Monday, July 30, 2007

It probably wasn't the reporter's idea

Here's a good example of when editors do more harm than good. It was almost as much of a drag to read as it looks like it was to write.

Not my kid

Children are great consumers. They make little or no money but are walking revenue streams for companies, roping everyone from their parents to distant relatives to old forgotten family friends into buying them everything from diapers to strollers to baseball gloves to GameBoys to clothing to chocolatey cereals to ... well, you get the point. They might not know it, but children are a huge presence in the economy, and any exposure to advertisements in the coming month will remind you a stake in the kids market means big bucks to any number of corporate investors.

And wherever there are big bucks to be made, you can be sure the Pentagon will be getting involved. In this case, though, the Pentagon is spending a large amount of money, time and energy to go after something else: bodies. A steady stream of new recruits is the necessary fuel that keeps the nation's military running like a well-oiled money-making machine for the defense contractors and military industrialists that stand to benefit from an American policy of war-making.

But the quagmire of Iraq, frequent call-ups to active duty and orchestrated deceptions like the Pat Tillman coverup have prompted a decline in the number of young men and women so willing to make the Faustian bargain of entering the military, even as college money has been increased, standards for aptitude upon admittance have been lowered, criminal backgrounds have become less of an impediment for induction, and the maximum allowable age for new recruits has been raised.

So, the Pentagon has turned to a new and more aggressive ad campaign, trying new slogans and methods of persuasion on television, radio and expanding its presence online. Moreover, additional resources and energy have been focused on the advertising ground war -- face-to-face meetings with potential recruits. In streets, malls, at concerts and gatherings, and especially at school.

In response to this stepped up campaign, groups like the Wage Peace Project have begun to raise their voices in concern over military recruiters' presence in school hallways, cafeterias and classrooms, spheres of influences that marketers from soft-drink companies to booksellers crave. To whom are we giving unfettered access to our children? Are high schools halls of learning or centers of commerce?

In a move that comes as something as a surprise to observers of the school system, and even to members of Wage Peace itself, the Lee County (FL) School District is placing new restrictions on when and where military recruiters can have contact with students at school.

It's a move worthy of applause, but a meaningless gesture if bird-doggers like Wage Peace as well as parents and concerned citizens ensure the new policies are enforced and any loopholes that arise are quickly closed. No one should have to die at 18 for a decision they were pressured into making at 17, 16, 15 or younger. Such needless carnage is, to put it in terms so often incorrectly used to describe those like the Wage Peace Project, unpatriotic and un-American.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Next plane to Canada leaves in 40 minutes

Ah, America, where more people are concerned about quarterbacks involved in dogfighting rings and NBA referees who fixed games than an attorney general who may have perjured himself in congressional testimony. Can we please just impeach Bush and Cheney and get out of Iraq already? How much longer do we have to go on with this until Nixon rises from the grave and announces he's running in '08? Think it's unlikely? A run-away administration, a no-balls congress, and a whole field of uninspiring presidential candidates ... that's what's called a power vacuum, and Nixon never, ever passed up an opportunity to seize unwarranted but available public trust. So what if he's dead? He was as good as dead in the mid-60s, and was sitting in the Oval Office before anyone knew what happened. Don't say you haven't been warned.

So, I think it's only appropriate that we profile some of the real dark horses for 2008. And we're not talking about the Mike Gravel kind of darkhorses, either. More like ...

Barbaro: Like Nixon, he must overcome being dead. Unlike Nixon, Barbaro was almost universally beloved. We all cheered him on in his valiant struggle to overcome a near-fatal injury in the Preakness (well, maybe not Michael Vick). We all felt the warm tingle of a single tear down our cheek when that nearly year-long struggle ended as we all feared it would (again, Michael Vick excepted. And probably Dick Cheney, too). Just like Ike in '52, either party would be lucky to have such a unifying force on the ticket.

Harry Potter: So what if he's fictional? Did you see how many people lined up to get that book? And he's still making news a week after it came out, the kind of publicity that Al Gore could only wish for. Sure, he's got Pagan leanings and there are all those questions and concerns from religious conservatives about what he really believes and stands for, but that's no different from Mitt Romney.

Charles Manson: America is a forgiving nation. Full of forgiving people. And we have technology to remove swastika tattoos, too, so that helps. Hey, he put a whole family under his spell, so don't doubt his persuasive abilities. He'd kick ass in a debate. Plus, he's got celebrity friends, like former housemate Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. Take that, Hillary!

Arnold Schwarzenegger: The governator's a legitimate politician, and a fast-riser at that, with ties to the Kennedy family. He's a true centrist with broad appeal. So what if the Constitution prohibits anyone who wasn't born in America from becoming president. You think the Constitution matters any more? Not in Bush's America. And not in Schwarzenegger's Amerika ... er ... make that America.

Jean-Claude Van Damme: OK, so he faces the same kind of uphill battle as Schwarzenegger, which is probably even steeper since he isn't a politician. But Van Damme always tries to outdo Schwarzenegger, and never underestimate the loyal fanbase of an action movie hero. They will vote, vote early, and vote often.

Paris Hilton: She's rich and the media loves her. Instant name recognition. Unfortunately for her, she's an ex-con, but Bush is an ex-coke addict, and he was elected twice. And she may be dumb as a rock, but again, so's Bush. If she can recruit Karl Rove to run her campaign, and my guess is she has the money to make it worth his while, all bets are off.

And I gotta say, with Rove on her side, Paris would be my pick out of this bunch. So my thoughts on the impending Hilton presidency? Well ... that's hot.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Who (forgot to) let the dogs out?

I know I've kind of beaten this whole Michael Vick dogfighting story to death around here (though I think the beating has been somewhat less violent than the punishment Vick allegedly meted out to his dogs), but I have to point this out.

I didn't change the channel after Olbermann tonight, and, as it did the evening I woke up from a nap to see grinning maw of Pat Buchanan, something thoroughly unexpected happened. "Live with Dan Abrams" was featuring a roundtable discussion about the latest Vick news. ESPN and HBO bulldog (ahem) reporter Jim Gray was one of the guests, but it was the panelist Abrams didn't book who became the star of the show.

Below is my DVR-aided transcript. [EDIT: And here's video.]

(sound of dog barking ...) Abrams: "Evan Roberts (sports radio host for WFAN in New York), let me ask you, this is a big deal I mean, it seems to me ... someone has a dog barking, which is sort of interesting. It's got to be John Goodwin from the Humane Society.

Goodwin: That's not me. I'm in your studio.

OK, all right, somebody, anyway ... just ...

That has to be my dog, who's uh ...

Who is that?

This is Jim Gray, and I love my dog, and uh ...

All right. Good good good good.

Somebody's at the door.

All right. Good. (snickering) ..."

It was weird and hilarious. Just had to share.

Girl, he was fanta-sizing you up

So I was a little out of the loop this weekend ... rum will have that effect on you. I must thank Ryan and Matt for three days of drunken fun, and I must thank some divine power that allowed me to work two out of the three of those days. So basically, between the working and the drinking, I haven't had a lot of spare time to blog. I guess this is what it feels like to lead the daily life of the Jack Nicholson character from "Five Easy Pieces."

I did, as perhaps you've noticed, have time to jam more ads into this space, so I hope you don't mind my blatant attempt to squeeze money out of this enterprise. Yes, that's right, even someone with as many communist ties as me has to resort to capitalism at times. It's a brutal world we live in.

Speaking of consumption, I'm currently consumed with thoughts of taking over a rotisserie baseball team. As you may know, I swore off fantasy sports years ago when I realized it's only a slightly more accepted form of dungeons and dragons. Despite the fact the only time I played dungeons and dragons as a kid I was propositioned by a sneakily attractive woman who I believe is now in the New York Philharmonic, it's still a pastime for nerdy agoraphobics who are afraid to come out of their parents' basements. And fantasy sports is still for the same sort of loser who on top of it all enjoys watching sweaty men run around for 18 hours a day.

So I resisted the beckoning of current and former sports-writing colleagues to sign up for their leagues and was unceremoniously booted from a
NASCAR league for non-participation. I consider the latter one of the most affirming moments ever for my sense of good taste. I just couldn't go on knowing I was a NASCAR fantasy owner. It was just totally incongruous with the rest of my identity, and was like walking around in an Armani suit with a mullet. Not good.

But my friend Alan has come to me with an offer I can't refuse. Alan joined a fantasy baseball league for the first time this season, and just to show everyone that years of exploring the world outside his parents' basement have given him superior intellect, he's in first place. And he's not obsessed with the team either, like most pencil-necked fantasy geeks are ... he talks about his pitching rotation, sure, but he still remembers the name of his two-year-old daughter. Seriously, Alan is a worldly, grounded fellow, and if he can manage to keep a fantasy team at arm's length, so can I. Especially since the team I'm supposed to inherit is in second place and there's only two months left in the season. Its original owner drafted well before he went AWOL, and it's really the perfect fantasy sports situation to step into: low commitment, good buddy with high cool quotient in the league, and commissioner with ties to
Phillies management.

So don't expect this blog to become a daily wailing wall for concerns about Jake Peavy's ERA and A-Rod's power slumps. I promise I won't open up a poll on whether I should trade a surplus starting pitcher for J.J. Putz. If I do, please remind me that I used to be this urbane writer with his own apartment, a witty and intriguing sensibility about current geopolitical events and a rich life full of friends who could care less what Hunter Pence's slugging percentage is and think
Coco Crisp is a cereal.

Which reminds me, I think Crisp is due for a big August ... I wonder if the guy who owns him needs bullpen help ...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tricky Vick is not a crook ... yet

So Roger Goodell has apparently decided not to suspend Michael Vick for a felony indictment, meaning Falcons fans can relax, and Colts fans can rest assured that Peyton Manning won't miss any time if his inability to recite the alphabet either backward or forward gets him a bogus DUI charge at a roadblock.

First offenses won't hurt you until you're convicted, even if you're charged with spiking dogs like they were footballs. The only way Vick could have gotten into immediate trouble with the league for that is if he scored a touchdown, was handed a dog by one of his associates standing on the end zone, and then spiked it. That would merit a 15-yard penalty and a stiff fine for excessive celebration.

The acceptance of accused felons by a sports league is nothing new. Some are, in fact, embraced and beloved, even after their convictions. No case is more notorious than that of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who pleaded guilty in 1974 to making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign.

In 1989 Ronald Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner (Can we revoke this needless Oval Office privilege, please?), and why not? People who attempt to undermine presidential elections, the most high-profile function of the democracy, ought to be free to own baseball teams and swaddle themselves in the flag while everyone stops in the middle of the seventh inning to sing "God Bless America."

Certainly, even before the pardon, the crime never affected Steinbrenner's freedom to own a baseball team, at least until he was banned for life in 1990 by baseball commissioner Fay Vincent for hiring a gambler to dig up dirt on outfielder/punching bag Dave Winfield. Vincent, who apparently believes in reincarnation or was suffering from a case of temporary Alzheimer's Disease, determined that The Boss was fit to be reinstated in 1993, and since then no team has won more World Series than the one owned by the man who tried to rig a presidential election. God Bless America, indeed.

So while Falcons owner GM Rich McKay and coach Bobby Petrino need not worry about finding a new quarterback, they should perhaps be wary of anyone in the field of '08 hopefuls who, like Richard Nixon, fashions themselves a football genius capable of calling a few slant passes at opportune times.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On a bus to Miami with Ratso Rizzo ...

By now, most of you are familiar with my job search, tentatively titled "If it's this hard for ME to get a job, ya'll are screwed!" For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, well, I've been looking for a job that will provide a living wage ever since I decided to leave journalism and the ulcers, night sweats and random screams of emotional anguish and mental exhaustion that came with it.

I figured, hey, you know, a guy who graduated fourth in his college class, with a front-page Washington Post story about industry-changing innovations he made and killer references that include a Pulitzer Prize finalist might be able to catch on with an entry-level job at a small publishing house, or talk his way into a writing gig for a Web site, or stumble into some kind of office job somewhere. Especially when he files with eight local temporary agencies, and applies to everyone from corporations looking for marketing professionals and technical writers, to smaller companies needing a communications specialist, to organizations looking to get their message across in a Web-friendly manner, to those small publishing houses, to those Web sites, to those offices, to every book store in town, to retail stores, to ... well, you get the picture.

Since February, I haven't found a single job that will pay me enough to live on. Not one. I've found jobs, all right, but $9 an hour doesn't cut it if, say, you have student loan debt and want to avoid bankruptcy. I hear having no credit for seven years is not fun ... it's sort of like the modern equivalent of some kind of Medieval punishment that requires you to serve seven years on a ship at sea, or seven years on Elba, or some such. If we're going to have credit wipeout for bankruptcy, why don't we bring back debtor's prison? It's just as well, considering that walking around without credit in today's capitalism-gone-mad economy is just as useful as a dead ox at harvest. Or some other folksy agrarian corollary I can't quite think of right now.

OK, so enough public bellyaching. I could be worse off. I could be getting blown up in Iraq for no good reason, or getting sent there for the umpteenth time by some power-obsessed administration, or I could be one of Michael Vick's dogs.

But, really, I never did figure that things would get this bad.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Time better spent on tango lessons in Pago Pago

So I sampled a bit of Southwest Florida culture this past weekend, and, well ...

Let's just say that I'm now shocked the retirement-home stench of near-death isn't perceptible the moment one steps out of his bachelor apartment. Mangomania was a bust, no matter what my former employer tells you.

Never mind that the damn thing ended at 4 in the afternoon. It cost $6 just to walk around the grounds of the Cape Coral German-American Social Club and be assaulted by vendors charging even more money for their mango-themed wares. It's like paying to walk into a mall, and a shitty, un-air-conditioned mall at that. And honestly, it would have been OK if there had been interesting people there, like, say, attractive women wearing mango bras, or any attractive women whatsoever. But, it was just a bunch of sweaty old people, parents and kids.

I don't know why I thought Mangomania would be any different from your average Southwest Florida scene. Maybe it was because Mark told me it would be last year, and I didn't go, and felt like I missed something for 12 whole months. Maybe it was because there's a permanent sign in Matlacha telling of the festival and its dates for that particular year, like it's the island's pinnacle annual event. Maybe it was because I thought it might actually be on Pine Island, or at least Little Pine Island, instead of the German-American Social Club in Cape Coral. Maybe it was because I ignored the obvious warning that any event at a place called the German-American Social Club is inherently lame unless held in October.

Or maybe, just maybe, the people in Southwest Florida are almost universally dull and ignorant.

My move to Tampa can't come soon enough. Even if that does mean dealing with Bucs blackouts and the horrid Devil Rays.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Maybe he misses Tom Paciorek

Nobody expects their baseball announcers to be poets. No one really cares if they are a gifted phrase-turner of any kind. All that's necessary is communication.
That's not what we got from Ken "Hawk" Harrelson on WGN tonight.

The longtime White Sox announcer produced the following during Chicago's ninth inning meltdown against Baltimore on Saturday:

"Anytime you can take that base, you've got to take it, because of the pressure it does, you know, everything is self-induced."

It's never a good idea to ad-lib a combination of baseball strategy verbiage and modern psychology terms, particulary on live national TV. I can only imagine that therapists who regularly see Sox fans will be double-booked this week.

But the real tragedy is that this is going on while linguist and baseball savant Bob Costas sits at home without having called a nationally televised baseball game for nearly a decade. What a disgrace. Throw the man a bone, Ebersol, and bid on a limited baseball package, or one of the Division Series, or something!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

So I guess they won't let me join The Promise Keepers

So I know I promised a non-sports post today, but ... well, I didn't exactly plan on seeing "The Ghosts of Flatbush" on HBO tonight. I just happened upon it while flipping through the channels, and, even though I'm 45 minutes late into it and I've only seen 15 minutes so far, but ... I'm impressed.

One of the reasons this documentary on the Brooklyn Dodgers is so striking is that they used on-camera commentary from Lester Rodney, sports editor of The Daily Worker. Yes, that would be the communist party newspaper The Daily Worker. If that weren't intriguing enough, the documentary was examining the dichotomy between the team that brought Jackie Robinson in to break the color barrier and the Yankees, who were slow to integrate. And Rodney relayed this epitaph:

"George Weiss was the general manager of the Yankees, and they had a player named Vic Power in Kansas City, who was hitting like .350, and a marvelous first baseman, and he said 'That nigger don't belong in pinstripes.'"

Of course, the movie covers a lot of territory that's a beaten path. The story of the 1951 season is one of the most well-known in baseball, with the Dodgers collapse climaxing with Bobby Thompson's home run and the epic call of "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" There's even a M*A*S*H episode about it. But you can't avoid retelling it.

The Dodgers 1955 World Series title is another classic tale, but "Ghosts" adds a gem from an Game 7 winner Johnny Podres, who spoke on camera about his routine in the top half of each inning:

"I'd go down and have a cigarette and said 'Let me know when there's two outs. When there's two outs I butted my cigarette and went up and went out to the mound again."

Who says anachronism isn't fun?!

With enough accents to distinguish a difference between borough argots, communist journalists, and frank, uncensored commentary uninterrupted by commercials, it's worthy of two hours of your time, particularly on a slow night. Whatever the rest of the film is like, it's a shame it wasn't promoted nearly as well as a certain other documentary about New York baseball, ESPN's "The Bronx is Burning," which you've not heard about only if you have a complete aversion to sports (and you're reading this?! I should buy you dinner!) or have been hiding in Cheney's bunker.

This affirms the money spent on my HBO subscription this month. Which is good, since Bill Maher doesn't come off of hiatus until August.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

National No-Sports Day

It's the Wednesday after the All-Star Game, traditionally the slowest of slow days on the American sports calendar. Which invariably yields at once the crappiest and most unintentionally entertaining SportsCenter of the year, in which ESPN is forced to either show WNBA highlights or shove a massive amount of canned features at us, the latter of which is usually an example of just how low ESPN will go. And I always get a kick out of media companies scraping the bottom of the barrel. Call me an embittered ex-reporter, but it's nice to see.

But it also means I might put up a non-sports blog entry today, which I know several of you have been rooting for. There will be something up later on today, regardless, so check back. I have a meeting with the inspiration for the Douche of the Year award in an hour, so things could get interesting ...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How to save the All-Star Game

A. Bring in Major League career saves leader Trevor Hoffman, or ...

B. Follow my simple (OK, not so simple) plan.

Ever since the public relations disaster that was the tie in the 2002 All-Star Game, damn near every sports columnist, radio talk show host and blogger has, in the days leading up to the game each year, come up with some kind of idea to fix the Midsummer Classic. Even baseball itself came up with a plan, declaring in 2003 that home field advantage in the World Series would be awarded to the league that won the All-Star Game. Most of the columnists, radio talk show hots and bloggers have derided the move as inequitable to the teams that wind up making the World Series and adding unnecessary significance to what had always been an exhibition. But awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star Game is just as arbitrary as awarding it to the American League just because it's an even-numbered year, or the National League because it's an odd-numbered year, as was the case previously. And it's clear that some incentive must be given to players who have become increasingly apathetic and unwilling to participate in the event, and managers who have decided its better to have emptied their benches and given everyone an at-bat than to have kept the players that provide the best chance to win the game in the lineup.

But, with the fifth All-Star Game with home-field advantage on the line set for Tuesday in San Francisco, it's clear the mission has not been accomplished. The game still lacks the pizazz and passion it had in its first half-century of existence. In this era of interleague play and 24-hour media exposure, the notion of seeing the game's best players at the same time has lost its novelty, and perhaps the All-Star Game will never be the spectacle it once was. But it can be better than it is.

So, here's what to do. Examine the etymology of the term All-Star Game. What defines star? Must a player simply be good to be a star, or must he be better or more transcendent than others to truly achieve such a designation? The Yankees are a team of stars, yes, but who is the star of the Yankees? It has always been a rule in the All-Star Game that every team must have a representative. This is a much-maligned dictum, but it has survived years of criticism and expansion. This is no coincidence. Every team has a star, someone who is a notch above the others, someone who fans want to follow, someone whose face appears on the posters in Little Leaguers' rooms, no matter how egalitarian, how good or how bad the team is. There is a star of the Kansas City Royals. There is a star of the Philadelphia Phillies. There is a star of the Yankees, and the Mets, and the Angels, and so on. So why not make the All-Star Game just that: a game between all the stars?

The National League has 16 teams and the American League has 14 teams, which presents our first problem. So, give the American League side two wild card selections to offset the inequity. So, 16 players a side, which is more than most teams use in an average game, particularly when you have a DH, as we should have in every All-Star Game (this is actually the only time the DH should ever be used, but that's another argument). That would be enough to have a nine-player batting lineup, a starter and four relievers, and a pair of bench players, one of whom should always be a catcher in case of injury (you wouldn't want some team's star 3rd baseman to hurt himself strapping on a chest protector for the first time since he was 6, for instance). So the starters will, for the most part, stay in the game, but there will be enough pitchers so that no one's arm gets taxed.

But say the game goes extra innings, as was the case in 2002. Wouldn't you run out of players just as you did then? Not if you name alternates. Designate a pitcher and batter for each league that become eligible in the 10th inning, another pitcher and batter if it goes 11, and so forth, until you reach a total of 16 alternates per side, which would raise the number of all-stars to 32 per side, just as it is now. This would serve the dual purpose of placating the players union, which will want to make sure as many of its members can call themselves All-Stars as possible, and ensuring enough players for a 17-inning game, which ought to be sufficient to determine a winner. If not, well ... look, by 3 a.m., I'm sure everyone involved will be happy to call it a tie as long as you let them go to bed, or, in the case of the players, get to the strip clubs before they close.

So what might the rosters look like this year if this were the case? Well, let's see ...

P Jake Peavy (San Diego)
C Russell Martin (Los Angeles)
1B Dmitri Young (Washington)
2B Freddy Sanchez (Pittsburgh)
SS Jose Reyes (New York)
3B Miguel Cabrera (Florida)
OF Ken Griffey (Cincinnati)
OF Barry Bonds (San Francisco)
OF Alfonso Soriano (Chicago)
DH Matt Holliday (Colorado)
UT Albert Pujols (St. Louis)
C Brian McCann (Atlanta)
P Brandon Webb (Arizona)
P Ben Sheets (Milwaukee)
P Cole Hamels (Philadelphia)
P Roy Oswalt (Houston)
P Billy Wagner (New York)
P Jose Valverde (Arizona)
P Takashi Saito (Los Angeles)
P Trevor Hoffman (San Diego)
P Francisco Cordero (Milwaukee)
P Brad Penny (Los Angeles)
P Chris Young (San Diego)
OF Aaron Rowand (Philadelphia)
OF Carlos Beltran (New York)
OF Carlos Lee (Houston)
SS J.J. Hardy (Milwaukee)
1B Derrek Lee (Chicago)
2B Orlando Hudson (Arizona)
3B David Wright (New York)
2B Chase Utley (Philadelphia)
1B Prince Fielder (Milwaukee)

P Dan Haren (Oakland)
C Victor Martinez (Cleveland)
1B Justin Morneau (Minnesota)
2B Brian Roberts (Baltimore)
SS Michael Young (Texas)
3B Alex Rodriguez (New York)
OF Vladimir Guerrero (Los Angeles)
OF Magglio Ordonez (Detroit)
OF Alex Rios (Toronto)
DH David Ortiz (Boston)
OF Carl Crawford (Tampa Bay)
C Jorge Posada (New York-Wild Card)
P Gil Meche (Kansas City)
P Bobby Jenks (Chicago)
P J.J. Putz (Seattle)
P Josh Beckett (Boston-Wild Card)
P Johan Santana (Minnesota)
P John Lackey (Los Angeles)
P C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland)
P Justin Verlander (Detroit)
P Jonathan Papelbon (Boston)
P Francisco Rodriguez (Los Angeles)
P Hideki Okajima (Boston)
C Ivan Rodriguez (Detroit)
2B Placido Polanco (Detroit)
SS Derek Jeter (New York)
OF Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle)
SS Carlos Guillen (Detroit)
3B Mike Lowell (Boston)
OF Torii Hunter (Minnesota)
OF Manny Ramirez (Boston)
OF Grady Sizemore (Cleveland)

Oh, and one more thing ... have Erin Andrews as the sideline reporter, no matter which network is broadcasting the game. Journalism be damned!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Breakfast at Wimbledon: I'll have the french toast

Well, in case you missed it, and the ratings will surely indicate that you probably did, world No. 1 Roger Federer won his fifth straight Wimbledon in five sets over No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the championship today, in one of the greatest matches in tennis history.

Federer equals Bjorn Borg's record of five consecutive men's singles titles (1976-80), and wins his 11th Grand Slam overall. He continues the same mastery on grass that Nadal has had on clay, beating him in the finals of Wimbledon for the second straight year, a month after Nadal had finished off the same feat against Federer in back-to-back French Opens.

It was the capper to one of the most enjoyable Wimbledons in years. The ultimate clash in the men's final, Venus wins her fourth women's title as a 23rd seed, and these more subtle points:

The sneaky hotness of the quirky French girl who Venus beat in the final. Marion Bartoli, with your slightly mousy hair and the cellulite on your thighs, you give us a stark contrast from your fashion-designer and Olympus-bodied opponent. Yes, you may have lost to a far superior athlete, but you won us over with your subtly flirty ways, like how you hop up and down but never once bounce the ball before you go into your Luis Tiant-like serve motion. Or how you let down your hair before the trophy celebration. Or how you tried to knock us off the scent with loving paeans to your dad in the post-match interviews. We know you're a daddy's girl, Marion, but so is everyone else. It's unavoidable. We want you and you want us, and we know it. And we also know that the moment you read this, you're probably not going to let us within 500 feet of a WTA event, but, ah, it is only from afar that you can truly and properly pine away for a French girl.

Andy Roddick's choke job in the quarterfinals. What would a Grand Slam be these days if it didn't include a disappointment from the erstwhile inheritor of the American tennis throne? It would be a Grand Slam, all right. The broadcasts of John McEnroe and Mary Carillo would still go on, yes, and the American fans would still ignore them. But it would just be missing that ... something, like chocolate chip cookies baked without that dash of vanilla, or tomato sauce sans oregano. And there was Roddick, up two sets to love on Richard Gasquet, staring a match up with Federer in the semifinals right in the face. The kind of matchup that, on a Saturday at Wimbledon, might actually draw an American audience. The kind of matchup that might force NBC to actually carry it live. The kind of matchup that could allow Roddick to actually live up to all the promise. This was just far too mind-blowing a scenario, and it was going to happen. Thankfully, Roddick decided, as he always does, that he didn't like what he saw when he caught a glimpse of success, and promptly gacked up the next three sets to Gasquet. Well done, Andy! You again allowed Richard Williams to retain his place on the mantle as the most important man in American tennis. He'll be mailing a thank you note and those expired Denny's coupons just as soon as he finishes his interviews with European media outlets and gets back to the States. Which should be in about three weeks.

Thierry Henry appears in a Gillette commercial during the men's final. On American television. The French soccer star pitches razors alongside Federer and Tiger Woods. What, was Tom Brady unavailable? Did Peyton Manning see a doctored picture of Jim Nabors with a beard and think, "Hmm, that seems to work for him, maybe it will look good on me, too"? Granted, the American tennis audience is microscopic, and the people in this country who do watch are very often of foreign extraction, but, still, an international soccer star not named Pele? In a commercial? Really? Maybe, since soccer on Univision now regularly outdraws the NHL, they should have broadcast this match in Spanish. Nadal's from Spain, so you have a built-in audience there, and the Europeans who seem to make up a large part of the tennis audience are far more likely than Americans to understand multiple languages. I think this is a smart idea, and its time will come, since networks always figure out ways to squeeze every penny out of sporting events. Como se dice "Better buy a Spanish-English dictionary and a bumblebee suit," Juan McEnroe?

Line calls continue to be determined by cartoons.
Why doesn't tennis just use instant replay instead of showing some computer-generated image of what the last shot looked like? It's like if football replays were decided by a Tecmo Bowl simulation of the previous play on the Jumbotron. Actually, forget it, I think that would be fun. Possession after a fumble would be determined by who was closest to the ball after a random, volleyball like sequence of bounces across the field, and it would be just as fair as who bites who's nuts last in the pileup on the field.

Bud Collins works his last Wimbledon for NBC. Now that the veteran tennis commentator and Boston Globe columnist has been asked to leave the broadcast team, the heels of his espadrilles disappearing into the horizon as he walks into the sunset, Nadal's capri pants officially become the fruitiest pieces of clothing in tennis. Seriously ... c'mon, guys, this is tennis! We desperately need some kid from Texas with a big backhand to start dressing like Joe Buck on the court and get to the U.S. Open quarters. The sport's reputation may well depend on this.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Commenting problem fixed!

With special thanks to Meg for alerting me to the problem, the commenting issues have been resolved and you can now respond to all TIME STOPS FOR NO ONE posts! Let there be much joy and merriment and good humor! And, god willing, actual comments!

Crank that spin cycle all the way up!

You know, on all those career tests they gave me growing up, I always wound up with an off-the-charts score for marketing, advertising and PR. Not that, you know, I wanted to go into those fields.

But you'd be so good at it, Chuck!

Yeah, I know, but I really don't want to distort the truth for a living.

Those careers aren't distorting the truth! It's earning good money and being a good capitalist! And capitalism is good, Chuck. The Russians didn't have capitalism, and look at them.

I hear you, but you can earn a good living being a journalist who has an assiduous commitment to truth.

Maybe you could years ago, Chuck, but newspapers are dying and the honest, no-holds-barred journalism that has long been their hallmark is disappearing with them. It always was a shaky marriage of muckraking, public-interest first journalism and a for-profit newspaper company, and in a time of shriveling profit margins for the industry, that marriage hasn't just hit the rocks, it's rammed into a giant iceberg. So journalists are continually asked to do more for less pay, and are forced to sacrifice coverage of news that matters for news that sells.

I guess you're right about that. I mean, I sort of became the poster boy for a new wave of cost-effective journalism, but was so burnt out by the constant pressure of the job that the stress wound up affecting my health and I had no choice but to quit.

So you'll be joining us on the dark side then? A nice, comfy, lucrative corporate PR job for you? Hmm?

Well, I have nothing against earning money, but I still don't want to sell out my neighbor or my values to do so. Unlike some folks at Capital BlueCross. Special thanks to fellow Detroit sports fan Michael Moore for sharing this gem.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Good blog, and good luck!

Another stirring Special Comment from Keith Olbermann on Tuesday evening. If you do one thing to celebrate America this Fourth of July, read or watch KO's essay.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Tampex, have I got a sponsorship opportunity for you!

After meeting the people who interviewed me for a job today, I began thinking, we need to have a way to recognize the world's biggest douches, like the Douche of the Year Award*. We're talking the worst of the worst in male behavior. The guys who put the "men" in "menstruate." We need to have a Bitch of the Year award, too, but I'm holding off on that until I get the proper inspiration. And to avoid taking a needless, unhealthy swipe at any and all of my exes. That, too.

So, I think it's on ... the 2007 Douche of the Year Award will be handed out here on TIME STOPS FOR NO ONE in December. I would say on December 31, to ensure no douche-like behavior goes unrecognized this year, but chances are I'll be drunk that day, as is New Year's tradition, if not the day before, too, so we'll just say sometime in December.

From time to time between now and the award presentation ceremony, we'll be nominating candidates. We might even have a cool bracket-style elimination round later on. You never know what you're going to get around here at TIME STOPS FOR NOTHING BUT SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOT ... er ... TIME STOPS FOR NO ONE!

So, our first nominee is ...

Dick Cheney. Of course. No recitation of the world's douches could possibly go on without mention of the man behind the curtain of the Bush Administration. But is he part of the Bush Administration? Is he part of Congress? Or is he, as Keith Olbermann said, a rogue nation that must be invaded, in order to establish a free and democratic Dick Cheney.

You know, even if we had blindly elected some person randomly named Dick Cheney, we could assume that, given Dick Cheney is most likely the nom de plume of a dominatrix, this person might get us mired in some pointless, resource-draining conflict. We wouldn't expect the person to be so pernicious, defiant and deviant. Unless we paid extra and asked her first with a "Mistress please ..."

*-As you might have guessed, that means if offered, I'm probably NOT going to take the job.