Greg's Lunatic Fringe

Not quite a blog, not exactly a dictionary. Definitely not a tome nor a biography. Rather, this is my web white board, my space for jotting, noting or otherwise verbalizing my (hopefully) organized thoughts on the subjects most important to me. This is not a forum and therefore has no reply function, but you can always email me your thoughts if you feel so inclined. I reserve the right to reply or delete as I am so inclined. Anyway, maybe you'll learn something or maybe you'll think I'm an idiot. Either way rest peacefully knowing it doesn't concern me either way.

Arts | The Lists | Philosophy | Random Thoughts | Sports


To what do you pay attention?

My likes and dislikes in popular music always center on the music and not the lyrics. To me, the lyrics might be the icing on the cake, but without the music behind them, I'm not interested. It's always interesting to me when someone plays a song for me that they think I'll like, and within 30 seconds I hate it. And they'll say, "but you haven't evening listened to the lyrics!" Um, so what? If I was only interested in lyrics, I'll read poetry. I listen to music for the melody, the harmony, the rhythm. Most music reviews I read focus almost solely on the lyrical content, without a single mention of the arrangements, if it's unique in its musical content. It's like a movie review that would only focus on the dialog and ignore the overall acting, the story and the cinematography. But worse.

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The Lists

Lists of Things of Various Ilk
(Started Nov 21, 2010)
My 5 Favorite Beers, if I only can drink one

  1. Pliny the Younger
  2. Hop 15
  3. Sculpin IPA
  4. 90 Minute IPA
  5. Pliny the Elder

Top 5 Most Annoying Sports Announcers

  1. Brent Musberger - over dramatizes nearly everything, spending much the game editorializing instead of just calling the it, and overuses colloqialisms like "folks" and "young man". At this point, he's just about unlistenable to me. The anti-Pat Summerall.
  2. Dick Vitale - has actually mentioned a single thing about game strategy during an actual game in years. Spends the majority of time cheerleading or talking about recruits or how great a particular coach is. Another regular victim of my mute button.
  3. Mike Patrick - much the same issues as Musberger. Complete overuse of the word "brilliant". Likes to editorialize then say how little he knows. When he and Vitale did games for ESPN it was an instant headache.
  4. Joe Theisman - complete blowhard whose pregame analysis always consists of the following: "The key to this game is the quarterback". True or not, at least try to be unique once in a moon.
  5. Tim McCarver - never met a word he didn't like. Use 500 words to describe Tim McCarver and brief won't be on the list. Neither will humble.

My 5 Favorite Martin Scorcese Movies

  1. Raging Bull
  2. GoodFellas
  3. The Age of Innocence
  4. Casino
  5. The Last Temptation of Christ

Top 5 Reasons Old School is no Animal House (as if anyone in their right mind needs to be told)

  1. Old School has Snoop Dogg. Animal House has Otis Day and the Knights.
  2. The group of people in Old School would never come together in real life. At least the Animal House crew was believable.
  3. Cheesy sports competition versus an Eat Me float in a parade.
  4. Old School resorts to the sad trick of celebrity cameos. (James Carville)
  5. Will Ferrell versus John Belushi. 'Nuff said.

...more to come...

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Of front porches, community and the American Dream
(last updated 10/18/2008) As I grow older and more cognizant of myself and my surroundings, from my work to my neighborhood, region, state and country, I see several aspects of the changing American landscape that could be termed disappointing or troubling, depending on your point of view. I think some of these things come into focus even more now with the current economic climate.

Currently we live in the first house on a block which is a cul-de-sac. We have friends with small children close in age to ours who live in the cul-de-sac and visit from time to time. The wife said to us recently, "We'd come by more often but it never looks like you're home." Now part of the reason for this both of our cars fit in the garage and we don't keep our garage open, part is because our house faces east and we try to keep the morning sun to a minimum so the house doesn't get too hot, and part is because we have a very small front yard which is almost all hill. But I started thinking about it, and part of the reason is that houses in the last 30-40 years have moved their public areas (for lack of a better term) from the front to the back. Think about it. Remember at the turn of the century and through WWII, when homes were built with large front porches and summer evenings were spent in the swing, or the rocking chair, watching people walk their dogs and striking up impromptu discussions of the weather, the neighbors, politics or the local team's baseball fortunes? What is the American Dream today? Build a home with as little front yard as possible, so you can have the large back patio, with the built in barbeque, fire pit, pool, whatever. From moving to the suburbs to moving into our backyards to communicating on the internet, American's lives have become increasingly privatized. And we are surprised when we find out a neighbor is a sexual predator, or to the other extreme, someone who might share a lot of the same interests as you?

You look at today's economic crisis, and think about the things that lead to it. The continued movement outward from cities to gain the bigger house. The bigger house with the bigger, fancier backyard. The need for a bigger car that takes more gas to get places that are farther and farther away. We simply cannot do with a sedan; we need to shut the kids up so let's put them in the SUV or the minivan with their own DVD player and headphones. We don't like to sit on buses or trains with people we don't know, or bother with inflexible carpools, so we fund highway expansion for our bigger cars. Perhaps it is time to re-think this American Dream, and start moving inward instead of outward. Consolidating instead of expanding. Realizing that if we're not going suck all our resources dry in 20 years, that urban living and public transportation aren't the worst things in the world. Seems to work well in Europe; it has for years. Who knows, you might actually meet someone on your block who shares your interests, instead of someone on the internet who lives who knows how far away. And think about it - to whom are you more likely to be accountable to - someone you communicate with via a keyboard and a screen, or someone you see every day?

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Random Thoughts

Things that make me scratch my head / Random thoughts
(Started Feb. 21, 2009)

  • Why the PGA Tour west coast swing is in February, the only month in California where poor weather is a likely occurence...
  • Professional sports teams without an "s" at the end of their nicknames. Particularly those with amorphous names like the Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Is it that hard to come up with an animal or group of people? And what is the mascot? Laziness...
  • Celebrities who rail against conservatives or the like who fight higher taxes, as if it is purely greed, then spend millions on fashion shows, houses in Beverly Hills and vacations in Cannes. If you were truly liberal, then give 90% of your earnings to charity and live a modest life. As the bible says, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven...
  • In today's political-correctness climate, the word racist is used too much and the word prejudice is not used enough...
  • There's a day when you wake up after a night of drinking where your stomach is still there and your hangover lasts all day instead of a couple of hours. That is the day you realize you are getting old...
  • At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, there's something to be said for the days before cell phones, when you weren't expected to be available to everyone all the time...

Rules (aka Other Things I Think Of While Running Or Otherwise Not Preoccupied)
(Started May 6, 2009)

  • If you hang out a Yard Sale or Garage Sale sign, once the "sale" is complete, take the sign down! (This is a specific incident of the old sign that says, "If you open it, close it. If you take it out, put it back"...etc.)

Misnomers and B.S. Titles
(Started May 2, 2009)

  • Account Manager, Account Executive, Business Development - It's a Sales Guy (Gal). That's it, plain and simple. There is no execution, except the executing of intelligence, and there certainly isn't any management. Unless you consider blowing smoke and buying a occasional lunch to be management. Whether your wearing a plaid jacket and selling used Buicks in front of a silver trailor and under multi-colored triangles, or selling million dollar insurance policies to large corporations, you're still just a Sales Guy. Don't try to fool us.
  • Flight Attendant - Sorry, but the schmuck like me sitting in the cramped seat is the flight attendant. I am attending the flight. If you are serving me a drink or pointing me to my seat, you are a Passenger Attendant. Or how about a good old fashioned Stewardess? But we had to abandon that term when pansy men starting deciding this was a good career move.
  • (Blank) Champion, e.g. Brand Champion, Diversity Champion, etc. - This is not a job title, this is a trophy. Was there a tournament? How many rounds did you have to win to become champion? And if you are now champion, why is your work just starting? Something wrong with this picture.
  • Information Specialist - As opposed to Information Generalist? Shouldn't everyone have some speciality in information? If you don't know any information about the company you are working for, then what value do you bring? And what constitutes information? Pretty sure the folks with these titles aren't sitting in a booth near the company entrance dispensing information about where the bathroom is, what time lunch starts, and what the fastest land mammal is.
  • Administrative Assistant - This one isn't so bad. I guess you can make the argument that someone with this title assists in administration. I'm OK with that. What I'm not OK with is the fact we can no longer call them Secretary. When did this become a bad word?

I like the way we've had to take every job title that may have had a negative connotation and

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Anyone who knows me knows I've been a cynic at worst and a realist at best for most of my almost 40 years; one of things I'm most cynical about is the concept of justice in the world we live in. The events of the world and in my life to date have only reinforced my cynicism about justice, or lack thereof, in Earthly life. The one area I was often able to find solace was in sports. Despite all the unfair things that happened off the field of play, I could usually generally count on was that the field was a fair arbiter - once the whistle blows, two teams play and the best wins. No bias, no unfair advantage.

The past 9-12 months have made me cynical about even this concept. While the 60 minutes of playing time (or whatever sport-specific measure it is) is still largely untouched, the world of sports off the field has become so unsavory to me that I can't even enjoy the times when the clock is running.

It began its downward descent in October 2011. The Phillies had just come off the best season in their long, largely sad history. (For those with no viewpoint beyond the past 5-10 years of sports who think the Phillies are Yankees South, look it up some time. The Phillies are the losingest team in U.S. pro sports history, save for the Washington Generals.) They had bolstered an aging but occasionally still potent lineup with a great pitching staff to lead the majors in wins. But on the last day of the season, they had completed a sweep of the slumping Braves in Atlanta, to knock these very Braves out of the playoffs and allow the mediocre Cardinals in, a team that had gotten hot in September to make up a bunch of games but still needed a lot of help to get in. And help the Phillies provided. For their goodwill, they got to play the Cardinals in the 5-game opening round. Long story short, the Phillies lose game 5 at home 1-0 with their best pitcher on the mound, their offense aging right before my eyes and their supposed slugger Ryan Howard tearing his Achilles tendon on the final out of the game and the series. And just like that, the supposed greatest season in team history is a complete waste of 162 games. Forgotten and wiped out in one night, and the window of possibility rapidly closing shut. To add insult to injury, the Cardinals go on to win the World Series, practically stealing their who-knows-what number championship over a team that of course has never won one, the Texas Rangers, and providing their gallingly optimistic fans another chance to celebrate. The fact their best player left for free agency a few months later provided little solace.

Meanwhile, the Eagles were preparing for their season by making huge splashes in free agency, signing the best cornerback on the market, a top flight defensive tackle, a former top-5 draft pick quarterback and a sacking defensive end. On paper these seemed to be the missing pieces between the previous year's 10-6 mark and a real run to a Super Bowl championship. And then the aforementioned QB starts uttering talk of a "dream team", the media and the other teams grab it as motivation, the team never quite gels, and what you have is a 4-8 start and the dream season down the tubes. Not even a solid season with any playoff aspirations. After the sting of the Phillies season, Philly fans were hoping the Eagles would provide some elixir, not a brutal suppository.

A few months into the football season, the one PA team I could always count on to be competitive and do things the right way - Penn State - became mired in what most people know is perhaps the biggest scandal in college sports history. Any sports fan knows the story and I won't rehash it here, but my cynicism was once again enhanced by the treatment of a coach (Joe Paterno) who spent his whole life giving to the university and was pushed out of it with a single phone call. It would be foolish of me to underplay the nature of what allegedly happened, but to brush aside the career and legacy of this man because of one error in judgment, in an area he had no expertise and most likely simply could not comprehend seems callous. When this events of those several days occured and we learned his job and career fate, I said to my wife "he will be dead within 6 months". Sure enough, Joe Paterno was dead by January of this year.

The filler in the cracks to these slabs of disappointment concrete include things like Joe Frazier dying with no fanfare while Ali continues to be adored, the BCS continuing to make a mockery of anything close to being considered just, the Patriots and Giants play in the Super Bowl - I abhor both teams so much I didn't even bother to watch it, Kentucky and in particular John Calipari winning the NCAA basketball championship, while my team, North Carolina, has their own dream team/season go down to injuries, and in recent weeks, the Flyers promising season end with a dud and the Phillies off to a lousy start with their own injury problems.

So what this all means to me is that at least for the time being, I find myself having a hard time caring about sports the way I used to. As I said before, they were my one outlet for justice in an unjust world. But if sports were actually just, wouldn't there be some parity with who wins championships? Wouldn't long-suffering fans (and I'm not really even talking about Philly) get to taste from the cup of success once in a while? Wouldn't people, teams and organizations who do things the "right" way be rewarded, at least on occasion? Is there some reason people in New York and Boston deserve a parade every other year? I still feel spoiled that I got one in 2008 while Cleveland, Seattle, San Diego wait seemingly eternally for one. I'm also wondering as I type this when I get to have my "out of nowhere" or "exceeds expectations" moment? When do I get to celebrate an unexpected run to a championship? See: 2011 Cardinals, 2011 Giants, There's so much more joy in having a team exceed expectations to success than in either just fulfilling expectations, or worse yet, not living up to them. See: 2011 Phillies, 2011 Eagles, 2011-12 Tar Heels. The disappointment stings harder for me than the joy of meeting expectations.

And what this all means is these days when there's an important game on with my team in it, I might turn it on, I might pay some attention, but largely I'm just an indifferent bystander. If they win, great, if they lose, it's what I'm expecting and the are just meeting my expectations. In some ways it's a difficult way to go through life, but in other ways it's kind of liberating. Who knows, maybe one of my teams will surprise me and have an "out of nowhere" moment. Ahh, probably not. Click 'off'.

11/12/2011 - AT A LOSS
The past 14 months have been difficult for me for a variety of reasons, none of which are related to sports. Yet today I find myself with a heavy heart and a sadness that I can't recall in my lifetime. Perhaps I have lead a reasonably charmed life, and have not had to deal with real tragedy, but that is moot and not the point of this writing. What is the point is sports plays far too big a part of my life, and consequently my mood, and today I write this at what is certainly the nadir of my sports mood in my lifetime.

The past 6 weeks in Greg's sports world started with the sinkhole of a sudden end to what was a potentially historic season in Phillies' history. Despite an 8-game skid near the end of the season, the Phillies set team records for most wins in a season, and finished with the best record in baseball. Additionally, they had unquestionably the best starting pitching in baseball. Doubt still ran high as they faced perhaps the hottest team in baseball, the Cardinal, who were allowed into the playoffs by the Phillies sweep of the Braves in the last series of the season. The doubts were founded as they blew a big lead in game 2, and went on to lose a 1-0 decision in a decisive game 5, lowlighted by Ryan Howard going down with a torn Achilles on the last out of game 5. Historic season, down the tubes. And given the age of this team, there's no guarantees that in years to come anything is a given.
Given this result and my disdain for the Cardinals and most other teams left in the playoffs, I did my best to not watch a second of the playoffs through the World Series. Too painful. Especially learning the team that didn't deserve to be in the playoffs won the whole thing. Count me in those who now hate the Wild Card. It completely throws out the point of a long, 162 game season. If MLB is going to keep a Wild Card, might as well make it a 140 game season and let half the teams in the playoffs. And I haven't even gotten into the stupidest rule in the history of sports, the tying of home field advantage to the All Star exhibition game. Texas got royally screwed in the that deal.

Next up with have the team with the most ridiculous monikor in sports - the supposed Dream Team formerly known as the Super Bowl less Philadelphia Eagles. (Never mind that the monikor was largely fomented by the stupid media.) As most people know by now, not only are the 2011 Eagles not a deam team, but they flat out stink. They are closer to the first pick in the 2012 draft than the playoffs at this writing. And are all but mathematically eliminated. The great Andy Reid / Juan Castillo experiment has failed, and should be over. Repeating it because of thing that happened 2, 3, 5 years ago is foolhardy at this point. Philly fans can only hope that the errors in judgment from a personnel standpoint, both players and coaching, are not irreversible, are we could be headed for another abyss like the Marion Campbell and Rich Kotite years.

And then from the abyss to the depths of hell we travel. Anyone who was awake for the past week know about the mess that Penn State is - the same Penn State that has been the sports yang to Philly's yin. A place where success is almost expected, and optimism actually exists. A place that was held a model for college athletics, sitting on lists with the powerhouses in football rankings and the Ivy League in academic performance and lack of NCAA violations. When we peeled back the covers, we found an apparent demon walking amongst the angels, and the angels either too blind or to scared of ruining their utopia to notice it. And so we have the biggest fall from grace in the history of sports, and an ending for the winningest football coach in FBS history that the biggest sadist in the world couldn't imagine. Say what you will about Joe Paterno, but at the very least, he deserves that the writing of his legacy be saved for after the trial of Jerry Sandusky, that guilt be established by the courts of Pennsylvania and not the court of public opinion. I firmly believe that no matter how any of this would have gone down, that Paterno sealed his fate the day he hired Mr. Sandusky, because we live in a world where guilt is by association and not be action. Wrong place, wrong time for Joe.

And in the midst of all this madness comes the sadness of the death of Joe Frazier, who in death as in life was incorrectly a footnote, a man who's charisma wasn't big enough to make people love him. He should be and should have been exactly the kind of athlete that Philadelphia loved and embraced - someone who came from nothing, made something of himself, did it with a complete blue-collar ethic, reached both heights and depths, and in both cases ground his body and soul to a nub in the process. And yet the City of Brotherly Love chooses to honor a fictional character that embodies the same qualities, and ignore it's own son, a real flesh and blood human. And so my sadness deepens. To quote The Band, " And the dawn don't rescue me, no more. And the rains fall down, on my door." (It Makes No Difference)

10/29/2008 - PHINALLY
What to do now, how to act? The day my earth stood still and the famine was ended. At approximately 10pm EDT, Brad Lidge delivered the final pitch of game 5 of the 2008 World Series, pinch hitter Eric Hinsky swung and missed, and with that the years of fan frustration and often team futility ended. Although game 5 took over 2 days to complete, the ending was sudden and swift. When you've been waiting for 25 years, a month would seem sudden. It's a bit surreal, truthfully. While the joy is immense and the relieve great, after 15+ years of bellyaching it's hard to realize that there is no more reason to feel this pain. On some perverse level, I suppose it's like the movie "The Shawshank Redemption", when the Brooks character is released from prison after 20+ years of being inside, he doesn't know how to relate to the rest of the world. Philly fans have been living with pain and anguish for so long that while we share a singular joy, now we must count ourselves in with the optimists and regular winners from other cities. That's a bit disconcerting. I can't speak for everyone, but now I feel like Cubs fans and people from Cleveland have one up on us. It's a bit hard to explain to someone not from Philly, but trust me when I say the feeling is real.

In case anyone is wondering, here's how the week played out:

Monday, 10/27: My mother-in-law is in town for a visit, allowing my wife and I to travel to a local Eagles' bar to watch the potential World Series clinching game 5. Not surprisingly and thankfully, the place is laden with Phillies fans. Despite horrible weather forecasts, MLB goes on with 1st pitch as scheduled. The conditions grow continually worse through the first 5 innings. In the 6th, with the infield quickly becoming a bog, the Rays are able to muster a 2nd run off of Cole Hamels, after which MLB officials, in the name of Bud Selig, decide to suspend the game. It's 99% likely he waited until the Rays tied the game to call the suspension, because calling it sooner would have meant by rule, the game would have been declared a Phillies win and a championship would have been awarded on a rain-shortened game for the first time in history. Exasperated fans, including me, file home early to see what will happen next.
Tuesday, 10/28: By midday, MLB has postponed the conclusion of game 5 another day as the weather remains cold, windy and threatening.
Wednesday, 10/29: The game is to resume in the bottom of the 6th inning at 8:37 EDT. Conditions are cold but clear. As we have now lost our built-in babysitter, I am relegated to watching the game at home with the wife and kids. That's the thing about any sport where the championship is decided by a series rather than a single game: it's much harder to plan special events around it as you really never know when it is going to end, unless the series does go to a 7th game. Even then that might only give you 20 hours or so to plan. Without recounting the specifics, the Phillies are able to score 2 runs to the Rays' 1 in the 3.5 innings, as the Phillies bullpen once again proves stronger. Brad Lidge nailed down his 48th save of the season - in 48 tries - and the championship was finally won. I stood in front of the TV for the final 3 outs, afraid to move or do much of anything. After the last out, I fell to my knees, pounding the floor as tears welled in my eyes. Someone dying is nature taking its course - Philly winning something is a true cause for tears. The text messages started flying, exchanges of joy amongst fans and surprise amongst non-fans. I asked my friend in Philly to let me know as soon as the official parade day and time is announced. After about 40 minutes, I get the answer and start looking at flights. Because I was working in LA the next day, I am able to find a flight out of Orange County for about $600. I book it and hastily pack a couple of small bags.
Thursday, 10/30: I travel to work in LA at 5:45am after a fitful night. At 4:00pm I'm on my way to the airport, scrambling to wrap up loose ends with work. I'm on the 6:45pm flight to Phoenix, followed by a 10:30pm redeye to Philly. The redeye has 10-12 other Phillies fans on it, based on the hats and shirts seen.
Friday, 10/31: I've arranged to have my buddy pick me up at the airport and we'll head into town to ready ourselves for the parade. Ironically, on a day where the dead are supposed to make their presence felt, Philadelphia will instead be home to close to 2 million live bodies, in Phillies red rather than blood red. We hit downtown a little after 6:30am and find parking. After a hearty breakfast a cafe, we set out to find some sweatshirts to celebrate the moment. Modell's Sporting Goods on Chestnut Street is an absolute zoo - hundreds milling about, dozens checking out at a time. The employees can't get the Series and Championships merchandise out of boxes fast enough. We finally find a couple of red World Series sweatshirts and checkout. The crowds are starting to swell. After "tailgating" with a few Newcastles, we head to my friend's brother's place of work, which is less than 2 blocks from the start of the parade route. The imbibing continues with some Maker's Mark and Diet Coke. I make a sign with a posterboard and marker that says, including the quotes, "HARD TO BELIEVE HARRY!?!", in memory of the great Richie Ashburn, who often invoked the phrase and usually for the wrong reasons. At 11:00am the staff is told that the office is closing at 11:30am. At that time we head to the parade route. People are lined up 6-8 deep on each side of the street, and 30-40 deep at the intersections. After some searching, we camp in a spot at 19th and Market. The parade starts a few minutes late and from 12:15-12:30 we watch the floats go by, hold our sign and snap some pictures. Words really can't do just to the sense of celebration, relief and overall solidarity that enveloped the crowd. While one can argue the relative importance of sports in the grand scheme of things, it's hard to knock the sense of community that swells during these times. People from 10 to 60 simply wanted to be together to celebrate the end of the angst, sharing their own memories and stories from the ride. After things dissipate, we enjoy a few more drinks and camaraderie at the Cherry Street tavern, an old watering hole, before heading out to attend to the paternal duties of Halloween with the young ones. .
Saturday, 11/1: I fly back to San Diego on a 12:15pm flight. I'm typing this while on the flight. Was it all worth it? Undeniably. Invoking the old axiom "you only live once", unless something egregious was there to stop me, this was something I simply had to do. I am not a Yankees fan, nor a Celtics or Cowboys or Canadiens fan. This does not happen often for me. There are only a few things that I am truly loyal without fail to: my religion, my family and friends, and my sports teams. One can argue whether that loyalty is returned, but hey, you've got to have something in life to cling to, right?

And so now my next set of tasks is to learn to live without the pain. I'm sure I'll manage - there are certainly plenty of things in this world to rail against - but I can't say it won't be weird. I do know this - I'll be rooting for Cleveland, Seattle, San Diego, the Cubs and a few others to win a championship. My northeast Catholic guilt doesn't allow to me feel happy for my joy without feeling guilty that others might still have the anguish I had just a few weeks ago. Now if we can just get an Eagles Super Bowl one of these years...

My Philly Angst
It had been 25 years and 5 months since Philly has had won a championship in any of the 4 major professional sports (baseball, basketball, football, hockey). That's 97 seasons for those of you counting (25 x 4 minus the 1983 Sixers and minus the 2 seasons where strikes eliminated the championships).

The last championship Philadelphia won was the 1983 Sixers, when I was 10 years old. I'm now 36 with a 4 year old son, and I fear he may surpass 9 and I will be completely gray before we see another Philly championship. Although on some level Philadephians or those who associate with their teams revel in their ineptitude, using it as both a source of pride (we stick by our teams no matter what) and as a trigger for our defense mechanism (sure we haven't won anything in forever - f*** you, we stick by our teams no matter what you fair weather a****le). Nevertheless, let's be realistic - Philly fans will take a championship over pride or defensibilty anyday.

What really galls Philly fans (or at least me) is the fact in that timeframe, you've got teams like the Florida Marlins, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Anaheim Ducks and Angels and the New England Patriots winning championships. One of the attractions of sports is the perceived equality of it - that any team in any city can win. (We all know that isn't quite true, especially in baseball.) However one also believes that because if this level playing field, that there should also be some justice - that teams whose fans have supported them longest and hardest should win a championship to reward that dedication. As evidenced by the list of teams above, along with the lack of championships for not only the Philly teams, but teams like the Cubs and Red Sox (till 2004) and the Cleveland Browns and Indians, proves that this is not the case. As further justification for the argument, when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, their celebration parade drew an estimated 20,000 onlookers. In contrast, when the Flyers won their only 2 Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, they drew over 2,000,000 people to each parade. I won't even start on the level of daily caring, attendance or overall fan knowledge for teams like the Marlins and the Lightning. (If you need an explanation why the Patriots are on the list above, you don't follow sports that closely.)

Anyway, it's not like any of this entitles Philadelphia to a championship, it's just that you'd like to see one as a reward for years of loyalty and heartbreak. Besides attending everything around that event I could, I don't honestly know what I'd do if and when a Philly team does win a championship. My gut tells me I'd cry like a baby and then feel a bit of guilt and remorse that the reason for the angst is gone.

10/18/2008: Well here we are and we wait for the 2008 World Series which includes, lo and behold, those Philadelphia Phillies. Although they will likely be underdogs to whomever comes out of the AL, this is a chance to end the drought. Either that or make Philly teams 0-8 in Championship games and series since the 1983 Sixers. I do know that thought of losing to either the Rays or the Red Sox in the Series is almost too much to bear, for different reasons, so I don't care either way who the Phillies play. If the Phillies somehow manage to to pull it out, we'll see everyone at the parade.

Harry and Richie - R.I.P.
There are plenty of signs already, but with the passing of Harry Kalas, you can officially put the finishing touches on the obituary of my youth. At 36, my entire life up to today had been spent listening to the buttery baritone of Harry - the one thing that made many a bad baseball season in Philadelphia tolerable. There are certainly plenty of memories from my youth, but most are singular events that have a particular impact. The memory I have of a consistent event is the nightly summer sounds of Harry and Whitey (Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn) wafting over our kitchen, living room and back porch, as my mom always had the latest Phillies' loss on the one-speaker AM/FM radio by the sink as she did dishes. I always got a chuckle over their late inning calls, when often the game was lost, yet they continued to entertain with stories, thanks to viewers who sent food, and signs of tipping the bottle around the 5th inning ("What was that pitch Whitey?" "Looked like the stop pitch Harry!").

It certainly was poetic justice that Harry lived not only to see a 2nd World Series title, but the opening season festivities that go along with it, thereby leaving on a high note (as High Hopes was his favorite tune). Let's hope his reunion with Whitey is sweet, and may he have an eternity of booth time with Richie enjoying homemade cookies and Lebanon bologna, replete with a pull on a cig and tip of the whiskey bottle. R.I.P. Harry the K.

The BCS is fascist
(Originated Jan. 1, 2007) On a completely separate note, I'm sitting here sick as hell (thanks Alex) watching the bowl games and I'm almost pissed at myself for supporting the BCS and bowl structure. The more I think about it the more pissed I get. The entire BCS is facist and un-American. It's a system predicated on letting a few choose who gets to play for a bogus championship, rather than having a tournament and determining it on the field. That's communistic. The fact that a Boise State can go undefeated and not even get a chance to play is BS. Oh, but Lee Corso says they don't deserve to play in it so therefore I should accept that his eternal wisdom is far superior to mine and whomever he says should play must be the best 2 teams. Oh, but wait, if we go to a playoff Ohio State-Michigan will no longer have any meaning. Whatever. Just like no one watches the NFL regular season because there is a playoff. Not to mention the concept of a team, possibly young, maturing and getting better as a season goes on. But since no one thought they'd be any good in the preseason then they should not have a chance to play either. Or the fact that the 50 day layoff makes a lot of the bowls look like the first game of the season - sloppy. At least the NCAA realizes the farce of it all and does not recognize a Division 1 National Champion in football and never has. Hence the reason for the change to the Football Bowl Subdivision (Div 1-A) and the Football Championship Subdivision (Div 1-AA).

(RESPONSE FROM A PLAYOFF OPPONENT)"I think they should just do the plus-1. After these bowls, it is usually obvious who the best 2 teams are. You have to keep the regular season worthwhile with big non-conference games in September."(END RESPONSE)

First issue I have is with the statement, "After these bowls it is usually obvious who the best 2 teams are." Obvious to whom? Again, you're then making the championship based on the subjectiveness of someone's opinions. Just because a team may match up well with another or has a good day (or another team has a bad day) doesn't mean they are the best team. I'd venture to say that because of the nature of the bowl games (the long layoff, the atmosphere, nothing to play for), that a decent percentage of the outcomes are anamolies anyway. Secondly, why would the good early season games go away? If anything, they may increase, because now the loser of those games would not automatically be eliminated from contention. If one of the criteria for selecting the participants is strength of schedule (as it is in hoops), then it's not going to do you much good to go play Alcorn St early in the season.

One of the great things about sports is the chance for anyone to beat someone else on any given day. That does not exist in college football. Take the hoops tourney. Was Villanova the "best" team in 1985? Probably not. But 50 years from now, will they remember UNC over Illinois in 2005, the two "best" teams that year, or Villanova's victory in 1985? If the movie Hoosiers was set in today's college football, they would have ended the movie at the end of the regular season because they would not have had the chance to play beyond that, because Craig James did't think they were good enough to move on and voted against them.

The BCS is facist and un-American. This is a country built on the underdog. Most if not all of the great sports stories ever to unfold involved the success of a heavy underdog. And the BCS seeks to eliminate that.

What's a bit ironic is that there is a great article about how much of the BCS greed started with a game involving my team - Penn State - the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, still the highest-rated college football game in TV history. If you have a chance, read it - it's great sports history: The Night College Football Went to Hell (that makes me feel old saying "sports history").

Here's more on the BCS debate, circa November 2008. Quoted parts are comments from a BCS supporter.

"The reason playoffs work in other divisions of Football is becuase they only have to fill high school stadiums for their games" - The goal of a playoff is to fill a stadium? I thought the goal of a playoff was to progress via on the field competition to the crowning of a champion. (more later)

"If Ohio State just had to put themselves in the Top 8 at the end of the year, if they were smart, they just schedule easy non-conference games" - Last time I checked, strength of schedule counts towards the selection. Check the hoops selection criteria. Also, I'm not sure why OSU scheduled USC now. That loss effectively eliminated them from any "championship" contention, despite them playing without arguably their most important player (Wells). That makes a lot of sense. In a playoff scenario, they would not be eliminated, just dropped in the seeding. This way, Wells gets healthy and Pryor develops as the season goes on. That's one of the joys of sports, particularly at the college level - seeing a team develop and gel over time. (Or fall apart, e.g. Georgia)

"If there is a playoff, why would you have any reason to watch regular-season games besides the team you follow?" - You don't watch NFL regular season games? I don't know, maybe because you're a fan of the game? Because at team is playing for a #4 seed and a home game versus a number #12 seed? Are you saying the only reason you watch games is to see who's going to be in the BCS game?

" should tell Pete Caroll to get his team to 'show up' against Oregon St" - You should tell Mack Brown to get his team to show up against Texas Tech. You should tell Urban Meyer to get his team to show up against Ol' Miss. Oh, wait, I guess it doesn't matter in those cases? I heard an interesting comment from Carroll regarding this. He said when you've got 40 potential NFL draft picks on the team, it's hard to get them thinking about the task at hand week in and week out. Not a valid excuse, but it makes some sense when you think about how they always lose a game they shouldn't, then dominate their bowl game.

"They need to do the plus-1 thing....that would be enough to determine the best team." - As I've said before, the goal of a season and a playoff is not to determine the best team, but to crown a champion. Were the Giants the best team in the NFL last year? Absolutely not. But does anyone argue that the Patriots were treated unfairly?

As usual, pollsters vote based in preseason based on skill position players and ignore O and D lines, where the game is often won and lost.

I'm not going to convince anyone with any of this who believes that the goal of CF should be to determine the best team, particularly when that best team is determined by a regular season resume. That's the American way today - everything is about ESPN arguments instead of what actually happens on the field. That's why pregram shows are 3 hours long and postgame shows are 30 minutes.

My main arguments against the BCS are philosophical, not practical (selling out stadiums, the value of regular season games). Philosophically, I have a huge issue with 2 teams being placed in a psuedo championship game by pollsters and computers. If one polled the pollsters, how many Utah or Boise State games have they seen, versus Texas or Florida? So how do they know who's better? I'm so tired of hearing the phrase "style points". If the "championship" was awarded in 1986, or 2001 for that matter, on style points, Miami would have 2 more "championships" to their name. Why even play the game?

One of the reasons we watch sports, and sports are so great, is that they are completely objective - play the games, see who wins. Except in FBS college football. Play the games, have style points, hope the pollsters think you are good enough. That is ridiculous. "Sports" that are based on subjective style points to determine a champion: Diving, Gymnastics, Synchronized Swimming, Figure Skating, College Football. Mmmmhmmm.

Mest's CFB Playoff:
- 16 teams, chosen by selection committee, no automatic conference births
- Playoff starts 2nd weekend of December. All conf championships etc must be completed by 1st week of December
- Top 8 seeds get the 1st round games at home 1 vs 16 and so on
- After 1st round, re-seed. Top 4 remaining seeds get the 2nd round games at home
- Final Four and Championships at nuetral sites, i.e. Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, LA. Sites will be bid and awarded just like the CBB Final Four. Except that there will be 3 sites versus 1
- Championship game is just after New Years
- ESPN/ABC pays 8 gazillion dollars to televise

That's the start, possibly go to 24 teams in the future. Tell me this wouldn't generate some excitement? You'd want to play the playoff games and get it done with around New Year's since most schools are on break then anyway. (As if traveling during the school year affects anything, but at least you're under the guise of protecting the "student/athlete".)

(Footnote #1: What was the most memorable Bowl Game of 2007 (2006 season)? Not UF/OSU. It was Boise St/Okla. Yet Boise St wins all their games and gets squat. That is un-American.)

(Footnote #2: This is why Penn St. has a sign on their stadium that says "1994 NY Times National Champion". Why not? It's just as arbitrary as the AP or ESPN Coaches or BCS poll.)

We all have our moments (sports edition)
(last updated 5/23/2009) Now that I'm reaching the point in my life where my athletic endeavors consist mainly of sitting my tired ass on the couchnwatching sports, sprinkled with the occasional round of golf, the most I can do is reflect on a few of the athletic highlights of my youth. As the title says, we all have our moments, even if they are on the smallest stage. While none of these have an impact outside of my insular world, they are the most indelible images of my life; as a classic underacheiver (just ask my coaches), they are all I have.

The Plan: My high school was a tiny Catholic school (less than 500 students) that is a basketball stalwart, with a great feeder program and 2 state championships in 25 years. To this end, and to my previous point, at best I would have been a bench warmer or a role player at best for the effort of 6 days a week of hard practices. As an alternative, each parish also fielded a high school basketball team playing in a Catholic league, in a much more casual atmosphere - kind of like college intramurals. Much more to my liking. My parish, St. Joseph's, was a dying inner city one; the grade school was even more austere than my high school, with ~200 students. So we played the underdog role well. My 8th grade graduating class had 7 boys total. However, beating the odds, 4 of the 7 went on to be honors students at the high school and pretty decent athletes, including myself. We all were players on the St. Joe's high school team, and were league title contenders by senior year. Our biggest competition came from the parish - St. Catherine's - that was the biggest and wealthiest in the county. They typically won the title by default. So at least in our minds we lived and played the Rocky to their Apollo Creed.
When we played them in the regular season, my buddy Josh and I got to run a play we had been planning for the better part of 4 years. Since we were both over 6 feet tall, we always thought we could run an inbounds play where the inbounder, from under the basket, would fake a standard pass to a guard and lob it up to the flashing cutter, who would shoot it before landing. The element of surprise, you know. So mid-way through the 2nd half, there was an out of bounds under our basket. Josh took the ball out and passing me on the way out, gave me a wink and a smile. I nodded without looking and moved the foul like extended area. The ref handed Josh the ball, he gave the fake while I cut hard to the hoop. He lobbed it up, I got just enough of an edge on the (apparently) surprised defender, went up, caught it, and laid the ball in. Oh, to be able to dunk once in your life. It's a play that's probably been run successfully 10,000 times, but to execute yourself is quite a feeling, especially after talking about it for years.
Of course we lost the game by one, and also lost the championship game to the same team later that year. Such is the normal life of the underdog. But like the NCAA song says, at least we had "one shining moment".

The Block: Rather than studying, I spent quite a bit of time at the gym my freshman year of college. And my grades reflected it. But, it also gave me one moment to remember.
Playing one evening in a pickup game, the kid playing point guard on our team gave up a bad turnover. I was just above the foul line, and took off towards the defensive end once I knew what was going on. The opponent gave up the ball to a teammate who was approximately 10 feet in front of me. With no one in front of him, he glided in for an easy layup. However, I actually had some giddy up in those days. When he released the ball, I took off, benefitted from rare perfect timing, and swatted the ball off the backboard just before it hit it. The ball was about 11 feet off the ground. It wound up halfway to the foul line, in my teammate's hands going the other way.
Another play that's been done 50,000 times, but since I have never and will never dunk in a game, it sure feels good to get one at the apex, send it back, and keep it in play going the other way.

Aim for the Flag: In high school gym class, we played what at least to me seemed the gamut of sports. This included wiffle ball in the school gym when the weather wouldn't allow us outside. I am an average fielder but have always been a good hitter, probably because we played "no base" baseball (hitter, pitcher, one or two fielders, no running of bases) all summer long with the limited neighborhood kids available. Our game in the gym was similar, with more players. The back wall of the gym was a home run. If I remember correctly, there were bases, but this story doesn't involve running them.
I recall much of the game. What I do recall was less than 5 minutes left in class, and me up to bat in the bottom of whatever inning it was, that being the last inning due to the time, and our team down a run. Up to that point I was 3 for 3 with 3 home runs.
So it was up to me. The pitcher sent a wiffle ball slurve my way. I stayed with the pitch and drove it hard and deep. (There's an expression/metaphor) There was the American flag hung at the top of the "home run" wall, just below the ceiling line. My hit continued to rise andrise until it hit the flag on the first row of stars. I suppose it was the wiffle ball equivalent of Albert Pujols' shot against Brad Lidge in the 2005 playoffs.
Game tied. 4 for 4 with 4 home runs. Our gym teacher, Mr. Arty, called for a "hit off", where the first home run wins the game. So of course, he goes with 2 guys who played on the school team. And I sat on the sideline. And I watched ground ball after ground ball until I missed half of my lunch period. Sigh.

Twist and Shout:

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