Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I would sing some carols to you, but that's not why I'm here.

To get you in the spirit, I made a commercial for you.
May your holidays be happy [and holy] and safe!





--AZ

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sports Entertainment -- Aaaaah, It BURNS!!

You know when you normally play a game like Trivial Pursuit, you get assorted categories for questions. For example, you'll get the categories of Sports, History, Science & Nature, Arts & Entertainment, People & Places, and other categories depending on which version you play. Say you get the topic of professional wrestling. That is considered to be "sports entertainment." What category does that fall under? I'm dead serious...would it be in Sports or Arts & Entertainment?

We'll look into this topic during a special edition of Politically Incorrect with AnimaniacZero!

Hello, everyone! We're going to talk about the term "sports entertainment" today. How about we look at an Urban Dictionary entry of it?
[from www.urbandictionary.com]
Sports Entertainment - The biggest curse word for people who are fans of professional wrestling (TNA, ROH, indy promotions).

There you have it. It's practically taboo for those who are die-hard fans of the concept of professional wrestling. I've been a wrestling fan for many, many years, and there are things I enjoy about it that some people don't. Once of which is the kind of writing and booking that is involved--I do theater, so deal with that statement. Sure, that might add the "entertainment" part to it, but hear me out on this one.

Isn't sports a form of entertainment to begin with?
This is the main point I've wanted to bring up. It's like saying "ATM Machine" when that expression is clearly wrong. I'll admit, the addition of the business being "fake" results to the placing of the emphasis on the entertainment, but hello? Isn't there some form of athleticism involved to begin with? Let's not forget the roots. Before the blowing up of the booking business during the late 1990's with the Monday Night Wars, we all thought it was just guys grappling with each other and just talked trash on each other day in and day out. Now, those who are older (and smarter, mind you) can see through a lot of the "storylines" and predict stuff. Sure, I'll agree that it sucks the fun out of plots and angles, but when you've watched wrestling for so many years and have seen certain things happen so many times before, it's really hard not to draw conclusions and what have you.

During my debate a few weeks ago, I mentioned how I'm a real sucker for athleticism and how that alone can tell a story about a sport and what is needed to make a big impact. When it comes to that, I pretty much throw storylines out the window. For example, watch this match. There's a story behind it, but the moves and emotions tell enough of a story so that you don't need to know the original angle of it all. Make sure you watch the whole thing too. You'll see what I mean.

Here's another thing that's like nails on a chalkboard to me: they're not wrestlers or athletes--they're "entertainers" and "superstars." Let's not forget that some of you were fitness models and pro sports rejects once upon a time; you're considering yourselves in the ranks of actors and actresses now? You're funny. When you have absolutely no knowledge of grappling or striking, the smarter fans are going to notice, and you're going to get heat. For example, watch this trainwreck. It's really bad. I can't watch it all the way through, it's so bad. But I digress.

The one thing that I'll had to these "entertainers" though is that they know how to put on a show. I went to my first WWE show on November 29th in Philadelphia [WWE King of the Ring, whoop whoop], and the live atmosphere is pretty awesome. Sure, you can't change the channel when a squash match is on, but you're still there laughing about it with people that share the same feelings that you have. Yes, I go wild for a couple of guys (lol, check the Twitter sometimes on Mondays and you'll see what I mean) so a lot of things from that night disappointed me, but the endurance and "selling" shown by a lot of the guys was great to see live and somewhat up-close.
[Do I have photos of this event? Yes, but I feel like the WWE Corporate Police will eat me alive because they practically rule the world along with Disney and Oprah Winfrey.]

But let me say this before I go too far off-topic--it's still a sporting event to me. I was actually watching the movie Highlander last week and in the beginning of the movie the main character is at a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden (WWE's Mecca, as it were) featuring The Fabulous Freebirds. From the way it was portrayed, the athleticism and striking appeared real and there was no talk of storylines and how high the workers were on the corporate ladder. It was all about the sports. Bam. Argument made. Sure, there's a huge business underneath it all, but it wasn't so obvious back then.

Even in the independent promotions it's not very obvious...hmm, maybe because they actually focus more on wrestling. I point at Ring of Honor Wrestling when I say that. Sure, there's booking and inside stuff involved, but the guys tell their stories through wrestling, whereas promotions like WWE and TNA do more of their storytelling through "complicated" storylines, show vignettes and promos, and outrageous acting spots. Do I hate that? No, not necessarily, but sometimes the athleticism and the acting doesn't mesh very well at times. A lot of people may agree with me on this, so I don't feel stupid in saying that.

In conclusion, I heavily dislike the term "sports entertainment." Sports should already entertain. Even though wrestling entertains more than most, the usage of "entertainment" sort of...overdoes it. If I want more entertainment, I'll go downtown to see a musical or something. If I want to go to a wrestling event, I want to see some athleticism and some hard work. The lights and music are kind of a bonus.

--AZ

Sunday, December 19, 2010

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Yao-za!

OH MY LORD, A BASKETBALL ENTRY?? I KNOW, RIGHT?

Let's get a quick rundown of the big guy I'm going to be talking about right now:
(Music Please)



Yao Ming
Age: 30
Height: 7' 6"
Weight: 310 lbs.
Center for Houston Rockets






Okay, we have a Chinese giant on our hands. He's been gifted with height, ergo he was shown the ways of the basketball.
However, as of late, he's been having issues like this... (Yes, I went there)

What does this mean for the future of the gentle giant? It's not good. With as many injuries in such short time, it's going to take down some of his credibility and his overall ability on the court. Let's be honest here, kids, once someone starts getting hurt over time, they can get a little rusty. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, right? Sure, he's 30, but guess what? It's his ankle. Constant wear and tear on something like the ankle or foot can be absolutely pivotal on a player's future.

Come to think of it, it also does a world of hurt on the international involvement in American basketball. Remember that Spanish kid--what's his name? Ricky Rubio? Yeah, him. See, international impact is so thinly spread in this country that I can't even remember his name. He even caught on with my drift and didn't bother signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves last year. Heck, Allen Iverson went to Turkey to play basketball. That's how "uncool" we are, I guess. But honestly, when was the last time the NBA got a really huge international star playing on our soil? I can't even find that. Someone else probably could.

Without doubt, the advertising world sans-Ming for another season is going to lead to...well, more reason to hire another tall guy like Shaq to represent the height required to be considered a big NBA star. Believe me when I say this: when you're unique, you will be used to draw attention. Self-explanatory. I feel like we're back in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show again or something with the sensational attraction methods, but seriously, that's what guys like Yao and Shaq are mainly used for (honestly, it's not so much Shaq anymore...he's made a bigger name for himself, finally).
Example: Yao + Vern = Obvious.

But I digress in these cases. A hurt man can result in a hurt product, resulting in hurt relations around the country and in foreign audiences. It sucks, but what are you going to do? Accidents happen. I bet Yao will be a good sport about it. He'll still promote and do what he can while off the court.

--AZ

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From the Field to the Booth - A Lifelong Obsession

(Originally drafted in October [yes, October], this was completed in memory of Don Meredith) 
 
Michael Strahan, Cal Ripken, Jr., Alexi Lalas, Don Cherry, the list goes on and on.
Is it a case of a real love for the sport that the person just can't stay away, or is it just flat out annoying and they need to retire completely?

In thinking about this topic, you have to ask the question: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" No really, I'm serious. Many of the sports broadcasters that you see time and time again have experienced the game from the field long before they wear a suit and tie before a video camera. Sure, some guys first retire, then go fish or golf for a few years, compete on Dancing with the Stars, or maybe even get into trouble with the law. Today, some retirees call that the beaten path. Why? Nobody really knows. In today's day and age, people over 65 are still working and trying to make themselves useful. That leaves the younger folk to go: "Hey, we have college degrees and credentials and awesome hair and stuff. What about us???" It's okay, guys. I feel your pain.

Anyway, reverting back to the age-old question, wouldn't you think that it's a lot more effective to have a guy who has experienced these kinds of things to be talking about them? I mean, if they've had a career of 15+ years and still have a brain that's more than intact to speak of these experiences, they will obviously know enough to educate the audience and give them stronger insight. Not just players, but coaches who have led future legends through their paths to greatness have also proven themselves worthy enough to provide a decent enough opinion on management and choices of play. Agreeing with me now? If you don't care and refuse to agree with me because retired guys annoy you, I think Mr. John Madden should shoulder block you through a wall.






But in all seriousness, their move to the booth isn't a cheap way of saying "I can't get away from the sport." It's almost like another marriage; it could also be compared to the priesthood. For example, the former player/coach loves the sport so much that they put it on themselves to continue to teach and continue to entertain. It's their calling. I guess we can throw the ultimate irony card out there too because when a particular guy tries to get another job after their "sporting retirement" it just so happens to dance around what they originally did in their prime. But then there are really nice cases in which players take their love and pride and not abuse their knowledge and pasts in their sport.

I'd like to take the time out to note an example of what I mentioned above. His name is Doug Glanville. A native of the country of New Jersey [please laugh at the South Park reference], he played for the Chicago Cubs, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Texas Rangers over the course of about eight years. He also went to the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in systems engineering. In other words, he's insanely smart, and I'm super jealous of him. Anyway, he has a vast knowledge of marketing, and after his retirement from baseball, he worked in a marketing firm, and then began writing sports columns. Today, he works for ESPN and writes columns and even books. Saying this wholeheartedly, you should read some of his stuff. It's very, very good, and it shows a lot of knowledge and passion about what he had seen not just in the sport aspect, but from the business and the dark sides of it.

See? That's what we all like about the guys that come back to analyze sports! The PASSION! That's what we want! It's not about the money, it's not about the fame, it's all about the love and passion and drive they get from talking about something they love.

Here's another example, and I'm going to use one of the greats that we have just lost recently. I'm talking about Don Meredith. After playing his whole NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys, he joined Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford on Monday Night Football. Although he had a controversial mouth at times, he was seen as comic relief and brought a lighthearted atmosphere to the broadcast booth. C'mon, he sang Willie Nelson for cripes' sake. He was a funny guy who knew when to show dryness and grit.

I think I've stated my case well enough. You can never live without certain people poking in and out of your life. It's like acquaintances you had in high school: you might not have ever been super close with them, but you can always count on them to give you advice and provide an opinion as an outsider looking in on a situation they might have been through before.

As for the young'ns striving for opportunity, get ready to fight with me. 
TONIGHT, WE DINE IN... you get it.



--AZ

Monday, December 13, 2010

You Want Foul Play? FINE!

Although I may have just begun to follow the NFL on a consistent basis this season, it feels like more and more dangerous hits are being recognized on local television from teams outside of the city I live in. Not just that, these players giving these hits are receiving massive fines left and right for what can be considered a "blatant hit."
Are fines the answer to this? Do these athletes really mean to dish out these nasty-looking hits?

We'll find out the answer to this on today's episode of...The Sports Nut Court.

Today we're going to look into some cases in which certain players have been slammed and exactly why they are in such deep issues. Here at The Sports Nut Court, we try to get all of the facts and start to figure out why the foul play is bringing about the excessive fines and hassle. Let's bring out our defendant before Judge AnimaniacZero:

And here we are. Mr. James Harrison, 32 years of age, and throughout the past 14 weeks, he has garnered four pretty-looking fines under his belt. I won't lie, some of the hits he's dished out look pretty devastating. Here's the big issue though: as nice as the guy is and as much as he didn't mean the hits, he still hit the guys and also showed some unsportsmanlike conduct. In his defense, it's rather ridiculous how he's getting slammed in vicious amounts in a particular period of time.

In any case, he isn't the only guy that has been on this end of infamy. Many other players (and even members coaching staffs) have been accused of rough hits and disorderly conduct resulting in massive fines and massive hair/dread pulling. A couple of weeks ago, a sports analyst on Twitter (the name escapes me at the moment...why do I think it's Deion Sanders for some reason?) noted that money shouldn't be an answer to every hit and every instance of bad conduct. Although suspensions have become all too common in other sports, fines could be regulated in a much more honest fashion. Factors for fines that could be looked at are: status on the team--i.e. rookie, veteran, just a typical idiot that opposing fans absolutely hate--the salary of the player in question (which, in my opinion, is a really good idea), and the list of other offenses that have been committed in the past. I'll admit that a lot of the guys "up top" in the NFL are very trigger-happy and don't like to think things through when it comes to penalization.

Something that has to be taken into account with these hits is that not all of them are done on purpose. After seeing a dangerous hit on DeSean Jackson in October, players had said that the hit wasn't done on purpose although it was as ruthless as it looked on television and on the field. The guy was penalized of course, but what else could have been done? It's not like he followed through with more disorderly conduct and celebrated the hit that caused a concussion. It's like the saying that some people don't even know their own strength. That, and the hear of the competition can really blind the moment of actually hurting someone. Believe me, that does happen sometimes.
[Flashback: When I was in a soccer tournament at Fort Dix, New Jersey one year, I was running backwards and saw one of my teammates move a girl off of the ball. This girl on the other team literally flew and landed sideways on her knee. When she screamed, it was one of those "forced out screams" when you're in so much pain you can't even scream or react loud enough for the pain to lessen. I didn't exactly see what happened to her until she was on the stretcher, but we then saw that her kneecap was so far to the right on her knee that it looked like a contortionist's knee. At any rate, I know for a fact that my teammate didn't do that on purpose. It's not like she really wanted to knock the girl's kneecap out on purpose. That kind of stuff happens.]

Verdict: Here at the Sports Nut Court, we wish the best of all of the athletes in a high contact sport. But when it comes to freak accidents and stupid, honest mistakes, you can never really find an effective way to "punish" someone, for the lack of a better word to describe it. We can all be thankful that these athletes have the money to compensate for these happenings, but I'm not sure if we can prevent these freak accidents unless if the sport ended altogether. However, I doubt people would want to see that happen. It's like saying we can prevent freak car accidents during inclement weather by not going out and driving in that stuff. But people do it anyway. So--what can be done? Something that seems reasonable and smart. This mindless fining method needs to be fixed so the NFL doesn't look like the Catholic church according to those from the outside looking in.

--AZ

Monday, November 29, 2010

War of the Words - Football vs. Soccer

Here it is, folks--the moment you've all been waiting for. The first audio debate on the SNB.

I notice that a lot of Americans knock the sport of soccer, and I'm going to defend the sport as best as possible. Today, I'll be debating with one of those said Americans, and we'll find out "which cuisine reigns supreme."

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present...this:





I hope you enjoyed the videos. Maybe there will be more of this someday.

--AZ (& CT)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Team Management = Relationships. Dead Serious.

I guess you're wondering why I'm making this comparison.
First off, I'm a girl. We see things in this way sometimes.

I've had my share of relationships (when I mean "share" I only really mean one or two) and while watching sports on the telly, I can only imagine what goes on behind the scenes with team management. Sure, you read, listen, and watch about team transactions and financial issues, but what else do they really talk about behind closed doors? In an instant, what comes to mind is a huge round table with these high-top men in pinstripe suits all talking like Marlon Brando.

"You talk about draft picks. Are draft picks going to bring your fans back to you or my dignity to me? I forgo the draft picks from last year. But my previous transactions had to leave this franchise because of this salary capping. So now I have to make arraignments to bring players back safely cleared of all these false charges. But I'm a superstitious man. And if some unlucky accident should befall us, if we should be fired by the commissioner, or if we should shoot ourselves in the foot, or if we're verbally struck by a bolt of lightning--then I'm going to blame some of the people in this room--and that, I do not forgive. But, that aside, let say that I swear, on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace we have made here today."


(DISCLAIMER: Marlon Brando never said this. He said something relatively close to this, but not this.)

It sounds like the mental conflicts that every guy experiences in his life when he approaches "the hot chick" and weighs out the options. He goes: "are my bros gonna give the thumbs up," and "I hope my female friends don't think she's trashy." Hold up, I'm not a guy, so I can't speak on any guy's behalf. Scratch this whole thing that I just said.

Anyway, the relationship between a manager and his players is like one of those relationships we constantly experience without the PDA's (public displays of affection, in case if you've never heard of the reference). There are going to be some disagreements, there are going to be some inside jokes, and there are going to be some "meeting of the parents and family" business. Oh, and don't forget, the manager ultimately "wears the pants" in this said relationship because he pays for everything.

But aside from the goofiness of this concept, you have to dig deep in thinking of why this is a big form of a relationship. There are team managers out there that fight for their boys even to the point of ejection. There are agents that will fight for the affection of their clients by negotiating for the best contract possible. Then in both cases the financial issues come along, and then the family problems and the relationship with the guy friends and how they might not be able to stand your significant other pile on too. Funny how that all works out, right?

Sure, the way to make it to the top is not just through skill, but also through gaining good relationships and uhh... "get around" I guess would be the way of putting it effectively. It's a real shame on how that's the truth, but relationships are the way you learn things; you, in the words of the great Ms. Frizzle:

"You need to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!"
(God, I love this woman. Words of a prophet.)


When I read about the contract disputes of players like Derek Jeter, he almost takes the feminine role. No, I'm not knocking the guy. Let me make my point: if he wants something, the agent and/or manager will fight for it, and they will do the best they can to satisfy the player. If you can compare this to a real relationship, a girl would want love and care--and if they're real women, no material things--and the man will pretty much give an arm or a leg (or move a mountain, as some guy would say) for this lady.

Even in big executive meetings the "bro-mance" grows and intensifies, especially when it comes to big moves and big plans that are brewing in the franchise. In many cases, this is kind of like the big group of guys or girls that basically talk about the happenings in their respective relationships (without the juicy details, of course) and in return, each of them get a lot of advice and forecasts of what may come. Ever since the pairing of Adam and Eve, we've been paired with many people and need some guidance and advice on strengths and weaknesses along the way. We just hope that the people we're paired with are ready for us, right?

In conclusion, management doesn't mean parenting, it really means the "ball and chain" or the "sunshine and rainbows" of what you may deal with in high school. It takes real dedication and real wit to manage a team and maintain the relationship that you hold with oh so many people. You have to do a good job; otherwise, you're going to hear it from people other than your client or teammate. Three cheers for lack of independence! (ha ha)

--AZ

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being Thankful... FOR YOU!

As you read this, how about I set the mood for you?


From the bottom of my heart, I would like to wish all of the readers that come across this blog a happy and most healthy Thanksgiving holiday. Even if you don't celebrate it with a large group of people such as family or friends, count your blessings and be thankful for what you have been given throughout your life.

What am I thankful for? The chance to do these things. The chance to write, the chance to make people laugh, the chance to make people express opinion and emotion, and the chance to be happy with the talents that I have acquired.
Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little,
and if we didn't learn a little,
at least we didn't get sick,
and if we got sick, at least we didn't die;
so, let us all be thankful.
- The Buddha

And now, because you are all so wonderful, here's a funny picture.



I mean, if this is the case, he'll be missing the Cowboys/Saints game today, but you never know how far away the TV will be from the dinner table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
(Try not to kill anyone tomorrow during Black Friday, either.)

--AZ

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sharing the LOVE!

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton
Cain and Abel
New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox
Real Madrid and FC Barcelona
Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets
Mufasa and Scar
Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders
Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi
Kelly Slater and Andy Irons (RIP)
Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics
Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings
Dallas Cowboys and ...every other team that isn't the Dallas Cowboys
and the list goes on...

The example I'm trying to make here is that over the course of history, there have been many rivalries that have spiced up the love and the hatred of the men (and women) that have been a part of the history of time and space and sports. I know I threw Mufasa and Scar in there, but I'm a 90's kid and it was a good example. Deal with it.

All's fair in love and war, but is what we're feeling for our lovely neighbors healthy? Some people may think it gets obsessive, but others will find it absolutely necessary to have a fiery passion of hatred for a team that stands in the way of their favorite team. It almost...keeps things in place and gives a team something to fight for. Regardless of how well your favorite team may be doing against the rest of the competition, to some it may only matter how well you do against the team you absolutely can't stand.

Oh, rivalries. How you make the world go 'round...

This could get ugly...

We would all have to admit at some point that it's absolutely invigorating to watch two groups of people absolutely hate each other. It's like West Side Story without Natalie Wood in heavy tan makeup. Even die-hard fans have admitted that they would not date/marry someone that rooted for the other team. The thing is, I could only imagine how they would make up the day after the game happened... Never mind, I digress. You get so excited just to see what will happen when a rivalry game comes around to town. I'm telling you--living in Philly, it's almost as if everybody hates us when they come here, and we as Philly fans have no choice but to defend ourselves physically. Almost every game against either the Mets, the Redskins, or the Cowboys there's a fight either inside or outside of the stadium. It's like you're watching free UFC during the early 90's when there were no rules and really huge bums that sometimes wore sneakers stepped into the octagon.

The way I see it, sports are like male-endeavored soaps to say the least. Yes, I know that's a somewhat sexist remark, but women watch it too, so this point stays. Rivalries are like a never-ending storyline that keeps everyone watching to see what is going to happen on the field [and in the stands as well].
(Aside: This is why I consider the expression "sports entertainment" to be as irrelevant as saying "ATM machine" because sports are already a technical form of entertainment. But I'll have more of that rant coming in December after I see WWE Raw in Philadelphia on 11/29. Huzzah. End of aside.)
In every story, you need to have a hero and a villain. You always have to favor one character and keep the flame alive by showing disgust for said "villain." Whether it's throwing words, fists, beer cups, or even snowballs, it's fun to watch for some reason.

At any rate, if you look at sports in a sociological aspect (my professor would be quite proud of me) you'd find that the three major perspectives--conflict, functionalist, and interactionist--really make sense of the mix of sports and their rivalries. It explains that temporary rush, or "high," that comes from these rivalries. Although teams and fans that hate each other come together and tolerate each other for a few hours, there's a sense of patriotism and competition that comes from it and it keeps the sports flame alive despite each side not seeing eye-to-eye. That is how our social scene is growing through loving and hatred (although the word "hate" is a strong word). That is your sociology lesson for today.

Does it create a bias for me? Well, not so much as it used to. Before I started this blog, I'll admit, I wasn't very fond of the Mets. Don't get me wrong, you guys crack me up beyond belief. But after all of the stuff you guys have been through, I have a newfound respect for you. I won't lie, there's still a bias in my writing because of the city I live in and how I might not know enough about sports happening away from the east coast. But it's always nice to knock on some team while I'm outside. It just makes sports fun.
Going from a national perspective to a hometown perspective, I bet you could all remember the sports rivalries that you had when you played recreational ball somewhere. Believe me, I know I had several. It got so bad at one point between my team and another team that there was a huge fight in the middle of a soccer field (which I wasn't involved in, so they were lucky, ha-ha). Then we got older and more mature, but there was still that fire inside that stirred the motivation to outperform and show the other team that you were awesome and there was nothing that they could do about it. When I see it on the field in a professional form, it brings all of the old plumes back and it makes me feel alive again.

This is why I love sports.
This is why I write.
This is why I want to write about this love for the rest of my life.

--AZ

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NFL Slant for 2010-2011 - WHOOOOAA WE'RE HALFWAY THERE

WHOOOOAAAA LIVIN' ON A PRAAAAAYER.
Yeah, I just went there.

Remember when I wrote that entry way back in August when the NFL season was just starting? Boy, did time fly. Several weeks and numerous fines later, we're at the halfway point in the season. I know, you're thinking that I should have done this during Week 8, but people, there's a thing called a bye week. Some people don't technically hit the middle of the season during Week 8. Philosophical reasoning aside, we've seen loads of ups and downs on the gridiron, and we've witnessed some pretty excellent catches and brutal hits.

Why don't we get a glimpse of what our boys have been doing for the past nine weeks!
[WARNING: There are no stats mentioned in this thing. This is all merely opinion, as this whole entire blog is, basically.]


NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

East Division
New York Giants (6-2) - I will admit, these guys surprised me a little bit. I didn't think they were going to work together in their first few games, but after Week 1, they showed some promise. After this past brutalization against the Seahawks, you can start calling them a threat. Little brother Eli won't let Peyton keep him down, that's for sure.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-3) - Wait a minute, what? I have no idea how they're actually pulling wins out here. Oh, that's right, they still have Michael Vick. Kevin Kolb hasn't warmed up to the leadership role yet, and fans are still scratching their heads on whether they like Sean McDermott's defensive line or not. I heart Sav Rocca and David Akers. They literally kick butt.
Washington Redskins (4-4) - Here's the scoop: it sounds like Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan are in a really rocky relationship and they're not quite on the same page. They were for like, a game, and now it seems like the team as a whole goes hot and cold. There could still be hope. Playing the Eagles in Week 10 could be a deciding factor.
Dallas Cowboys (1-7) - Let's just state this and get this out of the way now--The Dallas Cowboys: the best team on paper. These guys would probably all work really well together on a fantasy team, but not here. With Romo out, there are bound to be more problems. I don't care if they just fired Wade Phillips. These guys are screwed.

North Division
Green Bay Packers (6-3) - Good God, they flexed their muscles last game, didn't they? Let's not kid, it was against Dallas, but still. I like what they have to offer, and they get the job done. The only thing that makes me nervous is their defensive line and a hint of receiving. Aaron Rodgers has a good enough offensive line this year that his rating is still high and his sack amount is about average. I like cheese.
Chicago Bears (5-3) - I don't know how I'm going to get away with saying this, but I'm really not all that impressed with Da Bears this year. They honestly haven't been playing very strong teams, and a lot of their wins have been either out of luck/penalty bashing, or just getting out by the skin of their teeth. I mean, their schedule looks so-so from here on out, but I'm not expecting anything special from them if they make it to the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings (3-5) - Time for a math lesson: Brett Favre + Brad Childress = MASSIVE DRAMA; it seems like a really bad sitcom where you just can't stand the main characters as a couple. In other words, it's like the show Friends on meth. After getting rid of Randy Moss after four games and having managerial controversies from all ends, it looks like a massive roller coaster ride will be ahead during the rest of the season.
Detroit Lions (2-6) - What can I say? Doesn't this happen often enough to you guys? I mean, you're riding a 24-game losing streak away from your home field, and you guys have been tossed around for the past ten years or so. Is it going to stop? It could. The whole "coming up short" saying should be your tagline. Help them, Obi Wan Barry Sanders, you're their only hope. Oh wait, he's retired.

South Division
Atlanta Falcons (6-2) - I like these guys. Don't let their statistics that compare with the rest of the league fool you. Matt Ryan is doing exceptionally well, and the rest of the offense supplies a really good running game. In turn, the defense specializes in stopping that kind of run. They've had their ups and downs as a whole, but this second half is going to be a huge factor on whether they can really make it all the way this year.
(Editor's Note: I know that was sort of a Tim McCarver-ism mainly because winning and losing determines a spot in the postseason, but it stays here so you can laugh at my poor writing skills.)
New Orleans Saints (6-3) - They're playing typical "Who Dat" ball, that's for sure. They're still embracing the heavy passing game from Drew Brees, and the defense just looks absolutely sick. C'mon, they're tops in pass yardage allowed. They have fun games coming up. Expect these guys to be going head to head with ATL for the rest of the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-3) - They're about average as average can get. You can blame injury upon misfortunes, I guess, but with the heated competition above them, it's going to be tough to get some stepping stool to overcome the bigger names. Do they still have a chance? Survey says: Yes.
Carolina Panthers (1-7) - See, this is what happens when you get rid of a veteran QB like Jake Delhomme. You experience an offensive meltdown of epic proportions to the point where you're in the basement in most of the offensive categories. Sure, he wasn't the number one reason why it happened, but it could've been a catalyst that started this whole fiasco. After this is all over, John Fox, watch out for your job.

West Division
St. Louis Rams (4-4) - Whooaaa!! Welcome to the top! After the past two or three seasons, Rams fans were getting a little scared that the kind of success that was received during the Vermeil/Warner era was never going to come back. But it looks like Sam Bradford and Steve Spagnuolo are trying to start their own little thing. I hope it works out fast...they're going to have a bumpy road to ride on in their second half of the season. If you want motivation, win it for Kurt Warner since he was voted off Dancing with the Stars last night.
Seattle Seahawks (4-4) - I can tell that they like playing at home... But aside from that, they really like to be inconsistent, that's for sure. They could kill the 49ers one week, but then get killed by the Denver Broncos the next week. That's no good. Matt Hasslebeck, I don't like your sister-in-law either.
Arizona Cardinals (3-5) - Fact: Your offense and QB are sub-par. This is why your offensive coordinator was fired a few weeks in. Fact: Your defense and special teams are practically saving you from a completely disastrous season. Fact: Jay Feely is still the man. Anyway, the offense will have to start crack-a-lackin' if you even want to think about making it to the top of the division or the wild card. If you want any more motivation, win a few for Kurt Warner too.
San Francisco 49ers (2-6) - I remember when you guys were always at the top with Steve Young and Jerry Rice. Now...yeah. Other guys. Although Alex Smith is playing a half decent game, we can't really say the same thing for the rest of the team. Keep on trucking, Mike Singletary. Brian Westbrook, I miss you.



AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

East Division
New York Jets (6-2) - I'm going to start using a new line here: The Jets "are riding on the luck train." Okay, Mark Sanchez looks alright and LaDanian Tomlinson looks fantastic as he should, but everything else seems really lucky and hit-or-miss on the offensive line. I love your defense though. That could be the main thing keeping you up top in such a offense-heavy schedule coming up for you.
New England Patriots (6-2) - Well, here are the Patriots just being the Patriots. Thing is, what boggles my mind is that they get their job done in such short time. I don't know whether it's through turnovers or Tom Brady and the endless Hail Mary play. PS, the special teams like to get a lot of work.
Miami Dolphins (4-4) - "How about those Dolphins?" These guys had a nasty first half schedule and pretty much surived the grit of complete humiliation. That deserves some merit, at least. Chad Henne isn't delivering like most Dolphin fins [I made a funny there] would want him to with the way his QB rating looks. Sure, defense wins games for the most part, but you have to score some points too and keep the crowds in their places. Things could look up if they start to like the endzone a little more this second half. Here's an upside to everything: at least people are showing up to the games. I made another funny. Take that, Florida Marlins.
Buffalo Bills (0-8) - Let's be honest, every sports league needs a basement team, and the Bills are that team. They haven't been to the playoffs in a really long time, and even the personnel change this past year hasn't helped them in the least bit. The division they're in just won't let them win those tight games, I guess. Guys, just work to get at least 2 wins this year. At this rate, I'm not sure if that could be possible with the schedule that you have.

North Division
Baltimore Ravens (6-2) - I'll admit, Baltimore isn't that bad. The big issue to me is that it seems as if one line doesn't work in unison with the other lines each week. For example, it's like the offensive line takes a vacation one week while the other two lines kick butt heavily during that game. They've survived close games, and Joe Flacco is keeping his reputation as a good QB. What's gonna work? Teeeeeeamwork.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) - Even without Ben Roethlisberger during the first four weeks or so, this team has been meshing very well and are proving contention in the AFC. The games that were lost contained costly mistakes, but it doesn't seem like Mike Tomlin dwells on them for all that long. Although they nearly lost their lead completely this Monday against Cincy, they're looking to take sole possession of first place next week against Tommy Boy and the Patriots.
Cleveland Browns (3-6) - You know that whole joke of "taking the Browns to the Super Bowl?" Oh, nothing. I just figured that I would ask if you knew. I wasn't going to use it here for that particular purpose. Anyway, although Jake Delhomme is gracing his fine Super Bowl-experienced presence on the team, it really isn't coming in handy all that much. We'll see how that happens when they have a relatively sub-.500 team schedule coming up.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-6) - Here we go again with another good team on paper. Behind the QB Palmer Bros., nothing has been going right for them, even with T.O.Cho as wide receivers. These guys have been very short of complete comebacks as of late, but first, they should really fix the fact that they're falling behind way too much. One thing's for sure, they have a "fun" looking schedule coming up. Who Dey? Nothing right now...

South Division
Tennessee Titans (5-3) - Holy crap exploding offense, Batman. You like to score points. However, I don't think it's just Vince Young and the rest of his buddies doing all of the work. The defense is also well-rounded, which is also a good sign for this awakening team. Now that Randy Moss hass been thrown into the mix, we're going to be seeing a lot of offensive tricks. Isn't that right, Mr. Chuck Cecil?
Indianapolis Colts (5-3) - I can't stress this enough--two words: Peyton Manning. He's just that good. They're near the top in pass yards as usual. Injuries can be a problem, especially when you're playing the Eagles and their defense can't handle runs. Anyway, their schedule is about average, so this will definitely be showing versatility and energy conservation for the Colts. They'll be going head to head with the Titans for the next couple of weeks.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) - When I first saw them, I really wasn't all that impressed with their offensive tactics. The whole team can be very hot and cold and sometimes can't find the "clutch button" when most necessary. The running game is very good, but can the defense stop that stuff? Uhh, get back to me on that one. The workload is going to be heavy in the second half, so buckle up, Jags. One last thing, your mascot knows how to catch a field goal really well.
Houston Texans (4-4) - Man, I had so much faith in these guys, especially after taking down Indy and the 'Skins in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. Then they became human after an awesome performance going back from preseason. The defense isn't what it should be at all, and if they're way off the page when the offense is doing their job, there's going to be some massive problems. So much for the all-Texas Super Bowl, Hank Hill.

West Division
Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) - Matt Cassel and the gang know how to get the guys up the field, but can they capitalize? Can they all work together in unison? Most of the time. Now that they have a hot silver flame up their behinds, things could get ugly real quick. They have a below-average looking team setup coming along in the second half, so cockiness might try to creep up when least expected. Get at 'em, "chefs!"
Oakland Raiders (5-4) - Oakland's offense...oh man. Remember when I said the Titans had an explosive offense? How about a 59-14 embarrassment from a few weeks back? Right. These guys will be giving the Chiefs a real problem since they've come alive after a couple of minor setbacks. I'd like to see these guys back in the playoff picture yet again.
San Diego Chargers (4-5) - Don't let the stats fool you. They're close to the top in just about everything, but injuries are just about killing them from every end of the spectrum. It's a real shame. They had good stuff in the palms of their hands last year, and now they're stuck in the middle of so many teams just angry at each other. They're kind of like the voice of reason in the group of friends that gets stuck in the unnecessary drama and gets tossed around even though they're good-hearted and have good intentions. Let's feel sorry for the Bolts for a little bit. ... ... Okay, that's enough. Get well soon, men.
Denver Broncos (2-6) - Trust me, Don Martindale might not have an idea what he's doing back there with the defense because there are so many problems with the defense stopping runs. What, does nobody like the idea of running on this team at all? There's nothing wrong with Kyle Orton's lead at QB (or Tim Tebow's cheerleading) and if they can't stop the next few teams, problems are going to surface in the manager sector.

Wow. That was fun. I never thought I would write so much about football, but I did it. Hope you enjoyed it, and check out the next installment once 2011 rolls around.

--AZ

Monday, November 8, 2010

The End of Eras

As the Major League Baseball season finally came to a close this past week, I'd like to take the time out to talk about four old men who have finally decided to call it quits in The Show. These men--Joe Torre (for now...), Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella, and Cito Gaston--have been huge men in the business for years, and now it is their time to just golf...and fish...and attempt to get on television as baseball analysts. Retirement sounds like a dirty word to these guys, but three of the four are in their late sixties, and Torre is already the big 7-0. How are we going to remember them? Easy. In humor.

Joe Torre
Supremacist of Yankees (and some Dodgers and Mets and Cardinals) folklore.
You knew how to talk up a Subway series.  
Not only could you talk a big game, you could certainly play a big game yourself in your day.
As a cancer survivor, you can say that you've won the World Series ten times over.
You carried a flame not just for the Olympic Games, but also for the men whose lives you have touched in your career in baseball.
Hey, if this whole "retirement" thing doesn't work out, you could always take up acting. You're pretty good at it, you know.

Bobby Cox
You're a man who fought for your boys. Sometimes we feel like your bench coach did more managing time than you did at some points.
As a leader of a dynasty in the 1990's, you knew how to make things click on all cylinders.
Although your own fielding career was short, you made a name for yourself in the dugout--and in the clubhouse.
After 2,500 wins, well over 100 ejections, and numerous playoff runs, you have called in quits, and the Braves organization will not be the same without you.

Lou Piniella
Ah, Sweet Lou. Sweet, sweet Lou.
You're another man who fought for his boys, and to be honest, you were quite colorful about it too.
Another man with a long on-field career, you made your way to the dugout to lead. Those rides were bumpy at times, but you did what you could.
You also took the time to make a trip to the broadcasting booth. Your wit and figurative language were so much it actually got a guy fired. [Dead serious, wiki that.]
You told us that dope was dope, and you liked to act and make fun of yourself as well.
Although you stepped down before the season ended, you still went out with a bang--a really, really huge loss.

Cito Gaston
A real reason to "fear the 'stache."
You're an example of a comeback kid, returning as Toronto's manager after ten years of...stuff.
Another thing, you're a ladies man too. Heck, you've been married three times, I think that's enough.
You had your ups and downs in your career and have dealt with controversies, but you've survived about 98.9% of them.
You make Canadians appreciate baseball. That really means A LOT.

To you four men: Godspeed, and may your futures may be filled with lots of hobbies. Maybe we'd like your opinions and appearances again someday.

--AZ

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's All About the Tunes!

For those of you that follow me on Twitter (@sportsnutblogs in case if you were wondering) you know how I constantly put on YouTube links of old school sports video games or fun pieces of music that I listen to while I write these entries. Because I feel that sound complements heavy visual attractions in several ways, I find it only fitting to talk about some of the most memorable sports themes that we have heard over time. By themes, I don't mean fight songs, but the themes to the sporting events that we watch on television. Sure, I like bone-jarring montages as much as the next guy, but since I'm a sucker for different musical effects, the music makes the scene. Sometimes, I might even have them on my iPod while I'm at the gym. Too much information there, but it's true.

Because I'm very partial and I don't like picking favorites, I'm going to list my Top 15 Favorite Sports Show Themes--In no particular order. Let's DO THIS. UUNH!

1. ESPN Sunday Night Football (2001-2004)
They also called this the "theme of the sirens" or something like that. For some reason, it made the whole concept of the Sunday night game that more intense and manly. I know, I'm the last person to talk about manly stuff, so humor me here. It almost makes you wanna go street on someone and break a few ribs, right?

2. MLB on CBS (1990-1993)
It just makes the atmosphere so much more exciting. To think of all of the legends that played around the time that this theme was used. You almost think of seeing a postseason montage along with it. I think another outlet still uses this in some way, because I remember hearing it a while ago. But anyway, it brings out the magic of the game and how exciting it can truly be.

3. NBA on NBC
DUDE. You have no idea. I don't even like basketball all that much, and this still pumps me up and makes me want to watch some epic slam dunk action. It's very street-synth, and it really fits the sport that it's presenting for. It even sounds like there's some cowbell in there. You know what that means...

4. Olympics Theme Song
As soon as you hear the tympani, it could either be one of two things: Darth Vader or the Olympics. Then the happy horns come in and you're like "YEAH! GO TEAM (insert country name here)!" And then your brain is mindlessly sucked into events and coverage you wouldn't ever dream of watching outside of the Olympic games for two whole weeks. That's where the power of the theme comes in. You hear it, and you either embrace the spirit or you run away from it because it's taking away your favorite NBC programming for a little while.

5. MLB World Series/All Star Game on FOX (2007-2009)
I like this for pretty much the same reason as the MLB on CBS theme. It makes it sound magical. Why they stopped using it this year is beyond me. I don't want to feel like I'm watching sports convergence where there's a baseball game with the NFL on FOX theme going on. That really bugged me this year. All I can say is when I hear this it takes me back to when I watched Game 5 of the 2008 World Series and they were restarting the game after the super long rain delay and all you see is a sea of red with everyone swinging white rally towels in the crowd. That was really cool and incredibly fitting. Shoot, I can watch it whenever I want. I have it on DVD. (ha ha ha)

6. Hockey Night in Canada (Original)
Don't get me wrong, I like the newer one too, but I feel like this one personifies the atmosphere on the ice and just makes you want to pick up a stick and check some people. Also, the first time I heard this I wanted to pick up a game paddle and play some old school hockey game on an emulator. It's got the guitars too that just makes you visualize the anticipation for the game--you see the Zamboni go up and down the ice and you're like "C'MON ALREADY, EH!!" Canada is fun to talk about. I should do this more often.

7. Monday Night Football
YEAH! FOOTBALLL!! AMERICANO!!!!! Did you really think I wasn't going to mention this? Sure, I'm not the biggest football fan in America, but I absolutely love this theme. I can just imagine these die hard fans just doing the slow-walk to their bathroom mirrors, putting on the eye black and beads with feeling, and then running to the couch with their beer and cheese puffs. This theme is just an American (and whatever other country) staple when you think of football, and boy, does it never fail to disappoint people when they have a "case of the Mondays."

8. NFL on FOX
Whomever made this theme should get a high five. The horns and bells just work so well with the whole concept of the strategy and physicality of the sport. It could also get you really nervous when your team is down by 7 with the 2-minute warning coming up in the 4th Quarter and no timeouts left. That is what the NFL on FOX theme is all about. It's about that rush you get when you watch it week in and week out during football season, regardless of what team is playing.

9. MLB on TBS
Basically, this theme to me just speaks: "Yeah, I'm here, and I'm way more talented than you." It also brings up some lively memories of postseason ball as well. This is what you could consider being the polar opposite of the other "magical" themes that I've already mentioned. This is like a football-caliber theme for a baseball program but still has the strings to encourage that magic that baseball has to offer.

10. ESPN College Basketball
It completely fits a college setting. It's got that band horn effect and I absolutely LOVE that. Like I mentioned earlier, I normally don't watch basketball, but NCAA is an exception to that rule. The school spirit pretty much wins me over, and the music gets me into the school-y setting of it all. I actually wrote a blog entry on why I enjoy NCAA over NBA many many months ago...like around the time I started the blog (I think the entry was written in lieu of March Madness, so yes, it's toward the way beginning when I had no niche of blogging).

11. NFL on CBS
I'm probably not the first to say this, but the NFC is to the AFC as the NFL on FOX theme is to the NFL on CBS theme. It's like rival themes duking it out. Which one I enjoy more, I can't say. Of course, there's less drumming and stomping to this one but has more horns and urgency tacked onto it. This theme almost makes it feel like one team is getting monstrously blown out by the other team and the losing team's fans are like, "okay, we'll slave to you winners for today."

12. College Football on CBS
This is about 100 times more upbeat than the NFL themes, and it has that magical school spirit-like feeling along with it. It's going along the lines of: "Okay boys, you're on a quest, and this quest will not be easy. However, we've worked hard for all of this. You see that lineman? That's your least favorite professor; now go out there and win one for the (whatever the mascot is) nation! HOOT HOOT HOOT HOOT!" I also stupidly think of the movie Rudy when I hear this. So irrelevant, I know.
(PS - I also think of the Army/Navy game when I hear this. This annual game is kind of a big deal in Philadelphia since it's played at Lincoln Financial Field every December. GO NAVY.)

13. NHL on FOX (1994-1995, 1998-1999)
MORTAL KOMBAAAAT!!! Wait, what? I'm serious! That's exactly what this theme sounds like. It makes the NHL sound so much more dangerous and violent than it really is. However, during the time that it was used, I think the NHL was rather desperate because they were faltering at the time and they needed a big draw from the adult audience who thought that this sport was an attempt for the Canadians to take over the world. Our society likes violence for some dumb reason, and I guess a Mortal Kombat-sounding theme somewhat did the trick. It wasn't like that for very long.

14. UEFA Champions League Theme Song
Let's get this straight: yes, it doesn't sound "manly," and it has an orchestral background. Here's the significance behind this (to me at least): the UEFA Champions League is like the Olympics of club soccer conferences around Europe. Certain elite teams have the honor and privilege to walk up the steps of the church of greatness and play on the highlighted pitch. Almost like a "Clash of the Titans" theme set. Could you imagine Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi wearing solider armor and swords while riding on horses? Picture that in your head. It's like you're watching Braveheart without the Mel Gibson and with a lot more kicking. I sound like my hero Ray Hudson now. I don't know whether that's a good thing or not.

15. NFL Thursday Night Football
What automatically comes to mind when I hear the bells is: "It's crunch time." Just imagine your significant other getting the chip bowl ready and your buddies are coming over and you're like "YEAH! I'm gonna win that bet," and there is so much on the line when the game is on. It has a nice exciting build, and I like that. I almost feel like they wrote it with Christmas in mind. It's like Jerome Bettis having a lovechild with Mannheim Steamroller or something.


...and that would be about it from me. I know there are many more out there that are fun to listen to, but these are the ones that catch my ear more often than others. Which ones do you like or dislike?

I bet Hank Williams Jr. approves of my list.



Yeah, he does.

--AZ

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween! - The Tim Lincecum Pro-stume

Note: For those who have no idea why I use the title "Pro-stume," it is a mix of the words "project" and "costume." End of commentary.

Okay, so firstly, I wish all of you a happy and safe Halloween night. Since I'm an oldhead, I've been relegated to giving out candy to young kids who don't really deserve it because they abuse the sugar privilege much like how some adults abuse alcohol. But that's enough of that.
The big reason why I'm writing on a chilly night like this is because of the little idea that I had around this time a week and a half ago while watching the NLCS on FOX [on mute].

After watching Game 4 of the NLCS and seeing all of the camera cuts they were making on Tim Lincecum, I had a stroke of genius. I started thinking "HEY! I have the same exact hair length that he does! If they were whistling at him in Philly as if he was a female, then maybe I should be onto something!" And the idea was born. I was going to dress as Giants ace Tim Lincecum for Halloween. I was fully aware that I was not going to be able to go to my school's Halloween Dance or go trick-or-treating, but the challenge alone would give me some entertainment and some stress relief as I made the costume.

Saturday, October 23 - I drove to a craft store with a friend to pick up some items for the occasion. Let's be honest, there was no point in me ordering a Lincecum tee-shirt and a Giants cap for $35+ on MLBShop where I can make my own fake merchandise at a way more inexpensive price. In all, I wound up spending a little over $10 for my stuff. I finally get home, and the project began. I started printing "stencils" out, and started drawing on the hat with an orange paint fabric pen and then tee-shirt as well as highlighting the lettering on the shirt with my squeezing fabric paint bottle.
After about three hours and a clinching victory, I had created these items:


Not too shabby for someone who isn't artsy, eh?
Friday, October 29 - The test day. Since I live in Philadelphia, the city that is still recovering from a postseason defeat and recovering from the Eagles' massive troubles going into a bye week, I was skeptical. To hide my identity, I wore my friend-famed aviators and drove up to school. Believe me, I was stared at several times on campus, but no vocal dissents were to be heard. My music ministry director thought I was dressed as a "Giants fan" which I guess can be considered close enough to what I was aiming for. My close friends got a kick out of what I did, and that felt good on the inside. To even poke more fun at what I did, I brought a right-handed glove and ball with me (I felt backwards with it since I'm left-handed) as well as a fake marijuana blunt. I did this to joke on Lincecum's marijuana possession charges from around the same time last year.


TODAY - I wore the shirt to work and put the hat and aviators on after my shift. A co-worker claimed that "I only did it for the hair," which is partially true. But since I haven't made a costume in about four years, I thought that it was about high time that I challenged myself and caught some people's attention with it. While giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, I got a lot of "Giants suck" comments and "that's not right"-related sayings from parents while giving their kids candy. Note that I didn't have the fake blunt on me this whole time; that was just a joke for Friday. But at any rate, I felt comfortable in what I did. I had a lot of fun this weekend.

And now...photos. You'll finally get to see what I look like. (No hooray here.) I will not show the picture of me taken on Friday since I'm making an offensive joke to a professional athlete and I don't promote the practice of what is represented. I'm like C.J. Wilson...I'm "straightedge." Dead serious.

Aaaaand here we are:
 I didn't add the orange effects. The room I was in was dark and had orange window lights. I thought it was a nice touch.

The makeup job I did was brutal. I paled my face out, darkened my eyebrows, and added emphasis on my nose and apples of my cheeks.
Don't worry. I got all of it off.

And that was my weekend in a nutshell.
Now...back to drafting my writings as usual. Schoolwork too.

--AZ


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Eulogy Fit for an Eight-Legged Mindfreak



A few months ago, I decided to write an entry about the wondrous mystery that was Paul the Octopus. Today, he has left for the great beyond to make predictions and eat his boxed meals for another Higher Power. His stay on Earth may not have been a welcome one for many soccer fans around the globe, but whatever he did...he was good at it.

There are some that say he might not have understood what was going on and just happened to be on the side of coincidence; others claim that he was proof that animals may have a conscience and liked to mess with people's minds. With the posters and other items that people brought to games during the World Cup, you could tell he was taken seriously by many fans. Let's not forget how big of a religion this sport is in many parts of the world.

...Obviously, he wasn't.
Maybe he didn't like the retirement? He didn't make the choice to retire, after all. This might have been his final resort to leave the cruel planet and continue his journey of predictions and unprecedented wisdom. Take it from me, it isn't all that fun when you can't speak out an voice an opinion sometimes. Then again, he may have been humbled by the zookeepers' needs to protect him from the critics and the fans that loved to hate him. Aside from those who hated him, the people around him knew how special he really was. They love him so much that they're going to cremate him--not serve him in a sushi bar. What he did during his short time on Earth may have been a fluke, but his caretakers and his visitors saw him as an animal with true grit with a load on the undersea brain.

I hope they have the fish he likes in the place where he's going to.
Soccer fans and commentators alike are going to miss this guy whether they liked or hated. Not because he was different, but he gave us more to ponder about, whether it was knowledge, premonitions, or even what we don't realize what we have until it's gone.

RIP Paul the Octopus (January 2008 - October 26, 2010)
I won't ever look at calamari the same way again.

--AZ

Sunday, October 24, 2010

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Texas Toast vs. The San Francisco Treat

Earthquakes vs. Dust Storms
Ahhhnold vs. George W. Bush
Bill & Sue vs. Chuck & Nolan
The Bay vs. The Alamo

CUE STANDOFF

Here we are, folks. This is for all of the marbles. Both of last year's top two contenders went down this year, and the teams that beat them will now meet here. The best teams from the west. What are we going to see?

We're going to see pitching. Lots and lots of pitching. Shoot, one of the owners was a pitcher during his time in the majors. Duels, Texas style? YES. OF COURSE. With guns like Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, C.J. Wilson, Brian Wilson, Neftali Feliz, and many more, we're going to see a lot of strategy and a lot of whiffs as well. In a game of pitching, you need smart hitting, and definitely smart running. It's like Risk. No, more like Battleship. At any rate, we have some big bats to accompany the stellar pitching. Championship series MVP's Cody Ross and Josh Hamilton have shown their strength by hitting home runs off of aces as if they were getting pitches from minor league guys. Aside from these two, small ball has gotten the job done as other players have been sparing with the extra-base hits.

"Curses" have plagued these two teams for a very long time. The Giants has [this is grammatically correct] not won a World Series since 1954--when they were still in New York. The last time they had made it to The Show was in 2002, in which they lost to a team who had never won a World Series before: The Anaheim Angels. Will this be the same case, as the Rangers are new to this stage as well? The Rangers have been defying the odds since their Game 5 win against the Rays in the ALDS. They have made it to the divisional series (and Championship series before 1994) only to lose and never advance for a fight to win a pennant. They finally did that on Friday, and now they'll be looking to scratch their name off of an infamous list that they share with the Mariners and Expos/Nationals.

Wednesday will be the start of an all-out war of two teams that have proven themselves worthy of being named World Champs. Will you be a part of the showdown in the Wild Wild West?

You want my opinion on who will win? I dare not say. Did anyone see who I called to win? I was only right with one bracket. That was it. Okay, fine. Rangers in 6. Now go enjoy your football games.

--AZ

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Wayne Rooney Post.

Already, most Americans who don't watch soccer or ESPN and are reading this entry are going, "WHO?"

C'mon, it's already a known fact that Manchester United isn't "America's team" and that Americans refer to their version of football as the NFL. For the uninformed, I will help by filling you in on who this man is.
Music please...

Wayne Rooney, born on October 24, 1985, is a forward for the English football club Manchester United. He first made his professional debut in 2002 with Everton and quickly caught the attention of football fans around the circuit. In 2003, he joined the Manchester United squad and continued his impact on the sport. 
Since then, he has made appearances with Team England during international competition and has also won numerous titles with the Manchester United club. Despite several injuries that he has sustained, he has been very successful. So successful that he would like to move on to another club...! (End music)




Now that we've given him a decent introduction, it's high time that I explain why I'm writing about this "stud." It appears that he does not wish to continue with Manchester United and would like to leave the team. Sir Alex Ferguson, their "skipper" as you will, seems rather put aside by this because Rooney is a huge part of the team and is a huge face of the club. But this is the big deal here: according to sources, just a few months ago Rooney was in good shape with the club and claimed that he was very happy with where he was. So it feels as if he just happened to have a change of heart in a short period of time and wants to go where the grass looks much greener.

However, when he leaves, he's going to be taking assorted problems with him. He has shown that he's rather prone to injury, and has also shown that he has a bit of a temper to go around when he's provoked. But wait...there's more! He has also been under fire for allegations of infidelity and having very wayward teenage years--you know, those times when you... [Oh, how do I put this in a nicer and PG-formatted way?] would "like to experiment" and all of that business. So of course, his personal life has been a subject that the European sports media has been preying on and off of over the course of a few months (maybe even years since I don't live in the UK and almost never hear of things like this). It's hard to really take a side on this topic, because regardless of how well you know the him through watching him on television or reading an online news story, you don't exactly know him personally. And believe me, we should all know how the media likes to sensationalize certain things. Okay, he's publicly admitted that he had done some bad things when he was younger, but he's a changed man, and he's looking to fix himself, or so we think.

In the case of playing with Manchester United and now requesting to leave the team, it's like being in a failing relationship. Externally, he might really enjoy what he's doing and says that he's happy but doesn't exactly mean it. Internally, it might only be messing his focus up and decaying his happiness of not just himself, but other things that he loves outside of his profession, such as his wife and child. It would make a lot of sense if he was only saying things that people wanted him to say just to prevent any upset or false allegations of management issues or egotistical matters. Then again, he has had injury issues as of late, and his benching may have just fueled the fire on his wanting out of the club. He also has the chip on his shoulder of the creeping infidelity accusations. Heck, his request to leave the club might even be a ruse to hide something even bigger that he doesn't want to be publicized.

If I may add, Sir Alex is taking this rather well, and he's making sure that his point gets out that he's doing the best he can in order to maintain stability in the club and to prevent any massive falling out with Rooney.

If and when he leaves, he's going to be scouted by many other big-name teams in Europe like Chelsea and Real Madrid [hello, Cristiano!], and during that time he's going to attempt to get back into tip-top shape and look "nice and purdy" for the competitors. Yes, it's going to be the end of an era for a lot of people who have watched Manchester United and have seen Rooney in devil red day in and day out, but we'll have to see the outcome of what Wayne thinks is the best option for himself during these tough times.

Let's just hope he doesn't continue doing this and mess up his reputation even more:

--AZ

Sunday, October 17, 2010

AZ's Slant on Sunday - What Annoys Me as a Sports "Enthusiast"

(Warning to people outside of Philadelphia: I'm going to be using a lot of examples from a Philadelphia fan's perspective, so if you don't "dig that," I'm sorry. It's the only way that I know.)

Yeah, you read that right. I'm going to talk about what annoys me from a sports fan's perspective.
I figured I would take the last of my teenage angst out before midnight and write up a rant on what drives me nuts day in and day out about people that hang on the bandwagon or just refuse to understand. If I sound rebellious and irritating enough to you, then I'm doing my job.
Let's get started.

Ever since I was four years old, I was a Phillies fan. That means I've been a fan since 1994(ish), which was the year of the strike and the year after Mitch Williams gave a great pitch to Joe Carter and ended the World Series hopes for the Phils in '93. Even when they sucked in 1997 and every other year until Charlie Manuel came along, I followed them, and here they are with a playoff dynasty a-la the Braves from the 1990's. But when you come across a dynasty like this, you see some ugly stuff. You start seeing "fans" come out of the woodwork and you go, "Wait, what just happened? Where did they come from?" Once a team enters the playoffs, the fans get on the horse and are all about the team that they have barely followed at all during the year. I highly doubt it's the #1 reason for people to go to a bar and get drunk and be part of a party. Not everyone is like that. Why do people do this? I have no idea, but it annoys the die-hard fans because they've followed the team since game one and know the exact reason why the team is there and who was on the team doing it.

Here are two examples for you as to what annoys me (and other people):
If you asked a female Phillies fan who her favorite player was, you would probably get different answers depending on preference. Personally, I admire Chase Utley. I've liked him since he was brought up from the farm in '03. He has a respectable work ethic and he loves the game and shows it on the field. Then there are some females that say Jayson Werth is their favorite. Why? "Because he's cute." That's not a good enough answer. I am sorry.  Personally, he looks too much like Edge from WWE to suit my tastes. Anyway, it hurts as a fan to hear stuff like that, because you should at least like a player for a better reason than a physical trait. Sure, I like Cliff Lee "because he's cute" too, but he's also a heck of a pitcher and I absolutely love his ethic.

I digress.

It also hurts when you get someone watching a playoff game, and they're screaming at the television when they don't know the rules to the game or don't understand why something happens. That one hurts more than hitting your funny bone on a counter. They get excited when someone gets a base hit but then wonder why bullpen guys get paid so much money to come in for one inning. That, or they get upset when a guy like Ryan Howard strikes out when he gets paid so much money to play for the team.

And I digress a final time.

When you see the real fans, they still wear the jerseys of guys who haven't played for the team in 15 years because it brings luck or the vintage player tee shirts and other assorted things like that. They "hate," but they "hate with feeling" because they'll love the player or coach regardless of how much they just swore at the person in question five minutes ago. They know the players, the plays,
(FUN FACT: My younger brother and I got a picture with Curt Schilling during a photo day when he was with the Phillies in the late '90s. Where the photo is right now escapes me. I'll find it in my basement someday.)

Aside from this, it's cool that a city will show spirit and support for a team that has worked very hard to make it somewhere. However, I just wish it were more consistent in a huge city like the one that I live in. I hate to pick on Philly people, but good God, the love-hate relationship with the Eagles is incredibly painful.

A girl in one of my classes is from Indiana, and she loves the Colts regardless of whether they win or lose a game. Some Eagles fans are nowhere near that sometimes. Two weeks ago against the Redskins, people were totally hating on OB Kevin Kolb because of the type of game that he had. Today after beating the Falcons, people are going to be saying, "Wow, he had a great game! He's good for us!" Well, for now at least, right? (Ha, ha.)

Death to the Bandwagon. ...Or just the state of mind.

I might not know everything about a sport and know every stat about a player, but I try my best to respect the player's work  I also try not to be as biased. C'mon, people. It's a known fact that since I'm from Philly I will be as brutal as a fan as there will ever be, but now that I've branched out into other sporting interests and other teams, I'm "not that kind of fan" anymore. I'm what you would call an enthusiast that works hard to know the sport and to love it and give it some "hugs." I think if we give people more of a chance to understand the sport and give everyone a chance to appreciate it like I do, that would be nice. We wouldn't have so many people out in the dark. Isn't sports a way to bring people together and appreciate one another?? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad people come together to appreciate the sport, but I think we sometimes get together for all of the wrong reasons. I'd love for the bandwagon state of mind to diminish someday, but I don't think that will ever attempt to happen in my lifetime.

I know I'm probably going to be called an "elitist" after saying some of the stuff that I did (then again, I already was last night), but that's just how I feel about these things. It's my opinion. I'm not going to judge you if you're the type of person that I talked about in this entry. That's not my style at all. I just like to expose things and poke fun at them because I'm horrible at being a funny person.

On a lighter note and speaking of funny, here's a funny picture of Jonathan Papelbon fighting a bear Pokemon named Ursaring. I made this a little over six months ago because I was bored in school.


Oh hey, it's almost midnight...

--AZ

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hey! No Fighting!

If only it were that easy.

In the 90+ years of the National Hockey League's existence, fighting has become a common sight on the ice. Did someone give you a cheap shot against the boards? Well then...knock his teeth in!! Ah yes, when it comes to sweet revenge, there's nothing like an all-out brawl on skates. However, people will bring up this argument: "Weren't we told at a young age that fighting isn't the answer to everything?" Of course, that statement is correct, but things go much deeper than that. In order to save face and make the game more "family-friendly," sporting officials and assorted activists have been pushing to ban the concept of fighting in the NHL. Fighting in hockey isn't exactly "glorified," as there are penalties that branch from it. However, some people are looking to end the "man's way of solving things" for good.


One of the biggest arguments suggesting the ban of fighting is the growth of the players in size. When you watch hockey, you're not seeing these scrawny guys that just look big because they're wearing layers on layers of pads anymore. You're actually looking at heftier guys that can take hits and dish harder ones out while still having pads on. Looking at the hard hits during the games, heaven help you if you meet one of these guys in a dark alley. The whole outlook of the game is much more physical and becoming more of a test of strength than skill. When you think about it, these guys didn't wear pads when the game was first played. Heck, helmets didn't even become mandatory until about 30-35 years ago. Scary, right?
Another argument is a hot topic today (again, it's on the blog somewhere too). Because of the increase of physicality in the game, many are afraid of the [BOOM] head shots that the players take; if a punch or check is hard enough, the player could earn a nice concussion for picking a fight with an opposing player. Then we go into the whole fiasco on how this affects the players in the future and how it can mess up their lives after their careers are long over.
The third and final argument (albeit cheesy) is that if fighting is banned, the product will be able to gain more sponsorships due to it's more "PG-rated" atmosphere and the organization will gain more revenue and money due to the increase in partnerships. In my humble opinion....that's a poor excuse of an argument. I'm sorry.

There are several arguments for the ban, but let's be honest, there is a huge upside to the use of fighting in hockey. Since it's a fast-paced game with several options to use against your opponent, you can sneak a cheap shot or hit (or slice...ouch). If fighting was taken out of the equation, you can get away with sneak shots whenever you want and the opponent couldn't do a thing about it unless if they flew themselves in front of the referee and complained and cried about it like it was pee-wee hockey again.
I remember when I was in grade school and for a class incentive-like trip we went to see an AHL game (it was the Philadelphia Phantoms versus some other team that I can't remember the name of) and the players were told that since it was an arena filled with grade school kids they were not allowed to start fights. Guess what happened two minutes in. Believe me, I have a pretty stellar memory of the olden days, and it wouldn't be the same sport if scuffling wasn't allowed anymore after this season or the season after that. Fighting is one of the few things men would like to see "on ice." Fighting is a natural thing. Men complain and try to solve things with their egos and their fists [No offense guys, you really do that.] and sometimes it can be fun to watch--especially if you lose your balance and fall down.

Aside from these arguments, there has been one concern that could change the face of the game. The big question is: "What if someone died on the ice while fighting or taking a hit?" Obviously, a man dying on the ice has never happened before, but it's still a question that lies in the back of every official's mind. There was one case in which a hit did take the life of a player after a game, but before I tell the story I'll have to remind you that this is back in the era when helmets weren't mandatory. In 1968, Bill Masterton took a hit during a game and slammed the back of his head on the ice (yes, there was blood) and died from a severe and inoperable brain injury two days later. Also, there have been several incidents in the more modern era such as one incident with goaltender Clint Malarchuk getting his throat slashed in 1989 and living to tell the tale [Side Note: There's footage of it on YouTube, but I'm not posting it here because it's incredibly gruesome and even I of all people have a hard time watching it.] and another incident with Richard Zednik with almost the same case as Malarchuk's in 2008.
Due to these horrific instances, advances have been made such as wearing helmets, face guards, throat guards, and just about every type of durable pad you can think of to make sure that each and every player is protected and safe from freak accidents and possible death.

But as for right now, everyone is civilized and concerned about having safety first. Let them eat cake, guys. Would you rather see dirty play in cheap shots, or would you rather see them handle it in a more manly manner? I choose the latter, thanks. I just hope it doesn't get anybody into any serious trouble in the long run.

--AZ