Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Weird, Weird World of Sports

I seriously get tired of reading the newspapers...for every favorite comic strip there is a bevy of stories about carnage somewhere in the world; often, it is too close to home. I try to go to ESPN first for a little relief, though with all the mayhem which has abounded this year that hasn't been much of a reprieve, either. How goofy has the world of sports become? You be the judge:

1. Mandatory drug testing was enforced at the World Angling Championships in Portugal this year. No word whether it was the anglers or anglees that got tested.

2. A company named Eternal Image got a license to market caskets and urns emblazoned with the logo of any of the 30 teams of Major League Baseball. It seems that the Cubs are big sellers there, too, having been declared officially deceased.

3. A firm in England is manufacturing action figures called "Little Hooliganz" to represent your favorite soccer fan. A mug of beer is optional as is the hurling stick for Irish fans.

4. Warren Sapp of the Oakland Raiders refuses to eat at restaurants when the Raiders are on the road since he claims that someone has been poisoning his food. Really, it's just too many Bloomin' Onions, if you ask me.

5. During the course of Wimbledon this year, line judges are reported to have gone through more than 60 pairs of trousers after splitting the seam by bending over. It's a wonder that more tennis balls weren't lost over the fortnight!

6. The Chicago White Sox have agreed to start all night games at 7:11 p.m. in a marketing deal with a convenience store which has door locks but never closes. And, no, Frank Thomas is NOT coming back for Slurpees.

7. The world chin up record for 24 hours fell this year to a guy named Jason Armstrong though it is not yet verified. Armstrong totalled 2406 chinups in a 24-hour period. Record were also broken for the 1-minute total, the 30-minute total and the 1-hour total. All were set this year by a chap named Stephen Hyland from Great Britain: 42 in one minute 418 in 30 minutes and 701 in one hour. Hyland held the previous 24-hour record with a total of more than 2200. Seriously, guys, get a job!

8. No list of oddities would be complete wiothout the Cincinnati Bengals and their amazing run of records...complete with lineup photos and judges! Thirteen times over the last year a Bengals player was arrested with Chris Henry leading the charge having been nabbed four times. Ocho Cinco was not among the felons though he did lose a fumble last week against the Broncos. Anyway, the irony is that the Bengals' organization recently installed a phone number for fans to notify them of other fans behaving in an unseemly manner: 513-381-JERK. The number to the police station is on speed dial.

9. And, finally, more weird than nasty: Brett Holm has invented shotgun pellets that are edible so that when one shoots something for the table, the drudgery of picking through the carcass for pellets is eliminated. That means my Mom won't be able to say "Anyone who finds a pellet has to do the dishes" anymore. I gained at least ten pounds over my life swallowing shot. In addition, the pellets can be ordered in lemon pepper, mesquite or Creole flavoring. Now THAT'S good news!

10. Nothing signifies the odd nature of sports in the year that was 2006 like the fact that I got a Christmas card from the Green Bay Packers' organization. And the Yankees didn't get me anything!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Moral Compass": The Reality Show

It's not often something comes along that catches the entire world's attention and holds us riveted, awaiting the next development. Of course, we all waited to see the Pam Anderson/Tommy Lee tape or "A Night in Paris," but by the time I found out about those, they were not free any more! Steroids and baseball players continues to be an ongoing docu-drama. Britney Spears, naturally, is still a world-wide phenomenon as we await the next amazingly stupid thing she does. However, neither Rosie not The Donald weighed in on any of those, to my knowledge; so, when they get involved in a story, it grows legs. In this case, the legs are prominently displayed on Tara Conner.
Picture this: you are a billionaire worth, conservatively, 2.6 billion dollars. You've had two gorgeous wives and dumped them both. Having $500-dollar bills hanging out of your pocket doesn't seem to work in the pick-up-chicks, you buy a beauty contest or two. Immediate cachet with the ladies! (bikini-clad ladies, at that). However, one of those ladies gets outed for underage drinking and getting frisky with another young lady, and the damn news outlets won't leave it alone! (Leave it to the liberal media to know a good story when it sees one.) Owning part of the Miss USA and Miss America pageants isn't much good if people think your winners are sleazy and/or untoward (legally and morally)in their behaviors. By the way, there is NO confirmation that Tara Conner "caught in the whilwind that is New York" spent part of that time with Derek Jeter. Of course, she might be the only attractive young woman he hasn't dated. Kudos to him, I say.
Anyway, a public forgiveness followed by a tearful thank you and immediate departure for Trump Sanitarium for treatment was the perfect solution. Instead of "You're fired" it became "I'll give you another chance." Needless to say, neither of the former Mrs. Trumps got THAT invitation! was on the way to becoming the feel-good story of the year until Rosie came along on "The View."
Ms. O'Donnell ripped Trump as a twice-divorced person incapable of being anybody's moral compass, let alone one for 20-year-old beauty queens.
Trump responded with some really vicious things to say about Rosie's looks, her desirability as an intimate partner and even suggested that he might get some of his buddies to steal Kelli Carpenter away from Rosie. Wow! Talk about being breathless in anticipation. This one will have more rounds than Rocky Balboa. Is it sweeps week by any chance?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

N.efarious B.eatings A.bound

A much poorer Carmelo Anthony

'Melo ain't so mellow anymore. The National Basketball Association's leading scorer just got hit with a 15-day suspension for throwing a haymaker in a contest last week with the Knicks (if any game involving the Knicks this year can be called a "contest") The suspension includes a loss of salary. That means that he will lose $42,518.12 more per day than I would if I were to get suspended without pay for fifteen days. It's hard to feel too sorry for him, but I know I'D miss the cash if I didn't have it so he must, too. Anyway, I claim that it's not his fault. I blame the N.B.A.
Seriously, since the game became less basketball and more playground ball, violence is 'way up. Hand-checking used to be a more. Actually, taking more than two and a half steps used to be a violation as well (not to mention the travelling "jump stop"). Now, the best players in North America (I can hardly say "the world" in light of our dismal showings on the international stage lately)push, shove, hold and travel with impunity. Where did the so-called "hard foul" come from? That's still intentional/flagrant at every other level, but the N.B.A. has a special category for brutal assaults on driving shooters. (not drive-by shooters...that's for strip club visits). Allowing hard fouls and then wondering why players get upset when they get hammered is just ridiculous. If I get seriously whacked by some kid in my gym class, it's hard to just shake it off. Imagine getting drilled by some guy 6'7" who weighs upwards of 250! That would seriously cause some physical expression on my part.
Of course, the N.B.A. is really cracking down on guys who protest foul calls too vehemently...and teams are denying players the right to wear headbands...all the while sanctioning the hard foul, pushing, shoving and holding. Get real. Dr. James Naismith is rolling in his grave when he sees a game more to the liking of Pop Warner. I'm suggesting a name change: National Bashers Association. Of course, they'd need a new slogan, too. Something like: "If You Can't Beat 'Em, Beat 'Em" might be apropos. But I blame it on those who allowed the rules to be so diluted as to be unrecognizable to a basketball fan.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Want Some Cheese With That?

Well, the big experiment is over. After a lengthy study, the not-so-lengthy trial is over. Not even halfway into the new era of the NBA, the new ball is be replaced by the old standard leather ball on January first. Commissioner Stern and the NBA brain trust heavily promoted the new ball as one that would be less slick when wet and thus eliminate turnovers and make the game more high-powered (if you call four guys standing around while Kobe goes one-on-five high powered!). The reason the expensive new plan is being scrapped? The players whined about it. Shaq opined that it was like playing with an outdoor playground ball. Some compared it to something one would find at a discount store. Steve Nash (who I think is a great player, by the way) complained that the ball cut his hands. He must have gotten the "Goldfinger" edition where the razor edge could be used to slice his way through opponents. Anyway, I thought of all the innovations during basketball's history and imagined how today's players might have reacted.

1891 Dr. James Naismith invents the game in Springfield, MA by putting up peach baskets on the wall of a gym. The Players' Association immediately complained because the baskets made the ball and, their hands, smell funny. They hold out for something more manly, like bushel baskets used to carry corn.

1896 The first game in which players were paid. Each member of the Trenton Basket Ball (yes, it WAS two words at the time) team and the Brooklyn YMCA received $15 for their efforts. The Players' Association protested the fact that the captains got $16 and demanded parity for all players. As a result, non-starters were relegated to taking tickets for their extra dollar. ( I made that part up)

1896 The first official women's basketball game was played between Stanford and Cal. Stanford prevailed 2-1 in a nailbiter. The men's Player's Association complained that the crowds were bigger for the women's games because they got to wear skirts. The men sued for the right to wear really skimpy shorts for future contests (known in later years as the Havlichek Rule).

1905 Rules were amended to define the number of players allowed on the floor to five. Previous to this, as many as 50 players were allowed on the court at once. This change was demanded by the Players' Association because there were too many people and not enough $15-dollar game checks available.

1915 Rules were changed which allowed the dribbler to shoot the ball. Players' Association objected saying that this would force every player to play defense. This argument is still in courts as one can tell by watching the NBA play.

1936 Rules were changed to eliminate the jump ball after every made basket. Only half of the Players' Association challenged this rule: the tall guys who'd been on the rack for two years in order to enhance their stature.

1944 The NBA implemented a 3-second lane to discourage players from actually pounding tent stakes into the floor and setting up camp under the basket. The Players' Association protested loudly because they were getting kickbacks from the Coleman Company as well as local firewood purveyors. Not surprisingly, though, this allowed local fire departments to actually fight residential fires.

1949 The National Basketball Association officially began play as a league. Players' Association immediately registers a complaint because they STILL have to wear really short shorts and dorky black shoes. Chuck Taylor decides to experiment with white shoes.

1951 Paul Arizin arrives in the NBA and immediately changes the game by having the audacity to actually JUMP when he shoots. His reasoning was that the slippery floor (probably from all the campfire ashes) made it hard to shoot accurately, and the low ceilings prohibited the traditional high-arching shot. The Players' Association immediately files a protest with the commision, saying that the 6'4" Arizin was going to ruin the game for the future Manute Bol's of the world. (BTW, Arizin died this week, remembered as an innovator)

1979 The 3-point shot is allowed in all NBA contests. The Players' Association registers a protest because tall guys can't shoot free throws competently, let alone shoot from 20+ feet. The NBA brain trust is made up at the time of short guys...all the lawyers involved were under 6' as well.

2006 The NBA bans the wearing of tights under the regulation uniform by players in order to keep guys like Andrew Bogut from looking like complete idiots. (DWade, on the other hand, looked mighty cool). Players protest by getting really long socks which they attach to their jocks with garters. Take that, David Stern!

And now, we have the ball fiasco. I feel relatively certain that the minimum salary for an NBA player for ONE YEAR would be enough to finance a teacher for an entire career, so I have little patience for the namby-pamby whiners. My protest will be to find a bunch of those balls on the clearance rack at EBay and use them in my gym classes...we already use OLD discount playground balls and balls donated by the National Guard and Cindy Fisher Basketball camps. This will be a definite step up.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hopelessly Outdated...Soon

I've never really claimed to be on the cutting edge of anything other than, perhaps, lunacy, but the latest news from Tower Records might just send me over the edge into the vast blackness of insanity. My world is changing forever, and if I'm not careful, I could end up like the bison...celebrated every 200 years in a bicentennial celebration. (I know you got that...that's why I'm not explaining it.)
By the end of the year, Tower Records will be defunct...gone...history...closed for good. Of course, there will still be the Virgin Superstores, but I wonder, for how long?
Tower is receding into memory because, quite frankly, in-store sales have been less than brisk. Too many of us buy or steal digital music over the internet so there's little profit to be made. For me, it wasn't about the profit; it was about the experience. For those of you who don't have a frickin' clue about what I mean, go rent "High Fidelity" on DVD...or download it on your computer (Jack Black before he became famous). Record stores were fabulous microcosms of the world of cool. I could spend hours flipping quickly through stacks and stacks or bins and bins of records (OK, so I'm old) looking for the rare release of Elvis Costello's first album. Disappointment often followed, but when I found it in Sweden one summer, you could have heard me shout back in the USA. Never mind the price was 57 kroner, and I had no idea how much that was! I threw all my money on the counter and let the clerk take what he needed...or wanted. The excitement was a real rush. THAT'S what music stores were about.
They also were about a sort of musty smell that made me wonder what went on when there were no customers. Did the clerks import grime from outside just to give it an air of authenticity like these were REALLY rare recordings? Did the clerks ever go anywhere else? They always seemed to be at the store. Was that just a faint whiff of MJ in there? (no, NOT Michael Jordan)
The clerks, too, knew everything about a band and could find a particular piece of music without having to hunt for it. Most of the time, I wanted to hunt for it. The thrill of the chase, much akin to my wife looking for that "perfect" sweater at J. Jill. I recently visited a music store in Green Bay looking for a soundtrack to a musical my wife and I had recently seen and enjoyed. The clerk asked what I was seeking and found it within two minutes of my entering the store. I really just wanted to look for it and, possibly, discover something else that I din't know I wanted. Instead, I felt like I had to leave or look dorky in front of real music people. Not as much fun. Of course, I was a bit embarassed about asking for the soundtrack of "Mama Mia" out loud. Even asking for ABBA's greatest hits would have been better. At least then it might seem like I went to real concerts and not "performances" at which I got a comfy seat and a bathroom inside. He was probably thinking "We've got to do something to the store...old geezers are now coming in for this stuff."
Searching high and low for picture albums was really fun for me, too. The only real "art" I am allowed to buy involves picture LPs of great bands or musicians. I frame them and hang them on the wall next to my Krispy Kreme art. Currently residing there are Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke (I really wanted Marvin Gaye), Jackson Browne, Elvis costello and The Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's." No Ramones yet...too pricey thus far.These can only be found by spending hours searching every last bin at a music store. Sadly, this won't happen at Tower Records any more.
As long as The Exclusive Company ("Say it with me")is still in business, I can return to the halcyon days of youth when I visit...but I'm not asking for any more musical scores, that's for sure!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Downward Comparison Feels Better

I'll admit that sometimes sports takes on a greater emphasis than it should, especially for those of us who don't have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, where we'll spend the night or whether our children will be safe in school or at the mall. The Packers are woeful this year, the Ducks have played well only in spurts and needed a bogus call to beat my Sooners and deny Bob Stoops his rightful shot at the national championship. The Yankees didn't make it past Detroit, UWGB, my local team, has been struggling a bit thus far. Thanks to the internet, I can listen to or watch almost any sporting event. I swear, cover my eyes and agonize over every 3-pointer that goes in and every offensive rebound grabbed against my son's team at the U of Illinois. I feel each loss of any of my teams in painful reality. On occasion, I have reason to rejoice...Marquette losing to North Dakota State over the weekend was such an occasion. Coach Miles and Coach Koering of NDSU gave my son his first experience into coaching so I watch and cheer for the Bison. Wins are too few and looses too numerous: as it is in life. At least I have no affiliation with Ohio State-Marion. For those of you who do, I can feel some of your pain.
The Scarlet Wave played Lincoln University in men's basketball over the weekend, and vaulted into the NCAA D3 record books...regrettably. Lincoln won the game 201-78 and in doing so, set several records. Lincoln surpassed Redlands University's record of 104 points in a half; Sam Wylie set a record with 21 3-pointers. In addition, the Wave had 62 turnovers and had the ball stolen 48 times. Ouch. All 16 players scored for Lincoln, and since accounts are sketchy, little else is known. I am willing to bet Lincoln employed a full-court press the entire game and that OSU-Marion tried hard but got discouraged early.
I'm not here to argue about the right or wrong of such a performance by a winning team or the effects of such a loss on the losing team. I'm just saying that USC fans or Nebraska fans or Marquette or Kansas or even Packers fans can take a bit of solace knowing that none of their teams has absorbed such a debacle.
As for the Scarlet Wave: I feel for you, and now I have a new team to root for.