Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Oh Hi

Friday, June 29th, 2012

I guess two years is too long to let a blog go. Here is a picture of a disapproving otter.


I have a recap of Thursday night’s Yankees game up on Bronx Banter.

Over the last year or so, I’ve mostly been editing. But I miss writing, so I’m going to try to do it a bit more often.

Misty Water-Colored “Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories”

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

They say you shouldn’t dwell on the past, but with the Yankees on a spiraling losing streak (which I wrote about for the Banter last night), and the Mets organization re-enacting some kind of bizarre adult pro-sports version of Lord of the Flies, this seems like a good time to do just that. My friend Alex Belth, Bronx Banter founder, Yankee Blogfather, and walking talking social network, put together a pretty remarkable collection of essays about the old Stadium, and now they’re being published in pretty, shiny hardcover form: “Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories – Unforgettable Tales From the House That Ruth Built.” The project is dedicated to the memory of our Banter colleague Todd Drew, a great writer who passed away unexpectedly and much too soon in January of 2009; on the right, under Yankee Blogs, you can find a link to his old site Yankees for Justice.

Between remembering Todd, and the bittersweetness of dwelling on a beloved building that no longer exists, there’s some real sadness behind the project, but the book itself turns out to be more raucous wake than mournful memorial service. There’s all kinds of essays in here, by many very different personalities, but it has the air of a community coming together to  swap stories and celebrate the good times (even the healthy number of contributors who, like most patriotic god-fearing Americans, hate the Yankees).

I have an essay in there, about Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, and I’m happy with the way it came out. But more than that, it’s very cool to share a book with writers I’ve long admired like Richard Ben Cramer, Pete Hamill, Joe Posnanski, Jane Leavy, Tony Kornheiser, Rob Neyer, and Jeff Pearlman — and also with friends (who are also writers I admire) like Alex, Jay Jaffe, Cliff Corcoran, Diane Firstman, Jonah Keri and more. Furthermore Yogi Berra is credited with the introduction, making this sort of my third close brush with Yogi… although the first of those to involve the phrase “ball-licking asshole.” (My essay is a tad bit blue. But then, so was Yankee Stadium.)

I won’t do a proper review here I’m obviously biased, but I love having this book on my shelf.

Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I’ve been remiss in not linking to some of my previous Banter movie posts: I already wrote a paean to “Sweet Smell of Success” and complained about “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But today’s post is probably my favorite thus far, in honor of Shark Week: Deep Blue Sea.

As anyone who’s read my book (or ever met me) already knows, I have a longstanding love of bad movies (although Deep Blue Sea is an extremely well-done bad movie, and actually kind of good in places… but still: it’s about genetically engineered genius sharks whose brain fluid can cure Alzheimer’s chasing hot people in wet suits and LL Cool J, so I think it qualifies). For a while now, a few friends and I have been having a weekly Bad Movie Night, and I’m thinking on turning that into a weekly post… because the world needs to know about “Bionic Ninja.”

It Was the Age of Wisdom, It Was the Age of Foolishness

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I have a lot of friends who aren’t baseball fans. Not one of them knows who owns the Red Sox or Cubs or Dodgers (granted, the Dodgers themselves aren’t too sure about that at the moment, but you get my point). But all of them know who George Steinbrenner is.

Or, I guess I should say, who he was. I was alerted to Steinbrenner’s death — long approaching, but still somehow sudden — by texts from several friends who couldn’t tell you what a cutter is or even, in some cases, how many innings there are in a game, but who saw the news about Steinbrenner and knew their Yankees-fan friend who was at work without steady internet access would want to know right away. Not many owners become household names (or end up on Seinfeld), but Steinbrenner’s force of personality set him apart and ensured that, no matter how much you might have wanted to, you could not ignore him.

In many ways Steinbrenner made it easy to be a Yankees fan, at least from my high school years on: all the money he spent on players, all the winning, all the World Series games. And he also — non-Yankees fans, bear with me — made it harder, because he could be such a bully, a felon, so tactless, embodying a number of traits which I personally didn’t wish to defend or associate myself with. Of course he had a better side, too, giving millions to charity and staying loyal to friends and some employees long after common sense required him to; but often I rolled my eyes at his silly statements to the media, or the horror stories that emerged of his treatment of underlings, and even at his spending. I loved that he was willing to invest his money back in the team, no matter what, but sometimes it was downright embarrassing, how much he outspent absolutely everyone else. I could defend it because it was allowed but I couldn’t pretend it seemed entirely fair.

On the other hand – the Yankees played in New York, so of course they had the most money, right? One of New York Magazine’s Steinbrenner posts had an excellent quote from The Boss:

“The first few years I was here, I didn’t thoroughly understand how mentally tough New Yorkers are. It’s a great trait in people… I used to get greatly hurt by some of the things that were written. But I don’t anymore. You learn to handle it. If the fans don’t think you’re striving to be the best in New York, they’ll gobble you up, and I don’t blame ‘em. An army travels on its stomach, and New York City travels on its heart and its love for the Yankees. We are New York. We are the biggest and the best, and we should be No. 1. And when you reward New York, it reaches out to you. It goes beyond what any other city can do.”

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that New York “travels on its heart and its love for the Yankees.” Or that the Yankees “are New York” – that would eliminate many of my good friends, who, transplanted from other cities or rooting from the Mets, absolutely loathe the Yankees and would rather cut off certain fingers than ever clap for the Bombers. But never mind. That’s the ultimate New York quote, and the ultimate Yankees quote: “We are the biggest and the best, and we should be No. 1.” This is exactly what most New Yorkers think, and why so much of the rest of the country does not like New York — and even as I acknowledge how myopic and obnoxious the attitude is, well, I kind of think that way about New York too. Of course New York is the center of the universe – if not here, then where? Why should Kansas City even dream of beating New York at ANYTHING? So why wouldn’t we have the most money and the most championships? Isn’t it natural?

Except that it isn’t, really – see the Knicks, if you need an example, or the Jets or the Rangers for many years. New York may feel it deserves to win at everything, but the universe doesn’t always agree. And the thing is, Steinbrenner took winning as the Yankees’ birthright, but he didn’t just leave it at that: he gave nearly everything he had to make it happen. Sometimes too much, probably, and sometimes it was unfair, and unsporting, and distasteful. But whatever you might fault him for, he didn’t leave anything on the field.

It was hard to watch Steinbrenner in recent years, obviously seriously ailing and not entirely with it, and the Yankees refusing to acknowledge that fact openly. Maybe that’s what Steinbrenner wanted, I don’t know. But when someone on Twitter (I’ve forgotten who) compared the team’s persistent release of “statements from owner George Steinbrenner” to Weekend at Bernie’s, well, it wasn’t tactful but it didn’t seem too far off the mark to me, either. I was genuinely moved by Steinbrenner’s death, to a degree that really surprised me, actually, but I am glad not to have to watch any more of those moments.

I don’t know what to expect from Hank and Hal; whether they’ll carry on in a relatively quiet, businesslike way (well – that’s Hal carrying on, with Hank tied up in a safe house somewhere), or whether they’ll… gulp… sell the team, or who knows what.  Either way we won’t have George Steinbrenner to kick around anymore. He was wrong about a lot of things, but I think he understood New York pretty well – how tough it can be, and how great. He was determined to be on the right side of the city, and for the last 15 years of his life, although he took a ton of justified criticism along the way, he generally was. That was a hard-fought victory, and I hope it was a satisfying enough reward for all the entertainment we got out of watching him work.

Pizzle Rot in the Bronx

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Hey, Mets fans — never say the Yankees never did anything for you!

It’s going to take many more than two games for the Mets to prove they’ve turned a corner, but this weekend certainly started things off in the right direction. Whether it was actually mental — a team meeting, clearing the air, finally playing with the much-vaunted “sense of urgency” — or just the expected offensive improvement finally arriving, the Mets looked better than they have in many many months.

They also made a good argument for some form of instant replay. Can someone please explain the reasoning against this? How do you justify having the truth readily available to hundreds of thousands of schmoes watching on TV, but denying it to the handful of professionals actually getting paid to determine the correct call? Of course, this kind of thing happens all the time… but now that it took place during a game roughly half our nation’s sports writers were covering, maybe we can finally get something moving here.

Meanwhile, back on the farm:

So my dad lives upstate and has a bunch of sheep, and apparently some of his flock have become infected with something called “Pizzle Rot.” Now, I do not know what exactly Pizzle Rot is, nor do I care to find out*, but this is still my new favorite term. It sounds like something you’d get from unprotected sex with Snoop Dogg. Extremely vivid, and so even if you’ve never heard it before, you probably have a good enough sense of its meaning to use it in a sentence.

As in, “this Yankees team plays like they’ve got Pizzle Rot.”

As noted in this space earlier, May is too early, in my opinion, for panic, or even intense worry. This is the time for stewing. The odds of the Yankees pulling off a phoenix-like resurrection two years running are slim; I don’t know that they’ll win their division this year, or even claw their way to the Wild Card. But that said, the odds of the Yankees ultimately playing better than this? Pretty damn good.

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*I only got as far as “The infected ulcers can spread through the opening to the mucosa of the preputial cavity.” Okay! I refuse to Google “preputial cavity”**; some things can never be unlearned. You know, when I was little, I wanted to be a vet…

**Fine — curiosity got the better of me, and I looked it up. Not recommended. Associated key words: “cesspool,” “wetness,” “protozoa,” “bladder,” “circumcision,” “scrotal skin,” “smegma or bacteria.”

Eephus Pitch: your go-to source for commentary on New York baseball and obscure ovine scrotal diseases!

You Know What Else Pales In Comparison? Hay Fever! Also, Subway Delays.

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

Karl Ravich on Baseball Tonight this afternoon: “Bad weather’s already cancelled six games today, but the bad weather pales in comparison to the obstacles that Jackie Robinson had to deal with.” Yes. Virulent, pervasive, systematic racism: worse than heavy rain!

There were some nice tributes to Robinson today, though — very cool to see the entire Dodgers team wearing #42.

It is in fact a nasty, windy, soaking day in the city. The Mets game was washed out and then some, but it’s a rougher weekend for the Yanks. First there was the tough extra-innings loss on Friday; then a draining 13-inning game that resulted in a win last night, but required the entire bullpen. Today came news that Mike Mussina’s hamstring hasn’t improved enough for him to avoid the DL. He’ll be joined by Carl Pavano, who has “soreness” in his forearm (yeah, that really narrows it down). I’m not sold on all the character-based Pavano-bashing, but it certainly looks like his body isn’t able to handle the strain of regular major league pitching, I’ll give you that. Looks like Chase Wright, with two AA starts to his name, will get the start in his place — kind of a surprising pick, but more on him later.

The worst came today, however. Andy Pettitte pitched a gem, and the offense eked out four runs; holding a 4-2 lead, the Yanks brought Mariano Rivera in to pitch the ninth. Then — with two on, two out, and two strikes — he allowed a game-winning home run to Marco goddamn Scutaro, the A’s number nine hitter (current batting average: .095).

For Yankees fans, a game-winning home run off Mariano Rivera is much worse than a walk-off homer off anyone else. It’s like being confronted with evidence that there is, in fact, no God, that the universe is a cold and empty place devoid of larger meaning or comfort or hope, a howling void.

Well, okay, maybe it’s not that bad. Still, tough loss. This is how my (wet) dog felt about it:

Meanwhile, the Angels have been playing the Red Sox. Who do you root for there? Whoever wins, we lose

Try to Picture Derek Jeter Saying That…

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

I’ve got a Yankees recap and Carl Pavano column up on the Banter today… gotta run now, but a couple of quick notes:

-Interesting Endy Chavez interview in the Post. I knew he had a brother named Ender, but wasn’t aware of the sister, Eneidy. I suspect I would love Endy’s parents. Chavez touches on a variety of subjects, including the time in Venezuela he nearly had to fight an aggressive fan and his love of the movie Happy Feet, but the money quote is on the Cardinals and last year’s Game 7:

But you lost. Did the better team win?

Oh no. What we lacked was suerte, luck. We play better, have better defense, pitching. They just had one lucky bat. But our team is better. I mean we just swept them in their casa.

True enough, though somehow I don’t think the Cardinals will agree.

Meanwhile the quote of the season so far comes from Ichiro, on facing Daisuke Matsuzaka at Fenway today:

“I hope he arouses the fire that’s dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul.”

Well, damn. I hope so too!

Julio Franco is Getting Too Cold For This Shit

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

I have a new nemesis: Geoff Geary.

Who, you ask? I had never heard of this inoffensive Phillies reliever either, but he earned my undying wrath yesterday in the eighth inning of the Mets home opener: after three hours of shivering in the shaded Shea upper deck, four innings after I’d lost all feeling in my fingers and some of my toes, Geary agonized, fretted, contemplated, studied and pondered every goddamn pitch; it must have taken him fifteen minutes to walk Julio Franco on four pitches. Now, it’s a free country, and if you’ve really got your heart set on walking Julio Franco on four pitches, I’m not going to stop you. But in 35-degree weather, this is a task that can easily be accomplished in, say, two minutes. Have a little consideration, Geoff, you know? I will be following your career with schadenfreude.

So yeah, it was cold at Shea yesterday. But the Mets took their revenge on Geary (and the rest of the Philly bullpen, including former Yankee John Lieber, whose ERA is currently 27.00), and after all was said and done it was a fun come-from-behind opening day win. Mets fans are pumped this year. There were a couple of guys in full-on tights wearing capes that said “SuperMaine,” which I hope catches on, because “Remember the Maine” is a bit esoteric, and also very difficult to dress up as. There were painted faces, and signs, and huge cheers for Howard Johnson and Jose Reyes and Endy “Death to Flying Things” Chavez and everyone, in fact, except Aaron Heilman (can’t say I really get that one). As Matthew Cerrone points out over at MetsBlog, there were a few issues at Shea, notably with the lines for the men’s room, which I gloated over all day, and the hot chocolate situation, which I did not find amusing at all.

I don’t honestly think Jimmy Rollins did anything wrong by saying the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East, but what the hell, it’s always fun to get riled up for a rivalry. Because of that innoffensive little comment, Rollins will be booed at Shea for all eternity; he can switch teams, win the world series, cure cancer, marry David Wright in a civil union with a touching televised commitment ceremony, it doesn’t matter. He’ll be booed at Shea. Fortunately, it sounds like he’s having a good time with it.

In other news, Carlos Delgado reached first base in the second inning by bunting to third, thereby foiling the shift that the Phillies’ defense always puts on him. (My friend was thrilled on behalf of his father, who, he said, has been advocating this for months and months). Delgado also had a nifty sideways slide later in the game that allowed him to just barely, by a fraction of a second, evade the catcher’s tag and beat the throw to home plate. It’s fun to watch smart people play baseball…

Okay, Who Kept The Billy Goat Out Of Legends Field?

Monday, March 26th, 2007

So. Not only is Carl Pavano lined up to be the opening day starter (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, accep-… acc-… nope, not there yet), but Jeff Karstens, winner of the fifth starter derby, is now sidelined with elbow stiffness. “Elbow stiffness” is one of those phrases that could mean either three days or six months, so it’s still unclear how big of a freakout this calls for. But I’m ready for anything.

The swarms of bees that keep descending on the Yanks this spring are starting to seem biblical, aren’t they? Next up: the Gatorade cooler runs red with blood.

Anyway, Darrell Rasner it is. In fact, last summer I remember thinking that Rasner had been more impressive than Karstens in his major league starts; but, looking back, a lot of that was probably related to the fact that Karstens looked 14 then (he looks at least 16 this year). I’ll check their stats tomorrow.

Over in Port St. Lucie, the Mets surprised fans who don’t have access to the internet, newspapers, or television by naming the deserving Mike Pelfrey their fifth starter. Chan Ho Park is apparently headed to the bullpen, but not without considerable grumbling.

And in fluffier news, an informal poll of Mets reveals that the players consider Carlos Beltran the teammate most likely to spend over two grand on a suit, Paul Lo Duca the most likely to talk trash to opposing fans, and Aaron Heilman the best-read. Are you ready for the season to start yet?

No, No, That’s A Typo. You Meant P-A-V-A-N-O, Not W-A-N-G.

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Well, that didn’t take long… the Yanks sustained their first major injury yesterday as Chien-Ming Wang pulled a hammy. I know I said I wanted to see Jeff Karstens on the major league roster, but this isn’t what I had in mind.

Because of all the April off-days, though, the Yankees will only need their fifth starter once or twice before Wang gets back. In the scheme of things this isn’t too big a deal, assuming that everything heals right (not always a given with a hamstring – remember Cano last year?). And true, Mussina didn’t look very good in his start today… but just keep chanting “it’s only spring training” over and over again, until you feel calm and centered.

In other news, Brian Bruney and Kyle Farnsworth have shaved their heads. Can’t hurt, I suppose.

Over in Port St. Lucie, Chan Ho Park threw three sharp innings today for the Mets today — but was pulled before the fourth, which can’t be a good sign. The Mets are apparently saying there’s no injury, so what’s going on? Guess we’ll find out later. On the bright side, Joe Smith was very impressive, again, coming on in relief.

Random fact of the day: apparently, the Kansas City Royals have a prized pitching prospect named Billy Buckner. Awesome. What could possibly go wrong?