Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More American than Baseball

American culture, like the nation itself, is ever changing. Things rarely stay the same. So, what's more American than baseball, apple pie and hot dogs? I can think of a number of things, and one of them has to do with a Vietnamese man massaging my face.

See, American culture is always shifting, always developing and rarely ever remaining the same. Sure, baseball is America's #1 sport...if this is the 1960s. Here are a few things that are provenly more American than baseball.

1. Cowboys - No, not like the Dallas Cowboys. Those are a bunch of pretty boy girly men who consistently under perform. They're like the Colin Ferrel of football (who, by the way, is recognized for one great role in Crazy Heart where he plays a country singer who wears a cowboy hat. Proving my point about cowboys). I'm talking cowboys like John Wayne cowboys. You know, the larger than life, mostly unrealistic, Hollywood depictions of cowboys. The trailblazers. They're rough, rugged and the foundation of what America is supposed to be about. They go out into the wild and conquer with no remorse. Cowboys are the reason we have words like wrangle, buckaroo, and rustler. They're the original captains of industry and they are most certainly American. I dare you to tell a cowboy to his face he's not American.
2. Football - Not only is the NFL America's consensus #1 favorite sport (source, Harris Poll), it also more accurately represents the nation. Yes, in the 1940s and 50s baseball was America's game. It is our pastime, there's no arguing that. However, the NFL has reached a level of popularity, success and intrigue that is unmatched by other sports. The shortened season (you know, not 162 games), the notoriety of the Super Bowl and the ad revenue gained cause it to eclipse the popularity of the MLB, NBA or NHL. In the NFL each game is crucially important to the season, when you play 162 games you can lose 76 games and still make the playoffs and clinch your division. 76 GAMES! The Indianapolis Colts haven't lost 76 games this DECADE. Placing an importance on winning, that's American.
3. Synthetically Manufactured Recreational Chemicals - Sure there are drug problems all over the world, but there is something distinctly American about recreational drug use. Think about it, American scientists have made great strides in developing growth hormones and steroids that boost performance, yet are relatively undetectable on most regulation drug tests. That way, people who compete athletically can break records and generate buzz about their sport under the guise of legitimacy. Its so exciting! We Americans love falsifying record books and cheating to get ahead. Its what makes our country great! ....Face it, you're sport is forever tainted, and that's not American (Neither is the Tour de France sans Lance Armstrong).
4. NASCAR - The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is America's most popular spectator sport (source, Harris Poll). If you've seen a Goodyear Blimp shot of a raceway you know two things. 1) They are enormous and 2) they are filled to max capacity. NASCAR is even more American when you attend the race. You have down home, salt of the earth type people drinking cheap beers, eating fatty fried foods, and hooting and hollering. NASCAR is deeply rooted in tradition and stems from the American auto-business, a staple in the foundation of modern American factory work and mass production. Make fun of its viewers all you want, don't call it a sport, say its full of hicks, whatever. But it is American. Plus, watching cars crash is more exciting than watching a player adjust the straps on his gloves, his helmet, his jock strap, spit twice, squeeze the bat and readjust his jock again. Seriously, it is. In fact, I just spent 10 minutes YouTubing baseball at-bats and couldn't bring myself to link one here because they're so boring.
5. Barber Shops - Barber shops represent the American dream. What's more American than a Vietnamese family moving to America and starting up a successful business? I love getting my hair cut at these places. Who cares if my $15 hair cut doesn't immediately make the ladies swoon? When was the last time baseball wrapped a warm towel around my face and massaged my neck? Huh!? And how many rhetorical questions can I ask in a row?!?!

I could go on, talking about big business, coal, steel, oil and tobacco. The things America was founded on and [unfortunately] still run it today. But, much like watching baseball, you'd need to have giant sausages racing around to keep me interested. Baseball is so boring they've incorporated a designated time for everyone to get up from their naps and stretch. Perhaps they'll sing a song to get their juices flowing again so the crowd can be focused for the final innings. Does this happen anywhere else in the world that isn't the 3rd grade?

Look, baseball is a pastime for a reason. And quite frankly (pardon the pun) its time has passed. It needs a major overhaul. Baseball fans you know you agree a little bit with this fact. Baseball is broken. The season is 162 games, about 130 games too long. There are baseball games on TV almost everyday from April to October. Not to mention Spring Training in March. Are you kidding me? Its like when Germany began printing money after World War I. They printed so much that it had no value. People were wallpapering their houses with Franks, kids played with bricks of money like toys and it didn't make a difference. Similarly, you could build a full size replica of the Trump Tower with worthless baseball games.


We already talked about steroids, and I won't abuse that too much. Its like squirting lemon juice in a paper cut. However, steroids have not only questioned the integrity of the sport, they've made it even less exciting. Sure hitting 34 homers in a season is a nice achievement, but will the casual fan even care? If it's not 70 or more we are not interested. I'll admit, I watched when Sosa and McGwire were hammering them at every at-bat. Now? Not a chance. To make up for this, incredible emphasis is placed on absurd statistics. Do I care that Justin Morneau's OPS was .878 in 2009? DOES ANYONE UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT SENTENCE MEANS?!

In fact, baseball is so numbers obsessed that a whole new analytical tool was created to observe the game. Sabermetrics allows baseball nerds to obsess over every minute aspect imaginable. As if their sport has lost so much credibility that my high school's "It's Academic" team was challenged to come up with some physical evidence to measure the game by. Sabermetric users would say that batting average isn't important because it provides a poor fit for teams runs scored. I would say, spend less time with a calculator and more time learning to talk to girls. Instead, they emphasize on base percentage and other tired old statistics that make the game less entertaining. What kind of stats do you hear about in football? Touchdowns scored and yardage gained. Basketball? Points, assists and rebounds. Nascar? Wins and top 10 finishes. Why are there hundreds of different stats for baseball? With more being created each year!

Those aren't the only problems. The league has no salary cap, which means rich teams get richer and poor teams get poorer. It destroys the integrity of the game and consolidates the talent pool to wealthier teams while ball clubs in smaller markets struggle to stay afloat. Why are the Yankees always good? Well, they're the most recognizable baseball team, right? So they sell lots of merchandise, right? So they have more money than say, the Kansas City Royals, right? So they can pay A-Rod $250 million and not break a sweat.

Its just a flawed, obnoxious sport that survives on the glory days of its past. I don't doubt the game used to be a staple of American culture, and that it is still a widely popular sport, but its just not relevant anymore. You're either a baseball homer or you're not. Baseball fans, you are like hockey fans from a few years ago. There are fanatics who can talk your ear off about why their sport is great and the tradition and blah blah blah. And then there's everybody else, who knows that having to watch a baseball game is worse than having to wear a wool turtleneck in August.

The stadiums are pretty cool though. I'll give you that.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Lost in LOST

As I have made mention before, I am a big fan of the show Lost. This is largely due to reasons that I do not fully understand. Think about it for a second. If I pitched a show to you that met the following criteria, would you want to watch it for 6 seasons?

1) The show will be full of mysterious intrigue.
2) Many questions will be raised, often supernatural.
3) It will take multiple seasons to answer these questions. All the while posing new, more confusing questions.
4) The show will follow no logical train of thought and will jump around from innumerable characters, locations, dates, times and universes.
5) The show will be fraught with symbolism and metaphors, less than a third of which will be important.
5) There will be polar bears on a tropical island, and you'll be asked accept this as normal.
6) Often times, your favorite characters will be killed off because of off screen issues (see, Mr. Echo) and your least favorite characters will keep reappearing even after they've died multiple times (see, Claire, Michael, etc).
7) If the show gets too confusing or too far away from any sensible story line, (say, when the characters begin time travelling or you find out you can literally move the island through time and space) the writers will just distract you instead of providing a useful explanation.
8) There will be 6 seasons. Seasons 2-5 will have two pertinent episodes each. The season premier and the season finale. The rest will be filler.
9) So many characters will be introduced in so many time zones (I wish I meant Eastern or Pacific. Instead I mean Present, Parallell, 30 years prior, 8 weeks ago, Future, etc) that you'll spend half of each episode trying to figure out who is who and why it matters.
10) In the final season, the show will inexplicably attempt to tie things together by adding supernatural characters replete with religious allegory which, again, will only distract you from the previous 5 seasons instead of explaining anything.

Does that show interest you? NO! Unless you suffer from severe ADHD, you would not want to watch this show. (I'd worry about making fun of people with ADHD, but they've already forgotten what I said). The show is clearly setting you up for disappointment and will drag you along like American Idol's results show. Right after this break....

That said, we still have a few more episodes and I can't wait to watch!

What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment. As are all of you who watch Lost. You may say, "This show is so frustrating and the final season isn't going anywhere. I'm bailing on this show." but you're pot committed. You're in too deep. You can't quit now! You're like Matt Damon in The Departed, at some point you're just going to end up shooting everyone and hope it works out for the best.

The show has garnered intrigued from a vast fan base and has had unprecedented success. Think about it, this is a show that can't rely on gaining viewers the longer its on the air. Once they started season 3 there wasn't a whole lot they could do to get new fans. Either you were going to buy seasons 1 and 2 and catch up, or you weren't. Lost is not a show you just watch from time to time. You marry it. For better or for worse. You put up with the Dharma Initiative and deal with Mr. Widmore, in the hopes of more Jack, Sawyer and Hugo. You look past the fact that Cheech is playing Hurley's dad and focus on Said's transformation. And now, all you want is more Jacob, Richard and the Man in Black.

And that's the key to the show's success. You wrangle in all these early viewers with the premise of a show about people surviving a plane crash and living on a desert island, like Survivor minus all the annoying parts. You know, when Jeff Probst is on camera. And then they throw a curveball at you. What kind of monster do they hear in the jungle? Who kills the pilots and how do they end up at the top of a tree? WHY ARE THERE POLAR BEARS?!?!

That's all it takes. Now, if you have any common sense you're one of those people saying, "See!? That's exactly why I never got into that show. I'm much too smart and well educated to waste my time with it." If you're honest, you're saying, "I watched an episode and nothing made sense so I turned it off."

I'm just worried what will happen when its off the air. Will someone pick it up and air re-runs? Can you even pull that off? What will the actors do? Most will forever be seen as their Lost characters. C'mon, if you saw Ben Linus in any other role you wouldn't be able to get past that smarmy little manipulator with a bloodied up face. What will happen to the thousands of bloggers and message board posters? The show will be over. There will be nothing left to speculate. It will just dissolve in the recesses of our minds.

Or will it?

If I've been convinced of one thing this entire season of Lost its this: I will be supremely let down by the final episode. If you watched The Sopranos (which I didn't, but go with me here), you know that the season finale was awful. Most people thought their cable cut out. It just went to black. There was no finality to it. I have a similar feeling for Lost.

This is a show that has made itself famous by offering fantastic twists and turns. Each season something outrageous happens that changes everyone forever. There are so many possible outcomes. I imagine the end of the series to have one of those classic Lost moments. The Man in Black will make a claim, Jacob will cock his head slightly sideways then glance over to Jack. He'll look back at the Man in Black and say something like, "But isn't that always how it was forever going to be?" The camera will cut to a close up of the Man in Black, eyes wide in surprise. Jacob will smirk. Then, boom. Creepy Lost music. Logo will fade up and you'll be left with this expression on your face:

Thinking, did I seriously just waste the past 6 years of my life accomplishing nothing?! Which, coincidentally is what the guy in this randomly selected photo is probably thinking. I kid.

All political riling up aside. I know we'll be let down by the finale of Lost. I know J.J. Abrahms is too smart to answer all of our questions, leaving us satisfied. He needs his name to be remembered! He needs Lost to go down as one of the greatest shows of all time and that is only accomplished by leaving us with hundreds of unanswered questions. The speculation is what makes the show great.

If you knew the Lost was going to have a smoke monster that could throw people around but was actually a person and that the island was actually a supernatural battleground for Good v. Evil and that everything you're watching isn't actually what you're watching. That no one on the island actually dies unless the writers have a problem with the actor, and that most of the show is practically meaningless. You'd never watch it! It sounds annoying and slightly cheesy on paper. The speculation it arouses, however....oh, you're a crafty one J.J. Very crafty.

Here's is an actual description of the show Lost, "There are several recurring elements and motifs on Lost, which generally have no direct effect on the story itself, but expand the show's literary and philosophical subtext." This is why we're addicted! Finally a show has come along that doesn't force feed us clich├ęd metaphors and blatant symbolism. Well, until they have to wrap things up in season 6 and pretty much beat you over the head with Jacob as Jesus and the Man in Black as the devil. Jacob, the symbol of "good" has been holding evil captive on the island and has died as part of his effort to find a replacement to carry on his mission? That metaphor stands out worse than a white guy in a dunk competition.

But for the most part the show had our intrigue and caused us to discuss everything with fellow viewers. It kept us talking about it all week until a new installment arrived each Tuesday. There's nothing that can explain the show other than to succeed it needed to make no sense and keep us guessing.

I don't think we'll ever know where J.J. Abrams gets his crazy from.




Oh, nevermind. I see it now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An Age Old Tale

"I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting." - Bill Shakespeare

I have to admit, this idea spouted from a good friend of mine turning twenty-three yesterday. (Or should I say "three-and-twenty?") My personal calendar (read, Facebook) reminded me to wish well upon my friend as he celebrates another year of life. I made the mandatory joke, something along the lines of, "You're old, grandpa," "I bought you some Depends," or "Get your Velcro shoes, suspenders and wrap-around sunglasses and we'll head to the unmentionables department at Macy's and talk to the fine sales women down there." You know, the same old bag. But it all got me thinking...and you know what happens when I think. I make you read.

My friend, we'll call him Steven. Steven Penn. Yea, we'll call him Steven Penn and he'll go by Lil Steve because he's short and he'll drive a Ford Explorer and he'll really like European Futbol and gaming. And he'll look something like this-

Anyway, he turned 23 yesterday and amidst the 'congratulations', 'happy birthdays' and 'enjoy your days' there was an equal number of, "Wow you're old" and "Lets go out tonight, but not for too long."

For some reason, my generation has regressed to the 18th century when life expectancy was 41 years old. Since when is 23 senior? Does Stevie qualify as a geriatric now? What's going on?!

I understand time passes faster than gas after bad Mexican food, but lets not lose perspective. While making jokes at how old Lil Steve is, I realized I am also 23. And yes, I'm married, I have a full-time job, a 401(k) and a cat, but I still love superhero movies, ping-pong and high-fives. I might be done with a quarter of my life, but the best years are still ahead of me. And its because I choose for them to be.

Sure I miss college, it was the best four years of my life....to this point. Should I resign to adulthood and live through the memories of the 'Glory Days', even if they are only 9 months old? No way!

I have a brother turning 30 in May. Much like him, I expect that's the age when I'll begin to really believe, "I am old." Yet I still won't be halfway done with my life! There will be plenty of years left to enjoy.

I know what you're thinking. When you get old you can't do all the stuff you want to because you'll have stiff joints, your diapers will need to be changed regularly and you won't be able to remember why you poured milk over your pancakes. Perhaps that's true, but Buzz Aldrin (you know, "I walked on the moon moments after Neil Armstrong but didn't get much credit cause I didn't write a cutesy phrase about steps") is thriving and he's 81 years old!

Now is the moment when I have to admit I watched some of "Dancing with the Stars" last night. Wait wait wait!!! Before you close out of the window, please read on for just a little longer. I swear I haven't had to turn in my man-card yet. I swear the reason I watched was for Chad Ochocinco...I swear.

Buzz Aldrin is on this season of "Dancing with the Stars", he's 81. In his life, he's flown fighter jets in Korea, strolled around on the moon, released a rap song and competed on a televised dancing competition. Yes, a rap song. A real one too, with Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli, Quincy Jones and Soldja Boy working on it. Seriously! Look. (Its pretty bad). The man has literally done it all. When filmmaker Bart Sibrel confronted Aldrin outside a hotel claiming the moon landing was a hoax and called Aldrin a "coward, liar and thief" you know what Buzz did? Punched him in the face!


This was in 2002 and Buzz was 72 years old! I get chills watching it. When I'm 72 I hope I'm still punching people in the face.

Here's the point. I am a strong advocate for acting my age....minus a few years. What's the point in growing up too fast? And what are we dreading will happen when we really do grow up? All of a sudden we'll become less fun and boring? If a 72 year old man can still hand out face punchings then old age sounds great to me!

Think about it, when you're old you get to go to dinner when nobody else is there. You can say whatever you want whenever you want blaming 'senility', and you can get out of traffic tickets by acting lost. Your kids will be grown so you can spoil their kids without fear of consequence. I mean, you pretty much have a free pass to do what you want. I can't wait to be old!

So I challenge you, don't act your age today, act yourself. (I would also like to disclaim any responsibility regarding the repercussions of you following this advice).

Enjoy your life, spend it wisely.

Happy Birthday Stevie, try not to get any wenches with child.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Manliness

You know that awkward moment right after your voice cracks? When you don't know if the person you're talking to caught it or not. You're not sure if you can laugh about it or play it off, acting like it never happened? I live for those moments.

It reminds me of our futile attempts to be perceived as the alpha male. Which, if you didn't know, is every man's deepest desire. That, and the hover board from Back to the Future.

Tonight, my church brethren and I will be gearing up for a night of masculinity. We will put on our short shorts, tube socks and wrist bands. We will do trunk rotations, lunges and jumping jacks. And when our limbs are loose and the high fives have been equally distributed, we will pick up our weapon of choice: the 8.5" rubber Action Dodgeball.

The next few hours will be spent hurling this object at our opponents. Each one of us hoping to achieve the fated head shot. Seen here: head shot!

You see, tonight, the men in my church are gathering for a night of Manness- of, masculinity- of, testosterone. We will watch college basketball, eat fried foods, and play outdated sports. Our competitive sides will come out in full force with no wives around to say, "Honey, its just a game. Don't take it so seriously." or "Can we watch 'Who Do You Think You Are'? I'm tired of basketball." or, the worst, "Lets just play for fun, I don't really care about winning."

Ugh.

I'm looking forward to tonight. I expect we will all have a great time as the women congregate elsewhere sharing recipes, talking about babies and pillow fighting (I'm still pretty sure they do that). But the whole thing got me thinking, what is it about hanging with Mr. Cooper...er...the boys, that is so fun? Bad commentators become bearable, farts become louder, and bad movies become funnier. Don't believe me? Watch "Snakes on a Plane" by yourself. Now watch it with a group of friends. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Waiting....
Waiting...

And we're back! See what I mean?

There is something so rudimentary about a man's need to do man things with other men. Sure we all love our girlfriends, wives and Erin Andrews. But why is it a fundamental need of a man to be a part of something with other men? Our most lasting relationships come from the people we played sports with as kids, soldiers we served with in the military, fraternity brothers we became men with or the 9 other doofuses in our fantasy league.

So what makes a man? Is it a big truck? Mud flaps? Drinking lots of beer? Is it being able to pick up girls, or being the funniest guy in the room, or dressing well? If you make more money than me are you a better man? (Side note, you do make more money than me). Does your success define you? What about providing for your family? Does the ability to quote every line out of "Dumb & Dumber" make you a man? Not sure, but it does make me want to hang out with you.

Look, I'm not sure what makes a man a man. But I know what makes a man better. Camaraderie with guys we want to be like. You think I joined a fraternity to slam beers and hook up with chicks? Please. I still don't know how to do either of those things and I'm married! I joined because there were guys I could grow with, and the values of SigEp aligned with my personal values. You think I'm going to Man's Night to play dodgeball? Well, yea I kind of am. But also because there are guys there who can make me a better man and husband.

So yea, I'm looking forward to tonight. Its a chance to be a man's man, to grow friendships and get overly competitive. The bro-hugs will flow abundantly and the jeers will be heard from miles away when CBS cuts from the end of a close game to the tip of the Duke game. (I'll be secretly excited though). We'll eat our wings, make up stories, and tell jokes. All in all, it's not really important about who wins dodgeball tonight.

But let's not forget I'm fresh off four years of competitive intramural dodgeball experience. Just saying.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March has never seen this much madness!!

Ladies and gentleman, may I have your attention please? I'm going to need you to put your chairs in the upright position, and fasten your seat belts. Tray tables up, sir. We are only two short days away from the greatest sporting event of the year.

Greatest sporting event of the year? Well, duh. An entire MONTH is dedicated to it. Sure it starts mid-way through March and finishes sometime in April, but March April Madness doesn't roll off the tongue. Nor does Mapril Madness. or Marril Madness...anyway.

College sports are beloved for the passion, rivalry, pageantry and......UPSET POTENTIAL BABY! The NCAA Tournament is rife with upset potential, I'm talking rife. RIFE! Every year a small school in an unknown conference will play with more passion and intensity then a mid-major, nationally ranked team. Before you know it, the timer will hit zero and the buzzer will sound. The bench will clear as a bunch of awkward white guys (guys who really care about their teammates) start jumping up and down in their warm ups and attack their star players with goofy man hugs, as the higher seed walks off the court in disbelief. Wow...I'm getting chills already.

Then we'll all realize our brackets are screwed because we had that higher seed in the championship game. And, if you're like me, you'll swear off March Madness and vow never to participate again...until next March.

Well March has come my friends!

Its time to get your brackets filled out and start making wild claims like, "Wofford seriously has a chance at upsetting Wisconsin. No seriously! They do!" or, "Dude, St. Mary's is this year's George Mason! I'm putting them in my Final Four!" or, "I know it, I just know this is the year a #16 seed takes down a #1!"

If you're one of those people, let me save you some time. Hold your bracket with your left hand in the top left corner. Then with your right hand, grasp the top of your bracket somewhere near the middle and pull down sharply. Repeat. Then light on fire. Place ashes in urn, and crush with hammer. Then melt it all down and form it into a mallet and bludgeon yourself with it.

I know George Mason is an inspiring story, especially because they're my local University and my brother was studying there during their historical run, but has an #11 seed made it there since the 2006 tourney? In fact, an #11 seed had only done it once before! LSU in 1986. 2006 was a screwy year, by the way, no #1 seeds made the Final Four (only the second time in tourney history that has ever happened).

Look, I'm no professional Bracketologist. I haven't won my pool every year...or ever I don't think. But I've been filling out brackets since I was a kid. And if I've learned one thing since then its this, "Don't have Duke winning the Championship every year just cause you like their little white point guard Steve Wojciechowski." (The only Duke player to have a weirder name than Coach Krzyzewski.)

So here are a few things to keep in mind as the most exciting weekend in sports kicks off.

1. Don't get caught up picking too many upsets. 76% of the time the higher seed wins in the first round. The #1 seed has never lost, the #2 seed has lost 4 times. Think about it logically...will it help your bracket to gamble on 10 upsets just so you can nail 3 of them?
2. You will not be able to predict the next George Mason. Stop trying.
3. Always pick at least one 5-12 upset, happens every year.
4. In a year like this year, when the top 2 seeds in each division are relatively equally matched, pick the team with the best player. The later round games will be won by narrow margins, when it comes down to crunch time do you want Iman Shumpert handling the ball, or the national player of the year Evan Turner?
5. Don't underestimate the coach's impact on the game. This isn't the pros. College coaches do more than wander around on the sideline wondering if they should order nachos or a foot long. Tom Izzo, Michigan State's coach, is a sure thing Hall of Fame coach whenever he's ready to retire. You think I'm picking against him in round 1 just cause he's a #5 seed?
6. Go with your gut. If you really believe a match-up has upset potential go for it. But only do it if you really believe they can win.
7. Do not pick teams based on their name and reputation. Or you'll find yourself doing this, "Well, North Carolina won it all last year, so they should have a good run this year. Let me go ahead and put them in the Elite Eight. Hmm...where are they? I can't find them on my bracket. Wait. What?! They didn't even MAKE the NCAA tourney!? They're in the NIT!?!?!?" (go Duke).
8. Don't get cute. Just cause you read on some blog that UTEP is hot right now and has a good chance at upsetting Butler doesn't mean you have to pick it. (But if you do, you have to cite me and link this blog).
9. If all else fails, don't actually join a pool, but tell everyone you have. Then when its all over you can brag about winning it all! So what if the only other participant is your delusional neighbor Mr. Shuttensquack who picked Taco to beat Constitution, final score 17-Orange in the championship game?
10. Remember, you are not going to win your pool this year. The bracket you filled out is wrong. There is an 85% chance your girlfriend, who has randomly selected teams by counting the number of vowels in their name, will beat you when Ohio State beats Old Dominion in the championship game.

My picks? I'm taking Kentucky (remember the best players thing? John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, anyone?), Duke (weak division, thank you very much selection committee!), Kansas State (sure why not?) and Ohio State (my pick to win it all on the shoulders of Evan "The Villain" Turner and Mark "Club Trillion" Titus.

In any event, this year's tourney will be filled with excitement and plenty of madness. Yet I can guarantee you how it will end....with me swearing off March Madness forever.

Until next year.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What a waste...

Jersey Shore, Deal or No Deal, Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, Lost. I can guarantee you are addicted to at least ONE of these shows. And I bet you hate yourself just a little bit because of that.

Now I'm not saying its bad to watch them, I'm hooked on Lost and Celebrity Apprentice (don't ask me why), but could these shows be any bigger wastes of time? Yet we always watch them.

We're addicted. We're hooked. We can't turn away.

Sure J.J. Abrams! I don't mind getting strung along for 6 seasons, being promised answers, only to be left with MORE QUESTIONS!!! If you want to tell me there is a deep meaning behind a giant turtle wearing a striped cardigan eating clouds, I'm sure I'll watch it for at least 3 seasons. But, I digress....

So, I'm at home Sunday night watching TV with my wife and we get sucked into the new show "Minute to Win It". I won't lie, I was intrigued by this show before it came out. If you don't know, the show features a contestant who has to play a variety of screwy games apparently made up by a 5th grader on speed. They have 1 minute to complete each task, working their way up the chain of money trying to win $1 million. They play games like pulling all the tissues out of a box one by one, bouncing ping pong balls off plates into a fish bowl, dropping quarters into shot glasses at the bottom of fishbowls, stacking cups rapidly, etc.

Its asinine. And I watched it for two straight hours.

The first contestant, a large, jovial black man called "Big Steve", was playing his way through the games trying to win money to take his family back to Texas so his boys could grow up on a ranch enjoying life like he did as a child. A touching story, and we were rooting for him all the way. At one point, Steve was throwing bean bags at push lights in an attempt to turn them all on so he could win the challenge and $10,000. He has a good strategy, start at the bottom, work your way up. One at a time. Focus. Remember, he has 60 seconds to complete the challenge. As the clock winds down and Steve has 1 light left, the top light on the pyramid, the tension becomes palpable. Can he do it? 10 seconds left...too high...9 seconds...to far left...8 seconds...too short...7 seconds....My wife throws her arms in the air and screams, "YES!!!!!!" He's done it.

I look over at her. We take a second. We quickly realizes how foolish we are. We've just spent over half an hour watching Steve pull tissues, bobble his head, and bounce ping-pong balls into a fish bowl. And here we are screaming in exclamation that Steve was able to turn on the final push light (a product nobody uses) with a bean bag (a toy nobody uses). I fear we may have lost our minds. Just to make sure, we watch the rest of the episode...and the one that follows. Notion confirmed.

Then why is mindless television so popular? So addictive? Do I judge you for watching Survivor Season God Knows What? or Celebrity Apprentice: Are Any of Us Actually Celebrities? or Jersey Shore: Rise of Little Orange Smurf People? No! Well, yes for Jersey Shore. But not the other ones!

We were rooting for Big Steve because we wanted him to take his family back to the country. We root for contestants on American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance because we grow attached to them. We live vicariously through game show contestants and laugh at the embarrassment that is MTV programming.

Our worlds are fast paced. We're pushed to be connected to everyone at all times. No matter where you are in life you are juggling multiple responsibilities and maintaining multiple relationships. Point being, you won't find a bigger fan of turning your brain off at the end of a long week than me.

So here's to mindless television! I'm sure you'll be the downfall of our society, but at least I won't be mentally aware enough to notice.

Perpetual State of Yawn

Top 10 lists are fun. They're essentially the only thing the Letterman Show has to offer other than awkward apologies for infidelity. Well, that and the fact that the host isn't Jay Leno. This, however, is just an opportunity to use a creative phrase my wife came up while describing that feeling after waking up after a nap as the title to a post.

Here are 10 things that bore me. This should hold you over until my next post, later today.

We'll start with 5 most people can agree on:
10. Spring Training Baseball...and baseball in general
9. Listening to hockey fans talk about hockey
8. WNBA Basketball
7. Staff meetings at work
6. Those Free Credit Score commercials with Ben Stein and a CGI gopher

Now 5 things that probably bore just me.
5. Hearing Lindsay Lohan say her name is synonymous with Oprah or Madonna
4. The part during game shows when they interview the family and friends of the contestant
3. SportsCenter during the summer when its just Baseball highlights. You're telling me you can get ten Top 10 moments each day from baseball games? Really? Really SportsCenter!? REALLY!?!
2. Movies from my childhood that I originally thought were amazing. Turns out Hillary Swank as the Karate Kid isn't fun to watch as an adult.

And #1...
1. Any day of the year that isn't the first day of March Madness!

Here's an SNL Digital Short that will not bore you:

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Office (U.K) v. The Office

So, the first thing you need to know is The Office is my favorite television show. The second thing you need to know is, I honestly try to give everything or everyone a fair chance; I try not to go into anything close minded. The third thing, I once fell off my bike into a thorn bush.

Now, the first two things probably make more sense. But for this post, you have to imagine how much pain and embarrassment falling off your bike into a thorn bush can cause a young man. I remember it distinctly, all of my brothers were teaching me to ride a bike. They were walking alongside me making sure I didn't fall and I must admit, I was doing great. That was, of course, until they stopped and let me go on my own. The next two feet were pure bliss, cruising along all on my own. Then...well, you know the rest. Thorn bush. Pain. Tears. I mean, how embarrassing for a 16 year old?

Back to The Office. I have watched every episode, and I've loved each one. Except for maybe the one where Michael and Jan have everyone over for a dinner party. That pushed the threshold of my awkward tolerance. The U.K version however? Every episode is as painful and embarrassing as falling into a thorn bush.

I remember when the US version first came out and everyone was in an uproar about how the U.K. version was so much better, way more original and this new American version wouldn't last. Well, I did my due diligence and I watched the entire U.K. series (thanks to Hulu, who should sponsor me for the amount of time I spend on their site), it took me about a week. There are 3 seasons. The first two are 6 episodes and the final season is comprised of 2 one hour long specials. Mind you, our Office is on season 6.

Look, I get that its "British humour" and I'm not saying thats the reason I didn't like it. I feel like I have an appreciation for it, like I said, I give everything a fair chance (except Jersey Shore, that's beyond me). David Brent (the Michael Scott of U.K.) is by FAR the most painstaking character to watch on the tele. Ricky Gervais (the actor) does an INCREDIBLE job with the character. He's consistent, outrageous, and totally appalling. If you watch The Office, you remember season 1 when Michael was almost unbearable. He was totally frustrating cause he was so moronic. Yet there are things about Michael that are endearing, and you appreciate. He really wants to get married and have kids, you can relate with his desire to be liked and accepted, he shows his true emotions when he stands up to Stanley in the "Did I Stutter?" episode. And, in an all time favorite, he spends a day contemplating his life before coming back and roasting the whole office ("Meredith, you've slept with so many dudes you're beginning to look like one. Stanley, you heart sucks and you crush your wife during sex."). You see the human side to Michael and it keeps you rooting for him.

David Brent, however, is a non-stop ride of unbelievable, painful, and outrageous interactions. He's so concerned with how people see him that he tries to turn every comment or gesture into a landmark occasion for why he should be accepted, but its this that pushes people away. After watching him for prolonged periods of time it felt like I was falling off my bike into a thorn bush. Except instead of falling in and getting right back up, I would be pushed back into the thorns and rolled around in them. Even at his lowest moment, laying on a hotel bed rambling about his old boss, you dont feel bad for him you want to hit him in the head with a loft wedge!

I have a great appreciation for the U.K. Office. It paved the way for Dwight, Andy, Jim and Pam. And the supporting cast of the U.K Office has its funny moments. Keith, for instance, (or Kevin in the US) is a subtly hilarious character. Gareth (or Dwight), has his moments and is the perfect foil to David's attempts to impress the employees. Tim (Jim) is probably the strongest character of them all (not a big surprise). Genuinely likable, you can relate to him and his pranks are almost as good as Halpert's. Other than Dawn (Pam), you don't get to know any of the other characters as well. They're just faces in the background, or props used for David's outlandish attempts at humor.

I will say, the final episode of U.K. Office is redeeming. It's humorous and the story lines don't leave you grimacing. The show is good for a laugh, but I'll stick to good 'ol Stanley, Phyllis, and Creed.

And yes, I eventually learned how to ride a bike.




First Post

I'll keep this one on short and sweet. I have a creative muscle that needs to be flexed on a regular basis. I also have very meaningful opinions that you must be persuaded to agree with. That, paired with my belief that I'm important enough for you to care what I think, makes the logical conclusion to create a blog for said thoughts, opinions and creative out pouring.

In actuality, I've gained an interest in writing and thought this would be fun. I promise to update this regularly, planning on twice a week.