Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Imperfect Storm

In the 1990s, certain Native American groups pressured numerous professional and collegiate organizations to change their nickname from what these groups perceived as stereotypes offensive to their culture—among these "offenders," the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Washington Redskins, and St. John’s Redmen. According to the St. John’s University Web site, “Redmen” derived not from the traditional derogatory slang for a Native American, but from the fact that “the men of St. John’s wore red.” Even so, St. John’s caved to pressure and renamed itself the “Red Storm” in 1994.

Personally, I never understood the rationale for “Red Storm.” The only sensible connection that it possesses is to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a gargantuan red-tinged storm that’s been whirling for centuries through the Jovian atmosphere.

That’s not very practical for an Earth-based team. Whose sponsorship is the university’s board of governors trying to lure? Sure, Jupiter, king of the planets, is a thousand times more voluminous than Earth and potentially harbors a colossal fan base. But even assuming life does exist in its frozen, toxic clouds, it's most likely the microbial variety. And if those microbes could make the 700-million-mile journey to Earth, so many would fit in a single seat of Carnesecca Arena as to render corresponding ticket sales totally unprofitable for the university.

Poor marketing move.

Much wiser would have been to rechristen the university’s nickname the St. John’s Wort. Pharmaceutical companies toss advertising dollars as freely as UConn guards toss alley-oops over St. John’s heads, and with the 7-12 Red Storm currently dead last in the Big East, makers of this herbal treatment for depression could find a goldmine among tortured St. John’s students and alumni. Frankly, how can St. John’s University hope to compete against Georgetown, Syracuse, and the other beasts of the Big East without becoming the St. John’s Wort and cashing in on America’s insatiable need for medication? Yes, St. John’s wort may cause sensitivity to sunlight, but when you’re going to school in Queens...the less time spent outside, the better.

DISCLAIMER: Less than sixty seconds before I posted this, ESPN SportsCenter’s upcoming topics displayed on the right side of the screen included the headline “St. John’s Warts.” For the record, ESPN’s pun in no way inspired or gave rise to this post. In truth, I conceived the idea for this post six weeks ago—a fact verifiable by Mount Drinkmore’s Dave, who worked the graphic genius that you see above via e-mail on December 20, 2007—although the text had not been fully fleshed out. This morning’s headline on ESPN merely served as the catalyst to finish this post immediately, lest some Cheeto-fingered ESPN junkie falsely accuse me of lifting ideas.

I would also like to express my deep admiration for ESPN anchorwoman Linda Cohn’s thighs, so seldomly yet tantalizingly displayed during full-body shots.

(Graphic enhancement courtesy of Mount Drinkmore's Dave; St. John's Red Storm logo copyright St. John's University; photo of Jupiter courtesy of NASA.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Here a Goose, There a Goose...

On January 8, Goose Gossage was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his ninth year of eligibility. The fireballing fireman was one of the premier closers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, thrice leading the American League in saves, en route to a lifetime total of 310—fourth on the all-time list upon his retirement. Regardless of your personal feeling on whether (or how many) relief pitchers deserve enshrinement in Cooperstown, one fact is indisputable: the hallowed walls of baseball’s Hall now boast a pair of Geese: Goose Gossage and 1920s slugger, Goose Goslin.

No sooner does Gossage emerge from the decade-long battle amongst Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters over the Hall-worthiness of relief pitchers than he finds himself immersed in an even stickier debate: Just who is the Hall of Fame’s greatest Goose?

It’s futile to debate the statistical virtues of a slugging left-fielder versus a flame-throwing reliever. Clearly, both were among baseball’s best during their heyday, and each vaulted his team into multiple World Series. So what remains to settle the issue?

Why, prominent facial features, of course.

Goose Goslin was renowned for his colossal proboscis, which took up much of Griffith Stadium’s outfield and may well have been the source of his nickname. Born in Salem, New Jersey, some say Goslin’s nose grew to enormous proportion as a direct result of the nuclear power plants located in his hometown. But as many pundits fail to realize, Goslin’s nose had reached its generous size more than half a century before the first Salem nuclear plant commenced operation.

Goose Gossage, as many will recall, sported in his prime an intimidating horseshoe moustache, which, when combined with his surly on-field attitude and blazing fastball, lent him something of a demonic aura. I once saw him throw a fastball behind a batter, leaving the hitter shaken and contemplating a career change to geology. Gossage’s horseshoe moustache irrefutably contributed to his greatest success, for his career stats demonstrate that his glory years in New York and San Diego coincided with donning his overgrown facial hair, whereas he had largely struggled while clean-shaven with the White Sox. Such mustachioed success was recognized by opponents, culminating infamously in 1979, when Carlton Fisk of the arch-rival Red Sox charged the mound with a Gillette Atra.

Goose Goslin, too, used his facial attributes to his advantage. Although one of the most feared sluggers of his day, Goslin was hit by a pitch 55 times, almost all of them on his nose—including a key 1931 contest in which his bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in the 9th inning enabled the fifth-place St. Louis Browns to cut the mighty Philadelphia Athletics' lead to 17-3. (After the game, a bandaged and bruised Goslin called his effort, "My gweatest day in basebawl.") His nose also played a vital role in the 1935 World Series by providing shade for a laboring Alvin Crowder late in Game 4. Crowder credited Goslin's nasal shade with conserving enough of his strength to shut out the Cubs over the final three innings and preserve victory for the Tigers.

Clearly, each Goose's unique facial feature contributed mightily to his success. Enough to make each Goose a Hall of Famer? It's difficult to assess...although the majority of animal-nicknamed players go on to Hall of Fame careers—Ducky Medwick, Rabbit Maranville, Catfish Hunter, Chick Hafey, Turkey Stearnes, Mule Suttles. (Frankly, Cooperstown is as much zoo as it is museum...)

Bill James, one of baseball's preeminent sabermetricians, awarded the following total of career "win shares"—his measure of an individual player's contribution to his team's performance—to each Goose:

Goose Goslin: 355
Goose Gossage: 223

Such a large discrepancy is, of course, a result of comparing a relief pitcher against a position player, who, obviously, plays far more often—and thus has far more impact—on his team's fortunes. Even so, such figures swing well in favor of Goslin as the greater Goose.

However, the win-shares system doesn't take into account that Gossage, who pitched for six years in the all-night party of the Big Apple, probably got laid a helluva lot more.

Yup, boners are more important than homers. I've gotta go with Goose Gossage as the Baseball Hall of Fame's greatest Goose.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dream: A Muddy Little Christmas With The Zombies

Hold onto your hats for this one—I am going to see this boat my grandmother bought. It's a fairly sizable fishing boat. Me, Melissa, and my family are all going. We get there and the boat resides in this football field–sized swimming pool. We get on and just tool around the pool for an hour or so. The pool is also filthy with leaves and dirt everywhere and is in the middle of nowhere. After that fun, Melissa and I head back to this house we have on the plains. We have to get back before dark to board it up because the "zombies" are coming. They do come, but don't get in. The next day, we go to my parents' house to find that Melissa's mom has left Christmas presents for us in the mud in the back yard, by my old tire swing. Also, our cat is on a leash and is trying to break free. Again, we rush home because the zombies are coming.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Worst Idea Ever #731: Mick Jagger and David Bowie's "Dancin' In The Street"

It probably seemed like a good idea on paper. Two friends....perhaps more than friends.....both highly talented and respected singers in their own right, covering a Motown classic from back in the era when they themselves first made their mark. Okay, I can accept that. But then there was the VIDEO. Capturing some of the most heinous, over-the-top footage since the crowd reaction to the stripping robot in Metropolis, this video would make Ziggy Stardust crush his own sweet hands in horror. Perhaps the only way it could have been worse is if they included the bubbles from the Rolling Stones' "It's only Rock 'n' Roll" video. The disgusted look Charlie Watts gives as the bubbles overtake him says it all in that one. Sadly, he was not there to be the voice of reason for Mick and Bowie's misadventure.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Philadelphia: The City That Loves You to Look Back

We Philadelphians are tortured sports souls. We haven’t known the thrill of a major sports championship since the 76ers won the NBA title in 1983 (and even that is difficult to savor because, well, it’s basketball…). We bemoan our fate whenever our Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers break our hearts in their annual ritual of defeat. So desperate for a champion are Philadelphians that we grasp at any homegrown straw—human or animal—in hopes of salving our collective self-esteem: Bernard Hopkins, the 2004 Saint Joseph’s Hawks, Smarty Jones. We are forced to revisit past glory because we enjoy none in the present, our media endlessly regurgitating the long-gone triumphs of the 1980 Phillies, the Broad Street Bullies, and Chuck Bednarik’s 1960 Eagles. Many Philadelphia fans weren’t yet born the last time one of our major sports teams won a title, and most of us exist in a state of perpetual nostalgia to cope with the frustration over today’s teams.

To ease Philadelphians’ suffering, I propose combining our insatiable penchant for living in the past with the in-vogue marketing ploy of “throwback” uniforms and hold a throwback parade for one of our past championship teams. Instead of incessantly booing our athletes and badmouthing them on local call-in radio shows, let’s get the entire city lining Broad Street for the yesteryear glory we haven’t experienced in decades. The city could hold a parade for, say, the pennant-winning 1915 Phillies. Fly in some distant relatives of the original team and dress them in those vintage woolen uniforms. A column of cars parading Grover Cleveland Alexander’s 5th cousin, thrice removed, and a bunch of other anonymous yokels down Broad Street as they wave to two million adoring fans while wondering what the hell they’re doing there is just the shot in the arm Philadelphians need. At City Hall, a descendant of manager Pat Moran can thank the town for its passionate support and then urge continued isolationism in the wake of the Lusitania torpedoing to a confused crowd. The parade could continue up Broad to Lehigh—the former site of Baker Bowl, the 1915 Phillies home—and conclude with the septuagenarian grandchildren of Erskine Mayer and Gavvy Cravath getting checked for gout at the medical center that now stands there.

(Graphic enhancement on banner courtesy of Dave.)

Friday, January 4, 2008

One Missed Call I Won't Miss

So just about every day for the last 3 weeks, I have been bombarded by commercials for one of the lamest-looking movies I have ever seen: One Missed Call. Seriously, does anyone want to see this garbage? Some amalgam of The Ring, The Grudge, and every other J-Horror film of the last 10 years. That's not even to mention it doesn't look even remotely frightening. This is what we've been reduced to? Fear of missing cell-phone calls? Since the movie is being released today, I am praying the promotional campaign will finally stop. That is, until the sequel: Two Missed Calls.

Indiana Jones or Indiana's Pride?

While re-watching The Fugitive several weeks ago—an excellent film and a real testament to amputees with a can-do attitude—it occurred to me that although Harrison Ford gave a strong performance, his role would have been better played by David Letterman. Sure, this taut thriller called for moments of deadpan dramatics, but Ford played it a little too straight. Starring opposite the equally intense Tommy Lee Jones, the film ached desperately for levity—a facet the serious-minded Ford lacks. There was no give-and-take between Richard Kimble and Deputy Gerard, no mocking, no cynical wisecracks—a commodity Letterman could have delivered in droves. One of the Late Show host’s trademark quips through his goofy, gap-toothed smile while standing at gunpoint in the dam’s tunnel would have elevated The Fugitive from merely excellent to the realm of Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and Gone With the Wind.

After a two-month hiatus, Letterman returned to the air Wednesday—sporting a decidedly Richard Kimble–esque beard…fully validating my theory.

Therefore, I offer my Top 10 reasons why David Letterman is a better actor than Harrison Ford.

Drum roll, please...

10. While being prepped for quintuple bypass, Letterman kept surgical team in stitches; surgeons find Ford a colossal bore concerned only with improving his medical condition.

9. Ford cannot enunciate with a cigar in his mouth.

8. Ford's portrayal of "Alexei Vostrikov" in K-19: The Widowmaker clearly derived from Letterman's "Old Salt" in Cabin Boy.

7. When Letterman comes home at 2 AM, girlfriend buys "flat tire" story; when Ford comes home at 2 AM, Calista Flockhart remains suspicious.

6. Letterman spent several years as an innovative television weatherman; Ford doesn't even know what a "dewpoint" is.

5. While Ford was starring in one of the biggest bombs of 1979 (Hanover Street), Letterman electrified nation as "Ellsworth," a shady group therapist, in Episode 17 of Mork and Mindy. (I recall watching the episode as a youngster and thinking, "America's finally found its new Brando.")

4. Harrison Ford has several false teeth; all of David Letterman's teeth are false.

3. Ford made a career playing the same characters (Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan); Letterman versatile enough to host "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Stupid Human Tricks."

2. Harrison Ford had zero on-screen chemistry with Larry "Bud" Melman.

And the No. 1 reason why David Letterman is a better actor than Harrison Ford:

1. Letterman turned down the role of the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day; Ford was never offered the role.

(Photo of Harrison Ford and The Fugitive copyright Warner Brothers. Photos of David Letterman copyright CBS. Outstanding graphic enhancements courtesy of Mount Drinkmore’s Dave.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

You Are Now In The United States of Pottersville

Last week on Christmas Eve, Melissa and I were watching It's a Wonderful Life, and I began to get this strangely familiar feeling whenever a scene with Mr. Potter would come up. Like I had seen him earlier that day, or had been seeing him quite often for a long period of time. Then it hit me: Mr. Potter is Dick Cheney. Could Lionel Barrymore still be alive and maniacally playing out the worst fears we had of Mr. Potter taking over the Building & Loan...and then THE WORLD? I think the photographic evidence is more than enough to make the case:

Dream: Doppelganger Gets The Mail

So I had this dream the other night in which I move into a new house and creepy things start to happen—objects being moved around, disembodied voices, all of the usual stuff you hear about. But then I look out the window one day and see MYSELF getting the mail!!! In the dream, this is absolutely terrifying, but it seems far less so in waking reality. In fact, once you got past the uncomfortable, possibly demonic nature of it, who wouldn't want another them to get the mail, get the paper, and maybe do a little yard work?

Of course, when I woke up, I almost had a heart attack because the Christmas stocking I had hung the night before looked like someone's arm peeking around the corner of the bedroom door. Maybe my OWN arm, with the mail!