Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Here's My Sign

On my head, there is a sign. In all fairness, it might be hovering just over my head, but there is, in fact a sign. The sign cannot be seen be the standard eye of man. But I can assure you it is there. I’m not exactly sure what this sign says? I’m not exactly sure what it looks like? As I said, it cannot be seen by your average person. If asked to speculate, I would think that it is large neon colors, either green or yellow, and it is all on one line. I’m thinking it probably says something like “Please come talk to me about the worst problem facing in you in your life or if you don’t have one of those please tell me all about the pyramid you are involved in and think would be a great money-making opportunity for me.” Yeah, it says all that.

It doesn’t matter where I am in the world. I could be sitting down for dinner with my wife in a restaurant, I could be in line buying groceries, I could be walking into a softball game dressed to play with a bag in my hand and clearly listening to an Ipod, and someone is going to tell me about their day or try to get me involved in their pyramid.

A usual conversation will often go this way:
“Hi, welcome to Friday’s. I’m whoever, how are you doing today.”
“Doing well, thanks. And you?”
“Well, I’m having a rough afternoon. I was in a fender bender this morning. I didn’t do well on a calculus final in this, the last quarter of my senior year in college. And I broke a shoelace getting dressed this morning.”
…Silence…
“Umm…wow…so can I have a Coke?”

Or maybe…

“Hi how are you? Did you find everything you were looking for?
“Good, thanks. Yes I did.”
“That’s good. You must be the only one. Everyone else who’s come through tonight was complaining about something and yelling that we were out of stuff. Someone even called my manager up here for no good reason, just to make trouble.”
“Wow…uh…sounds like a rough day?”
“Yeah. I almost didn’t come in today. I had a friend try to commit suicide last night. She’s been having a really rough time with….so on and so forth….”

Great. So now not only to I have to listen to your crap, but I have to hear about you’re friend’s bag o'crazy? Can I just have my DVD and Sour Patch Kids?

But let’s not forget the pyramid people. I love these people in a can’t stand them sort of way. And I don’t know what it is about my outward appearance, but they track me down like sharks smelling blood in the water. Some wannabe entrepreneur can weave his way through a crowded Target just to find me because I look like “a very sharp individual”. Or they’ll break me off with a “Man you look familiar. Where do I know you from?” kind of thing.

I’m just going to start responding with “Well thanks. But a really sharp individual wouldn’t have had to file bankruptcy twice before he’s 30, let me tell ya.”

Friday, May 23, 2008

My Draft Amendment

I think I need to make an amendment to my prior statement about this year’s draft being boring. Well, no I mean it was still dull, so maybe this is more of a rider to my draft blog. Whatever you want to call it, the contract situation with the incoming class of NFL talent and the money it takes to acquire them to such a degree that the there are rumblings on ESPN about the institution of a rookie salary cap. Why ever would you need something like that? Here’s why…

Marquee players hold out all the time. In fact, I can’t remember a season in the past 10 years when someone wasn’t holding out for something they wanted to have or see changed. Generally speaking, they either want to be traded, or want more money. Are some of these people spoiled primadonnas? Sure. Do some of them have a point about whatever their scenario happens to be? Yeah, some probably do. Now hold that thought a minute.

This year the salaries went up to astonishing new heights, which is actually nothing new considering this happens just about every year. But what’s interesting about this year’s draft is not only the money, but the timing. Top pick, Jake Long from Michigan signed with the Dolphins a week before the draft, cementing his place as the No. 1 pick. They gave him 5 years for $57.75 (yeah that’s million) with $30 guaranteed. Not bad for someone who isn’t yet old enough to rent a car. No. 2 pick Chris Long was picked up by the Rams, but has not yet reached an agreement on a contract. But the Falcons picked Matt Ryan, quarterback from Boston College 3rd, and cracked open the piggy bank. They gave him 6 years for $72 and $34.75 guaranteed. That’s $14.25 more, one more year, and $4.75 more guaranteed than the number one draft pick. Considering St. Louis still doesn’t have Chris Long locked down, the organization has to be pissed, and Long has to be seeing dollar signs.

The NFL is a cultural icon. Yes, so is MLB and the NBA. But right now we’re talking football. Aside from that, it’s an economic pillar in this country. The last thing we want as consumers is for an economic pillar to crumble. So how angry would you be if you were Peyton Manning ($11 mil/year), Tom Brady ($6 mil/year), Carson Palmer ($7.25 mil/year), or Eli Manning ($6.45 mil/year) and lest we forget he’s the Super Bowl winning quarterback this past season, and some kid comes out of college making $12 mil/year never having taken a professional snap? I doubt even the nicest of these guys is going to say “well good for him.” It just seems that with all the additional drama that these guys create for whatever reasons, generally surrounding money, that for a rookie who didn’t even win the BCS Bowl game to come into the league and out earn all of them just doesn’t seem right.

(all salary information came from USATODAY.com http://content.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/salaries/playersbyposition.aspx?pos=119 )

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things a Man Should Never Have

My wife sent me this email the other day. I'm not sure if she's trying to tell me something or not? But it was interesting none the less...

18 Things A Grown Man Should Never Have

1. A black eye. Unless the rim hits your face mid-dunk, your peepers should remain unblemished. You're smart enough to talk your way out of any fight you're going to lose.

2. A witty e-mail signature. Quotes and song lyrics should be heard during toasts and karaoke performances, respectively. Don't let your electronic correspondence become the digital version of a motivational poster.

3. An empty refrigerator. Your larder should be amply stocked, your pantry provisioned. Always aim to be ready to create an on-the-fly, three-course dinner for her...along with breakfast in bed.

4. PlayStation thumb. When they're relaxing, grown men can behave like children. But if you devolve long enough to cause calluses or button-shaped bruises, you're assuredly missing out on life.

5. A key chain with a bottle opener. This bauble is both a gauche reminder of your college days and proof that you don't know how to apply leverage using available, impromptu bottle openers: a lighter, the back end of a fork.

6. A lucky shirt. Every shirt is lucky when worn by a man who knows that the harder he works the luckier he'll be.

7. An unstamped passport.

8. Olympic dreams. Exceptions: curling and archery.

9. Less than $20 in his wallet. Fiduciary nudity is negligence. A real man should always carry a business card and enough dough to pick up coffee, bagels, and the Sunday paper without whipping out the plastic.

10. A name for his penis. Even if it's a really clever name.

11. Any beer that costs less than $20 a case. And no exception for the grand-slam 30-pack that crosses that price threshold.

12. The need to quote The Big Lebowski/ Caddyshack/Superbad. Reciting someone else's lines reminds people that you haven't the wit to write your own.

13. A futon. Sure, beds are for sleeping. But such a meager, slouchy spread has never, in the history of sex, inspired a woman to say, "Take me on your futon."

14. Code words for ugly women. Actually, code words for anything.

15. A Nerf hoop in his living room. Keep the adolescent accoutrements where they belong: in the rec room or above the wastebasket in someone else's office.

16. A secret handshake.

17. Drinking glasses with logos. Especially those kitschy McDonald's Hamburglar ones.

18. A recent story with the phrase "So I said to the cop..."

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Weekend in Southeast Florida

Trina and I just spent this weekend in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It’s not like we were just able to shoot down there and spend a few relaxing days on a nice beach. We went down for a friend’s destination wedding.

Lauderdale wasn’t a bad place, all in all. The airport is convenient to most of the hotels. The area is pretty easy to navigate since almost everything runs in a grid. The beaches were pretty clean, and I didn’t feel like I needed a shower after being on the sand. But the whole city was older. It’s clearly been there for quite some time, and it’s clear that maintenance is not the first order of business for the hotels and bars. That makes sense, though, considering it’s a spring break hot spot and who would want to sink money into something that will get beaten down inside of a year? Besides, going there is all about the nightlife. There are lots of bars and restaurants that look at the water, though you’re looking across A1A (Beachfront Avenue!). The point is, you’re probably not taking a family vacation there.

Anyway, I had to take the time to write something about our experiences there. So in typical blog format, here’s my list of the things that I found to be most interesting (interesting not being good or bad, just different from Cincinnati) about the Ft. Lauderdale area.

1. Men have no modesty what so ever. Guys walk around with their shirts off constantly, and it doesn’t matter a lick what they look like or what else they’re wearing. Ripped? Fat? Board shorts? Dress slacks? Going to the beach? Going to the office? Doesn’t matter…guys are walking around with no shirts.

2. Women were very modest. All the ladies down there were generally covered up. If they were not laying on the beach or a pool, the ladies of Ft. Lauderdale were pretty well covered up.

3. If you have a dog over 15 pounds, you are in the extreme minority. Lots of people were out walking with dogs. But all the dogs we saw were tiny breeds. There were lots of Terriers, Pugs, Poodles, and Chihuahuas.

4. More hotels were pet-friendly than were not. This might speak to the whole small dog thing, since they are easier to travel with.

5. The lots on which houses sit are the size of the house’s footprint, plus 2 feet all the way around. No one has a yard. Instead, they have a pool, a boat dock, and just barely enough grass for the little dogs to pee and poop.

6. Everyone has a shiny, absolutely immaculate BMW. Apparently, that’s the vehicle to own down there.

7. If you don’t have a BMW, you probably have either a Ferrari or a Bently… no kidding and barely exaggerating.

8. You can be to the Bimini, one of the western-most islands of the Bahamas, by boat in less than 2 hours.

9. You can be at just about any of the islands in the Bahamas by boat inside of a day.

10. You cannot park your own car anywhere. If you stop at 10 places in the course of a day, I’m willing to bet at least 7 of them valet park your car. Do you really need a valet for McDonald’s? Come on now.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Softball Bats

Softball in Cincinnati is a pretty big deal in terms of a summer pastime. Lots of people from all over the city play ball from mid-April through mid-October. Guys compete to relive the glory days, people get dirty sliding into bases, tempers flare and people argue. By and large, it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been a part of this scene for a few years now, and there are a lot of things that I’ve learned in all terms of the game. But the one aspect that I just can’t get my mind around and that always brings up controversy is the use of various bats.

If you have ever played, seen, or heard of baseball or softball, you know that bats are a critical part of the game. They are less of an issue in pro baseball because short of corking one. Other than that, it’s an issue of length vs. weight.

Softball is an entirely different animal. For those who don’t know, there are a number of different leagues and corresponding rules for those leagues. The most commonly played in Cincinnati are ASA and USSSA. The 2 major differences are the pitching and the bats. The pitching is another posting in and of itself. So putting that asides, I want to touch on the bats.

Under the rules governing ASA softball bats, the bat may not be powerful enough to send the ball off the barrel at anymore than 98-mph. This is not the case in USSSA. There are still bats that are illegal, but the list is far, far shorter. If you go to softballjunk.com and look at the bats they have for sale, they will say clearly with each bat “not approved for ASA play” which means exactly what it says. I’m not sure what the stipulations are to make a bat illegal for USSSA play, but bats used in those leagues are significantly hotter.

Last night, one of my teammates got up to hit, and ripped a ball foul down the third base line. The pitcher on the opposing team threw a temper tantrum right there on the spot raising three kinds of hell that the bat had to be illegal. He told the umpire to inspect the bat…no issues. He went and got the manager of the ballpark for another inspection…again, no issues. The bat was totally legal. This guy was just pissed that his team got hammered by 16 runs inside of 4 innings.

As usual, I digress…

The fact of the matter is that guys spend tons of money to take an illegal bat and have it painted, branded, and stamped as legal. On the average, this will probably cost you about $400. To put a slightly finer point on it, you’re paying $400 to cheat. Finer point still? How about $400 to cheat at a game where people have to throw a big ball underhand, that won’t pay the bills, that won’t bring you years and years of glory… and a level of cheating that can literally kill someone. Sound a little mellow dramatic? Maybe. But even a legal bat that can compel a ball to move 98-mph could deliver a fatal blow it someone was hit in the head, throat, or chest. So what would a ball going 110+ do? I might be a little more sensitive to the situation than most considering I play third base a lot, and as such stand closer to the plate than anyone but the pitcher. For the record if you get caught using an illegal bat say, in a tournament, you’re probably going to be handed a 3-5 year ban from participating in that tournament again, and you WILL be catching an ass-whoopin’ in the parking lot from the opposing team lead by the pitcher and third baseman.

Sammy Sosa is the slugger than most recently comes to mind when talking about using a corked bat in MLB. There is regular debate about the advantages of a corked bat. Yes, you can swing fast, but the quality of the power distribution from a weaker instrument almost makes it a wash. An illegal softball bat, however, will add bat speed and not sacrifice the power transfer. In either case, the question remains; Why do it at all? Sosa could hit homers with a shovel. The guys I know who will spend $400 on a bogus bat could send a ball over a 300’ fence with a limb they just pulled off a tree. Why risk the repercussions? Why risk the injury? Why do it at all?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Smoking Gas

Gas prices are at an all time high! Yeah, we still know. And I don’t want to harp on it over and over again because as far as I’m concerned, it’s making the worst of a bad situation. But I noticed something interesting yesterday while driving out, or rather pulling into the parking lot of a softball park. Here’s what it was…

There were a lot of diesel trucks in the lot. Actually, diesel-powered vehicles were probably in the majority. And a good number of these vehicles were outfitted with construction company or landscape logos. That makes sense right? People in these fields need the power that is offered in a diesel engine. Now, please excuse the generality, but there is another common trait shared by the people in these fields is that they tend to smoke. I’m not here to make social or medical commentary about the health risks associated with tobacco. But what I noticed was this; the average cost nationwide for a gallon of diesel is $4.24. The average cost for a pack of cigarettes in the state of Ohio is $4.21.

My question is this; when confronted with the necessity of fuel in comparison to the addiction and dependence upon cigarettes, what wins?