Thursday, September 30, 2004

Jeff: Tom Hanks is a liar

I think I might have to stop trusting actors. Stop believing them when they say "I'll be back" or "FREEDOM!!!" or "in the poker game of life, women are always the rake" (wait that last one is definitely true). In the movie a League of Their Own, trusted actor, academy award winner and the guy who once jumped around on a big piano, Tom Hanks, uttered the words "Are you crying?!?! There's no crying in baseball!!! There's no crying!!!" Well Mr. Hanks, or should I say Jimmy Dugan, you sir are wrong! After what I saw from America's past time this past week, there unfortuneatley is some crying in baseball (there was also the story of a guy getting shot in the leg ON A TEAM BUS, but he wasn't seriously injured because he was wearing cheerleading boots while dressing up as a USC cheerleader. I don't even know where to begin with that one, so i'll leave it for now).

Last weekend, ANgels outfielder Jose Guillen was pulled from the game for a pinch runner by his manager (and former World Champ as a player with the Dodgers in '88) Mike Soscia. Guillen, who was hitting .297 with almost 30 HR's and 100 RBI, threw a temper tantrum any 3 year old would be proud of. Yelling and cursing and throwing things (his glove, helmet and contempt) in the direction of his manager who was at the other end of the dugout.

Two nights ago Los Angeles Dodger Milton Bradley (insert board game joke here) got into a fight with a fan--in LA!!! With a DODGER FAN!!! Is there something in the water in LA? Bradley had to be restrained by security guards and then was escorted off the field. On his way, he removed his jersey, which as anyone would tell you is always a classy move, and challenged all the fans above the Dodger dugout (again let me point out these were DODGERS FANS) to a fight before disappearing into the clubhouse.

Now, if this were the NBA, you'd see the headcoach and various other people from team management running after their star player, coddling them, cooing at them and promising to make things better. Thankfully, this wasn't the NBA and there's still a few people in baseball who have a backbone. There's still a few lone souls left who believe in this thing called disipline. These are people who probably spanked their kids, actually said the word "no" to their children and didn't give them everything they wanted. Basically they didn't put up with brats, and knew just how to treat these two so called "men" in baseball. Guillen, following a discussion after the game, was suspended for the season--including the playoffs. Scoscia said today that even if the player's association fights to get Guillen's suspension overturned (I can't decide who's going to hell faster--pro owners or the player's associations. It's a dead heat right now), he will not put Guillen on the field the rest of the year, and MLBPA can sue him for all he cares.

In LA, Major League Baseball suspended Bradley for the rest of the season (which is now 4 whole games) and the Dodgers are not going to appeal. Keep in mind, Bradley started the season in Spring Training with Cleveland, where he failed to run out a ground ball, was benched, started crying and throwing another tantrum and was promptly traded to LA two days later. Without their so-called best player, the INdians played far above expectations. LA wanted him, and this is what they get. I'd be showing him the door in the offseason. I'd be keeping him off the post-season roster. Of course I'm one of those few crazy lone souls left who believes in discipline and respect and not catering to brats (closed circuit to TheDan--and I'm a democrat! HA!). I applaud Soscia for his stand. I would have liked to have seen the Dodgers suspend Bradley before MLB did. Bradley said today he's going to change his tune, and get counselling. I'll believe it when I see it.

Baseball players may be THE most spoiled athletes in sports right now--although NBA players are close. But it's nice to see a few examples of people standing up to them, and showing some "old school" values. Crazy things like putting the team first. Who knows? This kind of thinking might actually with the Patriots, Pistons, Flames--oh wait, we no longer have professional hockey, sorry--and the Marlins last year. You know this might just be crazy enough to work. Somebody should alert the Portland Trail Blazers to this. They might want to know. And somebody see if there's any real-life Jimmy Dugans who don't want to put up with crying, sniveling, whining players. The game would be better for it.

Now about the guy in the cheerleading outfit getting shot in the leg...

Monday, September 27, 2004

Jeremy: Who Needs Cable When You've Got Midgets?

When you don't have cable your daytime television options are limited. Right now I have the option to watch The Price Is Right, The View, Maury Povich, a local variety news program, Celebrity Justice, Judge Joe Brown, or an infomercial about Oreck Vacuum cleaners.
Now the obvious choice, of course is the infomercial. I just can't get enough of that over-the-top David Oreck comedy.
But, perhaps your opinion on the matter will change when I tell you what is on Maury Povich. "Wild Opposites... & They're Madly In Love." You've made a wise choice my friend!
It's important that Maury makes us aware of the fact that somewhere out there a 7 foot woman who is dating a midget. A 22 year old red-head is dating a 63 year old man. A 73 year old blind man is married to a 400 pound gal who happens to be wearing leapord print stretch pants. An adult film star from New York is dating an overweight Hispanic bus diver from Florida. That is just good television!
There's craziness all around us. Thank goodness for Maury Povich.
Here's a couple of quick notes on September 25 and 26 games...
*The beauty that is the Gophers running game continued against N'Western. 251 yards and 3 touchdowns. Does anyone doubt this is the best rushing attack in the country? Maroney and Barber are the top two rushers in the Big 10. There's no joke here, I just had to let that be known.
*The Vikes limped to their second win of the season over the Bad News Bears. Still no sign of Chris Hovan. Also, Onterrio Smith will have his appeal to the league heard in just a couple of bong hits. I mean weeks.
*The Falcons are 3-0 without T.J. Duckett and Vick is not having a particularly good season. What the?
*The marathon known as the Packers/Indy game ended in a Colts win. Suddenly the Pack has two losses and too many guys with dreads.
*USC finally looked like they might be beatable as the mathmaticians from Stanford had them against the ropes. USC's big break came when the Stanford linebackers broke out into a discussion about the many ways to prove the Pythagorean Theorem.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Jeremy: Don't Spabble On Me

*My fantasy football team (Baxter's Bad Ass Bra Straps) is 1-1. Note: my team is 1-1. I am not. I feel a little detached from my team. In the past I have had a particular affinity for my team, following the individual players, cheering for them, coaching them to greatness. This year? Well, I just can't get through to these guys. Nobody has played at the top of their game yet, and I am just beside myself. Partially I think I am at fault. I need to spend more time getting to know them as people, not just names on a screen that are working to get me points. They do have a bigger purpose, and as long as that purpose get me more points then I'm okay with it.

*Dear Bud Selig: Can we skip the rest of the baseball season and go right to the playoffs?

*Is it possible that what's wrong with USA Basketball is also what's wrong with the U.S. Ryder Cup team? Phil Mickelson switches equipment just weeks before the Ryder Cup. Selfish. Hmmm. Does that sound familiar? I'm not saying that Lefty lost the tournament for us by any means, but it seems that U.S. golfers treat the Ryder Cup similar to how basketball players treat the Olympics: it's important but not as important as the tour. They get more pumped up for the Master's and the U.S. Open than they do for the Ryder Cup. Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the world, but his Ryder Cup record is horrendous for a golfer of his merit (5 wins-8 losses-2 draws). What's going on here?

*Is NASCAR still going on?

*Whatever happened to Icky Woods? Remember the Icky shuffle? How much do you think Icky would get fined for doing the Shuffle in Tagliabue's NFL these days?

*Vince Carter is telling the Raptors that he wants out of Toronto. I hope that nobody is surprised by this move. Everytime Vince misses a shot he limps away blaming his misfortune on something else... it must be the Raptors fault that he's the single most over-rated player in the NBA today. Well, maybe not, but whatever it is, it simply can't be because he is a one-dimensional, injury prone, self-serving and defensively inept Nike cash cow.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Jeremy: Amarillo Jer...

I'm pretty typical. The typical guy, I would say. I like simple things that guys like. Sports. Beer. Frank Sinatra. Blondes. Brunettes. Redheads. Trucks. Guitar rock. Chicken wings. Dirty jokes. Country music (okay, not all guys). Camaraderie. Explosions. Red meat.
I know what I like, I don't analyze why I like it, and I don't make apologies for it.
There is one thing, however, that I like that I often feel a little bit guilty about. It's one of those guilty pleasures in life that I don't partake of often, that I don't hang my hat on, and that I fantasize about, but would never actually pursue. I am of course, talking about gambling. When it comes to this guilty pleasure I am most definitely my father's son. With a very healthy dose of discretion.
Last weekend I was in the most testosterone filled situation imaginable to man: a bachelor party. This one had more testosterone than most, however. There were 10 guys at a hunting cabin in the woods. We drove through the mud in our trucks to get there. We drank beer. Told dirty jokes. Shot guns at nothing in particular. Played with fire. Wore cowboys hats. Ate greasy food and meat off of the bone. And for the life of me, besides ripping on the bachelor for his soon to be lack of bachelorhood, I do not remember one single solitary discussion about women. IT WAS FANTASTIC!!!
During the course of the testosterone slinging, we did what red-blooded American men do when it's dark, women aren't around and we need something to arouse us. We played poker. I won't go into the details of the game, mostly because I didn't win. But I also didn't lose. In fact, nobody won.
We were playing with match-sticks and empty shotgun shells as currency. No real money involved. Match-sticks worth one. Shotgun shells worth two. Because no real money was involved, of course, people were reckless. The Dan (our host) went "all-in" on about the fourth hand of the game, and busted out. A couple of hands later, Tim did the same. Followed not long after by Grusmama and Luke. Chris, Mark, Collins and myself seemed to be the only guys not betting the farm on mediocre hands.
Now I would never go so far as to say that any of these gents are bad poker players. Dan was the first to go out and I know for a fact that he is, in fact, quite good at poker. I would say that I am a serviceable poker player. I know the ropes, I know what to look for, but I only know how to play the cards in my hand, and I don't know how to play the other players. In the end the guy with the most match-sticks and shotgun shells (Collins) quit because he was bored, so the rest of us bowed out as well. The bottom line? There was no money in this game, so there was no heart in this game, therefore, no real game. If even two dollars per man were involved, a modest amount, the game would have been more balanced, people would have bet more conservatively and it would have been fun. As it was we only stood to lose what we never had in the first place and only stood to win what we never wanted anyway. So why did it matter if it took 5 minutes or 5 hours to lose?
So here's what I learned. I don't like poker. I like gambling.
In a real poker game, if you are like me and you don't know how to read other players "tells," all you can play is your cards and your stack. If your stack isn't worth a hill of beans to you then all you are really playing is your cards. At this point you aren't playing a game against anyone, you are just hoping against the odds that you get the cards you want.
The game is Texas Hold 'Em. Say you have the jack of hearts and the 4 of spades. If it was a real poker game, money involved, you might not even be in the hand because you know that the odds are not in your favor. But since it's match-sticks and shotgun shells, you stay in the hand, because there is a very unrealistic chance that two more jacks could fall, or two more fours, etc. Again, an unrealistic chance, but a chance nonetheless. The cards fall, they don't help you, but the guy next to you bets. At this point you don't really have a chance, but you now change your strategy on this hand from a shot in the dark (which was a bad strategy in the first place) to a bluff (which at this point is an even worse strategy). But again, it's not dollars, quarters or even pennies. It's match-sticks.
You see where I'm going with this. If everyone agreed to play the game strait up, with limits, as if they had real money, this kind of game of poker might have a chance of being entertaining. But because it's not money, even if people agree, they can't stick to it. And even if they can stick to it, IT'S STILL NOT REAL MONEY. Money is what makes the game exciting and interesting. No matter how small the amount of money is. Money is the thing that makes your heart beat faster when the flop falls and you've suddenly got three-of-a-kind. During our match-stick game I had a full-house fall to me on the flop and instead of my heart jumping up to my throat my first thought was "oh, crap, who is going to be the first to make a stupid bet so that I have to make what looks like a stupid bet to stay in this hand?" Do you know what the odds are of getting a full house on the flop in Hold 'Em? I don't either, but it's not high. And I wasn't even excited!!!
So it appears that I don't have a gambling problem, I have an excitement problem. I need excitement. And the thing that excites me about poker and blackjack isn't the games, it's the miniscule amounts of money that I put on the line in order to play them. And therein lies the rub.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Jeremy: Don't you smell that smell?

In the words of a fine poet: "Ooooh, that smell. Can't you smell that smell? Ooooh, that smell. The smell of it surrounds you." Okay, so the poet is Ronnie Van Zant, the lead singer from Lynard Skynard. Still, do you smell that? The leaves. No, not that. The cooler air? No, not that. Clean sweatshirts to keep us warm? No, not that either.
Football. I'm talking about football. Do you smell it? It's the sweetest smell in the world. It's the smell of life being breathed back into us. The smell of testosterone and bratwurst and beer and... well, of everything that's good and wholesome and American.
College football opened last weekend, but this weekend, without further delay, there's nothing more to wait for, because all forms of football are officially now in full swing. It hit me late Thursday night. It was about 11:30 p.m. (CST) and I was in the process of picking Jim Kleinsasser as the token Viking for my fantasy football team. I always have trouble believing my gut when it tells it tells me to trust a Viking to anchor my fantasy team. This year it wasn't an issue. I had the first overall pick in our keeper league (LaDainian Tomlinson), so I didn't have to choose again until pick 20 (Matt Hasselbeck). By that time Moss and Daunte were long gone, so I had no internal dilemma this year. Still, I have to have ONE Wiking don't I? Seems reasonable. But I digress.
Anyway, that's about the time that it hit me. I started singing. "It's the most wonderful tiiiiiiimmmmmme of the year." Forget that Christmas crap (at least for the sake of this post). THIS is the time of year when my senses are most acute, when I have the excitement and wonderment of a child. During football season each weekend is like opening it's very own specially wrapped present, and the gift is for you and I to share. It's for the whole world to open and enjoy and revel in until... yes, the next present. And the next present comes only ONE WEEK LATER!!! And do you know what the beauty of these presents are? It's never underwear!!! You will never go to bed on a Sunday night during football season saying "well, I guess that was okay, but I was hoping for baseball." And even if you did, guess what? Football gives itself a chance to redeem itself one last time each week on (queue Hank Williams Jr.) Monday Night Football.
My goodness. I'm sweating. I got a little fired up there. This is the most wonderful time of the year. I will fight to the death on this. No other sport even comes close to football in its purity. No other sport touches it in terms of anticipation. Every other sport oversaturates itself to the public (except for college hockey). And nobody is passionate like football fans. (I would tell you that my body isn't shaking, ever so slightly, right now, but that would be a lie.)
Honestly, if the Gophers and the Vikings lose on the same weekend it takes me a minimum of 96 hours before I get back into a good mood. (I still haven't recovered from how the Gophs crapped the bed against Michigan last year or how the Vikes let the Cards keep them out of the playoffs.) I'm a mess after a double-loss weekend. I've had relationships that don't affect me this much. No lie.
So welcome back football. Baseball is fickle. Hockey and basketball are corrupt. And they all drag on far too long. Even the Olympics couldn't quench our thirst for real sport. We've been waiting patiently for you all this time.
Welcome back! (Queue "Welcome Back Cotter" music) WELCOME BACK, WELCOME BACK, WELCOME BAAAACK!!!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Jeremy: Gophers: 704 yards of Whoopass!!!

I think that most, if not all, of my friends and family would agree that I'm a "glass is half-full kind of guy." True, I have a healthy skepticism about life. True, I have a decidedly over-exaggerated anger toward some things. But for the most part, I have a positive attitude towards life. (Truthfully, I've always believed that instead of "Is the glass half-full or half-empty," a better question is "What's in the glass?")
With this in mind I would like to begin by talking about what I found to be particularly "half-empty" about my beloved Gophers performance on Saturday night. My biggest complaint all of last year was that the defensive pass rush was incredibly weak. Rushing only 3 guys most of the time and almost never blitzing is not the way to win in the Big 10. I think the Gophers proved that last year. Saturday night against Toledo this still seemed to be the case. I don't recall seeing even one hard blitz, and once again, usually only 3 men going after the quarterback. And even when they did blitz it was with a late linebacker that didn't seem to make much of an extra push. They did seem to be doing a little bit more stunt rushing than last year, but that was the only change I could see. The entire second half my uncle and I were constantly yelling "where's the pass rush?" That's my complaint.
But guess what? That's it!!!
My favorite sports columnist Sid Hartman (cough!!!) is already calling the Gophers underrated. I won't go that far, but I will say that the Gophs already looked like a well-oiled machine on Saturday night.
My biggest concern going into this season was probably everybody's biggest concern: quarterback. Brian Cupito still has not taken a snap in a big time college football game, but what he did on Saturday night should put everyone's fears at least to the side for the time being. I know it did mine.
First his stat-line. 10 completions on 12 attempts, 279 yards in the air and one touchdown. Gopher receivers were wide open all night and time after time Cupito found them and hit them in stride. He showed an unbelievable poise in the pocket, an incredible accuracy on his throws and an ability to throw on the run. It was clear from the first series that I saw him play that not only was it his turn to be under center, but he was ready to be there, he was comfortable being there, and he was going to make the most of the opportunity.
My knock on Abdul Khaliq was always that he was a great athlete, but he just was not a good decision maker. I'm not here to bash Khaliq, he led us to some incredible wins. But he continually had trouble recognizing open receivers, when he did find them he had trouble hitting them with catchable passes, and he often opted to run over throwing to an open receiver. He was a great runner, but that was the greatest dimension he brought to the offense: his threat to run. Cupito does not have the athletic ability, the cannon of an arm, the threat to run or the size of Khaliq, but what he brings to the offense is going to bring a dimension to this team that should be very fun to watch.
The rest of the offense followed their new leader without missing a beat. 415 yards on the ground, 289 yards through the air. Do the math! That's right: 704 yards of total offense (second most in school history).
The offensive line was UN-BE-LIEVABLE. Cupito had all the time to throw in the world all night long. Jared Ellerson continued as the featured receiver with over 100 yards receiving on only 4 catches.
The run blocking was obviously adequate, although I thought they could have opened up some bigger holes. The Barber/Maroney Show along with their new sidekick Amir Pinnix produced 5 touchdowns on the ground. A note on Barber. He is probably my favorite part about watching this team. With his speed and quickness you would think that he would run around people. But instead, when he is confronted by a potential tackler, he lowers his shoulder and tries to go through them. He runs like he actually WANTS to hit people. Punter Rhys Lloyd even joined in the running festivities with 28 yards on two fake punts.
One more note on the rushing game. Cupito's rushing stats? Zero yards on zero rushes. Doesn't seem like it hurt the attack.
Besides the above mentioned lack of pass rush, the defense still looks very very good. They gave up over 400 yards of total offense, which isn't unheard of in college football, but through 3 1/2 quarters they only gave up seven points. Not surprisingly Toledo's quick hit passing offense produced the bulk of their yards, but the Gophers only gave up 94 yards on the ground, and for the 15th strait game the Gophers did not allow a 100 yard rusher.
As a team the Gophers are very obviously more mature. For the game they had only one penalty and no turnovers. Long time Gopher Football fans, please take a moment to revel in that phrase again: NO TURNOVERS!!!
Big 10 opponents still await us and there is still a lot of work to be done, but we'll take a 9 touchdown performance and a 42 point win over a good MAC opponent to start the season any day. True, Toledo is no Michigan, but by all accounts they should have been able to give the Gophers a decent run for their money. Either Toledo is nowhere near as good as everyone thought or the Gophers are far better than anyone imagined. Please join me in hoping for the latter.