This week's oddball items of disinterest
Old timers seize Cooperstown, the upside of economic collapse, and much more
For the past 10 weeks, this rejiggered space has been foraging through the sports dumpster in search of items that, combined with a spot of trenchant and disorienting commentary, will hopefully put everything in context and give you what you need to make a misinformed decision to get out of bed in the morning.
The operative thinking, or lack thereof, here is that everything in the wonderful world of athletic endeavor is related. If a pair of shorts falls in Italy, it's heard in Pittsburgh, and the sum of the overpriced samosas in India are directly proportional to the square root of the old timers who will take the field in Cooperstown next June as long as you remember to carry the deceased elephant. Trust us. It all makes sense if you drink enough warm Blatz, and we're going headfirst again into another week's worth of hair-raising stories:
Old Farts at Play
Those of you who wept bitter, brackish tears over the demise of baseball's annual Hall of Fame Game -- discontinued after 68 years -- no doubt rejoiced and reached for the lithium when it was announced that next Father's Day (June 21) four Hall of Famers and 20 other Major League retirees (to be announced) will take the field in Cooperstown in lieu of the two big league teams that used to do battle. Yankees fans, who have long thrilled to watching potbellied pinstriped greats creak, dodder and wheeze through two-inning games on Old Timers Day each season, know the special thrill that is sure to come along with the added bonus of a skills competition (inserting dentures in under a minute?) and hitting contest (backing the car over a trash can at the end of the driveway?) that has been scheduled.
Unfortunately, some killjoys are already grumbling that their kids will be forced to watch "old men whose playing careers they did not witness, ghosts whom they know nothing about." To them, this space thumbs its nose. We'd pay good money to see 72-year old Brooks Robinson crouched at third base while 62-year old Bill "Spaceman" Lee (a personal favorite) blows eephus pitches by 70-year old Manny Mota with 83-year old Minnie Minoso on deck waiting to take his hacks (we don't mean coughs) in yet another decade. This space also plans to explain to its whiny offspring that this could be a golden opportunity to witness the splendor that was Wally Moon, Dooley Womack or Doug "Eye Chart" Gwosdz inaction once more or perhaps to shower a few last jeers upon the crumbling members of the steroid generation.
In fact, old farts may just be the solution to the NHL's Olympics headache. Talk is that the league is tired of interrupting its season every four years to send its stars to compete at the Winter Games and will pull the plug after the 2010 edition in Vancouver, so why not send a legion of cobwebbed greats like Harry Sinden, Cheesy Cheevers and Ron Hextall (the honoray captains for the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic) to do battle? At the very least, it will keep them out of mischief for a few weeks.
The Lighter Side of Economic Collapse
Times are tough and no one would blame fans in hard-hit areas like Detroit for burning Lions tickets for heat, but there is a silver and green lining to the mushroom cloud rising from the world's economy: after years of pro sports squeezing fans for every last nickel, some teams are starting to feel downright charitable. In recent weeks, the NHL's St. Louis Blues introduced a contest in which they will pay a selected fan's mortgage or rent for four months. There's also a "free food game" scheduled for March 15 and steeply discounted tickets. Meanwhile, down in Florida, the Panthers are giving two free ducats to anyone in possession of a Florida driver's license and a pulse that is not in foreclosure.
The largesse isn't confined to the NHL, which can use every fan it can get. The NBA's New York Knicks, probably the most entertaining Broadway farce since Lend Me a Tenor, are making select tickets to games against turkeys available at Costco discount outlets. Lucky fans can grab a nice dried fruit-and-nut assortment and chance to watch Stephon Marbury mouldering on the pine for 30 percent off the suggested retail price.
As Knicks senior marketing veep Howard Jacobs explained it to the New York Post: "With the holiday season fast approaching, we wanted to create an opportunity for our fans to experience the new era."
What's Eating Your Wallet?
If you've had your nose in the news outlets lately, surely you noticed the item about the Dutch couple in India that was charged 10,000 rupees ($204) for four samosas, a deep-fried potato pastry snack. Ordinarily, a samosa goes for only a few rupees. Given the amount of press and world-wide alarm this incident has generated, you'd think this kind of thing is unheard-of, but any sports fan worth the mustard stains on his or her warmup jacket can tell you the couple were merely paying stadium prices. Unfortunately, here in the good old U.S. of A., cops don't force stadium vendors to refund the $6.40 you overpaid for your 60-cent hotdog.
Heavy Times For Critters
Speaking of hotdogs, it's not only the average American who is struggling with his or her circumference and avoirdupois. Statistics show that 30 percent of Britain's woofers have bellies that render their legs too short to reach the ground. Thus, seven portly British dogs and an equally roly-poly British feline will be competing in a 100-day fitness contest. The biggest loser -- weight-wise -- will be crowned champion and its owner will win a pet-friendly vacation. No doubt, we'll later hear the winner tested positive for Bumetanide, the diuretic of choice for roly poly athletes seeking to shed a few pounds and make their weight class or to stay out of the coach's chateau bow-wow.
In more sobering news, Mac, the Houston Zoo's beloved Asian pachyderm has passed away at the age of two. Mac, who weighed in at 384 pounds, or 12 less than C.C. Sabathia, was renowned for working out with a heavy bag and kicking balls around. Goes to show that healthy living with kill ya.
Disheveled, Distracted and Disdainful
Distracting ooponents has long been in an art form in college basketball and major league baseball, but the Catania (Italy) soccer squad lowered it to new levels by dropping their shorts to block the goaltender's view. (One wonders why Sean Avery didn't try that one on Martin Brodeur.)
Not to be outdone, a Colorado Buffaloes fan turned a laser on Oklahoma State Zac Robinson's visor last Saturday, causing the flustered QB to call a time out. Alas, the tactic was in vain, as Robinson tossed a TD on the next play, but this space still longs for the kinder, gentler age when a slugger like Jeffrey "Penitentiary Face" Leonard would slowly wave his bat with F*** You on the barrel in front of the catcher's face and wily backstops could unnerve even the most fearsome slugger merely by uttering "How's your wife?" as the pitch approached.
Unfounded Rumor of the Week
When readers come up to me and ask, "Whatchoo been smokin' mang?", I explain that it's basically last week's rolled-up newspapers. Where else do you think I find such scintillating reports as:
After yet another season in La Toilette -- their 16th consecutive -- it's got to hearten downtrodden Pittsburghers that the Pirates have been making a splash with their aggressive offseason acquisitions. You have to think that even though they've yet to fully address their glaring needs for pitching, a right-handed power bat and halfway decent bench (the old one fairly spits uncomfortable splinters and one leg is uneven), that Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks should nicely beef up the offense while the Saudi supertanker full of crude oil can be used to sign some prized draft picks and free agents (assuming they'll accept goods in lieu of cash) and fund the team's new baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. With any luck, the Pirates should be a force next season, provided the Russian and British navies are kept at bay, or course.
If you're into redmeat sports that have hair on them, you'll likely ace this one:
1. Name the sport in which the following nicknames are found. T-Wrexxx, Savage Animal, Misfit Maiden, and Divalicious.
2. In which sport will you find: The Irish Hand Grenade, The Hillbilly Heartthrob, The Dean of Mean, The Janitor, The Axe Murderer, The Smashing Machine, Rampage, Twinkle Toes, The Naked Man and The Karate Hottie.
3. In which sport will you find: The Oriental Express, Tyrone The Terrible, Heavy
(Answers be below)
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