Catching Up on Thangs.

Fine.

Fine.

*This was supposed to go up Tuesday morning, but I got sidetracked and then I had a terribly important lunch meeting.  The jet set.  What can I say?  Anyway, it’s now woefully dated (was only mildly dated this morning), but I wrote it, so might as well post it.  

It’s time for one of those posts that is just a jumble of unconnected garbage.  A better writer would find a connecting theme, something clever, but not this guy.  You get page breaks.  So come along if you will on a ride through Spring Training, the NFL Combine, the PGA Tour and anything else I think about in the next thirty minutes.  

***

I know a lot of people are expecting a heavy dose of Phillies’ pessimism from me this year, and don’t worry I’ll be applying it whenever I can, but the good news out of the 1st week of Phillies’ spring training is the performance of the three remaining aces.  Roy Halladay gave up a long home run, but other than that the trio was untouched and Halladay’s fastball velocity didn’t send Ken Rosenthal into a Twitter fit so all is pretty well.  The Phillies will have good starting pitching this year if they stay healthy.  That isn’t a question.  

But through a few games the Phillies haven’t hit much, struggled against some left-handed pitching and have had some relievers get rocked.  Johnathan Papelbon gave up what looked like the longest home run in the history of Florida to Miguel Cabrera yesterday.  The young arms have been wild.  But, it’s very, very early and compared to last year when Utley was out and Doc was throwing 85, things are looking great.  

Update:  Dom Brown has two spring homers.  He’s got the jump on Delmon Young who’s still hurt, and Michael Young who doesn’t have a hit yet.  For the record, I’m pretty bearish on both Youngs, but there’s still time for Dom Brown to be a decent MLB outfielder.

***

I’ve heard a lot of people are watching  the NFL Combine on television this week.  Personally, I can’t get that involved, but I understand the appeal.   It’s nice to put quantifiable numbers on things.  Manti Te’o is slow because he ran a 4.82.  Dee Milliner turns out to have top end speed with a 4.31 forty.  It’s very validating.  I KNEW that he was too slow.  The funny thing about the combine is that there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between guys who impress at the combine and guys who have productive careers.  Tom Brady’s combine was notoriously laughable.  Last year Vontaze Burfict performed his way out of the entire draft.  He ended up with 127 tackles for the Bengals.  Not saying he’s Patrick Willis, but probably worth a draft pick, right?  

The combine becomes more important in Philadelphia because the Eagles have the #4 pick.  If the was the NBA Draft you’d be worried that the talent pool would run out by #4, but in the NFL you expect to get an impact player at this slot.  It also hurts that much more when you miss badly.  One thing I’d like to know is if any town trusts their NFL draft people. Do Ravens fans sit back and relax and say, “We’ve got this.”  I’m curious, because in Philadelphia I know the fans are terrified the front office is going to screw this up.  It certainly takes some of the fun out of the pick.  If the fans knew they were getting a pro bowler that would be one thing, but when you have a reputation of taking “worst player available,” the draft can be a terrifying thing.  

***

Speaking of Tom Brady, he signed a hell of a hometown discount extension over the weekend.  He tacked on three years at only nine million per, which allows Brady to collect some money up front and allows the Patriots some great cap flexibility.  When I was a kid and I used to fantasize about being a professional athlete, I’d debate the merits of taking a hometown discount.  Sometimes I’d think I’d take less money, “No, no.  I’m rich enough.  Allow me to endear myself to the fan base even more with this bargain basement deal.”  That’s a 10-year old’s thought process, though.  When it plays out in real life, the home town discount is usually a myth.  

***

The Florida swing is starting on the PGA Tour.  What was once strictly a build-up to the Masters has become a stretch of really good tournaments at solid venues.  The fields have gotten better too and that starts this week at the Honda where the focus will be Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy trying to rebound from their first round dismissals at the Match Play.  Despite the big name flops, the Match Play had a couple of decent story lines.  One was the play and confidence of Ian Poulter.  Poulter has carved himself a niche in match play, has won the Accenture once and has a glistening Ryder Cup record.  At Grantland, Shane Ryan went as far as saying Poulter is the greatest match player of his generation.  I’d pause just before that.  Poulter is the same age as Tiger, who has won 3 Accenture match plays, not to mention those 3 straight Junior Ams and US Ams.  I think Poults has a ways to go, especially since he lost in the 1st round in 2011 and 2012.  

He definitely can play Ryder Cup, though.  The Americans do better in this event and on the PGA Tour in general.  The Kuchar/Mahan final was just what you’d want if you are an American golf fan.  Add that to Brandt Snedeker’s start, Tiger and Phil winning already and it’s been a US-centric year 0n Tour so far.  Does this bode well for the 2014 Ryder Cup?  Probably not.  

***

I thought Seth McFarlane did an all right job hosting the Oscars.  My biggest issue would be he didn’t look completely comfortable.  It is amazing what will make people groan sometimes.  I’m not a huge Family Guy fan, but I like when the host doesn’t spend the entire time placing lip to butt.  The reaction to the hosting job is what I want to talk about, though.  Certain things turn everyone into an expert and one of those is Oscar hosting.  Suddenly, the world wants to weigh in on what is and what is not funny.  I wonder why people are so obsessed with saying, “not funny.”  I am one of these people.  I love being an arbiter of humor, and yet I have no idea what qualifies me to be one.  Spoiler alert: Nothing does.  I may try to start imposing my personal of humor less on people in the future.  I won’t, but I MAY TRY.  

 

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A Mailbag.

And, We're Broken Up.

And, We’re Broken Up.

I know it wasn’t possible, but it would have been damn entertaining if the guys had to play golf through that snowstorm in Arizona Wednesday.  In theory it would have been “fair,” right?  It’s match play.  Who’s better at playing through a heavy dusting?  It would have made for captivating TV and hearing the players whine about it afterwards would have been incredible.  I spent the vast majority of my college golf career complaining about the weather.  Springtime in these parts is a great time to play golf if you love wind, torrential rain and the occasional snow shower.  Yeah, I played in snow.  Not accumulating, but what I’d call a real steady squall.  The tour pros need to toughen up.   In lieu of another Oscar preview, try the mailbag…

Q: I was in convenience store the other day and I heard a guy talking about what he gave his significant other for Valentine’s Day.  I wasn’t paying close attention, I assume there was the usual stuff, card, Whitman Sampler (?) but then the guy goes, AND A HAMSTER.  What?  Worst Valentine’s gift ever?  Ginny Pigg, Topeka, KS.

A:  If someone gave me a hamster I would lose my mind.  I’d accidentally set the hamster loose in a moment of terror and then the person who gave me the rodent would have approximately 90 seconds to catch the hamster and find it another home or else we’d probably have to “TAKE A BREAK.”  I need to make this less personal, though.  Some people are delighted by various relatives of the rat.  I think you can do worse than hamster.  Any appliance?  An economy sized bottle of Tide?  Anything in the reptile family?  Is a hamster better than a turtle?  Which smells worse?  That would be my tie-breaker.  Here would be my concern if I got a hamster, assuming I was someone who liked any kind of pet.  Does a hamster reflect the proper level of commitment?  What is the average lifespan of Mr. Freckles?  Couple years tops?  I think someone gets you a kitten, or a puppy they’re probably a little more invested in the long haul.  But seriously, don’t give hamsters for Valentine’s Day, even if your significant other loves hamsters.  A hamster is more of a Happy Wednesday night, here’s a hamster, type of gift.  

Q:  Why do all guys’ public restrooms have urinals but no one’s home has one?  Tinkle Standing, Newark, DE.

A:  Well, some people do have urinals in their home.  I guess you never saw the episode of Cribs with ‘Sheed Wallace.  Mr. Wallace had a nice bathroom that was outfitted with a urinal.  Class for days.  So, why don’t you see more urinals?  This is pretty easy.  I’ll lay it out for you.  You clearly don’t run in an affluent enough circle to see them.  SORRY.  Why do you have to be rich to have a urinal?  Well, the first reason is simply  bathroom space.  I’m not sure if you knew this, but women can’t really use a urinal.  At least not effectively.  Also, you can’t READ A MAGAZINE on a urinal if you catch my drift.  Your everyday bathroom has almost no extra space.  And, if it did have extra space a urinal is way down on the list of how to utilize that bounty.  You see, no woman wants to look at urinal.  It can be the trendiest, sleekest, designed in flippin’ Norway looking urinal ever–it’s still a urinal.  Your average woman will not have that in their bathroom.  No way, NO HOW.  So I think most people with urinals have their own personal bathroom.  That’s another level of wealth and house size that eliminates a large group of people.  So, I’m going to say, be patient.  One of these days you’ll see the elusive domestic urinal.  

Q: Is the French 76 masculine or feminine? I ask because it seems like it is catered to women, yet I’ve only ever seen men drink it.  Rose Spritzer, Ocean City, NJ

A: Well, I needed to do some research here.  A French 76 isn’t really in my drinking vocabulary.  Did you say gin and tonic?  NO?  It’s definitely called a French 76–then I have no idea what that is.  According to various search engines, there is a French 75 and a French 76.  Both include champagne, but the 75 is gin based and the 76 has vodka.  Also, there appears to be some disagreement about whether or not the 76 should include grenadine syrup.  This is a big deal, because pretty much anything with grenadine syrup is going to turn out pink in color.  Assuming its pink, then I suppose the drink is, at least superficially, feminine.  In the annals of drinking, alcohol was sweetened, given FUN COLORS (things of that nature) to appeal to non-drinkers.  If a shot of whiskey was the only option at a bar–they wouldn’t do as well.  Personally, I don’t like sweet drinks and I don’t particularly like champagne either, so I don’t think the French 76 would be for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for men in general.  I’d say drinking a French 76 for a guy might be like wearing a pink shirt.  It’s a feminine color, but a guy can still wear it and be masculine.  At the same time, it’s not something every man would choose to do.  But honestly, if you’ve seen enough people drink this cocktail to draw a conclusion, I’ve got some questions for you.

Q:  Daniel Day Lewis: Great Actor, or a little annoying?  Both?  Doesn’t the guy owe us a terrible movie?  Hawkeye Lincoln, Devon, PA.

A:  I suppose Daniel Day Lewis doesn’t really cooperate with our modern perception of an actor.  Haven’t seen him on many US Weekly covers.  Not sure if he’s in the mix for Jennifer Lawrence.  Are actors more or less interesting if all they do is act?  I’m not sure about that one.  DDL is selective and I guess that’s why he could be annoying.  Suppose you are a HUGE FAN and have to wait three years for him to make a movie.  Zach Galifianakis gets hot and suddenly he’s in 30 movies in six months.  Your desire for Zach HAS BEEN SATED.  It’s always helpful to have a counterpoint in an argument too.  If someone is telling you how great Galifianakis is you can quickly say, “Did you catch Dinner For Schmucks?”  Because that is EASILY one of the worst comedies ever made.  It’s a real black eye on Zach’s record.  Most actors have this, from Affleck’s famous turn in Gigli to Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks to Denzel in Book of Eli–no one is perfect.  But, the perception is that Daniel Day Lewis is perfect and I will say I find that annoying.  He’s been high-brow the whole way, no money grabs, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t made a terrible movie.  I haven’t seen The Crucible, or The Unbearable Lightness of Being but I guarantee one of them is awful.  

Q:  What is the best decade in which to be born (last 100 years)?  Doc Brown, Hill Valley, CA.

A:  Tough question.  I assume everyone would have their own criteria, but I am going to use a few to quickly narrow down the field.  First, I don’t want anything to do with the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl so I’m going to nix the 1920s and 1930s.  I also don’t think I have the fortitude to be involved in any war so that does a number on the 1940s and 1950s as well.  So, that cuts the field almost in half right there.  We’re down to the last fifty years.  I think to pick between the remaining decades you’ve got to decide how married you are to technology, when you want to retire, your opinion on global warming, gas prices and whether or not you wanted to be a heavy smoker as a teenager.  I like modern technology to a certain extent, but I see people becoming more and more dependent on it and I see kindergarten kids running around with cell phones and I’m not sure I would want to be that kid.  Is an iPad more fun than throwing a ball around INSIDE THE HOUSE?  I don’t know.  Is Xbox better than original Nintendo?  PROBABLY NOT.  So, I’m going to pass on the 2010s and 2000s as well.  Too high-tech for me.  I want my childhood imagination cultivated by boredom, not by the Apple store.  The remaining contestants are the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.  I’m no hippie, I don’t really care about music and I’d like the Civil Rights Act passed before I enter the world, so I’m booting the 60s.  Being born in the 1990s means too much competition for jobs, too much college debt, and too much reliance on Twitter for your social life.  Nixed.  That brings you to the only two real choices.  70s vs 80s.  Now, there’s a big difference here between born in 1971 and 1989, but hardly any at all between 1979 and 1980.  When I think of children of the 1970s, I think GenX, I think about people who saw John Hughes movies IN THE THEATER and not on the couch with their older siblings.  But, I think 80s kids have better TV, they got to experience college with the internet and they’re still young enough to plan on retirement without social security.  Forced to pick an actual decade, I’d take the 1980s.  Ten year span, I’d go 1974-1984ish.  

Q: Have you seen the Oreo Mega Stuf?  Is there a how far is too far discussion that needs to be had here?  Gordo Kreme, Boise, ID.

Don't You Dare Spell Stuff Correctly.

Don’t You Dare Spell Stuff Correctly.

Oh, these?  Yeah, I’ve seen them.  Oreos are the best cookie for debate.  What flavor is the best, what level of STUF do you like, you could do seminars, college courses, weekend think tanks–all on the Oreo.  You know a cookie is good when you can’t decide what is the best part.  Do I like the cookie more?  The STUF?  Personally, I like the combination.  I’m not one to eat the cookie first, or to eat the STUF out of the middle.  When I was a kid I did those things, but that’s because I was bored (it was the 80s) and it was a convoluted way to make them last.  Now, I just shove them in my overactive mouth.  I like regular Oreos, but I’m afraid I might like double STUF a bit more.  What is the STUF made of?  I DON’T KNOW.  Is there a tipping point?  Is there a ratio question like with M&Ms?  There could be, but I think the flavor of the Oreo cookie is so distinct, so bold, that I think it can balance MEGA STUF.  That’s my professional opinion without trying the cookies.  I am afraid this is the limit, though.  If the go MAGNA STUF, I’d probably have to pass.  (yeah right)

Belated Photo Bag:

Tom Kite Violates the Shorts > Glasses Theorem.

Tom Kite Violates the Shorts > Glasses Theorem.

Bracket Practice.

Is There A Jumbo Ozaki Bracket?

Is There A Jumbo Ozaki Bracket?

I’ve got a new theory for March Madness this year.  Considering I’m known to correctly guess 0-1 Final Four participants each year and sit at approximately 0 for 75 lifetime in NCAA pools, I’m going to try to get some of my bad luck out of the way.  If there’s anything more unpredictable than the NCAA tournament, it’s the Accenture World Match Play Championship.  It’s not will a #1 seed lose early, it’s how many will lose in the opening round?  So, while I fill out every online contest I can find, in a pursuit to leave the 11th percentile, here’s some inconsequential talk about the golf tournament.

#1 Seeds: Tiger, Rory, Luke Donald and Louis Oosthuizen

All eyes are on Rory since he hasn’t been seen since his season opening 75-75-adios in Abu Dhabi.  The World #1 was obviously rusty, but the only equipment concern should be with his putter.  McIlroy plays longtime friend Shane Lowery of Ireland in the opening round, which could help him get off to a good start.

Five 2nd Round Matchups I will jinx Want to See:

Despite the depth of the field, there isn’t one match in the first round that jumps off the page at me.  I imagine for a more casual golf fan that feeling might be even more intense.  But, if some matches turn out on Wednesday the 2nd round could be full of highlights.  My preferences:

Rory McIlroy vs. Rickie Fowler.  McIlroy has to get by the aforementioned Lowery while Fowler will face Carl Pettersson.  Fowler has shown flashes of brilliance in this event, but has never strung together a full week–something typical of his career to this point.

Tiger Woods vs. Francesco Molinari.  Everyone loves to compare Tiger to Michael Jordan.  One place they are similar?  The perceived slight.  Molinari could have conceded a putt last year when the Ryder Cup was decided.  He didn’t, Tiger missed  and lost the match.  Could something like that inspire Tiger to a signature thrashing?

Dustin Johnson vs. Graeme McDowell.  Johnson already has a win this year and has made the “Paulina Gretzky following DJ (at fill in tournament) Slide Show” a staple at Golf.com.  McDowell, like pretty much every golfer born in Europe after 1975 seems to be a match play killer.

Hunter Mahan vs. Jason Dufner.  Mahan is the defending champion.  I’m curious about Dufner.  I like the guy, but people seem to have rushed a bit to put him near the top of the game.  I want to see how he fares this week as a top seed.

Keegan Bradley vs. Ernie Els.  Two guys who use an anchored putter and won majors.  Were they the last straw for the USGA?  If you watched the Ryder Cup you know Keegan Bradley was out of his mind.  Hard to believe he’ll be at that level of intensity and if he is he won’t last the five days.  Els has been a god in the Match Play at Wentworth, can he add this title?

Five First Round Upsets:  

Chris Wood (15) over Bubba Watson (2).  Bubba played terrible at Riviera.  I don’t see him snapping out of it this week.  Chris Wood won earlier this year in Qatar.

Padraig Harrinton (12) over Graeme McDowell (5).  What better way to prepare for the NCAAs than pick a 12/5 right?  Harrington is on what is probably his 30th swing incarnation of the last five years, and hasn’t played well the last two weeks, but I think he’s got a chance to slip by McDowell who isn’t exactly on top form.

Frederick Jacobsen (12) over Ernie Els (5).  Two 12/5s are better than one.  Jacobsen is coming off two straight top-5 finishes.  Not a real closer in stroke play events, but taking possibly the best putter in the world is never a bad choice in match play.

Henrik Stenson (13) over Steve Stricker (4).  Stenson has a pretty good record in this event and has come back from some pretty significant struggles.  Steve Stricker is playing  a reduced schedule and its hard to believe he’s sharp since he hasn’t played since Hawaii.

Ryan Moore (10) over Jim Furyk (7).  Not a huge upset, but considering Furyk’s recent performances in big spots and that Moore was an amateur match play killer, I’ll take the guy with funny shoes who occasionally wears bad ties.

My Final Four:  Tiger Woods, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, and Nick Watney.  

Will The Ex-Athlete Ever Be Content?

Fifty Has Jordan Feeling a Little Blue.

Fifty Has Jordan Feeling a Little Blue.

There’s a scene in the movie Cobb where a long retired Ty Cobb is getting honored by some baseball writers, or some group and he’s asked how he thinks he would fare against “modern pitching.”  Cobb takes a moment and says he could probably only hit .280.  Shocked, the questioner asks him if he really thinks the pitching is that much better than it was during his era and that’s when Cobb clarifies.  The pitching isn’t better, he’s just an old man.  At his advanced age, .280 is all he could muster.  When I saw the movie I dismissed the scene as an (possibly embellished) example of Cobb’s arrogance.  Was he a prick because he could hit?  Or could he hit because he was a prick?  When I think about that scene now, though, it takes on a broader meaning.  It symbolizes how hard it is for athletes to let go and how difficult it is for them to deal with the generations that followed them.  

I should clarify one point before going on, the majority of what I’ll say here applies to star caliber players.  You’ll meet plenty of everyday, “regular” athletes who are acutely aware of their own limitations, who are more apt to give credit where credit is due.  But, the superstars, the bigger names are different.  This week I’ve been bombarded with a few fresh examples.  

Michael Jordan is turning 50 this month and it’s a cause for many things, one of those being a long Jordan piece written by Wright Thompson at ESPN.   It’s a good read if you haven’t checked it out yet.  Perhaps not as revealing as some have made it out to be.  Personally, I don’t find it surprising that Michael Jordan is maniacally competitive at Bejeweled Blitz.  I could have seen that coming from a mile away, but there’s one anecdote that stuck out to me in the article as symptomatic of what I’m talking about.  Jordan claims only four current NBA players could have been as successful in “his era.”  Kobe, LeBron, Dirk and Kevin Garnett.  Chris Paul?  He’s no Mark Price!  Dwight Howard?  Would have been lucky to hang with Robert Parrish back in the 80s.  That’s not what Jordan said, it’s just the natural next step to his idiotic claim.  It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder how someone can really believe that?  

But, this is what happens with ex-athletes.  I read another article this week where golfer Raymond Floyd called the Golf Hall of Fame a joke.  This is another good read.  Floyd has had an interesting life and career, he’s dealing with the loss of his wife, but there are things in the piece that jump out at you.  He’s got a point about the golf Hall of Fame, the standards have become a bit lax, but Floyd is fiercely protective of his legacy and his era.  Here’s a quote from Floyd on some modern players:

“But these days some J. O. Jones journeyman is thrilled to be 50th on the money list. It’s the person’s makeup, his goals. I always wanted to win as often as I could, and the money would take care of itself. Some guys make so much that they’re content; winning doesn’t matter because they’ve got a great lifestyle. It takes a unique personality to become a star, a true superstar.”

This brings to mind a couple of things.  First, Floyd spent a good portion of his earlier career as the kind of player he doesn’t like.  He admits as much.  He coasted a lot in the early years.  But, secondly, when did Ray Floyd become a superstar?  He won 22 times on Tour and has 4 majors, but Floyd was never the best player in the world, not even for an instant.  He played with Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and Watson but that doesn’t make you one of them.  

How would Floyd feel if Lee Trevino got up and started shouting about how you should at least five majors to be in the Hall of Fame?  Where do you draw the line?  Is Fred Couples (2013 inductee) a bit short on credentials?  Probably, but his best golf was probably better than Floyd’s and how does electing Couples lessen Floyd’s career?  If being a HALL OF FAMER is your most important credential–you’ve probably got an issue.  No one looks at Jack Nicklaus and says, “There’s a Hall of Famer.”  They say, “There’s Jack bleepin’ Nicklaus.”  The rest is self-explanatory.  

For a long time I thought I the bitterness of ex-athletes was driven by money.  In Philadelphia most are familiar with the legacy of Chuck Bednarik.  Bednarik was a two-way playing icon in for the Eagles.  He led them to the 1960 NFL Championship as a center and a linebacker.  He delivered one of the most famous and devastating hits in NFL history.  He’s still revered, but we don’t hear much from him and we didn’t in the past because every time someone asked Bednarik about the NFL all they got was vitriol.  He wanted the Eagles to lose the Super Bowl.  He hates Jeff Lurie, the modern player and is openly jealous of their salaries.  Bottom line, the players were tougher when Chuck Bednarik played and they deserved all the perks of the modern athlete.  

I can understand that.  When you made 25 grand a year and you see guys doing the same thing and getting 10 million–that has to sting.  But Bednarik has still done a lot of trading off his NFL days.  And, you could easily say Bednarik was lucky to play when he did.  At 230 lbs, he certainly wouldn’t have been playing any center in the modern NFL.  And if he did, I hate to think what Vince Wilfork would do to him.  Could he even run down a modern RB to deliver that famous hit?  Chuck doesn’t look at that part of the equation.  

But when you see an athlete like Michael Jordan taking a similar stance to Bednarik it blows up the financial argument.  I think Jordan is pretty well set for money.  If things ever got tight he could sell his NBA team, or his plane.  I guess I thought that eventually a generation of players would come around who had it good enough that they didn’t begrudge the guys who have it a little bit better.  But it doesn’t appear as if that will ever be the case.  Being a star athlete comes with a lot of burdens, the biggest of which may be eventually no longer being a star athlete.  

 

One of Those Mailbags.

LOOK AT MY DINNER.

LOOK AT MY DINNER.

Is chocolate a drug?  I’m just looking at some of its properties.  A bit addictive.  Stimulating.  But, its most psychedelic feature?  It makes you dream crazy.  If you want to blow your mind–legally–stuff your gullet with some chocolate before you call it for the night.  The later the better.  I had a dessert last night that was laced with chocolate.  A bit rich, and I had some weird dreams.  I usually don’t remember my dreams and I don’t really remember these either, but I know I rolled over a few times and was all, “wow, that was not normal.”  The only detail I remember is at one point I was tending bar with Emma Watson.  It was like Cocktail 2.  To wind down my brain, a mailbag…

Q:  About once a week I hear someone, or see someone complaining about people posting pictures of their dinner on some social media site.  I agree the photos are an annoyance, especially when you get before AND AFTER shots, but my question is, did people have an impulse to share their dinner before a camera existed in everyone’s pocket?  Cesar Salidd, Houston, TX.

A:  Interesting question.  I also don’t understand the dinner picture phenomenon.  I consider myself a person with a decent amount of free time and yet I don’t feel like I have the time to take pictures of my food.  Maybe if it was a real special occasion, or if you had to settle a bet?  Otherwise if you try to take a picture of my food the only thing you are going to see is the blur of the fork.  There is something in play here though, and that’s the desire to share one’s photos. This is something that predates social media.  Forty years ago it was all, “Hey come over for a drink, I’ve got 500 slides from Yosemite.”  Then you had to sit there for three hours looking at pictures of very similar looking trees and a shot of a bear that was 30 miles away.  People don’t realize some pictures are more appealing than others.  Some audiences are more receptive.  Does a grandparent want a copy of Timmy’s T-Ball card?  I guess so.  Does everyone you went to high school with need to see 56 shots of him standing in right field with his glove on the wrong hand?  PROBABLY NOT.

Q: I hear that Mike Piazza put out a book.  Among the tidbits is that he took karate classes in preparation for a confrontation with Roger Clemens that never happened.  Does it surprise you that someone of Piazza’s dimensions felt the need to learn a martial art before fighting Clemens?  Daniel LaRussa, Fresno, CA. 

A:  First, let’s go to the tale of the tape.  Does anyone miss seeing the “Tale of the Tape,” in sports sections by the way?  I remember being a young kid and the day before a big fight you’d see these stats that had no meaning.  An inch and a half NECK ADVANTAGE?  Good luck getting out of that hole.  But I loved those stats, I really did.  Anyway, these two guys are very similar in size.  Clemens has an inch, but Piazza is six years his junior.  At first glance, it looks like it would be a fair fight.  Maybe that’s what Piazza was worried about?  Or maybe he hated Clemens so much that he wanted to make sure he kicked his ass.  He didn’t want to leave anything to chance.  I’m pretty sure I can take him, but just in case, TEACH ME THE CRANE KICK.  The other thing to think about–Clemens is possibly a deranged lunatic.  Whenever there is a fight between two people with no actual fighting skills, the crazier person will win.  That’s just common knowledge.  And, Clemens is clearly the crazier one in this duo.  You just have to look at the original incident.  Clemens throws a bat shard at Piazza and then offers the worst explanation in the history of sports.  Piazza was right to get Sensei Kreese on the phone.  

Q:  The other night, not sure you saw it, but Blake Griffin embarrassed Spencer Hawes (of your 76ers) on a vicious dunk.  There was a bit of an uproar afterwards about Evan Turner’s reaction.  Apparently he was “smirking.”  Is there any leeway at all here?  Sometimes you can’t help your reaction, right?  Ricardo, Upper Merion, PA.  

Unsurprisingly, Hawes' Eyes Were Closed.

Unsurprisingly, Hawes’ Eyes Were Closed.

This would be the dunk.  Griffin went up with his right hand and then dunked with his left.  Hawes fouled the wrong elbow. The dunk brought down the house–IN PHILLY.  Were people there to see the Sixers or see Griffin dunk?  I DON’T KNOW.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned this several times here, but I once shot off the bench in response to one of my teammates’ shots getting volleyball spiked off the backboard in Middle School.  “Oh, sh*t.”  That’s what I think I said.  How many minutes did I play the rest of the game?  0.00.  To this day I will tell you it was an involuntary reaction.  I felt a little bad about it, but it wasn’t mean-spirited.  It came from a genuine place.  And, basketball breeds this type of reaction.  Even at the highest level.  My issue is we’re talking about a “smirk.”  I did not see Turner’s reaction, but I did hear about it.  If he reacted immediately I’m inclined to give him a pass, even though he should be in more control of his reactions as a professional.  If they were already on their way back up the court and Turner was shaking his head, or suppressing a laugh–that’s not OK.  I understand, white guys getting dunked on will ALWAYS be funny, but when that guy is on your team, you’ve got to save your true reaction until you are watching the highlight in the privacy of your own home.  

Q: Any thoughts on the Pope resigning his position?  Any chance he’s getting out before a scandal is revealed, college football coach style?  John Paul III, Ardmore, PA.

A:  I’ve got to be pretty honest here, my areas of expertise are quite vast, but anything regarding the Pope, or the papacy (?) in general is miles off my radar.  I can say I learned some things about Pope Benedict this week.  He’s German!  He’s also 5’7″ without his hat.  And, of course, he’s 85.  I’m not sure what the scandal could be.  I’m going to guess the Pope doesn’t have any Lane Kiffin type secrets pushing him out the door.  What does it look like to someone who is a complete outsider when a Pope resigns for the first time in several hundred years?  Makes me think Pope Benedict wants to mix things up.  Maybe he thinks maintaining the position until you pass away does not best serve the church?  If the duties of being Pope have begun to overwhelm him, why not allow someone more capable to take over?  Pontification ain’t easy.  Especially once you hit your mid-eighties.  I say good for Pope Benedict for hanging them up.  Takes a real Pope to know when’s the right time to leave.  He just became the John Elway of Popes.  Plus, we can now speculate on who will be the next Pope.  Will they be American?  Turns out Francis Arinze of Nigeria is the chalk at 2:1.  

Q: Phil Jackson’s memoir is called “11 Rings.”  On the cover is a picture of his 11 NBA Championship rings.  Is this the most arrogant book title/cover photo combination in history?  Otto Biography, Lake Placid, NY

A:  Did you expect anything less out of Jackson?  I’m surprised it’s not called MY 11 Rings, or YOU’RE WELCOME, MICHAEL & KOBE.  Giving Jackson credit of any kind still pains me a bit.  I understand 11 championships.  I don’t have the balls to sit here and say Jackson wasn’t a good coach.  I’m TEMPTED.  But, I won’t.  I understand perfectly well that no coach can win without players.  It’s just Jackson was unusually blessed in this regard.  And, Phil was an opportunist.  I’ll give him that.  He didn’t waste anything.  It wasn’t like Charlie Manuel fumbling his way to 1 World Series in five years with the Phillies.  So, OK, decent job there Phil and if we can peel back a few hundred layers of ego there is a chance Jackson’s memoir could be a good read.  It should be, anyway.  His position should come with countless worthy stories.  Will he share them?  Or will he spend the entire time trying to enlighten us?  I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.  Is it the most arrogant title of all-time (I’m sure it’s the most arrogant photo)?  There is a book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by David Eggers.  On the surface, that wins.  But, I’m fairly sure that title is meant a bit tongue in cheek, a little hyperbole to catch your eye.  Phil Jackson doesn’t do hyperbole.  So, go ahead and give him a 12th ring.  

Q:  Say you go to a public golf course 0n like a Thursday afternoon, so the place is crowded but not crazy packed like a weekend.  If you were trying to do it, how many people do you think you could hit?  Not on putts and not in your own group.  That’s the only qualification.  Fhore Everywhere, Reading, PA.

A:  That’d be a hell of an experiment.  Are you even trying to play the holes, or are you just ripping 4-irons at people?  I’m going to give you 36 chances to hit AT PEOPLE.  One chance on the par threes, two on the par fours, and three on the par fives.  After that, time to chip it back onto your own hole and keep the pace of play moving.  So, if there were 36 opportunities, I’m going to say that at most, there will be 20 instances of people within your range.  On the vast majority of those it would take a hell of a shot to actually hit someone.  Hitting a human at 150 yards is easier than hitting the flag stick, but not that much easier.  You also have to overcome the instinct of not wanting to INJURE anyone.  I remember one time I was playing especially awful and had no idea where the ball was going.  There was a woman walking down the road adjacent to a par-3.  She was NOT in play.  I had a 6-iron maybe?  But I was playing so bad I thought, what if I hit a rope hook into her forehead?  It’s possible the way things are going.  So, I hit it a mile right instead.  The point being, even if you had someone in range, you might flinch.  I’m going to say one hit person would be pretty much the norm, two would be a good day and anything more than that would be extraordinary.  

 

Spring Training Cometh.

Did You Know There Was A Logo?

Did You Know There Was A Logo?

For the first time since 2007 the Phillies arrive in Spring Training coming off a season where they failed to make the post-season.  The team that arrived that season was the polar opposite of the team the fans will watch closely this Spring.  The 2007 Phillies were young.  They were an offensive juggernaut.  Their starting rotation was a train wreck, the bullpen a hodgepodge.  Some select highlights from that 2007 team:  

  1. Jimmy Rollins (Age 28) played all 162 games, won MVP
  2. Ryan Howard (Age 27) was coming off a .425 OBP season in 2006 (.295 OBP in 2012)
  3. Aaron Rowand (Age 29) hit .309 (.374 OBP) with 29 homers in centerfield
  4. Abraham Nunez (Age 31) was the oldest everyday starter
  5. Jamie Moyer, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton were double-digit winners

This year the Phillies arrive in Clearwater an old team.  Veteran would be a kinder way of describing the team’s average age, but they’ll trot out five regulars who are well into their 30s.  A bigger concern would be the general offensive downturn that’s been hindering the team since 2010.  When you look at the roster turnover, it’s easy to see the problem.  The best players haven’t been able to stay on the field and the Phillies have consistently replaced high OBP players with low OBP players.  One of the debates this Spring will be whether or not to lead off Ben Revere, who had a career high OBP of .333 in 2012.  That career year would have ranked him 7th among the eight everyday players on the 2007 Phillies.  His 29 walks would have ranked dead last.  

It’s safe to say the Phillies’ offense will come nowhere close to the numbers posted in 2007, and that shouldn’t necessarily be the goal.  The 2007 team was flawed in many areas, but it’s interesting to look at how much things have changed and how the philosophy of the team has changed during what is considered a singular era of success.  The team that started the streak of playoff appearances had almost nothing in common with the team that ended the streak in 2012.  So, how will the Phillies get back to the post-season, start another streak?  

There is a notion around baseball that the Phillies have fallen way behind in their own division and in the National League.  Some projections like the Nationals and Braves in their own division to win close to 100 games.  If that happens, it’ll be almost impossible for the Phillies to make the post-season when they’ll still have to deal with St. Louis, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Los Angeles and who knows what other teams might make a run.  

To keep things from being entirely pessimistic, I’ll say that I think the overall love for the National League may have gone a bit overboard.  I do think the Nationals are easily the best team in the NL East, but from there things get a bit more cloudy.  The Braves, for example, have a lot of questions.  They are unproven in their rotation.  They sacrificed three of their best lineup components from 2012 (Chipper, Prado and Bourn) and while they replaced them, it’s a lot of new pieces that need to come together.  They also took a Phillies-esque approach to those holes.  OBP gone, and replaced with more power and more strikeouts.  So, while I would probably trade rosters with Atlanta if I were a Phillies fan, I hardly see them as a lock to win 95 games.  

So, if you can squint your eyes a little bit, see a scenario where 90 wins might get the Phillies into the playoffs, perhaps things become a bit more feasible.  But if every team this time of year has questions, the Phillies have huge issues that need to be addressed–much of them surrounding the health of the team’s stars.  Larry Bowa said yesterday it would take a stars aligned type of season for the Phillies to make the playoffs–what stars must align?  A sampling…

  1. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard healthy and productive for 145+ games (last happened–2009)
  2. Roy Halladay must be, at worst, the best #3 starter in baseball
  3. Michael Young must bounce back from a poor 2012 and prove he can play 3B
  4. Mike Adams and the rest of the crowded bullpen have to resolve crippling 7th/8th inning issues from 2012
  5. Someone, or some combination of players must adequately fill the corner OF spots

You could go on and on.  There are people out there who think none of the above will happen.  You can easily make that argument.  Others believe that the Phillies will be healthy, have three aces and solid bullpen.  Which scenario plays out?  I have no idea.  It creates a scenario where Phillies fans must actually pay attention to what is happening in the Spring.  

If Roy Halladay’s velocity is down this year–that’s an issue.  If Ryan Howard is still limping, if Chase Utley needs days off, if Ruf and Brown don’t hit?  None of that can be brushed off as, “just Spring Training.”  Not this year.  So, while in some ways this is least distinguished Phillies’ team to arrive in Clearwater in some time, it should be one of the more interesting Springs.  Position battles, veterans trying to prove themselves, Charlie trying to keep his hands on his job–there will be a lot going on.  

It’s all part of a new era of baseball where the Blue Jays are favorites in the AL East, the Astros are in the American League.  Get used to it.  

Mailbag.

Simmer Down Meow.

Simmer Down Meow.

I’m not sure if I like this new habit of naming winter storms.  I think it only adds to the unnecessary drama.  And, Nemo?  Is this a crutch for headline writers?  Did they run out of ways to use the word blizzard?  Now we can get NEMO FINDS BOSTON.  I like the general term, “blizzard.”  There’s no fuss.  Did you hear about winter storm Nemo?  No, but I heard about the blizzard.  In these southern PA parts we’re supposed to get mostly rain, which means expect the bread aisle to a barren wasteland.  Did you want the last loaf of Wonder with the large dent?  A loaf of rye with questionable expiration date?  Well, I guess you’re out of luck then.  Otherwise you’ll just have to brave the puddles on Saturday to get your bread.  To my northern friends, good luck with Nemo, and here’s a mailbag for when the power comes back on/you stop shoveling.  

Q: What is the fascination with stainless steel appliances?  Last time I checked they didn’t keep your food colder, or make it taste any better.  Woody Finish, Valley Forge, PA.  

A:  Well, to be fair, they don’t make your food any warmer, either.  Kitchen trends are hard to figure and I imagine can be a nightmare when buying or selling a house.  Great place, but it looks like the granite counter top fairy passed you over–WE’LL KEEP LOOKING.  And then of course, you might still want the house, but not only do you have to shell out the cash, but you’ve got to load up with new appliances as well.  If I owned a house I’d be in CONSTANT FEAR of my appliances becoming out of date.  Is slate the new granite?  Am I supposed to have a drawer freezer or a side-by-side?  I DON’T KNOW.  Anyway, if I had to guess about stainless steel’s popularity I’d land on two things.  First, it reminds people of professional kitchens.  There isn’t a white Kenmore stove in the back of any restaurant.  Sh*t’s steel.  So, the gourmet, the foodie, the poser–they want to pretend like they’re Bourdain.  Steel is required.  Second, it’s got to be a pretty safe bet, borderline timeless.  It’s like getting a blue suit from Brooks Brothers.  It may not be the hottest thing in 10 years, but no one is going to laugh at you for wearing it.  

Q:  What do you think people did at work to waste time before the advent of the cell phone and internet?  Sue Doughkoo, Ambler, PA.  

A:  Here’s a shot in the dark–actual work?  It’s a pretty good question.  I know people who have a wide range of jobs, they all claim different levels of being busy, but I imagine everyone has some time to kill every once in a while.  I think the busiest job I ever had was working in the bag room at a golf course.  You could show up at 6 on Saturday morning and the next thing you know, it’s 2:30 and it’s time to go home.  Suck on that, Doctors.  But that wasn’t an everyday thing and in the days before cell phones I got into a lot of mischief in the bag room during my down time.  I’ve recounted much of that here on previous occasions, but I did some of (if not all) of the following: hit members’ clubs, hit practice balls, played golf, golf ball art projects, put things in the vise, putting contests, flaming ball trick, etc.  So, general mischief and pacing.  PACING was huge.  When I worked in Michigan I’d stroll around for hours, tracing the same path over and over.  Great workout.  As far as what actual business professionals did during this time?  I wouldn’t know. Maybe an older reader can check in with some tales about things getting weird with the mimeograph machine.  Or, maybe just drinking?  That’s what it looks like on Mad Men.  

Q:  I saw a commercial for Comcast or Verizon the other day, can’t remember which one is was–does it matter?  No.  Anyway, they were bragging about having 2-hr appointment windows.  Is this something to brag about?  Al. L. Day, Hartford, CT.

A:  I remember getting my cable set up about five years ago and when I called I was looking for a certain time and they said, “How about next Thursday from 7-10 pm.”  And then I said, “How about you (expletive).”  I didn’t curse at them, but I wanted to.  You’d think getting your service set up would take an instant.  New customer?  YES, PLEASE.  But, from what I gather, the cable companies employ just enough technicians to stave off a riot.  If your cable goes out for a day or two, you’re still paying for it, right?  RIGHT?  Or, maybe you can spend 53 hours on the phone trying to get a refund or credit.  The good news is competition is on the rise.  There are various TV options.  The companies can’t afford to be so dismissive.  The old days of 8am-2pm won’t cut it.  I’ve actually heard people say things like, “I had to take a day off for the guy to come out and set up the FIOS.”  WHAT?  That’s total horse bleep.  So, it’s nice to hear they’ve narrowed the windows down a little bit.  Is it still embarrassing?  Disgraceful?  Not good enough?  You bet your sweet ass, but we’re getting there.  As for the bragging, I’d just put up with it.  You don’t want to discourage the progress.  

Q: I know you are a dog lover, but what breed would not be at the end of your leash?  Do people factor in their own size/gender when picking a dog?  L.A. Bradoodle, Rolla, MO.  

A:  I’m not sure it matters what size you are, or if you are a woman or a man.  I think I talked once about what kind of first impression you can make with your dog.  If you are a huge guy with a tiny little dog, people might make an assumption OR TWO.  But, this doesn’t stop people from getting the kind of dog they want.  You can see a guy walking around a lap dog every day of your life if you want to.  With the disclaimer that if anyone out there has these types of dogs I would be happy for you, and would be nice to them when I saw them…I would not want the following dogs (in no particular order):  

1.  Poodles–We had neighbors that I didn’t like that much when I was a kid who had two poodles.  Didn’t like them or the dogs.  I HOLD GRUDGES.  Plus, I can’t deal with the people who give them the pom-pom haircuts.  Don’t care if they’re smart.  

2. Jack Russells/Corgis–Back when I went to about 1,000 horse shows a year I would see these dogs all over the place.  They can be very cute and very friendly.  I’m just over-exposed.  

3.  Great Danes–You can go too big.  And, If I’m going big, I want something a little sturdier with longer hair.  

4.  Anything Hairless–Even rats have hair.  It’s supposed to be a pet, right?

5.  Pug/Pekingese–Don’t pass the face test.  

I could probably go on with some real random breeds, like the Komondor with mop-like hair, but that should give you a pretty good idea of where I’m at.  It’s basically a Goldilocks complex.  

Q:  I assume you’ve heard the rumor that Tiger Woods is dating skier Lindsay Vonn.  Lindsay’s peeps say they’re “just friends.” The latest is that he sent his plane to bring her back to the States after she tore up her knee last week.  So, my question is, do friends send planes for each other?  E. Lynn Nordgrin, Palm Beach, FL.  

A:  I’m trying to think of what the person with a normal income equivalent of this would be.  Maybe you are the guy who has the truck and people are constantly trying to borrow it?  Hey, just got a couch, how’s YOUR SATURDAY SHAPING UP?  Do you want to loan your truck out?  NO, but that’s what friends are for, right?  More often than not if you ask your friend for their truck they comply.  So, in this case, Lindsay was in need of a comfortable ride home.  Do you want to fly commercial with two shredded knee ligaments?  DIDN’T THINK SO.  The question is, does Tiger offer, or does she have the BALLS to ask?  Is it real casual?  Hey, Tiger, not sure if you’re flying anywhere on Thursday, but I kind of need a ride home from f*cking AUSTRIA, so…?  Does she offer to pay for the fuel?  It’s all so confusing and above my pay scale.  Apparently Lindsay gave some ski lessons to Tiger’s kids so maybe he owes her a few favors.  Is it conceivable they are just friends?  Sure.  Is Tiger at the bare minimum trying to slalom that–at least once–ABSOLUTELY.  Plane’s the ultimate power move.  

Q:  I was driving the other day and I saw a poster for a lost dog.  So sad.  But, then I saw they were offering a $1,000 reward.  Damn.  Is that standard?  If I ever lose my dog, I’m afraid I won’t be able to afford getting him back.  Also, say you found the dog, do you have heart to take the money?  Do the people count on you not taking it?  Miss Ingshnauzer, Boise, ID.

A:  I’m going to need the address of this dog poster, because I am going to scour the EARTH for that pup.  A grand?  Dang.  That’s a nice chunk of change.  It would be hard for me to take the money and also hard to turn down $1,000.  I’d probably be falsely magnanimous and take $500.  But, I bet the people are perfectly willing to pay the money.  Some dogs can be very expensive, and you hate to look at it that way, but maybe they spent a few thousand on the dog–isn’t it worth $1,000 to get it back?  And, when you’ve lost your dog you will do pretty much anything in your power to get it back.  Maybe they can’t afford the grand, but they’re willing to give it up.  They’d probably offer up their car if you showed up with the missing dog.  We lost one of our dogs briefly when I was a kid.  I don’t have a great memory of it, but it was pretty traumatic.  I’m not sure what we were offering as a reward, but I remember riding the bus home one day wondering if our dog was going to be found, and hoping she would be home when I got there.   We were lucky, I guess, because she was found but every time you see a lost dog poster it hits you right in the gut.  You think about the number of people who abandon their dogs, the ones who want them should never lose them.