Friday, January 11, 2008

Nobody's perfect ... or are they?

For the uninitiated, this weekend is the best weekend of sports in the entire year. We've weeded out the crap from the NFL playoffs and we're left with the (supposedly) 8 best teams in the league, playing virtually non-stop from Saturday at 4:30 until late in the evening on Sunday. If you ain't a football fan, you'd better have a craft fair or a Bingo hall to run to because it's going to get ugly in front of the TV.
The popular opinion says that the Jacksonville squad will knock off the mighty undefeated Patriots on Saturday night or at the very least, give them a run for their money. This unpopular opinion isn't so sure. Methinks that people generally like to root against perfection in all its forms - people, sports teams, politics - and if they can find an angle they'll use it.
It's the reason that people generally don't like the popular crowd or the beautiful people and the reason we like seeing women like Britney Spears or (oops) Jessica Simpson stumble in life. We like to feel as though we're all the same, but we're not really. Some people are just winners in life, and if the Patriots somehow lose on Saturday night it doesn't change that fact.
Human nature is a funny thing - at least I hope it is. It encourages us to wish ill on others. The Germans call it Schadenfreude - pleasure taken from the misfortune of others. Some will enjoy watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick mope off the field after seeing their near-perfect season collapse - on their home field, no less.
It's the reason we hate the Yankees, the Braves and Jeff Gordon. There's an emotional attachment to second place and a sentimental attachment to the underdog. But, they're second place underdogs for a reason.
They lose a lot.
Players win and winners play.
Have a lucky day.
- Morphine "Have a Lucky Day"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

For the baseball fans

Earlier this week, Goose Gossage was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in his ninth year of eligibility. Mostly, he was elected because the class was weak. Partly, he was elected because the Hall of Fame schedules a big celebration at the end of July, and if they don't have anyone to induct into the Hall, the weekend is kind of pointless.

In order to be inducted, a player needed 75% of the votes, and Gossage got 85.8% - suddenly - after missing out for almost a decade. Chances are, it's because this year's class was so pathetic, since he hasn't pitched a game in almost 15 years, and I'm sure his career numbers are the same as they were last year and the year before.

Maybe Gossage should have been elected earlier or maybe not. Either way, one wonders why it took him so long, and if you have to debate it, perhaps he isn't worthy to begin with. I won't bore you with statistics and numbers. Suffice it to say that Hall of Famers are like great art - you know it when you see it. The fact that Gossage has been overlooked while players like Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs and Eddie Murray got elected over him doesn't change his accomplishments, it only changes the players he is up against for election. For some reason, that matters to voters, who I believe need to examine their motives.

It shouldn't be necessary to vote for a player merely because they need to elect someone, and it shouldn't be necessary to vote for someone merely because his name is on the ballot. For instance, this year Todd Stottlemyre, Chuck Knoblauch (named in the Mitchell Report) and Chuck Finley got one vote each. "Hall of Famer Chuck Finley" just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Let's find out who cast a vote for these guys and revoke his voting privileges. It strikes me as odd that such nondescript players would get one vote. Is there some clandestine agreement among the voters where they agree that one of them will vote for each player? Suppose, by some quirk of fate that the voters got confused and Rod Beck emerged with 75%. Do we get a mulligan?

It's time for the Hall to think long and hard about the requirements and the votes that are cast by the sportswriters. Why do sportswriters get to vote and no one else does? Is it some sort of conflict of interest that the guys who are covering the teams vote for the players to go into the Hall?

In the meantime, here is a list of the players who will be eligible for election in the coming years. Don't confuse any of them with Walter Johnson or Stan Musial...

2009: Steve Avery, Jay Bell, Mike Bordick, John Burkett, David Cone, Ron Gant, Mark Grace, Rickey Henderson, Charles Nagy, Denny Neagle, Jesse Orosco, Dean Palmer, Dan Plesac, Rick Reed, Greg Vaughn, Mo Vaughn, Matt Williams, Mike Williams.
2010: Roberto Alomar, Kevin Appier, Andy Ashby, Ellis Burks, Andres Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Shane Reynolds, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile.
2011: Wilson Alvarez, Carlos Baerga, Jeff Bagwell, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Al Leiter, Tino Martinez, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Benito Santiago, Ugueth Urbina, Larry Walker.
2012: Vinny Castilla, Bill Mueller, Brad Radke, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Bernie Williams, Tim Worrell

The 2011 class is particularly interesting. Palmeiro is still wagging his finger and Ugueth Urbina is still in jail. If Andy Ashby gets a vote - one vote - in 2010, I will personally drive to the voters house and smack him on the back of his head.

From the looks of the upcoming players, if I were Dave Conception, Andre Dawson or Alan Trammell, I'd start writing my induction speech and thinking about a week off in July. The pickings are getting slim, and the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce doesn't want to have an empty town during the summer.

I know what you're saying. I do. "Why is he so worked-up about this?" Well, if you don't have principles, you have nothing. Like so many things, what was once special is now a watered-down shell of itself, and I get worked-up when standards slip in anything. This just happens to be about baseball. When they voted players like Phil Rizzuto in, it opened up the door (in a bad way) to other above average players, and the reasoning would start, "Well, Rizzuto's in, so why not ..."

If it isn't a Hall of Fame, it's a Hall of Above Average, and what's the point of that?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Be careful what you wish for...

... or you will surely get it.
I've been doing some thinking about the upcoming primary here in New Jersey. Some thinking, since it's still almost a month away and the John Edwards campaign seems to be running low on steam. It's typical of America that too many choices are a bad thing, so it stands to reason that the fewer the choices, the better we'll like it.
That's why I'm thinking that John will probably not survive the process. It's looking like the Hillary and Barack Show, and my initial thoughts are that they might not be the two best choices.
Mostly because I'm cynical of the political process and partly because I believe that the process is bigger than the will of the people. Specifically, I believe that the Republican machine is bigger than the will of the people.
Ask yourself a question. Ask yourself why, in such a politically quick manner that Barack Obama has become the Flavor of the Month for America. How has he become so - supposedly - popular among so many - supposedly - influential people and how has he vaulted to the top of the party? Is he popular because you truly believe his message or is he popular because he has been foist upon you? If you truly know his message, then perhaps his popularity is genuine. If, as I believe, his popularity is the byproduct of a machine that has foist him upon us, then we need to ask ourselves if his campaign and subsequent nomination is really what is best for the Democrats, or what is best for the Republicans.
Will he divide the vote and drive Democrats toward the moderate Republican candidate, who is likely to be John McCain?
The thought here is that he is the best candidate that the Republicans could want. I'm not all that excited about Hillary either, but the thought of an Obama/McCain election leaves me fearful of the next 4 years.
Before you decide, read this - and this. Two excerpts follow:
The current issue of the New Yorker contains a profile of Obama, which highlights his appeal to conservatives. For his optimism about the future, Obama has been dubbed the “black Ronald Reagan”. He frequently challenges the black community to support two-parent families and encourage school students, instead of criticising them for “acting white”.
In fact, to this day Senator Obama's largest contributors include numerous law firms who represent huge corporate interests before the Bush Administration and would no doubt do the same before his own. He is therefore linked to the very largest Republican representatives before Congress and the US Government. Important contributors to his campaign also include significant corporate executives such as the CEO of Motorola, a relatively consistent Republican contributor.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The things that pass for mild excitement in my world.

I had a dentist appointment on Monday. There was no drilling, only the scraping and scratching of the metal pointy thing and some low-level radiation from some X-rays.
I decided to walk, since his office is only a quarter mile from my place and the weather was unseasonably warm. Thanks, Al Gore!
On my way home, I noticed this silver shiny object on the street in front of me. Not being one to be embarrassed by picking up trash on the street, I bent over and grabbed it. Sure enough, it's a $50 debit card made out to ALL-ACCESS CUSTOMER. Since I don't know Mr. Customer, I decided to check the web site on the back of the card to see if the fifty bucks was still valid.
The card was scratched and probably run over by a few cars and trucks, but hey, it's fifty bucks, right? Kinda.
I checked the debit card's web site and punched in the number, and it showed a "pending transaction" for a sports gambling site, where our Mr. Customer placed a bet on Sunday, probably on one of the NFL playoff games. The card was purchased on Saturday from a local convenience store.
Since I'm always trying to figure out the scams, I guessed that the guy (it's a guy, right?) bought the card with cash because (a) he doesn't know a bookie and (b) he doesn't want his wife to know he bets on the Internet. Then, in a half-assed attempt to destroy the evidence, he flung the card out the window of his car on his way to work on Monday. If he used his card, she would see the bill and wonder what that web site was all about. She pays the bills too.
I'm figuring he bet on the Titans.

It could be worse. I could have Neurofibromatosis.

I hate when this happens.
I woke up at 3:15am and I couldn't get back to sleep. Once my brain starts working, it's a tough shut-down procedure. Like powering down a nuclear reactor. I had Elvis Presley's "Burning Love" running through my head. After that ran out, it was Tommy Edwards' "It's All in the Game." Where did that come from?
Now, it's 4:21 and I'm sitting here sipping leftover Dunkin Donuts Vanilla Bean Coolatta, so I guess I'm here for the duration. Who suffers? You, because I turn to this nonsense.
I watched the Roger Clemens news conference on Monday afternoon. It's something like two days now, and I'm already sick of it. There he was, in front of the ESPN cameras, denying all the accusations and getting angrier by the second. At one point, his lawyer passed him a note advising him to "lighten up".
The day I have to have a lawyer speak to people for me is the day I check out of this nut house altogether. Did Clemens kill a kid? Did he commit a major crime? No, he put drugs into his body for our entertainment. He's in full panic mode over this nonsense, to the point that he has spent a great deal of money (I know, he makes a great deal of money too) on a lawyer to set up a press conference on television. It's good blog material and kind of odd, but all this? What a world.
The idea that you could assemble a group of media types and run it on a major cable network, while your life plays out in public is a pathetic situation. Part of it has to do with the idea of a scandal and part of it has to do with the idea that TV has time to fill. That's a fatal combination.
I had Monday off from work and did some bike riding. I was able to run some errands and let the car sit all day, so that's a plus. Temperatures around here are hovering around 60 degrees, and today might be closer to 70, but who gives a rat's ass - I'll be at work.
4:35 - The cat is up now, sitting here next to me. He can get up at 4:35 because he can sleep all day.
One of my friends at work loaned me season 1 of Heroes, and I started watching it last night. Since the writers' strike, there is absolutely nothing worth watching on prime time TV, so I figured it would be a good chance to catch up with this show. If you haven't seen it, you're missing out on some high quality entertainment. It's way too complicated to go into here. Check it out and let me know.
Meanwhile, it's 4:49 and I have to go to work in a couple of hours.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Don't say I didn't warn you.
Between the stoppages in the NFL playoff games on Saturday, I wandered over to ABC to watch the presidential debates. I paid little attention to the Republicans, since I'm both a registered Democrat and not the least bit interested. Our New Jersey primary is in a few weeks, and I'm starting to feel as though I should get caught up.
It seems to be the popular sport to jump all over Mitt Romney's financial condition. I suppose it plays in the sticks, but let's face it folks, none of these people are hurting financially. It's most of the reason they decided to run in the first place. Genuinely middle class individuals don't stand a chance in politics above the local level, and even then it's a tough road. Picking on Romney for being wealthy is a cheap misdirection ploy designed to make you dismiss his message - whatever that is.
Mostly, the Republican candidates look like a bunch of guys who would try to keep me out of their country club. From the early returns, it appears as though John McCain will emerge from a crop of lesser lights to take the early lead. Since I'm not paying much attention, all I can hope is that the Republican nominee isn't one of those religious nuts who put God in front of country and people. That's ass backwards if you're asking me.
The Democrats are a mess. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will likely spend the next 5 months sniping at one another while John Edwards continues to remind us that his father worked in a mill. John figures his best bet is to align himself with the middle class (whoever they are) and since the middle class is disappearing faster than Ted Danson's hair, he had better hurry because they might be gone before the election.
Be wary of anyone who tries to make himself appear to be just like you. Usually, it's a lie, because if he was just like us he wouldn't be sitting there telling us he was just like us. Don't be afraid to be different, John. It's OK. We know you're not like us.
I noticed that Hillary spent most of the debate trying not to mention her husband. You remember him, right? The 42nd President of the United States. She did mention that it would be historic to have a woman president. No kidding. It would be more historic to have a woman president who was once the First Lady. Remind us how that was, Hillary.
Bill Richardson was part of the debate on Saturday, but if you weren't watching you wouldn't know it. It's about time for him to do something desperate, since I feel his campaign sliding down the slippery slope. On Saturday, he mentioned a couple of times that Americans are going to have to "make sacrifices" in order to solve our energy problems and relieve our dependence on oil. Bill, people don't like to hear the word sacrifice. They feel like they're making enough already. If you're going to suggest that they lose their giant vehicles, pay a tax on them or suggest that they trade them in for a smaller vehicle you're painfully oblivious to the wants of society.
I still don't know about Barack Obama. Politically, he's a kid. I'll bet the chair in his Senate office isn't warm yet, and here he is out stumping on the campaign trail, spouting monologues about change and how we need it. "Who is this guy?", I ask myself. He is right about one thing. If he is elected president it would be a huge ... um ... change. Face it folks, big time politics isn't about change and it isn't about to change. That's why it's big time politics. Talking about change is going to be the buzz until the election, because the Democrats know that the public is tired of the Bush administration, so it will serve them to use the word change so that we'll think something different is going to happen. I'm old enough to be cynical enough to know it ain't necessarily so.
I'm thinking it will come down to a woman and a young black man for the Democrat nomination. I don't think we will need to be reminded that change is coming.
NBC news reported that people under 50 are for Obama and people over 50 are for Clinton. I'm 50, which is probably why I'm undecided. I'll be 51 by the time November rolls around, so I suppose I will have decided by then.