Saturday, December 20, 2008

What happens to breast implants when the implantee dies?



Archeology, Anthropology, and Breast Implants

Something I have always wondered is what happens to breast implants when the implantee dies. Do breast implants follow a person into the crematorium?

According to this website, implants do get cremated. But there might be environmental consequences. That's not good.

But can breast implants be kept by the surviving as a memento?

I hate to sound too materialistic, but there are women who are best known for their breasts. Dolly Pardon, Pamela Anderson, and a wide array of artificially enhanced porn stars comes to mind. What if a husband wants to keep them as a way to remember his wife? Or what if a museum is willing to pay an exorbitant amount to display them? Depending on the amount, that money could help pay for burial services or help the inheritance of future generations.

Can breast implants be buried with the person?

Something about burying people with artificially enhanced body parts just seems weird to me. Not that someone shouldn't be buried with a fake leg or an artificial arm; those are essential body parts. But I would think cosmetic pieces such as fake teeth, fake breasts, or hair extensions should be removed.

Imagine a time 10,000 years from now, a time when the human race has died off due to any one of many catastrophes (war, famine, etc). Imagine a race of aliens comes to Earth and discovers there was at one point a dominant species on our planet. Imagine they start alien archaeological digs to find out who this species was and what their culture was like. Along the way, a few of the graves they open have two silicone orbs among the bones of the deceased. How are they to ever imagine that these orbs were attached to the breast area? What conclusions will they come to on the orbs' place in human culture?

This is the type of stuff that worries me. Not because I have a fascination with death or boobs, but because I care about humankind's image 10,000 years from now. Even after we are all gone, I still think we should put our best foot forward. I wouldn't want an alien race thinking those with breast implants were some sort of royal elite ruling class. That would be weird.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Defending Ebenezer



'Tis the season for cliches. It is the time of year when we spout overused sayings promoting feelings that should permeate year-round. Yet for some reason only around the holidays do we recall stories of the perils of loneliness and claim to make an effort to increase general goodwill.

Or is it all grandstanding?

Do we really believe what we are saying? "Peace on Earth"? "Goodwill towards Man"? "God bless us, everyone"? Unfortunately, I think it's all a bunch of malarkey.

We don't really want peace on Earth, do we? Do you realize how many people would be out of a job if everyone on Earth instantly got along? We wouldn't have threats to our person, to our resources, or to our nation. That means no Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines. No need for a Department of Defense either. Everyone knows war is good for business. Where would these people work if peace broke out tomorrow?

Nothing represents the hypocrisy of the holiday season more than Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. We all know the story: grumpy old loner transforms overnight into celebrated philanthropist. Nice, neat, and packaged for our consumption.

According to the Blogger News Network, last year the Chicago Sun-Times claimed that Dickens' protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, was at first some sort of evil early Republican monster. This of course, set off the political blogosphere, with each claiming that the Scrooge of the end of the story represented their point of view. Because for whatever reason no one wants to be associated with the early Scrooge character.

The problem is that Scrooge is misunderstood. In defense of the Chicago Sun-Times, Scrooge was absolutely a social conservative. He worked within the system and succeeded. He saw nothing wrong with the socio-economic system as it was. The system didn't need changing, the people in it needed to change. That's the definition of conservativism.

Early in the book, Dickens portrays Scrooge as a miser, unwilling to put another piece of coal on the fire. But, as we know now, burning coal is bad for the environment. Scrooge was merely ahead of his time in his attempt to minimize the use of unrenewable resources.

Dickens also depicts Scrooge's desire to succeed as a bad thing. Today we would call him a workaholic. In a world where people are pulling Ponzi schemes to get rich quick, is working hard really such a bad thing? What Dickens doesn't mention is that Scrooge was honest. As far we know, he made his own money and never swindled anyone. Yet he is looked down upon.

Third and most importantly, Scrooge stayed within his limits. Since the days of Dickens' England, people have been bombarded with industrialized manufacturing. This uber-production is only now beginning to slow down. In its wake, we have millions owing credit companies and a trillion dollar national debt. My guess is that Scrooge never bought anything on credit, nor did he have outstanding debt. He was recession-proof, which in today's society is quite enviable.

So why shouldn't we emulate Ebenezer Scrooge? Remember, we are told not to be Scrooge-like by the same machine that tells us to buy more cars and eat more casseroles. The same machine that publishes Dickens's works every year and broadcasts his story between commercials on cable TV.

This year, fight the power. Stay real year-round. Embrace your inner Ebenezer and be like Scrooge.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

AfroSquad Exclusive: Diaper Maker Celebrates Astronaut Connection



After last week's legal decision to allow personal evidence in the trial of former astronaut Lisa Nowak, the manufacturer of Nowak's diapers has decided to unveil a new campaign highlighting the product's role in the NASA love drama.

According to Claude Beefro, CEO of Globalpu, Inc, producer of the Homies line of diapers, the company couldn't turn down the free press.

"We knew our name would eventually be in the headlines," Beefro said. "We decided to pre-empt the late night jokes and maybe move some product in the process. After all, that's what it's all about, right?"

Besides putting Nowak on the latest line of diapers, Globalpu is also in negotiations to use Nowak in commercials and other public appearances.

"We tried to get her to wear another pair if or when she goes to trail," claims Beefro. "She balked at that. But we will have her signing diapers at the next ComicCon."

Although small, and a minor player in diapers and other products, Globalpu is used to thinking out of the box. Back in 2005, the company attempted to capitalize on the Terry Schiavo case by briefly putting her name on their line of produce.

"We had her promotion angle all lined up before her people pulled the plug, literally" said Beefro. "Who would people trust more about veggies than a vegetable?"

Time will tell if the Homies line will continue to use Nowak's name on the product, or whether a resulting stink could mandate the diapers be changed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Remembering Dimebag



Four years ago today, Darrell Abbott, better known as Dimebag Darrell, was heinously murdered on stage by a deranged fan. Dimebag's murder was immediately compared to that of prominent jazz musician Lee Morgan, also killed on stage during a performance.

The difference between Dimebag Darrell and Lee Morgan however, was that I never saw Lee Morgan in concert. I did see Dime. Five weeks before his murder, I saw Dimebag play in Tallahassee as a member of Damageplan. Without a doubt, Dimebag was one of the best guitar players I have ever seen.

I still regret not grabbing a shot or two with Dime. That would have been one hell of a memory.

One of the weird things about the Dimebag Darrell murder was how close I was to it, timewise. Following a Rhode Island nightclub fire during a Great White show in 2003, a friend of mine commented that had the show happened in Tallahassee, he and I probably would have been there. The same is true with the killing of Dimebag Darrell. I would have been at that show had I lived in Columbus, Ohio. No doubt about it.

Rest in peace, Dimebag Darrell.

Oh yeah, John Lennon was also murdered on December 8th, in 1980. Dare we call this day the worst in rock'n'roll history?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Did WWE's Sheamus shoot Plaxico Burress?



Most sports fans have heard about the plight of New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. According to the "mainstream media", Burress shot himself in the leg with a firearm last weekend.

Fortunately for those of us who seek the truth, the Weekly World News, the "best damn investigative reporting on the planet", tells us a completely different story. According to the WWN, Burress was actually firing at an Irishman named Seamus O’Shaughnessy.

A quick google search of this mysterious "Seamus O'Shaughnessy" brings us to the web site of a WWE pro wrestler, aptly nicknamed "The Irish Curse". Could this be the man Burress intended to fire at? Was there a tiff between the WWE prospect and the disgruntled Giants star?

According to the NY Daily News, Burress needed the firearm due to his possession of "expensive jewelry". This maybe the missing link.

Perhaps it is too stereotypical, but maybe, just maybe Mr. O'Shaughnessy confronted Mr. Burress over the ownership of a certain piece of gold. According to reports, the WWE was in Albany, NY just days prior to the night of Burress's shooting. Could Burress have taken O'Shaughnessy's Florida Championship Title and brought it back to New York City? Anyone who has seen any of the Leprechaun movies knows the Irish get sensitive when their gold is missing. Especially if the Irish gentleman in question claims to have been involved in conflicts against "Viking tribes of the North, Germanic, Norman and Anglo-Saxon armies from the East, and The Moors and The Romans from The South".



No offense, Mr. Burress, but if the Weekly World News is to be believed, and I don't see why they wouldn't be, stealing from Mr. O'Shaughnessy was not a wise move. Be glad you escaped with only a self-inflicted wound.

Of course, curious readers might question why the Weekly World News did not make the appropriate connections, and why did they claim O'Shaughnessy was a leprechaun? My answer to this is that we should never underestimate the power and influence of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. Could Plaxico Burress merely be a pawn in a Vince McMahon attempt to finally avenge the failed XFL? Will we see more pro wrestler "hits" on NFL players?

(Note: Brad Curran of Pulsewrestling.com also made the Seamus O'Shaughnessy connection. Unfortunately, he dismisses the Weekly World News investigation.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Did Joe DiMaggio order John F. Kennedy killed?



This past Saturday marked the 45th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to scholars, historians, politicians, The Government, and the History Channel, Kennedy was gunned down by Lee Harvey Oswald, a mysterious goon who was both an ex-Marine and a Communist. These powers that be claim Oswald acted alone, entirely driven by his own delusions of grandeur. Or so the story goes.

Of course, you could believe the conspiracists. The ones who believe Oswald was set up. They believe it could have been any one of the following:

- The Cubans
- The Russians
- The CIA (check out this wild link!)
- The FBI
- The Mob
- Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson
- The Israelis
- The Illuminati
- Tonya Harding

But the one person who seems to get off pretty easy on the conspiracy front is the Yankee Clipper himself, Joe DiMaggio. No one seems to question his lack of involvement. Consider this:

Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe in 1954. Despite being divorced only nine months later, for years DiMaggio continuously put flowers on her grave. He had an undying commitment to her. Monroe, who died of an overdose in 1962, supposedly had affairs with both John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. According to this article, DiMaggio truly believed the Kennedys killed Monroe to end some of her verbal transgressions. What Monroe said or learned from the Kennedys is up to dispute, but according to rumor, she told Frank Sinatra about some of the CIA's dealings in Cuba and their actions against organized crime. Her loose lips may have spelt the end for her.

So here is what I believed happened:

For whatever reason, the Kennedys, possibly through the FBI, had their hand in the death of Marilyn Monroe. After her death, DiMaggio immediately accused the Kennedys and plotted his revenge. Knowing he couldn't possibly get even with John Kennedy by himself, DiMaggio talked to Sinatra and his entourage of seedy elements and garnered their support. Of course, being the most famous Italian in New York for nearly a decade, DiMaggio had to have ins with some of the more powerful families in New York.

So after a year and half of plotting and planning, DiMaggio decided to have Kennedy killed in Dallas in November, 1963. For DiMaggio, Dallas was the perfect spot. It was far away enough from New York or DiMaggio's home city of San Francisco to cause heat. All DiMaggio needed was a patsy, someone to take the shot.

According to court records, Oswald spent a short time during his childhood living in Texas, where he was the captain of his local baseball team. Shortly thereafter, he moved to New York City to live with his half-brother. During this time, DiMaggio was wrapping up his legendary career. If Oswald kept the passion for baseball, whose to say he didn't ever attend a Yankee game and grow to admire the great Joe D?

Fast-forward to 1963. DiMaggio, with his mind set on revenging Monroe's death, learned about an impressionable young ex-Marine who has travelled the world supporting Marxism and the Cuban Revolution. DiMaggio ordered one of "his guys" to talk to Oswald, convincing him that the murder of the President would not only be good for the world, but also would ease the pain of his former baseball idol. As needy as he was for admiration, acceptance, and attention, Oswald would have been an easy sell. He had the tools, the how-know, and now the incentive. The rest, as they say, is history.

Oh, and in case you are curious as to why DiMaggio was never really considered a suspect in Kennedy's death, just imagine the fear a few visits by New York's most friendliest families would have had on the members of the Warren Commission. There was no way the Yankee Clipper was even going to be questioned, capiche?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Pleasant Night of Bodyslams, Afros, and Southern Championship Wrestling



It was dark, I was 15 miles outside of Orlando, I had half a tank of gas, and I was wearing sunglasses. And an Afro.

Last Saturday night was my turn yet again to represent the Afro-Squad at an independent professional wrestling show. For years, the Afro-Squad has been one of the galaxy’s premier fan gimmick organizations. You could almost say the Afro-Squad and pro wrestling have gone together like cheap wine and Taco Bell. Trust me, once you get past the low budget stigma, it’s not a bad way to spend a night.

I have to be honest here. I’m the new guy in the Afro-Squad. Like I said, they have been around for a while. They have been involved in pro wrestling, crazy photoshops, and amateur movies, all in an attempt to foil the omnipotent bugaboo they call “The Man”. Yet like all great supergroups, there have been a few line-up changes along the way. Officially, there have been two Snowmans, two KrazyMans, and now a Jordi (I really should find a funky handle.). Unofficially, I’m probably one of nearly 5,000 in the Afro-Squad Army, a ragtag gaggle of non-practicing pimps, pornstars, practical jokers, and pro wrestlers. Which brings me back to why I was just outside of Orlando in beautiful Altamonte Springs, Florida.

For those not familiar with the geography of Florida, Altamonte Springs is a suburb of Orlando. That’s it. There is nothing special about Altamonte Springs. As a matter of fact, if you wanted to be environmentally correct, there is quite a bit wrong with Altamonte Springs. It is one of Florida’s many urban sprawl cities, destroying natural Florida one subdivision at a time. But for my purposes, Altamonte Springs is home to the Eastmonte Civic Center, the venue of choice for the night’s festivities.

Not to use the slightest bit of hyperbole, but Saturday night’s wrestling spectacular had every right to be festive. For 10 years Southern Championship Wrestling had entertained the masses throughout Central Florida. Yet now, on their 10th Anniversary, they were closing up shop. Saturday night was the end. The end of their elaborate plans, of storylines and slobberknockers, pinfalls and promotions. Needless to say, butts were in the seats, and faces lined the walls when seats could not be found. SCW’s final event was a big deal to a lot of people. So of course the Afro-Squad had to be in attendance, represented not only by myself, but also by the afro-clad Bryan Maddox and AfroBoy.

That’s the thing about pro wrestling. It’s easy to be involved. It’s easy to feel like part of the show. Whereas some people work concessions, others boo or cheer, the attractive walk ring cards, and the legendary ring bells, the Afro-Squad heckles. We put on our afro wigs (except AfroBoy, his is real) and our cheap sunglasses and we become masters of the heckling art. You might even say the transformation from mild mannered fan to fanatical heckler is worthy of the label “Heckle and Jekyl”. But don’t say that, someone might think you are old. Does anyone remember Heckle and Jeckle anymore?

Anyway, there I was in the Eastmonte Civic Center. Thanks to a mishap with Google Maps, I arrived shortly after the first match, but right on time to see the entrance of Mexican stereotype Ben Deho. Being the upstanding internationalist, Mr. Deho immediately sparked the ire of the crowd with his anti-American rhetoric. So of course I responded with a “You love tacos” chant.

The next recipient of the Afro-Squad’s attention was SCW superstar Slick Sleazy. Mr. Sleazy, a true gentleman and a scholar, goes back a ways with the Afro-Squad. Earlier this year, in a prior SCW event, Sleazy, a promoter of raw, unbridled sexual deviance, was among the Afro-Squad’s top targets of hecklization (that might not be a word, by the way). At the Eastmonte Civic Center neither heckler nor hecklee (also possibly not a word) forgot their role.

The moment Sleazy made his entrance, I immediately yelled “You still suck!”, and began laying into his loud green wrestling attire. Sleazy, recognizing my afro’ed persona, gave me a few choice words and, once in the ring, taunted me with several semi-homo-erotic hip thrusts. Unfortunately, our battle of wits was sidetracked by Slick Sleazy’s mohawked and tattooed opponent, the vicious Tribal, who due to the fact that he may just cut his own head with a weed whacker, was also the subject of several Afro-Squadian comments.

Here I must admit my most embarrassing moment of the evening. After Slick Sleazy pinned Tribal, I walked to the aisle railing with the intent of peppering Mr. Sleazy with some farewell insults before he went backstage. Unfortunately, Sleazy engaged in an unexpected counterattack, snatching my afro and sunglasses from my visage. Ashamed, I fled to a far corner of the arena, leaving the victorious Sleazy with a trophy to go along with his victory. Thankfully, a kind ring worker recovered my cherished accessories.

Learning a temporary lesson in humility, I stayed relatively quiet through the next three matches, letting other members of the crowd jaw with the parade of heels and faces. Then Aaron Epic entered the ring area.

Like Slick Sleazy, Aaron Epic was a favorite Afro-Squad target from prior events. Also like Sleazy, the illustrious Mr. Epic was known for taking action against certain afro'ed hecklers. This pattern would continue unabated.

Prior to learning his ring moniker, the Afro-Squad used to loudly refer to Aaron Epic by the color of his wrestling trunks (“Hey Aqua Pants, you suck!”). Now knowing his name, my chant of choice quickly became “Epic Failure”. But of course, that wasn’t all.

Knowing I was in his head, I frequently told Mr. Epic to “Do Something!” immediately after he struck his opponent. Being told to “do something” apparently set Epic off as he motioned for me to come into the ring to settle our differences. Knowing the boundaries of performance, and also being a bit of a pansy, I told Aaron Epic to come to me, thinking he wouldn’t dare enter the crowd. But yet he came close, pausing in his battle with Nooie Lee long enough to roll out of the ring, lean over the railing, and feign spitting on me. Our war of wits settled to his satisfaction, he re-entered the ring and proceeded to win the SCW Light Heavyweight and Florida Heavyweight Championship. Which he would then lose five minutes later.

Following Slick Sleazy and Aaron Epic, the final Afro-Squad target of the evening was Mr. Robin Donahue, manager of SCW Heavyweight Champion Thomas Marr. With his semi-bald head, broken left arm, and consignment shop-bought suit, Donahue was an easy target. In a world where managers are supposed to create hostility and fan heat for their wrestlers, Donahue is one of the best. But even he is no match for the Afro-Squad as I took him apart, from his un-Bic-ed head to his cheap bowling shoes. The champ had to go it alone, as I was all in Donahue’s head from the second he stepped towards the squared circle.

With or without his manager, Thomas Marr concluded a great night of wrestling with a fantastic 30-minute match with challenger Slyk Wagner Brown. In a battle that spilled into the crowd, returned to the ring, went back into the crowd, and then back into the ring, Marr defended his title thanks to his mix of athleticism, grit, and determination, with of course a smattering of cheap shots and low blows.

Despite the comments, the insults, the jeering, and the jawing, as the night drew to a close I stood and applauded each and every wrestler as they gathered one last time in an SCW ring. SCW had a magnificent run as one of the best sports entertainment promotions in Central Florida. But now the past is the past and the show must go on. To the owners, operators, bookers, and brawlers of SCW, I give you my heartfelt thanks. Thank you for the great shows.

And to targets of Afro-Squad ire, I hope to see you again soon. Even you, Aaron Epic. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Happened to Sirius 43 Backspin?



Like nearly everyone, I am a creature of habit. I get up in the morning, eat breakfast, shower, get dressed, brush my teeth, etc, etc, before I head to work. And in part because my office does not allow us to bring in radios or anything that might entertain us, I have to listen to a few good tunes on the drive to the daily grind.

Unfortunately, my music selection has taken a horrible turn for the worse. Sirius Satellite Radio, for some inexplicable probably profit-driven reason, decided to cut their old-school rap station, Backspin. Totally not cool.

Granted, I understand Sirius is in the final stage of merging its programing with XM Satellite Radio. They have integrated several stations, dropped some redundancies, and attempted to streamline their offerings. But in a lot of these cases, they've always made sure the genre was in some way, shape, or form covered. But in the case of old-school hip-hop, they have well ... nothing.

So in remembrance of the songs I won't be hearing on Satellite Radio again, here is "Tearz" by the Wu-Tang Clan, re-written to reflect my recent musical loss:

Yo check yo yo, check the script
Yesterday my satellite radio flipped
Got in my truck, hit the switch, and started to trip
Had a box, 'Boom Boom' Backspin would blast
Pumping Run, KRS, PE, and Skee-lo to all who passed
Heavy rotation, kickin' the crates with the dust
Hey yo, you know playing Dana Dane is a must
Aw yeah, I'd play it every time I got in the car
Reciting rhymes on my way home from the bar
Not knowin, exactly what lied ahead
Just making sure my old-school memories were fed
I never wondered that one day in the fall
Didn't expect, I wouldn't hear old-school beats at all
"We are sorry, but your Backspin station had to go"
Despite my shock, I called up Sirius and said "No!!"
Money I was giving them, BOW! I snatched it back
For my pockets, and to the record shop down the Ave.
I'm steaming, with no noise up and down the block
(Hey, Sirius!) What? (Your new programming sucks c**k!)
I stopped frantically, then I dropped down to my knees
Like Bushwick I started punching the hard concrete
I looked to the heavens and put together my hands
Where else can I hear old school beats throughout the land?
Aw man! How do I say goodbye?
It's always the good stations that have to die
Memories in the corner of my mind
Flashbacks, of me listening all the time
That sound was as nice as the bees and birds
Now I have to conclude with these three words:

Bring back Backspin!

And while we're at it, how about a channel dedicated just to the Wu-Tang Clan and their 5,000 disciples? I know they have more songs than Elvis.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Erin Andrews pitches FSU merchandise

I'm sure hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow Florida State alumni received this image in their e-mail boxes recently. And of course, the company probably uses the same image to pitch their product to other universities. I just think it's great, being that Erin Andrews is a former Gator dancer and all. If I ever needed something for her to autograph, it would be this.



By the way, I know I haven't written much about the Seminoles of late. In my effort to propogate the entire blogosphere with my literary seed, I should be popping up on a popular Nole-centric blog with some writing soon. More to come later.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Deep Thoughts on the 2008 De Bate



Branching out for a bit to talk politics. I know everyone else is doing the same, but I doubt you'll read the same stuff on other sites. I'm out of the box like that.

For those who might have been watching anything else, tonight was the presidential foreign policy debate. Because I take an interest in foreign affairs, I made sure not to miss this debate. The others, eh, depends on what else I am doing that night.

- First, there is an inherent problem with the foreign policy debate. Foreign policy is the arena of the elite, the educated, or those with a direct stake in foreign actions (i.e. the military, Dept of State, etc). I'm willing to wager that most of these people are also astute politically and have probably made up their minds on who they are going to vote for. Doubtful there are many undecided voters in these groups. So all the foreign policy debate does is articulate what each candidate is planning to do and solidify the opinions of their support.

- Second, anyone who thinks the conflict against Muslim extremism will be over during the next president's four or possibly eight years is a fool. Extremism can be contained, but it takes generations for it to die out, if it ever does. Case in point, Wahhabi extremists have been around since the mid-17th century and our own Klu Klux Klan has been around for nearly 150 years. To borrow a SportsCenter catchphrase, "You can't stop them, you can only hope to contain them."

- Third, I cannot buy Iran as an catalyst for a new Holocaust, even if they did have the bomb. I know there is traditional dislike and rhetoric spoken by Iranian leaders against Israel, but I don't think Iran would ever attempt to physically "wipe Israel off the map". Believing in the Iranian boogeyman is to assume that if the US threated the absolute destruction of Iran in the case of an attack, that Iran would still attack Israel anyway. This would only be logical if you assume the Iranian government is on a suicide mission and that it would sacrifice it's own regime existance for the sake of one attack. Although the ground troops might not have much else going for them (assuming their would be ground troops - I doubt they would see the light of day), those in charge probably like being in charge and don't want to lose it all in exchange for one missile hitting Tel Aviv.

- Fourth, the fact that Sen. Barack Obama correctly pronounces the name of foreign nations is big for me. It is not pronounced "I-ran", it is pronounced "e-ron". I learned that the first day of Middle East History 101. Not that pronounciation should influence a vote, but I think it shows not only intelligence, but also respect.

- Fifth, the campaign to bring the troops back from Iraq concerns me. Currently, the US economy is in the crapper. If we bring all our deployed military members home as well as all the contractors and government workers currently in Iraq, we will need immediate job growth to compensate for the flood of job seekers. Without a real world military mission, we might see less re-enlistment amongst our current ranks. Being in the military will be boring and lack purpose. So where would these former military members work?

What about the government civilians and contractors in Iraq? If you brought them home, where will they work? What if the government claims those contracts or positions are no longer necessary and cuts the funding? That would lead to even more unemployed Americans. And we don't need that.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pitchback potification and memories



Five minutes ago I started thinking about my childhood baseball career and specifically the many "pitchbacks" I went through. I don't know why these thoughts came into my head. They just popped in there. Kinda like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. Anyway, for those who were not aspiring left-handed junk-ballers, let me explain what a pitchback was. It was a curved net, about four feet tall and about 2.5 feet wide, that would force a thrown ball back to the thrower (see picture).

(For more childhood memories regarding the pitchback, and a few more pictures, check out this blog: (Sidearm Delivery: Disappointing Childhood Toys: The Pitchback.)

Although I never had the problems the writer from Sidearm Delivery had, I did go through at least four pitchbacks while between the ages of 9 to 13. To tell the truth, I don't remember why they broke, probably from overuse. Hopefully from overuse. I do remember however my friends and I trying to carry a pitchback all over town, from neighborhood to neighborhood, wherever we could find a spot to play ball. Imagine the sight of a bunch of kids, pre-teens I guess is what we would be called now, riding their bikes through the suburbia of Central Florida, with one lugging a large net over his back. That was us.

As Sidearm Delivery kinda hints at, pitchbacks weren't very good for baseballs, which is probably why he hated his so much. But it was killer for "Tennis Ball Baseball", the game of choice in the 'burbs, where cars and houses often defined the parameters of the field of play. Why we never went to an actual baseball field is beyond me. If I remember right, I think the real fields were too far away. A whopping five miles or so, tops. But that's a long way when someone has to carry a pitchback.

To this day, I wonder if any big leaguers ever started with a pitchback. Most kids I knew that were really good (besides me, of course) had dads who built them batting cages, or in one case, one kid's dad was Minnesota Twins trainer. A bit of a slight advantage when you are being taught your curve ball from Burt Blyleven. Yeah, that's fair.

Another big problem with the pitchback was it didn't really help. It didn't teach you how to throw fast, it didn't teach you how to field, and it sure didn't teach you how to hit. It didn't even come with a book on how to throw different pitches. I guess the one thing the pitchback did was teach me good control, but being able to move the ball in and out on hitters isn't really appreciated in Little League and other pre-high school levels.

So this my ode to the pitchback, an essential part of my young baseball dreams. Dreams that would have been so much cooler had they come true.

Pitchback, back pitch
I wish you could have made me rich.
But you were only metal and net,
Not a great teaching bet.
Looking back I needed a coach
Someone who could make the most
Of this tall skinny lefty with a rubber arm
but a fastball that could do no harm.

Oh pitchback, how you failed me
I could have been a Met, a Marlin, or even a Yankee
Instead my career amounted to zip
And I am stuck writing about you on The Serious Tip.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Serious Tip Turns 2: A Reflection

Here is to loyal readers.

Two years ago, a friend of mine asked me to blog what's on my mind, so I started this blog that I'm still writing, the wise words were wisdom, meant to enlighten.

Wow. I must say I impressed myself with that Run D.M.C. "Down with the King" paraphrase. Maybe I have a future as a songwriter.

In all honesty, that was the only pop culture reference to "two years ago" that I could think of. I didn't want to start with the cliched "Four score minus 78 years ago". But I digress ...

Anyway, The Serious Tip is officially two years old today. And, as many people who peruse the Internet know, two years is a long time for a blog. So instead of sharing what would be a completely biased The Serious Tip's Best of Year Two, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I started blogging. Think of this as one of those sitcom flashback episodes.

A long time ago (I think it was sometime near August 2006), in a land not so far away (depending on where you live), I was listening to ESPN Radio. Now I'm not an avid sports radio listener, but I was driving and needed some variety. So I tuned in to the local ESPN Radio channel. On the air at the time was a show featuring Doug Gottlieb and some other guy, not sure who, but it's not important. After discussing the news of the day, Gottlieb began to describe his daily routine, how he learned his news and how he figured out what was going to drive his topics of the day. During his description, he mentioned Deadspin.com. Always curious about new websites, I scribbled "Deadspin.com" on a receipt I had crumpled in a cup holder. Little did I know I was about to totally change my sports-viewing experience.

Like seemingly thousands of other sports fans, I found Deadspin.com in late 2006. Also like thousands upon thousands of other sports fans, I read some of the blogs Deadspin.com linked to and thought, "That looks fun. I wonder if I can do that?". Then one day Deadspin.com linked to Jenn Sterger's blog. No offense to Jenn (who I have met a few times and who seems nice), but after reading her blog, I knew I could blog. Not that I thought I was a better writer than Jenn, but all her blog was was her thoughts on sports. Well, I had thoughts on sports too, so I figured I should be able to pull off this blogging thing. And so it began.

My first post: Day One: Growin' All Up In The Ghetto

Way back when I first started, I had no idea where I wanted to go with The Serious Tip. With a name like The Serious Tip, I knew I could go anywhere. Should I write only about sports? What about some of my other interests, like music or politics? And if I was going to write about sports, should I keep it team-centric and just write about the Mets, Noles, Knicks, or the (then Devil) Rays? I was lost. So I did what I think most bloggers do: write other bloggers.

The best advice I received about blogging came not from Will Leitch or The Big Lead or any other the other major sports blog writers, but from Chip Wesley of Thunder Matt's Saloon. In a response to my email query, Chip gave me a few great pointers:

- Blaze your own trail: "Instead of rehashing the same stuff the other sites are doing (and doing a better job at it as well), we try to blaze our own trail. And if we lose some people with a salute to Freddie Mercury, so be it."

- Provide original content: "So many people start up a blog where 75% of their content becomes nothing but quotes from other people's sites or movie clips from YouTube."

- Keep the site fresh: "So many blogs will post content regularly for a few months and then just stop for weeks at a time without posting anything."

So that's what I have tried to do. Of course, when I first started I forwarded quite a bit to Deadspin.com and The Big Lead.com to try and get a link and maybe even reel in a few re-occuring readers. But I quickly learned unless I geared my site for their readers, asking for a link was only at best good for a temporary spike in the numbers. Loyal readers to a small independent blog that talks about everything could only come through reaching out.

From reaching out via comments and emails, I like to think I've developed quite a few "Friends of The Serious Tip". For them I'd like to say "thanks". Their constant feedback, encouragement, and ideas have kept me going. And of course as I've gone on, several bloggers have even asked me to contribute on their blog, either through cameo or regular appearance. To me, that is the ultimate compliment and many thanks goes to these bloggers as well.

Sadly, as I mentioned before, blogs don't last forever. During two-year life of The Serious Tip, I've seen several great bloggers quit or go on indefinite hiatus (The Cav, Jack Cobra, among others). It is the sad reality of blogging. Like life, it moves on, and leaves dust of us all.

However, as many of you might know (at least those who read loyally, or at least on occasion), I've been recently working with a few sites of whom I have been long-time friends with: the aforementioned Thunder Matt's Saloon and The Afro-Squad . And be on the look-out for collaborations with several other bloggers in the upcoming weeks and months.

So even though The Serious Tip isn't the most successful blog in the world (yet), I'm still enjoying this. Blogging has given me an outlet to say what I want and write how I want. In conclusion, I'd like to paraphrase Joe Dirt in a quick interview with myself:

Me: So was the last two years a complete waste?

Myself and I: No one's really put it like that, but I don't think so. I've had good times, met cool people, cruised around, cranked some tunes. And blogged the best I could.

Hope you've enjoyed it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Snowman of the AfroSquad Writes about Wrestling



Once again he is back with his 'fro intact.

Got The Man shakin' and quakin' from his quick attack.
----------------------------------------------

Florida wrestling fans, this blog is for you!

I had another great Thursday night at Florida Championship Wrestling.

Last Saturday I ordered a couple afros for some of my homies, and they arrived via UPS just as I was leaving my driveway on my way to the show. This marks the second emergency shipment of afros that UPS has delivered "just in the nick of time."

When I got to the show, I traded a few afros with the Bourbon Street Mafia for a BSM shirt. Now the BSM and the 'fro Army have officially formed an unholy union. (The only thing that could make us more powerful would be the assistance of a Gargoyle and a Zombie Pimp!)

At the beginning of the show, I tossed Dusty Rhodes an afro. He donned the 'fro, and it was quite possibly the greatest moment in Afro-Squad history! (Does Dusty need a special Afro-Squad name?)

In my eyes, Afa stole the show again for his reckless ass kicking of Stu Bennett. The most entertaining part is that Afa seems to be the most "over" guy in the building, but he is supposed to be a heel. I hope having an entire Army of afro-wearing lunatics chanting "fear the 'fro" doesn't hurt your popularity.

I was also impressed with Natalie Neidhart and Beth Phoenix's style as a tag team. They even finished with the Hart Foundation's "Hart Attack." I wonder if we'll see them working together in the future.

Kafu's wife sat by us. Although she wasn't too excited about having her picture taken, she was a fun addition.

I'm really starting to enjoy Kafu's gimmick as well. He is the "master of the Claw hold," which is a great throwback to the '80s. Jordi Scrubbings saw Kafu in the grocery store last week, so we tried to harass Kafu about his shopping list. (He apparently loves cheese!)

I also have to hand it to Angela Fong for posing for pics with the Afro-Squad Army.

I got to talk to Diana Hart for a few minutes too. She seems like a really sweet lady. As Georgia Smith joked about her mom, "she talks just like Bret." (Their accent is almost identical.)

Once again, FCW Andy (AKA Original Jit) and his Dad epitomized what wrestling fans should be. Those guys breathe wrestling.

Finally, will somebody tell Jack Gabriel to put some pants on? Hey, Eric Perez ... if you post a blog comment ... I'd reply "Oh Yeah!"

SnowMan

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

Gone with the wind like Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Stay tuned next week for even more Snowman ...


Friday, August 22, 2008

The AfroSquad and Florida Championship Wrestling



All wrestlers have to start somewhere. Contrary to popular belief, the warriors of the squared circle don't magically appear buff, bad, and quick with the mic. Although some ride the tail of a comet to quick success, many toil in the trenches seemingly for eons awaiting their chance. They wrestle in flea markets, fairs, VFWs, YMCAs, and any other place a promoter can set up a ring.

Perhaps the highest level of "minor league" pro wrestling is Florida Championship Wrestling, the WWE's training school. Recently relocated around the corner from my crib in beautiful, sunny Tampa, Florida, FCW is the starting point for many wrestlers, male and female, trying to make it to the absolute pinnacle of their profession.

Needless to say, being that wrestling and the Afro-Squad go together like lamb and tuna fish, the Snowman and myself have been frequent patrons to FCW's weekly events.

So now, without further ado, I bring to The Serious Tip the first appearance of the Snowman. Hopefully this goes better than "Hercules in New York".

The FCW show last night was a lot of fun. In fact, this may have been the most enjoyable show that I've seen to date.

The Afro-Squad Army was in full force, and the crowd was a blast. A group of fans known as the Bourbon Street Mafia have joined alliances with us, so our posse is getting bigger.

I am finally getting to know some of the spouses and family in the audience. Big Titan's wife Desiree sat next to me for a while. I haven't seen him wrestle yet, but he is billed at "7 foot tall and 340 pounds." He is recovering from surgery, and should be back in a couple weeks.

Afa's match was a blast too. The ringside announcer Bryan Kelly (WXJT Channel 4) was also a lot of fun. He interacted with the Squad a lot. It was his birthday, so we got a happy birthday chant going.

Since it is a small crowd, we were able to interact a lot with in-ring announcer Angela Fong and Dusty Rhodes. We cheer when Angela bends over to get into the ring. We also cheer when Dusty sits down. (Wait for it… - Shhhhh - Yeah!) Dusty, Angela, and Bryan were a lot of fun. Interaction is part of the game.

We've also figured a way to make Eric Perez's matches "interactive." "Oh Yeah" is said whenever he hits somebody.

D.H. Smith (Davey Boy's son), Eddie Colon (Carlos's son), Joe Hennig (Curt's son) and Afa Jr. are some of the organization's second generation wrestlers. Nattie Neidhart (Jim's daughter) and Ted DeBiase Jr. are recent second generation folks from there.

"Extreme Dan" and FCW Andy (AKA Original Jet) sported 'fros throughout the night. They made that stuff look good. "Electric Cami" also looked smashing with her long curly dew.

At the end of the show I got to meet Diana Hart and Georgia Smith. Diana is Davey Boy Smith's ex-wife (and Stu Hart's youngest daughter) and Georgia is their daughter. They just moved to town from Calgary, and will be attending the shows from now on. I gave them an invitation to join the Afro-Squad Army at ringside. They were also accompanied by another Hart daughter, but I missed her first name.

Anyway, that's it for this week's report. Please check out the pictures and leave comments. Hopefully some of the spouses and wrestlers won't be too shy to comment.

Thanks, Snowman. Wait, no mention of the Great Jordi? Maybe next time.

And oh yeah, Mr. The Man, we haven't forgotten about you. Quit holding people down or else.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Joining Forces with the AfroSquad Again



Once again, I joined forces with the fine upstanding gentlemen of The Afro-Squad.com. Although it has been a while since the last official collaboration between the legendary "Snowman" and myself, during the past few months we have had numerous lawyers, agents, and other affiliated moneymen crossing the "t"s and dotting the "j"s to facilitate a final merger. And now I have proud to announce The Serious Tip and The Afro-Squad have officially come together and are out to put "The Man" on notice.

So what does that mean for you, loyal reader?

Well, first, you can expect more content. That's always a good thing, right? For those unfamiliar, The Afro-Squad specializes in pure funkiness, with a smattering of beautiful women and a touch of pro-wrestling commentary and interviews.

Is The Serious Tip going away? Will it be taken over? No and No. This merger is merely cross-promotional. The Serious Tip will be linking to new content on The Afro-Squad and The Afro-Squad will be linking to new content on The Serious Tip. On those occasions where we collaborate on a project, well, expect that to be on both sites.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

LL Cool J in St. Petersburg, FL, Aug 2nd, 2008



I am going to go out on a limb and say that LL Cool J is underrated.

How many performers (rock, rap, country, whatever) have continued to be mainstream for 23 years?

23 years.

Think about that. In 1985, "We Are The World" was recorded; Mike Tyson made his professional debut; Wrestlemania began; New Coke was released; the original Nintendo hit the market; Reggie Bush, Kiera Knightley, T-Pain, and Dwight Howard were born; and LL Cool J dropped "Radio".

Granted, LL has had some albums that weren't all that good. But his name carried weight. If Run DMC is the Beatles of rap, then LL Cool J is the Rolling Stones.

Yet, unlike the Stones, LL Cool J isn't charging 200 dollars for a live concert. As a matter of fact, thousands of Rays fans got to see LL perform Saturday night for only the cost of admission. That's right, for the cost of a ticket, I got to see LL Cool J, pretty much for the great cost of "Free".

(Question: who pays for these shows? Are they sanctioned by MLB? Or are the summer concerts paid for by the teams themselves? These are the things I wonder about.)

Although the accoustics of Tropicana Field are not the greatest, LL put on a really good show. He performed somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 songs, to include "I'm Bad", "Radio", "Mama Said Knock You Out", and his verses from the "Flava in Your Ear" remix and the "I Shot Ya" remix. He also did a few songs from his upcoming Exit 13 album.

Overall, I was impressed. Even though the show was a safe, family-friendly mix of his classics and new songs, LL Cool J still has the ability to rock a mic and move a crowd. Given his continued appeal, I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few hits on his new release and LL kept on going for another few years.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tampa is the lost city of Atlantis



Like Istanbul or St. Petersburg, Russia, the city of Tampa once went by a different name. According to author Dennis Brooks and his 30 years of research on the ancient writings of Plato, Tampa was once the lost city of Atlantis. In this YouTube clip and its accompanying book, Atlantis Was America: Tampa Was The Royal City, he explains his theory.

And in the words of the nearly-as-wise modern-age philosopher Scarface from the stirring cinematic masterpiece "Half Baked", "I believe him, yo. I don't know why, but I do."




Sunday, June 29, 2008

Requiem for the Orange Bowl, Domain of Manimal


I received this image in an email from a good friend the other day. This is what's left of the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.

The Orange Bowl was one of those rare places that transcended sports. Although it was the home of those talented (and cocky) Hurricane teams and those ancient, way-back, long ago championship Dolphins teams, and was the location of five Super Bowls, it also hosted some the biggest names in music. According to the all-seeing and all-knowing Wikipedia, the Orange Bowl hosted performances by The Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna, and Michael Jackson (which I think was his Super Bowl performance, so that really shouldn't count).

Personally, I only went to the Orange Bowl once. No, it wasn't to see the Seminoles lose to the Hurricanes in one of the many missed field goal games ("Wide Right" even has its own Wikipedia entry).

I went to see Metallica.

Way back in their pre-St. Anger days, back when Jason Newsted was still in the band, and fresh on the heels of their Symphony & Metallica release, Metallica included a stop in Miami on their "M2K Mini-Tour". Thanks to Encyclopedia Metallica, I know now that this show occurred on December 28th, 1999. Check that out, they even have the set list and everything. Very cool. But I digress ...

Other than being the largest show I have ever attended (some 80,000 strong), and besides the fact that it was my brother's first concert, and besides the fact that I also saw Sevendust, Creed, and Kid Rock there as well, my Metallica experience at the Orange Bowl changed my life forever. It was the day I met a man - nay, a legend - named Manimal.

After spending the majority of the opening acts near the stage, my brother and I were forced to vacate our spot and venture nearly mid-field during Metallica's performance. Call us wimps, but between the constant shoving and being pressed into other sweaty male bodies we were becoming quite uncomfortable. So we decided to high-tail it to a spot where we could see the show without getting a steady diet of elbows to the ribs.

Back in the day, my brother was a big dude. Although only 16, he was, if I remember correctly, "a biscuit shy of 300 pounds". So when he said he was going to a less-crowded spot, I smartly decided to follow.

As you can imagine for a crowd that size, people were everywhere. The stage was located in the endzone and people were all over the field. Although I don't how rowdy the crowd was during Sevendust, Kid Rock, and Creed, when Metallica hit the stage the whole field turned into a warzone. Bodies running into each other, people beating the shit out of each other, and dancing crazies spinning like whirling dervishes. With size on his side, my brother cared little for this large array of oddites. With me in his wake, my "little" brother mowed through several mosh pits, throwing people out of his way on the journey to safety.

When we finally reached a relative area of calmness, where people were actually watching Metallica instead of impersonating human locomotives, we asked around to see if anyone would be moshing in the area. If so, we were ready to move.

Our answer came from a short, bald, stocky, stereotypical biker dude wearing a t-shirt that read "Fuck You, You Fuckin' Fuck". Looking deadly serious, this beast of a man said, "I'm Manimal, half-man, half-animal." He then proceeded to show us the biggest man-ring I have ever seen. It resembled a class ring, only two to three times bigger.

"You see this ring," he asked.

Of course, how could we miss it?

"Nobody is going to mosh near me. If they do, I'm going to hit them with this ring."

Sure enough, true to his word, no one moshed near Manimal. And to this day, Manimal remains one of the most intimidating people I have ever met.

So although the Orange Bowl is now gone, I still live by a few simple rules: don't mess with people who wear masks, don't cause trouble with people with facial tattoos, and never, ever mess with a guy named Manimal.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Carlin (1937-2008)

He didn't pass away.

He didn't have a terminal episode.

He didn't have a negative patient care outcome.

And he damn sure didn't expire.

He fuckin' died.


On a personal note, I've been a huge Carlin fan for years. I finally got the chance to see him live in late 2006. And even though his most recent performances sound more like a bitter old man complaining (see his comments on fat people, people shopping at the mall, Americans being lazy, etc), and even though there was some drunk, annoying, loud, obnoxious boor of a woman behind me hideously laughing at every little Carlin utterance, I must admit seeing George Carlin was like seeing a master at work. He was the King of the Counter-Culture, the Rembrandt of Rhetoric, and the Leonardo of Language.

And so to quote from a Carlin re-visit to his Al Sleet "Hippy Dippy Weatherman" sketch, "When there is nothing left to conquer in your field, hey, it's time to leave."

Rest in Peace, George Carlin.

Discovering Bo Diddley



For years I was ignorant.

For years I knew nothing of Bo Diddley.

Thank goodness I came to my senses.

Although I have an extensive blues collection, not before last week had I owned any Bo Diddley albums. Following the news of his recent death however, I bought Bo Diddley's Greatest Hits. Now I am trying to figure out how Bo Diddley passed me by for so many years.

(By the way, did you know in Philadelphia, a Bo Diddley's Greatest Hits CD is worth 50 bucks? But I digress. Getting back to the story ...)

I like to think I am pretty knowledgeable about the blues and its influence on early rock and roll. I have albums (CDs, songs, etc, etc.) by Robert Johnson, Son House, and Lightnin' Hopkins. I have Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Howlin' Wolf. I have BB King, Albert King, Junior Wells, and my personal favorite, Buddy Guy. But I never had any Bo Diddley.

So needless to say, once I hit play and listened to some Bo, I knew I had been in the dark all these years.

Even though I had all the aforementioned blues tunes and knew my blues history, I never knew where the rock sound of early rock and roll came from. Where did the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and later Aerosmith get their sound? Was it a British thing? Did they make it up? No, it was Bo. Bo Diddley was my missing link in the history of rock.

Unfortunately, it took his death for me to understand the importance of Bo Diddley. Rest in peace, Bo.

P.S. However criminally underrated Bo Diddley was, multiply that by 10 and that describes Willie Dixon. He not only wrote songs for Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and dozens of others, but covers of his songs helped launch the careers of The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and countless other rock and blues groups. If he was around today, Willie Dixon would be bigger than Sean (Puffy, Diddy, whatever) Combs and Timbaland combined.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hey, Wait, I'm Blogging Sports Complaints

With Will Leitch moving on from Deadspin to bigger and better aspirations, I figured I would finally post a piece I have been working on for the better half of six months.

(Truth be told, it was only two months. For the last four, the rough draft of this post was sitting under a pile of magazines until I just found it this past weekend.)

So without further ado ...


As corporate interests continue to influence more and more of our lifestyles, all-out revolutions in popular cultural grow exceedingly less common. The Beatles in 1964, Star Wars in 1977, MTV in 1981, and Nirvana in 1991 all shocked the establishment and altered the course of popular culture. These movements all featured the right mix of contemporary status quo, corporate complacency, an established underground, and a new exciting catalyst. To anyone reading this blog, it should come as no surprise that I think the culture of sports media is facing its own revolutionary phenomenon, the emergence and acceptance of sports blogs.

One of the best ways to examine the effectiveness of a cultural revolution is to measure it to one of its previous predecessors. As Leitch is a self-professed Nirvana fan, it makes sense to compare the his Deadspin-led sports blog movement to the rise of the grunge music scene in the early 1990s.

Let’s start in the beginning ...

Like several pre-Nirvana grunge bands, many early sports blogs were created as a reaction to the perceived stagnation and commercialization of the sports media establishment. Whereas the late 80s rock scene had been flooded with corporate “hair-metal” creations such as Nelson and Winger, the national sports media of the early 2000s had become fascinated with the glamorization and celebrity of sports rather than the games themselves. Sports fans across the nation quickly tired of platforms such as ESPN Hollywood and ESPN’s Page 3, the sports version of US Magazine.

In opposition to this growing fascination with “sports celebs”, small groups of Internet-savvy fans began congregating on fan-centric sites such as Metsblog.com and national sports story sites such as Can’t Stop The Bleeding. These sites would not only tell the news of the day with short, staccato-like, near-instantaneous speed, but they would also pepper the news with their own commentary, the opinion of one fan broadcast to others. In the definitive grunge documentary Hype!, a member of the Seattle scene describes the grunge movement as bring rock music “back to its basics.” As the sports blogging underground slowly expanded, and Internet communication became easier, sports reporting was also going back to its basics.

Although these early sports blogs achieved moderate success (comparable perhaps to the early releases of Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Mother Love Bone), the birth of Deadspin.com in September 2005 changed the course of sports blogging history. Like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Deadspin.com crashed the barriers of acceptance, surpassed its fellow sports blogs, and dared to compete with the giants of the corporate sports media establishment.

Through the power of Internet linking and openness, Deadspin.com became more than just an alternate sports media source. It created a community of commenters, like-minded sports fans, and lesser-known bloggers. Like the lyrics of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, Will Leitch’s posts annunciated a philosophy to sports blogging. No longer were sports to be used as a vehicle for marketing and product placement, they would again be something to be enjoyed and celebrated. Those who disagreed and either took sports too seriously or wallowed in their own sports celebrity became targets of ridicule.

Upon its inception, the mantra of Leitch and Deadspin.com was to publish "sports news without access, favor, or discretion". This guiding principle was almost identical to the philosophy of Nirvana’s recording label, Sub Pop Records. According to Seth Mullins of Associated Content, Sub Pop's philosophy was to reject a marketing-based "cookie-cutter mentality" and to "make room for the individual again", turning "records and performances into the means of celebrating individuality". By encouraging fans to participate through their comments and individual blogs, Deadspin.com brought back a sense of realness to sports fandom.

Deadspin’s success not only alerted the mainstream sports media of the influence of sports blogs, but also spawned countless new independent sports blogs, some of which gained significant acclaim. As Deadspin led the way and often assisted in viewership, blogs such as Awful Announcing, The Big Lead, With Leather, and Kissing Suzy Kolber acquired their own distinct niche and readership, becoming the Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots to Deadspin’s Nirvana. Like Deadspin, these blogs all made a name for themselves in the growing sports blogosphere, eventually either breaking their own stories causing controversy through their posts. For a great number of sports fans, keeping up to date with their favorite sports blogs became a routine part of the fan experience.

Like post-Nirvana grunge, and despite its detractors, blogging is the “in” sports media trend. Nearly all mainstream sports outlets have some sort of blogging coverage. ESPN has Henry Abbott and his popular blog True Hoop, internet giant AOL.com has AOL Fanhouse; there is the Sporting News blog, and the expansion of Yahoo! Sports. Sports blogs, for better or for worse, are everywhere, and a focus on the game has somewhat returned to mainstream sports media. But the heartbeat of the common fan, that fire and passion that comes only with community and shared love of sport, remains far from secure.

And so the questions ...

What will come of the sports blog revolution now that Will Leitch is leaving Deadspin? Will his torch be carried on by the next editor? Or will the counter-culture philosophy of the biggest sports blog fall by the wayside, replaced by bloggers who would forsake their views as passionate fans for corporate compensation or cheap jokes? Will these and other bloggers ride their gimmicks to the next payday? Will the mantra Leitch promoted be marginalized by the very consumerist machine that sparked its conception? And once again, will the common voice of the fan be drowned in a sea of over-hype and disillusionment?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Keeping cool with Sportlov Satanic Snowballs



As the temperature in Tampa soars beyond 88, and people are jumping in the water plug just for old times sake, it helps to think cool thoughts.

So because nothing is cooler than winter, and in honor of the soon-to-be-played Olympics, I present my latest obscure find: Sportlov, a recently-disbanded heavy metal band of winter game loving mock Satanists from Sweden.

According to the metal gothic web site Tartarean Desire, Sportlov was a brutal black metal band with a penchant for tunes about "skiing, drinking hot chocolate in the cold snow, stabbing with ice-taps, (and) snowball wars" all in the name of the Dark Prince. And Tartarean Desire dare call them "a parody band".

Because I don't speak Swedish, I attempted to roughly translate a verse from Sportlov's epic Snöbollskrieg. From the following,

INGEN DÖDLIG MÅ STOPPA VÅR FRAMFART
I BLINT APOKALYPTISKT RASERI
BERED DIG ATT DÖ FÖR VÅRA VAPEN
STENHÅRD SNÖBOLL MED GRUS INUTI


We get:

No Mortal May Stop Our Foregone
In Blind Apocolyptic Fury
Prepare Yourself to Die With (Para) Weapon
As Hard As Nails Snowball With Sand Inside


If that's not metal, I'm not sure what is.



Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bryan Maddox won a pro wrestling title



Readers of The Serious Tip may remember my interview with Florida independent wrestler Bryan Manson. That's good because it's been a while since I wrote about pro wrestling. Here is an update:

Manson is now a heavyweight champeen.

What does this mean?

This means the ides of the apocalypse are upon us. It means there will be seven brides with seven signs for three amigos and four horsemen. It means the song of Cthulhu will be heard again. It means Satan himself is thawing from his frozen capture. It means Saddam Hussein will come in glory to rule the world.

Or not.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Going After My Big League Dreams and Trying out for the Atlanta Braves



I always thought I was a good pitcher when I was younger. One season, in my under-12 league, I pitched three games without giving up an earned run. In another memorable start a few years later, I was out-dueled by a future major league draftee 2-1. I was so enamored with “the art of the pitch” I used to practice my wind-up while standing in right field. (Rumor has it baseball legend Ted Williams used to practice while playing the outfield as well.)

Sadly, my dreams of playing baseball professionally were nearly curtailed in high school when I failed to make the junior varsity team. Even after impressing the head coach with a private practice I still didn’t make the cut. I guess they had enough left-handed fireballers on the team already. Maybe the head coach wanted someone more versatile, as even in little league I was a walking advertisement for the designated hitter. But I was a pitcher, not a hitter.

Seven years later, my dreams of playing pro ball had all but died. I was 23, living in Tallahassee, Florida, and a student at Florida State. Then one day, in the summer of 2001, the tinder of my big league aspirations were rekindled. While browsing the major league baseball web site, I found an entire page of open tryouts, two of which were scheduled for Tallahassee. Scouts for both the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers were visiting my area to find the next baseball superstar.

Although the rational side of my brain thought it would be a great idea to go and talk to the scouts while they were in town and hope to network for future employment, the curious side of me couldn’t help but wonder, what if? Did I still have potential? Could I make it? Aren’t teams always clamoring for left-handed pitching?

A couple of weeks later, on the eve of the Braves’ tryout, I could hardly sleep. Thoughts of baseball fame danced in my head. As I eventually dozed off, I made sure to sleep on my right side, careful to avoid waking with a dead left arm.

Despite my excitement, reality set in as I arrived at the Florida A&M baseball field for the tryout. After looking at the dozens of true athletes preparing for their shot, I opted to leave my baseball glove in the car. Unlike me, a majority of those already at the tryout looked as if they had played in the last seven years. I decided on the practical approach, to watch and ask the Braves’ scouts for possible employment leads after the tryout.

As I sat among the disinterested girlfriends and curious onlookers, a member of the scout team asked if I was there for the tryout. Although I answered in the negative, the scout then asked if I had a glove.

“Yes, sir,” I replied.

“Well, go get it and get out here on the field,” the scout said.

I guess he saw potential.

In all modesty, I assume it is a baseball scout’s sworn duty to evaluate the big league mettle of every warm-blooded male. No scout dare be the one to pass on a great talent due to reluctance, even if it meant putting me out in the field with a group of ex-high school all-stars, former college ballplayers, and travel team members, most of whom probably had the date circled on their calendar months in advance. Then, of course, there was me, who had only learned about the tryout weeks prior and whose training consisted of beating the dust off my glove and throwing accurately to my roommate in a game of catch.

So after deciding the outfield was probably my best place to hang out until the pitching tryout, I joined the rest of the prospects in right field for the first test of our wannabe big league skills. Our task was to catch a flyball and throw to home plate and then field a second ball and make a throw to third base. Sounded easy enough, I thought.

When it was finally my turn in the outfield I had no problem catching the first ball or fielding the second. Nor did I have any problem “crowhopping” and getting into position to throw. My attempts to get the ball to its intended target, however, weren’t exactly big league “frozen ropes”. They were more like soaring rainbows, taking to higher altitude for the sake of possible distance. Former Brave outfielders Brian Jordan or Ron Gant I was not. But then again, I was a pitcher. Throws to third and home are much easier when you are on the mound.

The next task towards making the Braves was running. And unfortunately not just the ability to run. The Braves representatives were looking for that sudden acceleration, that cat-like speed, that sheer athleticism that made for a quality prospect. Similar to the scene in the movie Major League when Willie Mays Hayes runs in his pajamas, we had to sprint a distance in the outfield equivalent to the distance from first to third base.

Having watched the often-replayed scene of former Brave Sid Bream sliding into home against the Pittsburgh Pirates, I assumed the Braves’ standard for running ability wasn’t among the highest. Truth be told, I thought of myself as quite the runner in my military days, and hoped that experience would carry me to prospect status.

Not so fast (pun intended). Apparently, the Braves had raised their standards since the days of Sid Bream and were looking for real runners, or at least athletes who could complete a 120 foot dash to a professional standard. Proving no one will ever confuse me with former Braves Rafael Furcal and Otis Nixon, my running failed to wow those who held the key to my potential big league career. Once again, however, I was a pitcher, not a speedy base stealer.

Finally, as we prospective major leaguers completed our drills, those with hopes of taking the mound were herded away from the group. This was our time to shine. Time for the golden arms of tomorrow, the future Greg Madduxes, Tom Glavines, and John Smoltzes to prove their potential. In all honesty, however, I would have settled with being the next Greg McMichael, but it was not the time to be humble.

A short while and several pitching hopefuls later, it was my turn to shine. As I walked towards the mound the lead scout told me the procedure. I would get three warm-ups, three fastballs, a breaking ball, a change-up, and a wildcard whatever-I-wanted pitch. And if I didn’t break at least 80 miles per hour with a fastball, then the scouts weren’t interested.

Admittedly, I was nervous. Eighty miles per hour? I knew I could drive it, but could I throw it? So what if I hadn’t pitched in over five years. Wasn’t it a scout’s job to find that diamond in the rough?

Having not pitched in quite a while, I used the first three pitches to find the strike zone. Nothing fancy, just strikes. On the fourth pitch, my first “official” fastball, I wound up, reared back, and fired. A strike on the inside corner. Surprised I didn’t hear the loud pop of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt, I eagerly awaited my pitch speed.

“Seventy-two,” yelled the scout’s assistant from behind the backstop. Not bad, but not good enough.

Pitch two was in the exact same location as the first. “Seventy-three,” the assistant scout yelled. Still under 80.

I had one more chance to make the cut. I quickly recalled every pitching lesson I had ever heard. Bend the back leg, drive off the rubber, follow through. I even thought about trying to pump myself up a la Al Hrbosky or Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, but thought better of it. I don’t know much about scouting, but I doubt they look approvingly towards a gimmick, even if it got me that much needed seven miles an hour more on my fastball.

Gimmickless, I toed the rubber for a third time. A simple rock back, wind-up, and pitch ...

“Seventy-five,” came the call from behind the backstop.

“Let’s see your curveball,” the head scout stoically said. His tone of voice made it clear he was just going through the motions and that barring a miracle, I wouldn’t be pitching in Turner Field any time soon.

“I don’t throw a curve,” I embarrassingly replied. Things could not get worse.

“How about any breaking pitch?” he asked.

“Well, I know how to throw a slider,” I said. I lied. I had never thrown a slider in my life, although I did know the correct grip and release of the pitch.

Thinking fast, I strode back upon the mound and threw the best slider I knew how. Surprisingly, my wanna-be slider actually acted like a slider, breaking about four inches or so before reaching the catcher’s mitt. Unfortunately, the pitch traveled at only about 60 miles per hour – minor league fodder and hardly the stuff of a future Brave.

“Ok, what else can you throw?” the scout asked.

“I have a change-up,” I admitted. Hardly one to blow people away, I was actually quite proud of my ability to throw a circle change. After learning how former Brave Tom Glavine gripped his all-star caliber change-up, I learned to master the deceptive arm speed necessary to strike out everyone on my block. Unfortunately, games on my block were played with a tennis ball, not a baseball.

Using Glavine’s grip on an actual baseball, I hurled my change-up towards the plate. Good location – lower outside corner with a little sinking action at the end. I was proud of myself. But a good change of pace does not a major leaguer make. I still had to break 80 with a fastball.

After receiving the ball from the catcher one last time, I took a deep breath. This was it. All my baseball aspirations coursed through my veins. Long hours of practicing. Years of little league semi-dominance. Thoughts of pitching Game Seven of the World Series. It all hung on one pitch. One fastball.

The slow, easy, rocking wind-up …

The pitch … a strike.

“Seventy-three.”

The four syllables that crushed my big league dreams.

With a look of disappointment, I slowly walked off the mound.

Sensing my sorrow, the head scout turned to me.
“You know you could always pitch in a local adult league if you still want to play.”

After the tryout concluded, my practical side re-emerged and I asked the scouts for any contact information they could provide that might lead to a job with the Braves. At least I succeed somewhere, scoring an address and an email to a Braves human resource officer.

A few months later, acting on the scout’s advice, I signed up for the Tallahassee Adult Baseball League. Without even trying out, I played a season and a half of adult baseball before my academic commitment forced me to prematurely retire. During that time, I found myself back on the mound twice, pitching two innings, allowing three runs on four hits and five walks. It was the end of my baseball career. But although I haven’t set foot on a pitcher’s mound since, I still haven’t given up hope. One day the Braves may call.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

BB King in Clearwater and Eric Clapton in Tampa



Last Friday night, on May 2, 2008, my dad and I continued what has become a father-son tradition: we saw blues legend BB King live for the fourth time in the last seven years. Some fathers and sons go fishing, we go to blues concerts. Whereas most of the times we've seen the great Riley B. King have been in Melbourne, FL, this year my dad came to the west coast of Florida and we took the hour drive from Tampa to the performance hall in Clearwater.

While most people his age and most his blues peers are either dead or generally localized, the 82-year old BB King and his eight man band have shown no signs of slowing down, performing well over a hundred shows every year. On Friday night, King and his crew rocked the crowd for over two hours playing many his greatest hits as well as numerous blues standards. Between songs, as could be expected by a guy his age, BB caught his breath and paced himself with jokes and anecdotes of blues glory days gone by. Although I've seen him four times in the last seven years, and six times overall, BB King remains one of my favorite live performers and I highly recommend him to anyone who enjoys live music.

Opening for King was a young Tampa saxophonist named BK Jackson. Jackson, a 16-year old musical wunderkind, was without a doubt a pleasant surprise. I was very impressed with the young sax man's performance mannerisms and his command of the audience, especially considering their unfamiliarity with his work. After hearing him, I am sure I won't be the only person from the show picking up his album when it is released.

Although seeing BB King normally makes for a great weekend, my dad and I decided to push our live music jones one step further and went to see Eric Clapton live in Tampa on Saturday night, May 3, 2008.

Whereas seeing BB King has become almost an exercise in familiarity, I, unlike my dad, had never attended an Eric Clapton concert. Nor had either of us ever seen Clapton's opening act, Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Unlike the BK Jackson surprise however, I was at least familiar with Clapton and Randolph's work prior to the show. So I knew a little bit of what to expect.

Little did I know both performers would rock my proverbial socks off.

For those who have never heard slide-guitarist (and fellow Mets fan!) Robert Randolph, imagine sort of a modern gospel-tinged Sly and the Family Stone, with a little Allman Brothers thrown in for good measure. Just some great feel-good, get-down-with-your-bad-self groovin' tunes. And he played a little "Voodoo Child", which is never a bad thing.

As for Eric Clapton, what else can be said but "Clapton is God"?



Clapton put on an absolutely flawless, amazing performance, showcasing many of the skills that have made him one of the greatest guitar players of all time. On Saturday night, Clapton wowed the audience with numerous blues covers, several acoustic jams, and most of his greatest hits, including "Layla", "Crossroads" (which included a cameo by Robert Randolph), and "Cocaine". (Side question: for someone who recovered from drug addiction, I wonder if Clapton still attaches any emotional feeling to the lyrics of "Cocaine"? Or does he just sing the words because the audience wants to hear it?)

Overall, this past weekend definitely stands as one of the best live music weekends I've had in a long time. And although I can't speak for him, I'm pretty sure my dad enjoyed himself as well.