house at around 11am on Sunday morning, and you haven’t felt “rocked” yet…send help.

Sure, but can he do HALF of that?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Classic card of the week

Michael Smith, 1996 Skybox

When a flying comet that is actually a basketball comes mysteriously swooping through an indoor arena, you’d better hope that Michael Smith is around, because he will stop the comet-basketball’s violent course of action by catching it, holding onto it tightly until the comet tail disintegrates, and then he will eventually raise the basketball as one of his own children. At that point it will be safe to resume activity. If that activity is, ironically, playing basketball, you should not use the basketball that used to be a comet, because it will still be very hot.

Let’s discover more about Michael Smith’s professional basketball career:

A big fan of the big screen, Michael and teammate Brian Grant were featured as motion picture critics during a Kings promotion for the 1994-95 season.

I am uncertain what the title of this marketing campaign was, but I imagine that it was something along the lines of: Why watch the Kings play when you could go see a movie? Both Smith and Grant took their respective criticisms of cinema extremely seriously, and were respected members of the Screen Critics Guild. In fact their thoughtful opinions were even used to promote popular Hollywood films. For example:


“A cinematic kick in the groin!”
-- Michael Smith, Sacramento Kings forward

The Usual Suspects

“You’ll never guess that Spacey is that Soze dude!”
-- Brian Grant, Sacramento Kings forward

The Nutty Professor

“Two thumbs painted like basketballs up!”
-- Michael Smith & Brian Grant, Sacramento Kings forwards

Grant would stop reviewing movies in 1998 after he used the word “powerful” in an otherwise negative review for the film “Air Bud 2: Golden Receiver.” He felt he was taken out of context during televised promotions for the movie, which included the following:

-- Brian Grant, Sacramento Kings forward

“If you don’t see this movie, you’re barking up the wrong tree!”
-- Boobies Magazine

Smith remained in the cinematic field following a brilliant and powerful NBA career. He even developed a movie script about a basketball-comet that comes to earth, which is still in the early stages of production.

Did you know?
The actual phraseology Brian Grant used during his review of Air Bud was “Powerfully obscene and disappointing.”

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

After the fall: Preparing for a ½ marathon

Note: This column appears in the 1/8 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 1/9 issue of the Peoria Times

One month before we moved to Arizona, I ran in a popular five-mile road race in New Jersey. To make a very long story very short, I did not finish. Because I collapsed. I wish I were joking.

About four months ago I received a phone call from my mom, who excitedly informed me that she had signed up to join Team in Training and was coming out to Arizona to participate in the PF Chang’s ½ Marathon. Because I had not run a race since my brilliant showing in NJ, I figured this was my opportunity to get back on the ol’ saddle. The way I figured it: There’s only one thing to do when you collapse after running 4.8 miles, and that’s to sign up to run 13.1 miles.

Well, race day is fast approaching -- it’s on Sunday, January 18th -- and I am feeling a mixture of nervousness, excitement, nausea, and hatred for PF Chang himself. My mom has been part of a team-oriented training regiment since she signed up, and has already fast-walked a full 13.1 in preparation for the race. She is like a fast-walking Kenyan at this point. I, on the other hand, have been left to my own devices. I started training in October, because that was when the weather finally dropped to a brisk 97-degrees. I have been doing well, but the last time I felt ready for a race, I ended up in the ambulance, so it’s hard to say.

Contrary to what my embarrassing episode would imply, I do have running experience. In fact, it was ultimately my overconfidence that cost me that day -- I did not eat or drink anything before the race, and the humidity that day was approximately 112%. It was a wake-up call though, which is why I have been focused this time around on other factors besides what color t-shirt I will get at the end and where the after-party is. For example, nutrition has become important. Go figure!

Throughout my training, I have been making sure that I eat before each run. This, unfortunately, has raised a new set of problems, namely, finding a food that doesn’t make me sprint back to my house 15 minutes after I leave. But I hear this upcoming race has Port-a-Johns, so as extremely uncomfortable as that would be, I’m not overly concerned.

And it’s not just eating before the run that’s important. Apparently, when you run for over an hour, it’s crucial to eat during the run. My rule of thumb had always been: if you are eating while running, then you are running too far. But now I am forced to do just that. In fact, one of my Christmas presents this year was several gel packs. (Worst Christmas ever.) If you have never had a gel pack before, it’s basically a smorgasbord of nutrients made into a gel and jammed into a handy pack. You can imagine how tasty they are. But I know that they work, because that’s what they gave me to eat in the ambulance.

This week, the training intensifies. I will keep you up to date on my progress, because I know how much you care. In the meantime, I am headed to PF Changs this weekend, because I have a 15%-off card for signing up for this stupid race. It’s the least he could do.