Friday, August 31, 2007

Phillies Fulmer

So the Phillies just completed a four-game sweep of the Mets, and college football is about the farthest thing from my sporting radar right now, but I did promise you a preview, and a preview you'll get.

For this, my first season preview at Time stops for no one, I'll be adapting the "key dates" format I used to great effect at the News-Sun in Sebring, Fla. In fact, these columns were so well received, I couldn't find any of them when I did an archive search on the paper's Web site. I suspect they're only available by mail order, reprinted with authentic Indian ink on high-grade parchment with custom framing.

By the way, if you would like to receive a copy of this, or for that matter any other Time stops for no one post, just send me an e-mail and we'll go from there. The first 10 people to respond will get an autographed 8-by-10 glossy photo of yours truly, just to say thanks.

So anyway, on to the preview ...

Thursday, Aug. 30: Tens of Murray State fans hang their heads as the national title hopes of their beloved Racers unceremoniously end with a 73-10 thrashing at the hands of Louisville. (What? This already happened? Never mind ...)

Saturday, Sept. 1: Ahead 17-13 with 3:42 to go in at California, Tennessee's drive stalls when the Volunteers are whistled for too many men on the field during a key third-down conversion play because head coach Phillip Fulmer's protruding gut was hanging over the sideline. QB Nate Longshore then takes the Bears downfield for the winning score, and Fulmer's stomach growls all the way on the long flight back from Berkeley to Knoxville.

Saturday, Sept. 8: Down 20-3 at halftime to LSU, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer attempts to rally his team with the old "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog" adage. But it doesn't work nearly as well as when he had a member of the Vick family on the team, and the Hokies spend the next week licking their wounds as a 44-3 defeat gnaws at them like a prize pit bull gnaws at its opponent.

Thursday, Sept. 13: Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen, learning from Fulmer's mistake, dons a girdle on the sideline, and the mistake-free Terrapins beat Big East heavy West Virginia at home 28-20.

Monday, Sept. 17: Two days after Michigan, playing at home, throttles Jimmy Clausen-less Notre Dame 35-3, alumna and ESPN First Take co-host Dana Jacobson opens the show by positing the theory that the Wolverines team could wind up as the greatest college football team in history. Skip Bayless spends the next hour and 59 minutes screaming the reasons why they're not.

Saturday, Sept. 22: A week after beating Tennessee and looking ahead to back-to-back games with Auburn and LSU, Florida's hopes for defending its national title end when it loses at rejuvenated Ole Miss as QB Tim Tebow has a cold shooting night with his jump passes. On the upside, he remembers that Billy Donovan has a few holes to fill on the basketball team this year.

Saturday, Sept. 29: Nick Saban gets his first big win as head coach of Alabama, knocking off Florida State on the road. The Tuscaloosa airport is jammed with 50,000 fans to welcome Saban and the Crimson Tide home, all of whom didn't realize the team took a bus. It is, after all, Alabama.

Saturday, Oct. 6: Oklahoma beats Texas 23-20 on a last-second field goal in a thrilling matchup of unbeatens in Dallas, but ESPN's coverage of the game on ABC is features so much "comprehensive" analysis from so many analysts that not one second of the game appears on screen. The network responds to public outcry by showing the feed from a camera taped to the underside of the brim of Bob Stoops' visor on taped-delay at midnight on ESPNU.

Saturday, Oct. 13: Thinking his beloved Kentucky Wildcats have finally avenged their 2002 last-second loss to LSU with a 34-31 victory, the sports editor from an Eastern Kentucky newspaper, doubling as a photographer, runs out on the field to snap a picture of winning head coach Rich Brooks as the clock runs down to 0:00. But officials rule he stepped on the field before time had expired and allow the Tigers one more play from their own 8-yard line. One 92-yard hail mary later, the photog becomes the Appalachian Steve Bartman.

Saturday, Oct. 20: If a football hits a goalpost and nobody is there to see it, did it really happen? We find out the answer to that question as Florida State's potential game tying field goal bounces off the right upright and Miami wins 17-14, but no one outside the state of Florida watches as the rest of the nation discovers that when the no-longer-relevant Seminoles and Hurricanes pass up Labor Day to play on the same day as USC beats Notre Dame and LSU beats Auburn, most people will choose to watch games with actual national title implications.

Sunday, Oct. 28: Florida beats Georgia 22-17 a day after the game is postponed because close to 150 members of the media, upset they can no longer call the game the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, storm the field after getting drunk on Patrone. Also this is the day frequent downloads of photos of a streaking Erin Andrews cause the Internet to crash.

Saturday, Nov. 3: Oklahoma State benefactor Boone Pickens has this to say in an on-field interview after the Cowboys upset Texas 38-24 at home: "You know, when I think about it, I could have donated that $165 million to starving children in Africa, starving children in Oklahoma, or to make sure every American has health coverage, or what have you ... but when you look at all these happy, screaming fans all around me, would you have done anything different?" Everyone watching this who is not clinically insane immediately pukes.

Saturday, Nov. 10: Michigan beats Wisconsin 24-10 in a matchup of unbeatens that media types hail as the Greatest Game of the Century, but which somehow plays second fiddle to hunting season in most of Michigan and Wisconsin. Still, ESPN executives scramble to clear enough space on the broadcast schedule for the ensuing Jacobson-Bayless argument. USC edges Cal 24-23 on the same day in another battle of teams with perfect records, but no one notices because it takes place way out there in the Pacific Time Zone, where the monsters and dragons and mysterious things are.

Sunday, Nov. 18: The President of the Michigan Booster Club declares the opening day for Lloyd Carr hunting season the morning after the Wolverines lose 21-10 at home to Ohio State. A day later, an angry Jacobson tries to deck Bayless in the hallway at ESPN Headquarters, leading to her dismissal. As she is being escorted out of the building by security, Bayless tells her she can always get a job brushing Woody Paige's dentures. Jacobson grabs one of the security guard's guns and shoots Bayless in the face, killing him and thereby making ESPN First Take watchable for the first time.

Saturday, Nov. 24: Miserable after being benched for Kurt Warner on the winless Arizona Cardinals, QB Matt Leinart convinces USC head coach Pete Carroll to let him sneak into the fourth quarter of a blowout 52-10 win over Arizona State wearing John David Booty's uniform. Leinart sneaks out of Sun Devil Stadium after the game still wearing the uniform, and nine months later, Booty's girlfriend has a baby that looks suspiciously like Matt Leinart's baby pictures.

Saturday, Dec. 1: LSU wins its rematch with Florida 28-27 in the SEC Championship Game, and USC gets revenge on UCLA for last year's beating with a 31-7 win to set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup on Jan. 7 in New Orleans. Or so we think. Computer rankings all spit out MIT and Cal Poly as the nation's top teams, and the pencil-necked geeks in charge of the ratings system don't relent until USC and LSU agree to let them have the same "recruiting visits" with college coeds on their campus that top high school football talent gets.

Monday, Jan. 7: The BCS National Championship game between USC and LSU is stopped when FEMA finally arrives at the Superdome with truckloads of food, water and supplies for victims of Hurricane Katrina. With school presidents refusing to extend the season into the spring semester to resume the game, unbeaten Hawaii is declared national champion.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Picture it

Just checking in with a quick post to let you know I'll be back later with a preview of college football, which starts today.

I'm running a bit behind because I'm working on what could be a very special blog posting, if my friend Colleen (no pressure!) will agree to let me use a picture from her MySpace. (And to quash any rumors one might get when there's a picture that a woman is a little reluctant to share from her MySpace, the photo in question does not depict any of her naked body parts, nor any nudity, nor for that matter any body parts. Even though we secretly wish that it did. Also, to quash any further rumors and further my chances of ever talking to Colleen again, she is not the girl in the "JessUsa19" picture.)

Granted, I could have just ganked the picture in the first place, but that would have spoiled on the fun I wound up having. So you see kids, it's more fun not to have taken things from others than it is to have stolen. Unless you're Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Male bonding is a frightening thing

A lot has happened over this past weekend (well, this Monday wasn't technically part of the weekend, but next Monday is Labor Day, so why not get in on the celebration early?) ... the attorney general resigned, Michael Vick pleaded guilty, the Rural Virginia Pit Bulls (my fantasy football team) were assembled through the draft, the Phlorida Phils (my fantasy baseball team) plummeted to fifth place, I celebrated my 28th birthday, Colleen made a MySpace page ... I think that's all. That's all, isn't it? Well, that's not all, but the rest came while I was drunk on Everclear, so I shouldn't really go into it.

All of this news deserves a great deal of coverage, which is why I'm glad I'm a blogger, and not a journalist, and can instead deviate into a personal but intriguing story about the only time I ever saw my favorite NBA team play in their home arena. (Believe it or not, but for a kid from a working-class background who's never lived within 1,000 miles of Detroit, trips to the Palace of Auburn Hills can be pretty rare.)

My memory was jogged by an e-mail I got from my sister about a preseason game between the Sixers and Knicks that's taking place Oct. 8 in Columbia, S.C., where she lives. I was trying to explain to her that an exhibition game between the bottom two teams in the worst division in the league isn't exactly a marquee attraction, when I realized going to the game would mean I would share an arena with Knicks coach Isiah Thomas for only the second time. Isiah was the heart and soul of the Pistons back-to-back championship teams in 1989 and 1990, when I became a fan and started following sports closely for the first time. Say what you will about Isiah, and there's plenty to say, but there's something about the star player of your childhood team that will make you have a soft spot for him the rest of your life. Case-in-point the affection countless baby-boomer New Yorkers have for alcoholic anti-hero Mickey Mantle.

When I was 14, my uncle K.C. took me to see the Pistons at the Palace for the first, and to date only, time. I still remember being taken aback the multi-colored cushiony upholstery of the seats we had behind one of the baskets. I didn't know that even 20 or 30 rows up like we were, you still got an upholstered seat.

But there was another piece of fabric that stood out even more. Isiah's mustard-colored blazer is forever burned into my memory, perhaps because the brightness of the color has forever been burned into my corneas. It was his final season, and though he was only 32, injuries were taking their toll. He missed 26 games that year, and one of them was that Dec. 30, 1993 matchup with the Sacramento Kings. But it didn't matter. Just being the presence of my childhood basketball idol, even though he wasn't playing, even though his career was winding down, even though I had begun to outgrow childhood idolatry, was enough to make the trip worthwhile.

Without Isiah, the Pistons, 8-18 and losers of five straight coming into the game that night, trotted out a maudlin group against the even more dreadful Kings (7-19). Led by Wayman Tisdale and Lionel Simmons (left), who each had 12 rebounds, Sacramento dominated the low block and got far more easy opportunities than Detroit, which went 0-for-9 from 3-point range and got only five points from Joe Dumars and a 6-for-17 shooting performance from rookie Lindsey Hunter (who, all these years later, was with the Pistons again last season. Still clanking it up.) The Kings won 97-91, and the Pistons didn't win again until Jan. 21 at Miami, a victory that ended a season-long 14-game losing streak and the only win in a 21-game stretch. The Pistons lost 13 more at the end of the season to finish 20-62, the second-worst record in franchise history.

I remember my uncle and I were approached by a distraught inner-city fan while we were on our way out of the arena. He lamented the Pistons' reliance on a perimeter attack. My uncle said nothing, but I sympathized with him. "It's all they can do," I said. "They're built to get it done from the outside, and when they don't, they'll lose." The guy nodded and went on his way, and my uncle and I were off to the car.

So maybe my sister and I will run into a down-on-his- luck fan at the game this October who wonders why the Knicks didn't get the ball to University of South Carolina alum Renaldo Balkman. And I'll explain that Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry prefer not to kick it out to 3-point shooters all that often. And that a point guard who could distribute the ball properly who was instead on the bench in a suit was the reason I came anyway.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Time to go all Larry King on your asses

OK, Friday afternoon quick hits time ...
  • The more the other candidates and mainstream media want to bury him, the more I like John Edwards.
  • My birthday party is at 8 p.m. Saturday at Jumpin' Java in Cape Coral. Pond Water Experiment will be playing. I've mentioned it twice now, so you there's no "Oh, I thought that post was about baseball, so I didn't read it" excuse if you don't show up. You'll have to resort to that flimsy, "Oh, but I live roughly 2,000 miles away from Cape Coral" argument again.

We want a pitcher, not a belly-itcher!

I plan to put up a proper post later in the day, but I just had a bad birthday (not helped by J.C. Romero) and want to share this story by Glenn Miller, one of the best sports writers in the country. I don't know how or why he's stuck here in Fort Myers instead of writing for a major-market daily or a national magazine. All I know is I'm lucky to have worked with him at the same paper at the same time. (Yeah, yeah, I'm being obsequious, I know, but I like his stuff, and my praise here is rather tame when you consider I favor Olbermann for canonization.)

Also, if you're in the area this weekend, you are hereby obligated to attend my birthday celebration beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday at Jumpin' Java in Cape Coral, where Pond Water Experiment will be blowing people's minds with insanely good world music.

Logo courtesy Chris Creamer's awesome site. Am I doling out the kudos today or what?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Go Pit Bulls! Woo!

Today, a topic I know you've all been waiting for me to chime in on. It's a matter of such critical and wide-ranging importance I couldn't wait a minute more to bring it to your attention.

Yes, that's right ... my fantasy sports angst has returned.

A while back I told you about my new fantasy baseball team and promised not to make you endure lengthy posts about, say, maddening slumps by Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts or lingering concerns about the health of Padres starting pitcher Chris Young. And I've kept that promise, even when the nagging hamstring of Milton Bradley (the Padres outfielder, not the toy company) kept him out of my lineup for almost two weeks straight.

So I thought I would celebrate the successful return of Bradley, who made his first start since coming off the disabled list and had two hits, and the recording of my team's first "hold" by Phillies relief pitcher J.C. Romero by indulging myself to a post about their exploits.

Only I find myself far more consumed by anxiety over this Sunday's draft in my fantasy football league.

I've known about it for about a month now, ever since I foolishly accepted Jerry's invitation to join the league. Oh, it seemed like a great idea at the time, and I got to have a lot of fun naming my team the Rural Virginia Pit Bulls and finding cool photoshopped images of soon-to-be federal prisoner Michael Vick. If all fantasy leagues entailed was coming up with cheeky team nicknames, I would have clinched the baseball title this past weekend when I poked fun at a former Phillies general manager who went parachuting and got stuck in a tree. Indeed, evoking the name "Ed Wade Enjoys Arbor Day" would be like saying "The New York Yankees" if this were a comedy fantasy sports league.

But instead, they make you pick actual players, and actually track them to see how they're doing, and actually track other players not on your team as well, because you may actually want to pick them up and replace your actual players with them, because they may actually be doing better. It's actually a big pain in the ass, and the only thing that's actually much of a fantasy about fantasy sports is the fantasy that you could actually be doing something that actually has some productive meaning to your actual life. (I actually think the whole "actually" thing actually got a bit tired by the second sentence in this "actually" paragraph, actually.)

All of this came to a head today when I found myself actu ... er ... really watching ESPN's SportsCenter Fantasy Draft Special as though it were legitimate programming and not a criminal waste of the money I spend on cable. I intently listened as washed-up quarterbacks, struggling comedians and hack sportswriters debated their fantasy football selections as though they were presidential candidates discussing national health care plans.

It was only when I said to myself that Michael Smith, who reached for Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer with his first-round selection, is positioning himself as the Mike Gravel of this panel that I finally caught myself. I realized that all of this fretting is misplaced energy. Even if I'm too hungover from my birthday party the night before and miss Sunday's draft, a computer that probably knows far more than I ever could about third-down specialty backs and byzantine quarterback ratings will make my picks for me. And the primary duty of the people who are making their own picks is to not screw things up and make lively and often humorous banter for the entertainment of others in the league.

So it is about who comes up with the funniest nickname and who can post a link to the most amusingly embarrassing photo of Browns quarterback Brady Quinn after all.

Even so, I wrote down Nick Bakay's picks to use as a reference. Any man whose most notable show business role was voicing Melissa Joan Hart's animatronic cat can't lead you wrong.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

NFL Net: "Stifle yourself, Deion!"

The NFL's god complex appears to be worsening: Deion Sanders' local newspaper column is still on NFL Network-imposed hiatus, and nobody seems to know why. I'd like to be optimistic and say the league is censuring The News-Press out of a newfound interest in journalistic restraint, but I think that's a tad unrealistic.

It's a little more realistic to expect the league not to carry on a double standard here. But remember about a year ago, when Bryant Gumbel made some rather inflammatory remarks on his non-NFL Network media forum, HBO's Real Sports? Well, they kissed and made up, and Gumbel didn't miss a single NFL Network game or Real Sports installment.

So what gives? Where's Deion's column?

Friday, August 17, 2007

A new meaning for the term 'blow job'

Batten down the hatches! Nail the boards to the windows! Buy six month's worth of groceries, fill up 40 containers with gasoline and head for the hills! Hurricane Dean's a comin' to Fort Myers!

Well, uh, actually, Hurricane Dean's probably not coming to Fort Myers, or anywhere close to it. But you wouldn't know that if you checked out the city's paper of record, and my former employer, The News-Press. The banner across the top of their Web site makes it look as though they've turned their newsroom into the "Hurricane Dean Tracking Center," and that idea is reinforced by a Dean item in their top stories and a banner showing five different maps directly below. (Two of the maps from Friday afternoon are shown above.) Never mind that those maps show there's less than a five percent chance we'll feel hurricane force winds from this system. Better safe than sorry, right?

Wrong. Though The News-Press is far from alone in the fear-mongering local news culture, and certainly not the only ones trumping up needless panic over Hurricane Dean, they nonetheless should be held accountable for their role in exploiting people's rightful concerns during hurricane season by crying wolf and in so doing, discouraging the very sort of RESERVED vigilance that can help save lives and property during storms that do hit.

News organizations are just a few of the companies that stand to profit from a threatening storm. Storm shutter salespeople, plywood distributors, generator manufacturers and gas companies are just a few of the folks who make a living off of others' fear and misery. It's a dirty business, and it ought to be an illegal business. No one should profit from fear. No one should profit from suffering. There should be no incentive, monetarily or otherwise, for using the threat of disaster as a hammer over the heads of those in the line of fire. How we go about discouraging such shameful opportunism on a broad, public-policy level is another topic for another time, but those with decision-making power over such media outlets as The News-Press should have the courage and good judgment to declare themselves above the fray and forego special graphics and blanket coverage in the absence of reasonable warrant.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

We're getting a little worried about Dan Patrick

In the dozen or so years that personal Web pages have been a part of the popular American zeitgeist, there have been many different ideas about what's appropriate to put on them: a short bio, your vacation pictures, a video of your baby doing things only you think are cute, and of course, pictures of yourself on the toilet.

We've had more than a decade now to sort out what and what not to do with these things, which makes it all the more perplexing why Dan Patrick, outgoing ESPN personality and half of the greatest SportsCenter anchor pairing ever, did this. It's his new Web site, which he promoted Wednesday upon his return to ESPN Radio after several weeks of absence for a three-day farewell stint. Click on the "What's Next" tab for the real fun: Dan in a very amateur-ish looking video wearing sunglasses perched on the brim of an old baseball cap, with a very noticeable lack of TV makeup, talking frankly about his midlife crisis or "self-awakening" as he refers to it. Weird stuff. But then, if I looked in the mirror one morning and saw someone who looked like he'd aged 15 years in two months and realized I just quit ESPN to go work for something called The Content Factory, I guess I'd have a "self-awakening," too.

Even so, I'm not sure I would respond to this new reality by playing 18 holes of golf on a hot day followed by an in-depth monologue about my career path in front of a clubhouse attendant with a camcorder.

DP, if you're reading this, drop me a line. I think my shrink can fit you in next week. Right after anger management with Jose Offerman.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sex Sells

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I have been looking for gainful permanent employment for quite some time now. Close to six months, as a matter of fact. Over this time, I've written a hell of a lot of cover letters. Most of them mention that I was on the cover of The Washington Post last year, that I graduated fourth in my class, and all those kinds of self-congratulatory stuff you're probably tired of me mentioning by now. I also mention my eagerness to work for the company and innovate in my field.

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be working very well. I think companies are afraid I'll demand too much money. I've thought about adding a mention of the pink letters I've been getting from the power company and the negative bank balance, but I think that comes off as too needy and desperate. No one wants to hire a succubus.

So I've decided to take an entirely different approach with my cover letters from now on. I've noticed that a lot of the people with high-paying jobs tend to be dumber, less productive and bigger jerks with clientele than I am. I'm not saying this is a bad thing ... hey, if we didn't give stupid, lazy, arrogant people a way to earn money, who would buy up all the SUVs? The auto industry would go bankrupt, the economy would go even farther south, and then we'd all be in the streets.

I think what I need to do is to characterize myself as just the sort of person who can fit in with the rest of the workforce of America. After all, corporations don't want mavericks and people who can think for themselves ... they want people who'll go with the flow and stay in line. So here's a sample letter I think might be able to get a response:

To Whom It May Concern:

Hiya. My name is Chuck, and I noticed you have a job ad for a Web site content writer up on I decided I would take a moment to click away from the porn video I had running in another window to take a look. It seems interesting, although I have to admit, I don't really have much experience browsing Web sites that don't have at least one naked lady on them. I trust you're open to my ideas for adding subtle, classy nudes to everything from high school home pages to knitting club discussion forums.

I'm truly committed to the idea that there's a place for porn everywhere, and not just in Uncle Ned's basement. In fact, I've spent years studying the intracacies of porn and its marketability. I learned to masturbate as a small child of 4 through independent study, and my high school GPA of 1.8 reflects my commitment to the thrice-daily studies of the finest smut magazines, videos and books. I spent two semesters at Northeast State Technical Community College because of its relatively high-percentage of female enrollees and lax academic standards, perfect for some "independent study," as I call it.

I dropped out after the Internet was invented in 1996 to focus my attention on the burgeoning Web porn industry. I spent the next 10 years in my room, closely examining every dirty Web site I could find. I only came out for meals, computer hardware upgrades and to receive the penis pump I ordered from an e-mail I received from a Mr. Bo0b St99n-o9d.

Let me assure you, Sir or Madam, that I know what kind of content makes for a good Web site and what doesn't. My only compensation requirements are that I make enough to cover my 457 monthly recurring porn site memberships and that Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, et al. are covered on the employee prescription drug plan. And that breast augmentation surgery for my spouse is covered as well.

I look forward to a long, fruitful and not-at-all-awkward relationship with your company. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go see what Mona Lott is doing on her Web cam.


So, what do you think? A couple letters like this, and I'll bet you lucrative offers start pouring in. Or I get arrested and have my hard drive seized by the FBI. One or the other.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Lord of the Pop Flys

In the days and weeks ahead, I suspect I'll find myself actually pining for ESPN's tedious night- by-night coverage of the Barry Bonds home run saga. The boredom of watching a 43-year-old steroid enhanced left fielder with bad wheels drag a last-place team along with him as he staggered to the finish of his pursuit of a once-great record can't hold a candle to the stomach-turning exploitation of the Little League World Series.

The expansion of television coverage of the event continues unabated, with more games being played by child amateurs than adult professionals scheduled for this month on ESPN. Why? Well, for one, it's infinitely cheaper for ESPN to show Little League, a popular but not quite marquee event, than Major League Baseball, for which ESPN and other entities pay billions of dollars for a limited slate of national TV games. That's why you see so much taped poker and billiards and boxing, among other less attractive content, on ESPN these days -- it costs next to nothing to show them, and the coverage is almost universally welcomed by these fringe leagues, who would never dare to ask for something as unaccommodating as a rights fee.

There's a rights fee of a few million involved for Little League, but that's nothing compared to big-boy sports, and you would scarcely know it from the way the small-town neophyte baseball legends throw themselves at the camera ... or more precisely, how the parents of these Little Leaguers throw their kids at the camera.

Sports is full of stories about parents who lived vicariously through their budding athlete offspring, most often to disastrous results. My own father sent me out to practice baseball for an hour each day when I was 5 or 6 so that I could one day become the third baseman for the Phillies. I showed about as much interest and aptitude in the game as current Phillies third basemen Wes Helms and Abraham Nunez do, so my dad eventually scrapped the idea.

But what if I actually did have talent? What if, despite my obvious lack of desire, I had the makings of a sweet swing and a rifle arm? Then I may well have had no choice but to do as my father told me and ride the wave as far as it took me, even if it took me to Williamsport, where a few of the (un)lucky baseball prodigies will have their preadolescence beamed across the country for all to see. It's tough enough to just be 12. It's downright cruel to be 12 and have the entire world listen to ESPN analysts dissect what you did wrong as a slow-motion instant replay shows a bad-hop grounder rolling between your legs and past you into left field.

It might be even crueler still to be the guy who's locker is next to the kid who hit that grounder, who won the game for his team, who was interviewed by Erin Andrews, who got on SportsCenter, who was the talk of his town, who was on the cover of the local newspaper and who, despite still being on an allowance and unable to sleep alone after scary movies, has a head and an ego the size of Barry Bonds'.

It used to be that in small-town America, where no story is beneath a news-starved local daily bugle, one's popularity wouldn't peak until they were seniors on the high school football team. Now, those iconic autumn days are a mere second act for some. Sometimes you can almost hear Springsteen's "Glory Days" on the stereo of the 16-year-old kid in his first car next to you at the stoplight, a far-away, nostalgic look in his eyes right before he rear-ends the van in front of him.

I'm exaggerating here of course, but the effects of Little League mania on children and the people around them is not a good one. ESPN should be commended for limiting interviews with the kind of nutjob parents who prevail over local newspapers and other media outlets with less of a backbone, ramming the accomplishments of their screwheaded children into game stories, onto TV highlights and down people's throats with the aggression of a Major League manager on a tirade.

But that same network should be chided for tacitly giving into their demands that their children be given the greatest amount of attention possible, no matter the consequences. We're social creatures as human beings, and we all crave attention, but even as adults, there are limits to the beneficence of notoriety. Just ask Salman Rushdie.