Friday, February 25, 2011

Bad newzz

According to an emailed press-release I received today at work:

Due to unforeseen circumstances, The FATAZZ MEATBALL COOK-OFF! has been cancelled.

Remember when the 1994 World Series was canceled? This is like that. Except much, much worse.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Classic card of the week

Keith Atherton, 1989 Topps

Dearest baseball,

Where do I start? First, I love you. The way your seams feel in my hands makes me happy. I am smiling. Not on the outside, because I need to strike fear into my opponents by making them believe I will not hesitate to throw you at them. But on the inside.

You are a small little ball, but you have made my wildest dreams come true. Some people criticize your size. They say, “A baseball is too small! A ball that small will never achieve success in America! I can’t even see that ball it’s so small!” But if you were any bigger, I would not be able to throw you with such velocity and accuracy. You proved them all wrong, baseball. We proved them all wrong. I can see you just fine. With my glasses. When I am not wearing my glass, you look like a bloodstain on a blurry white rhombus.

Baseball, you have given me confidence to, among other things, grow a mustache. If it weren’t for you, I’d be working at daddy’s stupid firm. Just another Atherton son at Atherton & Sons. Daddy doesn’t allow facial hair there, because he said it’s “not professional.” Even Bill had to shave his goatee. They’re so white collar those guys—sometimes I don’t even think I’m related. But you, baseball, have afforded me the type of lunch-pail image I have always desired. You were born of fishermen and steel workers looking for additional work with limited pay. Now, I make a ridiculous amount of money throwing you around for what amounts to like, four hours a year. But sometimes I get dirty and sweaty doing so, and my mustache absorbs the sweat, and people like that. They respect that. You have made me who I am, baseball. You have made me … a man. I mean, my fingernails are really dirty right now. I don’t even care.

One day, somebody who has not mistaken me for a different player will ask me to sign you. I will refuse, so as not to diminish your worth. I wish you had hands, baseball, because I would ask you to sign me. Right on my heart, because that is where you have left an indelible mark.

I don’t know if I will ever see you again, because I don’t know if I will pitch today. I wanted to let you know how I feel, right here, right now. I hope you can hear me. If we meet again this afternoon, I want you to know this: If we face Kittle, I’m aiming for the ribs. So do your thing. Meet me on the other side.

All my love,


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tips to best enjoy spring training baseball

Note: This column appears in the 2/24 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/25 issue of the Peoria Times

Sometimes when a person asks me why we moved from New Jersey to the Valley, I will say, simply, “spring training.” This person will then say, “Wait—you left your family, friends, jobs, and general way of life behind and traveled cross-country just for one month of exhibition baseball games, most of which are played during the week and which you will not be able to attend because you have a job?” And I will say, “Yes.”

This isn’t entirely true. We moved here for many reasons, but I’d be lying if I said spring training wasn’t one of them. Now that I’ve been to so many games, I can say that I actually underestimated the awesomeness factor. In that regard, and with games beginning this weekend, allow me to share some advice regarding spring training that I have acquired over the years. Ignore this advice at your own risk.

- Attend a game with someone who actually likes baseball. Spring training is for the committed baseball fan—who else sets aside three hours and like, 40 bucks to watch a game that doesn’t mean anything? You don’t want to go with someone who will bring you down from your high of doing something pointless. I love my wife for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that she enjoys and knows baseball. If you have a significant other who will voluntarily and excitedly join you for a spring training game, you should thank God everyday. Seriously.

From a male perspective, my buddy Rashad is a great spring training partner. He loves baseball too, so we can watch the games without feeling like we have to talk to each other, except to ask who wants another beer, to make fun of each other and/or the players, and complain about how so-and-so screwed us over in a fantasy baseball league five years ago. Of course, Rashad and I are dads now, so between us we probably catch a good ½-inning of action. But it was fun while it lasted.

- Sit on the lawn. When I lived back east and I saw spring training highlights on TV, I used to loathe the people on the lawn. They were having so much fun, and looked so relaxed, and were catching home runs and loving life while I was stuck inside waiting for snow to melt. Now? I’m one of them. I hate myself!

Why pay for a seat? The lawn is cheaper and the perspective of the game is fantastic. It’s like the beach! Except without the sand or water, which—let’s be honest—is overrated. Side note: Often the lawn is on a hill, so be careful. Last year I placed our then six-month old daughter down on the grass so I could get a beer and she almost went tumbling down the hill all the way to the outfield wall. It was a great start to the afternoon, as you could imagine.

- Wear clothes. Because the weather is typically fantastic and people feel the need to accentuate this reality, they will often take their shirt off. If you do this, whoever you are with will be embarrassed, even if they don’t say so. This isn’t the beach, weirdo. It’s important to remember that you can’t just take your clothes off wherever you are because the sun is out. And that’s coming from a guy who wears only boxers around the house from May through September.

- Call someone. If you have friends or family in a cold-weather state, it’s important to call or text them to ask what they’re doing. Chances are they are not wearing sun block and watching live baseball. This is sort of mean, yes, but it’s also a good passive-aggressive way to invite loved ones out to spring training next year, or to move to Arizona permanently.

I hope you find this advice useful. The most important advice of all is—enjoy the games! I will see you there. On the weekends. Stupid job.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Classic card of the week

Dan Plesac, 1989 Fleer

Cameraman: Alright Sac-man, give me that All-American schoolboy look you’re so famous for.

Dan Plesac: That’s not the most heterosexual thing I’ve heard today, but alright. Here goes. Plesac stands straight up and smiles.

Cameraman: Click, flash. Okay, okay. Click, flash. You’re too upright, though. Bend over a little bit, like you’re about to pitch, but smile in a weird, inoffensive way, like you’re about to pitch to a three-year old girl at a charity event. Click, flash.

Plesac: Like this?

Cameraman: Yeah, yeah. Click, flash. That’s good. More innocent though! Put some feeling into it! You’re a schoolboy! Click, flash.

Plesac: Looks into camera. Here kitty, kitty …

Cameraman: Good! Click, flash. Perfect. I think we got it.

Plesac: Great.

Cameraman: Now take your shirt off.

Plesac: What?


It’s difficult for me to know until you ask the question, but: no, I did not.

Came within one save of tieing club record in 1988 …

That is an interesting way of spelling “tying,” and by interesting I mean wrong. Also, the Milwaukee Brewers record for saves in a season was 31? And Dan Plesac almost tyed {sic} it? I’m not one for hyperbole, but that is the most amazing thing I have heard about anything in my entire life.

… 2nd straight season to lead team in saves

I don’t want to nitpick fun Dan Plesac tidbits—nitpicking tidbits will never win you any friends, trust me—but … Plesac was the Brewers closer, and thus the only player on the roster afforded the opportunity to earn saves. That a closer led his team in saves is neither here nor there. This is fun!

… All-America player at North Carolina State

This Major League Baseball player was good at playing baseball in college?! Who’d have thunk it?

… Schoolboy All-America in baseball and basketball

What is a “Schoolboy All-America?” I have never heard of such a thing, and I am glad, because it sounds, well, European at best, kind of dirty at worst. Do they mean high school? If so, a better term to use would have been “High school All-America.” I think that would make everyone feel more comfortable here.

… Nickname is Sac-man.

I knew that! Who doesn’t know that? I just didn’t know it was hyphenated. I’ve been writing Sac-man as one word for the past twenty years. This is embarrassing.

Did you know?
The MLB Network strongly considered airing a weekly show called, "Sac-man & Hazel," in which Dan Plesac and Hazel Mae traveled to different minor league parks throughout the country in order to hilariously expose the racism from those who assumed they were an interracial couple.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No rest for the weary, sayeth the dragon

Note: This column appears in the 2/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/18 issue of the Peoria Times

One of the things fatherhood has taught me is that sleep is overrated. Eight hours? Pfft. I have not slept eight consecutive hours since college (back then I called that a “nap”).

Sure, it’s frustrating to wake up every morning and be immediately reminded that this cycle of diminished sleep will not end for the foreseeable future, if ever. I combat this by lying to myself. On weekday mornings I think, “I will sleep-in this weekend.” On weekend mornings I think, “I will nap when she naps.” But on weekend afternoons, as she naps, I think, “Now I can finally take a shower.”

I’m not complaining though. There are positives. For starters, getting to sleep takes zero effort. There used to be a time when falling asleep wasn’t so easy. Now? I could fall asleep while waiting at a red light. And by “could” I mean “do.” Also, if the quality of one’s sleep is relative to the weirdness of his dreams, then I am getting the best sleep ever. The other night I had a dream that I was best friends with a hilarious dragon who urged me not to take myself too seriously. I was like, “Don’t worry, dragon—I don’t!’ Then my alarm went off. I miss him.

I feel a sense of pride in being able to function on less sleep than is clinically recommended by people much smarter than I. In fact, the men of our family have a long-standing, proud tradition of not sleeping. As a kid I used to believe that my dad was the first person up in America every morning. He was at work on his lunch break when we were getting up for school. Even now, when he comes to visit us here in AZ, he is always up at some ungodly hour, for which he will blame the “time difference,” even though he has been here for a week. One night last summer our dog got me up to go out at like, 3 a.m., and I walked downstairs and my dad had a pot of coffee brewing and was on his second “SportsCenter.”

My father-in-law does not sleep voluntarily. For him, sleep = not getting something done. As a result, if he stops moving for two minutes, he will simply fall asleep where he stands. This has been a constant source of hilarity for the rest of us. A few years ago he fell asleep on the couch during a Yankee game. He woke up suddenly hours after the game had finished, incoherently yelled something about Derek Jeter, then fell back asleep. When we were back east a couple months ago, we had to get him up super-early to drive us to the airport. My wife gently nudged him, whispering, “Pssst, Dad, time to get up.” He shot up quickly and yelled, “I’ll take the call!”

The common theme of these great men is fatherhood. Years of being conditioned to be up at a moment’s notice for any conceivable reason and spending all waking hours intently focused on work and/or another’s well-being has made sleep almost optional. And I am proud to follow in their weary footsteps.

That’s certainly not to say it’s just the men. My wife has probably slept less than I have over the past year or so, and she works, and she does more for our daughter in a tired stupor than I do wide awake. Plus I don’t even think she ever gets a good sleep, as her dreams are totally realistic and usually involve me doing something stupid, so she gets up exhausted and mad at me. I just remind her to not take myself too seriously.

... and another thing, Mike -- you should stop wearing overalls. What is this, 1990?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Honorable mention

Many months ago, I entered a Real Simple magazine writing contest. SPOILER ALERT: I lost.

I wasn't going to post my entry here for a few reasons. One, it's a little bit on the sappy side (I figured a heartfelt piece about how we came to adopt our daughter, from a male perspective, would hit those ladies -- I assume only women work at Real Simple; is that wrong? -- right where it hurts: in the heart. Strategy fail), and I've had a few too many of those in the past few months. What can I say -- I'm getting sentimental in my young age. Also, I try not to write too much about our daughter here, because no one wants to read about other people's kids (unless of course it's me reading about your kids; they're adorably hilarious! And smart!), and because some of this I touched upon in an earlier piece about the adoption.

But then I figured, screw it. I worked really hard on this, and I didn't want it to go to waste, even if it wouldn't earn me the $3,000 first-place prize and trip to New York City (I could have seen the Empire State Building!) to share a lettuce wrap with several editors who would undoubtedly scoff at my impressive catalog of silly baseball card write-ups. Bitter? Not at all.

The theme was "I never thought I'd ..." I had originally written an entirely different piece involving an encounter with grizzly bears (which will appear somewhere else soon), but scrapped it in favor of something more ... non-bear-related. As usual, I should have gone with the bears. Anyway, here it is.

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

“My wife is a strong Italian woman from Brooklyn.”

This is how I began our quest for a child.

We had been foster parents for about a year as we sat there in our living room, discussing our goals with our licensing worker. At the moment we were fostering a three-year old girl and her baby brother. With no kids of our own, fostering was our first foray into the wild world of parenting. Going from zero-to-two in 60 seconds—these children had literally shown up on our doorstep just months earlier—provided us a crash course. Normally a slave to routine and organized to a tee, I sat there on this day amidst the aftermath of Hurricane Toy, sleepless and just a tad overwhelmed, with spit-up stains on my shoulder and Dora the Explorer on in the background piercing my brain with its redundancy. We get it, Map. Barn, river, then castle. You only have to tell me once!

Sure, there was a bit of naïveté in our desire to become foster parents and make a difference in this crazy world. One week into it we were jaded by the system. Our first placement, a newborn baby boy, was unceremoniously picked up by the state after being with us for just a few days. Now we were headfirst into our second placement, which was not without its own challenges.

Just days earlier, our lovely foster daughter had spit on her teacher at daycare. Good times. Her little brother, meanwhile, had somehow managed to acquire almost every treatable ailment known to man, from acid reflux to respiratory issues. Many a night was spent trying to corral a three-year old girl while tangled in the tubes of her brother’s breathing apparatus.

Still, we had no regrets. And truthfully, our motives for fostering weren’t entirely selfless, as we had also hoped, through foster care, to one day adopt. Our current foster kids were going back to their parents, which we always knew, and which—even though we loved them dearly—gave us a sigh of relief during moments of mayhem.

In fact, the kids were in the beginning stages of transitioning back home, which is why we were discussing our future. We had hoped our next placement could be more of the fost-to-adopt variety, in that we’d have at least a chance to become a permanent family. Our licensing worker urged us to work on our adoptive profile—a quick family bio that the state uses in part to determine which family is right for any child available for adoption through foster care. Her advice to me was, “You’re a writer, Mike. Spice it up! Make it stand out.”

A writer. Huh. My writing experience at that point had consisted mostly of having a blog in which I made fun of my old baseball cards. Now instead of poking fun at 80’s mustaches and ill-fitting uniforms, I’d be writing, in effect, for a child. No biggie.

And so I began, describing my wife, then myself, and then yes, our dog, in all the glorious and dramatic detail I could muster.

The way it works is this. Agencies will send out emails to foster parents with regards to a child who is available for adoption through foster care. If you choose to express interest, your particular agency will submit your profile and the state will then make its selection from the candidates.

The emails themselves and the children they describe are far ranging. It could be a newborn boy with no adverse medical background, or, more likely, a 13-year old teenage girl who has moved through seven foster homes and most recently burned down a nearby abandoned building. As someone looking to adopt, you cannot have a bleeding heart, and you must know the right fit for your family.

About a month after submitting our profile, we received an email about a child available for adoption. She was a one-month old baby girl. When we began the process of becoming foster parents, our agency asked us to write down our ideal situation. If you were able to adopt, describe the child you have dreamed about. As I read this girl’s profile, it felt like our ideal situation was being read back to me. I emailed our licensing worker back immediately, expressing our interest. My wife and I, however, curbed our enthusiasm. We were jaded, remember. Plus, this was a baby. Everyone wants a baby.

Our reservations were confirmed when, after almost two months, we had heard nothing. No matter, as we were now getting ready to take our little foster kiddos back home. With freedom on the horizon, we decided we’d take a break from foster care for a while.

The week leading up to the kids’ return home was hectic and extremely emotional to say the least. I thought I’d be whistling “Dixie” as I packed up the gigantic Dora play castle that had been sitting in the middle of our living room for the past eight months, but it was difficult to hold back the tears. This whirlwind of activity and emotion was interrupted when our licensing worker called my wife. She informed her that we had been chosen as the prospective adoptive parents of that baby girl.

It had been so long since that email that my wife didn’t understand at first. Once it sunk in, she excitedly asked ten more times if it was really true. It was. Out of twenty-one families, we were chosen.

We wouldn’t be taking a break after all. Just days after reuniting our foster kids with their family—a bittersweet moment that was helped immeasurably by the realization that we may have a family of our own on the horizon—we’d be traveling to go meet our new daughter.

After a sleepless night spent fretting over what-ifs and marveling at what-could-be, and now with jitters from both nerves and strong coffee, I took a deep breath as we entered a drab conference room full of caseworkers and adoption liaisons. Our eyes passed them all in our frantic search for her. There she was, her big brown eyes looking upward as she took her bottle. I’d always had a picture in my head of what she’d look like, and miraculously, she matched that image perfectly. Everything faded to white noise as I held her, and I looked at my wife, now a mom. Pure joy. Still, that voice in my head kept asking, “Why us?”

As the conversation wrapped up, and we prepared for our life as new parents, the meeting’s coordinator asked if we had any questions. I did, in fact. I turned to the caseworker and said, “I just have to ask—why did you choose us? We heard twenty other families were interested. What was it about us?”

She leaned forward, looked at us and said, “Honestly? It was the first line of your family profile. After I read the rest, I knew you guys were the ones.”

I guess it stood out. Wow. I never thought I’d write my way into fatherhood.

I can’t be sure what it was, exactly, that sold her. This woman was not Italian and was, in fact, a southwest native. So she wasn’t playing favorites. Had she been drawn in by the acknowledgment of a strong female presence, and a husband who vouches for her? Had another prospective father touted his strong Greek wife from Queens, but not followed up with the appropriate prose? It should also be mentioned that our profile, at the time, was bereft of our photo and additional family specifics, so it was our brief bio and only our brief bio that seemed to suffice. Indeed, it seemed, it was plenty.

I like to believe it was my writing that literally brought us together as a family. We were trying to conceive, yes, but little did I know what wonders the simple technique of placing my fingers on the keyboard would do.

Of course, I’d be a fool not to believe—considering the timing, the circumstances, and, well, her—that Divine Intervention played a much larger role. To that extent, we’ve stopped asking, “Why us?” Instead, we just say, everyday, “thank you.”

We officially adopted our daughter this past summer, but she had already become our everything, the center of our permanent family. Going from two-to-one wasn’t the breeze I anticipated, but it’s different when the one is the one. I remain perpetually a tad overwhelmed, but such is my new routine.

Every time I look at our daughter I’m reminded of the impact of the words I had written that night. I’ve been writing a lot more lately. What can I say? She inspires me.

That makes two women in this house who inspire me—a floppy-haired little dynamo and a strong Italian woman from Brooklyn. Without both, I wouldn’t be here.

Watching Dora.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Classic card of the week

Dante Bichette, 1996 Upper Deck "You Crash the Game" series

Hey kids—would you like the crash the game? Yeah! Okay, cool! Here are the rules:

Rule No. 1: Try not to have a seizure while looking at this card, so you will be alive and healthy enough to crash the game. It is important to not attempt to read any of the violently reflective text here, which is cleverly disguised as information, but which will, in actuality, give you 0/-2 vision. Do not operate machinery or your bicycle for eight hours after viewing this card.

Rule No. 2: Be open-minded to a new definition of what it means to “crash” an event. Traditionally, to crash something is to show up uninvited and not really care. In this case, we are cordially inviting you to send us money, and the event we are inviting you to crash is not so much a game, but a process by which you send us a check. Don't get caught! Ha, ha. You’re 10—you have checks now, right? Yeah? Good. Let’s crash the game! Here are the real rules:

1) Collect your favorite MLB Superstar’s “You Crash the Game” card.

I got mine right here! Dante freakin’ Bichette, yo. Doesn’t get more superstarry than that. Show me another guy with a mullet wearing shin guards featured on a card that’s like a three-dimensional prism. You can’t. I don’t think.

2) Watch and see if the player on this card hits a Home Run in the series listed on the front of this card.

Uh … okay. I don’t get Rockies games here in not Colorado in 1996, so I’ll have to check the box scores. The front of the card says August 9-11. I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat! Every morning! For the newspaper! This game is awesooooommmmmeeeeeee!!! Then what do I win? A moped? A chance to crash Dante Bichette’s son’s birthday party?

3) If he hits a Home Run, then mail this card along with a $1.75 check or money order

What’s a money order? I am 10.

payable to Upper Deck Company to: 1996 MLB Collector’s Choice Series

You lost me at “If.”

Two You Crash the Game Trade Card,

That address will not fit on an envelope.

P.O. Box 460774, St. Louis, MO 63146.

I will not do that. I have already forgotten about this contest. I am watching cartoons.

4) We’ll send you back a Super Premium You Crash the Game card of your Crash player.

Wait—do I get this card back? Because I kind of like it. Also, I took this card outside before and the sunlight it redirected caused my neighbor’s tree to catch on fire. I am literally scared to imagine what a “Super Premium” version of this card will do. And as much as I’d love to read the fine print below these directions, which surely explain in detail how you will screw me, a 10-year old, over, I have things to do. I’ll pass, thank you.

Did you know?
He didn’t hit one. Dante Bichette didn’t even play on 8/11/96. In a mild protest that turned violent, dozens of young Bichette fans crashed the field that day.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

If consumed, dial 1-800-Panic-Now

Note: This column appears in the 2/10 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/11 issue of the Peoria Times

Hey, you know what turns out is not so good for dogs? Rat poison.

Yeah, so our dog got into some rat poison recently. This actually happened a few weeks ago, but I only now feel well enough to write about it in a lighthearted and sarcastic manner. It was great!

What happened was this: My in-laws have an exterminator for their house here in AZ, but they informed him upon his first visit not to drop any dangerous chemicals, as we bring our dog there frequently. Well, a different guy from the same company did the service call recently, and nobody thought twice about it. So, we were having a grand ol’ time in the backyard when my brother-in-law and I noticed our dog Mac enjoying a little appetizer in the corner of the yard.

After we pulled him away, I saw the bag on the ground. My heart sunk, because all I could see from afar on the bag was a bunch of fine print, undoubtedly explaining in detail the harmful effects of consuming its contents. It might as well have had a giant skull and crossbones on it.

I scraped what I could out of his mouth, and we were off to the pet hospital. Road trip! My wife was still at work, so I had to call and let her know what was going on. Now, one of my favorite Seinfeld moments ever is when everyone thinks George is dead, and Mr. Costanza leaves a message on Jerry’s machine: “Jerry, it’s Mr. Costanza. Steinbrenner’s here, George is dead. Call me back.” The message I left for my wife wasn’t far off: “Babe, it’s me. Mac ate rat poison; we’re going to Pet Smart. Call me. Also, pick up bread.”

The thing about dogs in these situations that’s both reassuring and disconcerting is their eternally positive attitude. We were on our way to make sure he wouldn’t die, and Mac was acting like we were going to Fun Time Happy Town For Dogs. Upon our arrival at the pet hospital, I didn’t witness the sense of urgency I had expected. I thought he was going to get rushed into the back room and several doctors were going to gather around him, yell “Clear!’ and pump his chest. Instead they wanted to weigh him, then pet him, then ask me questions, and then pet him again.

It began to set-in that things would probably be okay, as he apparently didn’t consume much of the poison. Still, they gave him a shot of vitamin K and a charcoal cleansing, which later caused him to yak up black stuff all over our backyard. Overall, it was a great day.

That’s the thing, too—it really was supposed to be a nice, relaxing day, our first in weeks. Things had been so hectic, with many people visiting and many things to do, and this particular evening we had all planned a nice, easy, home-cooked dinner and a chance to all catch up. Instead, our dog ate rat poison.

These are the types of things that happen when you’re responsible for beings like kids, or dogs, or both. At the end of the day, you’re just happy that everyone’s okay. They also make for great stories on those occasions when you can relax and have adult conversations with other humans. When that day comes, it will be great.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Classic card of the week

Walt Weiss, 1993 Pinnacle

Throughout the years of my life, I have maintained a great fondness for the “bat head aimed at the camera”-type photograph. It implies three-dimensionality—making me feel quite involved in the action—and it makes the bat-wielder appear rather menacing, which is an attribute I appreciate in bat-wielders. Nice guys finish last, after all.

Take Walt Weiss ( … “please!” Sayeth the Marlins circa 1993. Ha, ha! Those Marlins are hilarious). Here Weiss says without words, “I play baseball. Now get out of my way, nine-year old boy looking at this card, before I swing this baseball bat at your friggin’ head! Where are your parents?” Really, someone is going to get hurt here. And it’s not going to be Walt Weiss.

Or, maybe it will be:

Walt should provide the fledgling Marlins

At this point, in 1993, the Florida Marlins had yet to play a professional baseball game as a franchise. Yet, they were already fledgling. I mean, can we give them time to fledge here? Take it easy, Pinnacle.

with top-quality play at shortstop … if he’s healthy.

As Pinnacle notes, Walt Weiss should provide quality play at shortstop for the Florida Marlins if, and only if, he maintains full capabilities of all of his limbs and does not suffer from diarrhea or heavy legs. Because many outsiders assume that athletes should be able to achieve proper levels of performance regardless of whether or not they are in a full body cast, it is important to note that their side of the bargain is only held up under the precondition that they are not, literally, being held up.

Honestly, I struggle—really, I lose sleep at night—with the whole “if he’s healthy” dilemma. On one hand, it is a pointless phrase that belongs at the bottom of the abyss of pointless phrases, for we all acknowledge that proper health is a prerequisite as it pertains to expected output. On the other hand, the phrase is typically reserved for athletes who are oft-injured, and serves as a red flag to the uniformed outsider that the player in question has difficulty maintaining his health, and that one must take that into account when attempting to properly forecast his performance. On the other, other hand, it is stupid. There are many solid arguments.

He was the AL’s Rookie of the Year in 1988.

That sounds healthy!

But knee injuries knocked him out of the lineup for much of 1989 and the 1990 playoffs, ruptured ankle ligaments put him on the DL in the second half of 1991, and a strained rib cage kept him sidelined for the first two months of 1992.

So … how did this affect his quality play at shortstop? Did he fledge? I’m confused. Let’s see if Wikipedia has anything to add:

In addition, the baseball field at Walt’s alma mater, Suffern High School, is named after him.

It’s called … wait for it … “Suffern’ From Injuries Field.” No? You don’t like? Whatever. I got that joke from the Marlins. I told you—those guys are hilarious!

Did you know?
I have Googled "diarrhea" like, 100 times in my life, because I cannot learn how to spell it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The King, tacos vie for our fleeting attention

Note: This column appears in the 2/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/4 issue of the Peoria Times

My favorite gimmicks occur at sporting events. For whatever reason, many venues and corporations believe that people who attend sporting events need a distraction from a distraction, and do not have the attention span to watch the actual game. They called a timeout? What am I going to do for the next two minutes of my life? Enter the t-shirt canon.

Case in point was our trip to the Coyotes game last weekend. Here is a franchise that endured several years of turmoil and the threat of relocation, and not only survived, but thrived, thanks in large part to the type of loyal fan base for which the sport of hockey is renowned. And hey—you know what would make that fan base’s game experience that much better? Elvis.

As we entered Arena and made our way to our seats, we found ourselves behind an Elvis impersonator along with the emcee for that evening’s crowd-pleasing gimmicks. As we waited for a break in play, I overheard—and by overheard I mean eavesdropped on—a portion of their conversation. The emcee explained to Elvis how the next bit would proceed, and he finished by telling the King, “And then yeah, after that, just do … ya’ know … whatever it is you do.”

I myself was curious as to what Elvis was going to do. The answer, as it turned out, was “not much.” Better yet, it was never once explained why Elvis was there in the first place. What was the connection between Elvis and the Phoenix Coyotes? I guess … who cares? It’s Elvis!

There he was, during every live bit, just standing there to the side. He did the air guitar once. As far as we deduced, he said literally one letter during the whole game. It happened during a fan trivia segment. The fan answered “C” to a multiple-choice Coyotes question, and the emcee then turned to Elvis and asked, “What does Elvis think?” Elvis leaned into the microphone for his one shining moment and said, “C.”

You would think he would have taken that chance to say something like, “I think it’s uh, ‘C.’ Thank you, a thank you very much.” He didn’t even use an Elvis voice to give his one-letter answer, instead opting for, as we later described it, his day-job voice. The whole thing was surreal. Surreally awesome.

We weren’t yet finished laughing about Elvis when they released the giant flying Taco Bell taco over the crowd, which, you may recall, drops down chalupa coupons and not tickets to future games, as I had once falsely assumed. My mom had her camera, which she had only used once during her week-long stay in AZ to take a picture of the moon. Obviously, she took a picture of the flying taco. Then she decided, “What the heck—let me get a picture with my son, too.” She handed her camera to my wife, who noticed that the flying taco had moved closer, and wanted to snap a better picture to save my mom the embarrassment of showing off to friends a distant picture of a flying taco. She snapped the pic, but the flash reflected off the glass boards and ruined it. Right then, the camera’s battery died. My mom returned home after a week in Arizona with a picture of the moon, and two pictures of a giant, flying taco, one of them indistinguishable.

We were foiled and distracted by two gimmicks, but we laughed the entire night. The game was good, too, it seemed.

When in doubt, "C." Now how about some hockey?