Monday, September 24, 2007

Pride before the fall

It’s not easy being a Cubs fan. You have to be equal parts optimistic and pessimistic. You’re always sure that this year will be the year we finally win it all. You’re always sure that this year will be the year they break your heart so irreparably that you can no longer function.

Every spring, we watch this year’s club with the hope of all hopes that we might actually reach and win the World Series. So you’d think that when the team starts playing well towards the end of the season, only a few games away from winning the division and ensuring at least one round of playoffs to look forward to, that the over riding emotion would be joy wouldn’t you?

Not so.

These are the times that try men’s souls. You see. To believe is to be lied to, yet again. These are, after all, the Cubs. They have this way of seducing their fans, reluctant to believe that the heartache might finally be over, into believing that it will.

It’s at that precise moment that they let you down again. It’s not that they try to let their fans down, of course, call it a curse, call it tradition, call it what you will, it just seems to happen.

And so here it is September again, and the Cubs, after this weekend are in position to claim the division and head on to the playoffs. What’s more, they are finally starting to play like we fans thought they would in April. The second half of the season has been a good one for the Cubbies. They are actually one of the hottest teams in baseball right now.

Enter heartbreak. I can’t see it yet, but I can smell it coming. You see, this team is inspiring belief. This team is making us fans think that maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.

And that is dangerous. If history repeats itself, as it’s prone to do, that means the heartbreak will be coming soon. Fans have dubbed this team the Cardiac Cubs. And before it’s all over, they may put a whole bunch of us in early graves, it’s true.

But when you’ve been a Cubs fan all of your life, when you’ve experienced a third of their 99 year World Series draught, when you bleed Cubbie-blue, you can’t help but start to allow some of that hope to creep in. You can’t help but to believe. You can’t help but to be taken in again. You can’t help but commit.

Only time will tell if these Cardiac Cubs are heart breakers, or menders. I freely admit, that most of this season, I have been convinced that this team would not, could not possibly compete with the elite teams of the National League and would be annihilated by the American League should they make it to the Series.

But now? Now I’m starting to buy it. Now I’m starting to believe. Now I’m starting to hope. Now I’m starting to think that this could really be it, the year we win it all.

Pride comes before the fall.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Playing to Win

Cheating seems to be the big topic of the week. Bill Belichek and the Patriots were cheating by stealing signs from the defensive coordinator of the Jets last week and probably countless other teams in the past.

And now everyone has their collective panties in a bunch on the topic. And after the fiasco with an NBA referee fixing games for gamblers and Hank Aaron’s all time home run record falling to Mr. Cream and Clear himself, Barry Bonds, I suppose we’re all ready to jump on the hoodie-wearing football coach and lump him in with the rest.
I guess I have a problem with that though. While I definitely consider what he did to be cheating, I feel very strongly that it does not belong in the same category as the other two examples.

Barry Bonds took performance enhancing drugs that have very likely prolonged a career that would have ended due to injury or slower reflexes a few years ago. He made his body do things that it couldn’t have done otherwise and I think it’s a shame that he broke Hank Aaron’s record.

Fixing a game, when you’re supposed to be the unbiased arbitrator of that game is heinous. When athletes work so hard, in a game where having one more win could mean the difference in seeding, or even winning a championship or not is cheating of the highest order.

Signal stealing though? In baseball it’s a time honored tradition. Some of the very best managers in the game routinely try to steal the other team’s signs. And to think that Bill Belichek and the Patriot’s are the only NFL team who’s doing it is ridiculous. Is there a specific rule against doing what he did? Yes. Is it wrong? Yes. Is it cheating? Yes.

But I submit that it’s a “wink-wink” rule and it’s “wink-wink” cheating in a sporting tradition where finding unfair advantages is almost as time-honored as the players and sports themselves.

The baseball Hall of Fame is filled with pitchers who threw spitballs and otherwise doctored the baseball they were throwing to make it dance. Some domed stadiums are rumored to turn the air conditioning unit on while opponents are batting to make hitting home runs harder. George Halas, one of the founders of the NFL was known to bug the visitors locker room and listen in before games and at halftime. Paul Brown, another NFL founder used to take his team into the shower and turn them on full blast so old man Halas couldn’t hear what was being said.

Visitor’s locker rooms have been painted pink because it’s a soothing color and holds down aggression. The rims at various basketball stadiums are “hard” or “soft” depending on how good the home team is from the perimeter. The grass in the infield is longer if your infielders are slower, shorter if they are quick.

I’m not condoning what Bill Belichek did and in his place, I wouldn’t have done it. I want to win playing by the rules. I want to beat guys, like him, who bend the rules to their own liking. I want to do it better the right way than they do it cheating.

There is a way to handle this that doesn’t involve taking draft picks from a team, suspending the coach or fining him. In baseball, if you’re suspected of stealing signs, you take a hard one to the ribs the next time you come up to hit. The Jets, who caught the Patriots cheating last week, will play them again later this season. And the honorable way to handle this situation would have been to give them the football equivalent of a hard one to the ribs.

I haven’t heard a single person complaining about the Jet’s tattle-tale. There was once a point where that would have been the greater of the two crimes. Maybe it says something good for us that’s not the case anymore, but I don’t agree.

There is cheating, and then there is cheating. Both are wrong and both against the rules, but one way feels like a snapping of morals, the other a bending. I think there’s something to be said of gamesmanship or whatever other euphemism you’d like to give the creative little cheats that coaches use against an opponent. I think it’s a part of the games themselves, so longstanding and so well embedded that it’s hypocritical to now pretend they are on par with performance enhancing drugs or game fixing.

There is an old saying that comes to mind, one I’ve always loved. It goes like this:

On Winning- It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game

On Losing- It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

On Playing the Game- PLAY TO WIN!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On Farting

One of my favorite stories about farting goes back a couple years to when the Cubs traded pitcher Greg Maddux and closer Ryan Dempster had this to say on the subject:

''We've been sharing locker space for three years,'' he said. ''It's kind of weird not having him there to talk about golf or talk about pitching, farting on each other, whatever it is.''

The ritual of farting on a friend is a time honored tradition amongst men. It is a ritual that is passed down generation to generation, father to son, grandfather to grandson, crazy old uncle to nephew.

There’s really no way for a man to show another man that he truly cares for him than to fart on him.

I think about my own friends and how we may be sitting around when all of the sudden one of them not only rips one, but feels the need to fan it in my general direction, spreading the wealth, if you will. Is he trying to make my eyes water? Sure. Is he trying to make me gag? Of course. But the underlying message in that fart, the true purpose of it is to say, “hey…I love you man!”

There may be no more sacred ritual in the cult of the male than the fart. Even when you are farted upon, if it’s a really good one, no matter how disgusting it smells, you can’t help but respect the farter for his creation. And there is no greater sense of pride a man can take, than the feeling of knowing that he has crafted a truly magical fart that causes his friends to run and evacuate the area.

It is incumbent upon a man to be able to produce farts of such magnitude that his friends must put aside their bravado and run for fresh air, while the farter sits back and basks in the glory of his noxious fumes. Perhaps in the days of the caveman men proved dominance and that they belonged in the hunt, but the hunt is no longer a part of our world, so we shown our strength and power through the gas we expel in the presence of others.

Look no further for proof of this fact than the way a man loves to fart on his woman. Obviously, she does not respect him and will never give him a high five for a really great fart. She will run. She will tell him how immature he is and that he should grow up. But deep down, in a place she would rather not speak of and will certainly never admit to, I believe her heart swoons, she gets a little dizzy (although that could be caused by the fumes), her stomach is filled with butterflies and she thinks, “That’s my man! He has proven his manliness to me with this horrible eruption of sulfur-like gas and I love him now, more than ever!!!”

Or, of course, maybe not, but that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Yes, the fart is a truly amazing and inspiring thing. It is, perhaps, the ultimate form of male bonding, even greater than sports and scratching! They are often dismissed as disgusting and gross, but every man knows there is nothing more magical, that a truly heinous fart.

I remember feeling bad for Ryan Dempster, the author of the above quote. He will never again come back to the locker after a particularly rough game, when he gave up a game winning home run to some guy from the other team, the weight of a loss on his shoulders, frustration brimming inside him, only to be farted on by Greg Maddux making everything, somehow alright.

And so I say to you, enjoy your friend’s farts while you have them men. You never know when they’ll be taken away from you, or traded to the Dodgers.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Ninja Substitution Rule For A Better Tommorow

Dear Friends,

Do you ever feel left out when your black friends are calling each other the n-word and throwing it around like it’s nothing, and you have to sit there not being able to use it back? It sucks doesn’t it? I mean, you know it’s wrong to throw the n-word out there being the pasty-ass cracker that you are, but it seems so exclusionary when you’re in a social setting and everyone there gets to use it but you right?

Well no more! I refuse to be isolated and made to feel like I’m not part of the crowd! I refuse to be discriminated against in such a callous and malicious way. I refuse to feel awkward when someone throws a rap CD on or while listening to Chris Rock do standup!!!!

So I propose this and I urge you all to adopt this policy and spread it around the world. Make it so prevalent that soon, everyone forgets that the n-word ever existed as a term of brotherhood and all the cool people in the world use this new, improved, and all inclusive replacement word: NINJA

That’s right? Who’s my ninja?

Where my ninjas at?

Yo ninja, how’s it hanging?

And just think of the song possibilities! Wouldn’t the Geto Boys classic rap, featured in the movie Office Space have been better if Ron Livingston could have sung along:

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
A real gangsta-ass ninja plays his cards right
A real gangsta-ass ninja never runs his fuckin mouth
Cuz real gangsta-ass ninja don't start fights
And ninjas always gotta high cap
Showin' all his boys how he shot em
But real gangsta-ass ninja don't flex nuts
Cuz real gangsta-ass ninjas know they got em
And everythings cool in the mind of a gangsta
Cuz gangsta-ass ninjas think deep
Up three-sixty-five a year 24/7
Cuz real gangsta ass ninjas don't sleep

I mean, I don’t flex nuts! But I could never properly explain that to a bitch until now! Now, that I’m putting forth, what I like to call, The Ninja Substitution Rule, I can tell all the ho’s I want to how I don’t flex nuts!!!!!

I can’t do this alone though. As influential and popular as I am, I alone cannot elevate the use of The Ninja Substitution Rule and make it prevalent throughout popular culture without your help! You must immediately embrace The Ninja Substitution Rule and make it a part of your daily vernacular. At every available opportunity you must greet friends and family by saying, “What’s up ninja?” You must be responsible for letting your ninjas know who they are and for teaching them The Ninja Substitution Rule. It is also your responsibility to ensure that The Ninja Substitution Rule is being enacted properly. For instance, don’t underestimate the importance of pronunciation. When indoctrinating your African American friends to The Ninja Substitution Rule, it is advisable that you over-pronunciate the word ninja until they are completely comfortable with the fact that you’re not trying to slip one past them. It is the advice of this counsel that, in this setting, you say, “What’s up niiiiiiin-JA?” We advise this protocol after preliminary testing of The Ninja Substitution Rule resulted in several beat downs and must insist that you monitor the usage of The Ninja Substitution Rule amongst your ninjas for this very reason.

The goal of the Ninja Substitution Rule is to promote equality amongst all, and to eliminate the very harsh reality of vocabulary segregation, which has become an extremely difficult problem for white suburban kids who simply want to sing along to their favorite rap songs, but cannot due to racially explicit language. Eventually, we foresee a point where the word ninja will replace the n-word in all instances where it is used in the context of being one’s friend, associate, compatriot, ally, comrade, buddy, pal or acquaintance. By the year 2010 our goal is to have an n-word free society where we all can live in harmony as each other’s ninjas.

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not mention, in this politically correct society in which we live, that we have the full support of the Ninja Community in our efforts. In a statement, Ninja spokesperson Hattori Hanzo was quoted as saying, “On behalf of ninja’s everywhere, I fully approve of the usage and enactment of The Ninja Substitution Rule. I feel that in this small way, we members of the Worldwide Ninja Community can help promote peace and put an end to verbal segregation. Furthermore, that bastard Johnny Depp, in recent years has made stupid fucking pirates out to be cooler than ninjas, which any dumbass knows couldn’t possibly be true, and so we encourage the usage of The Ninja Substitution Rule as a reminder to all that ninjas are in fact and always will be cooler than pirates. I mean, you never hear anyone calling someone else a butt ninja do you? No, but butt pirates are everywhere!”

Mr. Hanzo’s statement went on to bash pirates for more than 4 hours and so we could not print it in it’s entirety, but we hope you get the basic gist of it.

So, in closing, I will say that you are all my ninjas. Spread the word of The Ninja Substitution Rule, good luck and God bless.

Your ninja,

Albert A. Riehle
Director and Founder
The Society for an End to Vocabulary Segregation

Tip Off

Once again, I have decided to unleash myself upon the unsuspecting masses on the internet. I've decided that the various nooks and crannies of the internet where I have been hiding are too small to contain me and so here I am, and I have to say, I'm looking forward to writing here, under my own name for anyone to read.

A bit about myself is probably in order and so I'll tell you that I'm 32 going on 12, I'm obsessed with all things Star Wars, I live and die (mostly die) with the outcome of the daily Cubs game, unless it isn't baseball season in which case I'm content to live or die with the Bears, Notre Dame football and Duke basketball. Before you ask, I don't recognize pro basketball as an actual sport or I'd live and die with the Bulls too. As it is, pro basketball died the day Michael Jordan flicked his wrist on a beautiful follow through to the shot that beat the Utah Jazz in the finals in 1998.

I'm an avid reader and am always in the middle of a book. I go out of my way to read things that won't impress people because I hate people who read impressive books. Mostly because they usually do so to make witty comments about the impressive books they have read which in turn makes me want to find out exactly how far I can put my size 11.5 foot up their ass.

Of course it would vary from person to person, but I'm willing to do my part in the name of science. If you're lucky, I'll publish my research on the matter here someday.

I enjoy good wine, beer and cigars but not necessarily in that order and very rarely all at once, but only because mixing beer and wine is a bad idea. This, I learned in my last scientific experiment which I called The Great Wiersperiment, but in retrospect turned out to not be so great after all. Many bottles of Harp and various bottles of Merlot were sacrificed in the name of science, although some have accused me of blatant alcohol abuse.

My main ambition in life is to win the Mega Millions lottery, buy a tropical island full of beautiful native women who can easily be convinced that I'm some sort of king, worry about nothing other than an occasional rainy day which may interrupt my satellite feed, and perfect the art of laziness.

What follows will be, at times, witty, sarcastic, cynical and hopefully will make you laugh, cry and once in a great while, even cause you to dance naked while howling at the moon.

I hope you enjoy and look forward to writing here. As Dylan Thomas so eloquently wrote:

“I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression.”