Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Black Sox and Jail Blazers

The 25 Most Hated Teams of All Time

This list is awesome. Included on it are the 1919 Chicago White Sox (a la Shoeless Joe Jackson) and the 2001 Portland Trail Blazers. It's fun to root for teams that everybody else hates. Although I think I'm rooting for the Miami Uber-Heat next season, especially if they meet the Lakers in the Finals.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Home is where the Wild Things are

Q: Are our household troubles over?

A: No. There is a squirrel trapped in the fireplace. An extremely angry squirrel.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

L'enfer, ces chats

Things that are now or recently have been broken in our household:

1) The lamp in the living room.
2) Our coffee maker. (There is another one in the house.)
3) The AC. I am hot and I am sticky.
4) The shower. This one is fixed now, but there was no showering for several days. We were all very hot and sticky. And smelly.
5) My laptop computer. Covered in gin.
6) The screen to the front door. This is fixed now, but before it was fixed, there were bugs. Bugs everywhere.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Convoluted Answer to a Simple Question (About Football)

Cab said...

could you explain the whole 'who's in the pack 10' and what's this other league thing with colorado and some other guys hunting for a home?

Short answer: Colorado goes from the Big-12 to the Pac-10 in 2012. Utah goes from the Mountain West to the Pac-10 in 2011.

Long answer: Gladly, although it's complicated....

Of all the major conferences the Pac-10 is by far the least profitable. The SEC, the Big-12, and the Big Ten all have far more lucrative television deals (or, in the case of the Big Ten, simply own their own TV network) and all of them collect more revenue and have higher attendance than the Pac-10. There are a myriad of reasons for this: Football culture is more intense and insane in the South and Midwest than on the West Coast, the Pacific Time Zone is too late for primetime TV, the Pac-10 has only one "flagship" school in USC, so doesn't benefit from an annual game like Ohio St.-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma, or Florida-Georgia. But perhaps the biggest - and most controversial reason - is that the Pac-10 suffers because it only has ten teams.

This is important for two reasons. One is the obvious fact that if you have more teams, you get to play more games, and have more chances to sell tickets/TV ads. (This is true even if you play the same amount of games as before - 10 X 9/2 = 45 in conference games, but 12 X 9/2 = 54!) The second, weirder reason, is that a conference with 12 or more teams is allowed to have a Conference Championship game. Now, most people think that having a Championship Game is a Good Thing: it's a chance at the end of the season, before the bowls, to squeeze in one more game between your two best/ most popular teams and to take in more revenue. Also, and this is very important, it's one more chance to showcase your best team(s) on national TV and make an argument for the BCS championship. The last two seasons, the BCS game has been between the winner of the SEC Championship game and the winner of the Big-12 Championship game. Those teams always get an extra, 13th game against a very good, usually nationally ranked, opponent. Obviously, this seems unfair to someone who doesn't get that chance. (USC thought that that was so unfair that they've gone ahead and scheduled 13 games this year. Too bad their banned from playing in Bowl Games....)

What people forget, however, is that the other conference to have an annual championship game is the ACC, and every year it loses money on it. This year, that game was between Clemson and Georgia Tech, and even though the winner gets an automatic invitation to the Orange Bowl, the ACC still can't fill up those seats. So just having that extra game doesn't guarantee more money. Another issue that the Pac-10 has to face is scheduling. No other conference has the same perfect rivalry pairings that the Pac-10 has. (Oregon/Oregon St., USC/UCLA, Cal/Stanford, etc.) Adding a championship game would threaten those rivalry games. For example, last season, the Civil War game was between the #1 and #2 teams in the Pac-10. But if we had a Championship Game that year, and if the Beavers had won that game, then they would have had to play the Ducks again in a week or two in Glendale, or Pasadena, or Seattle. Most commentators agree that that would be a Bad Thing, financially speaking.

Nevertheless, both the Pac-10 and the Big Ten* decided that they needed to expand to at least 12 teams in order to stay competitive in terms of revenue and BCS Championships. The irony here is that they both planned to do this by stealing teams away from the Big-12. Are you still with me? Because this is where things get really crazy.

The Big-12 has always been something of a Frankenstein's Monster of a conference. It was formed in 1994 by combining the Big Eight - which had always been dominated by Nebraska - with four schools from Texas fleeing the bankrupt and corrupt Southwest Conference.** Over the past decade, the Big-12 increasingly became dominated by the University of Texas, which is the largest, richest school with the biggest fanbase and recruiting base. The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry came to replace the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry, and Nebraska was increasingly getting shut-out of big money bowl games. So Nebraska jumped at the opportunity to join the Big Ten when it came calling, thus giving the Big Ten their 12th team, and the ability to have a Conference Championship Game.

Of course, this meant that the Big-12 was down to 11 teams, and could not hold a championship game! At this point, UTexas held all of the cards. They knew that the Pac-10's new commissioner, Larry Scott, was bent on expansion. So, in order to hold the Big-12 hostage, they made it very public that they were interested in joining the Pac-10, forming a Pac-16 Super Conference that would be made up of the existing Pac-10 plus: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and then either Colorado or Baylor.*** This, suffice to say would be the end of the Big-12. This is also where you get the "homeless" schools, i.e., the leftovers of the Big-12: Kansas, Kansas St., Missouri, and Iowa St. Now, these schools don't carry a whole lot of football clout, but Kansas is one of the premier men's basketball programs in the country. If they were to be "homeless", we would see a new political fight between say, the Big Ten and the Big East over who would get Kansas. But a school that nobody wanted - Iowa St. - could be doomed. They could be bumped out of a top conference, join something like the Mid-American Conference, and stand to lose millions of dollars in revenue. (In the end, it's all about the Benjamins.)

In order to prevent this from happening, the Big-12 gave in to Texas' demands: A bigger cut of conference revenue the next time they renegotiate, a promise to expand back to 12 teams ASAP****, and permission to form their own, Texas only TV network. In return, Texas agreed to stay in the Big-12 and continue to financially support the other schools in the conference. Balance was restored to the Universe. But where did this leave the Pac-10?

Well, still looking to expand to 12 teams. Before Texas decided to stay put, Colorado made a move to leave the Big-12 and join the Pac-10. Probably, Colorado was worried that they would be left "homeless" along with Kansas and Iowa St., and they wanted to get that last musical chair before Baylor could. Also, they have a geographic and historical relationship with the Pac-10. (The last time they went to a BCS game was 2002, where they got crushed by the Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl.) Finally, I think that they were tired of being at the bottom of the Big-12, and figured that they would be more competitive if they switched conferences. Colorado will play their first game as a Pac Ten team in 2012.

OK, so now the Pac-10 had 11 teams, but that was still one too few teams for a conference championship. Fortunately, there's one school that has been itching to join the Pac-10 for years: Utah. The Utes are the original BCS busters, winning the Fiesta Bowl in 2005, and then whooping Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in 2009. (In fact, Utah has won 9 consecutive bowl games.) If Utah joined the Pac-10, they could qualify for the Pac-10's automatic BCS-bid, the Rose Bowl, and, more importantly, a National Championship. Also, they're rather confident that they can compete for that automatic bid: They have won seven of their last 10 games against Pac-10 teams. Utah will join the Pac-10 in 2011.

So there's the answer: Colorado and Utah join the Pac-10, and Nebraska joins the Big Ten, meaning that the Rose Bowl could be Utah vs. Nebraska in a few years. Also, it means that the Big-12 has ten teams, while the Pac-10 and the Big Ten both will have twelve teams, which I think is hilarious. Will the Big-12 become the Big-10 and the Big Ten the Big-12? Or will we have a Big Twelve with 10 teams and a Big Ten with 12?

But, wait, there's more! First of all, that last question is a moot point. Like I said in the notes - you do read the notes, don't you? - the Big Ten is a brand name, not a description. They could have fifty teams, they would still be the Big Ten. It's imperative, meanwhile, that the Big-12 expand back up to 12 teams in the next year or two. Like I said in the notes, they should have plenty of eager teams to pick from. But this raises the interesting question of conference "culture."

There were lots of schools to pick from for the Pac-10 in order to find a 12th school. I would have preferred Boise State to Utah, but the Broncos had just agreed to leave the WAC for the MWC. Another obvious choice for Pac-10 expansion was Brigham Young. Now, there are lots of good reasons to pick Utah over BYU: they're a large, public university, they have a successful football program, they meet the Pac-10's academic standards. However, there is also the lingering question of BYU's Mormon affiliation. In the Salt Lake Tribune, Gordon Monson wrote:

The Utes are a better fit. They’re the kind of research institution that the Pac-10 prefers. Some say they are more “liberal” in their approach to academics, and that’s true, too. Their way of doing business is more in line with what Pac-10 schools do. As for athletics, football in particular, Utah’s accomplishment in winning two BCS bowls since 2005 is remarkable.

BYU, conversely, is conservative and is owned not only by a church, but a church that supported Proposition 8, that won’t allow its teams to play on Sunday, and that keeps a watchful eye on the academic pursuits of its professors. While it’s a stellar institution that’s extremely difficult for students to get into, it’s more limited in graduate-level research. It’s a terrific university, but a different one — unlike any in the Pac-10.

Maybe we could have eased some cultural tensions in the West if we had an annual Berkeley-Provo showdown, but in the end, Utah was the better choice for the Pac-10. But I believe that the Big 12 would not have the same reservations about BYU as the Pac-10 did. My bet is that, in two years, we'll hear an announcement that BYU and TCU have joined the newly (re)formed Big 12.

The other interesting question is that of scheduling and divisions in the new Pac-12. Part of the rationale behind allowing conferences with 12 teams to have a championship game is because it is too inconvenient for everyone in the conference to play everyone else every year. So, instead, they're divided into two divisions. Each team plays the five others in their division plus either three or four from the other division, and the winners of each division play one another in the annual championship game. In determining divisions, conferences need to consider geography, rivalries, and competitiveness. In the Pac-12, I think the most obvious, and likely divisions would be a North (Wash., WSU, Ore., OSU, Utah, Colorado) and a South (Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Ariz., ASU). For the most part, the North would be controlled by Oregon, OSU, and Utah, while the South would be controlled by USC, with Cal and Arizona challenging every once in a while. The problem with this alignment is that most of the major population (i.e., TV viewing) centers are in the South. This problem could be eased by going North (Wash., WSU, Ore., OSU, Cal, Stanford - Seattle/San Francisco/Oakland) versus South (Utah, Colorado, USC, UCLA, Ariz., ASU - L.A./Phoenix). It's kind of a moot point because Colorado is going to have to travel a long ways no matter which division they're in.

The monkey wrench in this whole situation, though, is recruiting. Every coach and AD in the Pac-12 will demand at least one trip to southern California a year for recruiting purposes. So anyone in the South division would have an inherent recruiting advantage over the North division. One proposed solution to this would be to create "Zipper" divisions: Division A: Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Stanford, UCLA. Division B: WSU, OSU, ASU, Colorado, Cal, USC - with each team guaranteed to play its natural rival at the end of the season. This makes it more likely for schools from Washington and Oregon to get an annual trip to Los Angeles, but there's no guarantee. Because USC will have to play a road game at some point.*****

* The reason that the Big Ten is not the Big-10 is because they have 11 teams. Philosophically speaking, "Big Ten" is a name, not a descriptor like "Pac-10" is.

** This is why the Cotton Bowl is not one of the BCS bowls. It was the home bowl of SWC, and when that conference dissolved, the Cotton Bowl largely lost its clout.

*** This is where the politicians get involved. The financial solvency of Texas Tech and Texas A&M are dependent upon their relationship with Austin. So the Texas state legislature was prepared to take legal steps to prevent those schools from competing in different conferences than U-Texas. This, in turn, put the Pac-10 in a tough situation, because the Pac-10 has higher academic standards (OMG! It's like we're actually talking about colleges here!) for its member schools than the Big-12. (I'm lookin' at you, Stanford.) Neither Tech nor A&M would meet these standards. But it looked like the Pac-10 would be prepared to lower those standards if it meant that Texas could join the conference. Phew.

**** I think that there are a lot of schools who would want to join the Big-12: Brigham Young, Texas Christian, Southern Methodist, Houston. (One of these things is not like the other....) But Stewart Mandel disagrees.

**** I get most of my opinions from Stewart Mandel of

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sport Report! Pac-10 Football!

I'm feeling very useless today - having gone to the motherf*cking BANK like an ADULT yesterday - and so I'm going to blog in order to feel like I've accomplished something, anything. But I'm going to blog about what I want to blog about. I'm going to blog about sports. I'm going to blog about college football.

I don't know why - maybe it's because the World Cup is over, and there are no baseball games on because of the All-Star Game, and I hate playing MLB 2K9 on the X-Box because I can't get Carlos Quentin to catch a damn fly ball, and because the only other thing on TV right now is golf, and golf is boring - but I have had college football on the brain all day today.

First, I went over to, and looked at every single one of the Pac-10's schedules for this fall. Like many have said before, one of the great things about Pac-10 football is that they go balls to the wall in their non-conference scheduling, and this year is going to be no exception. In particular, the Oregon State Beavers have an insanely difficult schedule: They open against TCU at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, followed by a home game against Louisville, followed by a visit to Boise State. I think that the Beavers are trying to shoot the moon this season; Cal, the Ducks, and the Trojans all have to come to Corvallis this year, and with the Trojans banned from the bowl games and the Ducks being too busy stealing laptops to play football, the path is open for an OSU run to the Rose Bowl. If they can manage to win 2-out-of-three of their non-conference games, the Beavers will already be getting national buzz, and then a strong conference showing could have them in line for Pasadena or, even better, an at-large BCS game. (They would have to run the table to get to the championship game, and I honestly don't see that happening.)

Conversely, the Ducks play at USC, at California, and at Oregon State, which is the main reason why I don't think they'll repeat as Pac-10 champs, player suspensions aside. Their non-conference schedule is relatively easy, with two cupcakes (New Mexico and Portland State) sandwiching a trip to Tennessee, with a chance to make the SEC eat humble pie. I'm hungry. Realistically, I predict Oregon winning eight or nine games this year, and probably ending up at the Holiday Bowl. But it is also very possible that, once again, the Civil War game will determine the Pac-10 champions. Other people, however, have drank the Oregon Kool-Aid and are going back for seconds: Lew Brannon at is predicting a rematch of Oregon-Ohio St., only this time in BCS Championship. He defends himself:

Oregon, on the other hand, is a bit of a wild-card pick (okay, very wild) and will surely wrinkle some eyebrows. Considering the loss of Jeremiah Masoli and his 28 touchdowns in 2009, many would say I'm crazy to have them pegged for Glendale.

Two words: Nate Costa. Oh, you've never heard of him?? Alright, I confess, I have only seen him throw a few passes myself, but word out of Eugene is that he is prepared for the task. He better be!

The good news for Costa is that he has LaMichael James behind him, and if Costa isn't good at anything else, he better be good at handing the rock to James, who will be a Heisman contender at year's end. Their only non-conference test is at Tennessee, which should be a relatively easy win, and the rest of the schedule sets up nicely to make a run.

I believe Costa will get the job done, and Oregon will be too balanced on offense, and solid enough on defense, to get through the regular season undefeated and finish at #2 in the BCS rankings.

Well, I don't know is Costa is that good, but the friendly vote of confidence is nice.

Of course, that's assuming that Costa will be Oregon's starting quarterback. As the Omaha World Herald reports, Costa will not only have to compete with sophomore Darron Thomas for the starting job, but also native Omahan and track-and-field champion Daryle Hawkins.

In the winter of 2009, [Chip] Kelly called Hawkins the night before signing day with a scholarship offer. The first-year head coach had a couple of openings and liked what he saw of Hawkins' tape.

An offer to play in Eugene trumped his plan to do both football and track at Northern Iowa.

“I didn't even really know I was on their map, to be honest,” Hawkins said. “I had no idea how serious they were.”

And how has Hawkins dealt with all of the fame and glory of playing in Eugene, Oregon?

“Every once in a while you have that moment,” Hawkins said. “I think sometimes, ‘If I was 10 years old, what would I think if someone told me I'd go through all this?' The first thing I'd ask would be ‘Why am I at Oregon?'”

Don't worry Daryle. Lots of people ask themselves that question all the time.

My Pac-10 picks, subject to change at any time and for any reason:

1) Oregon St. (10-2, 8-1) Rose
2) USC (11-2, 7-2) *
3) Oregon (9-3, 6-3) Holiday
4) Cal (8-4, 5-4) Sun
5) Stanford (8-4, 5-4) Las Vegas
6) Washington (7-5, 6-3) Emerald
7) Arizona (7-5, 4-5) Pointsettia
8) Arizona St. (4-8, 2-7)
9) UCLA (4-8, 2-7)
10) Washington St. (1-11, 0-9)

Post-Scripts: Really, though, Cleveland did have seven years. That's a long time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Well, Thank God That's Finally Over

Congratulations, Spain. It turns out that, as usual, flopping and cry-baby soccer will always defeat thuggery and blatant kicks to the abdomen. Enjoy it - you deserved it.

I watched the World Cup Final at our house along with B- (who's French) his girlfriend (Polish) and their friend from Austria. I kept switching back and forth between the soccer game and White Sox - Royals. Bwahahahaha! (The final of that game: Chicago: 15 Kansas City: 5. That's 20x the scoring of Spain-Netherlands, by the way. Who's national pastime is boring now?)*

I guess that really, my main complaint against soccer is that I feel like the referee has way too much control over the game. The game is just set up in such a way that a player has as good of a chance of scoring the winning goal by flopping in the penalty area in the hopes of tricking the referee into giving him a PK as he does by actually attempting a shot on goal. Likewise, a defender might best be able to help his team by trash talking enough to make the guy he's defending lose his cool and head-butt him and get set off than by any actual defending he may or may not do over the course of the game.**

The only real winner of the final game was Paul the Octopus. 6 for 6. Do you think they'll put him out to stud, now?

Post-Script: Miami? Miami?????

*Look who's on top of the AL Central now, bitches!

** Also, when I'm criticizing, it's a soccer game. It's only a football match when something cool is happening. Spain v. Netherlands was the epitome of a soccer game.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

5 Thoughts on a Thursday

1) Ugh... I'm starting to get into that summer malaise of staying up all night either drinking and playing video games or just having insomnia until 5 am and then sleeping in 'til 11 the next day. You know what I'm talking about? And then I get out of bed only to discover that the internet hates me, and that the world is all batshit insane.

2) On Tuesday, Robyn and I went out to Indian food. This is right after I had gone swimming in the highly chlorinated pool at the U-I, and so my eyes were all blood shot, and I would occasionally begin to weep, silently, for no apparent reason. I think this made our waiter uncomfortable.

Anyways... he sat us down at a little table that was about six inches from the table next to us, where another young couple was trying to enjoy their meal. Except that they were really doing a piss-poor job of it. The boyfriend was being all sullen and cranky, and the girlfriend kept chattering inanely about how hungry she was, but don't worry, she was only going to order one dish, and they could share it, and blah blah blah.

Then they started talking about the World Cup, which seemed to be the only topic of conversation that could pique the guy's interest. Only they were doing it all wrong; they didn't know who was left in the tournament, or who had won in years past, or where the next World Cup would be held, and so on. So Robyn and I decided to help them out. Whenever there was a lull in the conversation, we would pick up exactly where they left off, addressing only one another, of course, and not acknowledging their existence. (Because you can't own conversation topics, man!)

3) Speaking of the World Cup, I hope that y'all have heard of Paul the Octopus by now:

In what has been a World Cup full of off-the-pitch intrigue, Paul the psychic octopus has emerged as the real star of the event. With Spain's 1-0 victory over Germany in Wednesday's semifinal match, Paul is now a perfect 6 for 6 in predicting winners. Unfortunately, as is the case with most clairvoyant creatures of the Cephalopoda class, Paul has begun to receive death threats in an act of thuggery from fans who are trying to intimidate and silence him. Thankfully, he will have none of it. After correctly predicting Germany to defeat Argentina in the quarterfinals, Paul began to receive notes from angry Argentinians who threatened to make a meal out of him. Oliver Walenciak, Paul's keeper, spoke on his behalf, telling the Telegraph:
"There are always people who want to eat our octopus but he is not shy and we are here to protect him as well. He will survive."

3) After we left the Indian food place, uh, restaurant, Robyn and I stopped by the liquor store. The following conversation took place - in some form, roughly - while waiting for the bus holding a six-pack of beer, a bottle of gin, and a sac of leftover Saag Paneer:

Me: I wonder if B- and his girlfriend are serious about wanting to go camping next weekend.
R.A.: I dunno. But if we do go, we can sleep on tree roots again.
Me: Not necessarily. If we go to a lake or a river or something else with a beach and no trees.
R.A.: That would be nice.
Me: Not that that doesn't mean that there won't be other things to cause us harm. Like spiders, or snakes. Nature is full of killbots. But the worse is getting caught in the branches of a tree and drowning.
R.A.: Really?
Me: Yeah, it happens all the time.* I've always imagined it to be such an ignoble way to die - just hanging there, like Absalom, hanging in a tree by his hair, waiting for David's men to find him and stab him in his gut.
R.A.: I guess that the Bible wants you to get a haircut.**
Me: I've actually kinda thought that it was funny, Absalom's death.
R.A: So did Faulkner.

5) There are now four different cats in our house, and I have assigned each of them to a different nation of the Avatar world: Coraline the Airbender, Virgil the Waterbender, Gracie the Earthbender, and Tun the Firebender. Tun is always challenging me to an Agni Kai. You would understand if you knew Tun like I do.

* This, it turns out, is not true. You are actually 10,000 times more likely to die by falling down in your house than by getting caught in the branches of a tree and drowning.
** I have since gotten a haircut.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 4th of July

Robyn and I went to Clinton Lake yesterday for the 4th of July, which is about a 45 minute drive from Champaign. We were cordially invited by our roommate, B-, and his girlfriend. We were also joined there by an assortment of graduate students from UIllinois, from a variety of departments; literature, gender studies, biology. By the time we all convened by the lakeside, our party consisted of a Frenchmen, an Austrian, a Serb, and two Poles. In fact, Robyn and I were the only two Americans.

The first thing that we did when we got to the lake was set up a BBQ and picnic in the designated area. We were maybe 50 yards from a much larger party - maybe even some kind of family reunion, or possibly just several different families celebrating the 4th together. Their party included a whole mess of tow-headed youths, and at least two larger gentlemen sporting shirts and shorts emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes.

I have written in the past about why I think that Independence Day is one of our most overrated of holidays, but spending it with such a cosmopolitan group may have changed my mind a little bit about that. As a kid, I remember loving the 4th of July, when we got to set off our fireworks on the front patio before going out to watch the city fireworks. But it became harder to celebrate after Bush became president, and after my country started doing all of these terrible things around the world that made me profoundly ashamed of being an American. (Of course, this may have more to do with the fact that I became more aware of the terrible things that we had been doing... reading Paul Farmer's book is hard :-( .....)

But getting to spend the holiday with our foreign friends and talking with them about it may have changed my mind. It's an interesting thing to have to isolate and identify those things that I like about my country, and then defend those to others. I like baseball.* I like how Americans tend to be friendly people, who are good at reserving judgment. I like the 5th Amendment. Probably my favorite amendment. But more interesting than even this was talking with our friends about how they celebrate their countries. Poland, for example, celebrates it's "independence day" on November 11th, which is Armistice Day**, marking the beginning of the process that would create the modern Polish nation-state between Russia and Germany. But this celebrating is a somber one, they said, more about meditating on how one's country comes about through the deaths of individual human beings than celebrating abstract concepts like freedom or patriotism. Even France's Bastille day, July 14th, which is in many ways modeled on America's Independence Day, still is a reflection on how it was profound suffering that gave way to the birth of a new nation, and that it is the deaths of thousands of prisoners and peasants that provided the foundation for the French Republic.

The drive back from Clinton Lake goes through old corn farming country, and the route is dotted with one barn after another, varying in color from red to gray to brown, and in maintenance as well, and in age, until it links up with I-57, which will take you to Chicago or to Memphis.

*That is a topic for another blogpost. B- has been living in the U.S. for over two years now, but he still maintains that baseball is the most boring sport ever. And he enjoys tennis.

**Kurt Vonnegut has convinced me to stop celebrating Veteran's Day in the U.S., and to recognize only Armistice Day, the day that "God talked to man."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Return From Hiatus?

So I dunno if six weeks has set some kind of "not-blogging" record or not, but, well, I didn't blog for, like, six weeks. I would feel bad, except that we're looking at Futurama right now on our brand new X-Box 360. Which is a much better waste of my time than blogging. But the last six weeks have been quite eventful, involving emergency back surgeries and whatnot, and if you're good, then maybe I'll tell you about it some time. I actually have been writing quite a lot in the interim, just in "journals" and "notebooks." But school is out during the summer, and so I have recently been the equivalent of unemployed, bringing back old memories of living in Roscoe Village and being really unemployed. So I guess that it was only a matter of time until I decided that I needed to start blogging again. But things have been nice lately; we watched Gregory Peck in Moby-Dick and in To Kill A Mockingbird! (I also think that I'll keep doing "Literary March Madness," even though it is now July. We could call it "Literary World Cup" instead!) I just finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I liked more than I thought that I would. Now I'm reading Paul Farmer's Pathologies of Power, and a collection of Dostoyevsky's short stories. Summer reading!

Oh, and Robyn bought me a membership to the gym for my birthday, and on my first day, I found/stole a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, which I read in, like, three days! (Robyn was sarcastically impressed with my reading acumen.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Watch Sports Because I Like Being Angry

Ghana has just been eliminated from the World Cup in penalty kicks against Uruguay. This might be the single most tragic sporting event that I have ever seen. On Facebook, a friend of mine wrote, "More proof there is no god." Upon reflection, however, I replied, "this is more proof that there is a god, and that he likes to see us suffer." With that in mind, allow me to recount some of the greatest personal tragedies that I have suffered in the cruel world of sports.

January 22, 1989 -
Super Bowl XXIII: San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16. This is the game that started my long history of sports heartbreaks and near-misses. I was four years old when this Super Bowl took place, and on that day I decided that I was a die-hard Cincinnati Bengals fan. I probably didn't even know where Cincinnati was - I still have a hard time spelling it - but as soon as I saw those helmets, I knew who I was rooting for. Plus, they had players with the names "Icky Woods" and "Boomer Esaison." How cool is that? And when the Bengals took a 16-13 in the Fourth Quarter, I was certain that they would win. But then Joe Montana led the 49ers on a historic 85-yard drive, connecting with Jerry Rice for the winning touchdown with 57 seconds left in the game. I broke into tears at the end of that game. It would not be the last time.

June 14, 1992 - NBA Finals, Game 6: Chicago Bulls 97, Portland Trail Blazers 93. This game is the reason why I still can't bring myself to root for the Bulls. People often forget how good the Portland Trail Blazers of Clyde Drexler and "Rip City" actually were. On the road, and facing elimination, the Blazers came out hot and were up on Chicago by 15 going into the Fourth Quarter. But then they flopped, scoring only 6 points in the final 4 minutes, getting outscored 33-14 for the period. This series also started the strange tradition of the Blazers getting "commercialized" - that famous picture of Jordan smiling and shrugging is from game 1. But how many people recognize Cliff Robinson standing around stupidly in the background?

June 4, 2000 - NBA Western Conference Finals, Game 7: Los Angeles Lakers 89, Portland Trail Blazers 84. Speaking of which.... In L.A. the Trail Blazers went into the Fourth Quarter with a 75-60 lead over Kobe and Shaq and the Lakers. Portland had completely dominated the game, and looked certain to advance to the Finals, where they would be the heavy favorites over the Indiana Pacers. That's when my Grandma - who I love very much and am very grateful towards, and who happened to live in L.A. and be a Lakers fan - called and offered to buy me tickets to the Finals if the Blazers won. If. She cursed them. Portland went on to choke up the largest lead ever in a Game 7, and L.A. went on to win their first of three championships. Oh, and this:

That's Rasheed Wallace, Portland HOFer Scottie Pippen, and Brian Grant all getting dunked on. Nice going, fellas.

May 31, 2002 - NBA Western Conference Finals, Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers 106, Sacramento Kings 102. The rest of the games on the list are not quite on the traumatic scale of the first three; either I get older, and so the stakes are not as great, or I don't feel the same kind of loyalty that I developed as a kid, or simply that the magnitude of the collapse wasn't as epic. For example, I've never been a Kings fan, but I supported them because they were from a small market, because they were "scrappy"*, and because they were playing against the Lakers. But this game is on this list because it was the infamous Tim Donaghy game, when the Lakers shot 40 free throws, 27 of them in the Fourth Quarter. People from Portland had been complaining about the refs' bias for the Lakers for two years. After this game, other folks began to see what we had been talking about.

Or what about:

October 16, 2003 - ALCS, Game 7: New York Yankees 6, Boston Red Sox 5. This one lost some of it's tragic element the next year, when Boston got revenge. Of course, I doubt that real Red Sox fans would agree with me on that one.

July 9, 2006 - World Cup Final: Italy 1, France 1. (PK's 5-3.) The head butt hear round the world. I put this one on the list because this is the game that started my deep hatred of penalty kicks as a way to determine the winners of soccer games.

January 1, 2010 - Rose Bowl: Ohio State Buckeyes 26, Oregon Ducks 17. At first, I was devastated by this loss. Then I realized that the Ducks had made history just by winning the Pac- um ... X.... Then they started stealing laptops. Can't wait for September.

And now...

July 2, 2010 - World Cup Quarterfinal: Uruguay 1, Ghana 1. (PK's 4-2.) I generally don't byt the whole "they deserve to win" argument that sportscasters often make. New Orleans didn't need a Super Bowl. They need federal aid. Cleveland doesn't need an NBA title. They need a functioning infrastructure. But even I get sucked into the whole narrative of a game meaning more than just a game. Especially when the sport is taken to a national level. Ghana deserved to win this match. And they were robbed.

The Universe is cruel.

* This may be one of the reasons why I keep being crushed by my teams' ultimately coming up short. I have since learned that "scrappy" is usually code for short, untalented, dirty, and, unfortunately, white.