The World Cup of Mail.

She's Got the Right Idea.

She’s Got the Right Idea.

I can’t remember why I adopted Switzerland during the last El Cupo Worldo.  Was it their stifling defense?  Their unwavering neutrality?  Hard to say, but I don’t see any real reason to change my allegiances now after that smooth win over Ecuador.  After all, if the US makes a run, I can always just watch the reaction videos on YouTube and feel like I was there.

Q: You strike me as someone who might be concerned with the portion reduction and price increases going on at restaurants, thoughts?  E. Leven Fries, Topeka, KS.

A: I feel like I’ve been hearing about this increase in food prices for a while, but it has just started to sink in, leaving an unfortunate hollow feeling in my wallet and my gut.  I was at a restaurant the other day and they had the stones to charge $16 for a French Dip.  I’m sorry, I wanted a roast beef sandwich–not a DIAMOND.  So, I ordered it anyway, because I was already trapped and inside the restaurant.  Imagine my relief when they compensated by giving me a quart of “jus.”  GREAT.  So, there was my sandwich, my soup bowl of jus and some fries on the plate for sixteen bucks.  The food was perfectly fine, but COME ON.  I’ve noticed portions dwindling all over the place.  I’ve noticed a lot people asking if you want lemon in your water, which is great for me, because I DO NOT, but really?  Every other condiment is getting rationed out in a little cup, like you got one pass through the line at Fuddruckers.  It is a disturbing, disturbing trend.  I’m worried the country’s obesity epidemic could be in danger.

Q: What floor would you have to live on to take the elevator consistently, assuming you had access to one?  Second, right?  Matt Stares, Camden, NJ.  

A:  I currently live on the ground floor of a building with an elevator, and I have ridden that elevator a few times for NO PARTICULAR REASON.  It’s amazing that in these modern times an elevator can feel like such an extravagance. My elevator frame of reference is going to take me back to college where I lived on various floors of various buildings where I wasn’t exactly supposed to have elevator access.  Sophomore year we lived on the 4th floor and for a time we had access to an elevator key.  Hard to put into words how important an elevator key makes you feel. I don’t remember if it was gained through bribery, or through fake injury, but it was a coveted item.  Four flights of stairs is a lot, especially in the wee hours of the morn.  That said, I walked up and down those stairs hundreds of times and allowed myself to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I’m the guy who would walk up four flights with a pizza and scoff at the guy getting off the elevator on his way back from an 83-minute kettlebell workout.  Because my legs are bit older now than they were in college, I’m putting the cutoff at the 4th floor.  Fourth floor, I’m riding. Anything less than that I am pretending I am getting a great workout–unless I’m carrying something, like A grocery, then ride–obviously.  

Q: It’s been over 40 years since Miller High Life trotted out the 7 oz. pony bottle.  Is this a valid way to drink beer?  Yul Pint, Tacoma, WA.

A:  I’ve never had a High Life in a pony bottle.  Can anyone drink JUST 7 ounces of the champagne of beers?  Your question inspired me to do some research on the pony bottle and it seems like it was invented by YOUR Rolling Rock brewery, of Latrobe, PA, after the depression.  It seems that a full 12 oz. was a bit steep for some of the folks still getting their feet under them, so this was a way to drink after work and still MAYBE have enough money for food–or whatever.  Rolling Rock is the first beer I ever had in pony bottle, probably at some “pony party,” in college, which sounds like a great idea until you end up with twice as many empties and floaters.  Is it a valid way to drink beer?  Pretty much any way to drink beer is a valid way to drink beer.  Why would I judge?  I think Rolling Rock is horrible, so 7 ounces might be more palatable than 12, but if it’s your beer of choice and you like collecting little bottles for arts and crafts, or to put in with your kid’s lunch–BY ALL MEANS–go pony.  

Q: Is cat litter getting a bit too descriptive?  Do I need to know that it’s SUPER CLUMP?  

A:  Cat litter is an interesting product, because I’m sure some of it works better than others, but in a certain sense, none of it REALLY works.  I guarantee if your cat lets it happen and you are within nose-shot, you are going to know about it and it’s going to be unpleasant for a couple of minutes.  I guess after that the litter TAKES HOLD, but at that point the room still smells like 95% weird cat litter and 5% cat dumper.  This is what we put up with to have pets.  The cat litter process is really no more or less weird or disgusting than walking miles with digested Kibbles & Bits in a plastic baggy.  Our pets really have us by the balls sometimes.  I have not bought cat litter myself in a long time.  Every once in a while, back in the day, when we had a bunch of cats I might have to pick some up, but we just bought it in industrial sized drums.  Four Petco employees would just forklift it out to the car.  We weren’t reading slogans, we just wanted the BEST VALUE per pound of litter.  Or something.  If this is the direction we’re going though, I have a few ideas–New FRESH STEP PLUS with TURD COCOON POWER!

Q: Say we found another Earth.  Do you think the colonizers would treat it well, knowing how badly we have punished Earth One, or would history repeat itself and see the people just start immediately pumping toxic waste into the rivers?  Brooke Trout, Auburn, AL.

A: I think it’s pretty obvious Earth 2 is getting completely trashed.  It’s like if you told someone you would erase all the damage smoking has done to them over the past 40 years, do you think they’d immediately stop smoking?  No, they’d be like, YES, I now have probably a couple of years of guilt-free smoking, THEN I’LL QUIT.  Sure.  That’s what we’d do with Earth 2.  You’d want to recycle, but look at all that VIRGIN LANDFILL SPACE!  So enticing.  An ozone layer without a single hole?  Fully formed polar ice caps?  It’s a license to pollute.  Would people immediately start practicing sustainable forestry?  Or would they go right to the old growth for their kitchen floors?  I think we know how important hardwood is, so let’s not give the human race too much credit.  Earth 2 might be better off, because we probably wouldn’t be burning coal for 100 years and maybe the chemicals wouldn’t go into the rivers, etc., but I certainly wouldn’t expect any ecological utopia.  

Q: I saw a grocery store the other day selling a patio set for $300.  I do not know if this is a particularly good deal for a patio set, but who buys a patio set at a grocery store?  This wasn’t a yuppie grocery store either, this was an old-school one.  Quick and dirty.  Is a patio set an impulse buy?

A:  Was the patio set displayed by the register with the batteries and M&Ms?  Because then it might be an impulse buy.  Sometimes I think grocery stores have stuff just to fill up space.  They are big stores.  Got a little gap?  How about a giant cage of balls?  I’ve started seeing clothing with the town’s name on it–really?  Milk, eggs, and a sweatshirt that says EXTON please.  So, maybe the patio set just looks good to fill up the space in the summer.  Maybe it reminds people–SH*T, I need charcoal, or something like that and if someone happens to be stupid enough to actually buy it?  TREMENDOUS.  If not, you just trot that thing out the next year at $325.  That’s called inflation.  Of course, maybe this is a really good deal and I don’t even know. Maybe people in the know buy ALL their furniture at Giant.  I just googled “patio set,” and the prices range quite wildly.  It seems like the grocery store isn’t all the way at the bottom of the list though.  Certain outlets would be willing to put you in a patio set for as little as $199.  This furniture will turn to dust the first time it rains and probably grow wildly contaminating mold all over it, but still–SAVINGS.  

 

All Hail Coore and Crenshaw.

These Geniuses Could Probably Fix Pickering.

These Geniuses Could Probably Fix Pickering.

I can’t wait for the U.S. Open to start this week, partly because it is possibly my favorite major, but also because I want to see what Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore have done to the place.  I’ve seen pictures.  I’ve heard stories, but I don’t think it’s going to sink in until we see the course under tournament conditions.  I have a pretty strong memory of Pinehurst.  The 1999 U.S. Open, for obvious reasons, was probably the pinnacle of my golf fandom.  Pinehurst produced an unmatched leaderboard that year, but it did so with ribbons of fairway and heavy rough.  Crenshaw and Coore have blown the place up, restoring all that original grandeur.  The fairways now meld into waste areas, the rough is non-existent, and it should be as spectacular and difficult as ever.

Coore and Crenshaw restore as well as they create.  There are several highly regarded designers out there right now (Doak, Hanse, etc), but I don’t know if anyone gets as consistently praised as these two and they deserve it.  This U.S. Open might help put golf course architect at the top of Ben Crenshaw’s resume rather than Masters Champion, and I honestly think in 50 or 100 years if we’re still playing golf and all the great courses haven’t been taken over for windmill farms, that Crenshaw could be better known for his courses than his on-course exploits.

The older the golf course and the older its designer, the more esteem we seem to give, the thought being that a new course can not instantly be great.  We’ve started to get away from that a little bit with the help of places like Bandon Dunes, or the Coore & Crenshaw masterpiece, Sand Hills.  But, I think time will only make us fonder of the work these two guys are doing.

So, what are we expecting for this U.S. Open at the digitally remastered Pinehurst?

For me there are three stories this week.  The first, is the course, which I just touched on.  Not only is this the wide release debut of the redesign, but Pinehurst is tasked with hosting back-t0-back events.  The women will have their U.S. Open on the same course next week.  So in addition to how it’s playing, there will be a level of concern about how the course is holding up.  I think it’ll do just fine.

The players will be taking center stage, though, and leading the way are Phil and Rory.  With Tiger still sidelined with his back injury, we look to Phil and Rory to fill that void and both are doing an admirable job, with on and off-course exploits.  Rory has been alternately brilliant and awful since his 17th hole split with The Woz.  The course seems to set up perfectly for what Rory does well, when he’s doing it well.  Then, there’s Phil…

Phil has had an inconsistent year at best, but he’s mostly gotten a free pass because everyone knows he’s been pointing to this week.  Phil has become all about the majors in recent years and more specifically all about the majors he hasn’t won.  The career grand slam seems to be the last realistic goal that Mickelson wants to check off his list.  He’s never going to catch Tiger, so winning the U.S. Open would give him all four titles and no longer make him “that guy who finished second 6 times.”

In true Phil fashion, Mickelson added a bit of spice to the proceedings with his involvement in an insider trading investigation.  Phil had a little impromptu meeting with some FBI agents at the Memorial, who apparently wanted to know about one of Phil’s gambling buddies and some stock activity.  Mickelson claims he has no involvement, but I guess we’ll find that out soon enough.  If you asked me to construct a list of PGA players who I thought might get caught up in an insider trading scandal, Mickelson would shoot to the top of that list, but that doesn’t mean I won’t still be surprised if he’s guilty of something.  Philly Mick couldn’t handle prison, not even fancy Martha Stewart prison.

Getting back to Phil on the course, this does seem like it’s his last chance.  Right after Payne Stewart won in 1999 he was talking about how gratifying it was to take advantage of the opportunity, because he knew deep down that his chances were going to be limited.  Stewart was 42 at the time of his tragic death just months later, but he knew that his window for serious major contention was closing.  Mickelson is 43, and while equipment has made golfers effective later into their careers, with his physical ailments, family, and the crazy depth of the modern fields, you can’t feel too confident saying Phil could win his U.S. Open at 48, or 50.  It might need to happen now at a course where he should be able to work his magic and where he has some positive memories from past results.

After this year the Open goes to two new courses in three years (Erin Hills and Chambers Bay sandwiched around Oakmont), before visiting what would be a good Phil window in 2018-2020 (Shinnecock, Pebble, Winged Foot), but by then it may be too late.

I think it’s going to be a great week at Pinehurst.  This time last year we were worrying about the torrential rains ruining Merion, and that turned out to be mostly be wasted energy, but it’s nice to head into the week with no real worries about the golf course.

The Definitive, Yet Arbitrary, Top-10:

  1. Jim Furyk
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Dustin Johnson
  4. Sergio Garcia
  5. Henrik Stenson
  6. Miguel Angel Jimenez
  7. Bill Haas
  8. Jason Dufner
  9. Hideki Matsuyama
  10. Jordan Spieth

 

They’re Finally Mine.

Taylor Made Still Trying To Recapture This Glory.

Taylor Made Still Trying To Recapture This Glory.

What I guess I have to admit at this point is that it takes something huge to bring me back to the blog.  In fact, maybe it takes even more than that–a cluster of news.  We’re in the midst of a pretty big week.  There’s a little golf tournament being held in Pinehurst, NC starting Thursday, maybe you’ve heard of it?  It’s called the U.S. Open.  Also starting Thursday?  El Cupo Worldo.  It’s hard to believe that it has already been four years since an extra time goal against some random country unified the nation (for about 48 hours).  Then, we lost, and soccer was handed back to the fanatics.  But, I don’t want you to feel like I’ve lost my passion for Switzerland.  They’re back.  And, they’re dangerous.

Dwarfing these global sporting events though, was the completion of a longtime goal of mine.  I acquired a set of Taylor Made Forged 300 irons over the internet.  All they cost me was $87 (and probably some stolen credit card info).

The Taylor Made Forged 300 irons burst onto the scene during what I would call the dark ages of irons.  It was probably about 2002 and irons were frightfully boring.  I was still playing my Tommy Armours, going on about eight years at that point and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.  Cast, cavity backs irons were everywhere.  It was as if the pinnacle of forgiveness had been reached and everyone was focusing on putting new and weird metals into woods.

Goldwin Driver Anyone?

Goldwin Driver Anyone?

I honestly don’t remember seeing an iron that really caught my eye.  Callaway was happily running with their x-14, x-16 family, Titleist was making very difficult to hit irons with random three digit numbers on them, Ping was still trying to recreate the Eye 2′s success…no one cared.  I worked at a golf course during this time that probably housed 350-400 sets of clubs.  I admit now that I tried out several of these drivers, but trying out an iron?  Who cared at that point.  There was exactly one set of clubs in the entire room that interested me–Snake Eyes blades.

Forged By Smith and Wesson.

Forged By Smith and Wesson.

There was a guy who couldn’t play a lick and he had a set of these 1-PW.  That’s one-iron through pitching wedge. Obviously, I had to try that 1-iron.  My memory now is that I hit complete bullets with it, but maybe that was not the case.

I saw the Forged 300s for the first time at a college golf practice.  They immediately caught my eye.  And, even though this was just before the failed blade iron experiment of 2003, maybe in my heart I knew I would never be a guy who hit blades.  These were in the neighborhood, though.  JUST AS SHINY.  That invisible top line.  Swoon.  The four-figure price tag brought me back to reality, though and they were mostly forgotten for a year or two until I ended up at another golf course, this one in possession of a set of demo Forged 300s that were left sitting around from a prehistoric fitting cart.

That was really where I fell in love, with my Tommy Armours falling apart and my MP-14s shamefully hidden in my trunk, I’d steal 10-15 balls at a time with these clubs and I loved the feel.  I finally played a set of forged clubs about 5-6 years ago, the Callaway X-Forged, but shortly after I stopped playing so much and my game went sideways.  Back to the cast.  This didn’t stop my periodic perusal of eBay for the holy grail, but in testament to the class of these sticks, the price hovered above dabbling range for a long time.

Maybe it’s the emergence of the newer, quality forged cavity backs that finally drove the 300 Forged into my price range.  If you have $1,100 I’d recommend the Callaway Apex in a heartbeat over the 300 Forged.  They don’t look as good, but they feel nice and they go nine miles.

Distance.  Perhaps this was my last hurdle as well.  I’ve always been someone who assigned a good portion of their golf identity to how far I hit my irons.  I was never the longest with the driver, especially after the ball explosion, but there weren’t many people out there that could scorch a 9-iron like I could and when I went to the forged irons in 2008 even being at the top of my game I lost probably almost a club in distance.  I was still hitting the ball plenty long enough, but psychologically I wasn’t comfortable.  Now, I’m not as long as I was when I was 25 anyway and I’m planning on starting a hybrid revolution in my bag, so maybe it’s OK if I now hit 9-iron ONLY 150.  And, those flatware looking long irons?  Gone.

I got to play my first round with these sweeties the other day.  I had them re-gripped.  In another twist of fate, the clubs were already +1/2 inch–hooray!  It was a bit of a mixed bag of results.  I found that I still hit a lot of wedges, and there was a VERY unfortunate swing with a 5-iron (buys 26 degree hybrid), but I also completely flushed two 7-irons and if we’re being honest that worth the 80 bucks.  Easily.

Johnny Man Crush and the NFL Draft.

Win Games, Sell Tickets, Or Both?

Win Games, Sell Tickets, Or Both?

Wow, that’s a long time between posts.  A record.  I almost forgot my login information.  I think I was so disappointed with the Masters that I had to leave this space for a while.  A whole post about the Masters being good even when it wasn’t and then that last hour and a half happened.  Unparalleled boredom.  I felt wronged.  And believe it or not, I try not to be wrong if I can help it, but sometimes you can’t help it.  I’d like to mix in being right every once in a while, but we’ve come upon the NFL Draft and no single event leads to more failed prognostications.  The leadup to the draft isn’t about being right, it’s about finding a community to be wrong with.  If you think your buddy from Summer Camp is going to Detroit in the 6th round, you can probably find a mock that backs you up.  Then, on Saturday, when your buddy goes undrafted and is fielding calls from Canada, you won’t be alone.  With the NFL Draft you are never alone.

We had a longer lead-in to this Draft than we’ve ever had and so most topics have been leeched of all intrigue.  Hey, have you heard this year’s crop of WRs is incredibly deep?  Only about four thousand times.  The yearly quarterback plummet (in the process of being named The Geno Smith Slip N’ Slide Perpetual Trophy) happened so long ago to Teddy Bridgewater that I’ve almost forgotten there was a time when he was considered a candidate for the #1 pick. Poor Teddy could have used the draft about six months ago.  In Bridgewater’s place we have Blake Bortles, Jimmy Garropolo and Derek Carr.  Derek Carr, who we don’t even have to pretend is related to David Carr–because he is! It’s that easy. The once fabled QB class looks like a train wreck to me, more shattered dreams in QB-less cities.  Can you imagine if the Vikings draft Blake Bortles?  Ponder and Bortles.  It just reeks of desperation.

I think we overlook how much desperation there is in the draft.  Such limited commodities and tremendously high stakes.  Is someone sold on Blake Bortles or are they just wishing?  Are they going to be out of a job in a year or two regardless, so it’s worth a swing?  You probably couldn’t be the GM of an NFL team (too many phone calls/not enough suits in your closet) but if you had a top-10 pick you could probably do that job.  Sure, the GM has access to reams of information you don’t.  Scouting is THEIR JOB and what have you, but is the difference on a guy like Bortles or Bridgewater going to be in the scouting?  I doubt it.  Is the guy available, does he fit a need and can you risk not taking him?

Don’t forget fear of making mistakes when we talk about tremendous draft blunders.  Getting a pick wrong carries a stigma, but so does leaving a guy on the board that becomes a star.  No one wants to see Johnny Manziel turn into their Aaron Rodgers.  Or Russell Wilson.  Or Tom Brady.  Factor in Manziel’s charisma, his pre-packaged persona, his knack for making football fun to watch and you’ve got someone who a lot of teams probably can’t afford to pass up.

There’s been a lot of talk about Manziel sliding of late and with that talk comes speculation in Philadelphia that the QB Chip Kelly once recruited could still be on the board at #22 when the Eagles make their pick.  Would the Eagles with countless holes on defense and an alleged starting QB already on the roster (along with the Sanchize) take Manziel if he slipped?  Would that lead to Chip Kelly offensive nirvana?  It has the sports talk hosts on cruise control, but I’m pretty comfortable saying it won’t happen.  Almost as comfortable as saying the end of the Masters would be thrilling.

There are 21 teams ahead of the Eagles in the Draft.  A lot of them need a quarterback.  Desperately.  Some have been waiting a decade for a quarterback.  Doesn’t Jacksonville owe it to their fans, the few that remain, to take Manziel. Sure, you can say, whoa–Jacksonville has too many holes.  They have to take the best player available.  They have to build a line and a good defense then they can look to a QB.  That’s horsebleep.  And, it’s sh*t because the “safe” guy they take at #3 could also be a bust.  And, no one wants to watch an offensive get built.  Or, if they take Sammy Watkins, who is going to throw him the ball?

I’m not terribly high on Manziel with my uneducated opinion, but he can run and he can throw and he’s certainly not lacking for confidence.  He’s not going to go meek in the huddle.  The consensus seems to be he plays too wild, takes too many chances–none of which will pay off the NFL.  He’ll be throwing picks across his body, when that body isn’t getting broken by NFL defenses.  He’s too small.  I’m starting to think that height is a bit overrated in NFL QBs.  You could fill up all the empty seats in Jacksonville with 6′ 4″ guys with big arms that couldn’t sniff an NFL field.  I don’t see why I couldn’t be wrong about Manziel the same way I was wrong about Russell Wilson.

And, so if I’m the Browns and I’ve been through the following carousel: Campbell, Weeden, Hoyer, Lewis, McCoy, Wallace, Delhomme, Quinn, Anderson, Dorsey, Gradkowski, Frye, Dilfer, Garcia, Holcomb, McCown, Couch, Pederson, Detmer, Wynn…what do you really have to lose?  One year of hype and ticket sales is probably worth it, isn’t it?  You’ve been starting over every year since you got the franchise back in Cleveland.  The best QB on this list eventually became so bad that we named a Fantasy Football league for terrible QBs after him.  Cleveland doesn’t need a slightly scrappier defense, or a slightly better offensive line.  They need to alter the history of the franchise.  They can take the slow approach, which hasn’t worked through various regimes over the last 15+ years, or they can buy a scratch ticket.

Cleveland is likely to pass on Manziel, but someone is going to take him and you can’t really blame the team that does, because the absolute worst that could happen is you are back where you started next year at this time and that’s something these franchises are all too familiar with.  I don’t know if Manziel is going to be Brady Quinn or Steve Young, but someone at the top of the draft is going to give him a chance.

***

I’d trade my entire draft for the following player: MIKE EVANS.

With no Patrick Peterson clones in this draft, I’m without my usual DB obsession.  With the gaping holes in the Eagles’ secondary there has been a lot of talk for months about Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor.  I’m like, can’t we just go back in time and take Earl Thomas?  Please?  So, while I’d happily take either of those safeties to occupy the Kurt Coleman Gulf of Touchdowns at Lincoln Financial Field, Mike Evans rises above the fray with his obscene physical tools.  He’s like David Boston (on the juice) without the juice…if that makes any sense.  If it doesn’t, we probably can’t be friends anymore.  Of course, if you aren’t in the top 6 or 7 picks you have no hope of getting Evans, who’d fill massive holes for any number of teams at the top of the draft.

***

How will the Eagles draft go?  The latest rumor, after a week of googling a WR from Indiana of all places (that’s Cody Latimer), has the Birds trading up to get Odell Beckham the WR from LSU.  From the sounds of it, Beckham would remind you a lot of DeSean Jackson, minus the record company and questionable instagram account.  I must say that this troubles me a great deal.  I didn’t particularly care what Jackson’s salary was, or how well he got along with people.  I’ve never heard a great team whine about chemistry.  So, I’m afraid it could be another disappointing draft day.

In years past the Eagles would have been panicked with only 6 picks and promptly started trading down with reckless abandon.  They then would have taken three WRs in the late rounds (quantity over quality) and they all would have been aggressive busts.

This time around I think the Eagles do take a WR early, a 50/50 proposition at best, and try to fill a hole they created themselves while leaving the other pre-existing holes unattended.  But, we’ll see what happens on Thursday night when the NFL changes people’s lives in 10-minute intervals.

And On the 2nd Week of April, Bobby Jones Said,

"Let There Be The Masters."

“Let There Be The Masters.”

Obligatory link to the greatest website in sports.  Masters.com.

Happy Masters week, everyone.  The shining beacon that is The Masters holds an especially dear place in my heart this year after enduring MEGA-WINTER.  I haven’t had a chance to play golf yet this year–possibly a new all-time low for me, and I don’t think many people around here have gotten their proper fix.  The few warm days we’ve had, you’ve probably needed a canoe to navigate most local dog tracks.  I see the hunger for golf in people’s eyes, I hear it in their wavering voices as they gently cradle their new $400 drivers.  The Masters is going to take care of that for you, because the Masters always delivers.  Even when it’s bad–it’s good.

I don’t know many sporting events that could live up to that billing.  The NCAA tournament coming to a conclusion tonight, might work for some people.  Perhaps the NHL playoffs?  But other big-time events stand out to me for how utterly terrible they can be–The Super Bowl? During my formative years, the Pro Bowl was more competitive.  The Masters though is almost guaranteed to deliver some excitement.  Now that we’re safely out of the, “Tiger could win by 11 era,” things have been quite good lately…

2013: Adam Scott’s playoff win.  After Snedeker, Day and some others fell off the pace Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera exchanged blows on the 18th.  Cabrera’s 2nd shot when he needed a birdie to tie was electrifying and a great moment with his son on the bag.  Scott’s putt in the playoff erased decades of Australian demons.

2012: Bubba’s Hook.  Another playoff, one remembered for Watson’s brilliant recovery from the woods on the 10th hole, but earlier in the day, playoff loser Louis Oosthuizen made a two on the par-5 second hole and vaulted into contention with just the 4th double eagle in the tournament’s history.

2011:  The Rory Buckle.  After McIlroy started (hilariously?) leaking oil on the back nine, this thing was wide open. We even had a hint of a Tiger Woods charge before he started missing putts and ran out of holes.  A two-man battle between Jason Day and Adam Scott was interrupted by Charl Schwartzel who decided to birdie the last four holes and win by two.

2010:  Mickelson’s Pine Straw Shot.  The least dramatic of the last four tournaments had the most lasting shot, with Mickelson dodging a tree on 13 to set up a birdie that kept a flawless final round going.  Mickelson pulled away from a field that included Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods and Fred Couples for a relatively comfortable win.

***

As you can see, we are on a hell of a run of events and I hardly even mentioned Tiger Woods, so while his absence will certainly be noted, it’s not a reason to tune out.  If you think you’re going to miss Tiger, just get up every couple of hours and lip out a 4-footer on your carpet.  That should fill the void.

No Tiger, Phil may be still hurting and so we’re left with what many people are calling a changing of the guard type of Major.  A new, fresh era.  Non-Tiger and Phil contenders can be broken down into a few categories:

Next Dominant Player:

  1. Rory McIlroy.  As much I dislike Rory as a fan, he’s in this category by himself, because he’s still younger than most of his peers, and he’s won two majors in dominant fashion.  You can’t disrespect Rory by listing him with Adam Scott, even if Scott has had a better last 12 months.

Major Validators:  This is a long list and could be longer.  There are a lot of guys out there toward the top of the Official World Golf Rankings who have one major.  None of these guys is likely to have even Mickelson, or Ernie Els’ career, but with every major victory you validate the one prior and separate yourself more from the field.

  1. Adam Scott
  2. Jason Dufner
  3. Keegan Bradley
  4. Justin Rose
  5. Bubba Watson
  6. Charl Schwartzel
  7. Louis Oosthuizen

Career Cappers:  Some guys, despite their talent are likely to never get to the heights of the multiple major winners. They are looking for a signature win and still have the game to get it done.

  1. Sergio Garcia
  2. Matt Kuchar
  3. Brandt Snedeker
  4. Ian Poulter
  5. Henrik Stenson

Next Generation:  Very fresh faces who could use a major win to challenge the like of Rory and could become the game’s next great player–in time.

  1. Jordan Spieth
  2. Patrick Reed
  3. Hideki Matsuyama
  4. Jason Day

You could certainly add names to most of these lists, but I feel like this will be story that the press gravitates toward depending on which players are in contention.  For me, I’d like to see someone very old, or very young win this year. Or Dufner, I kind of like Dufner.  But, give me a playoff between Craig and Kevin Stadler and I’d be pretty riveted.

***

Five Thoughts Presented As Facts:

1. Someone is going to butcher the 1st hole on Sunday and vanish from contention.  The first hole at Augusta National is so, so hard.  One bad drive and you’re hacking out, skanking up, two chip and three putting your way to triple or worse.  Leading Candidate: Matt Every.

2. Sergio Garcia’s going to contend.  No one should ever pick Sergio to win any event, especially a major, but I think Sergio has 4-6 serious flirtations with a major left in his career.  I think he’s more likely to break through at an Open Championship where putting has been mostly neutralized, but he’s close to top form and has a decent Augusta track record.

3. We Won’t Hear Much About Slow Play.  There’s the small field for one, but I have a feeling that if the final twosome six hours on Sunday, we’d all be happy to watch.  Plus, after the blowback from giving a 14-year old a slow play penalty last year, I think the tournament committee will go back to being content making this issue someone’s else’s problem.

4. We’ll Hear ALL ABOUT the Eisenhower Tree.  For those living in a dark hole, we lost the Eisenhower Tree to this winter’s ferocious ice storm.  The tree, named after that guy who was you know, like a General and President and stuff, was a major hazard on the 17th hole.  For those expecting the tree to be replaced like nothing happened, that apparently is not the case as Augusta is moving on without its signature piece of foliage.  I expect 11-17 minutes from Nantzy on the history of the tree.

5. You’ll Root For Someone To Hit in the Water on 15.  Let’s be honest here.  Things are going to be tight.  You’ll end up on one side of the coin.  Maybe it’s someone you really dislike, maybe it’s someone you just can’t justify as a Masters champion.  They’re going to come to 15, probably needing a birdie to keep pace, they’re going to take out their hybrid (this player will almost always be hitting a hybrid and not a 3-iron) and you’re going to say, “Get in the f*cking drink.”  That’s sports.

The Top-10–In Exact Order:  

In case you forgot, I put on one of the great golf handicapping clinics of all-time last year, nailing the PGA, the Open Championship and having Justin Rose finishing 2nd at the US Open.  I’m not entirely sure I got enough credit for this, which is a shame, because it’s very unlikely to ever happen again.

  1. Matt Kuchar
  2. Zach Johnson
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Jason Dufner
  5. Hideki Matsuyama
  6. Sergio Garcia
  7. Jason Day
  8. Angel Cabrera
  9. Adam Scott
  10. Keegan Bradley

 

A Sweet Sixteen For Baseball Season.

Enjoy Your Last 18 Cliff Lee Starts.

Enjoy Your Last 18 Cliff Lee Starts.

Baseball season has started.  The Dodgers have a jumpstart on the NL West that could be insurmountable.  But, for the other 28 teams in the league, we’re getting in those last reps and roster trimmings before the big day.  For traditionalists like myself, Opening Day will always be Monday.  Anything less is uncivilized.

To get the season underway, while the Phillies are still in a virtual tie for 1st place, I thought I’d do a Sweet 16 for the baseball season.  A melding of what would have been about 20 posts back in the Glory Days:

Bryce Harper Region:  Phenom Obsessions…

Baseball is brutal on prospects.  Back in the 90s when I was an unofficial scout in the Eastern League I saw a bunch of guys who looked like they were going to be great MLB players.  I had Todd Walker pegged for Chase Utley’s offensive career about 8 years before anyone had ever heard of Chase.  Guy hit .340 in AAA.  Ranked the 7th best prospect in baseball.  Ended up with a “nice” career, but never hit more than 17 homers in the majors.  Anyway, here are four guys to save your fantasy season in the middle of the summer:

1.  Archie Bradley–SP, Arizona Diamondbacks.  With Patrick Corbin out for the year the back of the Diamondbacks’ rotation is a bit up in the air.  Bradley isn’t on the Major League roster yet, so he’s not the short-term solution, but if the rotation is lacking come summer, Bradley could provide a big boost ala Gerrit Cole to the Pirates in 2013.  A traditional right-handed power arm without the questions and quirks of Trevor Bauer.

2.  George Springer–OF, Houston Astros.  Shouldn’t the Astros have some prospects by now?  After years of trading away players and winning 58 games?  The answer is yes!  They do have some.  Springer should be the first to arrive, a beast who almost went 40/40 in the minors last year.  Also watch out for top pick from 2013, Mark Appel.  Should quickly move into Houston’s rotation once he’s fully healthy and gets a bit of seasoning.

3.  Gregory Polanco (no relation to Placido)–OF, Pittsburgh Pirates.  Let’s keep this rolling, Pittsburgh.  They’ll have a lot to live up to after last season and if they find themselves struggling to score runs again, a mid-season promotion of Polanco could provide a needed spark.  He’s the RF of the future, it’s just a question of when he arrives.

4. Noah Syndergaard–SP, New York Mets.  The last of the Big-3 (Harvey, Wheeler) to arrive should live up to those high standards.  Another huge arm, Syndergaard could get off to a strong start with his fastball alone.  Expect a Wheeler-like timeline for Syndergaard as the Mets likely won’t be in serious contention in the NL East.

Phillies Region–How Bad is it Going to Be?

1. Maybe not QUITE as bad as some people think.  Trashing the Phillies has become so chic that if you listen to the national media and the “rival scouts’ you’d probably think they’re going to win 60 games.  So, based on that, it might be a little better than you’re expecting.  Assuming Hamels does come back by May, the starting pitching should have them in enough games to linger around .500.  The offense will be terrible, though,  and in a tough division they’ll steadily lose ground.  Enough that…

2. Cliff Lee will be traded.  Lee, unlike Jimmy Rollins, is pure mercenary.  Anyone who would come back to Philly the way he did is clearly pitching just for a ring.  There’s no shame in that, just don’t be surprised when Lee is ALL ABOARD for a trade to a contender come summer.  And, really, the Phillies owe him that much after jerking him around and then letting the team fall apart around him.  Enjoy his last starts, when he’s on the guy is truly a master and probably will always be better liked in Philadelphia than Cole Hamels, because you know, Californians just don’t get it like Cliff.

3. The Biggest Offensive Problems Will Be:  Rollins, Howard, Brown.  On the flip side of this coin, I’d expect decent seasons out of Revere, Marlon Byrd and a freshly medicated Carlos Ruiz.  But, Howard has not fixed any of his bad habits, Rollins will show only flashes and play to stay off the DL (so his option vests) and Brown’s freezing cold spring is one of the biggest red flags I’ve seen in a while.

4. Cross Your Fingers for Maikel Franco.  The Phillies big power prospect didn’t amaze anyone this spring, but the fan base is going to need someone to believe in for the future.  Franco is the best bet, despite everyone wishing Jessie Biddle into a front-end starter.  And, if he can play 3rd all the better, because Cody Asche isn’t happening.  Sorry.

The Awards Region: 

1. AL MVP: Mike Trout.  For several years I picked Miguel Cabrera, backing him until he won and now that he’s taken back-t0-back MVPs, it’s time for Trout to leave him behind.  There is absolutely no innovation in this pick, but sometimes things are inevitable.  Trout dominated this spring, showing more power and plate discipline.  He’s just better than everyone else right now.  Picking anyone else would be uninformed.

2. NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki.  The NL race is wide-open.  Bryce Harper is a popular pick, but still could be a year away from fully reaching his potential.  It’ll be tough for Andrew McCutchen to repeat and guys like Goldschmidt and Votto are held back by playing 1st base.  Maybe this is the year Tulo stays healthy for 155 games.

3. AL Cy Young: Chris Sale.  I was set to pick Yu Darvish, but picking a guy who starts the year on the DL feels a bit dicey.  If the White Sox can play a bit better as a team, Sale should move to the front of the discussion for the Cy Young.  He’s a legitimate lefty ace and finished 5th in the voting last season.

4. NL Cy Young: Cliff Lee.  It’s tough to go against Clayton Kershaw, who is clearly the best pitcher in baseball, but the NL has a lot of top candidates.  Strasburg, Zimmerman, Greinke, hell I’d watch out for Michael Wacha.  But, for some reason I’m picking Lee who I think will carry the Phillies and then could possibly be moved to a contender to put them over the top.  That contender would have to be in the NL, but I’ll take my chances to look like a genius when it happens.

The Playoffs Region:  

1. Surprise Playoff Team: Seattle.  I was tempted to pick Kansas City, because I’ve gotten 1,000 words into this without mentioning my beloved Royals, but I don’t want to put that on them.  Seattle has enough pitching that a little offensive boost could go a long way.  No pressure, Cano, but seriously, this is on you–turn the whole lineup around.

2. Biggest Flop: Oakland.  Things always feel tenuous for the A’s.  Everything has to go right.  The young pitchers have to stay healthy.  I think this is a year they face some challenges and can’t overcome the odds–again.

3. Your World Series Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers.

***

My 16th Nugget is obviously going to be Sweet 16 LOCKS.  Because even if I can’t fill out a pool for horsebleep, those 1st round pick were kinda nice, no?

Tennessee (+2.5) over Michigan.  Line seems a bit low.  What happened to that big, dopey white guy that was finishing in transition for Michigan in the tourney last year?  Mitch McGary or something?  Is he hurt? Alive?  Playing in Greece?  Vols outright.

Baylor (+3.5) over Wisconsin.  It’s the year of the damn dog.  Haven’t you been listening?  Outright again.  Wisconsin scores MAYBE 43 points.

Arizona (-8) over San Diego St.  All I heard about SD State was how tough they were on D, and how they gave Arizona a game last time.  That had me expecting 4.5 points or thereabouts.  This makes it feel like a Wildcats blowout.

A Mail Clutch.

In Honor of the Tournament.

In Honor of the Tournament.

So I recently got an iPhone.  To anyone who knows me that may come as a bit of a shock.  Never has a device had such a fierce opponent.  The iPhone rates as only slightly less sinister than a Kindle.  I’ve been using a Blackberry for a long time.  This has given off a different impression at different times.  There was about forty seconds there, don’t pin me down on a year, where it was OK to have a Blackberry.  Blackberry messenger was kind of cool, wasn’t it? WASN’T IT?  And free.  You could carry a Blackberry and not be a total tech-idiot.  I think.  Of course, those days are long gone and now if you have a Blackberry you are old, or it was issued to you by your employer.  I came very, very close to getting the Blackberry Q10.  Great price point, familiar look, but I figured if Blackberry still exists as a company in a couple of years maybe I can switch back.  For now, I’ll put in some work on my selfie game.  As soon as someone teaches me how to use the phone.

I know one thing.  When I go in for my next phone I won’t get treated like a prehistoric species.  Hopefully the employee won’t look at me like my cellphone has a rotary dial.  I wanted to stand there and defend my Blackberry, but it’s failure was the only reason I was in the store.  Or was it my failure?  I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

On the eve of the NCAA Basketball tournament, a raucous cultural event, I thought I’d empty out the mailbag.  You know how these messages pile up…

Q: Can you explain to me why some people get so excited to see what I’d call pretty common birds? I know people who spot a cardinal and start dancing around like a flamingo has just swooped onto their deck.  Robin Crow, Exton, PA.  

A:  I’m not what you would call a bird guy.  Any bird with size, or thick legs will send me heading for the hills.  If you want me to stay off your property, lose the Beware of Dog sign and install a turkey.  You’ll never see me again.  That said, I do KIND OF know what you are talking about.  When I was a youth I would occasionally see a hummingbird at my Grandmother’s house.  Now, hummingbirds are probably a bit more intriguing than your basic cardinal, but we’d completely SH*T OUR PANTS over these hummingbirds.  I also remember occasionally getting out the binoculars at home to try to spot something exotic like an oriole in a tree 80 yards across the yard.  I don’t think I’d do that now, but I probably have pointed out a cardinal to someone in the last 12 months.  What can I say? It’s a conversation starter.  You say cardinal, they say where…and things just go from there.  People also feel a sense of importance from things that take up residence in their yard.  Squirrels?  VILE RODENTS.  But, a nest of cardinals?  Noble bird in a noble yard.  

Q:  On a scale of 0 to Brian Urlacher, how poorly is this Jimmy Rollins thing going to end in Philadelphia, and are the Phillies as bad as they look in Spring Training?  

A: The Phillies are the popular pick among “Unnamed MLB Scouts” to be the biggest disappointment in the league.  The two main refrains from Spring Training are always, “best shape of his career,” and “has completely lost it.”  The Phillies have a lot of guys in that second category starting with Rollins and including Howard, Papelbon and possibly even Chase Utley.  Considering the Phillies weren’t good last year, that Cole Hamels will be the DL, and there is still a roster spot for John Mayberry Jr., I’d prepare myself for a very long summer.  The best-case scenario the front office has been blowing smoke about isn’t going to happen.  They’ll struggle to hit, the starting pitching is thin and the bullpen remains a question mark.  Seventy-five wins feels like a ceiling.  As for Rollins, he simply doesn’t mesh with Ryne Sandberg’s vision of what a veteran leader should be.  Sandberg is not a players manager, to a possible extreme that looks like it might alienate him with veterans.  Remember, this is a Hall of Famer who spent 6 years managing (successfully) in the Minors and couldn’t get a big league job.  There had to be some kind of red flag, and I think that red flag was, “The players are going to hate this guy.”  The thing is, it doesn’t matter who wins the stare down, Rollins or Sandberg, the team is going to be bad either way.  It’s just a matter of who stays, and for how long.  

Q: How do you pack your toothbrush?  Do you have a little case for it, or are you like me and just assume your toothbrush is protected against all and any germs and just throw that thing wherever in the suitcase?  Whitey Chicklets, Harrisburg, PA.

A: Tough one.  Sometimes we think things just don’t get dirty.  If I only use my towel to dry off when I’m clean….NO. Or, that sponge is in soapy water several times a week…I’d eat off that SUMBITCH.  Probably not.  Does toothpaste serve as some type of Purell?  Or boiling water?  Probably not.  When I was a kid I’d wrap my toothbrush in tissues and pack it that way.  I assume I was told to do this by my mother, and it sounds dumb, but you keep your toothbrush away from your dirty undies and you also don’t have to use one of those cases.  The cases by the way can become cesspools in their own right.  You have to be diligent about cleaning the case, and really who has the time for that?  Anyone who has ever opened up a kid’s retainer case knows what I’m talking about here.  Maybe the answer is just buying a new toothbrush every time you go away, or bumming one from the hotel.  Cost you a few bucks, but think about the load off your mind.  

Q: Despite the fact that you’ve watched 0 college basketball games this year, I still respect you as one of the top-10,000 sports handicappers in Chester County.  Where are my first round winners? 

A:  I thought you’d never ask!  I’m doing dogs this year for Round one  TWO.  Bet early and heavy….

University Milwaukee Wisconsin (+16.5) over Villanova.  I’ve got a real bad feeling about this Villanova team. Anecdotally, I’ve heard about their balance.  To me this means they don’t have any really good players, which is what the tournament is all about–along with draining tons of threes.  I also, never, ever trust Jay Wright or a Jay Wright team with a big spread.  I’ll take Jay’s suit (-$3,500) over the coach of  UMW, but on the court, take the points.

Harvard (+3) over Cincinnati.  Harvard being a 12 seed means they must actually be decent and not just the token Ivy team.  I think the lines in these 12/5 matchups are starting to reflect the perceived trend of upsets, but this seems especially low.  If Nick Van Exel’s shot is off, the Bearcats will struggle.  Let’s go nerds.

Providence (+4) over North Carolina.  I assume that UNC is still a massive public team, and Providence has never been anything close, not even when Rick Pitino was running down the housewives the Rhode Island.  If I were a UNC fan, which I’m not (Rule of Rick Fox), I’d be kinda, sorta worried the Tar Heels might go ahead and lose this game outright.  Roy does not have enough All-Americans this year.

North Dakota State (+3.5) over Oklahoma.  Is this a hockey game?  Where did this line come from.  ND State might blow the Sooners out.

Ok, I lied, One Favorite: Oregon (-5) over BYU.  I’ve got a little Oregon sleeper vibe going and BYU stinks.  I promise.

***

NCAA POOL INFO:

If anyone is looking for a last second pool entry, the stragglers and downtrodden among you–feel free to join the 3 Putt Territory Group at ESPN.  The name of the group is 3 Putt Territory and the password is danish–all lowercase. There are no prizes, but that only increases your chances to WIN.  That, and the fact that there are about 10 people playing.  ENJOY THE TOURNAMENT.

The Chico’s Bail Bonds Bracket Challenge.

Nice Bracket.

Nice Bracket.

Unfortunately, I was runner-up to Quicken Loans when Warren Buffett was choosing a partner for his Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, so I can’t offer up 10 figures to anyone, but if you want to sign up for a bunch of spam from the asshat who owns the Cavs–go ahead.  No one is stopping you.  I’m sure you’ll still be alive for that billion well into Thrusday afternoon.  At least.

It is amazing how much people love games of chance, and don’t kid yourself–that is what the NCAA pool is regardless of how much college basketball you know or watch.  We’re talking about a month long scratch ticket here. Speaking of which, I have now on multiple occasions seen a group of guys hanging around the scratch ticket machine at a grocery store during the lunch hour.  They appear to be employed, otherwise mostly functional members of society, and yet there they are standing around watching each other do scratch-offs.  Is this a social activity now?  I need to know if anyone else has witnessed something like this.

Back to the bracket.  My darkest confession:  I haven’t watched a college basketball game all year.  What can I tell you?  When you go to a school with a storied basketball tradition like F&M, and you are used to sellout crowds at the G*Rob Center, sitting on your couch watching Michigan (yawn) play Wisconsin (puke) doesn’t get your blood pumping.  You haven’t experienced basketball pandemonium until you’ve seen a white guy throw down a delicate dunk on a breakaway against Swarthmore.  That will send the student section into hysterics.  I once lost a flip-flop during such a scrum.

So, if I haven’t watched a single game all year, how am I going to fill out my bracket?  How will I guarantee I get upwards of 20 of the first 32 games correct?  I spent most of the day trying to figure that out myself and I came up with the following list of guidelines.  Rules for the uneducated…

1.  Protect Your References.  Even if you haven’t watched a minute of basketball, you can distract people with random knowledge.  For example, in those dreaded 8/9 matchups you must play to your strength.  I will take #8 Colorado over #9 Pitt, because if someone asks me about Colorado, I can say, “How many did Chauncey Billups have?” At which point hopefully the person moves onto another topic without me looking like a fool.  The only person I know who went to Pitt is Dan Marino.

Beautiful Hair.

Beautiful Hair.

2.  Be Aware of Zealots.  At this point in my life I just want to watch the games, maybe see a couple of buzzer beaters–the usual.  I don’t need any added stress.  So, if I live with a die-hard fan of some school, or the guy next to me at work has shaved Arizona’s logo into the back of his head, I’m going to pick that team to win a few games.  Path of least resistance.  You’re cheering for your own well-being.

3.  Ask the Biggest College Basketball Fan You Know Who They Have–Then Eliminate That Team.  I guarantee you that every serious fan out there has already filled out at least eleven versions of their bracket.  Sh*t is crossed out.  They hear a podcast from the equipment manager at VCU and suddenly that CHANGES EVERYTHING.  It’s not that they don’t know what they are talking about, it’s that no one is good at doing this.  NO ONE.

4. Hard No to Wichita State.  In 1976, Bobby Knight browbeat his Hoosiers to a perfect 32-0 record and won the national championship.  Quinn Buckner was on that team.  Yes, that odd man you see on television actually played basketball.  But, in the almost four decades since, no other team has pulled off this feat.  And, if UNLV couldn’t do it, I’ll be god-damned if I watch Wichita State go undefeated.  I’ll take Louisville in a laugher.

5. Be Provincial.  It’s far more acceptable to adopt college basketball teams than say an NFL team.  You probably don’t see many Browns fans racehorse down to Cincy to bask in the glow of a Bengals playoff weekend, but I think you can pull this off for the NCAA tournament.  If you can get to a bar that will be packed with a certain team’s fans you should go ahead and get in the mix.  Then someone says, “Oh, did you go to _____?”  No, but I have them in my pool!  If you don’t live near any team that is in the dance, I suggest heading to Omaha.  Might as well get that trip to Nebraska off the bucket list during Doug McDermott’s swan song.

So, there you have it.  Please let me know how well this works for you and kindly pass along a 10% “tribute” from your winnings.

***

Now, in regard to the annual Three Putt Territory Pool, which always crowns a worthy winner and then pays them out a heaping helping of pride, as I said:  No Warren Buffett–Yahoo! (Warren’s other partner) has really got me sour this year, because they required a phone number to reactivate the Three Putt Territory Pool.  If you think I’m going to allow Yahoo! to start sending me text messages, you are SORELY mistaken.  I’ll go completely off the grid before that happens.

So, this year, I’ll be using ESPN to score the pool.  If you played before, I will try to remember this in my brain device and send you an invitation.  If you did not, or you stumbled across this post by accident, feel free to use the following information to join my ESPN group.

Tournament Challenge Home Page.

Group Name: Three Putt Territory

Password: danish

*Use the Edit Bracket Function to Give Your Pool A Name That Will Make Me Chortle.

Good Luck.

What if We Did Away With Endings?

True Backlash.

True Backlash.

What’s the ending?  This has to be up there among the most terrifying puzzles for any writer.  You can create great characters, great suspense, themes, imagery, and comedy, but you’ve still got to put a bow on the damn thing.  The better the build, the better people expect the ending to be.  And yet, how many endings do we actually enjoy?  From TV shows, to books, to movies, how often do you really say, “That ending blew me away.”  

The first time I remember ending backlash was with the Sopranos.  I didn’t watch the Sopranos while it was actually on, and am still not anything close to a superfan, but I watched that finale while it unfolded, because it was a cultural phenomenon.  Like I said, I’m not a big enough fan to critique the ending, but when millions of people think their cable went out–you’re probably going to have a problem.  We live in a world where people get angry about these things.  Maybe only virtually, and on superficial levels, but the angst is palpable.  

The latest reviled ending came from HBO’s True Detective.  True Detective started as a show without much buzz, gained some steam when a very good-looking woman chose to remove her shirt and then rode the Matthew McConaughey Oscar train to the front of the public conscience.  As it turned out, True Detective was the worst kind of show for ending haters, because it was analyzed into dust.  Obsessives with time on their hands and bones to make, expounded theories, found connections and symbols a casual viewer would overlook and created a list of questions the show never had any hope of answering.  

So, when the show ended last night with Hart and Cohle getting a man, not necessarily THE MAN, and then kind of stumbling into the darkness as each other’s crutch, it set off waves of internet anger.  WHO IS THE YELLOW KING? What about Maggie’s parents?  WHERE WAS THE TWIST?  The ending, especially the last 15 minutes was anti-climatic, but I don’t know how it wouldn’t have been.  The show was called True Detective, not Choose Your Own Voodoo Adventure.  

This isn’t to say I loved the ending, or that I felt especially sated with how things played out.  In truth I was a bit underwhelmed, underwhelmed with the boat interrogation right up through the climax at “Carcosa.”  I saw it coming, though.  The greatness, if you want to call it that, of this show was in the buildup.  It was the dialog, the interplay between Harrelson and McConaughey.  The best part of this show was always going to be the pursuit, not the collar. And, that’s why I think I would have been better off not watching the final episode, or at least turning it off after that bullet connected with Errol’s dome.  

In contrast to True Detective the recent end of another rabidly followed show, Breaking Bad, was much more well-received.  Unlike True Detective, Breaking Bad didn’t have a lot of open questions left at the end.  It was a final season that spent a lot of time answering the question, “Who is going to survive this?”  By the finale, not many characters were left standing, a real twist seemed impossible.  And, Breaking Bad did us the favor of tying up many of the loose ends, if not all of them.  So, it was a good finale in the sense it didn’t leave unanswered questions, but is that how we really rate things?  

There seems to have been a movement toward the open-ended ending.  Years back, I don’t remember watching many movies and thinking, “wait that’s it?”  Now, every third movie I watch I’m a little surprised to see the credits roll. And, with books it’s even worse.  I expect newer books I read now to just gently fade into the middle.  No big lesson, surprise or twist.  A lot of books are glimpses into a world and then suddenly someone turns the lights off.  

At first I thought this was terrible.  I want my neat ending.  But, I’m thinking that neat might actually be boring and not that satisfying anyway.  Has any comedy movie ever been made where the final twenty minutes are the funniest? Think of your favorite comedy and then ask yourself whether you liked the first half or the second half better.  I think we have been conditioned to want the great ending.  Many movies I’d list among my favorites have very satisfying endings.  Shawshank Redemption.  Scent of a Woman.  An array of sports movies, but maybe we should look at these as the exception.  

I say all this knowing that I’d never skip out on the finale of a show I actively watch.  Mad Men is eventually going to end and that ending will be a cloudy mess of innuendo at best and I’ll probably hate it, but I’m going to watch.  What I really want is to watch the first few seasons in perpetuity.  That’s the world I want to peek in on.  I’d rather watch 75 episodes from the 60s than watch someone try to piece together what SHOULD happen with Don Draper and Company in the 70s.  

It makes me think a bit of The Simpsons, because even though that show has been running for decades now and I don’t know a soul that has watched it in ten years, part of the reason why it was so good in the beginning was because it wasn’t going anywhere.  The characters were static and each episode was just a look into their world.  It definitely has kept the show going as well, because I don’t think Bart at 35 years old holds an audience, but even on an animated series that’s been running for twenty-five seasons, I’m sure there are still a FEW people out there who are expecting a certain ending for The Simpsons when it finally ends, if it ever ends.  

I just wonder if they shouldn’t be, or if we shouldn’t be so demanding of our endings.

Reinventing Fast Food Breakfast.

If You Have the Stones To Order This, It Should be Available 24/7.

If You Have the Stones To Order This, It Should be Available 24/7.

On a scale of zero to Dunkin Donuts serving tuna sandwiches where would you rate the Taco Bell Waffle Taco?  For me, it’s a bit hard to determine, because this really isn’t a taco.  It appears to be a waffle sandwich, which while equally troubling, might be a bit less disgusting?  Does the sausage have Tex/Mex flavoring, because that would be a tremendous red flag.  Is that a pitcher of “dipping syrup” next to the taco?  I assume Taco Bell’s syrup comes from Not-Vermont?  What I don’t understand is why T-Bell thinks it can penetrate the breakfast market.  Are there people out there who think, “If I could only eat Taco Bell a fourth time a day…”

Anyway, the Taco Bell Waffle Taco is a part of a number of food innovations I’ve seen lately.  Some, like the cookie dough flavored Oreos appear to be inspired.  Others seem a bit haphazardly thrown together.  Is working in new product development for a fast food chain the easiest job in America?  Do they have a fat checker?  Just a guy at the top of the chain who is paid the big bucks to say, gut reaction–is this chubby enough?

I’ve actually had the opportunity to peruse some confidential fast food files and believe it or not, other fast food chains are not taking the Waffle Taco sitting down.  There will be a response.  A preview…

KFC:  Potato Oatmeal.

Not a new dish as much as a re-branding POWER MOVE.  The KFC potato oatmeal will be a bowl of mashed potatoes. They are focusing more on the “meal” than the “oat” in this effort and it’s expected to be a monster success.  Mix in chunks of your favorite breakfast meat for an additional $.49.

Wendy’s: SAC O’ BACON.

Wendy’s is on the leading of the bacon movement.  They will not be out-baconed and if you want 8 slices of bacon your burger, just walk into Wendy’s and tell them you got 7 slices at Burger King and they will give you the 8th ON PRINCIPLE.  The Sac o’ Bacon is essentially what it sounds like– 8oz of crisp bacon in a bag.  Complimentary bacon flavored mayo for dipping.

Pizza Hut: Pizzomelet.  

Are you familiar with the P’Zone?  This is a product that I was surprised to find still on the Pizza Hut menu.  It’s what the person who invented the stromboli feared might happen to the stromboli.  BUT, the Pizzomelet is a whole other animal.  It answers one of life’s greatest questions, “why can’t I eat this omelet with my hands?”  A buttery dough shell around that bad boy will solve all your problems.  Like everything else at Pizza Hut, a 3 lb side of penne alfredo will cost you only an additional $3.99.

Dairy Queen: Breakfast Blizzard.  

The Ice Cream for breakfast market is WIDE OPEN.  Dairy Queen is going to charge through the door with the breakfast blizzard.  Maple flavored soft-serve loaded with chunks of bacon.  Substitute scrapple for bacon in PA locations only.

Roy Rogers: Waffle Fixin’ Bar

The inventors of the Fixings Bar find a new muse.  The Belgian waffle.  The Belgian waffle crosses socio-economic lines.  It makes ANYONE feel like they are getting a classy breakfast.  You combine that with your choice of an array of syrups, sweet toppings, ice cream, and you have turned around an entire company–maybe.  Now just hop on a random turnpike and hope to find a location.

Burger King: Butter Nuggets

Is Burger King the most decadent of the fast food chains?  Has any other chain embraced what they are as much as Burger King?  Do we want to try to expand to a market that eats healthier, or do we want to continue to throw our loyal customers fastballs RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE?  I think Burger King leans toward that second philosophy and this breakfast trend has them ready to take the next step.  Much like the great French cooks, Burger King knows the value of butter.  What makes this taste good?  Butter.  So, lets cut to the chase.  Burger king is now proud to serve up butter nuggets (salted or unsalted) in 3, 5, 7 or 20 pieces.  ENJOY.