Tuesday, May 29, 2007
You never know where you will run into another displaced Mets fan.
I’ve spent part of each of the last two weeks at Mackinac Island, which is one of Michigan’s prime tourist spots.
It’s a beautiful little island located between the state’s upper and lower peninsulas, which means it’s about three hours from civilization. It’s accessible only by ferry, and is famous for banning motorized vehicles -- which means it is overrun with bicycles and horses.
I’m allergic to horses so I try to keep my distance. But I’m a quick learner. If you see a puddle and it hasn’t rained, you don't do splashing around.
But I digress. The main exports seem to be fudge – there are 17 places to buy it – and t-shirts. Luckily, I like both.
Last week I went north as a chaperone with my daughter’s fourth-grade trip. It’s a four-hour bus ride, and I think the kids were freaked out after being forced to watch “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” on the coach’s DVD player. It’s been years since I’ve seen it. I think if Truly Scrumptious had sang one more song the kids would have started throwing their Crocs at the screens.
After surviving the horse-drawn carriage tour – barely – and touring Fort Mackinac and the Butterfly House, we had some time to shop for fudge and souvenirs.
I entered one store and heard a ball game on the radio, then heard the “Let’s go Mets...FAN” jingle. There are few sounds nicer to these ears, especially if it dislodges “Toot Sweets” from my head.
“Hey, is that the Mets?” I asked to the guy behind the counter. “Awesome!”
Turned out the owner is a New Jersey native. He said he ordered XM Satellite radio just to be able to hear Mets games while he works in the store.
“People come in all the time, hear a game and ask if the Tigers are winning,” he said. “I tell them ‘I have no idea, I’m listening to the Mets.’”
Naturally, we had a nice conversation about the struggles of being Mets fans located to the Midwest, and how well the season was going on.
I couldn’t stay too long because my daughter still was looking for a store selling a little stuffed puppy with magnetic paws and one of those machines that squish pennies for her collection before we had to catch the ferry back to the mainland.
On the bus ride back the kids watched “Happy Feet,” which was as traumatizing to the adults as “Chitty” was to the kids.
Why do the penguins run around singing Queen songs? Where do they hear these songs so they can learn them in the first place? Why do the little penguins run around talking like a Latino street gang? How come Mumble can speak right after being hatched? Why did they name him “Mumble?” If I saw dancing penguins, I would not take that as a sign they were telling me we were eating too much fish. Why are they trying to make me feel guilty for eating fish? I like fish!
We stopped at McDonalds on the way home, and I almost ordered a McFish just to show the penguins who is atop the food chain.
I returned back to Mackinac Island this week with my family and parents. By the way, it’s pronounced “MACK-in-aw” despite how is spelled. The reason might have been explained on the horse carriage tour the previous week, but I probably missed it while sneezing. Damn horses.
And even more strange, the city on the mainland across from the island is Mackinaw City, spelled the way it is pronounced. I do my best trying to figure the state out. It's a struggle.
We naturally shopped for more fudge and t-shirts and squished pennies and of course made it back to the shop owned by the Mets fan.
I heard a game playing again, though I knew the Mets wouldn’t be playing until that night.
“You’re the guy from last week!” the shop owner said. I asked what game was on the radio.
“Yankees,” the guy said.
“Dude, I thought you were one of us?” I said, fearing he was one of those people who claims to root for both teams. That would expose him as a fraud, since we know no one can root for both Mets and Yankees.
“When the Mets aren’t on, I listen to the Yankees. I like to hear them lose.”
Relieved, I approved when I son picked out a sweatshirt to buy. Mets fans stick together.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
One said he cheated by taking “that stuff” and said Major League Baseball should apologize to its fans for him and people like him taking “that stuff” and “that stuff” didn’t really help him put up monster numbers that he parlayed into a $120 million contract.
The other sang a stupid song on a CD that apparently was never widely released.
Guess which player some columnists are saying should be run out of town on a rail?
Wait, I forgot this tidbit: The player with “that stuff” is a Yankee, while the potty mouth is a Met.
Now you get it.
Mets prospect Lastings Milledge apparently thinks he has a future as a rapper called L Millz, and raps on a song called “Bend Ya Knees” where uses N-words, B-words, H-words and plenty of other words that should get his mouth washed out with a Costo-sized bar of soap.
This has unleashed all kinds of moral outrage from Yankee-friendly columinists spouting headlines like “Mets should cut ties to Milledge.” A Newsday columnist apparently thinks he’s a mind-reader and suggests Omar has had enough of Lastings and is looking to deal him for a bag of balls and a Pat Boone CD.
Then you have Yankees occasional first-baseman/ARod gadfly Jason Giambi.
Giambi reportedly told a grand jury during the BALCO investigation in December 2003 that he used steroids and human growth hormone. He then had a press conference where he apologized without saying what it was he was apologizing for, then attributed his sudden weight loss to yoga.
Then last week Giambi got loose in an interview with USA Today where he said the Major League Baseball should apologize for players using steroids.
"I was wrong for doing that stuff," Giambi told the newspaper. "What we should have done a long time ago was stand up -- players, ownership, everybody -- and said: 'We made a mistake.' We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward. ... Steroids and all of that was a part of history. But it was a topic that everybody wanted to avoid. Nobody wanted to talk about it."
Then we get the classic: "That stuff didn't help me hit home runs. I don't care what people say, nothing is going to give you that gift of hitting a baseball."
Let’s start with Lastings, who I believe is all of 23.
I don’t like listening to music with those words. But when I was that age I liked a metal hair band called W.A.S.P, and it’s best song was called “Animal (I boink like a beast)” only singer Blackie Lawless used a word other than “boink.”
As my long-suffering college roomie Tony can attest to, we’d play “Animal” at top volume during the dorm’s “Hell Half Hour,” a venting study break during finals. That was as wild and crazy as I ever got.
Then I turned 24 and 25 and W.A.S.P didn’t seem so cool any more. Now, I look back and cringe. And I suspect that when Milledge is a little older he’ll look back and cringe about “Bend Ya Knees.”
Until then, we should just look the other way until L Millz realizes he’ll make a lot more money hitting bombs instead of rapping them.
And frankly, I don’t understand why people get upset by anything said by an entertainer, be they a singer, movie star or radio shock jock. Why do we care? That stuff just doesn’t matter.
Then we have Mr. Giambi.
First off, you’ve got to love the “That stuff didn't help me hit home runs” line, which is kind of like Bill Clinton saying he didn’t inhale. Giambi doesn’t seem to be putting up the kind of numbers he used to, even after moving to Yankee Stadium and its pennant porch in right field that is designed for lefties like Giambi.
But more importantly what’s with this “Major League Baseball owes fans an apology” stuff?
No, Jason. YOU owe the fans an apology, and not the wishy-washy one you gave where you didn’t say what you were apologizing for.
Assuming “that stuff” is steroids, here’s what Giambi should be saying:
“Dear fans. I cheated. I took a substance that enhanced my performance. In fact, I performed so well that I was given an MVP award that should have gone to Alex Rodriguez, who, despite being a complete wuss, has never been linked to drug-taking.
“I used ‘that stuff’ to pile up numbers so I’d look better in my contract walk year. Then I turned my back on the loyal Athletics fans to sign a seven-year, $120 million contract with the Evil Empire.
“Yes, other players were taking ‘that stuff’ too. But I am responsible for my own actions.
“I apologize to baseball fans everywhere except for Yankees fans, who deserve everything they get. Hell, these people still cheer Derek.
"Oh, and I have overlapping tattoos on my shoulder and arm, which shows poor planning.”What Lastings did was stupid and immature. But what Giambi did was offensive.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I knew for sure things were going south when I got that damp feeling and realized my seat had filled with water.
It was not shaping up to be a good first day with my kayak.
I’m not a woodsy guy by any stretch, but I had a great time on two float trips while at the University of Missouri, and I’ve enjoyed the rare times I’ve been able to get the kids to go canoeing on the nearby Rogue River.
But no one in the family will go canoeing with me after the great tipping incident of 2005. So I figured a single-person kayak would be the best way to enjoy paddling around in the numerous rivers in our area.
I’ve wanted one for a couple years, but knew there was no way even a small boat would fit in our Saturn sedan.
But in February we obtained a more spacious Vue, and when the sales person said an eight-foot two-by-four would fit, I was thinking of something a little wider.
So this year for my birthday I asked for cash to put toward a sweet ride.
I had two requirements: That it is no longer than eight feet so it could easily fit in the car and that it has an open top. That makes it more of a raft than a kayak, but I had fears of tipping and getting stuck. This turned out to be tougher to find than I thought.
But Dunham’s had a bright orange Pelican that fit the bill and was easily in my price range.
I placed the vessel on the floor of the showroom and sat on top. It felt a little small. And then I noticed the tag said it had a 200-pound weight limit. I am somewhat north of that, and asked the salesman if that would be a problem.
“Not at all,” he said. “They put a real conservative number on there just to be safe.”
Sounded good to me! And it fit in the car.
A colder-than-normal April and Sunday softball practices meant my new toy remained in the garage until this past weekend.
I boldly brought it down to the launch on the mighty Grand River and climbed in while the family cropper documented the event.
I wasn’t more than a couple feet into the river when I discovered it was a struggle to keep the kayak from tipping. It seemed to ride kind of low in the water, too.
I headed upriver, thinking it would be easier to float back. The Grand River is where Grand Rapids gets its name, but there’s nothing resembling a rapid. But this was still tough. I wanted to at least make it to a bridge not far from the launch then head back.
And I was closer to the bridge when the guy and a kid in a canoe came floating the other way.
It’s a pretty wide river but the canoe seemed intent at passing within 15 feet of me.
“Hi!” I said to my fellow sea-dogs. The guy said nothing and just stared at me.
“Hi!” I said again, a little louder, thinking he maybe didn’t hear me.
“Uh, hi,” he said, with a funny smirk.
I didn’t know what was up with that, but kept paddling toward the bridge. Then I felt the dampness. My seating area had filled water. I should have worn a swim suit instead of shorts.
I realized there was probably more water than should be in there through normal splashing. I looked a little more closely.
My kayak was bending in half. Water was rushing in over the sides. So that’s what the canoeist was looking at.
AHHHHHH. I swear I could hear Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On” as I spun the thing around and paddled as fast as I could in the other direction.
I made it back to the loading area, completely dejected. And very wet.
Loading it back in the car, an SUV pulled up with a teacher I recognized from a local environmental science school. He had a much larger kayak, and asked if I knew how long it would take to float from downtown Rockford to the river.
I must not have looked too impressive, wet shorts and all, and stammered out an answer.
“What’s it like going out there in a little thing like that? It might be fun in the surf or something,” he said before pulling away.
Clearly, this was not going to work. I feared I just wasted all kinds of money and would have a big, orange reminder of failure in my garage. And everything in my wallet was soaked.
I did save the receipt. Was there even a slim chance that Dunham’s would take back a slightly used, slightly bent kayak?
The manager came right over and said, yes, despite what the salesman said the weight limit is kind of a serious thing.
But there would be no problem with an exchange or return. They were having a sale, and a slightly larger kayak might do the trick.
They had lots of 10-footers that were only $30 more than my previous model, but all were of the closed-top variety. He explained that these models were more stable in the water, and allowed me to climb in and out a couple times to see that I could handle it.
It doesn’t quite fit in the Vue, and it doesn’t quite as easily fit in the garage. But I figured I’d give it a try.
But the next day I had to wrestle to fit the new, larger kayak between the garbage can and the kids’ bikes. I brought it out on the lawn and sat inside to think.
“This is stupid.” I thought. “I should just bring it back right now, get the money back and forget the entire thing.”
But I figured I should give it one more chance, and I didn’t want to wait until the next weekend. It was already around 8 p.m., but I figured I could just make a quick trip into the river and know for sure rather than mope all week.
I put on the swimsuit and water shoes and loaded the kayak in the car. I wasn’t optimistic. In fact, I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t go past the launch spot and head right to Dunham’s.
But I did stop at the river, carried it to the water and slipped in – tags still attached and everything. There were struggles to avoid a fisherman’s line, but once out in the river I found the bigger kayak to be much more stable.
I didn’t worry about tipping once as I headed out toward the bridge. In fact, it was pretty cool.
This time a power boat headed toward me, close to the same spot where I encountered the guy in the canoe. This time the people on board waved and smiled, not that we could talk over the drone of the outboard engine.
This did present a challenge – a wake. I wasn’t sure what to do but headed into the wave. Got a little wet and was a little unstable, but survived. I know for sure I’d have been swimming at that point had I been in kayak version 1.0.
But I made it under the bridge in no time, easily turned around and made it back to the launch – and looked forward to my next adventure on the high seas.
Now, here are a few lessons I learned.
1) Kayak manufacturers are not kidding when they set weight limits.
2) People in canoes are smug bastards. Don’t even wave to them.
3) The Yankee’s streak of division titles is over and the team should conduct a fire sale to unload their elderly stiffs – if anyone will take them!
4) Do not say or even imply bad things about the Jets or Dolphins or you risk pitting cousin against cousin in the comments section.
5) There is no reason to bring your wallet on a kayak. Hide it in the car where it will stay dry.
6) It is impossible to look cool, calm and collected when the entire bottom area of your cargo shorts is soaked.
7) Derek F. Jeter is vastly overrated and a punk.
8) When you enter a sporting goods store with an orange, eight-foot kayak in your arms, you will quickly attract the attention of salespeople who will wave frantically for the manager.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
He said I quickly decided that someone was either good or bad. And once a person was deemed one or the other I was either fiercely loyal or an enemy until death.
He was correct. And he was quickly dispatched to the “bad” side of the ledger, where he remains until death.
Truth be told, it’s important to identify the enemy and move on. And this summer there are two.
No matter what you’ve heard, I’m not one of those suburban lawn maniacs who obsess about the quality of their grass.
I like to keep it tidy and trimmed to be a good neighbor, but I’m not out there every day dumping expensive chemicals and manicuring the spots around the flowerbeds.
And I tend not to care about what’s living under the lawn as long as it doesn’t upset what’s on top.
But for each of the last three days I’ve pulled out of the driveway and discovered massive dirt piles, evidence of the most vile lawn vandals there are – moles.
We have some small mole battles every year. I caught one alive several years ago and set him free on the soccer field next door. At least I assume he landed safely.
This year the buggers seem to have declared war. And the one in the front yard seems intent on destruction.
I consulted a co-worker who prides himself on mole slaying. He recommends two types of traps. The first one is called a “strangler” where Lawnwrecker T. Mole climbs on through then hits a paddle that releases spring-loaded device that squeezes him toward the bright lights.
The other is more gruesome, with the paddle releasing spikes of death from above, leaving little time for his miserable life to flash before his eyes.
The thing looks like one of the elaborate machines used by the celebrity villains on the Batman television show.
You know, the ones where they’d knock out the Dynamic Duo, place them in the device then leave before seeing if the thing actually worked. Except that they’d never remove the utility belts with the convenient Bat-tools that allowed the Caped Crusaders to wiggle free – every week.
Note to celebrity villains: Use a gun.
I tried the strangler for the couple years and the only things that got caught were my fingers and one hapless vole, sort of a skinnier, less destructive cousin of a mole.
Note to voles: Don’t crawl into traps set for other animals.
As for the other trap, I figured if I had that much trouble setting up the strangler, anything with spikes of death would only be more difficult and too embarrassing to explain at the inevitable visit to the convenience clinic for stitches.
And don’t think every mole in the yard would not be laughing his furry ass off as I get that tetanus shot.
So this year I’ve opted for some less mechanical methods, poking holes in their trails and inserting poison pellets that are supposed to be as irresistible as Ring Dings. We’ll see.
2) Roger Clemens
OK, Bat-Chucker rolled over to the “bad” list around the time he forced the Blue Jays to trade him to the Yankees so he could pocket an elusive championship ring.
His subsequent beaning and near bat-pelting of Mike Piazza pretty much bought him legendary status on the all-time punk list.
But I must admit that I softened my stance on Clemens over the past several seasons.
I was surprised that he turned his back on the vile Yanks to come out of retirement to play for the hometown Astros.
I bought into the whole story that he wanted to play close to home to spend time with his family, and loved the whole yarn about joyfully playing in the same organization as his son.
And it was nice when he led the team to its only World Series appearance.
I dismissed all the talk this spring about whether he would return to the Astros or play for the Red Sox or Yankees. The whole point about coming out of retirement was to be near home, and the Bronx is pretty far from Houston according to most maps.
There is no forgiving Clemens for trying to impale Piazza, even if his post-game excuse – “I thought it was the ball” – was good for a chuckle.
But maybe, just maybe, there is good in him after all. Maybe the world is a little more complicated than my black-and-white vision allows.
Perhaps the college adviser was correct, and that there is a gray area where a person can exist with both flaws and strengths, and that we can tolerate the bad while hoping the good can rise to the top.
But I was watching SportsCenter Sunday night when they showed the Yankees stopping their game in the seventh inning so Clemens could announce his return from Steinbrenner’s private box.
So the bat-chucking bastard wants to remain home near his family unless the Evil Empire wants to lay out a check or $20 million to bail out their rotation of the living dead for two-thirds of a season.
There is no gray area! He is bad!
He’s probably sharpening broken bats as we speak so he can hurl them at Jose Reyes during the inter-league games next month.
All the same, Clemens being exposed for the punk we knew he was is somewhat comforting. I was right all along.
And there will be no apology sent to former college advisers 20 years later.
Friday, May 04, 2007
You can get a uniform purist all riled up with a discussion about black alternate jerseys.
And if you want to get them really agitated, just talk about MLB’s 1999 “Turn Ahead the Clock” promotion.
Then, if you want to push them over the edge into a foaming-at-the-mouth rage, all you have to do is say “Mercury Mets.”
It was either a horrible promotion or a brilliant one. Personally, I liked baseball’s “Turn Ahead the Clock” nights — in theory.
The fact that the promotion is still hotly debated eight years later speaks volumes. I get several hits every day from people Googling Mercury Mets.
The idea was a fun reversal of the frequent “Turn Back the Clock” games where teams take the field wearing uniforms of the past.
Teams were supposed to wear futuristic uniforms in these games. Apparently, teams in the future will have the same logos as they do now, just blown up really, really big — with really short sleeves. At least that seemed to be the template.
Some were horrible, like the Phillies. And some were really cool, like the Diamondbacks, which had a snake wrapping around a player’s entire body.
Then you had the Mets.
If only they’d stuck to the template. A proud New York skyline stretching across the entire jersey could have been a beautiful thing. Or an apple, or the Statue of Liberty...there was endless potential.
No, for some reason, designers opted to go in an entirely different direction for our Mets. Only they weren’t our Mets anymore. Suddenly the team hailed from Mercury.
I suspect a Yankee saboteur, implying that the punks in the Bronx not only chased us out of town, but entirely off the planet.
If that alone doesn't scare you, consider the design.
A gray, cratered planet takes up a big chunk of the front, with the astronomical symbol floating above with words Mercury Mets in the top corner. It looks nothing like a baseball jersey.
And worse, we were one of the few teams with a matching cap.
Then it slowly dawned on me. These uniforms are so horrible, so mind-numbingly disastrous that they’re glorious.
I figure you can lie there and suck like a Devil Ray, or you go down in a spectacular ball of flames.
We are the Mets. When we lose, we don’t just lose, we set the modern record for losses, baby!
When we have a bad free-agent signee, we don’t just have a guy who doesn’t play well. We get a washed-up, over-priced and delusional outfielder who throws fireworks at toddlers.
So I was pretty excited when I saw that Starstruck was selling Mercury Mets caps online, at a discount, of course. Soon after, I found the jersey on eBay. I might have been the only bidder.
I’m not saying I wear these things in public. But they are an important part of the Mets collection in the baseball room. We must embrace all aspects of our history.
We are the Mets. We are fun. The Yankees wanted no part of the “Turn Ahead the Clock” night. Screw ‘em, the joyless punks.
The game itself was no treat for Mets fans of this planet or Mercury, a 5-1 loss to the Pirates with Kris Benson tossing a complete game.
And speaking of what-were-they-thinking moments, it was Jason Isringhausen’s next-to-last game as a Met before he was dished off to the Athletics with Greg McMichael for Billy Taylor. Because when we make a bad trade.....
In other words..
The game also was famous for turning players into aliens for their scoreboard photos. Rickey Henderson didn't like how he was portrayed, with three eyes and long ears.
Riding With Rickey is a kick-butt blog on its own. But Rickey directs us to other blogs that Rickey likes, and Rickey knows some really funny people.
I must point out this link to Timothy McSweeney’s site, in which author Joe Moe sizes up the presidential hopefuls, posted here then taking a fresh look at issues raised by “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” required reading for people who went to high school in New York in the 1980s and were subjected to the whole Daniels fad.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
All information included here comes from Associated Press articles posted on news Web sites. Let’s review.
Bad Mets fan: Frank Martinez of the Bronx
Misbehavior: Shining a powerful flashlight into the faces of two Braves players during a game at Shea.
Bad Yankees fan: Mohammed Junaid Babar, formerly of Queens, now a London resident.
Misbehavior: Ran training camps in Pakistan for Islamic militants and nurtured a generation of homegrown British terrorists.
Oh my. Where to begin.
OK, first of all, I’m not branding Babar a Yankee fan. Apparently he confessed. AP describes him as "The slightly built Yankees fan." AP tends not to identify team affiliation, so this guy must have been one of those over-the-top Yankee freaks ticked off that his court appearance conflicted with his daily dose of "Mike and the Mad Dog."
Apparently when he wasn’t running about espousing Derek F. Jeter’s "intangibles" and booing Arod, Babar testified in a British court that he filled his days by getting involved with plots to assassinate Pakistan’s president.
While AP doesn’t mention the obligatory shrine to Paul O’Neill found in the house of every Yankee family, it does indicate that a "kitchen spice rack was packed with jars of chemicals, and aluminum powder and fertilizer for making bombs were stuffed in a bedroom cupboard. The backyard was a makeshift firing range, Babar testified. Buried close by was a cache of AK-47 rifles, grenades and ammunition. Plus, a Jason Giambi bobble head."
OK, I made up the part about the bobble head, but you just know he has one.
Look, I get it. You hang with the Yankees long enough and it’s going to mess with your mind. You start out thinking you are entitled to all the best free agents, then you think the World Series could be canceled if the Yanks aren’t involved "Because who is going to give a damn unless da Bombers are there?"
Next thing you know you’re joining Mike Francessa in a tirade because some Shea sound tech plays "Enter Sandman" when Billy Wagner walks out of the bullpen, a song that despite being written and performed by Metallica is apparently owned by Yankees closer/cyborg Mariano "Slayed by Scutaro" Rivera.
Clearly, the logical next step is to allegedly turn your house into a camp for militant extremists. Like I said, I get it.
Then we have our mischievous Mr. Martinez. who this week was sentenced to 15 days in the pokey and banned from Mets home games for the next three years.
Martinez was apparently distraught that the Mets were down 7-0 to the Braves on April 20, and thought he might stop the bleeding and allow our boys to catch up.
I see him working.
The difference is that most of us would have let loose with a "Chippppppeeerrrrrr! You suuuuucccckkkk" to lower the self-esteem of the Met-killing third-baseman, then head back to the concession stand for a lukewarm knish and a Diet Pepsi in a cool souvenir cup, confident that D-Wright and Jose will take care of business while Chipper is wallowing in the realization that he does indeed suck.
Our man Frank, however, lost faith in our assorted Carloses and opted to waste perfectly good seats behind home plate to shine his beam into the eyes of Braves pitcher Tim Hudson and shortstop Edgar Renter. He no doubt shined the light in Chipper’s eyes, too, but he couldn’t see it through his tears of shame.
Frank. Dude. I believe the rally cry is "You Gotta Believe" and not "You gotta blind the Braves." Let Willie and the guys take care of business. They don't need your help.
Still, a guess I prefer a guy who is a wee bit overzealous to a guy who apparently takes the name "Bronx Bombers" literally.