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 Always curious about new websites, I scribbled "" 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 in late 2006. Also like thousands upon thousands of other sports fans, I read some of the blogs linked to and thought, "That looks fun. I wonder if I can do that?". Then one day 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 and The Big 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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What if the Cubs won the 1918 World Series: The Rise of Sweetbread

Ninety years ago today, the Boston Red Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the World Series and won the series 4 games to 1. But how would baseball history be different if the better team won?

(Cue the Scooby Doo alternate ending)

September 11, 1918

The Chicago Cubs, the best team in baseball, won the 1918 World Series by defeating the Boston Red Sox 4 games to 1. The Cubs battered Red Sox pitching to a tune of 4 runs a game, slightly under their league leading 4.11 runs per game. It was the Cubs’ third title in 11 years.

Among the heroes of the Cubs was Fred Merkle, who atoned for his “boner” during the 1908 Series by hitting nearly .300 against the Red Sox and driving in game-winning runs in Games 2, 3, and 5. Merkle quickly became a Cubs favorite, as fans all across Chicago chanted his name and dubbed themselves “Merkle’s Marauders” or “Boner Buddies”.

On the mound, Cubs left-hander Hippo Vaughn proved himself to be one of the best arms in the National League by winning Games 1, 3, 4. Vaughn’s wins, including a five-hitter in Game 4, solidified his reputation as one of the best-big game pitchers in the early 20th Century. Vaughn pitched 27 innings during the Series, allowing only 3 runs. Vaughn would continue his dominance throughout the next few years, and would be elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee during the 1970s.

For the Red Sox, most of the burden for loss fell on 23-year old Babe Ruth. After losing three games for the Sox, the Boston press dubbed Ruth “a fat loser”. After the Series, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee forbid Ruth from playing right field, claiming, “Ruth needs to focus more on his pitching than his hitting. Any player can hit, and he is a burden on the basepaths.” Ruth would stay on the mound for his entire career with the Red Sox, never recovering from his embarrassment in 1918 and eating his way out of the league by 1928.

Following their 1918 championship, the Cubs continued their dominance in the National League. With ace Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander returning to form following his year-plus stint in World War I, the Cubs pitching staff was the mainstay of the new Cubs dynasty.

Under Alexander's guidance, the real hero in the Cubs continuing lock on the National League was young right-hander Abraham Lincoln “Sweetbreads” Bailey. Bailey, who debuted the year after the 1918 championship, paired with Grover Cleveland Alexander to form not only the most Presidential duo in baseball history, but also the most dominant. A one-time hero in the Joliet, Illinois City League, Sweetbreads Bailey dominated the National League like no one earlier, throwing 5 straight no-hitters, winning 30 games every year until 1938, and inspiring then-Mayor Edward Joseph Kelly to declare everyday “Sweetbread's Day”.

Sweetbread's popularity would grow so epic, he and the Cubs would be the biggest draw in baseball throughout the 1920s. Presidents would know his name, and in WWII Japanese soldiers would attempt to torment American troops would chants of “To Hell with Sweetbread”.

If only the Cubs’ bats hadn’t gone silent 80 years ago today.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Musing about politics

I know I have been all over the map with my topics lately. With the election season in full effect, there are a few things on my mind I wanted to put into words.

1) A few weeks ago BBC News and several other news outlets reported that White people of European descent will no longer be the majority in America by the year 2042. What effect will this have on the Republican party? As America becomes more multi-ethnic, will the Republican Party - stereotypically known as the party for White males - be able to adapt? If they don't, what will happen when they are mathematically eliminated before an election begins? Evolution is normal in political parties, but I think the Republican Party has to start planning for change now if it wants to be relevant in 50 years. That could be difficult for a party that touts itself as traditional and conservative.

2) On a related note, don't be surprised if the Democratic Party breaks apart and a new party emerges when a minority group decides the party line isn't best for them. We almost saw a splinter faction this year, but the solidarity of the GOP is forcing Democrats to vote as one bloc. If the GOP ceases to be relevant, the Democratic Party might not be able to hold the monopoly on their many diverse voices. It should be interesting.

3) A lot was made last week about Gov. Palin's pregnant daughter. What bothered me most was the young girl's boyfriend was immediately labeled Miss Palin's "husband-to-be". There is a verse in one of the songs of socially conscious hip-hop group The Coup in which Boots Riley raps:

I heard a lot of bad things about teenage mothers
From those who don't really give a fuck about life
She said "It ain't so much that they startin' out younger"
"It's just they supposed to be more like a wife"
Meanin' you ain't shit without a man to guide you
If ya mama tried to feed you that she lied too

The Bristol Palin controversy seemed eerily familiar to the family-first stance Dan Quayle took against Murphy Brown. Oddly, not much of the mainstream media is making that connection (this blog comes up first in a Google search). Maybe they are scared. Whatever the reason, in a land where a man without a solid nuclear "mother and father" family unit is running for president, does it really matter that a child is raised with a husband and wife in an average house with a mini-van and a white picket fence, as long as the child is raised with good morals and ideals and is hopefully a productive member of society?

4) I enjoy talking politics with a few people at my work. Sometimes, however, they baffle me. The other day, for example, one of my co-workers, a staunch conservative, said he liked watching Fox News because it "reaffirmed his views".

That is the exact reason NOT to watch.

I always try to keep an open mind, whether in discussions or in the media I absorb. My personal library is a smorgasbord of various philosophies, opinions, and mantras from Islam to Christianity to Buddhism to 1960s-era Black Nationalism to theories on warfare to books on the beatnik and hippie movements. How can someone understand the points of view of others if they only stay in their lane? Even if someone lives by one view, they should at least understand the mindset of other views. Anything less is ignorant.

5) Last but not least, fellow blogger MC Bias, a longtime friend of The Serious Tip, has a really good post on the dearth of conservative views in the sports blogosphere. He is definitely right. Although sports and politics don't mix too often, when they do the opinions tend to lean to the left. Although I commented that perhaps the reason was merely due to demographic and technological adoption (John McCain doesn't use email, remember?), perhaps it is also because sports is usually more progressive than most of society. This is especially true socially (Jackie Robinson came long before the Civil Rights Movement) and economically (isn't revenue sharing basically socialist?).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Vote for me for Afro-Squad Man of the Year

2008 has been labelled a year of change. A year we throw away the faulty ways of the past, those misguided notions of ill-advised and confused leaders. Leaders who did not know or understand the feeling and will of the people.

In this year of hope we must shed the misdirection that has mired us in the dismal situations we now find ourselves in. We must take the high road, the road less traveled, and the road to prosperity.

For too long the Afro-Squad Man of the Year has been won by candidates without your best interest in mind. These winners have been only out for themselves or their supporters. They refused to see the best interests of everyone, no matter what side of the aisle, side of the fence, or side of the Force.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that this year's other candidates don't care, it's just that they don't understand battling The Man ain't easy. It takes hard work and a system that fosters and allows for success. The necessary skills of pimping aren't acquired through a corner, a feather hat, or a fancy mask, despite the beliefs of my opponents. They still believe in a broken mantra. They have clung to an antiquated system that doesn't understand you, your situations, or your hopes. Those other candidates think you should support yourself, even if you don't have a cane to lean on. They think you should find your own transportation, even if your Cadillac has been repossessed.

The other nine individuals in the running for Man of the Year might show you their smiling faces, their skills at kissing hands and shaking babies, or their aptitude for being in front of the camera. But don't believe their false promises and don't believe the hype. Only one candidate will keep your best interests in mind.

People, in this year of hope, change, and the future, we can no longer tolerate the misdirections of the past. You need a candidate that can form a better Afro-Squad Nation, an Afro-Squad Nation under one voice, with one heart, one soul, and one effort. An Afro-Squad Nation that stands up to The Man and finally puts him in his place. A candidate that will make The Man work for The People, not the other way around. I am that candidate. That is why I am asking for your vote.

(I am Jordi Scrubbings and I support this message.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Tale of Joe Quest

In a world where every night was dark and stormy, in a galaxy far, far, away, one brave soul took on a new life in a new place with new people. Things were new. He was scared. This is his story (r.i.p. movie trailer guy) ...

Darkness had fallen on the city of Chicago. After a glorious start, the Chicago National League Ballclub had been overtaken by hard times. No longer were they the zenith, the alpha, and the pinnacle of prestige in the new National League. They were an average team, wallowing in the mire of mediocrity.

Then the following year, everything changed.

The Cubs were unbeatable. Led by an upgraded pitching staff and the emergence of young stars, the team scored more than two runs more per game than their opponents, and hit more than 20 points higher as a team than the rest of the league. They were once again a juggernaut.

Leading the charge, well, actually somewhere in the rear of the movement, was a scappy, diminutive infielder named Joe Quest. Despite his diminutive size (5'6 150lbs), Joe still wasn't close to being one of the smallest men in the league. He wasn't even the smallest on his own team - ace pitcher Larry Cororan was 5'3, 127lbs.

But what Joe Quest lacked in recognition, he made up for in .... ummm ... not much really.

The truth is, Joe Quest wasn't very good. Even considering the fact he played in the "dead ball era", Joe couldn't hit. He averaged a horrible .217 during his ten-year career. And he didn't take many walks either, drawing only 104 during his time in the majors. To top it off, Joe was also atrocious in the field, even for his day, averaging nearly 37 errors a season for his career.

So why did I choose to write about Joe Quest?

Because he has a cool name.