Monday, December 24, 2007

Pre-Christmas Ponderings

And all through the Interwebs,
I'm the only one blogging,
all others are with family and friends.

Here's a few things going through my head as I watch the highlight of NORAD's year.

In Defense of Scrooge 1 and In Defense of Scrooge 2- Some interesting takes on how ol' Ebenezer got a bad rap. Personally, I think it's curious how people spend all year pinching every penny, touting big business, rooting for how great capitalism and social Darwinism is, bemoaning Scrooge, etc. but come Christmas time they temporarily put that aside, whip out their philanphropic side and make an effort to be the most giving souls on Earth. How about showing that all year round?

A note on Peace on Earth: If we really had Peace on Earth, do you have an idea how many people would be unemployed? We wouldn't need a military, military contractors, military lobbyists, supporters, etc. We wouldn't spend our money on weapons and radars and missles and the like. We would have countless more unemployed youthes wandering our streets, washing our windshields, begging on streetcorners, or resorting to a life of crime. Do we really want that? So next time you wish for Peace on Earth, think of the soldiers, airmen, sailors, or Marines whose very livelihood depends on a certain amount of unpeaceful chaos.

Speaking of conflict, William Loren Katz of remembers the Christmas Eve 1837 battle between the Seminole Indians and the U.S. military. It was one of the first victories for the Seminole Nation and an important milestone in their reputation as the "Unconquered Tribe". (Note: My esteemed alma mater makes a big deal of the whole "Unconquered" thing.)

Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow with a special toast and a big announcement, but in the meantime, hopefully Santa is good to one and all and here's hoping his little buddy Black Pete doesn't show up and kick your ass.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hoops Gone Hollywood

I've also been peddling my wares and talking some hoops over at YaySports!. Throughout the year, the blogmaster of YaySports!, the Cavalier, has had both myself and fellow Epic Carnival mastermind Jack Cobra cameo while he completes the mother of all blogger-created basketball-themed movies, Who Shot Mamba? Tentatively scheduled for release in 2008, Who Shot Mamba? will tell the tale of the mysterious Mamba, who may or may not have been mysteriously murdered. Such details are mysterious indeed.

In eager anticipation of this momentous event, I've scoured the annals of cinema to put forth the ultimate competition: a team of actors attempting to be basketball stars versus a team of basketball stars attempting to be actors.

I'll admit this isn't an inclusive list, but these are the best all-round teams I could think of.

(Additional note: only one pick per movie. That was my rule.)

The Hollywood Hoopsters

PG - Calvin Cambridge (Like Mike) - Not too many actors like passing the rock, so by default Cambridge gets the call here.

- Scott Howard (Teen Wolf) - As a human, Howard was a mild-mannered pass-first, defensive-minded fundamental average white-guy guard. But as the wolf, Howard turned into an elusive scorer with a wicked first step.

SF - Jimmy Chitwood (Hoosiers) - One of the best pure shooters in basketball history, Chitwood was money from outside.

PF - Juwanna Mann (Juwanna Mann) - A tough position to fill. Not too many Hollywood stars willing to attack the boards and get garbage points.

C - Elliot Richards (Bedazzled) - The man broke Wilt Chamberlain's scoring record, had a quintuple-double, and played like a giant. Too bad he had the IQ of a door mouse.

Their opponents: the B-Movie Ballers

PG - Penny Hardaway (Blue Chips) - The movie that made Penny Hardaway an Orlando Magic guard. Not a bad NBA career, but never made another film. And for that we can thankful.

SG - Ray Allen (He Got Game) - I'll admit, I am like the only person in the world who hasn't seen this. But I heard it's one of the better actor-baller roles in movie history.

SF - Michael Jordan (Space Jam) - Before swatting Kevin Bacon and sharing his drawers with Cuba Gooding, Michael Jordan used to be a pretty good basketball player. Yeah, he is out of position here, but I couldn't leave Ray Allen off the roster.

PF - Dennis Rodman (Double Team) - In the rare basketball star in a non-basketball movie, Rodman kicks rear with the great Jean Claude Van Damme, not giving a van damme what David Stern thinks. And matches up well with opposing drag queen Juwanna Mann.

C - Shaquille O'Neal (Steele) - Sure Kazaam was a better movie, but I liked Steele, in a leave your brain at the concession stand and watch Shaq fight crime sort of way.

So who wins this epic battle of the silver screen? I'd favor the real athletes, but you can never underestimate the magic of Hollywood.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Notes from a Knicks Nation refugee

Nearly 1,000 days ago I became a refugee. In June 2005, I went into exile and left the Knicks Nation. The ill-conceived decisions of an incompetent regime drove me away. I could no longer endure the torment and the torture of rooting for the New York Knicks. So although I had over ten years of attachment, I said my farewells, packed up my memories, and walked away.

Whereas I considered myself a Knicks fan, I found myself wandering the NBA landscape in search of a place to call home. Unable to survive on my own, it wasn't long before I found myself in one of the many displaced fan camps throughout the nation. Within this refugee camp were many other displaced fans who had likewise boycotted association with their favorite team. I met numerous Clippers fans who couldn't stand Donald Sterling, Charlotte Hornets fans who couldn't find it in their hearts to follow the Hornets to New Orleans nor root for their new Bobcats franchise, and 76er fans who had enough of their organization's mismanagement. Recently, we have even had fans from the Timberwolves' and Sonics' Nations join our camp as a reaction towards the mismanagement of their respective franchises.

Although I still stayed in touch with other Knicks fans, both in New York and throughout the Knicks Nation diaspora, I grew to enjoy my new community. My fellow refugees taught me how to be a general NBA fan, to follow the league and watch the games, but not acknowledge the team of my home nation. Although there were times of despair where we would all miss our homeland, we were generally happy. We traded tales of former glory, bragged about our stars of yesteryear, and embraced the sheer joy of the game, all without the drama of attachment.

Despite the joy of living in a displaced fan camp, I secretly yearned to return to Knicks Nation. I dreamt of the day when I could watch Marbury, Randolph, Curry, and Balkman and cheer with my fellow Knicks fans. Alas, as long as the incompetent regime of Isiah Thomas maintained control, I would remain in the camp, left only with my hopes, dreams, and fleeting memories of days gone by.

Then, last week, a glimmer of hope. After the Knicks suffered one of the worst losses in franchise history, a 45-point shellacking by the Boston Celtics, I thought for sure I could begin planning my return. Gleefully, I packed my bags, rolled up my sleeping mat, and prepared for the long journey home. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Despite the protests of both the remnants of Knicks Nation and their supporting media channels, Isiah Thomas remained in power. Dejected, I returned to my spot in the camp, unrolled my sleeping mat and closed my eyes, dreaming of Walt Frazier, Bernard King, and Patrick Ewing.

I know there will be a day when I will return to the Knicks Nation. A time when I will have to say good-bye to the many friends I have made in the displaced fan refugee camp. Despite the sadness of farewell, however, the fall of the Thomas regime will be among the happiest events of my life. As I have planned for years, on that joyous day I will once again don my John Starks jersey, dust off my Knicks hat, find myself a seat at my local sports bar, and cheer loudly and boisterously for the Knickbockers of New York.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Remembering Ol' Dirty Bastard - An NBA Tribute

Today is the third anniversary of the death of the one of the most charismatic rappers in hip-hop history. Ol' Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan was a hero of mine, an inspiration who stuck it to The Man and lived life on his terms. Ol' Dirty didn't make much sense with his off-beat rhymes and sing-song drunken ramblings, but in an age of overproduction and cookie-cutter YouTube hip-hop dance songs, the surviving work of Mr. Russell Jones serves as a beacon of originality, a lighthouse on a coast of commercialism.

So in honor of the rhymes and times of Ol' Dirt McGirt, I've hand-picked five of his lyrics, spread out over his catalog, and applied them to persons of NBA significance. Enjoy.

"My advantage on the M-I-C is the slang/ That I manifest so you could never hang / Obviously you know my name by now/ I done thrown stupid parties all through your town" - "Goin' Down", Return to the 36 Chambers (1995)

Only one NBA player seemingly invents his own slang and throws the most stupid parties. The same player who lives in his own hyperbolic chamber and cheats at Halo - the one, the only Gilbert Arenas. Arenas has many NBA fans, especially bloggers, sprung on his every word and will assuredly use that advantage come the All-Star election.

"The things that you learnt in class is trash / You can't do nothin' wit' it, I put you in the past" - "Caught Up", The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones (2002)

The NBA has definitely been rough for 2006 NCAA leading scorers JJ Redick and Adam Morrison. Last year both struggled to adjust their game to the NBA level, with Redick battling injuries and Morrison becoming a punchline on defense. This year, it is Morrison who is hurt and Redick is again struggling, scoring only two points all season.

"Screwface ya bitches put food on y'all / He won't slip, won't trip, won't ever fall / Bitch you better obey me, better not betray me" - "I Want P**sy", N*gga Please (1999)

Only one man in the NBA is more untouchable than Elliot Ness. The man with the Teflon rep and the smooth smile. The Billy Dee Williams of the NBA, Isiah Thomas. Although the Knicks have clawed their way to mediocrity of late, Thomas's reverse Midas Touch and ability to weasel out of a possibly career-ending sexual harassment suit and still keep his job will soon be the stuff of legend.

"Crews be actin like they gangs, anyway / Be like, "Warriors! Come out and playiyay!" / Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea / Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea" - "Shame on a N*gga", Enter the Wu-Tang (1992)

With the Warriors struggling out the gate and the Mavericks accounting for one of their losses already, you know Dirk Nowitzki is salivating like Pavlov's dogs at the chance to get his revenge for last year's playoffs. Supposedly, Nowitzki took a few weeks off of basketball this summer to recharge. Don't be surprised to see that his offtime pays off come playoff time and he looks like a man on a mission. Nowitzki isn't looking to get burnt twice.

"I don't know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children." - the 1998 Grammy Awards

For all of Ol' Dirty's legal entanglements, his drug possessions, and his general disregard for the rules of society, there is one moment that showed the true nature and giving personality of Mr. Russell Jones. In February 1998, ODB helped save the life of a 4-year old girl trapped in a car wreck outside of his recording studio. This action allowed the girl to get into the care of hospital personnel much quicker.

Like Ol' Dirty Bastard, Ron Artest's NBA career has been marked with constant conflict. Like ODB, detractors of Ron Artest feel his inclusion in the league sets a bad example for the youth. However, this summer, Artest participated in a trip to Kenya to help feed underprivileged children in sub-Saharan Africa. Whether or not this proves to be an epiphany in Artest's life has yet to be seen, but it does show Artest too is for the children.

So R.I.P. to the ODB. There will never be another.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembering Ol' Dirty Bastard

His sound was an acquired taste. Those who like hip-hop liked Ol' Dirty; those with no affinity for hip-hop thought he was horrible. He was a rapper for the fellas, although he won over the ladies with songs with Kelis, Mya, and Mariah. He became a folk hero of sorts, a pre-cursor to Flavor Flav's VH1 celebrity. How could he be a famous rapper and still be on welfare, they asked? He was the epitome of celebrity ills, an artist whose character overwhelmed his real self. Where would he have been without hip-hop? Although it may have been his status that fueled his self-destruction, it was the talent behind that status that blazed an unforgettable path in hip-hop history.

R.I.P. Ol' Dirty Bastard
(November 15, 1968 - November 13, 2004)

Probably the oddest O.D.B. tribute you will ever see, by Buckethead.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Not quite a night at Baseball's General Manager Meetings

Following the success of last year's trip to baseball's annual Winter Meetings, I decided to once again attempt to crash the main stage and hob-knob with baseball's power brokers. This year my target was the General Managers' Meeting, a pow-wow of baseball's wheelers and dealers. While not as grandiose as the Winter Meetings, the General Managers' meeting usually lays the groundwork for transactions throughout baseball's off season.

Similar to last year, my trip to the GM Meeting began at the end of the work day. Although last year I was able to leave at 4pm and avoid a majority of the Tampa-Orlando traffic, this year I wasn't so lucky. Call it foreshadowing.

What follows is a chronological description of my night. No, it's not a diary. It's a journal.

4:58 - left work. Yeah, that's right. I normally get out at 5, but because I had something to do, I left two minutes early. Gotta love stickin' it The Man.

5:00 - 6:20 - listened to Playboy Radio on the way to Orlando. Yes, that's a plug. Playboy Radio is the only talk radio I listen to. And I am awesome at their dating quiz show. One day I might just call in.

6:25 - Arrived at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel and Resort.

6:26 - Stopped at the gate by a sweet old lady in a security uniform who politely asked me what my business was at the hotel. Rather than saying, "I'm a huge Pat Gillick fan and I heard he was here", I went with the more confusing "Umm ... a friend told me to meet him here." That always works.

6:28 - Unfortunately, the sweet little gate guard didn't let me in. She pulled out her clipboard and asked for his name. Here is where I should have pulled an Obi-Wan Kenobi, waved my hand, and used the Force to control her weak and feeble mind. Instead, she was persistent that I not pass the gate without either a valid reason or proof that someone I know (and who knows me) was somehow beyond the gate.

6:30 - Dejected, I made a U-turn and pulled away from the hotel. I was curious though, what lay beyond the gate? Is that the normal procedure? Did the hotel put this little old lady at the gate to protect the sanctity of the general managers' meeting? I've always pictured the general managers hanging out in a smokey bar, sipping whiskey, and plotting their next blockbuster trade. Perhaps it's more like their own Hedonism event.

6:40 - Instead of getting back on the highway and driving the hour and a half back home, I decided to see if I couldn't get into the Hyatt another way. Might there be a back entrance, one that doesn't have a merciless old lady manning the gate?

6:42 - Pulled into a nearby Chinese buffet. I was attempting my own Mission Impossible. This was going to be a Dead Presidents-type gig.

6:48 - Walked along a passageway separating the Chinese buffet from a hotel neighboring the Hyatt. So far, so good.

6:52 - Strolled along the perimeter of the hotel's parking lot looking for a way in ... a break in the fence, anything.

6:54 - Found a way in. Although most of the fence dividing the two hotels was at least six feet high and lined with barbwire, a small section was not. It lacked barbwire completely and was only five feet or so in height. This was my way in.

6:54 and 24 seconds - Looked at the fence and its surrounding shrubbery.

6:54 and 32 seconds - Kept staring at the fence. You know, I am not as spry as I used to be. Especially when I am still fresh dressed like a million bucks in my work clothes.

6:54 and 51 seconds - What if I got arrested for trespassing?

6:55 - Do you think if I got busted for trespassing I can get Peter Gammons to interview me from jail? Maybe some one else? I'll even take Skip Bayless.

6:55 and 49 seconds - Tried to psych myself up for a simple fence climb - a hop, skip, and a jump into the bacchanalia that is the GM Meetings.

On second thought ...

6:56 - Walked back to my truck.

6:58 - Felt a vibration in my pocket. Realized it was my phone. Glad I didn't try to sneak in. Fielding phone calls while trying to sneak into a world-class resort is probably not advisable.

6:59 - Talked to my mom. I'm sure she would have been happy if I told her I was trying to break in to a resort to meet with people from pro baseball. She would have understood. She's supportive like that.

7:03 - Got in my truck and drove the long, dark, lonely highway home.

I'll be the first to admit this year's visit to the GM Meetings was nowhere near as productive as last year's trip to the Winter Meetings. This year there was no Ozzie, no Omar, no Jim Leyland, and no admittance.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jay Busbee loves the Mets ... just kidding ... just the '86 version

As a result of a tied bet, both myself and Atlanta blogger/writer/connoisseur of southern things Jay Busbee decide to write our favorite versions of the other's favorite team. Unfortunately, Jay is a Braves fan so I had to write about the Braves on his site. And here is his take on the Mets team that absolutely won me over those many moons ago. Jeez, has it really been 21 years since the Mets won anything?

Hey there, Serious Tip readers. I’m Jay Busbee, head honcho over at the Atlanta sports site Right Down Peachtree. Being an Atlanta sports site, one of our obsessions is the Atlanta Braves ... which puts us directly at odds with Mets fans like Jordi here. So back at the beginning of this season, Jordi and I made a little wager, much like those cheesy mayor-versus-mayor bets. Whoever’s team won more games would get the benefit of a post from the other guy. Worse, the loser would have to write about the winner’s team ... in positive terms.

Well, the Braves and the Mets split the season 9-9. If either team had managed to put together a winning record against the other, they would’ve probably been in the playoffs. But it wasn’t to be, for either of us. (Tom Glavine has been spotted driving a brand-new red-and-blue Lamborghini around the streets of Alpharetta, Georgia, but that’s another story.) Anyway, earlier this week Jordi turned in a fine essay on the 1977 Braves, perhaps the most woeful team ever assembled.

Me, I’m taking the opposite tack. My personal favorite Mets team—besides the ones that finished in second place behind Atlanta, of course — was the 1986 squad. Thanks to legions of annoying Red Sox fans — who make me want to embrace Mets fans at this point — the 1986 season is known at least as much for “it gets behind the bag!” as it was for the Mets.

And that’s a damn shame, because the 1986 Mets were — oh my lord, I can’t believe I’m typing this — one of the coolest teams of all time.

Look at that team: Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, a couple of young phenoms who were already being sized up for Hall of Fame plaques—and, based on what they’d already demonstrated, deservedly so. Keith Hernandez, probably the best defensive first baseman of all time. (Before baseball ruled it illegal, he used to stand in foul ground to make it easier to lay tags on runners leading off.) Gary Carter and Ray Knight were among the best in the game at their respective positions. Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, and Wally Backman, young loons who were every bit as talented as they thought they were. And Davey Johnson, a manager who had no problem declaring right from the start that this team was going to kick in the teeth of the rest of the league ... and proceeded to inspire his team to do just that.

The team began with a 20-4 record in April, and — much like the 2007 Patriots — didn’t let up at any point during the season. They got into no less than four bench-clearing brawls over the season; in July, so many players got thrown out of the game that Johnson had to put nutjob pitcher Roger McDowell in right field. The team finished with an astonishing 108 wins, running away from the league and fooling the rest of the sporting world into thinking that collections of wacko personalities could actually gel into a cohesive unit.

But as impressive as the regular season was, it couldn’t compare to the ’86 Mets’ postseason—particularly the two Game 6s. In Game 6 of the NLCS, facing the Astros, the Mets found themselves down 3-0 after the first inning, and wouldn’t tie up the game until the ninth. The game ran until the 16th, when the Mets put three across in the top of the inning, the Astros followed with two in the bottom, and Orosco closed the door with the winning run on base.

Game 6 of the World Series saw the Mets down to their final strike before Mookie hit that fateful slow roller up the line. Of course, the Red Sox still had a chance to win the Series in Game 7, but much like the Bartman fiasco with the Cubs nearly two decades later, the Sox were dead before the first pitch of Game 7 was ever thrown. (Interesting side note: I was at the 1993 Old-Timers’ Game befre the All-Star Game in Baltimore. Buckner was playing first. Somebody hit a slow roller up the line, Buckner fielded it flawlessly, and you could hear 50,000 people go “ohhhhh ...” — as in, “Why couldn’t he have done that seven years ago?”

Anyway, the ’86 Mets were a once-in-a-lifetime collection of insanity, and sure enough, they all fractured not long afterward. Strawberry, Gooden, and Hernandez saw their careers affected or derailed by drugs. Dykstra achieved more fame as the sparkplug of the grubby 1993 NL Champion Phillies, and is now — I swear this is true, here’s the link — a stock-picking columnist for Hernandez and McDowell were the first and second spitters in that famous Seinfeld episode, and McDowell is now the mild-mannered pitching coach of the Braves.

So raise a beer — or something stronger — to the 1986 New York Mets. (Check out Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won! for far more on the subject.) They were baseball’s last great team of knuckleheads that actually won anything. (The 2004 Red Sox were self-promoting, self-aware knuckleheads, which is infinitely worse.) In a world of 24-hour sports scrutiny, we’ll never see their like again, and that’s a damn shame.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Favorite Braves Team - The 1977 Atlanta Braves

Earlier this year, in approximately March or so, Jay Busbee and I decided on a friendly wager on who would win the season series: my New York Mets or his beloved Atlanta Braves.  After much deliberating, we decided that while the winner would get to gloat all off-season, the loser had to write about their favorite roster in the winning team’s history.  As luck, or as I like to call it “the Mets utter ineptitude”, would have it, the two teams tied 9 to 9.  So in lieu of counting stats and breaking it down to the knitty-gritty, we decided to both write.

I’ll be honest, before the Braves became an NL East powerhouse, I never paid them much attention.  Growing up in New York in the 1980s, the Braves were an afterthought, a minor speedbump on the road to further Mets glory.  Before the days of David Justice, Ron Gant, and John Smoltz, the only time I had any feelings towards the Braves was when Lonnie Smith hit a game-winning home run against Sid Fernandez sometime in 1989.  Fernandez was a personal favorite of mine and I was quite mad at this last-place Brave outfielder for standing in the way of my favorite team.  But I digress.  As for my favorite Braves team, for the sake of colorfulness and sheer ineptitude, I am going with the 1977 Atlanta Braves.

Besides being the year I was born, the year of the Son of Sam, the year Interpol made it illegal to copy video tapes, and the year the Bronx supposedly burned, 1977 marked one of the lowest points in Atlanta Braves history.  Gone were Hank Aaron, Dave Johnson, Ralph Garr, and Dusty Baker.  In their place were Jeff Burroughs, Willie Montanez, Gary Mathews, and a position-less youngster named Dale Murphy.  Add in a new charismatic owner and his penchant for hands-on management, a knuckleballer who won 16 yet lost 20, and the legendary Biff Pocoroba, and the 1977 Braves were one of the worst teams the city of Atlanta has ever seen, and that includes some bad Hawks basketball.

Leading the charge for these bumbling Braves was manager Dave Bristol.  Bristol would manage 160 of 162 games in 1977, making way for the first Bobby Cox era in 1978.  Of course, thanks to new owner Ted Turner, the Braves made headlines on one of Bristol’s “days off”.  Turner, eager to show his baseball prowess, took the reigns of the team on May 11th, promptly losing to the Pirates 2 to 1.  Although he would go on to claim that "Managing isn't that difficult, you just have to score more runs than the other guy", it would be the last day Turner would venture into the daily on-the-field management of the club.

As much of a mess as they were in the dugout, the Braves were as much a mess between the lines, and probably nowhere more so than on the mound.  The so-called ace of the staff was future Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro.  Although Niekro pitched for the Braves from 1964 to 1983, 1977 was by far his worst year.  In 1977, Niekro gave up over 300 hits and walked a whopping 164 batters.  Rounding out the staff was a gaggle of has-beens and never-weres including one-time 20-game winner Andy Messersmith and one-time NL ERA leader Buzz Capra.

Although the aforementioned Burroughs had one of his better years and was clearly team MVP, my favorite Brave on the 1977 team is shortstop Pat “Don’t call me pocket” (can I say that?) Rockett.  I could be wrong, so long-time Braves fans please help me out, but by his stats, Rockett seemed like he epitomized the light-hitting, slick-fielding shortstops of the era.  Sort of a Rafael Belliard of his day.  Except for one glaring problem – Rockett wasn’t very good with the glove.  Although he only played in 84 games, Rockett was perhaps the worst fielding shortstop in the National League in 1977, committing 23 errors.  His 1 error per 3.65 games was second worst in the league behind stone-handed Padre shortstop Bill Almon and his horrendous 41 errors.  Whereas the Padres moved Almon to third the following season, Rockett wasn’t so fortunate, playing his the final 55 games of his career in ’78 and hitting an unmistakably pathetic .141.

Without a doubt, the 1977 Braves were a mess.  Similar to today’s Giants, they were a team in transition.  Young prospects Dale Murphy and Bob Horner would emerge the following season as stars, and after a few more years of struggle, the Braves would finish in first in ’82 and second in ’83 and ‘84.  Unfortunately however, their success was short-lived, and the Braves turned into the eventual doormat of the NL West.  Yet no matter how bad they were throughout the 80s, no other Atlanta Brave team featured a Rockett, a knuckleballer, and an owner gutsy enough to think he could manage.  That’s why, as a Mets fan and a fan of eccentric personalities everywhere, the ’77 team is my favorite Braves team.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Counting down the best of death

If you've read The Serious Tip since back in the day (March to be exact), you might know I have an unusual fascination with extreme heavy metal. The most fringe of the rock/metal genre has piqued my interest for quite some time. To be honest, I am not sure why these bands interest me. Perhaps it's their appearance, their defiance of death and their embracing of dark, or maybe I just think they are an amazing anti-establishment sub-culture as evident by their creative names and over-the-top lyrics and theatrics. Upon investigation, one might even be drawn to question their "realness", similar to the "studio gangstas" in hip-hop culture.

Anyway, before I start to babble on about the socio-economic-religious impact of extreme heavy metal on global culture, put together a list of the best death metal albums of all-time. I definitely recommend taking a look, if only for the artwork and the creative monikering.

Before I give you the link however, I would like to share a couple of my favorites and my own commentary:

Number 3:

Hmmm ... "Amorphis". Doesn't "amor" means love? And "phis" is, of course, more than one "Phi" - possibly short for Phi Mu, or any other Greek organization. So if I have this right, the translation of this mega-power in death metal means "Love Phis".

Number 42:

Yeah, you see that right. The cover of Macabre's death metal magnum opus Sinister Slaughter is a mock of The Beatles's Sgt. Pepper album, only depicting mass murderers and other assorted deranged psychopaths. What else would you expect from a band with songs named "Ted Ted Bundy Song" and "Nightstalker Richard Ramirez"? My only question is, is music about killing people considered "snuff rock"? Not to be confused, of course, with the "Snuffy Rock" they play on Sesame Street.

Ok, those are my favorites. Do I own either of these? No. Could I understand what the singers were saying/screaming/bellowing without looking at the lyrics? Probably not. But, I'll give them credit, they are creative. In their own special way.

As for the rest, they can be found here: Hail's Best of Death.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Supplement Raids Stun Porn Industry

Recent supplement raids across the U.S. have intercepted numerous cases of erectile dysfunction drugs addressed to pornography stars and caused uproar throughout the adult film industry.

FBI sources have told The Serious Tip shipment lists on over 69,000 cases of ED drugs seized since February 2007 contained the names of numerous high-profile male adult performers. The most recent of these raids netted approximately 2,500 cases in Brooklyn, NY. Other raids have seized drugs in Miami, Fla., San Francisco, Ca., and Salt Lake City, Utah. Many of these raids, such as the recent NY seizure, made headlines due to their seizure of huge amounts of human growth hormone and other sports-related drugs.

“Although sports supplements such as HGH have gotten much of the publicity, we have seen a huge jump in the amount of illegal ED drugs headed towards the porn industry,” said an anonymous FBI officer who has worked on the case since late 2006. “We are working hand-in-hand with our other agencies to stop this epidemic.”

According to FBI sources, the drugs are generic versions of name-brand ED drugs such as Viagra and Cialis. Many are manufactured in poor third-world countries by children with no shoes and women who haven't showered recently.

“I mean, I don’t want to take away these peoples’ only source of income,” said a second FBI agent new to the agency, “But we don’t need drugs like that in our porn. Those beautiful, blond, big-breasted, lovely, attractive, kind, sweet, young women need guys like us to protect them from the evils of drugs. Especially the girls in the cheerleading outfits. They look so innocent, yet sexy. Not that I watch porn or anything.”

Results of the raids have also caused controversy throughout the porn industry. Among those concerned is Jon Longfellow, a recently retired male performer and holder of several porn records, to include longest performance without ejaculation.

“I was clean my whole career,” said Longfellow. “Now I have to question these new guys. I mean, as some of them get closer and closer to the all-time records, how do we know if they were natural?”

Although the FBI has only recently disclosed the names on the shipment lists to top porn officials and not made any of their findings public, many female performers already have their suspicions.

“I knew something was wrong when one of the guys in my gangbang scene last week lasted way longer than any of the others,” said Britney Bazoombas, a three year veteran of the industry. “I was kneeling there, waiting for the moneyshot, thinking ‘wow, this guy has to be on something to last this long’. Now I know.”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Velvet Revolver / Alice in Chains Live in Tampa

I wanted to post this over the weekend, but my previously mentioned ISP problems made doing so impossible. Anyway, last Saturday I got to check off a major goal in my concert going career. I saw Alice in Chains open for Velvet Revolver at the Ford Amphitheater in Tampa. Granted, Velvet Revolver was the headliner and they put on an absolutely great show, but I have wanted to see Alice in Chains in concert since I became a fan in the mid-1990s.

A few notes:

- When I bought the ticket, the guy at the ticket place told me new lead singer William Duvall sang just like late frontman Layne Staley. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical, but Duvall nailed it. Very impressive.

- The set list was nothing new, which also kinda surprised me. I thought perhaps they would slide a new tune in or perhaps a song from one of guitarist Jerry Cantrell's albums. Instead I got a heaping helping of classic Alice in Chains. And there is nothing wrong with that.

- Most of the songs came off of Dirt and the self-titled album, except "No Excuses" from the Jar of Flies album and "We Die Young" and "Man in the Box" from their first album, Facelift.

- As I watched the show, I started thinking, what is Alice in Chains' most famous song? "Would?" was probably their first major hit, and "Rooster" is definitely up there, but I would almost have to go with "Man in the Box". It gets plenty of radio play still, and has been used in a bunch of movies and at sporting events. Opinions welcome in the comments, of course.

- Speaking of "Rooster", the band closed by playing the song while showing an awesome montage of war footage that spliced scenes of troops in Vietnam with scenes from the current conflict in Iraq. Flashing throughout the footage were pictures of Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and President Bush. While definitely not at the level of a U2 Bono statement, AIC's video did a good job of putting geopolitics aside and showing the traumas, stresses, and similarities of two wars generations apart.

A few notes about Velvet Revolver:

- I've never seen Slash perform live before and I was blown away. His guitar playing skills were better than I thought.

- Unlike Alice in Chains, Velvet Revolver mixed some other material into their set, playing songs from their members' former bands, Stone Temple Pilots and Guns'N'Roses. Of course, these songs drove everyone in the crowd wild.

- I was really surprised they played the Guns'N'Roses tune "Mr. Brownstone", however. If memory serves me correct, the Virginia Tech killer wrote an essay with the same name and quoted the song quite extensively. Here it is. I thought maybe the band would have retired the song in tribute to the victims.

Overall, I would give this show a solid “A”. The 60 dollar ticket and the fact that the ushers did not let people take pictures (supposedly at the artists’ request) was the only reason it doesn’t get an “A+”. Highly recommended.

(Picture acquired from the Velvet Revolver web site.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A belated 1st birthday to this site


I forgot my blog's birthday. For some reason, I thought it was September 19th. No, it is September 14th.

So now I sit remorseful. I was going to impress you, dear reader, with amazing stats and trivia about The Serious Tip. I was going to tell you all the sites I have been linked to, all the great people in the blogosphere I have corresponded with, from those who have given me advice, to those who have responded to e-mails, to those who I persuaded to let me cameo on their sites. I was even going to impress you with a ballpark figure of all the words I have written on this site (~70,000). And then there was the story of about how one year ago, after discovering Deadspin and other great blogs, I said, "I can do this". You were to be awed.

But alas, I forgot. I am a horrible, horrible blogmaster/host/writerperson.

Seriously, who forgets their blog's birthday? This is probably worse than forgetting an anniversary or a friend's birthday. A blog is supposed to be like your kid, and in some cases, maybe more important. And its birthday is supposed to be a big deal.

What does that say about me? I don't have a kid, nor a significant other. What if the future Mrs. Scrubbings finds this post before an important date? Will she think "Wow, he can't even remember his own blog's birthday. How is he supposed to remember mine?". From now on, I am writing down all the important dates I have to remember. Mother's Day, Arbor Day, Opening Day, and The Serious Tip's birthday.

Anyway, since you were denied an all-out birthday extravaganza, let me at least offer you a pleasant Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yar.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Interview with Playboy Model Angela McLin aka Lexi Stone

Yes, it's another interview. Introducing Playboy Model Angela McLin. Enjoy.

The Serious Tip: Hi Angela, how are you?

Angela McLin: I am great! I have never worked so hard in my life! I have a full time job as a hair stylist /makeup artist and holding down lots of networking on the side for modeling!

TST: Where are you from?

AM: I am from Fort Worth, Texas. I went to Southwest High School class of '01. I have been here my whole life.

TST: How old are you?

AM: I am 24. I will 25 in September, can't wait! Every year I get older I get wiser and more established!

TST: How long have you been modeling? How did you get into it?

AM: I tried modeling when I was in cosmotology school years ago. I shot a few times for some of their ads. But it was not till Playboy called that I had my 1st real job. I was kind of a surprise find, I went to just say I had tried and then they really called me; it was a huge shock to me. They then flew me to LA (my dream spot) to shoot for (NSFW - ed.) and here I am!

TST: What is your ultimate goal as a model? What is in your future? Will we see the "Angela McLin Show" competing with Tyra Banks anytime soon?

AM: My ultimate goal as a model is to prove that dreams really do come true if you work really hard. I don't have to be the next Gisele but I would like to be known as someone who made it as a savvy buisnesswoman. Not just a pretty face and big boobs! Oh, and I am 1 1/2 inches too short for Next Top Model! LOL!

TST: How did you get involved with Playboy? Were you a surprise find or have you been working your way up the modeling ranks?

AM: I went to the web page and got signed up for the casting call and my boyfriend drove me to Dallas where I bared it all for Hef!

TST: Are you an exhibitionist at heart, or was it difficult taking that step from bikini to nude? If so, how did you overcome the fear?

AM: Not an exhibitionist at all. I am very shy but I love the camera, always have. Playboy photographers make you feel very comfortable; they are very professional.

TST: What was the popular opinion from family, friends, etc after you appeared on a Playboy web site?

AM: Everyone that knows seems to be happy for me. Playboy is not as frowned upon as it used to be. Some really big names have been in there! Plus this is 2007, it takes alot to get in the door, there are beautiful girls everywhere you look. Playboy is a great company to get your name out there and they take great care of you!

TST: You've been to the Mansion. Is it the party nirvana everyone thinks it is?

AM: It is awesome. Beautiful girls everywhere. Everyone takes your picture like you are someone special too! The scenery is beautiful. There are birds and monkeys. There is a landmark on every corner!

TST: Ok, enough small talk, are you single?

AM: No, I have an amazing boyfriend that I have been with for about a year. He's a really great guy like no other, possibly the one!

TST: What kind of guy gets your attention?

AM: I like guys who are real! A nice, funny, hard-working guy with goals in life that he actually acts on. Someone who knows how I am feeling and understands exactly what's wrong. Someone who makes me feel special and does not make me cry. Oh, and of course, someone who knows how to touch me in all of the right places!

TST: What about guys who write for sports web sites and blogs?

AM: If I was not already in a relationship, sure I would give you a shot! I really do like all kinds of guys, just not losers!

TST: Describe your worst date ever. Did you see the guy again?

AM: Never really been on a bad date but if you ever took me out for sushi I would puke! Oh, and I hate loud obnoxious guys who try and talk to you when your boyfriend leaves for a second to go to the bathroom or something. I mean come on. Does that really work!?!

TST: Is there a set number of dates before you'll sleep with a guy?

AM: There is no set number of dates, I wait as long as possible. When the time is right I will make your night! LOL

TST: What if he was this great writer and you were absolutely smitten with his words even before you saw him? Would you still wait?

AM: Everything good in life is worth waiting for.

TST: Been with another girl? Open to the idea? Thoughts?

AM: I have kissed another girl just for fun. I have always known exactly on what side of the line I stand.

TST: You mention in your Playboy video interview (again, NSFW) that to turn a guy on, all you would have to do is look at him. What if he was blind? How would you get his attention?

AM: LOL! Good question! I guess I would whisper something sweet in his ear, that always tickles my fancy!

TST: Stranded on a desert island with one famous guy - who would it be? Why?

AM: The Survivor Guy from the Survivorman show on the Discovery channel. He could keep me alive for a long time; he knows all kinds of crazy stuff. Did you know Fritos Corn chips are like little coals you can add them to a fire to make it last forever? Crazy!

TST: Stranded on a desert island with one famous woman - who would it be? Why?

AM: Well, Paris is my favorite so I choose her. That's hot! She could call a jet to come get us. Plus the paparazzi are never too far behind her so she could never be lost!

TST: Of course, because this is a sports blog, are you a sports fan? If so, favorite teams? Why? Favorite athletes? Why?

AM: I did get into the Mavs when they were in the playoffs, I never had sat down and watched a game before and it was fast paced so it kept my attention. I liked it! Now I love Texas Hold-Em and depending on who you ask these days it may or may not be a sport. Now my favorite player is Daniel Negreanu but all my friends say I play like Mike "The Mouth" Matusow. LOL. It is true, I must admit!

TST: What is the craziest thing you have ever done at a sporting event?

AM: I cuss people when playing poker or any kind of competitive game, I am a very sore loser!

TST: Web site? Myspace? Where can fans see more of you?

AM: Myspace: you can enter my full name Angela Mclin or my fake email (cause someone on there stole mine) enter Check me out on (one more time - NSFW - ed.)

TST: Give a shout out for people to vote for you.

AM: Thanks to all the friends who took the time to go and vote for me. Every vote counts. And all the people who write to me on Myspace, you all have been a blessing! I am just a normal girl who's trying to make a name for myself in this big world. I never knew how many people would play such a role in my success.

Thank you, Angela. XOXO

TST: Thanks Angela, and the best of luck to you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mrs. Rizzuto's Bat

My dad grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as baseball Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto. According to legend, when Phil was away playing for the Yankees, Mrs. Rizzuto, the Hall of Famer’s mother, would invite the local kids over and pay them to help her with household chores. A nickel here, a piece of candy there; no favor was too large. To the neighborhood, the Rizzutos were like family and Phil was their pride and joy.

Of all the times my father did chores for Mrs. Rizzuto, one payment towered above all the rest. As the story goes, my father was out and about one summer afternoon when Mrs. Rizzuto called him over. According to my dad, the Rizzuto basement had been neglected of late and Mrs. Rizzuto needed someone to clean it out. Of course, my father eagerly volunteered.

After he complete the epic task of straightening the Rizzuto basement, Mrs. Rizzuto came down to negotiate payment. She was out of change and candy she said, but if he wanted he could take his pick of items from an old dusty footlocker her son Phil had left behind. Not one to go home empty handed, my father quickly strode over to the footlocker to find his compensation.

The footlocker was old, alright. The type used in the 1920s and 30s before suitcases became the rage. There was also a name engraved on the top: G.H. Ruth. Sensing nostalgia, my father eagerly popped open the locks and lifted the top. Inside, among the trinkets and miscellanea, was a baseball bat. A huge bat, far bigger than he could use in any streetball games. But Mrs. Rizzuto had said he could have anything, and he wanted G.H. Ruth’s bat.

Although the adult-sized bat was too large for my father, he kept it through the years. Rarely used for over two decades, it sat in a spare garbage pail in the garage with other lighter bats, shovels, soccer balls, and random sporting equipment. As we moved from New York to Florida, the bat stayed a seldom-used icon. Then, in the mid-1990s, I, your humble narrator, took my chances with G.H. Ruth’s bat.

One of my favorite hobbies after school in my teens was self-hitting tennis balls up and down my block. Whenever possible, I would use a tee to practice my swing. One afternoon, lacking a functional tee, I decided to balance one of the balls on a local fire hydrant and hit the ball as far as I could. Whereas I knew if I missed with one of my aluminum bats, I could seriously dent it on the hard metal fire hydrant, I decided to use the heavy lumber of G.H. Ruth.

With the ball carefully balanced, I stood ready, sizing the target up with a few half-swings. Then, with an attempt that could only be equaled by a Greek god, I swung as hard as possible. With a bang, the bat smacked against the fire hydrant, missing its intended target by inches. Although the concussion made the ball roll ten or so feet down the road, the vibrations from the immovable hydrant shocked my hands with a stinging pain. Yet the pain in my hands was quickly secondary to a sense of impending doom. I had broken the ancient bat, cracking it right down the middle. I destroyed a cherished family heirloom. A priceless piece of history owned by Mrs. Rizzuto, and before that, G.H. Ruth.

Oddly enough, my father was far less upset than I thought he would be. There were no repercussions. I was not grounded, punished, or sent to bed without dinner. I still had my privileges, and could go out with my friends whenever. Life just went on.

Later that year, while helping him work on his car, I asked my dad who invented the bungee cord. Without hesitation, he answered, “Arthur J. Bungee, during World War II, in order to preserve rubber for the war effort.”

I had to believe him. My dad doesn’t lie.

Friday, July 20, 2007

An Interview with Alternative End

I'm a big fan of things local. I like local shops, local bookstores, local pizzarias, local breweries, and local stripclubs. If it's local, I'll give it a shot. Support your local businesses, right? Nowhere is my penchant for localness more evident however, than with local bands. Although I haven't really gotten into the Tampa scene yet, every other place I have lived I knew some of the best bands to go see.

With this in mind, and because it's Flip the Script Friday and it's my day to blog about whatever I feel, I'd like to present an interview I did with a local band from Illinois. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Alternate End.

(Before you ask, why are you interviewing a band from Illinois? Aren't you from Florida? Yes, I am from the Sunshine State. But I've known two of these guys for over ten years. They were there for my first shot of liquor (hey man, this ain't no sippin' tea!) and they were there when a stripper punched me in the family jewels (get up bitch!). So I interviewed them. Enjoy.)

Alternate End is:
  • Scot Schaumburg (Rifftageous Guitar, Backing Vocals)
  • David Burdick (Lead Vocals, Drums)
  • Aaron O’Claire (Lead Guitar, Harmonica)
  • Shelby Martin (Bass, Backing Vocals)

The Serious Tip: Who is Alternate End?

Aaron O'Claire: Alternate End is a cutting edge alternative Chicago-land group which consists of four members. Aaron O'Claire, Scott Schaumburg, Shelby Martin, and David Burdick.

Shelby Martin: Alternate End is a musical band comprised of four white middle class average dudes.

David Burdick: A band.

TST: How did you guys form? When?

Scot Schaumburg: I got out of the army I asked Shelbs to move up here to go to school with me. After that Shelbs and I met Aaron through the veteran's fraternity. A little later we met this quirky drummer working at a bowling alley. Eventually we decided to learn how to play instruments and start a band. The rest is history.

Burdick: My parents got together one day (approximately July of 1981) and decided to make a baby, if I need to explain the logistics of it from there let me know.

O'Claire: We formed by random chance in April 2001.

Martin: We got together while we all attended Northern Illinois University. The band formed after we found out that we all had an interest in playing music.

TST: How did you come up with the name Alternate End?

Schaumburg: Band name was originally PrAnk. Good name that fit us at the time but we went through some changes that lead us to the name Alternate End. Alternate End is in reference too not knowing how things will end up.

Burdick: PrAnK was not serious enough, we had some restructuring of the band, wanted to make a bad ass road sign, ended up with Alternate End.

O'Claire: It took a series of months. Each of us came up with at least 20 different names and passed around our lists to each other. We then crossed out the ones that we didn't like.

Martin: We thought about Alternate Route like in a detour but we came up with Alternate End. It sounds better.

TST: Influences as musicians? As a band?

Schaumburg: Wow. I guess you could call them influences although I am not nearly as good as them but my favorite musicians are Tom Morello, Tim Salt, and Jerry Cantrell. Favorite bands Doors, Pearl Jam, and Beatles.

Burdick: Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Marvin Gaye, Jazz.

O'Claire: Dave Matthews Band, Weezer, Jimi Hendrix.

Martin: Personally I am strongly influenced by Primus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine-Inch Nails. As a band we all draw from multiple influences.

TST: Memories of your first show?

Schaumburg: Ahhh first show, I guess that is debatable. I remember our first being a pig roast at Aaron's house. We didn't have a PA so we sang through a bass amp. No one could hear the vocals but that was probably for the best. Dave bought us matching hats.

Burdick: The Chef was the shit, that guy is probably cracked out lying face down in a ditch somewhere. Oh yeah, and Shampoo girl was called the Harmonica Song.

O'Claire: We used to stand our amps on old beer kegs and sang through a Peavy bass amp head that was connected to some 15 speakers Shelby bought from Chuck Mitchell (Joni Mitchell's ex-husband).We had a small crowd and we sucked, but it was fun at the time.

Martin: We started by playing a party for our fraternity. Some dude just walks in wearing a chef's Hat. He jumps on the mic and starts rapping or some shit. It was hilarious.

TST: Most memorable show?

Schaumburg: First headlining show at Otto's main stage. It was over Christmas break at school and campus was dead but for some reason the place was packed. A lot of great energy and the show rocked. Once in an interview Aaron said that he wanted to play the main stage at Otto's so I guess that was the pinnacle of our career.

Burdick: Playing in Keokuk and having my stick break during playing a fundraiser for Shelby's aunt. Only time in my career a stick has broken during a gig.

O'Claire: Probably the Maple Ave pub. Everyone was really into us and had a great time.

Martin: Our most memorable show has to be playing the benefit for my Aunt who passed away.

TST: Favorite fan story?

Schaumburg: Opening for Monky Cocktail in Indiana. Aaron hooked up with some chick that we saw at a restaurant the next day wearing the same clothes. I guess you could call her a fan.

Burdick: The girl in Valporaiso, IN hitting on me being passed on to Scoot, then being passed on to O'Claire and finally her making out with O'Claire. Then seeing her the next day at breakfast, in the same clothing.

O'Claire: Having bras thrown at us when we playing a show at a theater.

TST: Favorite Alternate End (or PrAnk) song? Why?

Schaumburg: My favorite is probably College Blues. It is the best collection of music, lyrics, and vocals that represents us in my opinion.

Burdick: I am a fan of College Blues, I think out of all of the songs we play it is O'Claire's least sucky guitar performance, and the song itself is very catchy.

O'Claire: Shampoo Girl. Hilarious. My little Elliott brother who was in high school at the time walked up to me and said, "Dude, when I've been fucking my girlfriend lately I can't feel anything." He was dating a ballerina at the time. I said to him, "What are you talking about? She's like a 105 pounds soaking wet." He said, "Well she's been telling me that she's been masturbating in the shower with a shampoo bottle." My jaw dropped. I said, "Are you fucking kidding me?" and just started laughing. I told the guys about it, and we wrote that song about the story.

Martin: My favorite song is Inner Voices. It is real dark and cool. We never play it though.

TST: Albums released? New releases coming out?

Schaumburg: Songs by PrAnk, Four and a High Chair, Alternate End EP. We are always working on new material.

Burdick: Kinda. Maybe.

O'Claire: We've self-released three albums, and are currently working on new material for a fourth.

Martin: We have three albums. One of those is only a five song demo that has two of our previously recorded songs on it.

TST: How can people check you guys out if they can't see you live?

Schaumburg: Our myspace, our website.

Martin: Join our mailing list.

TST: Last comments, shout-outs, announcements, etc?

Schaumburg: Peace, we're out of here.

Burdick: A:F6 and I love you, Scoot.

Martin: I want to give a shout out to Dave Chapelle, holla.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What if ESPN interviewed world leaders?

Last weekend at the White House T-Ball Game, Karl Ravech of ESPN interviewed U.S. President Geroge Bush on the subject of sports. Like his father before him, and Richard Nixon before him, George W. Bush has made no secret he is a baseball fan, admitting to watching Baseball Tonight quite often, and even once holding an ownership stake in the Texas Rangers.

During his interview with Ravech, Bush comes across as quite personable and knowledgable. When Ravech asks him about the controversial topic of Barry Bonds and his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record President Bush, to his credit, gives a pretty decent answer. Bush explained that when all is said and done, he believes Bonds will judged fairly. All in all, a good interview of a World Leader by the Worldwide Leader.

But what if ESPN could interview other heads of state? Would the questions be as open to opinion? Or would they ask sugar-coated questions with the hopes of not starting an international incident?

Because one of the goals of The Serious Tip is to one day start a tiff of international proportions, here are my suggestions of what ESPN should ask different heads of state across the world:

To Prime Minister Gordon Brown (United Kingdom):
"Mr. Prime Minister, do you believe the United States should pay a heavy import tax before American teams can sign English soccer football players, especially those who may be members of the English National Team?"

To Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki:
"Do you feel that any urbanization effort on the part of Kenya would detract from the nation's lock on marathon events, as Kenyans would be more likely to live in cities and take buses and taxi cabs instead of running everywhere?"

To German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
"What is the German government's plan to take care of all the newly unemployed members of the nation's NFL Europe teams?"

To Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf:
"Is there any truth to the rumor that a member of the Pakistani National Cricket team used the cream and the clear?"

To Australian Prime Minister John Howard:
"Would you be accepting of PacMan Jones on an Australian Rugby Team, being that parts of Australia were once used as a British penal colony anyway?"

To Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
"If a sport is played in Canada and no American cared, did it really happen?"

To Zamundian King Jaffe Joffer:
"Since it has been nearly 20 years since Prince Akeem became enamored with St. John's Basketball and started a national team upon his return, when do you think your nation's team will be ready for international competition?"

(Last minute correction: according to this video, King Jaffe Jaffer was overthrown in 1997. Not sure who is in charge now.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ban Steroids of the Mind

A few years ago, way back when I was still a student at Florida State, I wrote a letter to our esteemed student newspaper alerting them of a possible breach in the academic code of conduct. In my opinion, the opportunity for rampant cheating had encroached itself on the FSU campus. Only through a systematic approach, I argued, could the reputation of Florida State University remain in high regard. As this dilemma still courses through the veins of academia, and as its physical parallel still permeates our sports discussions, I would like to share my letter to the editor of the FSView and Florida Flambeau, dated January 10, 2005.

Ban Steroids of the Mind

Dear Editor,

As a long-time student and possible alumnus of our fine academic institution I would like to alert my fellow students of a plague that could affect our university's credibility.

I recently witnessed a television commercial for a product called Focus Factor, described as having the ability to both enhance memory power and increase intellect. This is obviously one of many such products on the market today. In light of the recent "doping" scandals involving professional athletes such as Barry Bonds and Olympic stars such as Marion Jones, we can not let mental enhancers such as Focus Factor permeate our intellectual environment as physical enhancers have invaded the world of sports.

Similar to growth enhancement products, mental enhancers promote an unfair advantage and distort the academic "playing field". Whereas neither physical nor mental supplements provide magical results without at least a level of skill or subject understanding, the similarities between these products are quite eerie.

We must prevent the use of memory and intellectual enhancers now before their use becomes epidemic and destroys the Florida State academic prestige we hold dear. In response to this potential disaster I propose a simple plan I call Operation CREME LA Drugs (Condemnation, Restriction, and Education of Mind Enhancers and Legislation Against drugs).

The first step in condemnation and restriction is, of course, punishment. Prior to every major exam or finals week a university-wide urinalysis should be given. Evidence of recreational drug use is obviously of no concern. Users of intellectual drugs, however, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the academic code. Any student admitting to intellectual drug use, either past or current, should have asterisks placed on their transcripts besides the grade point averages and their degrees of distinction, where applicable, should be stripped. Imagine the embarrassment a user would feel during a job interview as a prospective employer looks over a glowing transcript blemished by asterisks.

As for education, the university should employ the Real Project (note: the Real Project was a campus-wide campaign against student alcohol abuse - JS) to spread a variety of slogans such as "All Skills, No Pills" and discourage students from using products that would give them an unfair advantage over their peers. Maybe once a majority of students are aware of the "cheating" available through intellectual drugs we can again be a bastion of protest, boycotting producers and camping out on Landis Green.

Legislation against memory enhancers and intellect increasers may be more difficult. However, with many students working in the capitol complex, I am sure we can bend the ear of several legislators. Like Sen. John McCain and the growth hormone issue, perhaps Gov. Bush could support a strong stand furthering our cause.

In closing, I would like to propose a university-wide petition demanding the administration and the student government enact Operation CREME LA Drugs and enact an outright ban on these products.

If only I can remember where I put my petition form and my pen.

Jordi Scrubbings

Unfortunately, my plea fell on deaf ears.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Barry Bonds has a long way to go

As the 2007 baseball season marches into its second half, one of the biggest stories will of course be Barry Bonds's pursuit of 756 home runs. Now more a question of "when" rather than "if", Bonds will soon pass Hank Aaron as major league baseball's career home run leader.

Not to take anything away from Mr. Bonds, but passing Hank Aaron does not make anyone the best home run hitter of all-time. Not even close. As a matter of fact, Bonds will only move into 8th place when he hits number 756.

A look at those who rounded the bases more frequently:

7) Josh Gibson - Josh Gibson is considered by many to be the most prolific home run hitter in Negro League history. Rumor has it he hit between 800 and 1000 home runs. Unfortunately, because many Negro League games went undocumented and Gibson played in many unofficial scrimmages and barnstorming games, his true home run total may never be known.

However, taking what is considered his accurate home run per at bat ratio of 15.9, assuming in his travels he had 700 at bats a year (44 home runs), and figuring he played 18 seasons as a professional (16 in the Negro Leagues), Gibson would have ended with 792 homers. Short of 800, but more than Hank Aaron's 755.

6) Sadaharu Oh - Sadaharu Oh is the Japanese professional league career home run leader with 868. Although many have claimed the level in a league where former major league journeymen like Tuffy Rhodes can hit 55 home runs is not of equal measure, Oh's endurance through 21 years speaks volumes to his greatness.

5) Gene Fisher - Amateur Softball Hall of Famer Gene Fisher was one of the greatest hitters of the 1970s. According to his ASA profile, from 1970-1983, Fisher averaged .558 and drove home over 2,000. For his 24-year career, Fisher hit approximately 3,000 home runs.

4) Bruce Meade - (pictured) Another prolific softball slugger, Bruce Meade not only hit a home run into the upper deck of the Houston Astrodome, he also holds the record for longest distance for a softball home run (510 feet). For his career, Meade hit more than 3,500 homers, including a career best 247 in 1981.

3) Don Clatterbough - Slugger extraordinaire, Clatterbough was inducted into the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame in 2001. Modestly described as "a tough out", Clatterbough was a five-time ASA first team All-American and supposedly hit between 3,500 and 4,000 home runs.

2) Rick Scherr - Throughout the 1980s, no one hit home runs more frequently than Rick "The Crusher" Scherr. During what would be the best stint of his career, Scherr averaged a home run every 2.3 at bats and hit over .700. When his career ended after the 1991 season, Scherr counted over 4,000 home runs to his credit.

1) Don Arndt - For over three decades Don Arndt terrorized softball pitchers with his "fluid, graceful, almost effortless swing". Playing his entire career with Howard’s Furniture-Western Steer of Denver, NC, Arndt hit a career-high 309 home runs in 1985 at the age of 50. He ended his career with almost 7,000 home runs.

At the rate he is going (1 HR per 12.9 ABs and 441 ABs per year), Barry Bonds would have to average his 34 home runs for another 100 years to be in the same echelon as Meade, Clatterbough, Scherr, and Arndt. Think the mainstream media can stretch the steroids story that long?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Florida can cry foul with future All-Star Game locales

Next week Major League Baseball will play its 78th All-Star Game. This year's mid-summer gala will be held on Tuesday, July 10th at San Francisco's AT&T Park.

For some reason, I thought AT&T Park recently hosted the All-Star Game. Why would baseball put the All-Star in the same place twice in just a matter of years, I thought. Of course, I was wrong. But it got me thinking, what order does baseball use to select the host of the Mid-Summer Classic? Of course, as par for the course when dealing with Major League Baseball, there is no discernable pattern in deciding the All-Star game's location. However, in looking up the recent history of where the all-star game has been played, I did find a few unusual facts:

Did you know?
(most data courtesy of

In the last thirty years (1977-2007) the following teams have hosted the all-star game twice:

San Diego Padres (1978, 1992)
Cleveland Indians (1981, 1997)
Seattle Mariners (1979, 2001)
Chicago White Sox (1983, 2003)
Houston Astros (1986, 2004)
Pittsburgh Pirates (1994, 2006)
San Francisco Giants (1984, 2007)

And the following teams have not hosted an all-star game in the last 30 years, if at all:

New York Mets (last all-star game: 1964)
St. Louis Cardinals (last all-star game: 1966)
Kansas City Royals (last all-star game: 1973)
Florida Marlins (entered league in 1993)
Arizona Diamondbacks (entered league in 1998)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (entered league in 1998)

Oddly enough, the Yankees just missed making the latter list. The last all-star game played in Yankee Stadium was in 1977.

So what plans does Major League Baseball have to cycle the all-star game, and what city will probably wait the longest to host the Mid-Summer Classic? According to wikipedia, the plight of the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals will be over soon, as the teams will play host to the All-Star Game in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

So we are left with the Mets, Royals, Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Devil Rays.

Royals - According to the Royals' website, the city of Kansas City's wait will soon be over as well. In March 2006, Bud Selig announced Kauffman Stadium will host the all-star game sometime between 2010 and 2014.

Mets - The Mets are an interesting case. Their new stadium, CitiField, is due to open a year after the Yankees open the new Yankee Stadium. Although Major League Baseball is smart to play the all-star game in New York in 2008, it would be foolish to have the same event in the same city anywhere near the next year. My guess is the Mets will have to wait three to five years after the Yankees to host their own mid-summer classic. Think 2011-2014.

Diamondbacks - Probably the most likely team to host the all-star game in 2010. Somewhat new stadium, resurgent team, original host, etc. Seems like a lock to me.

Before mentioning the either of the Florida teams, I'd like to guarantee an all-star game will be played in any or all of the "new" parks in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, or Washington at some time in the next eight years. Now we have the Yankees in '08, the Cardinals in '09, the D-Backs in '10, and the Royals somewhere between '11 and '14. Add the Nationals, Phillies, and Reds, and you have through 2014 booked. Then consider the soon-to-be over 30 years since Dodger Stadium, in one of the nation's largest markets, held the all-star game, and the schedule appears full until at least 2016.

So which Florida city will be last to host the all-star game? My guess is Tampa Bay. Because by the time Major League Baseball gets around to thinking about playing an all-star game in Florida, the Marlins' stadium lease will have expired, and without a new stadium, the team will be playing its home games in Portland, Las Vegas, or Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

(Disclaimer: I know the all-star game is supposed to alternate leagues, giving the Devil Rays a chance to host in 2010 or 2012. But if you think that is going to happen, I have bridges in the Tampa Bay area to sell you.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Joining forces with the AfroSquad

Many moons ago, in the ninth ever post on The Serious Tip, I wrote about The Man and his influence over the world of sports. Unbeknownest to me, but knowest to those who keep track of such things, my post made its way to the desk of the world famous AfroSquad. As I mentioned back in October, the AfroSquad are the eternal foils of The Man, a valiant group of big-haired funky warriors who have committed themselves to putting the kebosh on The Man's plans of global conquest.

Not too long after The Man's Influence on Sports was posted, the AfroSquad got in touch with me. They told me the AfroSquad survived a diabolical attack by The Man and his need to close their original website. They lived on, they wrote, on myspace and with all new videos and their own wrestling promotion.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tragedies Beyond the Squared Circle

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, suicide was the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2004, accounting for 32,439 deaths. On average, 10.9 people out of 100,000 commit suicide.

For professional wrestlers, however, the rate of tragedy is much higher. The recent events surrounding Chris Benoit and possibly "Sensational" Sherri Martel have once again put the personal lives and early deaths of wrestlers in the national spotlight. In total, 96 wrestlers under the age of 65 have passed away since 1985. Granted, this list includes "freaks of nature" such as Andre the Giant and Little Beaver, whose bodies may not have lasted long whether they wrestled or pursued more "normal" lives. Unfortunately the Andres and the Little Beavers are far too small of the total. Whatever the reason, although there are thousands of wrestlers in hundreds of federations across America who go about their careers without incident, the profession of wrestling, at least at its highest levels, seems to attract personal disaster.

In 1999, director Barry Blaustein released Beyond the Mat, an inside look at the reality behind professional wrestling. Unlike any wrestling documentary before it, Beyond the Mat wasn't just about bodyslams and headlocks, it was about the highs, the lows, the pains, and the pleasures of life in the wrestling industry. Among the many personalities covered by Blaustein was Terry Funk. Funk, a hardcore wrestling legend, has wrestled since 1965 on nearly every continent, in every size venue, and in nearly every type of match, including those with barbwire ropes and pyrotechnics. At the end of the film, the 55-year old Funk was still seen putting his body on the line, despite his doctors advising him to the contrary. Seemingly unable to walk away, Terry Funk is still active.

As depressing as the story of Terry Funk may be, perhaps the biggest fall from grace depicted in Beyond the Mat was that of former WWF Superstar Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Roberts, once one of the most famous names in professional wrestling, let substance abuse get the better of him after leaving the WWF, succumbing to the evils of drugs and alcohol. With the pinnacle of his career drifting further behind him, Roberts became a physical and emotional mess, reportedly even smoking crack in a hotel room before a scheduled meeting with his daughter.

Although currently 52 years old, Jake Roberts is still wrestling. In an event earlier this year in the small town of Bushnell, Florida, Jake headlined against a local independent wrestler. Still the crowd favorite, many of the 200 or so people in attendance chanted Roberts' name and waited patiently for his autograph, despite his physical frailty and his almost incoherent post-match speech concerning those who have done him wrong in his career. Whether he was under the influence during his soliloquy or just felt the strong need to air his grievances to the people of Bushnell could be definitely be argued. As one of the many in the crowd, I was sad to see yet another chapter in the tale of a former hero of the squared circle.

But why, you may wonder, was I in Bushnell, watching this one-time legend in a two-bit town?

Because that night my brother was on the undercard.

As much as I brag about having a brother in professional wrestling, there are times it scares the hell out of me.