Thursday, September 30, 2004

Live from the Windy City: My Running Diary of the First Presidential Debate

Finally, another plum opportunity for a running diary. Thanks to the magic of politics and TiVo, here we go…

8pm CST: And we’re live from "the U" in Coral Gables, FL! I didn’t realize there were any free-standing buildings left in Miami, but Jim Lehrer is moderating, John Kerry is looking wooden (in color, not posture), and W is looking spry. Keep it clean, boys, and come out fighting! Let’s get it on! All we're missing is Mills Lane.

8:03pm: Whenever John Kerry begins to speak, I just assume he’s about to recite the Gettysburg Address. I guess it’s his voice. Or the fact that he looks and sounds like one of those animatronic guys from the Hall of Presidents at Epcot.

8:09pm: Did you just hear W say "vociferously?" I think I'm having a stroke.

8:10pm: John Kerry will "hunt down and kill the terrorists wherever they are." Well, crap, he’s running for the wrong position! Let’s just nominate him Secretary of the Department of Bounty Hunting and get this Osama Bin Laden thing over with once and for all.

8:12pm: Did you know that John Kerry served in combat? I can’t believe we went twelve minutes before he mentioned it.

8:13pm: Following up on Kerry’s recent nomination to the position of Secretary of the Department of Bounty Hunting, he just told the whole world that Osama Bin Laden is in Afghanistan. Well, shit, what are we waiting for? Apparently he’s known all along! Go get him, John!

8:16pm: When did it become September the 11th? Does that make today September the 30th? Or does something horribly tragic have to happen to make a date a proper noun? Someone contact the MLA on this one.

8:20pm: How do you think John Kerry got an appointment with the same orthodontist that all the cartoon super-heroes use? Did Superman cancel on a cleaning? Anyhow, you have to give him credit—the man sports some pretty spectacular chompers. Looks like Buzz Lightyear.

8:26pm: Apparently, W plans on bringing our troops home from Iraq when the new Iraqi president calls him to confirm that "there’s stability and they’re on their way to a nation that’s free." Which one, Israel? The UAE? I’d get the hell out of there too. Everyone’s trying to kill each other.

8:30pm: Well, we’ve officially hit the 30-minute mark, and John Kerry has officially not looked at the camera yet. Maybe Jim Lehrer’s eyes are just that captivating. The funny thing is that ABC keeps switching camera angles on him so that they might catch a look or two, but he keeps shifting to look somewhere else. This little cat-and-mouse game could entertain me for at least 20 more minutes.

8:45pm: I had no idea that John Kerry served in Vietnam. Did you?

8:52pm: Well, at least W is consistent about Kerry’s inconsistency. Move along, George. We get the point.

9:00pm: 60 minutes in, and ABC hasn’t caught Kerry looking yet! Game on!

9:03pm: Finally, after a full hour, we get our first (and second) "nuculers" from W. As if he feels guilty for forcing us to wait so long, W throws us a bone by bookending his nuculers with two "moo-luhs." It was worth the wait.

9:09pm: So W spearheaded a plan to donate $200 million to the genocide victims in the Sudan. Now I’m no expert on foreign policy, and I certainly don’t know crap about politics in Africa. But if you’re in the middle of a genocide, and 50,000 people are dead, and a million more are homeless, what do you possibly buy with two hundred million dollars? Oh, that’s right. Guns.

9:13pm: In a rare moment of tenderness between the two candidates, W reveals that he’s "tryin’ to put a leash on" his twin daughters. Everyone keep an eye on Kazaa for that mpeg!

9:15pm: John Kerry proclaims: "I have never wilted in my life." I think after four hours, you’re supposed to consult a physician.

9:18pm: Just when you thought W couldn’t top the "nuculer mooluh" quiniella, he outdoes himself with his explanation of a security initiative that "disrupts the trans-shipment of information and/or weapons of mass destruction materials, and we’re been effective." My grammar-check is absolutely flabbergasted.

9:22pm: George is rolling now. Add "Vlattimer" to the W-lexicon, baby. As soon as Vlattimer is elected nuculer moolah and begins vociferously trans-shipping WMDs to evildoers around the world, we’ll know that W was right all along.

9:26pm: Finally, in the 86th minute of this debate, John Kerry decides to look into the camera. I guess he was building anticipation toward the big finish.

9:27pm: Had you heard that John Kerry was in Vietnam? I didn’t realize he was a veteran.

9:30pm: Apparently Kerry was willing to concede defeat in the battle of whose hot daughters would show up at the end of the show. It’s kind of like Wheel of Fortune when they bring the rest of the family up to hug and kiss Pat Sajak as the credits roll. Exactly what obligation did the Kerry girls have to attend that caused them to miss this event? Very iffy. Another poor showing for the Kerry girls. After the debacle at the VMAs, I thought they’d be looking to make a statement.

Well, after a fun-filled evening of John Kerry being inconsistent and George Bush being cavalier, the real winner was probably Kim Jong-Il. But if I have to, I’ll give Kerry the slight edge after Round 1. See you boys next week at Wash U!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Not so Bright

Al Gore has an editorial in the New York Times today titled "How to Debate George Bush". What editor would have the guts to commission such a piece? What was the thought process? Let's find the one guy in the entire world who has failed at a task and ask for his expert opinion on how to succeed. Gore manages to save himself a little with a closing shot at himself, but overall this had to be completely humiliating.

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But she showed ID...

What's worse? An article about how 3rd, 4th and 5th graders were served margaritas in the school cafeteria, or the fact that there is a sidebar on the article about "What to look for in a good school"?

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Rabbinical visions

H-man: you mention in your post that your Rabbi said God was with the Titans this weekend. Maybe the Rabbi needs to consult with Jackie Stallone's dogs before any future announcements of this sort.

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Sign of the apocalypse

Isn't it written somewhere that when an incoherent action movie star's mother's dogs begin getting visions, then the end times are near?

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Monday's Off! Special Day of Atonement Edition

Well, I know a number of you were anxiously and worriedly clicking your refresh buttons all day, wondering where your weekly dose of Mondays Off went. The fact is, I was traveling this weekend and didn’t have time to write it. In the spirit of Yom Kippur, I’m sorry to any of you whom I may have offended.

The good news is, I was able to do some Mondays Off primary research at the Coliseum while I was in Nashville on Sunday, where the Titans lost their second straight home game, this time to the uppity Jaguars. Here are the high(but mostly low)lights:

-My Grandfather and I caught a ride to the game with a family friend, who also brought along none other than the Rabbi from our congregation. It’s weird to make non-religious small talk with a Rabbi. I feel like everything he says is supposed to MEAN something. You know, like when he says, "well the Giants are still half a game back in the Wild Card, but I think the Cubs are done." When I say something like that, everyone basically just nods as if they care. But when a RABBI says it, I start to look around for lightning. Does he know something I don’t know? Is there an page that he gets his stats and injury reports from? Are there betting lines buried deep in the Kabbalah? Anyway, he happily assured us that God is on the Titans’ side today.

-Walking into the stadium with my Grandfather, we passed by a table where a couple Titans cheerleaders were signing autographs. As I pretended not to care, I jokingly asked him, "Hey Grandpa, do you want to go meet the cheerleaders?" He dryly replied in his old-South drawl, "You know, even if I got one of those things, I wouldn’t even know what to do with it anymore." The best part was, he didn’t seem to care.

-The good thing about having a pro football team in the country music capital of the world is that you never have to worry about enduring a crappy rendition of the National Anthem. While people in Cleveland had their hands over their hearts, listening to Mrs. Mabry’s second-grade class squeak their way through the Star Spangled Banner, we in Nashville had multiple Grammy winner Trisha Yearwood doing a totally pleasant a capella version. It’s actually a very nice perk. I’ve also heard Martina McBride and Lee Greenwood. (One of the highlights of my football-watching career thus far has been listening to Greenwood do "God Bless the USA" in person at halftime while the person next to me ate a gigantic pretzel with mustard. Really moving stuff.)

-We’ve got a surprise guest in the building, and it’s none other than Terry Tate, Office Linebacker! Sadly, I was the only person in the stadium who was genuinely excited about this appearance. "The pain train is coming, baby! Woo woo! Woo woo!" I silently hoped he’d lay out Trisha Yearwood, but no such luck.

-By the way, it’s 6-0, Titans. And somehow Tennessee is doing everything they shouldn’t be. Settling for field goals, letting Jacksonville hang around, keeping the clock moving. Basically following the Del Rio blueprint for how to lose to an inexperienced, defensive-focused team. Doesn’t Jeff Fisher recognize the strategy here? Anyone remember the ’99-‘01 Titans, who just hung around, kept it close, played solid defense, wore opposing defenses out with the running game, then fought hard and made plays in the fourth quarter, when it mattered? I’m getting sick to my stomach.

-To quote the guy sitting two seats down: "That’s bullshit! They moved it! What the fuck! I’m telling you it was number 1!" That three-helmet-monte game they play on the TitanTron can be really intense.

-Remember, loyal readers, when I lambasted Jeff Fisher and the Titans for playing without desire, heart, or will last week? It’s okay if you don’t--I just said it again. Anyway, the Titans just ran out the second-quarter clock with nearly two full minutes, three timeouts and the reigning MVP at quarterback. I hope it hurt when Jeff Fisher’s guts came out of his butt.

-It’s halftime, and Jeff Fisher is on the TitanTron with recently-revived Bull Connor reminding the fans that "if you drink and drive in Tennessee, you go to jail." That is, unless you’re MVP quarterback Steve McNair and have an unlicensed handgun in the car. In that situation, "if you drink and drive in Tennessee, you go to court, get your lawyers to insinuate that the arresting officer is after you because you’re a professional athlete, and you get the charges dropped because the evidence against you is now inadmissible." Doesn’t have quite the same ring, but oh well—the law’s the law.

To make a long story short, the Titans went on to lose the game exactly as planned—go up 12-7 in the fourth quarter, then watch as Byron Leftwich and Fred Taylor march the Jags down the field, help them out with two stupid penalties in the red zone, and then have them win it 15-12 with 8 seconds left. It’s like the Titans watched the game film from the two previous Jags victories and game-planned around it. Unbelievable. Sadly, I will now be forced to convert to another religion, as apparently the Jags' unholy deity had no trouble vanquishing my Judeo-Christian God, despite my Rabbi's assurances. I think I'll look into that cool Thugee cult from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They wouldn't have knelt on the ball with two minutes to play. They would've ripped Byron Leftwich's heart out. Literally.

A couple other bits of NFL news:

-In case you had forgotten why the Colts play in a dome, Peyton, Marvin, Reggie and Brandon strapped on their track shoes and threw up 5 touchdowns in the first half against Brett Favre and the Packers. Interesting stat of the week: In 30 minutes on Sunday, the Colts scored 35 points. In three weeks, Jacksonville has scored 35 points TOTAL (all victories).

-In a related story, Mike Martz and his Greatest Show on Turf called 55 pass plays and 15 running plays against the Saints and their worst run defense in the league. Strangely, this strategy backfired and the Rams lost in OT. When asked about his play-calling in his Monday press conference, Martz replied, "Get used to it." Get used to what, losing? Hey Mike, when you honk a game like that, your coaching is going to get questioned. Get used to it.

-In the injury of the week, Rich Gannon broke his neck in a collision with Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks during Sunday night’s victory over Tampa Bay while trying to simultaneously slide and dive for a first down. How, you may ask, does someone simultaneously slide AND dive? Well, from what I could tell, you tuck the ball away with your right hand, then quickly tighten your face mask between your knees while you get hit. Somehow Gannon walked away from that one, but he may never see the field again, as backup Kerry Collins spent the rest of the evening torching Tampa’s once-vaunted defense.

That’s all for this week. See you next Monday.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Mondays Off! Winslow: the Sequel Update

As first reported in this week's edition of Mondays Off, last Sunday, the Football Gods summarily smote rookie Browns tight end Kellen Winslow: the Sequel in honor of Pat Tillman day. Well, according to Max Power's crack research staff, the Gods were not appeased by only the break in Winslow: the Sequel's right leg. They must have been equally angered by Winslow's contract holdout through much of training camp, because it looks as though this injury could be even costlier than anticipated--to the tune of more than five million dollars.

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Mondays Off!

One quick serious note before I get on with my random musings about Week 2 in the NFL:

The National Football League, more than any other sports organization, does a great job of keeping its finger on the emotional and cultural pulse of its audience. After September 11th, every other league, including the wayward NCAA and bewildered MLB looked directly to NFL Commissioner Tagliabue for guidance. He got it right, as usual, by suspending play for the weekend. This weekend, though, they got it wrong.

Shortly after 9/11, former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman turned down a lucrative contract extension, instead enlisting in the Army’s special forces unit, the Rangers. It was a noble, commendable act, and Tillman received nothing but praise from the national sports media. Tillman could have parlayed his story into even more fame and fortune than he would have received as an NFL player, but he chose to remain quiet, insisting that his sacrifice was no greater than that of any other soldier. He refused all interviews about his decision, and that was that. When he died in Afghanistan, it was a national tragedy, but no more than the death of any other young American serviceman with a promising future.

Yesterday marked “Pat Tillman day” in the NFL. Every player wore a decal on his helmet of Tillman’s number 40, and at halftime of the Patriots (don’t think that was an accident) –Cardinals matchup in Tempe, the crowd unfurled an enormous, 200-foot graphic of Tillman’s old Arizona jersey.

Now, I don’t claim to know Pat Tillman, or his family. I hadn’t really even heard of him as a player before his ballyhooed decision to reject a new contract. All I know is that he would have been appalled at the attention he received yesterday. There are now over one thousand families of servicemen and servicewomen who are suffering the same loss as Tillman’s, but the NFL didn’t have any of their uniforms to unfurl. Let’s honor Tillman’s service and his sacrifice by honoring his wishes, and remembering him for what he was—a quiet, dignified soldier who never wanted the attention in the first place.

Now onto some random musings from yesterday’s action:

The Vick Effect

Did anyone else miss Michael Vick as much as I did last year? I propose a referendum among the NFL Players’ Association: All in favor of a collective agreement to not injure Michael Vick for the rest of the season? And I think the ayes have it! I also think we can agree that this is to the greater good. Vick has something that you can’t put a finger on—from now on we’ll be calling it the Vick effect—an ability to control the entire game, even if he’s not even on the field or near the ball. How else could one of the league’s worst defenses have dominated the Rams like that? The Vick effect. There are other players who can have a similar impact, but not quite to the same degree. Randy Moss does it. Ray Lewis is a close second. But no other player dominates every aspect of the game like Vick. I watched that whole game yesterday—it was never close. The Rams got absolutely dismantled by the Vick effect. They looked mystified. Keep an eye out as Mondays Off follows the Vick effect's effects like Charles Kuralt for the remainder of the season.

Maybe They Should've Left 'em Off

In the ugliest snoozefest of a weekend of really ugly snoozefests (17 of 30 teams were held under 17 points on Sunday, and it wasn't because of great defense), the Cincinnati Bengals won their home opener against A.J. Feeley, Lamar Gordon and the disarrayed Dolphins 16-13. The real winner, though, was the Maintenance Staff at Paul Brown Stadium, who got the chance, for the first time since the stadium was erected a few years ago, to TURN ON THE LIGHTS. That’s right—this was the first evening (see: nationally televised) game in Cincinnati in more than four years. Luckily, it appears no one was hurt during the mad dash to see who got to be the first one to flip the switch.

And I Hadn't Even Written It Yet

In predictive response to my comments regarding Pat Tillman Day, the Football Gods quickly moved to prevent any future offenses by smiting Kellen Winslow: the Sequel. Last year, as a Senior tight end for the Miami Hurricanes, Winslow: the Sequel made some rather callous comments paralleling his personal battles on the field with those of our armed forces, which apexed with his screaming “I’m a fucking soldier!” into a reporter’s tape recorder while standing mostly naked in a locker room. Hence, while playing the Cowboys on Pat Tillman Day, Winslow: the Sequel’s fibula spontaneously splintered, putting him out of commission for, at least, the majority of the season. Hopefully he’s learned his lesson.

The NFLPA Will Be Pursuing an Appeal

Yesterday also marked the return of America’s favorite Hi-V grocery bagger, Kurt Warner, who won a start for the first time since the 2002 NFC Championship Game. Rumor is that Tom Coughlin fined him $1000 for being two years late.

I Can't Even Write a Kitschy Title

If you’re wondering why I haven’t written anything about the Titans yet, it’s because I’m too upset. Tennessee lost that game on several key plays—one short yardage situation inside the Colts’ 4, two dropped passes by Derrick Mason and Drew Bennett in the end zone, and Nick Harper’s touchdown takeaway on fourth and two. What do all of these plays have in common? Desire. Heart. Will. All of those intangibles that Jeff Fisher teams play with every single week. But for the first time since the franchise came to Nashville, I watched a team yesterday that lost because they didn’t want it badly enough. I don’t know if the losses of leaders Eddie George, Frank Wycheck, and Jevon Kearse are finally catching up, or if the Colts just caught the Titans on a bad day, but there was a disturbing lack of urgency on that field. The Colts played like they needed that game more than the Titans, and they won for that reason. This is the first real test for Fisher this year—we’ll see how he handles it, especially with a very frisky Jacksonville team coming to town next week. Stay tuned to Mondays Off for more on this.

Rice's Run

Yesterday, All-Universe Raiders wideout Jerry Rice went reception-less for the first time since 1985. That’s not a misprint—it’s been almost TWENTY YEARS since Jerry played a game without catching a pass. Just for the record, in 1985, Tears For Fears and Hill Street Blues were on top, and yours truly was carrying a He-Man backpack to my first day of kindergarten.

This Week's GIWOMT and BMOTW

This week’s Guy I Want On My Team is the Ravens’ Todd Heap, who made good on his name by collapsing in a heap after crawling back to the line with a badly-sprained ankle so that Kyle Boller could spike the ball and avoid using an injury time out in a key situation. His reward? The Bitch Move Of The Week, when the Steeler lined up opposite him leveled him at the snap. Anyway, congratulations, Todd, you’re this week’s Guy I Want On My Team. Close runner-up: Lions rookie Roy Williams, who’s just a badass.

Mondays Off Fantasy Update

ESPN announcer Paul Maguire added to his “You talk about…” season total by only three during last night’s Sunday Night broadcast, while Joe Theismann and Pat Summerall went scoreless. In their defense, though, I guess I wasn’t talking very much.

Seven Gibb-aways

And finally, kudos to legendary coach Joe Gibbs, whose extremely well-coached Redskins turned the ball over SEVEN TIMES to Kurt Warner and the Giants defense. The good news? They only lost by six points. I think that if the Skins only give away .857 points per turnover for the rest of the year, Gibbs’ll take that.

See you next week for more Mondays Off!

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P.S. If you want to get their goat this year, agree with them about the need to get rid of Bush/Cheney (which believe me, any encouragement will get them psyched) then right when they get on a roll interject something about the need to get Phil Gramm in the White House so we can keep these wars going.

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Lyndon LaRouche

Here is the setup: seven years ago I had to go to a courthouse in Houston to get my driver's liscence (we had just moved to Texas). Some of Lyndon LaRouche's followers were tabling out in front of the courthouse. As a joke I signed up to get thier newsletter. Thought it would be good laughs. After signing up, they said it would be $10 (or whatever). So I declined and told them I didn't want to support LaRouche, but if they would give me some literature, I'd read it. No dice.

Long story short: the conversation ended with me teasing them about their insanity and their insane spokesman yelling obsenities at me in front of dozens of people. It was really odd.

But the oddness just got multiplied. It is now 7 years later. I have moved twice since then, live in a new town and work for a new company. So, how the hell did I just get a call at work from someone in Lyndon LaRouche's HQ in Chicago? The guy asked for me by name and asked if I remembered him from Houston.

Are they so desparate for supporters that they are doing some investigative work to track down former leads? Maybe they should spend some of those resources looking for a clue.

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

Kobe Got Off Easy

The disputed events of last July in that Eagle, CO hotel room will probably never really be understood. After Kobe's "apology" it seems clear that even he has no idea what happened, and feels readily willing to admit it. And he was there. The damage to his reputation, though, can be quantified, and sports pundits will, more than likely, spend the next decade trying to estimate exactly how much potential endorsement income Bryant is missing out on. His marriage is in trouble, his credibility is ruined, and he hasn't even gone through a civil suit yet. More embarassing details are sure to emerge.

And yet, I tell you, Kobe got off easy.

That's not because he avoided prison. Anyone who followed the details of the case closely knew that the prosecution had no chance of sending Kobe to jail. Mistakes and a shaky case from the beginning proved that. Actually, it's the burgeoning story of yet another NBA player's sexual escapades that leads me to believe that Kobe should thank his lucky stars for the way his case unfolded.

I give you the case of the Toronto Raptors' Morris Peterson.

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Friday, September 17, 2004

McCarver Contest Entries

Contest entry Number One (insanely obvious comment edition):

McCarver: "This Cardinal team scores a lot of runs, and I have to think that the team that scores the most runs is going to win this game."

Contest entry Number Two (shameless Fox cross-promotion edition):

Buck: "And there's Rachel Bilson and Ben Mackenzie of Fox's 'The OC,' which premieres its second season Thursday nights at 9pm after the World Series."

McCarver: "Nice night to come out to the ballpark, enjoy some nachos."

Buck: "Yeah. Hey, how 'bout sharing those with some of us in the booth!"

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Even More Proof Negative

Although, to be fair to Dan Rather, this may be a joke.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Proof Negative Update

So last week I lamented that liberals seem increasingly to believe that they can prove negatives. This week Dan Rather confirms my suspicions by inverting the standards of normal journalism.

If you haven't been paying attention, Rather is under fire for reporting that recently discovered memos indicate that George W. Bush did not fulfill his National Guard duties. By my count, there are over a dozen different indications that the memos are forgeries. See here for bunches and bunches of indicators.

Perhaps most damning was the set of equivocal, Clintonian denials Mr. Rather has executed in the past week followed by CBS's experts backtracking and denying that they were authenticating the documents.

Normally, journalists would be expected to be able to prove that the documents were legitimate before the show would air. It would then only take a couple bits of dispositive evidence to have the story retracted. Rather has inverted this standard: having aired laughably bad forgeries, he now demands absolute proof that they are forgeries before he will retract.

As he told The Washington Post: "Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not [genuine], I don't see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumor mill".

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Tim McCarver watch

Hey, baseball fans. The playoffs are just around the corner and that means the likely return of the most laughable announcing pair in the bigs: McCarver and Joe Buck. I'll save the Joe Buck cheapshots for later and announce the first annual Tim McCarver contests:

Contest 1: Predictions. The winner is the person who finds the most staggeringly bad prediction McCarver makes in the course of the playoffs/World Series. Extra credit will be given if the prediction is something that is A. easily and cheaply made i.e. "With two outs and a 3/2 count, I've gotta believe they are going to start the runners" or B. mind numbingly wrong-headed.

Contest 2: Comments. Most inane/irrelevant/hyper analytical for no reason wins.

Some might argue that these are vague criteria. Those people are not familiar with McCarver's oeurve.

Prize: A g-mail invite and the envy of all your friends. Contest ends with the conclusion of the world series but technically starts tonight if you can stomach an episode of "The Tim McCarver Show".

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Dumb Statistic Alert

So, I'm watching the football game last night and Al Micheals says something like: "I know you (John Madden) agree with me that it seems that the team that has the ball last in the Super Bowl always seems to win". It is a rough paraphrase, bear with me.

This was presented as if it were an enormous insight. Let's step back for a second. There are 4 possible normal conclusions to a football game at the two minute warning.

1. The team with the ball at the warning is way ahead.

2. The team with the ball is ahead but by less than a touchdown.

3. The team with the ball is way behind.

4. The team with the ball is behind but by less than a touchdown.

Now, in scenerio 1 the team with the ball will usually gracefully run out the clock by running the ball or kneeling on the play (depending on the opposing team's timeout situation). So, the team with the ball will be the winner.

In scenerio 2 the team with the ball will attempt to run out the clock as well, but may attempt to score depending on the exact circumstnaces.

In scenerio 3 the team with the ball is likely to quickly and aggressively strike for the endzone. Doing this is likely to lead to: a score (which means the team with the lead gets the ball back and we are back to scenerio 1), a turnover (same story), or a loss of downs (same story).

In fact, it is only in scenerio 4 where we might expect the team with the ball at the end of the game to be the losers. They have the ball and need to get the final score. But if they get it and time runs out, once again the team with the ball at the end of the game wins.

So, Al Michaels brilliant theory boils down to: it is pretty rare for a team to have the ball at the end of the game, be down by less than a touchdown, and fail to score at the end of their final drive. Not that interesting.

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A deep breath

Last week America lost its 1,000th man in Iraq. That is 1,000 mini-tragedies acted out as bodies are brought home and laid to rest by inconsolable families. On the other hand, everyone knows going into war that there will be deaths. The question is whether the deaths are worth the outcome. Had President Bush dared to predict last March that in a year and a half we would be able to overthrow Saddam Hussain's regime, jail him, kill his sons, establish a provisional government, and hand over most governing functions to the free Iraqis, he would have been mocked as a fool (even moreso).

In fact, all of those things are true and are true despite dealing for much of the last 12 months with non-native insurgent forces. When Bush famously said: "bring it on", he was serious. What he wanted (and what he got) was for radical Muslims to come to Iraq to fight. Radical Islam cannot stand by while Iraq is transformed into a peaceful democracy. It is anathema to them. They must do everything they can to hamper efforts to launch a free Iraq.

So radicals from around the Muslim world converged on Iraq with the goal of undermining our post-war efforts there. Bush, so often derided as a fool, has got the enemy facing our troops rather than our innocent civilians in America. He also has them thousands of miles away from us facing the greatest army in the history of the world. And, as an added bonus, he has sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the Muslim world. Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan have already heard this message and altered their course of business in ways that favor the United States.

All of this has been accomplished at the price of 1,000 men (and, of course, boatloads of money). Was it worth it? I tend to think so, and I say that as someone who has had over a dozen friends and family members serve in Iraq during the last 18 months many of whom are still there today or are preparing to go back.

The question I would ask those who feel it isn't worth it (a position which I respect) is: What were your expectations before the war? Were your predictions borne out? If not, please have the intellectual honesty to preface your position with the fact that the war has gone much better than you expected rather than tracking body counts with a whiff of guilty glee.

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Monday, September 13, 2004

Mondays Off! (Inaugural Edition)

Well, it was only a matter of time until our little NotSoMuch forum evolved into the location of my personal weekly NFL column. Since I have Mondays off from work (at least until about 11:30am, when the office calls to bother me with something they could’ve figured out without me), I think that will be the title of this little gimmick. So, Mondays Off it is, at least until I can think of something better. I figured the best way to welcome Mondays Off would be with a series of awards. So without further ado, the Week One Awards…

-The Bill Gramatica Embarrassing Celebration Award* goes to Jeremiah Trotter, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker who jumped up and down repeatedly after blind-siding Giants punter Jeff Feagles, who was lazily jogging in the general direction of the ball-carrier.

*Named for the kicker who jumped so high after converting a meaningless field goal that he tore his ACL and ended his season.

-Staying in the NFC East, The Achievement in Overhyping a Team That Expectedly Destroyed a Bad Team in Week 1 Award goes to those same Philadelphia Eagles. How did everyone, all of a sudden, forget that the Giants are horrible? What sort of collective amnesia has stricken the NFL media? This is a Giants team that mutinied against their coach before the season even started! Two things to remember: In general, NFL quarterbacks are generally coached NOT to throw the ball across their bodies into the end zone while tiptoeing along the sidelines. Donovan got lucky on that one against a depleted, already bad pass defense. Secondly, the Giants offensive line, which could be described as "patchwork," at best, did a pretty decent job against the overhyped Eagles defense. Note to future Eagles opponents: RUN ON THE EAGLES.

And now, a few technical awards:

-The much-anticipated And Tweeins! Award goes to Hardee’s, for creating the most creatively chauvinistic commercial of this young football season, with their young model slowly riding a mechanical bull while eating a gigantic bacon cheeseburger. Somewhere, in a shag-carpeted room filled with bean-bag chairs and lava lamps, a bunch of marketing creatives are still giggling about that one. Kudos!

-The What Does That Commercial Even Mean? Award goes to Hooters, whose new slogan is "Hooters is Football!" What does that even mean?

-The Madden (Boom!) Award for Excellence in Nonsensical Announcing goes to the crew of ESPN’s Sunday Night Football, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire, and Pat Summerall. In their honor, I’d like to announce a new bonus section of Mondays Off:

For recreational purposes only, Mondays Off is proud to present a new, weekly-updated statistic that is sure to be a fantasy hit. Number of times an ESPN Sunday Night Football announcer assumptively started a sentence with "You talk about…"

Paul Maguire: 17
Joe Theismann: 6
Pat Summerall (sadly): 1

We’ll be bringing this to you every week, so make sure and get your league together! (Hot Fantasy Tip—ride Paul Maguire like Zorro on this one.)

Back to the football awards:

-The Is It Gonna Be Like This All Year? Award goes to the storied San Francisco 49ers and Coach Dennis Erickson, who ran two Pro Bowlers out of town and are now reaping the whirlwind with their 21-19 loss to the Falcons. Oh, and by the way, their new starting Quarterback, Tim Rattay, separated his shoulder. Let the Ken Dorsey-Brandon Lloyd era commence!

-The Tony Banks "I Can’t Believe This Is My Quarterback For Yet Another Week" Award goes to, for the second consecutive year, Brian Billick and Kyle Boller of the Baltimore Ravens, who were embarrassed by the Browns, 20-3. (Marty Schottenheimer and Drew Brees, the Susan Luccis of this award, were happy to break out of the category this week.) Remember when Brian Billick was an offensive guru? It turns out the "Throw the Ball to Randy Moss" offensive scheme only works in Minnesota. Who’d have thought? Incidentally, it looks like 3-time Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia throws pretty well, for a gay guy.

-The Award for Excellence in Statistical Efficiency goes to Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose line looked something like this: 5 Rushes, 1 Yard, 3 TD. Jerome also holds a 2003 Award for Creepiest Non-Football-Related TV Appearance by an NFL Player when he stuck a golf club up an unconscious guy's butt on MTV’s Punk'd. By the way, after second consideration, creepy is still the only word that applies.

-The Random Titans Injury of the Week Award goes to Zach Piller, an offensive lineman who managed to tear his biceps in Saturday’s win over the hapless Dolphins. How do you go about doing that? I probably don’t want to know, but the Titans Wheel-O-Injuries continues to spin at full speed. Usually Steve McNair is kind enough to handle about 35-40% of the team’s mishaps himself, but this week I guess he just didn’t feel up to it. It’s still early.

-Speaking of the Dolphins, the Award for Arousing the Wrath of the Hebrew God goes to Dave Wannstedt, who continued his years-long crusade to start a Jewish Quarterback in the NFL on Saturday. When that didn’t work, he replaced Fiedler with AJ Feeley, a man who is Jewish in nose only. You aren’t fooling anyone but yourself, Dave—it’s not the same. Meanwhile, the gently gentile Feeley threw the Dolphins’ only touchdown.

-The Award for the Running Pack Whose Average Yards-Per-Carry Approximately Equals His Height Falling Down goes, as usual, to Eddie George, whose 9 carries and 34 yards work out to be about equal to his 6-foot-four frame taking a step and then falling down on every carry.

-And finally, the "No, Bono, No!" Award goes to the Broncos’ Jake Plummer, who decided, in the shadow of his own goalpost, to throw the ball WITH HIS LEFT HAND into the heart of the Chiefs defense. Naturally, it was intercepted and resulted in a touchdown for the Chiefs. Note: Jake Plummer is NOT left-handed.

Next week: more Mondays Off!

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Friday, September 10, 2004

Quick NFL Perspective Update #2

Ahh, the NFL season got underway in terrific form last evening as the Colts lost a squeaker 27-24 to the Patriots. Peyton Manning's face, though, actually lost 56-10 as he thew an interception on the 1-yard line, his running back fumbled twice in the red zone and his liquored-up idiot kicker missed one wide right with time running down. The sad backstory, though, was that Tony Dungy's wife was forced to watch the game from the hospital with a collapsed lung. When asked about her condition in a post-game interview, Coach Dungy replied, "She's doing fine. Better than we are."

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Thursday, September 09, 2004

I must've been really lucky before

It happened almost exactly three weeks ago. Having just finished a satisfying Chinese Buffet lunch, I grudgingly tore into my fortune cookie.

(Quick background: Ever since I was young, I have always received unconscionably bad fortunes from fortune cookies. Someday I'll use this venue to explore this malady more deeply, but for whatever reason, my fortunes are always either incomprehensible or of eerily dubious meaning. Now back to the story...)

I read my little slip of paper aloud to Max, who knows of my disorder involving ambiguous fortunes.

Your luck is about to change.

Great, I thought. Here we go again. Either Ed McMahon is going to meet me at my apartment with a giant cardboard check, or I'm going to be impaled by some sort of blunt object on the way back to work. I put it out of my mind.

Then people around me started dying. Literally. In the last three weeks, no fewer than NINE people from whom I am separated by less than 2 degrees have passed away. NINE TIMES. Are you kidding me? Heed this warning-- if you know me, or if someone you know knows me, STAY HOME. Don't even leave your bed. Unless you think you might die in bed, then definitely LEAVE YOUR BED. LEAVE THE COUNTRY. Do SOMETHING, before my evil unintended wrath catches up to you.

And to top it all off, I'm not even going to be able to watch the Titans this weekend because of a Russian Hurricane and a Chinese Fortune. I hate Communists.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Moronic Star Alert

So, I see Madonna sang John Lennon's Imagine and dedicated it to the victims of the terrorist attack in Russia. Imagine you are a Russian who has just lost a son or daughter. Terrorists stormed into a school and killed, tortured and raped your child and over 350 other children. You are in grief over the death of your child and probably really, really upset with terrorists.

Is this the song you want to hear:

Imagine there's no heaven/Its easy if you try...

Imagine all the people/living life in peace...

I suspect the chorus to Nazareth's Hair of the Dog would have been a more appropriate choice.

Imagine Madonna wasn't a vapid, spotlight grabbing idjit...

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Proof Negative

Something strange seems to have occured to the Democrats recently. Over the course of the past 3 years the democrats have begun to believe that they can prove negatives. The most recent example is Nicholas Kristof in today's New York Times. Since NYT archives articles and makes you pay to see them, I'll explain briefly.

In today's piece (titled Missing in Action), Kristof makes the case that President Bush did not fulfill his national guard duties 30+ years ago. You might remember this controversy from early this spring, or last fall, or the fall of 2000. Yes, this is the exact same national guard issue that has been vetted 3 times already. In all three cases, Democrats have found someone who can't remember seeing Bush on the milatary base. So three times the Republicans have trotted out people who remember seeing Bush there and serving with him. Then they pull his service records showing that he had fulfilled his obligations.

But among Democrat faithful the idea that Bush is not a lying cheat on everything cannot stand. So they have to proclaim that someone who doesn't remember seeing Bush should stand as superior testimony to someone who says he does remember seeing him. Kristof's defense of this dubious proposition is that Bush's witness screwed up his dates and Kristof's witness (if you will) was actively looking for Bush 'cause he wanted to party down.

This at least adds a veneer of rationality to what is a largely irrational position.* This irrationality extends to other areas of Democrat's thought processes although always in the defense of the proposition that Bush is evil.

Example 2: Following President Bush's claim at the State of the Union that Iraq was attempting to purchase uranium from an African country, Joseph Wilson spent three weeks in Niger and came home to definitavely claim that Iraq had not sought to buy uranium there. This was the genesis of the "Bush Lied" meme that Democrats have held onto with a tenacity unseen outside of Paris Hilton trying to extend her 15 minutes. How exactly, did Wilson "prove" that Iraq did not try to buy uranium? Don't ask me, and don't ask a Democrat. It doesn't matter. It just matters that they be allowed to believe that Bush is a liar.

Example 3: The most obvious example, I think, is the line that there were "no weapons of mass destruction". Here is the deal: Saddam kicked out weapons inspectors, Saddam claimed he would never give up his weapons, our intelligence says he had them, as did the intelligence services of France, Italy, England, Germany, Russia and Israel. Iraq's enemies thought he had them, as did scientists who worked on the WMD programs in Iraq before defecting to the west. In short, everybody thought he had WMD.

As of today we have not found large stockpiles of WMDs (but have found several small caches). The Democrats could tweak Bush on the fact that we have not been able to find them. But to run with the idea that their never were WMDs is crazy. How exactly do we prove that? We could just as easily say that Nicole Simpson wasn't murdered because we haven't found the killers. Again, there is nothing to this but a pathological need to attack Bush.

*As an aside, the fact that Bush's witness confused the dates actually helps his credibility with me. If he were a white house puppet, wouldn't they have coached him to get the story straight? On the other hand, saying "well it was 32 years ago so I could be a little off on the dates" seems like what I would expect.

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During the Passover seder, Jews make a point to ask the question, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" There are several answers, mostly referencing the ceremonial way dinner is being consumed in order to commemorate the Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. We eat weird stuff like parsley and horseradish in order to remember those slaves who wandered in unholy confusion for four decades before being allowed a glimpse of the promised land.

You may wonder why I bring that up. For the last seven months, you see, I have felt like a lost Hebrew, wandering confused through a vast wasteland of NBA basketball, Olympic nonsense, and midseason baseball. There was Kobe, and then there was nothing. There was Eli, there was Ricky, there was Nomar, there was Hamm. There was Phil and his new blazer and there was Tiger and his slump. There was NASCAR. Duncan and Iverson came in third. The Stanley Cup moved to Florida, as many Canadians do in the offseason. Truly, how could I find my way?

Alas, there was also manna from the heavens in the forms of Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds. And surely only the vengeful Hebrew God would rain down the eleventh plague on Prior and Wood while Carpenter, Williams, Morris, Marquis, and even Suppan all enjoy double-digit-win seasons and lead the league in quality starts.

But, as it was foretold, we have reached the edge of the promised land. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the NFL Regular Season, and milk and honey will flow. Bodies will collide violently, fumbles will bounce awkwardly, Peyton will throw passes and then turn and watch as the unintended receiver in red, white and blue sprints wildly in the other direction.

Oh, glorious NFL!

If you had given us a regular season filled with terrific plays, it would have been enough.

If you had given us a regular season filled with terrific plays, but not structured a salary cap allowing for all fans in all markets to follow a competitive team, it would have been enough.

If you had given us a regular season filled with terrific plays, structured a salary cap allowing for all fans in all markets to follow a competitive team, and not given the Titans Steve McNair to play through the pain, it would have been enough.

If you had given us a regular season filled with terrific plays, structured a salary cap allowing for all fans in all markets to follow a competitive team, given the Titans Steve McNair to play through the pain, and not brought Deion Sanders back into the league to do his touchdown dance, it would have been enough.

If you had given us a regular season filled with terrific plays, structured a salary cap allowing for all fans in all markets to follow a competitive team, given the Titans Steve McNair to play through the pain, brought Deion Sanders back into the league to do his touchdown dance, and not given us Michael Vick to capture our imaginations, it would have been enough.

If you had given us a regular season filled with terrific plays, structured a salary cap allowing for all fans in all markets to follow a competitive team, given the Titans Steve McNair to play through the pain, brought Deion Sanders back into the league to do his touchdown dance, given us Michael Vick to capture our imaginations, and not caused Peyton Manning to make that face every time he throws an interception, it would have been enough.

If you had given us a regular season filled with terrific plays, structured a salary cap allowing for all fans in all markets to follow a competitive team, given the Titans Steve McNair to play through the pain, brought Deion Sanders back into the league to do his touchdown dance, given us Michael Vick to capture our imaginations, caused Peyton Manning to make that face every time he throws an interception, and not ensured the Ravens' demise by forcing Jamal Lewis to sell cocaine in his spare time, it would have been enough.

If you had given us a regular season filled with terrific plays, structured a salary cap allowing for all fans in all markets to follow a competitive team, given the Titans Steve McNair to play through the pain, brought Deion Sanders back into the league to do his touchdown dance, given us Michael Vick to capture our imaginations, caused Peyton Manning to make that face every time he throws an interception, ensured the Ravens' demise by forcing Jamal Lewis to sell cocaine in his spare time, and not made every fan feel like his team has a chance the day before opening day, it would have been enough.

But because of your goodness, every fan can look at his roster, his schedule, and his jersey, and proclaim with hope:

Next year, we will all be victors! Next year, in Jacksonville!

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Friday, September 03, 2004

Link of the day

Just go check it out.

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Losing Your Cool

Last night on the Bill O' Reilly show, P. Diddy finally verified something I have long believed: no one, NO ONE, can remain cool while trying to get people to register to vote.

Note to P. Diddy: Imagine a campaign centered around getting kids to eat their broccoli. That is what you have become. P.S. the mohawk sucks.

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

mid-class life update

There are two kinds of men in the world: those who speak at urinals, and whose who pee in blessed silence.

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Top Ten Most Annoying Political Speech Moves

#10 Speaking in the 3rd person
Primary Offender: Bob Dole.
Usage: "Bob Dole wants to cut your taxes. Bob Dole loves puppies".

#9 Turn it up to 11
Primary Offender: Al Gore.
Usage: When Al Gore makes a speech, he only has one move: louder. You are never in doubt about what lines he thinks are most important. He always gives you three sentences worth of notice as he begins to speak at a greater and greater volume until he bellows out the applause line. The saving grace of #9 and #10 is that they are largely limited to the speakers in question and, therefore, are now all but extinct. The remainders, however, are all on the ascendency.

#8 Lip Biting
Primary Offender: Bill Clinton
Usage: Virtually any time he needs to register faux regret. This one is a hot button for those on the right much like that quirky smirk President Bush has bugs the crap out of those on the left.

#7 "When I served in Vietnam"
Primary Offender: John Kerry
Usage: It is not that he brings it up; it is that he brings it up in response to EVERYTHING.

#6 "Nuculer"
'Nuff said.

#5 Too Hip by Half
Primary Offender: Too Widespread
Usage: Howard Dean declaring himself a metrosexual, then admitting that he is not quite sure what that means.

#4 Non-political plants in the audience
Primary Offender: Presidents at the State of the Union.
Usage: We freed Afghanistan; look there is an Afghan in the audience. We passed a medical reform bill; look there is Judy Jackson, elderly American. This trick has not reached its logical ridiculous apogee yet (in which a parade of citizens of every conceivable demographic is trotted out), which suggests either politicians are attuned to the absurdity of this trick or that there is an extremely limited seating capacity in the Capital building. I know where my money lies.

#3 Movie/Music/Sports Stars
Primary Offender: Democrats, but Republicans would if they could.
Usage: It sucks to pick on the Rs, but the most recent example is Jason Sehorn and his wife, Angie Harmon. Remember the great safety, Jason Sehorn? No. OK, remember the wildly overrated because he's the great white hope safety Jason Sehorn? The one married to the smoking hot, gravelly voiced woman who used to be on Law and Order. Yeah, that guy. Do you care what his politics are? Me neither.

#2 Wives/Kids Speaking
Primary Offender: Presidential Candidates.
Usage: Ubiquitous. This is wrong on so many levels. The big two, however, are: it demeans the viewers and it demeans the spouses (the kids are a little different in this respect).

Whenever the wives or children are trotted out to do thier little speech, commentators blather on and on about how they help to humanize the candidate. Newsflash: with the possible exception of Al Gore, all politicians are human. The idea that some people will vote for one candidate over another becuase of a pet name his wife has or becasue of some cutsey gerbil mouth to mouth story (which,incidentally, has a little too much creepy overtone to it) is disgusting. It shows just how dumb politicians think citizens are. On a slightly more depressing note, it probably works.

The kids are a slightly different issue. When the wives get done speaking and commentators drool and slobber about what a great job they did, it is so transparently condescending: look at the good little wife, she can use big words can't she. Good wifey, wifey. This attitude seems reasonable for the kids, though. One: they are kids. Two: they don't have a lifetime of experience standing next to a politician.

Finally, it turns out you don't really need to have the sound up to enjoy watching the Bush twins speak.

#1 Thumb Pointing
Major Offender: I feel like Bill Clinton started this but they all do it now.
Usage: Remember when politicians used to walk up to the podium, look out at the crowd, point, wave and smile at friends. Those were the good old days. Now they do the thumb point.

Make a thumbs up sign. Now crawl your thumb down into your index finger like a turtle going into its shell. When the thumb is barely sticking out above your knuckle, you are ready. Now any time you feel the need to point do that instead. This drives me insane. No one ever, ever points like this. If Isaac from the Love Boat did this, the show would have tanked in a month. You got the visual didn't you? Did you ever feel threatened by Isaac pointing? Of course not.

When giving directions or pointing to something on a chart or computer screen do you ever do the thumb point? Of course not. Have you ever seen anyone else do it? Of course not. It is the single stupidest gesture I have ever seen. Maybe politicians do need the humanizing touch of the spouse/kid speech, because this gesture is other worldly.

The simple fact is that Bob Dole is the only person ever with an excuse for making this gesture. And if you ask him why, he'll tell you. In the third person.

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Bank One Jones


I bet Chipper's wife is thankful that Randy Johnson and Kurt Schilling pitched in Arizona for a couple of years.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Schlomo, maybe, but definitely not Shea

Jews take their nomenclature very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that most observant Jewish people accompany the naming of a newborn male child with the ritualistic mutilation of that unfortunate child’s penis. A Jewish baby lucky enough to have been born female has a little easier go of it, but naming the child still involves bringing family in from all over the country to eat cold cuts (an especially cruel irony for the boys) while a Rabbi gets her drunk and rambles on in Hebrew. Five thousand years ago, this all made perfect sense. Nowadays, not so much. Us chosen people, however, plod along as if surgery in front of a live studio audience somehow restores our covenant with our charitable deity.

Yesterday, it was announced that Braves third baseman Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones had become a father for the second time. His newborn son is named Shea, after the New York Mets’ home ballpark in Flushing Meadows, NY, Shea Stadium. I’ll go ahead and repeat that in case you were just skimming. He named his son after Shea Stadium, Queens’s dingy, foul-smelling eyesore that houses an often equally dingy, foul-smelling baseball franchise. "Why?" you may ask. "Why would Chipper Jones, a man of tremendous wealth, athletic talent, and seemingly average-at-least intelligence, name his child, his progeny, after a stadium?" "Check the numbers," he would reply (that’s a quote). And it’s true, Chipper Jones has always hit well in Shea Stadium—over .300 over his distinguished career. But now, just to make sure nobody forgets how well he hit the Mets, there exists a human child that bears that scarlet moniker.

I’m not claiming that Chipper Jones's religion was the main factor here. Clearly he comes from a family and background that was so disadvantaged that "Chipper" became a viable option. He cannot bear the responsibility all on his own. In fact, I even kind of like the name Shea. But maybe the Jews have got this one partly right. Picture it: Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones stands amongst friends and family, holding his own child as a strange holy man mutters in an ancient language and aims a blade at his newborn’s boyhood. Just as the incision is made, he silently drifts back to that hot July night when he went 3-for-4 with two doubles and 3 RBI…

So would things have been different for little Shea if his birth had necessitated a bris? What about for little Apple? Or the Clemens boys, whose names all start with K? Or all those George Foremans? I can’t say for sure, but I can say this—I’ve never met a Jewish kid named after a stadium, a fruit, a statistic, or his father (four times).

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