Monday

11-28-11: Wild and Vikings and Ballers, Oh My!

Hello again everybody...

Yes, yes I'm back at it again.

I will warn you, however, not to assume any sort of pattern here. There's enough going on to do some quick notes and I had some time of a Sunday eve to write them up. When I'll write next is anybody's guess!

Expectations lowered? Excellent!

So on to today's missive...

Right after the quote!

“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and an invisible labor.”
- Victor Hugo (1802-1885), French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist, and exponent of the Romantic movement in France.


Next time you see me and it appears I'm idle, think again! I may just be invisibly laboring! Or something like that...


Wild and Vikings and Ballers, Oh My!

Thursday

11-24-11: Not Buying In Just Yet

Hello again everybody...

I know. You're surprised, right?

Can't say as I blame you. I told you many moons ago that while I wanted to get back to writing, it was going to be more about “when the spirit moved me” than “on a regular schedule”.

Sadly, plenty of other things grabbed my attention and I found myself with neither the time, nor the inclination to do much writing in recent days... weeks... aw hell, it's been 4 months. Who am I kidding?!

But that's changed... at least for today.

So on this day when we take a moment to give thanks, I'll say thank you to the sports muse for moving me once again. Who knows when I'll write next, but let's just enjoy this moment for what it is, shall we?

What moved me to pen this particular missive? I'm glad you asked. And I'll tell you...

Right after the quote!

“Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor.”
Robert Frost (1874-1963), American Poet


We want a winner so badly here in Minnesota that we're willing to lose perspective (i.e. sight of the truth) to get one.

That's why you can say...

I'm Not Buying In Just Yet...

Wednesday

7-6-11: Notes

Hello again everybody...

Been a while, I know. I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July. I spent a pleasant evening watching three different fireworks shows from the cozy confines of my deck. Not a bad way to spend the evening, and I didn't have to fight traffic!

So we're into the meat of July (just 10 shopping days left until the single greatest day of the calendar year!), and teams are making news all over the place.

What does that mean?

Yep... it's “Notes” time!

And we'll get to the notating...

Right after the quote!

“Statistics: the only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.
- Evan Easar (1899 - 1995), American humorist


I've had a lot of verbal/text battles with my Brewers-fan friends since I published my picks for the 2011 All-Star team. We're all looking at the same numbers. My system didn't put him in as a starter. Milwaukee fans vehemently disagreed. In the end, he got voted in and I don't have a huge problem with that.

Which leads me to the first of today's...

Notes...

The All-Star rosters have been announced... and the fans nearly got it right.

6-15-11: 2011 MLB All-Star Ballot - National League

Hello again everybody...

I promised you I'd have the NL-half of my ballot coming your way, and I'm finally coming through.

But before we get to that, allow me a quick aside.

If you haven't been watching the Stanley Cup Finals - and judging by the ratings, many of you haven't been - do yourself a favor, tune in to NBC tonight at 7pm central time.

Game 7's are one of the rarest of treats in sports. For six games two teams have been beating the holy hell out of each other and have wound up in a situation where one game... three periods... 60 minutes... will determine a champion.

Everything that makes hockey great - the heart, the skill, the determination, the passion - gets dialed up another notch in a Game 7. And probably an extra notch after that, given the fact that it's Game 7 of the Finals.

I know I'm fascinated to see if this series plays to form - Vancouver's won close games late at home, while Boston's blown the doors off of the Canucks when the games have been out east - or if someone can finally win a road game.

Will Roberto Luongo be as brilliant in net as he has been in the other games in Vancouver, or will Boston get an early goal and break him as they've done in all three games in Boston?

Will Daniel Sedin step up his game and score a critical goal after guaranteeing a win a'la Mark Messier in '94? Or will Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg keep he and twin brother Henrik clamped down and off the scoring sheet like they have for most of the series?

Will we get the rare feat of the losing team's goaltender winning the Conn Smythe Award as series MVP? (If Boston wins the series, Tim Thomas is a mortal lock to win the award... if Vancouver wins, he's merely the favorite)

I'm certainly no NBA guy, but even I'll admit that the NBA Finals were pretty damned compelling. But they didn't have a Game 7... and Game 7's change everything.

Trust me. Watch the game. You won't be disappointed.

I'll step off the soap box now.

But only for a moment! Because I'll be happy to step right back up to tell you who I think should be starting for the National League in the 2011 All-Star Game.

That ballot comes your way...

Right after the quote!

“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant as you were a year ago.”
- Bernard Berenson (1865 - 1959), American historian


In other words, while some consider consistency to be a virtue, it can also be viewed as a lack of growth.

Need an example? How about fan voting in the All-Star Game?

No matter how much I rant and rave, no matter how much I strive to provide a process that could lead to a much more sensible outcome, the people insist on ignorantly making the starting line-ups a popularity contest.

If Derek Jeter - hitting .260/.324/.324, having a -1.2 UZR and a 0.5 WAR, oh and by the way he just went on the DL - is a starter at the All-Star Game, the fans should be embarrassed. I know he's “the Captain”, I know he's closing in on 3,000 hits, and I know that playing next to A-Roid makes him look like a prince, but he's not having an All-Star season, and he's certainly not having a “starting the All-Star Game” season!

Jhonny Peralta, Alexi Ramirez, Eric Aybar or Asdrubal Cabrera. You can make a case for any of them before you can legitimately make a case for Derek Jeter.

Come on, fans! Wise up a little!

Okay, okay... I'm going to take a few deep breaths and prepare to offer my assistance once again, as I present my...

2011 MLB All-Star Ballot: National League

Sunday

6-13-11: My Contentious Relationship With College Football: We've Got Issues

Hello again everybody...

Okay, okay, I know... I said I'd have the NL-half of my All-Star ballot out today, and honestly, that was my intention!

But I got rolling with an idea on Friday and couldn't help but crank it out first.

Rest assured, the NL-ballot column is written and will be published on Wednesday. I promise. Honest. Really. I mean it this time.

Okay, I don't blame you for not believing me. But you'll see!

Instead, I've got a college football column for you. What?! How can I be talking college football in June with all this baseball wonder surrounding us?!

Well, it's only nominally about college football. At it's core, it's about being a fan of sports, what that really means, and what responsibilities we have to be honest with ourselves about what it is we really want from sports.

Sound deep?

Maybe it is. I don't know. As I write this preamble, I've only begun fleshing the idea out.

We'll see where I end up!

That ending gets its beginning...

Right after the quote!

“He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”
- Chinese Proverb


I've got a question... and I'm not sure I've got the answer. But if I go ahead and ask it now, I think I can handle being a fool for five minutes!

[Insert your own punchline here.]


My Contentious Relationship With College Football: We've Got Issues

Thursday

6-9-11: Athletes Behaving Badly

Hello again everybody...

I'd honestly intended today's blog to be the second half of my All-Star ballot, but alas, that is not to be.

A couple of incidents have occurred this week that have my blood boiling. And as much as friends and colleagues have attempted to calm me down and offer perspective, I can't shake my annoyance.

What does that mean?

You got it, “epic rant” time.

Okay, I'm not sure “epic” is the right word - we'll see how things stand when I get done writing.

But I'm not holding anything back. I'm worked up and it's time for the spleen to be vented.

Said ventilation begins...

Right after the quote!

“For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
- Luke 12:48


I don't go to the bible well very often... in fact, this is probably the first time in the three years I've been at this writing thing... but I was put in mind of this quote by someone who attempted to mitigate the incidents I'm about to rant on by saying, “your standards are too high”.

Sorry, but I don't think they are. I'll explain why as I tell you about some...

Athletes Behaving Badly

Monday

6-6-11: 2011 MLB All-Star Ballot - American League

Hello again everybody...

I hope you all had a brilliant weekend. We finally had decent weather here in Minnesota (why couldn't the Twins be playing at home?!) and, near as I can tell, a good time was had by all.

Before we get to the sports, one quick note: Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

That's right, just a scant *mumble-grumble* years ago, my folks got hitched, God bless 'em. And lo these *insert muffled, inaudible noise here* years later, they're still together and going strong! Kudos to you both and I promise... my card's in the mail!

Onward...

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing with the Vancouver Canucks up 2-0 in the series over the Boston Bruins. Both games have been closely played, with Vancouver picking up the game winner late or in overtime. 2-0 leads can be overcome, but Boston's going to have a rough time coming back against a team as talented as the Canucks.

The NBA Finals are cruising along as well. Yes, regular readers know that I'm not much of a NBA fan, but with the shop now becoming the Wolves flagship station, I feel compelled to pay a certain amount of attention. The Heat are up 2-1 in the series and seized home court advantage back with their win last night in Dallas.

My analysis? I don't like Miami for two reasons: one, for the same reason everybody else hates them (The Decision, the celebration, etc.) and two, because they've forced me to roots for Mark Cuban's team. Nobody should have to do that.

But neither the Cup, or the Larry O'Brien Trophy carry as much weight around here as the Commissioner's Trophy... that's right, baseball uber alles!

And as we near the half-way mark in the pursuit of said trophy, it's time to prepare for the Summer Classic, the MLB All-Star Game. Each year I assemble a ballot. Each year I try to fill said ballot with deserving - not necessarily “popular” players.

How did this year's ballot turn out? Glad you asked. You'll find out half the answer...

Right after the quote!

“The least of learning is done in the classrooms.”
- Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968), Catholic monk


I don't think the good friar was trying to denigrate schools. Rather he was pointing out that what you learn in school is merely preparatory for the massive amount of learning you do in that little thing called “life”.


2011 MLB All-Star Ballot: American League

Friday

5-20-11: Notes

Hello again everybody...

Throwing together a quick post before work today. It's a rainy, dreary Friday here in Minnesota, but I'm feelin fine.

Why's that you ask?

I've got a 3-day weekend coming (vacation day on Monday - ballgame) and I've also just joined the modern era of high-speed cable internet.

I was on the DSL bandwagon, but the phone lines in my building are so archaic that the modem kept getting overloaded and crapping out. Finally I'd had enough.

The speed is a little intimidating. I have to make extra-sure I pause and review my Tweets before I send them! But all in all, it's a good thing and I'm excited to take advantage of it.

My plan? White Sox/Dodgers is tonight's free game on MLB.TV. Sounds like a good use of bandwidth to me!

Moving on...

I've got some notes to catch up on before the weekend officially begins. And I'll get to those...

Right after the quote!

“No human thing is of serious importance.”
- Plato (427 BC - 347 BC), Greek philosopher


Keeps with the “it's Friday, let's not be too serious here” theme today, no?


Notes...

Monday

5-16-11: Forgetting Friday...

Hello again everybody...

Boy I wish I had something more pleasant to write about. I warned you all a couple of weeks ago when I returned to writing that my work may not be as regular as it had been in the past; that I was more inclined to write “when the spirit moved me” rather than sticking to a set schedule.

I'm still not sure how that's all going to play out. For all I know, I may end up writing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as I've done in the past. But for now, I'm posting when I feel like I've got something to say.

I just wish what I had to say today wasn't so damned depressing.

Maybe it'll be cathartic for me. Perhaps I even dare to dream that reading it will be cathartic for someone else. Either way, I figure it's worth writing.

So I'll get to it,

Right after the quote...

“There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. The dark background which death supplies brings out the tender colors of life in all their purity.”
- George Santayana (1863 - 1952), American philosopher and poet


I'm really trying to find some positives in all of this, but it's not easy. Those “tender colors” are eluding me at the moment...


Forgetting Friday...

By now, I'm sure most of you have heard about the sad news from Friday. I'll briefly recap things, but mostly this is going to be about trying to wrap my head around it and finding a way to accept things and move forward.

5-9-11: While I Was Away, Pt. 2...

Hello again everybody...

Allow me to begin the week with this caveat: I've got no clue what's coming after today.

So far, my return to regular blogging has been far more regular than I had anticipated. That's because I had a couple of ideas in the bank (one of which turned into this two-parter) and then a no-hitter dropped out of the sky.

But as I sit here penning this particular column, I've got no earthly idea what form the next one will take, or when it's going to get published.

So be forewarned. I hope you enjoy today's missive and have patience with me, should I fail to produce something for Wednesday... or for Friday... or for... well, you get the idea!

One other quick note before I get things going today. A lot of people wondered why I didn't include a Kentucky Derby pick on Friday. The truth is, I didn't have one. I started looking at the stats on Wednesday after the post-draw, but by Friday I still hadn't settled on a horse. By the time Saturday came around, I couldn't narrow down my choices to the point where I felt comfortable making a wager. And I'm glad I didn't.

In the end, I could've made arguments for at least half-a-dozen horses, and the winner, Animal Kingdom, wasn't any of them. Sometimes you get surprise winners because of track conditions, or because a favorite falters. In this year's Derby, we got a surprise winner because the field was just that lousy. The favorite was only a favorite by default, and the two horses whose betting lines moved the most were a very mediocre horse ridden by Calvin Borel which took action simply because he'd won three of the last four Derbys - one on a 50-1 long shot - and a decent horse ridden by a 23-year-old woman which took action because she was trying to become the first female jockey ever to win the Derby. When those factors are the ones moving the needle? Yeah, you've got a lousy race on your hands.

Truthfully, I have no clue what's going to happen in the Preakness. I assume Animal Kingdom will run in it, but as lousy as the Derby was, I'm not expecting great things.

Okay, moving on.

When we left things on Friday, the Giants had won the pennant, the Giants had won the pennant, the Giants had won the... okay, well they won the World Series actually. But I love that call of Bobby Thompson's home run as much as any other baseball rube, so there you go.

The Giants won the series, the Vikings imploded and the Badgers lost the Rose Bowl. So what else happened while I was on my blogging hiatus?

I'm so glad you asked! I've got three more topics to discuss, and I'll get to them...

Right after the quote!

“Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”
- Will Rogers (1879 - 1935), American cowboy, comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer and actor.


Ever forward, my friends. Ever forward! ...unless you're taking a look back at things, such as in this little column, which I like to call...

While I Was Away, Part 2...

Friday

5-6-11: While I Was Away, Part 1...

Hello again everybody...

I hate to keep starting blogs with cautions, warnings and explanations, but I also don't want to raise people's expectations too high as I get back into the swing of things here.

Just because I managed to crank out three blogs this week doesn't mean I'll be doing that every week. At least not the in early goings of getting back to writing. After all, there likely would've only been two this week, except for the fact that we had a no-hitter dropped into our midst.

The truth is I'm battling between a couple of writing theories. One says that you should set a schedule and stick to it. Even if you don't have much to say on a given day, sticking to a schedule forces you to stay in the habit of cranking out material on a regular basis, which - according to the theory - helps you get better as a writer.

My own history bears that out to a degree. There have been a number of times where I've sat down in front of a blank screen with no earthly idea what I was going to write about, only to crank out a column that got a lot of positive reaction.

That being said, the second theory encourages a writer to be more organic with their writing. Wait until the spirit moves you and then really focus and crank out something worth reading. Producing nothing, under this premise, is better than producing crap just to say you did something.

It certainly seems to me that there's something to be said here as well. As often as I've managed to crank out something readable after starting with nothing in mind, I've also started columns with a loose idea of what I wanted to do and managed to get sidetracked and ramble off in several nonsensical directions.

Basically I'd like to get more focused in my writing, but I also don't want to get out of the habit and disappear for long stretches of time. So if any of you have thoughts, opinions, or suggestions on how to reconcile these two seemingly opposed notions, please pass them along. I can use all the perspective I can get on this.

But enough of my esoteric babbling. It's time for sports, sports and more sports!

There were plenty of notable sports occurrences over my hiatus. So many in fact, that while I intended to get to them all in a single column, I decided I'll have to break them up into two columns.

I'll get to part one...

Right after the quote!

“When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.”
- Marquis de la Grange (1639-1692), French writer


Whoops! Maybe I should've shared this before asking for “ thoughts, opinions, or suggestions”? Though in that case I would say I'm not looking so much for an accomplice, as a scapegoat, right?!

Time to talk about what happened...


While I Was Away...

Wednesday

5-4-11: The No-No-Ness Of It All...

Hello again everybody...

Regular readers will recall the number of times I announced a plan for a future column only to have it blown out of the water by circumstances entirely beyond my control.

Today's column is yet another example of one I never planned to write.

I had every intention of waiting until today to pen a “While I Was Gone” column for publication on Thursday. That may not happen until Friday now. We'll see...

I say that because the way these things go, I'll get it all written out and there'll end up being three perfect games thrown Thursday night, or something equally as unlikely.

You just never know!

So what happened to blow up my initial plans? Well if you don't already know, I'm a little disappointed in you... but only a little.

I'll tell you all about it...

Right after the quote!

“If I knew he was gonna pitch a no-hitter, I'd a thrown one too.”
- Dizzy Dean, after his brother Daffy pitched a no-hitter in 1934 for the St. Louis Cardinals


They're nicknames people... it's baseball, what can I say?!


The No-No-Ness Of It All...

Monday

5-2-11: I'm Baaaaaaaack...

Hello again everybody...

Wow, does it feel good to type those words again!

I actually debated between two separate titles for this post. It was either what you see above, or “Where The Hell Have I Been?!”

Both accomplished the task of announcing my return to writing, and while the latter did a better job of portending a pending explanation of why it's been so long since I've written, I decided the former was the way to go because it just sounded more positive to me.

That's really what the point of this post is going to be all about: positivity.

And I'll get to said positivity...

Right after the quote...

“My blogging might be spotty at best. At least for the foreseeable future...”
*- Dan Cook (1974 - ), written October 29th, 2010


I wrote that (or something to that effect) in the email I sent out announcing why there was not going to be a post that day, over six months ago. What you're reading today is the first thing I've written since then.

Why? Well I'm glad you asked. Because that's the point of a column I like to call...

I'm Baaaaaaaack

As I mentioned earlier, the subtitle to today's column is: “Where The Hell Have I Been?”