Friday, August 26, 2005

The Pathetic Preseason, Moss’ Mary J, and Stuck on Steroids

As football season fast approaches, I'm reminded far too often that it simply can't approach fast enough. Most NFL diehards are currently dancing a merry jig merely at the sight of their favorite players donning pads and helmets, but I'll be frank – preseason football is about as exciting as a rousing match of tiddlywinks. Sure, starters are there for a short spell, but the atrocities that ensue as soon as said starters leave the action is all but a crime against humanity. 17 flags in 10 minutes à la the Giants and Browns? I'll pass, thank you.

As far as I'm concerned, preseason football is worse than no football at all, if only for the fact that my brain turns to mush when I watch no-name nothings make more mistakes than Kurt Warner has concussions. I'm hungry for some football, but I'm not about to eat spam when there's steak on the horizon.

Of course, there's preseason football, and then there's preseason drama. The media world was abuzz when Randy Moss revealed that he had a penchant for partaking in pot "once in a blue moon." And then, of course, the world collectively gasped. Marijuana in the NFL? In professional sports?! Say it ain't so, Randy! What should be made of such a horrifying revelation?

First of all, let's straighten one thing out: we're all more than aware that many an athlete uses recreational drugs – insert your own "Portland Trailblazers" joke here. Hell, in this last year alone we've witnessed the return of Ricky "The Rastaman" Williams and the emergence of the one and only Whizzinator, so let's all drop the surprised act. Is this really a big deal? Randy didn't exactly talk about hitting the bong in the huddle or toking up on the sidelines, so unless the ganja explains why he's able to make freakish catches at blazing (no pun intended) speeds, we seem to obsessing over nothing. Why blast an athlete for being refreshingly candid? Randy sat down, honestly admitted that he occasionally goes out with Mary Jane… and that's fine by me. Let Randy smoke all the moss he wants. It's not doing anyone any harm.

Meanwhile, in the land of baseball, pundits everywhere have been blessed with a proverbial dose of Viagra given the flurry of steroid related accusations, tests, and suspensions in the news. Seriously though, is there a hotter topic on television right now that doesn’t involve the drunken shenanigans of talentless Hollywood starlets or the insanity of one Tom “I’ve lost it” Cruise? It seems only natural to want to discuss the repercussions of baseball's current sad state of affairs, especially now that we’ve seen a potential hall of famer suspended over ‘roids.

The problem, of course, is overreaction. Steroids have become more than a dark cloud over baseball, they’ve become an all-encompassing hurricane that draws all of our attention almost to the point of blindness. What once seemed like a quest for truth now seems to unfold like a Salem witch-hunt. No longer are we faced with a burden of proof when it comes to condemning players, we can simply shout out accusations as we see fit and observe the repercussions. “I saw Goody Damon dancing with the devil! Burn him at the stake, the Jesus-like appearance is a clever ruse!” Let the tests do the talking, people.

Then comes the burning question of how to handle the stats of players we know are tainted. Apparently, rational thinking has been thrown out the window with this issue as well.

“I know! We’ll put all of the players into large burlap sacks and have fans pummel them with their own bats! And then let’s have a royal rumble in the outfield for the survivors in a winner-takes-all death-match!”

Known scholar and reputable legal analyst Curt Schilling believes that we should simply erase cheaters like Rafael Palmeiro from the record books and reset their stats at zero. Brilliant – let’s ignore the fact that these guys existed at all! While we’re at it, let’s also forget the fact that this philosophy only punishes those individuals who were ensnared in baseball’s recent steroid crackdown; it does nothing for those players who barely escaped the reach of the new policy’s grasp. How do we handle statistics from the steroid era? Should we simply eradicate the numbers of the red-handed while playing a guessing game with all others? Should we simply crucify modern-day violators with no regard to players who slithered away from the long arm of the law? Maybe we should carefully examine the landscape of post-steroid baseball and give solutions a little thought before readily blurting out ridiculous suggestions.

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End rant, over and out.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Raffy's Roids, The Manning Macarena, and What the WSOP?

Fessing up to a wrong you’ve committed is unarguably one of the more difficult things we all have to do in life. You make a mistake, you own up to it, and you learn from the experience. Or you fabricate a ridiculous lie. That, ladies and gentlemen, is taking the celebrity high road. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in today’s post-steroid era of baseball.

Raffy Palmeiro did not ever use steroids.

Raffy Palmeiro did not ever intentionally use steroids.

Raffy Palmeiro did not ever have sexual relations with that woman. Er, syringe. Um, blue pill? I’m confused.

Forgive me for my cynicism, but since when is complete ignorance an excuse for misdeeds? Who the hell believes a guy that has no idea how something got in his system? Steroid testing isn’t something that should have surprising outcomes for the testee; it’s not likely that a player was just taking a stroll outside the locker room only to slip, fall, and land on some stanozolol. Did that mustache of Palmeiro’s sprout legs and develop a craving for flaxseed oil? This already reminds me of every episode of “COPS” when a guy gets busted and magically ends up with drugs in his pocket. “Um… that’s not mine. I swear.”

I wonder if Ryne Sandberg ever caught Palmeiro in bed with his wife (i.e. the rumored reason that Palmeiro was traded from the Cubs to Rangers) only to have Palmeiro exclaim, “Holy HGH, how did this vile temptress end up in bed with me? And who took off her clothes!? Speaking of which, where are my clothes?! Where am I? Who am I?!”

Oh, Peyton. In a recent article featured on ESPN.com, Peyton Manning was discussing things that the Colts needed to improve when he threw out this gem:

“We had 37 false starts last season, 31st in the league and those are drive killers.”

Does this surprise anyone? I wonder if they'd have so many false starts if Peyton wasn't busy doing the Macarena while under center. It’s simply amazing to watch his reaction when the Colts get whistled for a false start – Peyton just throws his hands up in disgust and glares at his line as though he's the blameless saint back there. Now, I know that you just broke the single season record for passing TDs, but here’s a thought: maybe you guys would have fewer false starts called if you stopped flapping your arms like a drunken prom queen! Way to go champ, you've confused your own team into killing a drive.

Random thought: Is poker commentator Norman Chad really just the product of a computer programmer? Every time I watch a WSOP event, Chad starts babbling and I immediately think of recent video game versions of John Madden where you get to hear Madden laud players in non descript ways. “Well Lon, this guy just knows how to play poker. He has a good head on his shoulders, and doesn’t usually make bad calls. BOOM! Now that’s big time poker.”

I may have made that last part up. But you get the idea.

Oh, and Lon McEachern could easily be swapped out with the Moviefone guy. “If you know the name of the poker player you’d like to see, press one now. Please enter the first three letters of your request, followed by the pound sign. You have selected ‘Make Norman Chad set himself aflame and stop talking about his ex-wives.’ I’m sorry, that option is currently unavailable.”

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, but you’re telling me that ESPN couldn’t find two knowledgeable/human poker analysts to take advantage of the television crack that is poker?


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End rant, over and out.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Let The Tirades Begin

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Ladies, gents, and the three people actually reading: welcome. I suppose now’s a good a time as ever to debut the online, in-print version of my UTV “Man on a Rant” persona, so hang on to your hat and galoshes, we’re going to start talking sports. And by talking sports, I mean that I’ll be discussing them in the Jim Mora sort of way.

Playoffs?! (Who could resist…)

Without further ado:

As a sports fan in the last decade of the ESPN era, we’ve all been assaulted by the astounding quantity of information available to us with the touch of one finger. If you own a computer - and if you don’t, I’ll go out on a limb and assume you aren’t reading this column - you’re frantically checking up on every score and news tidbit that concerns your favorite squadron more often than Ken Griffey Jr. has injured his hammy. We’re so hooked on this instant availability of information that our sports outlets have resorted to soothsaying just to keep us hanging. Real-time info isn’t good enough anymore – we need prophetic visions to keep us satisfied.

Case in point? The MLB trade deadline. Egads man, a GM couldn’t sneeze these last few weeks without it resulting in a trade rumor that came nowhere close to coming to fruition. “Well Stew, it seems that Brian Cashman was playing tennis with a friend earlier today, and amidst the grunting and yelling, I believe he revealed that he was willing to trade away Alex Rodriguez and Bernie Williams for a turkey sandwich and a player to be named later.” Did anyone actually believe that Manny was heading elsewhere? Maybe Cracky, the crackhead Mets fan, but certainly no one of their right mind was this deluded. I mean, I know it’s quite common that a team in first place trades away the reigning World Series MVP and league RBI leader for peanuts just as the divisional hunt kicks into 5th gear, but it all seemed so legit at the time! Can we please put an end to the diarrhea of deluded drivel and stick to talking about actual happenings in sports? They’re called “rumors” for a reason, people.

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You’ll have to forgive me for the lateness of the discussion, being that Tiger Woods wrapped up his 10th major victory at the British Open over two weeks ago, but sometimes I just can’t stand the two-faced lunacy of sports writers. Has anyone noticed how quickly everyone hopped back on to the Tiger Train? Hip-hip, hypocrisy! For three years we hear endless declarations of “Tiger’s slumping! Tiger’s finished! The field has caught up with Tiger!” while the guy retools his swing and marries a hottie with a body. So sure, he goes Agassi on us for a while, but now that he’s strung together another pair of major victories, everyone can’t wait to suckle on the teat of Tiger. “Oh, Tiger, you magnificent beast, tell us again about how you’re the greatest golfer of a generation?” Let’s all do the fickle flip-flop fandango and pretend we never doubted the guy.

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Speaking of things in the not-too-distant past, a buddy and I were discussing the outrageous Jimmy Rollins deal in the car a few days ago. You know, the one where the Phillies decided to pay him 40 million dollars on the heels of a 12-1 homestand until 2011? Really? Jimmy Rollins is now earning top 5 shortstop money? I mean, I realize there’s quite a dearth at SS in baseball, and that Rollins would technically find himself ranked in the top 5-10 players at the position right now… but that doesn’t mean you need to reward a career .270 hitter with insane money! And who the hell renegotiates contracts during a winning stretch? That’s what I like to call baseball’s equivalent of drunk driving.

Here’s the analogous scenario:

You’re a guy on a ridiculously long dry streak, when suddenly you find a reasonably attractive girl with whom you start fooling around with. Only now, because it’s been so long since you’ve gotten laid, you get so excited in the heat of the moment that you yell out, “I love you!” without a second thought. Except in reality, since this contract is a long-term investment, it’s more like yelling, “MARRY ME!” right before orgasm, and only realizing what you’ve done upon awakening from your post-coital high. “Oh man, this is what I’m tied down to? Houston, we have a problem…Abort! Abort!”

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End rant, over and out.