Monday, August 28, 2006

Williamsport Report

The final day of the 10 which America spent at the Little League World Series got a little eerie Monday.
Of course, there were extenuating circumstances which led to the eeriness, such as:
A) A championship game played on a Monday for the first time ever.
B) The in-the-park audience was less than 5,000, rather than something close to 40,000.
C) Overcast skies for the 5 o'clock ballgame created a somber and gray bleakness.
D) Too many teardrops from the little buckos and buckaroos.

The topper of the bizarre-itude was when the Japanese All-Stars were down to their final out in this championship tilt against the Columbus, Georgia All-Stars. In a 2-1 ballgame, the ABC cameras panned the Japan dugout -- and what the viewer at home saw was every tyke crying.
Weirder yet ... the little fella on first base -- Kohsuke Murata -- was full of tears and sobs.
One out to go ... and no one told Kohsuke, "The game's not over yet, Slugger. Hang in there."

What in the name of Yoko Ono were those kids thinking? How did the Japanese manager lose control of his team? Naoyuki Morita was in the batter's box, trying to keep his team alive ... and the only support that his teammates could muster was drowned out by tears and boo-hoos.
What the manager needed to do was to call timeout to settle his team, particularly Little Kohsuke on first base, who, at the time, was representing the tying run.
Rather than coddling the lads, the manager could've made some menacing gestures with the samurai sword which he kept in the equipment bag.
Either that -- or threatened the crybabies by vowing to run them over with a Suzuki Samurai in the parking lot after the game.
Ironically, in his first at-bat of the game, the ABC cameras captured Little Kohsuke in the batter's box, giving a yell each time he dug in before the pitch.
Apparently, in the Zen Rulebook, it says something about a yell releasing tension and calming the nerves.
The Zen Rulebook also says something about wearing a wok on one's head instead of a batting helmet.

It is the finding of this tribunal that Japan needs an equivalent to Sun Tzu and his "Art of War."
America hasn't seen such disappointing behaviour from the Japanese since Mr. Takagi wimped out and handed over control of the Nakatomi Building in L.A. to Hans Gruber and his henchmen.
Blah blah blah, lots of emotion, blah blah blah, the kids worked so hard, blah blah blah, realization that it's all over ('cept, at the time, it WASN'T over), blah blah blah ...
Lost in the shuffle amongst the raw emotion of these pre-teens was the fact that any time a Japanese kid hit a home run during the Series, none of them refrained from hotdogging it to first base with that trademark, hand-wave/start-the-chainsaw, fist-pump action.
Or that circle-the-wagons/Washington Redskins "Fun Bunch" B.S. celebration at home plate on those roundtrippers.
When Japan is happy, it's cute.
Like oragamy.
Or a trip to Benihana.
When Japan is sad, me so sad, too.
Perhaps the video for Mr. Sparkle Dishwashing Soap described it best: "I am disrespectful to dirt! Awe-summ-uh pow-wuh! Join me or die! Can you do any less?"

Not that the Columbus All-Stars were dignified during their postgame celebration. For example, when ESPN's dish-with-a-mike, Erin Andrews, buzzed about for some postgame responses, America's favorite pudgy-faced second baseman (Josh Lester) scared the bejeezus out of us all with a blubbery, difficult-to-understand boo-hoo response which was almost as bad as Bill Mazeroski's weepy, on-stage meltdown at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony a few years ago.
The kid with the game-deciding, two-run jimmy jack (Code Red Cody) was a little better with his "I love you, Dad" tribute in the microphone (due to Sunday's rainout, Pa had to leave Williamsport and return to Georgia).

All of the tears of sorrow mixed with tears of joy had America wishing that one of those Columbus All-Stars would've grabbed the mike from Erin and barked, "Everybody said we couldn't do it! Nobody believed in us, but, we believed in ourselves! We wanted to shock the world! We knew we had to protect this house! Nobody believed in us, but we believed in us! The title is back home on the mainland. Back home in Dixie!"

Playing the lack-of-respect card is a more viable option than the shedding of tears. Alas, this is what happens when to America when it's forced at gunpoint to attend the all-day sensitivity workshop at the Ramada downtown.
Last year's champ -- that merry band of renegades and cut-throats from the island of Oahu -- had to yield to Team Nice from Cuddlytown, USA.
For a nation which invented the 15-yard facemask penalty, this win feels like a loss.
Columbus players were acting as though they'd spent all morning at the Charles M. Noll Funeral Home (located less than one mile from Lamade Stadium ... it's true!).

It was during Columbus' postgame ambivalence that many of us ex-Little Leaguers flashed back to a time when we were that age -- and how, when we ordered paperbacks from the Scholastic Book Club, it was always sports books, sports books, more sports books (and maybe one title from the Encyclopedia Brown series) and we'd read about the life n' times of Hank Aaron or Roger Staubach once the shipments arrived.
In my Joe Namath paperback, there was that passage describing the scene in Super Bowl III when one of Broadway Joe's teammates saw Johnny Unitas hobbling through the twilight of his career and remarked to Joe, "I feel sorry for him."
Replied Joe: "Don't feel sorry for him. If we lose, he won't feel sorry for you."

Remembering that passage and Joe's response was a lot easier than remembering the title of that classic 50-to-80-page easy read.
Probably something original such as "Joe Namath: Portrait of a Champion" or "Super Bowl Joe" or "Broadway Joe: The Winner's Winner."
Something like that.

So, yeah ... without Joe Willie there to tutor those kids about their championship quest, it's good riddance to Columbus and Kawaguchi City and all of the U.S. players named "Dylan" and "Ethan" and to their players named "Mitsubishi Daihatsu."
Besides, Japan already has its World Baseball Classic trophy from last March, so, join me or die, can you do any less?
We'll wipe the slate clean and get a more-stoic victor next August.

For those of us who are diehard Little League enthusiasts (and who enjoy scoping out the player's moms because, well ... ya never know if their failed marriage will coincide with your own failed marriage and well, that Little Leaguer of today could be YOUR step-son tomorrow ... ), the triumph by Columbus, GA respresented the shortcomings of the 60th edition of the LLWS, which definitely wasn't on par with the tourneys of '03, '04 and '05.
We yearned for the days of '03 when Yuutaro Tanaka was leading Japan in the title game with his artful pitching and his Godzilla-riffic homer halfway up the hill in straightaway center field, which elicited a showboat-ish bat flip before the trot around the bases.
That's showboating, not hotdogging.
Two totally different concepts.

The '04 Series was better than '06, despite the fact that undefeated Thousand Oaks (where the Pitchfork spent ages 7 thru 18) lost to Curacao in the title game (and nobody said a word about my sister possibly having dated once or twice the dad of the leadoff batter ... the player's whose uncle, oddly enough, borrowed my glove during our high school practices).
And, no matter how often or blatantly Brent Musburger interferes with a broadcast by adding clutter, even HE couldn't (foul) up last year's insanely-fun championship game (highlighted by the blonde highlights in Vonn Fe'ao's mullet).

ESPN/ABC made this Series choppy and uncomfortable, particularly when the broadcast posse dumbed it down by offering in-depth explanations of the most-basic Little League concepts.
That meant that we got a steady diet of:
"They play six innings in Little League."
"They moved the fences back 20 feet. That fly ball, folks, would've been a home run last year."
"Let's review the 'all-play' rule in case you missed it 10 minutes ago."
"Remember ... they only play six innings in Little League."
"Did you know Jerome Bettis is from Detroit?"
"And, here's Orel to promote the pilot pitch-count program. Orel?"

Oh, that Opie Taylor.
Hershiser was so earnest in his support for the pitch-count apparatus which'll be in effect next year -- and the so-called "goal" of the program to save the arms of the children.
How nice.
"The children."
We're saving ... "the children."

Good idea ... in theory.
The trouble is, there are scores of young pitchers whose developing 12-year-old rotator cuffs and not-yet-mature elbow tendons will fray, splinter and shred when Coach says, "Timmy, the pilot pitch-count program mandates that you aren't supposed to pitch for the next three days. But, since you're our starting center fielder when you're not on the mound, howzabout you making 100 throws from the outfield to home plate during practice today?
"Oh, and don't ice that elbow or shoulder when you get home. Play some XBox for three or four hours, okay?"

Memo to Hershiser re: "protecting our darlings."
Call it the "pilot poop-count" because, sad but true, hundreds of kids will learn how to blow out their arms on days when they "were resting" (read: not pitching).
Explain to Timmy why he'll be relegated to D-league, slo-pitch softball when he's 23.
That is, if he can lift his throwing arm to chest-level.

Ya gotta admit ... ESPN's "Building Blocks" segments with Orestes and Orel spending 30 seconds of awkwardness with the kids made America feel uncomfortable and creeped out.
To top it off, it's sad that folks with ancestors who migrated to Los Tostadas Unidos from other nations (i.e. "Musberger" ... "Hershiser" ... and "Destrade") struggle to pronounce any names which possess a degree-of-difficulty above "Smith."

Before anyone calls Mushberger, Hurshizzle and D'Estrada "unprofessional," well ... WAIT A SEC! The Pitchfork sez, "Go ahead and call 'em unprofessional."
Here's your victim: Go Matsumoto ... superstar of Kawaguchi City, who, on three occasions was referred to as "MatsuMOTA."
Like Manny Mota.
From Minnesoto.

Actually, Gary Thorne and Eric Karros were in direct violation of "get-the-goddamn-names-right" doctrine on Saturday night during the International final between Japan and Mexico.
Gary Thorne used to be the "voice of the Stanley Cup playoffs" for a lot of us, but he handles those European names ("Afinogenov with the pass from Krivokrasov ... SCORRRRRES!!") better than the Latino ones.
For somebody who, correctly, did not Americanize Dominik Hasek's name by calling him "Hassick" instead of "Hosh-sheck," Gary had a miserable time Sat. nite with an EASY name -- Mexico catcher Jorge Villafranca.
During the pre-game intros offered by each player, the kid distinctly said his last name as "VEE-YUH-franka."
Gare kept saying "villa" (rhymes with "gorilla" or "vanilla").
Amusingly, Karros would get the "vee-yuh" syllables correct, but, on a few occasions, said, "vee-yuh-frank-ohh."

The question is: Why did an all-out scrapper like Villafranca have to be victimized in that manner?
Particularly in hi-def on ESPNHD?
Also, what does it mean that at the same time that the International final was broadcast on ESPN on Sat. nite, Disney's sister station (ABC) was airing (gulp!) ... "Pearl Harbor"?
What the wasabi was that all about?

Funny thing about ESPN/ABC ... in its sports coverage, the networks have been known to bury some quality human-interest angles while bludgeoning us with other ones.
In fact, probably 2.2 percent of America saw that brief, well-done feature on ESPN's Outside The Lines: First Report about Cody Webster, the curly-haired pitcher who led the Kirkland, Wash. all-stars to the championship in 1982.
Since ESPN airs those OTL features at 3:30 p.m. EDT (and then rarely re-airs them), nobody sees some of the network's best material.
Such as Cody describing how his championship win in '82 was more curse than blessing ... and about how many people used to heckle him about his status as a Little League phenom well after he finished playing Little League.
Kids are mean -- but adults are vicious.
At least when Chris Drury led Trumbull, Conn. to the championship in '89, if anyone mouthed off, Drury, as an above-average NHL performer, could have cross-checked big mouths and jackasses into the nearest brick wall or pane of glass.
"Who's your favorite Little Leaguer now, douchebag? I know I just knocked four of your teeth out, but say it! SAYYYYY ITTTT!"

Dry your tears, Kohsuke. There is no dishonor when you give your best effort.
Besides, you got a chance to play against 6-foot-8, 265-lb. Aaron Durley ... the Teen Godzilla of your sport.
And, if it makes ya feel any better, the Nakatomi Building was eventually saved and Mr. Takagi's death was avenged when John McClane wasted Hans Gruber.

John McClane didn't get all weepy and sentimental -- and neither should you.
From here on out, your battlecry is: "Yippee ki-yay, Mothra flogger!"

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Children Of The Corn

Check it out: The next time that you're pelted with any one of the several dozen promos for Frosted Flakes cereal during this, the 60th edition of the Little League World Series, take a closer look at the famous breakfast-food logo.


Thanks for clearing that up, Tony The Tiger.

If that "... of corn" tagline wasn't there, we might assume that that Kellogg's was giving us frosted flakes of asbestos.

Or "Kellogg's Frosted Flakes ... of Lead-Paint Peelings."

Actually, lead paint tends to "chip" more than it "flakes" -- w
hich is why the Mrs. always keeps the Haystack pantry stocked with Kellogg's Crispix.

Because Crispix is crispy times two.

Anyway, we've just concluded a mostly ho-hum pool-play segment of this LLWS, so, unless ESPN's Erin Andrews is planning to do her interviews topless (she's halfway there already), then the only way to liven up this tournament is to see some kick-ass aluminum ping-fests during the next two days.
That's right: It's nail-bitin' semifinal action on Weds. and Thurs. for the children of the corn.

And, just who are these children of the corn?

Well, in the U.S. semi on Weds., it'll be Lemont's Andrew, Austin, Zack1 and Zak2 vs. Beaverton's Austin, Corey, Jace, Devon, Perry, Trevor and Toma -- which'll, no doubt, serve as a delicious prelude to the Thurs. night semi between Columbus' Matthew I, Matthew II, Kyle I, Kyle II, Cody, Brady and Mason vs. Portsmouth's Connor1, Conor2, Pierce, Keegan, Matthew and the much-feared, twin-assassin combo platter of "Bean & Button."

Yup ... Jordan Bean and Sheldon Button.

Or, if you'd prefer that matchup modernized: "J-Bean" and "Shel-Dawg."
Fuh reel!

Oh, and while you're at it: Go ahead and hand the championship trophy to Kawaguchi City right now.

That is, after Gary Thorne and Brent Musberger and Orel Hershiser and Orestes Destrade dumb it down for the American cable-TV audience for the umpteeth time with that reminder that "they only play six innings in Little League."

Oh, yeah ... and every player must play three consecutive outs in the field and get at least one at-bat.

And ... the outfield fences were moved back from 205 feet to 225.

Which sucks for Austin, Austin, both Zacks, both Connors, both Matthews, Keegan, Pierce and Jace -- not to mention all the scrawny, milky-skinned X-Games diehards named "Ethan" and "Blake" and "Tanner" and "Gabriel" and "Nathaniel" and "Sebastian" and "Hunter" and "Tate" and "Dylan" and "Seth" and "Aurora" and "Dustin" and "Sterling" and "Nicholas" whose LLWS dreams died either in the district, state or regional tournaments.

It's weird (almost unconstitutional) how kids with names such as "Rick" or "Doug" or "Mike" or "Jeff" or "Steve" or "Tom" or "Bobby" or "Billy Jack" (if kids like that still exist) are required to obtain a waiver from Mom to be called something other than "Richard" or "Douglas" or "Michael" or "Jeffrey" or "Stephen" or "Thomas" "Robert" or "William Jonathan, III."

There is no Jim.
Or Jimmy.

And, back home on the island of Curacao, Jurickson Profar and Sorick Liberia (members of the 2004 LLWS champions and 2005 LLWS finalists) looked at each other and asked, "Where did American Little Leaguers get those pussy, glee-club names?"

True dat, Ronaldo.
Double true, Ronaldinho!

Also, lucky for you if you were not victimized by watching/listening to somebody named "Orel Hershiser" stumbling all over the pronunciation of the name "Kalen Pimentel" (the star from Vista, CA in last year's LLWS).

Meanwhile, back on the island, Jurickson Profar and Sorick Liberia watched in horror during the top of the sixth inning during the Curacao-Japan game when their little buddy -- microscopic CF Rayshelon Carolina -- drifted back on the deep drive by Go Matsumoto before reaching up, getting a glove on the flyball and then watching the ball tick off the leather, momentarily land atop the outfield fence before trickling over for a grand slam.

A 3-1 game mushroomed to 7-1.

Damn shame ... because, when we first saw him in last year's tournament, Rayshelon Carolina was all of 4-foot-7, 75 lbs.

Now, he's listed at 4-9 / 82 ... which means that Rayshelon Carolina did not take advantage of an off-season weightlifting-and-hGH regimen.
It also means that it takes three Rayshelon Carolinas to make one Aaron Durley.

Durley, of course, is the spectacle from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, although he's neither Saudi or Arabian.

Like Rayshelon Carolina, Aaron Durley is a few inches taller and a few pounds heavier than last year.

In '05 (when he played against Curacao), Durley was 6-5 / 226. Now, that he's 6-8 / 256, it seems likely that the All-Stars from Kawaguchi City (when they see Durley on Thurs. nite in an international semi) will set aside their biases and racial "profiling" once they see Durley's jet-black skin and bleach-blonde hair, which belies the Saudi stereotype.

Fan reaction: "Look! Is G'zilla!"
Ohhhhh, noooo ... there goes Tohhh-keee-yohhh ...

That's right, geisha girls ... Aaron Durley could kick Mothra's ass.
Rodan's, too.

In Los Estados Unidos, there's nothing on the L.L. ballfield quite like a Rayshelon Carolina or an Aaron Durley. About as close as we came to apple pie and stars-n'-stripes is one "Frank Smith" of the Staten Island All-Stars.

It was almost too good to be true ... a young baseball player with a legit baseball-playin' name such as "Frank," a la Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch ("The Fordham Flash"), future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas ("The Big Hurt"), home run hero Frank Howard ("Hondo" ... "The Capitol Punisher"), Frank Chance (of "Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance" lore), fireballin' Frank Tanana, Frank "Sweet Music" Viola, Frank Torre (Joe's bro) ...

It was asking too much.

Like a return to the days of acceptable names such as "Preston" or "Ward" or "Dennis."

This alarming trend of softening the hardcore ballplayers might be different if there was a Little League All-Star who introduced himself to his teammates thusly:

"The name's Francis Soyer, but everybody calls me 'Psycho.' Any of you guys calls me 'Francis' ... and I'll kill ya. And I don't like nobody touchin' MY STUFF! So keep your meathooks off. I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I'll kill ya. Also, I don't like nobody touching me. Any of you homos touches me ... and I'll kill ya."

Which is when the manager -- a gruff man we know as "Coach Hulka" -- restores order with, "Lighten up ... Francis."

Those were the days ... when we had team captains like John Winger and Russell Ziskey and role players such as Francis Soyer and Dewey Oxberger.

Some of us actually had a Little League teammate named "Dewey" ... on a roster with no guys named "Matthew" or "Austin" or "Pierce."

It's not like that any more. In between the incessant reminders of "we only play six innings! every player must play three consecutive outs in the field and have at least one at-bat! the fences are 20 feet farther back!" there was a mighty controversy about a Staten Island kid who dropped an F-bomb (accidentally) in the dugout and manager Nick Doscher giving the kid a slap.

Without seeing that incident, it's difficult to determine the context of said F-bomb and said slap.

Does anyone else see the irony here? Baseball in NY has sucked since 2000.

Do the math: The Yankees haven't won a World Series since their subway triumph over the Mutts in '00.

A year later, America was divided by the Danny Almonte/Bronx scandal -- and a year after that, the Little Leaguers from Harlem were widely criticized for being hotdogs and posers.
Who's next?

Not to knock the islanders of Staten, but the only thing that isle will be remembered for is producing NFL'ers Adewale Ogunleye and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
Now, THOSE are quality first names.

If it takes some of the sting out of Staten Island being the only one of the eight U.S. teams to finish winless in three contests, it should be pointed out that receiving NO publicity is what occurred Monday night when Beaverton manager Jeff Keller walked to the mound and, recapped the umpire's strike zone by telling his pitcher Jace Fry, "he (the ump) is pinching the shit out of you."

Mere seconds later, ESPN's over-microphonization of the LLWS was in momentary mute mode.
Perhaps it was because Coach Keller meant to say that the ump was "squeezing" -- not pinching -- the shit out of Jace.

Or because Coach Keller meant to say, "he's squeezing the (fudge) out of you."
Or because Coach meant to ask, "What kind of a (fudging) name is 'Jace'?"

For sure, when Jurickson Profar and Sorick Liberia heard Coach Keller, they nodded and muttered, "(Fudging) Americans."
True dat!

On Coach Keller's subsequent trip to the mound, he was grumbling and growling instructions to his team and ESPN went mute seconds after Coach uttered the word "crap."
The word that Coach was seeking there was "crapola."
Buy a (fudging) thesaurus, you (fudging) meathead.

Coach could've scored big points and kept it clean if he said to his pitcher, "What did one shepherd say to the other shepherd? 'Let's get the flock out of here!' "

But, he'll likely give us guttermouth when his team tangles with Lemont on Weds. nite.
That's right ... those farging bastages from Lemont, IL.

Profanity aside, some might find it odd that, in a year in which the 8,000 Frosted Flakes commercials feature an American-born black man named Derrek Lee ... when 17 Negro League players were recently inducted into Cooperstown ... when the ESPN/ABC LLWS "memories" clips are of black players such as Lloyd McClendon hittin' those bombs in '71 or Gary Sheffield rippin' one down the line in '80 ... when the black announcer (Harold Reynolds) isn't present ... the only ebony-hued players are playin' in the international bracket.

It's nuthin' new ... but, it was cool when those sun-tanned lads from Ewa Beach, Oahu were flashy and fun while winning the championship last year.

There HAD to be good ol' American folks either in Williamsport or watching on TV who saw Vonn Fe'ao and his terrific hairstyle highlights and homerun hijinks and asked, "Ma, I'll be golldarned if I knows wer t'find that nation of them colored boys from Oahu."

Even though this is the lilywhite-est of all lilywhite LLWS, we should tip our cap to two white guys who went mano-a-mano Tues. nite -- Kyle Carter of Columbus, GA and Josh Ferry of Lemont.

Kyle, who plays it wayyyyy cool with the tough-guy face, wears his cap askew, a la black players such as Dontrelle Willis or C.C. Sabathia.

And, Josh Ferry? Well, he has the same first name as the greatest ballplayer ever (Hall of Famer Josh Gibson ... who was so good, he made Babe Ruth look like frickin' Mookie Wilson).

No one knows if Portsmouth's "BeanButton Attack" can avenge the tough luck of Columbia, MO stars Landon Clapp and Ford Zitsch, but, not to fret ... Japan's gonna bitch 'em in the title game.

Or didja not see the bomb blast that Naruto Fukuyama hit over the ESPN camera-tower in CF on Monday?

Using the popular (but scientifically-useless and bogus) equation which EspyTime does (like when a pitcher throws a 73 MPH pitch from 46 feet and announcers rave that the conversion from a pitching rubber 46 feet from home plate to 60-feet, 6-inches is 98 MPH ... which is the same as saying that a sunflower seed spit to the dugout floor travels at roughly 695 MPH), the Fukuyamaian Quotient for a ball that travels roughly 80 feet beyond a 225-foot barrier means ...

Well, let's just say that 305 x 400 = 225x (find "x") means that Naruto woulda jacked that pitch 542 feet at PNC Park on the shore of the Allegheny River.

So, we're left with no other choice, but to pull out the Magic Markers and make a sign praising Matsumoto.

"Let's go, Go!"

Maybe Aaron & The Arabs will make some noise.

But, only if they eat many bowls of frosted-corn flakage.

That's the only way they're takin' down Monster Zero.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Phil & The Phillies

After what transpired Sunday, it's not too difficult to scrounge up some big-time empathy for America's Most-Phamous "Phils":
PHIL Mickelson and the Fightin' PHILS of Philadelphia.
What makes their plight so fascinating is that a lot of us saw this coming.
And that makes for a long busride back to Loserville.

Several hours after Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship, Bobby Abreu and the Yankees completed Phase IV of the five-phase liquidation of the Affleckian BoSucks -- and the Woody haters and the Abreu bashers had plenty of ammo.
To them, Woody and Abreu are all about me, me, me.

For those who were hoping to tailgate to a June-July-August of Mickelson making his bid for the "Mickel-Slam," what Woody did to Phil on Sunday had to mickel-suck.
After all, it was Woody, who along with The Pitchfork, were not suckered into believe one word coming out of Mickelsuck's mouth when he offered his long-winded sales pitch re: his so-called choke on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open ("I'm such an idiot").
Anyone with a functioning brain correctly opined that the season's second major was NOT Phil's to win (as was misreported by seemingly everybody), but actually Colin Montgomerie's.
Until Monty gakked on 18.
And, in the subsequent aftermath, there was plenty of Phil talking about Phil, instead of Phil congratulating champion Geoff Ogilvy.

It was soooo reminiscent of Costanza stretched out on the gurney in the hospital hallway when he frustratedly blurted out:
"This was supposed to be the Summer of George!!"
He then repeated the battlecry, using a more-wistful tone.
"... the Summer of George ..."

The Summer Of Phil is not to be ... and The Summer of PHILS isn't any more-palatable, given that every Phils' fan is bent on making a scapegoat out of Bobby Abreu.
In fact, it was reported somewhere that 93.5 percent of Phillies Nation believes that Bobby Abreu cost Phil Mickelson the U.S. Open championship.
That's because Bobby Abreu loafs in the outfield.
And because Bobby Abreu doesn't give 110 percent.
And because he's probably too Venezuelan.
And he doesn't want to help the team by batting in the leadoff spot.
And because he draws too many walks when he should be hitting six-run homers like our whitebread heroes, Thome and Burrell.
Even if Thome is an ex-Phillie, the fact that he batted .203 with runners in scoring position when he had 42 HRs and 105 ribbies in '04, well ... that was a solid-and-aw-shucks/gee-whiz .203.
When Bobby Abreu averages 25 HRs, 100 RBI, 25 SB during the course of eight seasons, it's because he plays the game for himself -- and no one else.
Thome might be hitting .203 with runners in scoring position, but he's working his ass off.
When Abreu hits .422 in RISP situations (as he did during his first year in Philly, '98 ... or the .353 he batted w/ RISP in '03), it's because the game comes naturally to him.
And, if he applied himself, Abreu could be batting .450 in those situations.
All day ... every day.
Like Thome would.
If he had Abreu's natural ability.

But, Thome was about winning pennants.
Bobby Abreu is about Bobby Abreu.
Unlike Pat Burrell.
When he puts up a .259 lifetime average, Burrell does it with the best interests of the Philadelphia Phillies at the forefront.
Which is why the Phils would never trade him.

So, as predicted by the Pitchfork two months ago, Mickelson turned into a puddle once he got his "I'm such an idiot" punchline out of his head and allowed Woody's game to take over his brain.
(With a burst of rage): "This was supposed to be the summer of Phil!"
(Whimpering quietly): " ... the Summer of Phil ..."

The Summer of Phil became a topic only because Tiger missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
Woody's back ... living inside Phil's head now.
Until further notice.

Just for kicks, some of us spent Thursday twisting pro-Mickelson logic into something sensible.
"This tournament is Phil's to win ... until Tiger tees off."

Notwithstanding Mickelson's Phil-osophy, the thing that's stuck in the Phillies' craw the fact that Bobby Abreu is batting a almost .400 since joining the Yankees.
Y'see, Phillie fans are wise to Abreu's hidden agenda -- such as when Yankees' third-base coach Larry Bowa gave up his #53 for the newest pinstriper.
"Typical Bowa," sayeth Phillies Nation ... "parlaying his ulterior motives with Abreu's hidden agenda. If the Yankees win the World Series this year, those World Series rings are going to feel hollow on their fingers.
"Because those are the fingers that they used to grip the knife that stabbed Phillies Nation in the back."

Damn straight, you proud boobirds. Bobby's gonna rue the day that he swapped his red pinstripes for NYY pinstripes. For those who saw Abreu single off of the Green Monster moments before Giambi hit another HGH HR ... it looked mighty selfish.
Hitting a single or drawing a walk before a teammate hits the go-ahead home run, that's the easy way out.
A few nights ago, Abreu drilled a shot to the gap against the Orioles and then legged his double into a three-bagger when the ball was misplayed.
Abreu eventually scored the go-ahead run, but it pointed out what made him so unpopular to those knowledgable Phillie fans: Running hard from batter's box to third base.

A team player such as Pat Burrell doesn't waste his time padding his stats with an average near .300.
Burrell gives a blue-collar .259 effort.
He doesn't waste his breath being all "showy" and "hotdogging" by chugging for third base.
In fact, if Burrell does hit one to the gap, he'll usually stop at first base to save his strength for later in the game for when his RBI groundout can make all the difference in an 8-4 loss.
It's about finding one's "pace."
Something Abreu never understood in Philly.
Which made him the target of "get-him-outta-here!" ire on the radio call-in shows.

Burrell doesn't enjoy getting all flashy and flamboyant like Abreu, such as hitting a 3-run homer to put the Phils ahead, 6-5, because that would call attention to himself ... either on SportsCenter or the local news.
An oh-for-4 night with two whiffs allows Pat The Bat to explore his inner-.259 hitting star.
Besides, if Burrell went 2 for 4 with two doubles, the time that he would noramlly spend in quiet introspection would be wasted talking to the media.
And that would deter from his "focus."
'Cuz Burrell and his .259 career average are about blue-collar ball.
Not Abreu-styled Hollywood.

This probably explains why Burrell doesn't talk about his current streak of 265 games (through Sun., Aug. 20) without attempting a stolen base. While 47-year-old Julio Franco is 5-for-5 in stolen bases this year, Burrell likes to stay within himself, lest he go crazy on the basepaths and end up like Darren Daulton and have 11 knee surgeries.
On top of that, Burrell needs to save his baserunning legs for the sake of his outfielder/range-of-a-dumptruck legs ... for those occasions when a sinking liner to LF needs to be played from a putout to a single.

Burrell's content to allow Abreu to hotdog it over in the A.L.
When the postseason rolls around, the TV cameras will be on Abreu as he's settling into the batter's box -- and the knowledgable Phillie fan will say, "Lookit this prima donna. The network airing this game is probably going to show me every pitch of the Abreu at-bat. What an ego! Abreu wants me to watch every pitch of his at-bat. You believe the nerve of that guy?"

Burrell and his .259 average will be watching the playoffs on TV.
Unless he's watching Woody mess with Phil's head on another network.
Phil's fans and Phils fans ... they don't know who to root for ...
They never have ...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

People v. Tony Kornheiser

The debate was intense and widespread Tuesday re: the monumental debut of Tony Kornheiser on the newfangled Monday Night Football announcing package.
Pitchfork Enterprises, in conjunction with Haystack Industries, released a statement midday.
Next ...

Kornheiser's MNF coming-out party made America yearn for a simpler time when a nation obsessed with its sweetheart (Barbaro) and its inspiration (J-Mac).
Back in the ol' days of "early '06."
Bottom line: America has lost its marbles if it's entertained by this cult figure which somebody decided we needed to see not only on the pages of the Washington Post sports pages, but also on radio and TV.
Next up: The 24-hour Tony Channel wherein the viewer gets to watch Kornheiser scold the dog and then go out to play 18 holes.
For dessert, we get to watch Tony watching "24."

Watching that comb-over'ed, scraggly bearded, jagged-toothed, pasty-complexed "personality" is akin to watching Bill Conlin sunbathing in the nude.
Maybe if Tone put on a catcher's mask.
Said Kramer when Jerry pointed out everything wrong with his face.
"Look away. I'm hideous ... "

Kornhusker got all bent out of shape Tuesday when asked his reaction to America's reaction of his reaction to a listless preseason NFL game.
Then again, on his radio show a few years ago, Mr. LookAwayI'mHideous caught a glimpse of Star Jones wearing a leather outfit on "The View" and told his audience, "She looks like a couch from Levitz."
Aside from the humor element there (which was extremely high), it showed that Tony can dish out mean-spirited cheap shots, but doesn't always receive constructive criticism very well despite his (sometimes) self-deprecating nature.

Which is why America needs John Feinstein as the third man to Tirico & Thiesmann, if for no other reason than to see if Joe can goad Johnny into replicating last autumn's on-air goof during a Navy-football radio broadcast.
"(Fricking) refs ..."

Bottom line: Three men in the booth rarely works (especially when Theismann counts as 1.75 men). And, most of America has forgotten about the college games Tirico worked last season when he was having an on-air orgasm during long touchdown plays.
When we can SEE the TD happening, Mike should probably climax "off-mike."

The "Let's Get More Kornheiser Into Our Lives" experiment is comical in its scope. Nobody cares who's announcing the games, as the teetering-on-the-brink-of-senility Keith Jackson taught us recently (although we DO love the Gatorade commercials).
For example, it was reported recently that Dan Fouts will be stumbling his way through PLAY-BY-PLAY for ABC this season and, to compound America's pain, Paul Maguire will celebrate his divorce from Thiesmann with color commentary for ... jeez, does it really matter?
Blah, blah, blah, blah ...

This is shaping up as the most-painful college/pro football autumn ever, what, with all the mayhem those media Nazis at Disney/ABC/ESPN have unleashed.
What a sad tribute to Chris Schenkel and Curt Gowdy who left us in the past year.
At least Sean Salisbury was in midseason form a few days ago when he was critiquing the first full weekend of preseason performances.
His insight was very helpful ... such as when he raved about the mechanics of Alex Smith on a pass that gained 2 yards.
Or when he explained to America the proper body language displayed by Chad Pennington on a short scramble ("keeping his eyes downfield") ... or "I think the Ravens saw everything they needed to see from Steve McNair" (on one series) or Chris Simms completing 2 of 3 passes for 8 yards and Salisbury telling America that Gruden has Phil's kid "headed in the right direction."

Y'see, somebody has to inform America that Salisbury has those comments "scripted" because no one could offer such inane analysis "on his own."
"(Fricking) refs ..."

Any time Salisbury volunteers his trite-or-incomprehensible commentary, ESPN needs to air a disclaimer on the screen which reads:
"The only film session Sean engaged in this week was a gay-porn snuff film."
It's called a "PSA: Public Service Announcement."
It's not required by law, but it is good manners.

True to form, however, ESPN got the bold notion to feature a 12-part segment in which Rece Davis, Mark May and Todd Blackledge will sit on the set and break down every college game, most of them months in advance.
On Tues., the gents featured Week 3 of the season and five marquee matchups.
Of course, since these games are ALL played in the vacuum which is the open space inside their heads, every matchup is smashmouth vs. finesse or who has home-field advantage.
Just once, America would like to see Mark May regain some of the testicles he lost due to years of 'roiding at Pitt and for the 'Skins and say something gutsy like, "Notre Dame will struggle in Week 3 because of the shoulder separation Brady Quinn suffered in Week 2. Then again, can Michigan overcome five turnovers top beat the Irish?"

And, if Blackledge can pull himself away from spooning with Salisbury (we presume) as they watch gay porn, maybe he could jazz up his commentary, rather than giving America the same ol' "Team X is bigger and stronger, so they'll win" or "Team Y has too much team speed" or "Team Z is so well-coached."
How ballsy! They picked Texas as the preseason No. 1!
(Note: Let the countdown begin to 2007 when FOX Sports hijacks the Bowl Championship Series and gives us broadcast crews which are more clumsy than Tirico-Theismann-Kornheiser ---- "Tune in as Kenny Albert and 1989 Outland Trophy winner Mohammed Elewonibi bring you all the drama of the Fiesta Bowl!")

In the end, ABC's 9 p.m. Monday night slot for Sept. thru Dec. is wide open for the first time since MNF began in 1970. Doesn't that look ideal for back-to-back-to-back episodes of "According To Jim"?
If ABC aired "Eight Is Enough" re-runs, it would outdraw Kornheiser & Co., who, in case America didn't notice, is relegated to cable.
Anyone with cable TV isn't wasting it on MNF with the awkwardness of Kornheiser and Theismann trying to eastablish "a rapport."
America uses its cable TV for "Law & Order" re-runs and Nickelodeon (with a side order of Cinemax).

FYI for the demographics committee: ESPN2, not ESPN, was hogging the airwaves 'round Haystack Headquarters on the night in question when America obsessed with the mega-photogenic Kornheiser slouched on his seat.
Over on "The Deuce" (which no longer goes by "The Deuce" anymore, it seems), a young slugger named Frank Smith was tagging a walk-off home run, giving the Mid-Island Little League of Staten Island a 2-1 victory over Livingston American LL of New Jersey in the championship game of the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

While Tony's a Long Island boy, maybe he can show some love for the Staten Island crew which became the final team to qualify for the Little League World Series, which begins Friday.
The LLWS is 10 days of boycotting Blackledge blather and Salisbury's raspy-voiced know-it-all-ism.
On a sadder, ESPN-related note, Harold Reynolds won't be in Williamsport this year. Here's why it's a bummer: Because EVERY time an 11-year-old falls down while fielding a dribbler, Harold won't be there to (erroneously) inform the nation that the child slipped on the wet grass.
Because the humidity is 118 percent.
And, 11- and 12-year-olds possess all the coordination and balance of a 25-year-old, so, if they land on their buttocks while making a play, ummmm ... it's because the grass is wet.
Note: Harold, you'll always be the wet infield grass in America's heart.

All kidding aside, Harold was an enthusiastic advocate of Little League baseball, so his passion and positive attitude will be missed.
The only thing Kornheiser knows about Little League is that Little League is for dopes, Little League parents are dopes and Little League isn't as much fun as all the good stuff he learned at summer camp with Larry Bown, oy-vay!

Guaranteed: Frank Smith's family did not TiVo MNF ...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Whole Hall Overhaul (The Eviction of Eppa Rixey)

Consecutive weekends of Hall of Fame inductions (Cooperstown last Sun. and Canton on Sat.) serve as reminders of the dedication and devotion logged by a lot of fat guys or pencilnecks who never played either baseball or football.
That's right ... "the voters."
Or if you prefer … the esteemed “panel.”

It’s a powerful nation that can boast of tubby dorks and skinny dweebs who perceive polo shirts as high fashion deeming themselves qualified to judge the greatest performers of sports they don't fully comprehend.
In other words, the intelligencia which picks your baseball Hall of Fame enshrinees and your Hall of Fame of Professional Football inductees might as well be explaining to you the in's n' out's of jai lai or cricket.

Various accusations were levied by the Ol’ Pitchfork accompanied by assorted protestations which were articulated in great detail by Planet Haystack in the Feb. 4 entry “U-Shaped Logic” – the lightning rod of Pitchfork/Haystack dismay being the snubbing of former Pittsburgh Steeler All-Pro center Dermontti Dawson.
To recap: In 86 years of pro football, only 10 centers are enshrined in Canton.

While it can be argued that healthy debate is good for the soul (and provides an excellent ice-breaker at social functions … y’know, “Whaddija think of Sutter getting into the Hall?” +++ “That guy had eight quality seasons. Only eight … count ‘em. So, tell Bruce Sutter and his frickin’ glorified forkball to go screw themselves, okay?”
And, that’ll ignite the throwdown, as the Wheat Thins and the crab dip go airborne.
Say, who’s gonna clean up that spilled guac?

It’s about being pre-emptive.
And, something which triggered the pre-emptivity was what ESPN aired in the aftermath of the Cooperstown gala – New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden informing America that a baseball Hall of Famer told him that it was up to "you guys" to protect the integrity of the Hall of Fame.
Now, doesn’t that sound a lot like a euphemism for "keep out, Mark McGwire!” when it's time for the “those guys” (read: the BBWAA) to turn in their Hall of Fame ballots in early-January.

Talk about playing with fire.
Instructing a Hall of Fame voter to protect the integrity of a so-called hallowed "Hall of Fame" is like demanding that a pedophile keep his e-mails to a 13-year-old "intelligent, clean and typo-free."

If the “integrity” or “sanctity” of Cooperstown is at stake here, then the housecleaning is easier than one might think.
Ergo, the process of serving eviction notices is underway for the following:
Scooter, Pee Wee, Old Hoss and Pud.
That’s four easy eliminations right there (with more to follow).
True, it’s a tough break for Phil Rizzuto – but, he had a good run as a (use your hands for the air-quotes here) “Hall of Famer.”
Now, it’s over for an overrated player.
And one helluva piss-poor Yankees broadcaster.

That’s Phase I of “the process” of “integrity protection.”
Phase II is to affix “probation” status to inductees such as Sutter, Tommy Lasorda and Gary Carter.
What that means is that Sutter is a “Hall of Fame Disqualify-ee ” (that is, until Goose Gossage and Lee Smith are enshrined).
Same deal for the chubby-and-mediocre Dodger skipper (until Dick Williams and Whitey Herzog are inducted).

Carter (Kid Pepsodent) has a lot of work to do. He’ll remain a Hall of Fame Wanna-Be until he lobbies much harder for the induction of Lance Parrish, Bob Boone and Ted Simmons, all catchers from Carter’s era.
And three backstops who, on the whole, were better than Carter.
Kid Pepsodent’s “prime” (1977-86) was quite good – but most people are startled to learn that Parrish’s stats are almost identical.
On top of that, “the voters” apparently overlooked the final six years of Carter’s career when he was all dinged up and averaging .234, 8 HR and 34 RBI per season.

Simmons, meanwhile, takes cuts in line ahead of Carter due to the fact that he was a mega-productive switch-hitter for 10 seasons in St. Loo (while catching some crappy Redbird pitching staffs) and then followed up his playing days with a bang-up job as a Pirates GM during their most-recent time of semi-glory.
Boonie was productive as a full-time catcher in his 40’s – and he was a clutch hitter in his postseason ABs (which The Kid was not).

As long as the Scooter, Pee Wee, Old Hoss and Pud are getting the boot, it might be time to rip Eppa Rixey’s plaque off the wall.
During the first nine years of his career (all with the Phillies, Rixey’s averaged a won-loss record of 9-11. During his next nine seasons (all with the Cincinnati Reds), Rixey averaged a won-loss record of 17-13.
Big whoop.
If nine seasons is what it takes, then it must be time to punch Ron Guidry’s ticket for his seasons 1977-85.
Loozee-anna Light’nin’ brung it.
(Note: Guidry was 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 postseason starts)
Easy, isn’t it?
It is, once you start dumping oldtimers who were getting’ cozy with sportswriters “back in the day.”
By “cozy,” we’re talkin’ ‘bout sharing a few rounds of Falstaff or Rheingold beer and a few packs of Chesterfields on the train ride from the Polo Grounds to Shibe Park.
You get the picture.

Now that you mention it, yes … Don Sutton is a Hall of Fame De-Shrinee until he starts campaigning more vigorously for Tommy John, Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant.
After all, those four are practically the same pitcher.
‘Cept that T.J., Kitty Kaat and El Tiante don’t have Sutton’s weak-ass perm hairdo.

The mechanics of Hall of Fame selections are simplified once we make personal attacks against the clowns which compose “the electorate.”
That’s American pragmaticism in action.
Rather than allowing Peter Schmuck – president of the BBWAA – and his vast collection of Hawaiian shirts brainwash you into believing that so-and-so “isn’t worthy” or that so-and-so “cheated,” people who actually walk inside the building in Cooperstown can decide for themselves.
Such as weighing the merits of Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn and his 59-12 record (with 73 starts and 73 complete games) for the 1884 Providence Grays against his 27-31 record for the Boston Beaneaters two seasons later.

Even if James “Pud” Galvin was 46-29 with 72 complete games for the Buffalo Bisons in 1883 and he was 46-22 with 71 complete games in 1884, his 16-26 record in 1885 can’t be ignored.
Then again, maybe that 16-26 record (or his 20-35 record for the 1880 Bisons) is what kept The Pudster out of The Hall until he was finally enshrined in 1965 – 63 years after his death at age 45 in 1902.

Look … some of us respect the hell outta the Buffalo Bisons – and some of us are married to the daughter of the man whose name is on the Bisons’ yearly MVP trophy.
Seriously, though … a record of 59-12 or 46-22 record, well … those are circus stats.

In other words, you’re damn right Big Mac should go in. Unless McGwire deposited a urine sample into the pocket of Schmuck’s Hawaiian shirt, there’s no reason to exclude Mac.
No, he wasn’t warm n’ fuzzy.
Still, his crappy years were outweighed by his monster years, which may or may not correlate to his adventures with androstenedione, which was not on The MLB’s hit list of banned substances at the time.

Writers such as Madden or Schmuck try to remain relevant by making wisecracks or getting preachy.
Bill James parlayed such schtick into higher statistical awareness, which led to number-crunching called “sabermetrics.”
James should’ve probably simply stuck to the numbers game because his quote from roughly 15 years ago was a doozy when he said that Ted Williams’ offensive numbers had to be taken in the context that “Williams never had to face the baseball’s great black pitchers.”

It was assumed that James was referring to the Negro League hurlers, but, then again, maybe he meant Blue Moon Odom or Oil Can Boyd.
Yet, based on James’ circular logic (or specious reasoning … not sure which), one would have to subtract anywhere from 105 to 217 of Hank Aaron’s record 755 career home runs because Hammerin’ Hank hit that many against truly crappy white pitchers.

It’s all relative, really.
And, it’s totally subjective when it comes to choosing who gets into the Hall and who gets locked out.
Which is what makes poking fun at the electorate more enjoyable than punching holes in the qualifications of the elected.

One thing’s for sure: Once baseballers get elected, it’s “I’ve got my Cooperstown cred! Now, quick, lock the door before McGwire or anyone else gets in.”
The footballers seem to have more of a sense of fraternity, not the cut-throat, “we-need-to-protect-the-integrity-of-the-Hall.”

In a manner of speaking, that was the case last weekend when Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Reggie Jackson and Willie McCovey were all no-shows at Cooperstown when 17 Negro League players were enshrined.
According to ESPN Radio, Hammerin’ Hank was attending a wedding; “Say Hey” was playin’ stickball at the White House (when he wasn’t talking about himself); and Stretch was at a card show in Anaheim.

Then again, we potential attendees of the Hall were given nothing more than a vague reference to “17 Negro Leaguers” … 17 individuals who, evidentally, have no identity or names of their own.
Which means it’s time to break out the Cool Papa Bell stories.
And to continue locking out Jim Rice.

If the goal is to eliminate the arbitrary nature of these elections, then the voting should be handed over to a pro-active, Regular Joe contingent – since it is, after all, the Regular Joes who dish out the $$$ for season tickets and who shell out the $$$ to take their kids to Cooperstown and Canton.
Allowing sportswriters and a “panel” of “experts” (whose only “expertise” is locating free food) to decide such matters is akin to staging an arm wrestling match between Ann Coulter and Gene Shalit to select the next President of the United States.
We’re Americans, dammit … which means that we either ignore or embrace what Simon Cowell has to say and then we vote accordingly.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, America … particularly on the baseball side of the diamond/gridiron paradigm.
At least by putting it in the hands of the people, much of the bias and personal agenda is eliminated.
Stripping Peter Schmuck and Peter Gammons and Peter King of their self-important say-so eliminates oversights such as Ted Simmons and Dermontti Dawson.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Reeg-RHETT and Quit-TING

Two days later ... and Haystack Headquarters is STILL reeling from the news that the '06 college football season will be devoid (or, if you prefer "bereft") of a pair of nice kids who got caught up in the political process which is big-time college athletics.
We're talkin' 'bout Oklahoma Sooner QB Rhett Bomar and USC Trojan special-team maverick Brandon Ting.

Y'see, the Ol' Pitchfork has been following OU football since the days when he was a California pup, learning the differences between a salad fork and a dinner fork -- and how the prongs of a fork are actually called "tynes."
And, Rhett's auto-dealership indiscretions and timecard tomfoolery have cost him a Sooner QB career which might NOT have been as illustrious as the accomplishments of Josh Heupel (national championship in 2000) or Jason White (Heisman Trophy as a junior) or Jack Mildren (who completed 54 passes for 1,818 yards in 1970 ... yup, 33.7 yards per completion) or Nate Hybl (the only Sooner QB to win a Rose Bowl) or Jamelle Holieway (national championship as a freshman ... after Troy Aikman broke his ankle) or J.C. Watts (the Congressman) ... but Bomar would've been "right up there."

For sure, Sooner Schooneristas haven't been this bummed since either A) The Sooner Schooner was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in the '85 Orange Bowl or B) Since Sooner QB Charles Thompson made the cover of S.I. while wearing handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit.

For anyone who watched the Holiday Bowl last Dec., the Bomar ruling might not be all that surprising. With the Sooners clinging to a 17-14 lead against Oregon in the game's final minute, linebacker Clint Ingram made an interception deep in OU territory to kill the Ducks' last-ditch drive.
Ingram was then flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he chucked the football into the crowd.
Bomar was then sent out to take a knee to kill the remaining seconds -- yet, after he performed the genuflection with precise knee-to-grass precision, Bomar stood up, spiked the football and walked toward the sideline.
OU was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, thus stopping the clock and requiring the Sooners to take one final snap from inside their own 5-yard line.

That was a classic mini-meltdown ... and the TV cameras captured Stoops with a just-ate-a-plate-of-habaneros look on his face.
It should be noted that Bomar's spike wasn't flagrant -- just a pound-the-ball-to-the-ground (no full windup) slamdown which seemed to say, "F yeah!"
The official who threw the flag COULD have left the hanky in his pocket and allowed the final seconds to tick off the clock, but, maybe what we're dealing with here is one of those "slippery slope" scenarios.
Spiking the ball leads to point-shaving ... which leads to class-cutting ... which leads to booze-guzzling ... which leads to out-of-wedlock, baby-making ... which leads to getting paid for 40-hour work weeks for 5 hours of work.

As it turns out, those will be Renegade Rhett's final snaps at OU -- and that means that we can forget an S.I. cover photo with the caption: "BOMARVELOUS!" ... unless, of course, Rhett transfers to Tulsa and leads the Golden Hurricane to new heights in '07 and '08.

As fate would have it, though, some of Rhett's thunder was stolen when it was reported (on the same day) that Brandon Ting had tested positive for steroids and that he and his twin brother, Ryan (who, apparently, has clean pee ... or wasn't tested ... or uses better masking agents), were leaving the team to focus on their med-school studies.
The story received probably more play than it deserved, only because the Ting Twins -- whom we refer to around Haystack Headquarters as "Hurt Ting" (for punishing tackles) and "Excite Ting" (for dazzling, broken-field running) -- are the sons of Art Ting, the orthopedist with ties to Barry Bonds.
In the eyes of many, it would seem natural to connect the dots -- yet, for the purposes of today, it might be better to remember fondly the connecting of the dots which Dr. Ting skillfully performed more than a decade ago when he sutured my forehead with four stitches (between the eyebrows) after a nasty softball mishap.
The Doc's work with needle, thread and human flesh was professional and totally above-board. For the record, no free samples of HGH, rhino semen, B-12 or shark fin were offered by Dr. Ting and none were requested by me because, well ... a young softballer can usually swing a better deal on the black market (along with black-market riboflavin and black-market niacin).

Hopefully, the latest developments in the Ting Family Tree won't trace back to my California past and the needlework which the Doc performed at no charge 13 years ago. If subpoenaed to testify, well ... there's no telling how I'll testify (I mean, I was merely trying to work the term "subpoena" into the previous sentence).

Bottom line: The sutures were applied and removed with precision and skill -- the Doc knew how to use the tools for "opp-urr-rayy-TING." And, the "no charge" deal had something to do with professional courtesy between he future Mrs. PF7 andHEY!!!
Who's on trial here?
Either way, it's probably a good thing that no one took my suggestion seriously when I said years ago that cheerleaders at the football games QB'ed by Dr. Ting's eldest son, Rich (a reasonably-talented local QB who went to Yale, I think) should hold up a large sign which read: "THROW IT FAR, TING!"
Hey ... wipe that smirk off your face. After all, right now in Norman, OK, they're holding up large signs in their minds which read: "FORGET RHETT!"
Sidebar: In the L.A. Times story of Brandon Ting's positive results, it was noted that Ryan Ting received death threats following the Rose Bowl when he failed to intercept a Vince Young pass late in the game.
Apparently, somebody felt that Ryan should have been "Intercept-TING."

Once these trangressions are forgotten, the future should hold great promise for Rhett and Brandon -- just not before 80,000 fans and the ponies who pull the Sooner Schooner and the horse (Traveler) which Tommy Trojan rides.
Another important lesson: They don't put you on special teams if you're only ordinary. It's because you're special.
Your parents don't give you the first name "Rhett" if you're an ordinary baby.
It's because you're special.
Neverthless, the 2006 season will be a little less-special without these special talents.