Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Frequency of Sinkhole Activity Steadily Mediocre

We've been writing this blog for a year. The number of posts by month:


The percentage of posts by author:


The only question now is what direction The Kitchen Sinkhole should take in order to remain relevant. A few ideas:
  • A Lions & Titans Weekly Comparison Blog ("Light Blue Connection")
  • A Jason Hanson Tribute Blog ("Kicking Off & Taking Names")
  • A Rob Bironas Tribute Blog ("It's Long Enough, It's Straight Enough")
  • A Nonsense-Statistic Blog ("Mel & the Math Dog")
Come up with something better and leave it in the comments. Winner gets to write the first post.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fives In Quintuplicate


No one in the history of the NBA has ever had a quintuple double.*

I have recently become interested in the next best thing to a quintuple double: the 5-by-5 stat. Current players who are threats to get 5-by-5 include: Gerald Wallace, Ben Wallace, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko, Marcus Camby, and Shawn Marion. Tonight, for example, Josh Smith was one block short of his first-ever 5-by-5: 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, and 4 blocks.

I postulate that the 5-by-5 stat has a high correlation with Ex-Factor.

Sinkhole Poll: Who do you think will be next NBA player to get a 5-by-5?

*This is not exactly true: steal and block statistics have only been kept since the 1973-74 season.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Who Is The Most Exciting Non-Sports Athlete Today?




This is no toss-up!




It is the spider monkey.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Who Is The Most Exciting Sports Athlete Today?


Well, it's a toss up between The Black President, Purple Jesus, and...Walter Herrmann.

You don't know who Walter Herrmann is now. But you will soon.

Note: After Sean May got hurt and Adam Morrison tore his ACL in a preseason game, I had to pick another distinctive-looking Bobcat to root for. I will continue rooting for Herrmann and the Bobcats until Isiah Thomas is fired and Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury are traded.

Sinkhole Superstars: Jason "I'm the one who went to Duke" Williams

The crown jewel of the 1999 SLAM All-American team was Jason "I'm the one who went to Duke" Williams. It appears that he is out of the NBA for good (read: retired). Here is an excerpt:

"Jason Williams: Jason Williams had it all. He was a was a model student/athlete and his success continued in college. He helped Duke to the 2001 National Championship. While kids across America were rationalizing staying in college seven years, “Jay” Williams finished at Duke in three and was taken second in the NBA draft in 2002. He had a decent rookie season and seemed to be building a solid career for himself. In the summer of 2203, Williams was in a motorcycle accident that, essentially ending his playing career. He attempted a comeback with the Nets in 2006, but was cut after making a few preseason appearances to the delight of the crowd in his native New Jersey. After a quick minute in the D-League, Williams has begun a new phase in his life in the sports marketing world."

Note: Another SLAM 1999 All American, Kenny Satterfield, is currently out of the league. He was one of the best NYC streetball players of all time. Since leaving Cincinnati early, he's bounced all around, mostly overseas. (Although, it could be worse: A former Satterfield teammate who currently works as a packer at a Keebler plant in Ohio was just arrested for having crack cocaine on the floorboard of his 1996 Mazda.)

Note: Someday soon Kevin Pittsnogle might become a Sinkhole Superstar. To prepare for this eventuality, I have begun to conduct research on him. Did you know that Pittsnogle, using one ball and one rebounder, once made 78 3 pointers in 5 minutes. That's a 3 pointer in every 3.8 seconds. That's Kobayashi-esque. After playing for the CBA's X-Plosion last year, I thought he might stick with an NBA this year. No such luck. He'll start the season with Cholet Basket.

Pittsnogle update: This NYTimes article is a good read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Channing Crowder, Former UF Football Player


Dolphins LB Channing Crowder, who appears likely to start in the middle Sunday against the Giants with Zach Thomas ailing, says he didn't know until Tuesday that people in London speak English. "I couldn’t find London on a map if they didn’t have the names of the countries," he said. "I swear to God. I don’t know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot. I know (Washington Redskins LB) London Fletcher. We did a football camp together. So I know him. That’s the closest thing I know to London. He’s black, so I’m sure he’s not from London. I’m sure that’s a coincidental name."

Channing is absolutely correct. Fletcher was born in Cleveland.

Check out the source for this article. The comment section after the article is mildly entertaining and potentially informative.

Friday, October 5, 2007

I Watch TV on the Internet

I haven't turned my television on in weeks. I watch all my TV on my computer. Including Journeyman. This show is hot. As hot as Day Break was last year. Moon Bloodgood is back, only this time she can time travel. You should check it out. Incidentally, have you ever noticed that Moon Bloodgood's name has three-peating vowels, and none of them rhyme? Musa D. is good at coming up with other names that pull this off. Musa D., take it away:

ABC Shows

NBC Shows

CBS Shows

Fox Shows

CW Shows

Comedy Central Shows

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pumpkins = Ballgames

From "Yours," by Mary Robison, a message from the 2007 Tigers (an elderly husband), who finished 88-74, to the 2003 team that lost 119 games (a doomed wife):

"He wanted to get drunk with his wife once more. He wanted to tell her, from the greater perspective he had, that to own only a little talent, like his, was an awful, plaguing thing; that being only a little special meant you expected too much, most of the time, and liked yourself too little. He wanted to assure her that she had missed nothing."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ask An Expert: A ball is hit sharply at a runner on third base. What should the baserunner do?

Expert Answer:

I will answer your question with a series of questions: Is the game being played in a dome? Are there fewer than two outs? Does the manager like to hit and run? How flexible is the baserunner in his midriff area? Is the baserunner's uniform made of a synthetic polymer? Additionally, this question presupposes that the baserunner does not bruise easily.

Here is how I envision the scenario: It is a night game, the ballpark lights use halo-reducing technology, the always-solid Jerry Layne is the third base umpire, Jose Reyes is dancing off third, and a barely-healthy Cole Hamels is pitching and has an Effective Pitch Count (EFE) of 27. Obviously, it is the third inning (EFE = inning * 9).
Reyes is taking a 90% lead, meaning if the pitcher threw over, he'd only be able to get back to third 9 out of 10 times. The hit and run is on, but David Wright misses the sign. The ball is hit right at Reyes with 80e velocity (where e = .001 seconds) down the third base line. Umpire Layne is watching (professional that he is) but 73% of his thoughts are dedicated to a former girlfriend of his that he'd seen on the subway while commuting to the game.

What should the Reyes do? Try to get out of the way but get hit anyway. There is no way for a human, even a Reyes human, to get out of the way of an 80e line drive if it is hit directly at Center Of Gravity (COG). Still, because Reyes is so fast, the ball merely glances off his thigh.

Under normal circumstances, a batted ball that hits a baserunner relegates the baserunner to the bench in the form of an out. But Reyes, being a smart ballplayer with a Measurable Baseball IQ (MBIQ) of over 203, has taken his lead in foul territory. Upon the batted ball's contact of Reyes' muscular thigh, Umpire Layne correctly signals a foul ball. When play is resumed, Umpire Layne resumes thinking about the auburn hair his ex was sporting. It flowed like vino la naranja.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who bats cleanup: Hulk or Rick Ankiel?


This is old news, but Marvel Comics and Minor League Baseball teamed up to produce a special Marvel comic book that would only be available at 30 minor league ballparks. It sounds like a good idea and it would be nice to see The Incredible Hulk playing baseball and interacting with fans instead of what he's currently doing in the Marvel Universe, which is beating the holy hell out of every single super hero. What caught my eye was that there were three special covers created for specific cities, Memphis, Buffalo, and Durham. And on the Memphis cover, you have the Memphis Redbirds' mascot, Rockey the Rockin' Redbird, signing autographs for fans along with Marvel heroes Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk. But what's really interesting is that they are joined by Rick Ankiel. And if there was a player who deserved to have a comic book, I think Ankiel would be in the running. Former pitcher washes out and then, through a mystical event or scientific accident (or medical supplements), he comes back as a homerun hitting superstar.
Rick Ankiel, a budding pitching superstar, loses his control and washes out of the big leagues. To clear his head, he joins an archeological dig in Egpyt and uncovers an ancient Ankh, the symbol of life and immortality, which gives him super strength and reflexes. He hides the find from the other members of the dig and flies back to America to beg for a tryout from the cellar-dwelling Philadelphia Phillies. He uses his new powers, wearing the ankh underneath his uniform, to gain a starting position on the team and quickly leads them up the standings. However, the ancient egyptian gods have become displeased by the missing item and they take human form and create a path of destruction in their search for Ankiel. Eventually, Ankiel is forced to confront the gods and after proving himself in battle, they allow him to keep the symbol, as long as he devotes himself to fighting injustice. So, as he travels the country in the major leagues, he rights the wrongs caused by evildoers and leads the once hapless Phillies closer and closer to the World Series.
I wonder why more superheroes or, perhaps more importantly, super villains don't use their powers to excel in major league sports. Why waste time trying to break into banks or gaining world domination when you could be the greatest pitcher of all time? Some have, I guess. Boomerang had been a major league pitcher but was banned after accepting bribes, which lead him to a life of crime. Bullseye has an even better story, purposely beaning an opposing player and killing him after he grows bored with pitching a no-hitter, which gets him charged with manslaughter. The second Kangaroo, of the Legion of Losers, actually has the most realistic story, a super power who plays in the major leagues but is banned after his super powers are discovered.
I guess my whole point of this post is to suggest that perhaps Barry Bonds hasn't taken steroids but is simply a superhero who gained his powers in 1999 in some freak accident. And maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates should expose all their players to gamma radiation in the hopes of fielding a team of Incredible Hulks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Human Tetris

Human Tetris:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Go Grandy Go


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Q: If you had to wear a sports jersey...

...which player's jersey would you choose?

A week ago, I set out to perform a scientific study: I noted every sports jersey I saw, as well as the race of the person wearing the jersey.

Hypothesis: The majority of sports fans who deign to wear a sports jersey select, subconsciously or not, a jersey of a player of their own race.

Here is the data:

9/2 Payton Manning worn by African-American male
9/3 Jeremy Shockey worn by African-American male
9/3 Donovan Jamal McNabb worn by Asian-American male
9/5 Kurt Warner worn by African-American male
9/7 Dominique Wilkins worn by African-American male
9/8 Michael Owen worn by Caucasian male
9/9 LeBron James worn by Caucasian male
9/9 Stephan Marbury worn by African-American male
9/9 Kobe Bryant worn by African-American female
9/9 Jose Reyes worn by Caucasian male
9/10 Alex Rodriguez worn by Caucasian male
9/10 Alex Rodriguez worn by Caucasian male
9/10 Alex Rodriguez worn by Caucasian male
9/10 "Rothman" Yankee jersey worn by Caucasian male

Result: Nine of thirteen jersey wearers, or 69%, chose to wear jerseys of players not of their own race. As the scientists like to say, it seems there is no correlation between athlete race and jersey wearer race. If I better understood the definition of correlated, I could tell you if athlete race being different than jersey wearer race is correlated.

Note: This is merely a preliminary report. I will continue to collect data throughout the football season.

Note: For the purpose of this study, Derek Jeter will be considered African-American, even though statistically speaking he is, at most, 50% African-American.

A: And to answer the question I pose in the title, I think I would wear a Jose Reyes jersey. Or maybe an old Rickey Henderson Yankee jersey. I can also see myself wearing an Igawa jersey. For football, I'd wear a Brandon Jacobs jersey (I hope his knee is okay) or an Eli jersey (I hope his shoulder is okay). For the record, I also like the 5'6" Darren Sproles, but I would not buy his jersey yet. (Is there a such thing as a Tiger Woods jersey? I feel myself strangely compelled to love him. I watched two hours of golf today just to see him win...I can't think of another athlete that I would give that amount of time to). Musa would wear a Barry Sanders jersey. And Anson would wear a Vince Young jersey.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Brought to you by the letter J


You recently started a new job at a company that sells sporting goods. You are a 7’2” tall female and are irrationally shy. When you receive a company-wide email asking if you want to join the office fantasy football league—$30 to enter—you jump at the chance. While you don’t care a whit about football (or any American sport, really), you see this as a way to make friends at work. You would gladly pay $30 to make nine new friends.

While returning to the office after lunch, two of your league-mates are talking about the draft in the elevator. While you do not have time to transcribe the entire conversation word-for-word, the gist of what they say is this:

“No way I’m going to lose to that girl in our league.”
“You might. You suck at Fantasy Football.”
“I’ll bet $100, and give you 10-1 odds.”
“Deal.”
“Did you see what her team name is?”
“Yeah. Pony Flowers.”
“There is no way I lose to Pony Flowers. No way.”

You find this conversation to be insulting and decide you'd like to do what it takes to have "Pony Flowers" beat the elevator guys' team. The draft is tonight and your one friend who likes fantasy football (and who has agreed to run your team during the regular season) is hiking in Vermont and doesn’t get cell phone reception. What do you do?

This year, the solution is easy: In every round, draft the highest rated player whose last name starts with J. This works for every round except four 4, where you should draft Donovan Jamal McNabb. (Otherwise you’d get stuck starting Tavaris Jackson at QB.) Assuming you had, say, the #2 pick in a 10-team draft, you team might look like this:

1. Steven Jackson
2. Thomas Jones
3. Brandon Jacobs
4. Donovan Jamal McNabb
5. Andre Johnson
6. Calvin Johnson
7. Vincent Jackson
8. Julius Jones
9. Lamont Jordan
10. Brandon Jones
11. Kevin Jones
12. Jacksonville Defense
13. Eric Johnson
14. Tavaris Jackson
15. Sebastian Janikowski

You’ll have a competitive team. Your Vermont friend will have something to work with.

Dr. Gravitee’s challenge: If you were to create a team using the same first letter of the first name (e.g., Leon Washington, Larry Fitzgerald, etc.), which letter would you choose?

Tie-breaker
: Can you name one player (without looking it up) whose last name starts with the letter z?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Strikeout-Prone-Third-Baseman Ouija Magic


I recently happened upon something delightful. The comments section of a three-year-old post on my favorite Tigers blog has become a means to communicate with Brandon Inge.

More proof that Google is magic. It allows you to find things that don't exist.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

STATISTICAL EXCITEMENT!

I was just looking at this statistical breakdown, and it got me thinking about how uninteresting I find Alex Rodriguez, either because, in spite, or irrespective of his chancha.

A while back FreeDarko hypothesized a system of determining how exciting a player is to watch (rather than how effective). I thought I’d try this for baseball. I mean, how often have I had to argue that Curtis Granderson is more exciting than Manny Ramirez? What about A-Rod? Why have to guess at these things when we have so many statistics at our fingertips? In addition, owners and GMs may want to use this stat, which I’ll call Excitement Factor (ExFactor), when deciding how much money to offer free agents.

I’ll start with just hitting and baserunning, and we can work on fielding, pitching, personality, blogging, and funny body type later.

Worth Offensive Excitement Points: Inside-the-park home runs, triples, homers, doubles, stolen bases, caught stealing, thrown out on the basepaths, bunts, HBPs, lining into double plays, and ejections.

Worth Offensive Boredom Points: Walks (especially intentional), groundouts, flyouts, and high pitches-per-plate-appearance ratio.

So let’s start with this equation to determine Excitement Factor:
{(IPHR*5)+(3B*4)+[(HR+2B+SB+CS+TO)*3]+[(B+HBP+LIDP+EJ)*2]}-{[(IBB*3)+(BB*2)+(GO+FO)]*(10P/PA)}

The exciting plays are worth even more when they take place at the ends of close games, with runners in scoring position, and/or with a full count. Let’s say each stat is further multiplied as follows:
Late & Close: *2
RISP: *1.5
FC: *1.1

After those adjustments, we divide by Games Played to determine a player’s Offensive Excitement Rate. This is how fun a player is to watch. The three players I bothered to calculate this for came out as follows (2007 stats, admittedly a down year for Manny):
Grandy ...... 1.49
A-Rod ........ 1.08
Manny ....... 0.33

Musa’s Challenge: Name a player whose OER is higher than Grandy’s.

Tie-Breaker: Name a player whose OER is lower than Sean Casey’s.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Watching A Baseball Game At Trimble Technical High School in Fort Worth, Texas


The baseball player described in this post is wholly imaginary. No existing player or team of Commissioner Bud Selig’s Major League is represented here directly or indirectly. No character is derived from any man or woman, living or dead.

Ten men of slovenly appearance watched from the section of stands behind home plate. They were loose-jowled, glassy-eyed, and short-limbed. It was a hot early-April day, and they huddled together as if fighting to sit closer to an air conditioner. They peered about furtively and aggressively chewed tobacco. Each clutched under his runty arm a clipboard curiously devoid of notes. On seeing Yovani Gallardo take the mound, the men closest to the action edged back in their seats while those behind squinted and silently and unconsciously mouthed baseball clichés over their companions’ shoulders.

Yovani Gallardo’s first warm-up pitch hit the catchers’ mitt and, after a brief delay, a sound that was loud and sharp echoed throughout the dilapidated stadium. The ten men recoiled as if the sound had been from their cheeks being slapped, and when they recovered they hunched over their clipboards and scribbled with 3-inch scorecard pencils a "+" symbol. Then they shifted in their seats and looked out of the corner of their eyes, each trying to gauge the reaction of the others.

“Good arm slot,” the boldest one muttered cautiously.
Another snorted out of his nose in agreement.
“Good movement, too,” another added in a slightly more confident tone.
“Good late movement,” the bold one corrected.
“He’s got a real live arm,” said a third, finally sensing that it was OK to gush about Yovani Gallardo.
“That’s a plus fastball,” the bold one said, wanting to be the first to define the pitch.
The remaining men chipped in:
“His stuff is electric.”
“He’s got a great pitchers’ body.”
“Tall.”
“Yeah.”

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A-Rod Has Chancha

There is a word in Spanish, la chancha, that has a secondary definition that doesn't have an equivalent in English. The word is street jargon and translates to roughly mean "impossible luck" or "greedy luck" or "lucky pig." The closest single-word English equivalent might be "moxie" or "clutch."

But none of the above definitions do chancha justice.

It also means the slightly more melancholic feeling that, "I am happy with my life because I am a lucky bastard, but if ever my luck takes a day off--nay, a minute off--I might suddenly find my life pursuits unsatifying." Chancha is, to some degree, seen as an affliction, something to guard against, as in "me gusta suerte pero no me gusta el vacio sutil de la chancha" (I like good luck but not the subtle emptiness of chancha).

Or, "no deseo ser A-Rod, porque el tiene la chancha" (I wouldn't want to be A-Rod, because he has la chancha.")

Here is an example to illustrate how it could be used:
Man #1: Goooooaaaaaal!!! (Goal.)
Man #2: Que suerte! (You were lucky to score on that play, punk.)
Man#1: Si, yo tengo suerte. (Yes, I have luck on my side.)
Man#2: No, tu tienes chancha. (No, you have chancha.)
Man #1: No! No es verdad! (No.)
Man #2: No te preocupes. La chancha es un sombrero. (No worries, mate. La chancha is a wide-brimmed hat.)

This last response by Man #2 (the sombrero one) is a common expression which is intended to indicate that la chancha can be taken off like a hat, which is an oblique reference to the fallibility of someone who has chancha; a person's luck can change quickly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Introducing: The Red-Speedo Man


While Musa D’s girlfriend was busy dreaming about me, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a near-naked Musa D. look-alike.

Let me explain: I recently joined a masters swim team, and there is a man on the team whose physical resemblance to Musa D. is eerie.

He looks so much like Musa D. that I’ve begun to think that we are already very good friends even though we haven’t exchanged so much as a single word together. The Musa D. look-alike wears the same red speedo to every practice.

At our last practice, after another teammate complained that the workout was too difficult, I elbowed the Red-Speedo Man and rolled my eyes. The Red-Speedo Man didn’t react. I had my goggles on and they are tinted, so it is possible that he didn’t see my eyes rolling.

Practices are two hours long, but ninety-nine percent of that time is spent swimming. When we swim our ears are below water. This makes it difficult to get to know people. That is unless, of course, you are good at talking with people while changing out of a wet speedo or while soaping and ‘pooing up in a communal shower. I am not good at these two things.

Still, I think it is my duty to chronicle the exploits of Musa D’s look-alike, who I will heretofore dub the RSM.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

You did not see this coming.

My girlfriend dreamt last night that I’d died and Dr. Gravitee had, because he knew I’d want him to, taken over as her boyfriend. When, months later, after an appropriate mourning period, she asked him if he’d like to sleep with her, he became irrationally angry. He picked up a Felix the Cat wall clock by the tail and waved it at her threateningly.

Thank you, Dr. Gravitee, for honoring my memory in dreams.

Others are honored this week. My friend Carnahan has a surprise birthday party tonight. He thinks it’s someone else’s party, and it is, but it’s also a party for Carnahan. I don’t approve of this surprise, since he’s fully expecting a party, and the surprise is that he’s being shoehorned into the festivities at the last second. Similarly, my girlfriend’s parents are throwing her a party on Saturday. She knows this, but doesn’t know that they’ve invited childhood friends she hasn’t seen in fifteen years, or that the theme is “Bali Luau” and the dress is “Business Tropical.” These are, in a sense, a surprise parties.

Other recent surprise parties:

Yi Jianlian
Thought he was going to: His coronation as Prince of San Francisco Chinatown.
Was actually going to: Milwaukee.

Joey Renard Gathright
Thought he was going to: Jump over a car without untucking his polo shirt.
Was actually going to: The minors. But he got to be on YouTube.

Musa D
Thought he was going to: Free LaserBall Day at Comerica Park.
Was actually going to: Neifi Perez Bobblehead Day at Comerica Park.

Frank Wychek

Thought he was going to: Eat free pizza every night for several weeks, and twice on Sunday.
Was actually going to: Remove jacket and pants to reveal Titan blue and white wrestling trunks!

Musa D’s Weekly Challenge: Correctly predict any one of my girlfriend’s dreams this week.

Tie-breaker: Write something in the comments no one could ever have expected.

Winner gets a Neifi Perez Bobblehead!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Anson Mountain Has a Friend

On the subway this morning I read a great piece of sports writing. It’s a memoir about taking the LAPD entrance exam by Anson’s friend Ann. The story’s not about sports, but it is about her relationship to her father, measuring up, scaling the walls of the Harvard Divinity School, and the particular pain of physical exertion. I’d describe it as a track-and-field story, in a way. She’s discussing it online at noon today.

I like well-edited online chats, but I hate comments on the online version of newspaper sports sections. They’re generally asinine, mean-spirited, and use horrible grammar and spelling. They’re an outlet for cranks, and they add no value to the online versions of these papers. Blogs are far superior, of course.

Musa’s Challenge of the Week: Send Ann a question in which you mention Anson, Mountain High Publishing, Frank Wychek, or TKS.

Tie-Breaker: Find and link to one correct usage of the word “whom” in an online chat or in the comments section of any online newspaper.

Winner gets the leftovers from yesterday's brunch and an invitation to my birthday party on Friday!

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Titan in the Ring: An Experimental One Act Play

Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that this play is subject to royalty. It is fully protected by Mountain High Publishing, and the copyright laws of the United States. All rights, including professional, amateur, motion pictures, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, and the rights of translation into foreign languages are strictly reserved.
Whenever the play is produced the following notice must appear on all programs, printing, and advertising for the play: —Produced by special arrangement with Mountain High Publishing.“
Due authorship credit must be given on all programs, printing and advertising for the play.
Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


CHARACTERS
Frank Wycheck – Former Tennessee Titans tight end, current sports radio host and professional wrestler. Wearing Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket.
Max Wycheck – Older Brother of Frank. Frank’s endorsement agent. Has a slight, so small it’s almost not worth mentioning, coke problem. Wearing a Steve McNair Titans jersey.
Bo Rice – Frank’s sport agent. Right arm in a cast. Wearing a suit with the right sleeve cut off.
Wrestler #1 – Wearing face paint and long black tights.
Wrestler #2 – Wearing silver wrestling trunks and boots.

SETTING
The set consists of card table with three chairs around the table. In the background, Wrestler #1 and #2 wait for instruction from the actors.


Max: The Long Bomb? (Wrestler #1 does a Five-Star Frog Splash on the prone Wrestler #2.)

Frank: No.

Bo: I still like The Hail Mary. (Wrestler #2 lifts Wrestler #1 in the air and tosses him off of the stage.)

Frank: No.

Max: (smacks the table with palm) Oh, god, why didn’t I think of this before?

Frank and Bo: (in unison) Yes?

Max: The Frank-enstein. (Wrestler #1 chokes the life out of Wrestler #2.)

Frank and Bo: (in unison) No.

(A knock comes from off-stage. All three men turn towards the sound.)

Frank and Bo and Max: (in unison) Pizza!

(All three stay seated. Max and Bo avoid eye contact with Frank until Frank sighs and goes to pay for and retrieve the pizza. The pizza is placed on the table and the three of them eat in silence for thirty minutes. While the pizza is being consumed on stage, index cards should be handed out to the audience by stagehands. At the twenty-five minute mark, cards should be collected with audiences’ suggestions for the name of the finishing move. These cards should be delivered to the stage and placed in a pile on the table. The suggestions should be worked into the play at the discretion of the actors and will be improvised by the wrestlers.)

Max: The Run-n-Shoot? (Wrestler #1 bounces off the (imaginary) ropes and then spears Wrestler #2 in the stomach with his head.)

Frank: No.

Bo: The Wycheckmate? (Wrestler #2 performs a basic neck crank on Wrestler #1.)

Frank: No.

Max: The Onside Kick? (Wrestler #1 executes a kick to the groin of Wrestler #2.)

Frank: No, no, no, no.

Bo: Roughing the Passer? (Wrestler #2 lifts Wrestler #1 into the air and drops him on his shoulder.)

Frank: No.

(Remainder of play to be performed once the actors have exhausted the possibilities from the audience)

Max: (Pushes his seat away and stands.) Fellas!

Frank and Bo: (in unison) Yes?

Max: Fellas!

Frank and Bo: (in unison) Yes?

Max: Fellas!

Frank and Bo: (now standing) Yes?

Max: (arms outstretched) The Music City Miracle. (Wrestler #1 lifts Wrestler #2 into a Argentine Backbreaker Rack and runs towards one side of the stage before stopping suddenly and performing a Spinning Airplane Toss.)

(Silence)

Frank: Yes! (Removes jacket and pants to reveal titan blue and white wrestling trunks. Raises one arm in the air and confetti falls from above the stage. Lights dim. Curtain falls.)

End.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Can't Wait For September


I own a lot of action figures. I own the entire 1990 line of Dick Tracy figures (yes, Dr. Gravitee, even Prune Face). I own Marvel 3 Age figures of Iron Man and Wolverine made to look like little toddlers. I own, still in the box, the 1992 Dream Team Olympic Basketball set of figurines from Starting Lineup. And, come September 2007, I will own this action figure of Vince Young. This is incredible. It's the perfect pose for Mr. Young, searching downfield for receivers that have either fallen down or are covered, already gearing up to bootleg this damn thing all the way to the end zone.
This will go on the shelf reserved for sports related figures, including a 1990 Starting Lineup figure of Mark McGwire (in the super awesome pose of covering first base...since that's what I still remember about McGwire, his play in the field) and a vinyl figure of Gnash, the Nashville (Ontario?) Predators' mascot.
This said, I wonder what fan is anxious for the release of the William Thomas figure. Though I had to look it up, he's gone to the Pro Bowl, but is there a huge demand for William Thomas action figures? Not to say that offensive lineman shouldn't get their own action figure. If there had been a Bill Fralic figure in the late 80's, I would have bought one. But William Thomas? Not to mention that the sculpt has him balancing his entire weight on his toes in a pose that seems to defy gravity.
Still, even with the Vince Young toy, I won't be happy until someone produces a Joey Gathright figure, complete with Misubishi Galant. Perhaps we should create a line of Sinkhole Superstar figurines with a build-a-figure of Colonel Powell for people who buy the entire set. The license for Eileen Shea and Steve Logan shouldn't be prohibitively expensive. And there's already a Drew Henson Bobble Head Doll. Just say the word and I'll get in touch with my "toy guy".

Friday, June 15, 2007

How well do you want to know Musa D?

Back in January we were told:

“The Tigers, top to bottom, are the most solid team around. Stronger than '06. No holes. Really. As long as Sean Casey stays healthy at first, they'll be tough."

The Tigers have since then lost to injury, for at least a few games, two starting pitchers, both setup men, their backup catcher, and their starting shortstop and second baseman, among others. On the other hand, Grandy’s triples are earning some notoriety, along with a comparison to Sam Crawford stolen from TKS.

I’m going to see the Tigers play the Nationals next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. You can still get five-dollar bleacher seats at RFK. I recently attended an MLS game there. There’s a Brazilian player on DC United with the one-word name Fred. There was a banner for a laborers’ union hanging on a barrier around the field, adjacent to a banner for a gay nightclub.

My girlfriend is going to the stadium with me on Tuesday. A friend will accompany me on Wednesday. But I have a free seat on Monday, so I’ve decided to hold a contest. The first person to correctly answer the following trivia question wins The 1st Sesquicentennial Watch a Ballgame with Musa D Trivia Contest.

Your question: At the first major-league game Musa D ever attended at Tiger Stadium, in the summer of 1986, which Milwaukee Brewer slugger broke the collarbone of Tigers pitcher and University of Florida alumnus Randy O’Neal with a line drive? (Hint: An anagram of his name is “I Be In Glove.”)

Tie-breaker question: How did Musa D feel about the baserunners circling the bases as Randy O’Neal lay on the mound writhing in pain?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Places to run: Ireland (and its environs)


Howth Cliff Walk
Run distance: 3.25 miles one way
Location: 12 miles north of Dublin
Description: The cliff walk starts just outside the Howth city center (ask a local for directions) and runs the whole perimeter of Howth Head (a.k.a. “The Nose”) to the 1814 Baily Lighthouse.

Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk
Run distance: 3.7 miles one way
Location: 12 miles south of Dublin
Description: Climb the 790 meter Bray Head and then follow the path that hugs the cliffs. On a clear day you can see Wales.

The Forest behind Belleek Castle
Run distance: 2.5 miles one way
Location Ballina in Co. Mayo
Description: A forest path that winds its way through the castle grounds of the Belleek castle. Enchanting without being spooky.

Buncrana Ocean Path
Run Distance: 3 miles one way with optional 1-mile beach run
Location: Buncrana in Co. Donegal
Description: A paved path that winds along the coast. Don’t forget to check out Friar Hegarty’s rock, the site of the poor friar’s beheading.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Down & In

I was reading the magazine version of our Distinguished Competition and saw an interesting piece in the Media Blitz section. It read, "Now that his tough rookie year is over, J.J. Redick is focusing his energy on producing a book of poetry." I immediately searched for some of his work and found a few examples and I don't really want to spend a lot of times discussing the merits of his work (it's terrible), but it made me think of the one athlete I know who wrote poetry, relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry. Helicon Nine Editions published Quisenberry's collection of poetry, On Days Like This, and one of his poems was included in the anthology, Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems, alongside poems by critically respected poets such as Beth Ann Fennelly, Yusef Komunyakaa, Wyatt Prunty, Charles Bukowski and Andrew Hudgins. The poem in that anthology, "Baseball Cards" has a nice ending.

I tell folks
I used to be famous
I used to be good
they say
we thought you were bigger
I say
I was

According to a friend from Kansas City, Quisenberry attended a poetry workshop in KC and was genuinely interested in literature, so it's not as if this was just a vanity project for him. Most of his writing seemed to occur after he had retired and I wondered if there were any current pro athletes who also were writing poetry or fiction. I wonder if creative writing might be losing great writers to the NFL and NBA and MLB in the same way that US Tennis is losing great athletes to these same leagues. Of course, I understand why someone might decide to play in the NBA and make millions rather than submit their poems to small journals and attend an MFA program and then end up teaching composition at a small community college in Nebraska, but it would be awesome to open a literary journal and see a bio like:

Lofty Parsons has published poems in Northwest Review, Fence, Carolina Quarterly, and Poetry. He lives in Seattle and currently plays strong safety for the Seattle Seahawks.

Lofty Parsons would immediately become my favorite player.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sinkhole Pioneers: Ireland

During the twelve days I was in Ireland, I counted MLB baseball caps. Here was the final tally:

New York Yankees: 67
Boston Red Sox: 1
Rest MLB baseball teams: 0

This surprised me. Previous to my informal poll, I had thought that Boston and Ireland had a special bond.

This discovery reveals an interesting love triangle:
Boston loves Ireland;
Ireland loves The Bronx;
The Bronx loves itself.

In this love triangle, nobody loves Boston.

I can imagine the three of them at a party. The Bronx is telling stories loudly and never wandering far from the keg. Ireland is sitting on the couch seductively, legs crossed, staring dreamily at The Bronx. Boston is sitting on the arm of the couch, hoping to catch Ireland’s eye, hoping for a more-than-near-kiss.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sinkhole Superstars: Sam Crawford

Curtis Granderson hit his league-leading eighth triple last night. I don’t know what triple statistics measure, exactly—line drive power to right, speed, and a willingness to try for the extra base, I guess. Triples are more exciting than (outside-the-park) home runs. The all-time leader in triples is Sam Crawford, with 309. He played right field for the Tigers from 1903 to 1917. Like Cy Young’s 749 complete games, that isn’t a record anyone is going to break without some radical changes to the game. (These records are unknown today because no one could ever break them, not because they’re less important than, say, a hitting streak.)

Sam Crawford was my favorite historical baseball figure growing up, and not only because of his aptitude for triples. His chapter in The Glory of Their Times is wonderful, in part because of his clear-eyed observations of Ty Cobb, who played next to him in center field. Crawford was the polite, honest, and slightly less-skilled second fiddle to the nutty, racist, tormented Cobb.

This line of thought got me started on my current writing project, a novel narrated by Sam Crawford but structured around the rise and fall of Cobb, a kind of dead-ball-era On the Road. I figure they’ve been dead long enough that I can add some sexual tension, maybe a near-kiss or something.

Other projects currently in the works:

- An operetta about the 1987-1991 Pistons, tentatively entitled Ragazzi Difettosi. Ambition, frustration, triumph, downfall. I’m still ironing the kinks out of a tricky section where Magic and Bird sing in counterpoint and (if I can get the funding) Rodman descends from the ceiling. For the finale, a soprano duet by Jordan and Isiah: “We have swept you! We have swept you!” “But I will not shake your hand! I will never shake your hand!”

- An installation piece about Cyclo-Cross Racing, tentatively entitled “Mud, Mud, Everywhere.” I’ve worked up several sketches, but i’m still searching for sponsorship and the right venue. MME will require a fifty-two-by-twenty-eight-foot indoor space, nineteen hundred pounds of mud, and the skeletons of two dozen rusty old bicycles.

- A one-man play about the 1984 Tigers, tentatively entitled Tigers, Tigers, Burning Bright. Sparky Anderson (played by Brian Dennehy or, if he’s available, Peter Fonda) looks back on the season, the Series, and the ensuing riots. It requires only a single spotlight, a stool, and a cuspidor. I’ve written a short musical piece for timpani and cymbals to be played during the riot scene, as Sparky weeps into his cap.

- An endurance piece about horseracing, tentatively entitled “My Derby Year.” For one calendar year, I’ll wear blinders and a bit, have a spider monkey in purple silks ride on my back, and keep a daily log of my weight and how long it takes me to run from my apartment to the bus stop and back.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Speeding like a space brain

I went to a high school that was less than 5% black, and my senior year only one player on the varsity football team was black. His name was Josh Cox, and he was an undersized but hard-running fullback. Josh got about half the team’s carries each game, all between the tackles, and at our home field when he’d gain at least five yards, or when his collision with a defender was audibly violent, the PA man would play a train-whistle sound effect and the crowd would chant, “Night Train!”

Josh “Night Train” Cox. First, the rhythm is all wrong and there's nothing even close to rhyme. Second, it was embarrassing to have so many white adults chanting “Night Train!” at Josh. So after two games of this, our principal forbade the PA man from using the train whistle. This decision made it into the local paper, and the story mentioned where the PA man had bought the train whistle, so fans brought their own train whistles to the next game.

Before the next home game, the principal convened us in the gym and informed us that Josh’s new nickname was “Choo Choo” Cox, and that this nickname was what we were to chant after the sound of the reinstated PA train whistle. Josh stood next to the principal and waved.

We tried. But no one over the age of eight likes to yell “Choo Choo!” Plus, the opposing fans had begun chanting “Cox Chewer” and the like whenever Josh was stopped for a loss. So by halftime we'd resigned ourselves to clapping, hooting wordlessly, and stamping our feet.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Yak Attack

Anson’s post reminded me of a mascot skirmish from my high school days.

For three of the four years I attended my high school, our mascot was, inarguably, offensive to Native Americans. Then, during my senior year, a Sociology teacher named Mrs. Barks convinced our principal to change our mascot to something less offensive. (She was new to my school and was full of “big ideas.” Because of her "ideas," she was reviled by many of the residents of my town.)

(Unlike Anson, I like to write in paragraphs: it’s easier on the eyes. Sometimes my paragraphs are only two sentences long.)

I had no particular attachment to our Native American-related mascot and saw the naming of a new mascot as a great opportunity to leave my mark on my high school. (A vocal minority, however, claimed that the mascot “honored” Native Americans and that it would be a “travesty” to change it.) I joined the Mascot Committee and dominated meetings with my suggestions. The Mascot Committee, which was essentially the same nerds who were on the Yearbook Committee, let me bully them into including “Yaks” on the ballot of twenty names that were to undergo a school-wide vote (I also worked the name "Blue Genie" onto the ballot). Most of the other names were ones that were already in use by other popular teams, such as the Spartans and the Titans.

I must put this story in context: I moved nine times before I was a senior in high school. A month before each move, my parents refused to buy anything. “We’ll just have to lug it to the new place,” they claimed. So, for thirty days, we lived on peanut butter and jelly and wiped our asses with tissues. When the tissues ran out, I took toilet paper from the high school bathroom and brought it home. When the PB&J ran out we ate the canned food that had been in the back of the pantry for years. We washed our dishes by hand. We brushed our teeth with baking soda.

So, when all this mascot stuff was going down, my family was about to move. I am not complaining about my parents' moving-related quirks. Living like cavemen was actually quite fun, and after graduating from high school I promptly attended a college where I lived like a caveman for four years. I’m merely pointing out that I was underfed and probably under-wiped and so I was, certainly, a little loopy at the time.

The night before the big vote, I stayed up until five in the morning making dozens of posters that had a large color picture of a formidable/brooding yak chewing some cud. His image was framed by the words YAK ATTACK. I got to school early and taped them on the walls of the stairwells.

That’s all it took. The Yaks won by a landslide, accruing more than 75% of to the school-wide vote. Victory was sweet, but short-lived (as it often is). Hours after the vote was announced, the principal, claiming that the Yak entry was not a “serious” entry, disqualified it.

My high school is now named the Nighthawks. Bleh.

The Dixie Association

I was thinking about Donald Hays' novel, The Dixie Association and the awesome names for baseball teams he created for the book. My favorite was the Nashville Fugitives, but there were other great ones: Milledgeville Peacocks, Memphis Kings, Oxford Fury, and the Asheville Wolves. It reminded me of when the Nashville Predators hockey team was coming to Tennessee and the newspaper asked fans to write in their ideas for a name. My friend Tony sent in his choice and then proceeded to talk about it for months afterwards, even after the name had been chosen. The Nashville Honky Tonks. A hockey team with the word honky in its title didn't seem like the best choice to expand the fan base, but he was insane about it. I had hoped for the Nashville Nights, with a cosmic black uniform with hundreds of tiny stars covering the jersey. My senior year of high school, I created a basketball league that I acted out with the hoop that hung on my bedroom door. Some other time I'll write about how I managed to play five seasons of games off and on through the years, including drafts and playoffs and retirements, and how I was still doing this while my wife went off to work in the morning and I did not yet have a job. But for now, I just want to talk about the team names. It was fun at first. The Los Angeles Quakes, the Las Vegas Gamblers, the Oakland Bombers, the Houston Mustangs. And that was just the West. After a while, however, it got a little less fun. I was just tossing out names to get it over with. The Denver...Lasers. Fine. The Ohio...Invaders. Whatever. But if I'd had one single team to name, I would have been much more invested. So, I wonder if you had a baseball team coming to the state where you now live and you had to choose the name, what would it be? I hoped perhaps opening up the comments section might lead to some polite conversation instead of the nasty, undignified comments we've been getting (I'm looking at you Hannah...actually I'm looking at a picture of you that Musa D sent me for my birthday, but you get the idea).

Friday, April 27, 2007

The A/V Club Will Save Us from Ourselves

The anger and melancholy that this blog is lately fomenting reminds me of a comment war that flared last year on the Tigers blog I frequent. People were posting thousand-word diatribes at 3 AM about the relative merits of Craig Monroe and Marcus Thames, and in the end the administrator had to ban some of the commenters for vulgar and threatening language. It was like witnessing road rage in an adjacent lane of the highway.

After a Tigers game, that same blog occasionally reproduces the game’s FanGraph. These show how likelihood of victory varied over the course of the game:
I can’t think of anything that’s less like a baseball game than one of these graphs. Of course, some future human who grows up poring over these graphs in the e-paper every morning might say the same thing about box scores.

The graphs remind me of Kurt Vonnegut’s unsuccessful anthropology dissertation at the University of Chicago, where he tried to graph stories in order to compare and contrast them. That didn’t work, but I do think that the guys at FanGraphs could make a positive difference in the world. Maybe we could graph political campaigns. Or international conflicts. Or romantic relationships. Then, when you break up with someone, you can find out if it’s fairest to compare your two months together to the 1984 Democratic primaries, Mark Buehrle’s no-hitter, or the Galveston Flood. We will put an end to bad analogies. No one will be unfairly smeared, and my boss’s secretary Hannah will have to stop telling our coworkers that my innocent invitation to coffee was “reminiscent of the Bay of Pigs invasion.”

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lance Schulters Did Not Enjoy Match Point Either

A few months ago, I had a dream. I rarely dream, or at least never remember them. On average, I wake up remembering a dream about once every two or three months. It stands to reason that the dreams I do remember should be of great importance, but they rarely are. Most involve my parking my car and walking with a large group to some event and then realizing that I have no idea how to get back to my parked car once the event has ended or I have decided to leave early. But a few months ago, I had a dream about Lance Schulters, who once played safety for the Tennessee Titans. I was at a charity basketball game and he happened to be playing and we talked about movies and he seemed like an okay guy and I remember telling him that I wished the Titans hadn't released him and he said it was just business. He went back into the game and I sat back on the bleachers and I remember thinking, in the dream, that this would certainly go over very well on the blog. And I woke up and I decided that maybe I needed to spend a little less time with the Sinkholes.
But then I got an email from a college friend, Dave "Angry!" Schultz, telling me that Dr. Gravitee was writing posts that were too long and would I come back to write something about sports (or not sports as it were. Angry! said, and I quote, "Anson, can you please go back on the blog and get to the bottom of this hamburger thing?"...oh, in college, "getting to the bottom of this hamburger thing" was slang for getting your business in order...it also meant, sometimes, wrestling on the lawn). So, here is, in honor of the first Charlotte basketball team, a little excerpt from Tony Earley's incredible "Charlotte":
"Now we have the Hornets. They wear uniforms designed by Alexander Julian, and play hard and lose, and make us look into our souls."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sinkhole Superstars: Joey Renard Gathright jumps over a car


Even if Joey Gathright, the former starting center fielder for the KC Royals, never makes it back to the majors, if he gets stuck in Triple-A Omaha for the next fifteen years, he is already a superstar in my book for accomplishing this feat: jumping over a parked car.

UPDATE: Judging by the angry emails I've been receiving for this post, some of our readers disapprove my decision to "laud" Joey's "reckless act." To those people, I say simply this: watch the video. It doesn't have the feel of a bunch of kids doing stupid stuff so that they can get their own MTV show. In fact, I find the video oddly soothing. He's in a polo shirt. He's wearing reading glasses. There is no pre-jump gritting of teeth or pounding of chest. He just jogs up and jumps. Like jumping over a puddle. And after jumping over the parked car with ease, Joey seems mostly embarrassed to have agreed to show off his trick for the camera. Joey, you ARE the man.

SECOND UPDATE: An angry commenter named "Angry!" just posted the following: "Joey Gathright is a Sinkhole Superstar for jumping over a Mitsubishi Galant while dressed like Carlton Banks? The true Sinkhole Superstar is Renjis Empati!"

So, my retort to "Angry!" is...good point.

Perhaps what would be most productive at this point would be to take a step back and define what a "sinkhole superstars" is. For me, it is someone who reaches the Pinnacle Of Greatness' waiting room (and is generally considered a superstar) in a narrow field and then, through no real fault of his own, is absorbed back into the normally-skilled world (which is where the "sinkhole" part comes in). Joey was a very highly-rated prospect for the Devil Rays. Now he's a Triple-A outfielder for the Royals who isn't considered an especially good base runner or fielder despite his amazing speed (and, as the video suggests, leaping ability). Same player, same skills. The only difference is that he is two years older and now People Who Matter In Baseball are suddenly down on his ability to, well, not swing at a too-high fastball.

I have a fondness for these sorts of of players. And while I do not make dolls of these players and pet them (that would be creepy), I do recognize my own dreams of superstardom as well as my own moments of sinkholedom in them. Eileen Shea was the Main Woman at MSU, and now she is, say, a normal mom living in East Lansing. Steve Logan was an incredible college player, but now he is struggling to find a job in Europe. And Joey is a formerly-hyped OF who might never get another chance to play in the majors.

Buy hey, at least he can jump over a car. I'd put that skill just above being competitive at ping pong and just below being able to play a Bach piano concierto passably well.

As for Renjis Empati, that's an entirely different story. I am ready, in all seriousness, to dedicate this blog to him and his efforts. He, after all, saw his kitchen going into a sinkhole while going to the bathroom in an outhouse at 2am and had the wherewithal to go Paul Revere on his neighbors and save their lives.

Renjis Empati, I emphatically salute you!

THIRD UPDATE: The Cubs signed Gathright to a one-year contract on December 16th, 2008. He'll be fighting for playing time with Kosuke Fukudome, Reed Johnson and maybe So Taguchi. Also: here is the video of Joey jumping over that Dodgers pitcher in spring training last year.

Malaysian saves 100 from sinkhole

By Steve Jackson
BBC News

A Malaysian man paying a late-night visit to the toilet has saved about 100 people from being buried in the rubble of their homes, reports say.

Renjis Empati was visiting an outside lavatory when he noticed part of his communal longhouse collapsing.

He shouted to alert his sleeping neighbours to the danger. Shortly after, the entire building gave way.

Longhouses are large communal buildings used by indigenous groups in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

It was about 0200 when Mr Empati left the communal longhouse he lived in to answer a call of nature.

Lost possessions

According to reports in the New Straits Times newspaper, he felt the ground slowly moving and noticed part of his kitchen sliding into a sinkhole.

He ran along the side of the building shouting to alert his sleeping neighbours to the danger.

The residents, the occupants of 14 family apartments, managed to get out and shortly afterwards the building collapsed.

Pictures in the newspaper show people climbing through a huge pile of splintered wood and corrugated iron trying to retrieve their possessions.

The local authorities have given the homeless community around $4,000 (£2,000) to help with the rebuilding.

Many people have expressed gratitude to Mr Empati for helping to get them out before it was too late.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The sunsets in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea are pretty


In December of 2006, I made the following statement:

“I also publicly predict that the Bobcats will end the 2006-2007 season with a better record than the Knicks.”

With one game remaining in the regular season, the Bobcats have a one-game lead over the Knicks. And guess who the Bobcats play for their final game of the season? The Knicks.

I once met Bill James, that baseball stat guy that every baseball blog writes about. I have a friend whose mother is lead engineer on the Hubble telescope, and through her work she is able to get tickets in one of those baseball luxury boxes. I sometimes join them for a game when they have an extra seat. One night, Bill James was in our box. I introduced myself while we were standing over the ballpark frank bin at the buffet line in the back of the luxury box. After exchanging pleasantries, I said, “I’m currently creating a model that predicts the winners of NASCAR races. It has been successful so far (a .56 correlation rate), but I wondered if you could help me take it to the next level.”

He glanced at me, selected a hotdog from the bin, looked back at me and then said, “what is your math background?” I told him. He said, “You are math deficient. After you improve your math skills, I’d be happy to go over it with you.”

And that’s Bill, as far as I can tell: blunt to the bone, maybe to the point of being arrogant, but ultimately willing to be generous with his time.

Switching gears, I have been eating larger quantities of fruit and vegetables. The effect on my bowel movements has been marked. They now feel more like they are being squeezed from a tube. Previously, each episode was like giving birth to a small collection of miniature hairless bear cubs. My latest movements are more like the healthy droppings of a nervous greyhound before he’s pushed into a dog track’s starting gate.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"I don't even try to figure out this game anymore”

Brandon Inge said that the other day. He’d started off the season 0 for 20.

I should not have left Bill James off my list of people who would enjoy World War Z. I grew up reading his books, and I think he’s one of the most influential people in the past quarter-century of sports. His Historical Baseball Abstract is the best sports book ever written. I still remember that in his 1990 Abstract he predicted John Smoltz would win 200 games in his career (he had 14 wins at the time, he now has 194).

James was recently interviewed by a Mets blog, and some of his answers were exquisitely left-brained. When asked if he might start his own blog or web site, he replied, “Not a blog, no, but a web site, yes. Based around information.” He got a question about player development that rambled a little and informed the interviewer, “You're mixing up several issues in a jumbled question.” When asked about Mark McGwire’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame: “He isn't being judged by the standard that I would choose for him, but then, it isn't my choice, and there is no logic to admiring athletes, anyway. It's just arbitrary. It's like admiring people who won the lottery.”

Beep-boop. Beep-boop-bop.

But he’s right, as always, and, more impressively, unafraid to reveal an unsightly truth about the underpinnings of his life’s work.

James works for the Red Sox now, and he was asked about how that’s changed his perspective. “A lot of decisions in baseball are made on the basis of things that you never think about as a fan,” he said. “The internal discussion of the front office is vastly more sophisticated than the discussion that takes place in the public arena, more subtle, more layered, more complex, and with hundreds of times more information.” This from a guy who’s charted types and locations of pitches at hundreds of games, just so he could better understand what was happening on the field and why.

This brought to mind a conversation I once had with a friend whose father was a coach for the Michigan State football team. I asked her about the coaching changes that took place in the nineties. “The real reason [one assistant coach] didn’t get the job,” she said, “is that he was sleeping with the head coach’s wife.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

If I were coach...

Of a MLB baseball team:

* I’d use my closer to maximize my team’s wins, not my closer’s saves total. This would require me to use my closer in all 1-run and tie games regardless of save situation. I wouldn’t use my closer in a three-run-lead save situation.

* I’d never intentionally walk a hitter. Giving out IBBs is like taking on credit card debt.

* I would not pitch a #5 starting pitcher. Instead, I would pitch nine one-inning Zumaya-types. Or Broxton-types. Or Howry-types. Or Wheeler-types. Or Duchscherer-types. (Set-up men.)

* In fact, I might not have any starting pitchers. Instead, I’d pitch a fifteen-man rotation that was a grab bag of underappreciated (and underpaid) closers, set-up men, and knuckleballers.

* On my bench I would only have one backup catcher and one utility guy who could come in if there was an injury. I would have no pinch hitters. The concept of pitch hitting is entirely stupid. If a pinch hitter were a good hitter, he’d be a starter. So why, in a baseball game's most crucial point, would you have a bad hitter come in cold off the bench, not at all in the rhythm of the game, and face the opposing team's toughest pitcher? It doesn’t make sense. No pinch hitters. The only thing I dislike more than pinch hitters are bad pitchers that people defend by calling them "Inning Eaters." Neither Livan Hernandez nor Lenny Harris will be on my team.

Of a football team:

* I’d never punt when in opposition territory.

Of a basketball team:

* I’d press for all 40 (or 48) minutes. If you aren’t in shape enough to play 40 hard basketball minutes, you need to get off the couch and increase your metabolic rate.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Frequency of Sinkhole Activity Decreasing

Another thing that's been decreasing is my metabolic rate. I think I've determined the contributing factors:
  • Watching 5.5 seasons of The Sopranos in a two-month span.
  • Leaving my bicycle locked to the bike rack behind the Thomas Community Center in Gainesville, FL, two years ago.
  • Leaving my baseball glove in Africa, where I'm sure it's collecting dust. (Having one baseball glove is as pointless as having one tennis racquet. Having both one glove and one racquet is equally pointless. Having both or either is even more pointless in an African village, where there are no solid, large, horizontal or vertical flat surfaces, and no balls.)
Those 5.5 seasons of The Sopranos have caused me:
  • A ten-lb. weight gain.
  • Handgun fantasies.
  • Worse posture.
  • To use foul language around my grandmother, though she didn't hear me.
  • To refer to paying my taxes this year as "kicking up to my uncle."
  • To have a sit-down at work with Bill the mailroom guy about having him clip Harold from Accounts Payable.
Vanity Fair and I agree that The Sopranos is the most influential show of all time.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dear Adrian,

To increase readership of this blog, I will, from time to time, reply to my emails in this space. In this case, Adrian asked me if I was available to go for a run with him today. We have been running together once a week for the past five months or so. I replied to Adrian’s email on the blog and then sent him an email that contained only the link to this post.

I’m in. Let’s meet down by the bridge at 3:30pm, as per usual. I also wondered if you were available to play a game of pool with me tonight. Flattop Johnnies has free pool from 11am until close (1am) on Saturday nights.

I realize this is the first time I have asked you to socialize outside our normal running routine. We have been enjoying our weekly runs together, and I figured now would be as good a time as any to take this next step in our friendship. Just so we are perfectly clear about the trajectory of our friendship, here is a list of the remaining steps we’d need to take over the next few months to truly become friends:

1. We play a few games of pool at Flattop Johnnies
2. I introduce you to my girlfriend
3. A group dinner: me, with my girlfriend, and you, with your latest match.com hopeful
4. One of us saves the other from a tight spot (one picks up the other from the airport, or helps the other move, or edits the other’s graduate school admissions essay, or takes the other to the hospital after sustaining a broken bone, or watches the other’s pet while he is on vacation, etc.).

After negotiating through these steps, you will probably be on the outer fringe of being wedding-invite material. If, however, you pass the above four steps with flying colors and I still decide not to invite you to my wedding, please don’t be upset with me. I want to have a small wedding and my girlfriend is set on inviting her entire extended family, which is very large.

See you at 3:30pm,
DrG.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The machismo and the frustrated: The Dugout Wall vs. The Water Cooler vs. The Electric Fan

MLB Players who have attacked the dugout or clubhouse wall:

* During Game four of the 2004 NLCS, Julian Tavarez punched a dugout telephone and broke bones in two fingers of his left (non-throwing) hand.

* On Sept. 3, 2004, Kevin Brown punched a concrete wall inside the Yankees' clubhouse, breaking two bones in his left (non-throwing) hand, requiring surgery.

* Andy Sisco, a tall (6'9") left-handed pitcher power pitcher who was drafted by the Cubs out of high school, was so confident that he would lead the Cubs to a World Series title, he had a phoenix tattooed on his arm. In 2004, after a frustrating outing, he punched a clubhouse wall and broke his hand. As he struggled to recover, the Cubs left him off their 40-man roster and the Royals picked him up in the Rule 5 draft for $50,000.

* Jose Bautista, a third baseman, was rated as one of the Pirates' Top 10 prospects entering the 2003 season, but he endured a disappointing season at Lynchburg, hitting just .242 in 51 games and missing nearly three months with a broken hand, suffered when he punched a dugout wall in frustration.

* On Sept. 1, 1998, Mike DeJean. a Rockies reliever, went to work on a partition separating two lockers, fracturing his left (non-throwing) pinkie.

* On June 15, 1993, John Franco, closer for the Mets, punched the door to the sauna in the visiting clubhouse in Atlanta and the knuckle of right index finger had to be stitched.

* In early June of 1988, Randy Johnson was gearing up for his major league debut with Montreal. However, on June 15, right before he was going to be recalled by the Expos, he was forced to leave a game against Richmond after knocking down a line drive with his pitching hand. A frustrated Johnson punched the bat rack with his right hand and broke it (his hand). His left hand, which had been hit by the batted ball, was perfectly fine. Johnson finally made his major league debut on Sept 15, in a game against Pittsburgh. Johnson pitched five innings and allowed 2 runs, picking up his first major league victory. He finished the season in Montreal strong, winning 3 of his 4 starts and putting up a 2.42 ERA.

* On May 6, 1982, Doyle Alexander gave up five runs in the third inning for the Yankees, then slammed his pitching hand into the dugout wall and broke a knuckle on his pinkie.

* On July 24, 1978, Mets pitcher Pat Zachary kicked a dugout step and broke his toe after being removed from the game. Joe Torre was his manager.

* On June 27, 1967, Al Kaline, then the Tigers rightfielder, punched the dugout bat rack after a strikeout and broke his hand.

MLB players who have attacked a water cooler:

* In May of 2006, Greg Maddux attacked a water cooler with a bat after going 0-4 at the plate that day.

* On June 17, 2005, Kenny Rogers, after being removed in the seventh inning against Washington, punched a dugout water cooler, breaking a bone below his right pinkie.

* In August of 2003, Tyler Yates let his emotions get away from him and punched a water cooler in the dugout after being taken out of the game. He broke the little finger on his right hand, which ended his season.

* In 1999, Carlos Perez took fourteen vicious swings at a water cooler after being yanked from a game in which he’d just walked the bases loaded (including a walk to Pirates pitcher Francisco Cordova). He broke no bones.

* Paul O’Neil has attacked water coolers too many times to list here in this space.

* On Aug. 21, 1993, Terry Mulholland, angered after serving up a home run, beat up a water cooler and broke his right (non-throwing) hand.

* 1938, the year before he went to play for Boston, Ted Williams nearly ended his career before it started. At the time, he was leading the American Association in everything—runs, hits, RBIs, homers, everything. Lloyd Brown was pitching for St. Paul. Brown was a short, tough pitcher with a good curve. Ted got him to 3 and 1 in the first inning, bases loaded, two outs. Brown threw the fastball, right there. If Ted had gotten a little more of the ball, it would have gone 440 feet, but he made a bad swing and popped out to the first baseman to end the inning. He went back to the bench and punched a half-full water cooler. Blood and glass flew everywhere (they didn’t use paper cups back then). One piece of glass went pretty deep into his hand and just missed a nerve. He continued to play in the game, collecting four hits before it concluded.

MLB players who have attacked an electric fan:

* On Aug. 27, 2004, Kyle Farnsworth, then a reliever for the Cubs, gave up six runs in the ninth to Houston. After the game, he kicked an electric fan and sprained his right knee. He was placed on 15-day disabled list the next day.

* On Oct. 27, 1985, John Tudor punched an electric fan in the clubhouse and severely cut his hand after getting knocked out of Game 7 of the World Series in the third inning.

Others incidents of note:

* On April 11, 1997, Jason Isringhausen fractured small bones in his right (throwing) wrist by punching a clubhouse trash can during a game with the Mets' Triple-A affiliate, Norfolk.

* On March 6, 1993 John Wetteland, then the Expos closer, fractured his right big toe after kicking a batting-practice screen in spring training.

Final Score:
The Dugout Wall: 10
The Water Cooler: 7
The Electric Fan: 2

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This Post is Like a Turkey Sandwich

Chuck Klosterman wants us to consider: We don’t discount Revolver because of the influence of drugs. Should we discount the 1998 home-run race because of the influence of drugs?

He’s not saying that we shouldn’t. I just like that he’s bringing sports and music together in a new way. FreeDarko insists that basketball isn’t jazz. I’d like to agree, but I’m not really sure what jazz is. I’m pretty sure football isn’t war, either. (Despite this, which isn’t the same thing.) Baseball conjures the pastoral, even in the Bronx, but it’s become a metaphor for other things, rather than the converse. On the other hand, a knuckleball can be a marriage.

Walter Pater says, “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” Maybe Klosterman's on to something, and sport does too. I’d say Bad Boys: The ’87-’88 Detroit Pistons, which for one year I watched daily, aspires to the condition of tragic opera, one with “The Final Countdown” by Europe as its theme, Isiah Thomas as soprano, Joe Dumars as alto, Dennis Rodman as contralto, Mark Aguirre as tenor, Bill Laimbeer as baritone, Chuck Daly as bass-baritone, and James Edwards as bass. In any case, Pater’s got the libretto (by George Blaha) and the acting (Isiah drops 25 in a quarter… on a sprained ankle!) aspiring back to the condition of music, so we’re headed around that circle again. Maybe the only sports that don't demand and ruin metaphor are boxing and footraces.

Or maybe in all these cases the only metaphor that really works is sex. My favorite new sports blog these days is Ladies…, which shines through (and occasionally takes on, with humor and gumption) the machismo and frustrated homoeroticism of sports and reminds us that these guys running around in their pajamas are enjoyed by some smart, sexy, funny women. They talk about getting to third base and they mean it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Trying to knuckle down

When I was thirteen years old, I belonged, with maximum exuberance, to a country club of the golf variety. It was a nine-hole course with poorly planned overlapping fairways. My favorite hole, the par-three eighth, was the one that was farthest from the clubhouse. It was across a two-lane road, high up on a hill, and adjacent to the town park swimming pool. From the tee box, you could hear kids shouting “marco” and “polo” in the pool below. Weeds were in the sandtrap and ankle-high grass in the fairway because the groundskeeper deemed it unsafe to drive his mower across the two-lane road.

The cost of my “teen” membership, I still remember, was $265 dollars a year, with a one-time $150 dollar initiation fee. During that one year that I was a club member, I played nearly every day after school. When it snowed, I’d throw on my yellow jacket and play the round with a hot pink ball. I liked the feeling of striking a ball and watching it fly in a perfect trajectory.

I played my rounds, with few exceptions, alone. I was hyper-vigilant and obsessive about keeping an accurate score, and after each round I rushed to the clubhouse computer to enter it. I had three other friends who were club members, but I didn’t like playing with them. They didn’t take the game seriously. They each played with a pocket full of acorns, and whenever one of the four of us hit, acorns would be pelted at our heads during our backswing. One time, all three of them lined up on the eighth tee box and, at the same time, they hit in the direction of the crowded pool below and then waited for an extra loud scream. None came.

I recently found an English essay of mine from that year in which I discuss in great detail how I was going to start “making a living playing golf” before I turned twenty years old. This was before Tiger Woods and Big Bertha drivers. This was before Venus Williams and Jennifer Capriati, before Lebron and Dwight Howard. I was a thirteen year-old who was convinced that he’d be on the cover of Sports Illustrated before he could legally drink.

In the first month, my handicap went from a 36 to a 23, but during the next eleven months I was only able to shave off an additional 4 strokes. Still, my confidence remained high. As I wrote in my English essay, “Becoming a star is a process. My diligence will be constant but I expect my game to improve infrequently and unexpectedly.”

At the end of that year of golf tunnel-vision, an unexpected event prevented my game from improving at all, infrequently or otherwise: the clubhouse was burned down by a serial arsonist and was never rebuilt. Within months, my parents signed me up for a floor hockey league and a swim team, and I soon forgot about golf altogether.

Now, decades later, I look back and recognize that I have never been able to recapture the ability to have a singular purpose. I have been handicapped by loving other people and by wanting financial independence, which require flexibility and compromise when it comes to my personal goals. Or so I thought.

I was recently reading an old New Yorker issue when I came across an article about knuckleball pitchers, and I suddenly realized that throwing knuckleballs for a living was something I could do. It didn’t require any real baseball skill. All I needed was to be able to throw a baseball 50 mph with no spin. And throw it for strikes.

My wife, who played Division I softball in college, agreed to play catch with me for thirty minutes each morning, regardless of the weather. She thinks of the time as a way to catch up on one another’s lives. This morning, for example, she told me a story about an annoying co-worker and asked me how I’d deal with him. I mostly just listen to her stories, but anytime I think I have thrown a good knuckler, I interrupted her and ask, “did that one have movement?” So far, the answer to my question has slowly progressed from “no” to “I didn’t see any” to “maybe” to “sort of.”

My wife claims that playing catch every morning has saved our marriage, that she’s noticed that the more my pitches wobble, the less our relationship does. Maybe she’s right, but for me that’s too broad of a concept to wrap my head around. What I do know is that for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling good. And while I realize that I’ve chosen the one pitch whose trajectory nobody can predict—not even the person who throws a lively knuckleball knows where it will end up—I am confident that if I keep practicing, one of these days I’ll be throwing it for strikes in the majors.