Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Blue

Yesterday was a tough day.
I've been through many
like it before.

You see...I cheer for a
very bad football team.
But this year was supposed
to be different.
(how many times have I
repeated that same line to start the season?)

This year they brought in a no-nonsense, hard-nosed disciplinarian for a head coach. All those clich├ęd adjectives that make you start to believe that things will turn around. And they hired an offensive genius (albeit a psychotic one) to turn all the potential on that side of the ball into productivity, and victories. I can't stand the guy, but if he's gonna help get my favorite team 10 wins, then he's my best friend.

The boys in Honolulu blue and silver are 0-3.
And I feel like I need a 12-step program.
My name is Gregg...and I'm a Detroit Lions fan.

It all started innocently enough, watching a speedy little running back come out of Oklahoma State and get drafted by the Lions in 1989 (the Packers passed him up by the way...for Tony Mandarich). Barry Sanders had electric feet, and tree trunks for thighs. And he could change directions in mid-air! Twice!

I was hooked, and before I knew it I had a Lions sweatshirt. Then I had three. Then I had a couple baseball mugs...refrigerator decals...boxer shorts...Detroit Lions shampoo...jackets...rookie cards...on and on and on. I was a fan. And 15-plus years later, I'm still a fan, and I've got the ulcers to prove it.

If it wouldn't cost so much to change wardrobes, I'd probably start wearing an Indianapolis Colts horseshoe on my chest instead of a lion. But I remain loyal.

The game that's marked the boldest on the schedule every year (seeing as how there are no nail-biting games at the end of the season to determine playoff seeding) is the Lions/Packers game at Ford Field in Detroit. One they can win. One they should win. This they really shouldn't lose. And they lost.

They lost in a shootout to an aging gunslinger. Where, oh where, is my team going to end up?

The interesting part about Sunday was how different it felt to go out in public in a replica Barry Sanders jersey and Lions cap before the game...and then have to wear the same clothes to run errands after the game was over, before being able to sneak home and bury the stuff in the back of the closet.

It was...uncomfortable. I could feel all the snickers and chuckles bouncing off of me as I picked up groceries for the week ahead. And I deserved them.

With all due respect to Kermit the Frog, even if the Packers are as awful as I think they're going to be for the rest of this season, it's a hell of a lot easier being green in these parts than it is being blue.

"Fans don't boo nobodies."
—Reggie Jackson

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Did Not!...Did Too!...Did Not!...Did Too!
(Ohh, Shut Up.)

In an effort to create a more intellectually stimulating environment around my little corner of the blogosphere, I completely wiped clean my social calendar last Friday night, and stayed home to watch the first of a couple debates between U.S. Rep. Mark Green, and incumbent Governor Jim Doyle, the two candidates running for governor of this, The Great State of Cheese, in November.

A more accurate story would be that there was no poker game, I was too tired and lazy to go out anywhere else, and I just wanted a forum in which to use the word "gubernatorial" in some sort of context.

And it would be hard to use a term like "intellectually stimulating" in response to what I saw from the two candidates for an hour on Friday night.

Doyle talked about how he wrangled a $3.2 billion deficit when he took office, and how he's balanced every budget since he's been governor. Green claimed that's not true, overusing the phrase, "...the sad reality of it is..." at least a half dozen times in the first half hour, in response to Doyle's claims of his work as governor.

Then Doyle was forced to use his own valuable time to state that it is true, and back and forth they went. Blah blah blah.

Green stated that taxes are just too high, and that he'd work to eliminate wasteful spending and slow the growth of government. Gee, doesn't he sound like a...a...politician? Let me guess, he ended the night by shaking hands and kissing babies, right?

If I'd have had the chance to be one of the guest questioners on the panel, I think my question would have gone something like this: "Gentlemen, seeing as how the tax burden in this state is so great, and how the number of new jobs created in the last three years is somewhere between 4 and 150,000, and how we may...or may not...have improved education in recent years, could I umm...could I maybe have two new contestants to choose from in November, please?"

Near the end of the debate, Green laid the schmoooze on pretty thick, too. "In my travels during this campain, love...all over again...with Wisconsin. I love this state!" (be sure...and pause...after...nearly every word...for dramatic...effect.)

The sad reality, Mr. Green, is that you've got no chance of getting my vote in November. Not even if you promise free lollipops and beer for the length of your term.

But I'll probably tune in for the next debate on Oct. 20.

(You didn't find too many hard facts contained in this blog entry, did you? Now you know how I felt for an hour on Friday night.)

Go ahead, you know you wanna say it: gubernatorial.

"Politicians are people who,
when they see light at the end
of the tunnel, go out and buy
some more tunnel."
—John Quinton

Thursday, September 14, 2006

She's An Eight, She's a Nine, She's a Ten I Know

A few days ago, one of my readers sent me a pi...

(Wait, wait, wait...hold on. I thought I could pull that off and make it sound believable. But that line sounds as if I have, know...readers, or something.)

Let me start over.

A few days ago, Mark (much better) sent me a picture of a sign he spotted on the interstate just south of Chicago.

If you know anything at all about country music, you know that John Michael Montgomery had a song in the mid-90s called, "Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)." While I don't know a whole lot more than that about the genre, I do know that song. And a good one it is. (if you haven't heard the song, you won't understand the title block. sorry.)

Anyway, Mark sent me the picture, wondering if perhaps the Grundy County Auction was real, and not just a fictional location invented for the song. Pressed for time, he said he wasn't able to take Exit 112 and go exploring for the aforementioned auction, or any such "incidents" that may have occurred there.

But it got me to wondering...

...what other destinations made famous in songs would it be cool to run across while driving down the highway?

I'll take the easiest one out of play right away, so people aren't scrambling to their keyboards to be the first to send in Margaritaville. (where some people claim that there's a woman to blame.)

Another one I'd love to see on an interstate sign is an exit for Funkytown. (I'll take the Psuedo Echo version over the original by Lipps, Inc., thankyouverymuch.)

I haven't given this like seventy hours of thought, or scoured my CD collection for other possibilities, but those were two that popped into my head immediately. Any others out there?

China Grove, by the Doobies, perhaps? I think that one's real, though, down in Texas.

If I ever see an exit sign for "Sullivan Street," my car will probably steer itself onto the ramp. (I'm a Counting Crows freak.)

"Thanks to the interstate highway system,
it is now possible to travel across the country
from coast to coast without seeing anything."
—Charles Kuralt

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Only 1,667 Words A Day

So if you've got a little spare time in
November, and you're looking for something
to do...why not write a novel in a month?
Never even considered it, you say?
Well one brave and creative soul,
along with 20 of his closest friends,
attempted it in 1999,
and six of the
21 finished.
NaNoWriMo was born.
(I've got a link to it
on my sidebar.)

The idea is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Art for art's sake. Participants are free to write the crappiest crappity-crap in the world and still come away with a feeling of accomplishment.

Chris Baty of Oakland is the creator of the contest. And with the help of his Web site, it's exploded year by year into a global effort to write bad prose. Last year, 59,000 people participated, and nearly 10,000 people crossed the finish line.

The quantity-over-quality mantra serves as a boost to get writers' butts in their chairs, with the notion that somewhere in the middle of the bad punctuation and run-on sentences and muck, one might find the proverbial diamond in the rough.

Some people fizzle out after a few hundred words. I've made it to several thousand a couple times before deciding there wasn't enough November left to finish. But I applaud what he started, and enjoy following its progress each year. Perhaps one day I'll hunker down and take it more seriously. (just so I can cross "hunkering" off of my list Of Things To Do In Life.)

Several WriMos have opted to write something a bit better than crap, and they were rewarded with book deals!

If you're intrigued by the idea, and your November calendar is free, go poke around the site and learn more about it. Then spend the next month and a half polishing your plot points and scheduling your December carpal tunnel surgery.

And at 12:00:01 a.m. on November 1...WRITE!

"Mine started out as an
evil-people-take-over-the-world thing...
and is now essentially
a marching band story."
—Anonymous WriMo from 2002

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Image...Is Everything;
And Always Wear Red On Sunday

Tiger Woods is on a roll.

The last five times he's teed it up on Thursday morning, he and a trophy and the verb "hoist" were all somehow intertwined by Sunday evening (or, Monday, as it were).

Five consecutive victories is pretty impressive, and that includes two majors in that stretch. Thing is, it's nowhere near the all-time record of eleven straight set by Byron Nelson in 1945, and it's even one off the pace of Tiger's personal best of six in 1999-00.

Nonetheless, a streak like that brings to the forefront once again the question of Tiger's place in the ranks of golf history.

Is Tiger Woods the best ever?

It's been argued many times that the measure of greatness is the number of major championships a golfer has won. Tiger's won 12. Jack Nicklaus has 18. I think I learned somewhere in high school (probably in Heuer's trig class junior year) that 18 is greater than 12. So, no...Tiger's not the best ever.

And Jack has also finished second in majors a ridiculous 19 times. As you hear so often in golf interviews, it's certainly about the wins, but there's a lot to be said about being in contention on Sunday.

By the time Tiger's 40 years old, however, there will be a new "ever," and Tiger will be the best of it, probably by three or four majors.

I know that's a tall order, winning 10 of the next 40 majors in which he plays. But just hearing how motivated he is to get to Jack's record, I don't think he'll be satisfied with a one-tourney advantage. My magic number for him before he's finished is 22.

And I'm not even his biggest fan. Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated wrote a column a while back, stating that if you pay attention to golf at all, you're either a Tiger Fan, or a Phil Fan. There's no question as to who I'd cheer for if they're both coming down the stretch on Sunday with a chance to win. (Phil.) But it's amazing to watch what Tiger does, and see just how good he is when he brings his "A" game. It's impossible to not respect what he does and how he handles himself.

When the pros came to Whistling Straits Golf Course near Kohler in 2004 for the PGA Championship, I bought a week pass and spent more hours and walked more miles among the greatest names in golf than I could have imagined.

During Saturday's tournament round, we watched as Tiger teed it up on a dogleg left and tried to air-mail the corner with a booming drive. Well, he came up short and ended up in the rough on the spectators' side of a mound, so as we scurried up to see where his ball landed, I found myself only one row deep and about 10 feet away from where Tiger would hit his next shot. He came over to his ball and surveyed the situation, and was talking strategy with his caddie in a voice so hushed that literally no one else had any clue as to what he was saying.

But there I was. Ten feet away from the greatest sports figure on the planet, watching him hit a regulation shot in major tournament play. I don't know if I was the only one in that crowd that felt this way, but I wanted to shout, "Holy shit, You're. TIGER. Woods!!" just to confirm that it was, in fact, real.

I believe that goes against all golf spectator decorum, however, and his caddie would have probably broken my jaw. So instead I just soaked in the moment, waited for someone else to give the obligatory "you da maannn!" after he hit his ball, and continued on my way.

Tiger Woods: The greatest golfer of the next "ever."

— • — • —

In other news involving a ball that's slightly bigger and fuzzier, Andre Agassi walked off of his last competitive tennis court last weekend, ousted in the third round of the U.S. Open.

It would be hard to argue that he's the best ever in his sport, because there are others that have won more Grand Slams than he has. But a strong case can be made that he was the game's greatest ambassador, and one of its most wildly popular players.

He burst onto the scene as a brash teenager with long hair and too much neon for the prim and proper game of tennis. He got an endorsement deal with Canon where he uttered the phrase, "Image Is Everything," and won Wimbledon in 1992 to validate himself as more than a fashion plate. He would get seven more Slams.

And people took notice, not only of his tennis, but also of his style. Tennis attire started to become more gawdy, more colorful, more neon...and it was accepted.

He brought flair to a list of all-too-stoic personalities: Lendl, Sampras, Courier, Chang, every Swedish player that ever picked up a racquet.

Just when Agassi had them all marching to the beat of his drummer, he showed up at Wimbledon one year wearing all white. Somewhere along the way he lost his locks and shaved his head. And he outgrew his "image is everything" cockiness.

He played for the fans, and the fans willed him to keep playing. At age 36, after a 21-year career, his back told him no more. So he walks away as one of the game's greatest.

But the greatest "ever" is yet to be written in that sport, too. And his name is Roger Federer.

"The best things in life are free.
And the cheesiest things in life
are free with a paid subscription
to Sports Illustrated."
—Johnny Carson

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Gluttons Wolf(e) Down Contest Requirements

I should probably stay away from this topic, seeing as how this is such a refined, high-brow blog. *ahem* But I'm pretty sure there are some people who wanted to see this posted, and one of them even lobbied to get a mention in the title I did what I could.

It's not exactly 58 brats in 10 minutes. But for amateurs, it's not an unimpressive feat, either.

A few years ago, a buddy sent out an e-mail with a unique contest that he'd seen attempted at Wrigley Field, I believe. And he thought it would be a fun way for a bunch of guys to spend a few hours around a television set or a radio. person at the game, if you happened to have an extra hundred bucks to throw away on food and beverages.

The contest is called The 999.

Nine hot dogs.
Nine buns.
Nine 16-oz. beers.

In nine innings of baseball. From first pitch to final out.

The first year, no one in a group of about 10 people who attempted it made it to the end. Last year, one lone Champ(!) did it in about seven innings, topping a couple of his dogs with chili just for extra added oohs and ahhs.

And this year, three out of a group of seven crossed the finish line late in the eighth inning or early in the ninth. I may or may not have been one of those three. I admit to nothing.

Fine. It was me. I'm a Nine-Nine-Niner.

The key to finishing is knowing which method of attack will best suit your digestive system. The neat-and-orderly method of one hot dog, one bun, one beer, one inning may work well for some. But we've modified the rules a bit to allow for 12 12-oz. beers instead of nine 16-oz. beers, so as to bypass the plastic bottles. Same amount of beer, though.

One participant in the inaugural contest opted to eat all of his hot dogs in the first three or four outs of the game. That's just hot buns. But the bread got to him before he got to the finish line.

This year, one of the winners drank all of his beers (or perhaps it was 11 of them) before going to the grill for a dog. I had three or four beers and then told myself, "I'm hungry," and went to put a couple notches in the dog-and-bun column.

It becomes a grind near the end, and the one main rule of NO digestive system reversal can be difficult to avoid. That's how we lost two of our participants this year, although one of them gave it the old college try to remain a contestant. I'll spare you the disgusting, but valiant, details.

Oh, and what did we do to celebrate our 999 victory? Drank beer and played cards for much of the rest of the night, of course.

I went grocery shopping on Monday night after getting back from my weekend. Hot dogs were not on my list.

Can't wait to see which one of the seven deadly sins they create a contest for next.

"Lust, Pride, Sloth and Gluttony, or as we call them these days,
"getting in touch with your sexuality," "raising your self-esteem,"
"relaxation therapy," and "being a recovered bulimic."
—P.J. O'Rourke

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Beat The Odds

I saw this road sign as I was driving home from my weekend, and had to double back and take a picture.

Looks to me like they don't have a lot of faith in the truckers out there. Are they saying that if you're in a big semi and you risk driving down the upcoming hill, that you've only got a five percent chance of navigating it successfully?

I didn't find a big crumpled mess of tractor trailers and axles and freight when I got to the bottom of the hill, so either all the truckers on the road that day were exceptionally alert, or that sign is way off.

(At least give 'em a 50/50 chance, won't you?)

"I sez Pig-Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck,
we just ain't a gonna pay no toll.
So we crashed the gate, doin' ninety-eight,
I sez, let them truckers roll, 10-4."
—C.W. McCall, "Convoy"