Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Remembering Sammy Khalifa



Twenty years ago today Sammy Khalifa played his last major league game.

Two and a half years later, his father, Rashad Khalifa, was killed, allegedly by Muslim extremists with ties to Al-Qaeda.

As a part-time shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1985 to 1987, Khalifa hit .219 and had an unremarkable career .579 OPS. But it wasn't in the batter's box where Khalifa made his mark: in a sport long in tradition and pioneers, Sammy Khalifa was the first Arab-American and Muslim-American in the major leagues.

Surprisingly, there is little celebrating Sammy Khalifa as a sports pioneer. Although there have been prominent Arab-American athletes in other sports (Doug Flutie, Rony Seiklay, etc.), Sammy Khalifa stands as the one and only major league baseball player with roots in the Middle East.

Fortunately, the career of the first Arab-American to play in the majors was long over before the Khalifa name would again make headlines. In 1989, a group of religious scholars in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa (religious edict) against both the father of Sammy Khalifa and author Salman Rushdie. (Rushdie also had a previous edict pronounced against him four days earlier by the Supreme Ruler of Iran.) Whereas Rushdie escaped assasination by living under police custody, Rashad Khalifa was not so lucky. According to Wikipedia, "he (Khalifa) was stabbed 29 times and his body drenched in xylol but not set alight" because of his establishment of religious sect he called the "Submitters". Again according to Wikipedia, the Submitters' doctrine stemmed from Khalifa's own interpretations of the Qur'an, including mathematical research into the religious text. Some still consider the Submitters to be a cult with no base in traditional Islam.

Currently, Sammy Khalifa lives in the Tucson area, no longer affliated with baseball.

Looking back, it is difficult to imagine the saga of the Khalifas playing out today. What if Sammy Khalifa had a longer, more distinguished major league career? How would his career have been effected by September 11th, 2001? What if, along with Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn, we recently inducted the first Arab-American ballplayer into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Could Sammy Khalifa have been a bridge to ease the current tension between the West and the Islamic World?

As further developments arise in the death of former NFL player-turned-soldier Pat Tillman, it might be time to take a moment and remember Sammy Khalifa, the first Arab-American baseball player and the first athlete with ties to the war on terror.

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 Wikipedia.org)

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.