Posts Tagged ‘sports’

NFL’s All-Funny-Name Team

September 15, 2011

It’ll be a while before the cream rises to the top of the National Football League and fans are able to name an All-Pro team for 2011.

In the interim, I’ve selected an all-star team based on players’ names and how funny and/or unusual they are.

Please enjoy this collection of the NFL’s All-Funny-Name Team.


Quarterback — Sage Rosenfels, N.Y. Giants

Running backs — Tyler Clutts, Chicago Bears; Vonta Leach, Baltimore Ravens

Receivers — Michael Hoomanawanui, St. Louis Rams; Bear Pascoe, N.Y. Giants; Seyi Ajirotutu, Carolina Panthers

Offensive linemen — Ed Wang, Buffalo Bills; Richie Incognito, Miami Dolphins; Guy Whimper, Jacksonville Jaguars; Gosder Cherilus, Detroit Lions; Uche Nwaneri, Jacksonville Jaguars 


Defensive linemen — Frostee Rucker, Cincinnati Bengals; Ziggy Hood, Pittsburgh Steelers; Leger Douzable, Jacksonville Jaguars; C.J. Ay You, St. Louis Rams

Linebackers — Kaluka Maiava, Cleveland Browns; Koa Misi, Miami Dolphins; Frank Zombo, Green Bay Packers

Defensive backs — Tom Zbikowski, Baltimore Ravens; Atari Bigby, Seattle Seahawks; Prince Amukamara, N.Y. Giants; Chimdi Chekwa, Oakland Raiders


Punter — Zoltan Mesko, New England Patriots

Kicker — Ryan Succop, Kansas City Chiefs


Roddrick Muckelroy, Cincinnati Bengals
Domata Peko, Cincinnati Bengals
Ahtyba Rubin, Cleveland Browns
Willie Colon, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ikaika Alama-Francis, Miami Dolphins
Ras-I Dowling, New England Patriots
Ropati Pitoitua, N.Y. Jets
Israel Idonije, Chicago Bears
Maurice Morris, Detroit Lions
Vic So’oto, Green Bay Packers
Devin Aromashodu, Minnesota Vikings
Tashard Choice, Dallas Cowboys
Chris Snee, N.Y. Giants
Moise Fokou, Philadelphia Eagles
Oshiomogho Atogwe, Washington Redskins
Sav Rocca, Washington Redskins
John Chick, Jacksonville Jaguars
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos
Sabby Piscitelli, Kansas City Chiefs
Jon Condo, Oakland Raiders
Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons
Legedu Naanee, Carolina Panthers
Jeremy Zuttah, Tampa Bay Bucs
Will Tukuafu, San Francisco 49ers

Guy Whimper. YOU want to tell him his name is funny?

Memories of my baseball career

August 30, 2011

Did anybody else watch the Little League World Series over the weekend? Anybody with a life, that is?

Watching children play baseball is not something you’d expect to be my cup of tea. Usually, I’d regard it as several degrees of wholesomeness beyond what my cynical, misanthropic mind can handle.

True, there were several scary beanball incidents that normally would appeal to my dark side. And there was the pitcher who almost had his head taken off by a hard-hit comebacker, and the kid heading for home who had a throw from the outfield bounce wildly off his helmet. And, of course, the threat of a hurricane.

What appealed to me most, however, was the game of baseball itself, and the way these 12- and 13-year-olds played it with such joy. I defy anyone, even the most black-hearted among us, to not be moved by the sight of the winning U.S. team bouncing for joy, and the losing Japanese boys weeping in defeat.

It may be said that “there’s no crying in baseball,” but certainly that doesn’t apply to kids. (There’s also no touchdowns, dunking or exciting action in baseball, and yet still we watch it.)

Broadcasters went out of their way to humanize the youngsters. Along with stats like height and weight, the graphics revealed personal details such as favorite food, favorite TV show and favorite musical group. As surprising as it was to learn that one boy weighed in at only 74 pounds was the news that kids from Pennsylvania had heard of the Black Eyed Peas, and that the right-fielder from the Montana squad had access to chicken nuggets.

And I’m still trying to understand how a preteen pitcher from Aruba could possibly see the value of watching “Two and a Half Men.”

(Tip to Major League Baseball: How about letting us know big-leaguers’ favorites? What is Derek Jeter’s most-desired sex act? Tim Lincecum’s preferred conditioner? Big Papi’s favorite oil-exporting nation?)

I hope that the crushing defeat experienced by most participants doesn’t sour them on what should have been the event of a young lifetime. Organizing baseball, rather than letting it happen naturally in the playground, is risky business.

I remember my own years as a young baseballer with fondness, primarily I think because we played in an unorganized fashion. There was a little league, organized by the local Optimists Club, but I only participated long enough to learn I didn’t have the proper skill level (or, in the jargon of the times, that I “stunk”).

So instead of donning a uniform and pimping for sponsors/overlords like a local moving company, my friends and I took to the street in front our homes and made up our own version of America’s pastime.

There was me, there was my best friend Larry, there was the slightly older Lloyd, and there was chubby Ricky. We played barefoot on the asphalt of Miami’s lightly traveled N.W. 197th Terrace, using tennis balls instead of baseballs and a broomstick instead of a bat. Calling balls and strikes was replaced by the occasional call of “CAR!”, which would be our signal to step aside so traffic could pass.

Our diamond wasn’t diamond-shaped at all, but squeezed tight in the middle by the need to use mailboxes for first and third base. Home plate was a wad of gum baked dry and permanent in the tropical sun. Second base was a mound of rocks we had to reassemble every time a car passed over them. The outfield wall that defined a home run was the light pole in front of Ricky’s house.

Larry and Lloyd were the most skilled players and, as such, always tried to be on the same two-person team. Ricky and I were not bad; we just weren’t as good as the “L Boys” and would inevitably be defeated by something like 112-7 if we ended up on the same side.

The team playing the field would be comprised of a pitcher (who, our chatter insisted, couldn’t be an underwear stitcher) and an outfielder. The team on offense would have a batter up, while the other player served as catcher, unless one of us could round up a spare sister to play that thankless role.

Pitching was underhand when we started playing as 7-year-olds but later became overhand. Most hits were either singles or home runs. We didn’t have enough people to allow base-runners, so instead we relied on “Invisible Men” to occupy the base paths. There was no stealing (the Invisibles could be banned for trying), no balls, and no set number of innings to be played. When someone’s mom called them in for dinner, it was game over.

Occasionally, we’d expand our rosters to three players per team, but only when Larry’s friend Ernie was visiting from an adjacent neighborhood. Then, we’d stoop to allowing Larry’s older sister Donna to play, at least till our early teen years when she developed a mysterious lump in her abdomen which turned out to be an illegitimate baby.

We had favorite players and favorite teams, and showed our allegiance to these by “being” them.

“I’m Mickey Mantle,” Larry would invariably call, while Lloyd would transform from lanky Jewish kid to “Willie Mays” in an instant. As a Dodger fan, I’d anoint myself base-stealing king Maury Wills, despite the fact I was neither fast nor African-American. Ricky, a less imaginative kid, dubbed himself “Ricky.”

We played like this for years, never keeping any records or standings, consuming huge swaths of the summer like we’d consume hose water after hours of play rendered us nearly dehydrated.

I don’t remember an exact day when the games ended. The “L Boys” were both good enough to play organized sports, and gradually moved into these as we got into junior high. The athletic, good-looking Larry developed an interest in something called “girls” and, since I was not one of these, we gradually grew apart. I made up a dice version of baseball which I’d play in my room, or head into the backyard to play catch with the wall.

None of us ended up as professional athletes. I understand that Lloyd is a retired fireman in St. Pete. I heard that Ricky ended up as some kind of music executive. Larry became successful selling Texas real estate, and came closest to the majors through his son, a reserve outfielder for the Rays.

I tried a little intramural softball in college, then hung up the glove when I left Florida State. I tried playing some with my son, since having a catch with Dad has become an almost-mythic bonding experience. But the sport didn’t appeal to him as much as his beloved video games, and I eventually relented that yes, he could go back inside now.

As for the Invisible Men, I hear they’re enjoying successful lives as jet-pack salesmen, Sasquatch trainers, explorers of Mars and moderate Republicans.

All because of the positive influence of baseball.

From left: Larry, some kid, Ricky, some other kid, me, Lloyd and Ernie (not pictured: Invisible Men)

NFL is back, (almost) better than ever

August 15, 2011

NFL teams returned to the gridiron this weekend to the delight of football-starved fans across the country.

Unfortunately, the shortened training camp caused by the three-month lockout had both players and coaches running ragged. Though the games were only pre-season exhibition matches, the effects of the prolonged hiatus on the quality of play were apparent.

In Thursday’s games:

The Philadelphia Eagles, viewed by many as the NFC’s team to beat this year, won a tight defensive battle with the Baltimore Ravens, 13-6, despite much of the team taking the field wearing baseball uniforms.

“I knew I played one of the three major professional sports, I just forgot which one,” said embarrassed quarterback Michael Vick, sporting a Phillies uniform. “As soon as I got knocked down on the third play of the game, I remembered I’m supposed to be wearing a helmet.”

Vick threw for 74 yards and a touchdown in the single series he played. His throwing motion appeared somewhat hampered by the first-baseman’s mitt he wore on his left hand. However, his receivers still managed to get open, even though some spent much of the first half sliding cleats-up into the goalposts instead of running their assigned routes.

“I’m really proud of how our defense played,” said Eagles coach Andy Reid. “I’m not sure our pass rush will be as effective when our linemen are no longer able to beat their offensive counterparts with baseball bats. Still, it was a good-if-bloody start to the season.”

The New England Patriots, another pre-season favorite to go deep into the playoffs, overwhelmed the Jacksonville Jaguars, 47-12.

This time it was the Jaguars who seemed unprepared. Patriots rookie quarterback Brian Hoyer went 15-of-21 passing, possibly benefitting from Jaguar players who seemed more concerned with hissing, growling and making other cat noises than in playing an effective 3-4 defense.

“I believe they must’ve thought they were actual jaguars out there,” Hoyer said. “They weren’t able to react to their own defensive audibles because they were largely indecipherable. I was just glad I could still find my targets amidst the defensive backs crawling on all fours out there.”

In Friday’s games:

The Detroit Lions crushed the Cincinnati Bengals 34-3. The Bengals seemed even more chronically inept than usual after the long layoff.

The Bengals managed just 205 total yards on offense, due in part to the fact that they ran the same offensive formation throughout the first quarter.

“I could hardly believe it when they emerged from the huddle and lined up in one long single-file queue behind the ball,” said Lions coach Jim Schwartz. “It looked like the DMV out there. They just couldn’t keep up with their blocking in that alignment.”

The Bengals did make some adjustments after the first series — running offensive sets that included a “ring-around-the-rosey” circle and a flash-mob dance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” — but by then the Lions enjoyed a 24-0 lead.

The Miami Dolphins edged the Atlanta Falcons 28-23 despite the fact that many of the Dolphin players failed to have their dreadlocks in mid-season form.

Rather than the long strands of hair flowing down the back of their uniforms, many instead sported mullets, live raccoons and carpet samples stuffed into their helmets as substitutes for the flowing locks they had become famous for.

Falcons coach Mike Smith complained to officials that the raccoons, which got lose several times during the game, distracted his players into tackling the wrong creature.

“That’s something we’re going to have to work on to be ready for the regular season,” Smith said. “I guess small woodland creatures have become a part of the game, and we have to modify our defensive sets accordingly.”

In Saturday’s games:

The Cleveland Browns bested the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers by a score of 27-17.

The Pack kept it close during the first half but faded in the second, when the effects of poorly executed celebratory chest bumps caused numerous injuries.

“We can’t be bumping heads with the same intensity that we bump chests,” said Packer coach Mike McCarthy. “That seemed to create a lot of concussions among our guys.”

Helmets protected some of the players from the severe head-on-head cracks. However others — who arrived at the stadium with their helmets on backwards, trying to see out of the two small ventilation holes in the back — avoided concussions only because they avoided the game itself, instead wandering around in the parking lot.

The Carolina Panthers defeated the New York Giants 20-10 in a game that featured the NFL debut of number-one draft pick Cam Newton.

Newton did not start at quarterback but did put up some impressive numbers while he was in the game. He was relieved in the third quarter by his father.

“We knew from the controversy at Auburn that his father would be closely involved in his son’s career,” said Panther coach Ron Rivera, alluding to the elder Newton’s attempts to solicit a cash payment for his son to play at another school. “But we didn’t expect him to take the field and actually play. We might’ve guessed that was going to happen if only we’d had a few more practice sessions.”

Several other games also saw confusion resulting from the shortened training camps.

The Arizona-Oakland matchup ran three hours longer than a normal game because Raider players gathered in the huddle thought they were conducting a botany experiment rather than planning their next offensive play.

“I thought we had a team project to measure how many separate grass plants were growing in each square meter of sod,” said Raider running back Michael Bennett. “I had forgotten all about our West Coast offense.”

In the Washington-Pittsburgh game, the opening kickoff was marred by the return team’s attempt to advance the ball down the field by soccer-kicking it to each other.

“I didn’t know we were allowed to use our hands,” said return specialist Chris Hadley. “Is that something new this year?”

Even on the periphery of the nation’s favorite spectator sport there was confusion. When Tennessee defeated Minnesota 14-3, new Titans coach Mike Munchak had a cooler-full of human growth hormone (HGH) poured onto his head rather than the usual Gatorade bath. The long-time offensive line coach, promoted to the top position during the off-season, quickly grew to over a hundred feet tall and rampaged through the stadium, killing 12 and injuring 34.

And, in what has almost become an annual rite of summer, Packer legend Brett Favre reported to a local high school in his home state of Mississippi to work out with the team in hopes of impressing an NFL squad to sign him. But even a veteran like Favre was obviously out-of-sorts after the long lockout.

“He started launching passes at the marching band,” said school principal Paul Poole. “I guess he didn’t know we had moved the football team indoors because of the heat.”

Favre was oblivious to the confusion, however, bragging to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he may have lost a step, but that his accuracy is better than ever.

“I put just about every ball I threw squarely into the sousaphone,” Favre bragged. “I am definitely back on my game.”

Lesson 1: This is a football

Incredibly, Pledge flap still being discussed

June 21, 2011

A group known for its radical demands that English be used properly in all areas of communication has joined the fray over NBC’s controversial decision to edit the Pledge of Allegiance in Sunday’s broadcast of golf’s U.S. Open.

During a patriotic montage preceding the telecast, a recitation of the Pledge by a group of children left out the words “under God”. Conservative critics took to the blogosphere to accuse the network of undermining America’s status as God’s most-favored nation.

But members of the United Nitpickers Demanding English be Right (UNDER) maintain that this criticism is missing the point.

“Most religious traditions, including the Judeo-Christian one, say that God is everywhere, not simply floating in the sky above,” said Marie Janeworth, executive director of UNDER, in a communique issued from her compound hidden somewhere in California’s Sierra mountains. “It’s time to reconsider whether ‘under’ is really the proper preposition to describe His position compared to ours.”

Janeworth’s group has previously gone on record with suggestions for alternative wording of this fragment of the Pledge. They’ve recommended several options: “one nation near God,” “one nation around God,” “one nation regarding God,” “one nation during God,” “one nation by God” and “one nation close to but not crowding God.”

“We have no problem acknowledging there’s probably some kind of god and that he thinks pretty highly of the United States. We’re not atheists or agonistics,” Janeworth said. “We just want to see the King’s English used properly.”

Meanwhile, NBC expanded on its apology Monday. Chris McCloskey, vice president for NBCUniversal Sports, said “As soon as management became aware of this decision and the controversy it justifiably created, it immediately offered an on-air apology.”

“It was not the intent of NBC to upset anyone,” McCloskey added. “We’ve made an apology and accept responsibility, even though we suspect it was actually the fault of those kids in the video.”

One of the children involved, seven-year-old Ethan Harris, of Arlington, Va., denied that any omission was intentional.

“I know that Sarah H. standing next to me had the hiccups that day, and she may have ‘hicked’ right past the ‘under God’ part,” Ethan told reporters.

“Nu-uh,” countered Sarah H.

In another twist to the still-developing story, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said his message has become “dramatically more relevant” following NBC’s controversial edit. Promoting his book “A Nation Like No Other” on a conservative radio talk show, Gingrich said he will make the gaffe a centerpiece of his upcoming campaign for the 2012 nomination.

“I know people say jobs, the economy, three wars, massive deficits and our out-of-control debt to China are important,” Gingrich said. “But this denial of God during a minor feature on a golf telecast is far more critical.”

UNDER’s Janeworth observed of Gingrich, “you know, his book title should be ‘A Nation As No Other.'”

Sarah H. (right) probably hates America

Fake news briefs

June 14, 2011

Everyday folks are seeking help

Rehab treatment centers around the country are being flooded with troubled applicants as Americans in record numbers seek help for behavioral problems.

Whether shamed into action by revelations of wrongdoing or looking for assistance in dealing with inner demons, everyday people are admitting more and more that they may require in-patient help.

“I shorted a customer on the change I owed them,” admitted Sarah R., a grocery cashier from Arlington, Va. “It may have been a simple miscalculation, or maybe I have a streak of thievery in me that I wasn’t aware of. In any case, my boss found out so now I’m spending six weeks at Promises (Treatment Facility).”

“I gave this big presentation to my management team and — wouldn’t you know it — there was a typo in one of the PowerPoint slides,” said Arthur L., of St. Louis. “To restore my reputation, I’m going through a 12-step program that emphasizes surrender to a higher power and more frequent use of spellcheck.”

“I’m not sure what I did wrong,” observed Linda K., a nurse’s assistant in San Diego. “I was in my car, headed toward this intersection, when I put on my signal and turned right into a shopping center. The driver behind me must’ve thought I was turning right at the intersection, and he slammed on his breaks and shook his fist at me. I’m checking into Betty Ford tomorrow.”

Psychologist Peter Bergen speculated that more and more everyday people were taking their cues from celebrities and politicians.

“Just as it’s a way to get the media off of Anthony Weiner’s back, for example, it’s also an effective way for others to deal with a variety of evils, miscues and slights,” Bergen said. “I used it just this morning. My wife got on me for not taking out the garbage last night, so I just told her, ‘well, I guess it’s off to rehab for me.’ It works great.”

Yet another enemy is eliminated

It’s been a great season for taking out evil-doers around the world who intend ill will toward Americans.

On May 2, a Navy Seal operation in Pakistan killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden. On Saturday, Fazul Mohammed, mastermind behind the terrorist bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was killed in a shoot-out with Somalian security forces.

The trend continued Sunday night when the hated LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates were eliminated from the NBA Finals.

Spontaneous celebrations erupted around the country, with crowds gathering in public squares to chant “U.S.A.!” and “Fourth Quarter Dud!”, a reference to James’s poor play during crunch time of the six-game series the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks.

“The King is dead,” shouted one celebrant in New York’s Times Square. “All hail (Mavericks star forward and series MVP) Dirk (Nowitzki)!”

The missing James was thought to be hiding in the locker room or perhaps in the lawless tribal regions of the parking lot. Instead, he was found in plain sight, physically on the basketball court but nearly invisible against the Mavs 2-3 matchup zone.

“He just disappeared during key moments of the game,” said ABC analyst Chris Mullin. “Nobody seemed to know where he was. And then, all of a sudden, the series was over and there was LeBron at the post-game press conference, talking about the fans having personal problems while he still had all that money and fame.”

Just as James finished answering reporters’ questions, authorities nabbed the two-time league MVP.

“We have some questions we want to ask him, like what he was thinking with that stupid ‘The Decision’ special, and that spectacle in Miami where he was introduced to Heat fans,” said an unnamed member of the special forces team that found and captured James. “As soon as we’re done with him, it’s off to the Indian Ocean.”

Congresswoman says don’t give up on Twitter

Legislators should not fear social media outlets, despite some recent and high-profile missteps. Instead, they should continue to embrace the new technology as a way to maintain two-way communications with their constituents.

That was the message yesterday during a seminar for members of the House and Senate given by first-term California Rep. Vicky Vagina (D-Stockton).

“This is exciting stuff. You want to burrow deep into this technology to reap all its benefits,” Vagina said. “Don’t be put off by any bad first impressions you might have. Keep hammering away at it, and members of your district will be ecstatic.”

Vagina urged congresspeople who want to use Twitter and Facebook to stick to the issues in their messages, and refrain from jokes, double entendres and photographs.

“Even though written communication can be misinterpreted, it’s still very effective,” Vagina told attendees. “If you think you’re being ‘too serious,’ just add a smiley face emoticon at the end, much like this one I have tattooed on my lower abdomen.”

As reporters and others held cellphone cameras high over their heads, Vagina stood to show her audience the symbol on her pubis.

“Ha, ha,” she commented. “This better not show up on the Internet.”

That’s racin’, though not necessarily entertainment

May 31, 2011

On Sunday, the biggest day in auto racing, Dan Wheldon passed what was left of rookie J.R. Hildebrand to win the Indianapolis 500, while in Charlotte, Kevin Harvick sped past an out-of-gas Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the Coca-Cola 600.

I could give a shit, but it’d be about as hard as staying awake watching droning cars drive in circles for hours at a stretch.

Despite my sad existence as a white middle-aged Southerner, I’ve never been a fan of auto racing. I look at the car as merely a vehicle to get from one place to another, not as a high-powered machine with the ability to burn more petroleum in one afternoon than exists in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

Turning the workaday routine of driving into a “sport” makes about as much sense to me as forming a league for those who are fastest at using an ATM or at tying their shoes.

But summer is here, and quality television has started its four-month hiatus. Flipping the dial on Monday afternoon for something to watch, it came down to cats from hell, Kardashians from hell, and swamp people. So I tuned in to the so-called “greatest spectacle in racing,” the Indy 500.

This was the 100th running of the Brickyard classic, and befitting such a long-standing institution, the race was filled with tradition. The racers gathered to kneel and kiss the hallowed road surface in one of the most unhygienic traditions in all of sport (second only to hockey champions’ ritual group-pee into the Stanley Cup). An honored guest was designated to announce the classic line “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines,” as if the drivers wouldn’t think of it unless reminded. The winner gets to drink a half-gallon of milk, exactly the kind of refreshment I’d be looking for after four hours in the stifling heat.

Amidst all this, they also held a car race, and it was one of the most exciting contests in history, or so I was told. For a while, someone I had actually heard of, GoDaddy spokeswoman Danica Patrick, was in the lead. She gradually fell behind a hard-charging Belgian named Baguette, who was then passed by Hildebrand, a driver making his first start at Indy.

Hildebrand had the race all but won when he rocketed into the final turn and crashed into a wall. His battered vehicle skidded toward the finish line only to be passed by the largely intact Wheldon. If any part of Hildebrand’s disintegrating ride had managed to be flung ahead of the wreckage, or any amputated piece of Hildebrand himself had skidded past the checkered flag, the rookie would’ve been the lucky winner pouring dairy products into his maw. Instead, it was the lactose-tolerant Wheldon who hoisted the Hallowed Half-Gallon to his lips in victory.

A few hours later, it was time for NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, held just up the road from my home near Charlotte. This is where the good ol’ boys race real cars, not those road-hugging open-wheel homo-mobiles they run at Indy.

Long a favorite of those whose necks tend toward the red persuasion, NASCAR has its traditions too. Some — like running large parts of the race under a caution flag because beer cans constantly roll onto the track — are as quirky as anything Indy might offer. Others — like adding a hundred miles to the 500-mile length of most races in a piteous attempt to make the contest 20% better — are just dumb.

Much of NASCAR’s tradition comes in the form of nepotism. Most drivers are related to other drivers in an attempt to appeal to the sport’s largely inbred fan base.

Two of the biggest stars were near the lead when I tuned in near the end of Monday’s race. Kyle Busch is the brother of Kurt Busch and made his most recent splash in the news by being ticketed for going 120 m.p.h. on a 45-m.p.h. road that fronted a nearby church and daycare center. He’s also well-known for looking like a pinhead.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the son of racing legend Dale Earnhardt Sr., who died in a 2001 crash at Daytona. “Junior,” as he’s called, has been the most popular driver on the circuit since his father’s death. Unfortunately, being related to someone with a particular skill doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll inherit that ability, as Junior’s career-long losing streak has shown. (See also the presidency of George W. Bush, the singing career of Frank Sinatra Jr., and the bankrupt barber shop run by Abraham Lincoln Jr.)

Earnhardt Jr. too looks like a bumpkin.

But approaching the end of the 600-mile race, he was a bumpkin who appeared ready to shatter his losing streak in spectacular fashion. Then he ran out of gas. On his previous pit stop, he had been careful to make sure the windshield washer fluid was topped off, that the cup holders were cleaned of pretzel crumbs and that the eight-track tape deck still worked. But while he was in Gomer’s store buying a Mountain Dew and a chaw, he had forgotten to ask his crew chief to “fill ‘er up.” Eventually, with the help of Triple-A, he coasted across the finish line in seventh place.

Earnhardt Nation, many of whom had been camping in the speedway’s infield for a week in anticipation of a breakthrough for young Dale, sat stunned that the same result that had happened in his 103 previous races had occurred yet another, 104th time.

I was not particularly impressed with the “drama” of such an exciting finish. I’d have preferred to see something different. Maybe having the Target race team’s pit crew, each wearing a large target on the back of their jumpsuits, run for their lives as other drivers aim oncoming cars at them. Maybe having a second race run simultaneously with the first one, but in the opposite direction.

Fortunately, I was able to switch channels and enjoy the rest of my Memorial Day weekend watching the Hub Channel’s “Batman” marathon. That Batmobile could win any race.

Fake News: Basketball semifinals feature real novices

March 29, 2011

HOUSTON (March 29) — Cinderella has taken over the Big Dance in the NCAA Final Four basketball championship this coming weekend. And not only will she be beautifully coifed, but she’ll also know how to drive safely, how to make clay pottery and how to count to ten in Spanish.

None of the four teams that will play for the men’s collegiate hoops title were expected to survive this far into the tournament. Top seeds and traditional powerhouses alike fell before inspired efforts by some of the smallest schools ever to make it this far in the annual 68-team competition.

In this Saturday’s first semifinal game, the Paul Mitchell Cosmetology School of Akron, Ohio, will face off against the World Famous Comedy Traffic School of Los Angeles. The evening matchup will pit Sunshine Divine’s Pottery Cooperative of Bangor, Maine, against Mrs. Haroldson’s third-grade Spanish immersion class from Delray Beach Elementary School in Florida.

“We didn’t even watch the tournament selection show on television, that’s how small we thought our chances were,” said coach and teacher Mrs. Haroldson. “It was only when one of the kids came in the next morning holding his father’s brackets and shouting ‘¡mira aqui!’ (look here!) that we knew we had made the tournament.”

Mrs. Haroldson said her class will often use some of their recess time playing with one of those multi-hole playground contraptions, throwing whatever balls, rocks or clumps of dirt they had handy into the hoops. She thinks it’s this experience that has allowed her collection of seven- and eight-year-olds to knock off the likes of Kansas, Ohio State and Georgetown in the run-up to the Final Four.

Opposing the children will be members of fabric artist and potter Sunshine Devine’s collective of aging hippie women from coastal New England. This group of 18-20 regulars has met every Tuesday night for over a year to learn how to turn unmolded wet clay into carefully crafted ceramics that often sell for upwards of $40 to $50 in the gift and curio shop run by Devine’s cousin.

“We got a lot of people into our little group by offering a free first lesson at throwing pottery. We called it ‘free throw’ night,” Devine said. “I guess I didn’t understand the basketball connection at the time, but we’ve really come on strong since then. Especially since (6-11 center) Windsong Anderson has developed into such a force in the paint.”

The first contest Saturday could be the more exciting match of the evening, when GED graduates from lower-class northeastern Ohio neighborhoods do battle with California drivers forced to attend traffic school to regain their licenses following DUI convictions. The beauty school attendants cite their experience of “being around basketball-shaped heads all day” as a primary reason for their rise to the top of the sport. The traffic school attendees claim their ability to weave in and out of traffic on crowded freeways has given them the knack to break free from the crowd and crash the glass in an attempt to claim rebounds.

“We’re the easiest online traffic school in the state. We show lots of videos and require very little reading,” said coach and actor/comedian Regan Burns, who also goes by the name “Captain Traffic.” “That gives our students’ minds the chance to wander, and set up some awfully creative inbound plays.”

LaTonya Carter, assistant professor of toenails and leg waxing at the Mitchell School, thinks her group of “wide bodies,” as she calls them, will allow the Fightin’ Beauticians to prevail in what’s expected to be a physical, defensive contest.

“Don’t you try to get all up in our grills, because we’ll beat you down,” Carter said. “My girls will put yo’ haid through the hoop just as easily as they’d put a basketball there.”

Enjoying the first day of my blogging retirement

March 22, 2011

Brett Favre, here.

First, let me offer a sincere thanks to those readers who were nice enough to comment on the Monday post announcing my “retirement” from blogging. Kym, Valerie, Paul and someone or something called “deyank,” I assure you that your kind words mean a lot. Your offer to commandeer a small plane and fly down to my Mississippi farm to physically drag me back to cyberspace was most appreciated.

Having had a full day now to think about my decision, I’m not quite ready to rescind it. It was very relaxing last night to attend to the routine details of everyday life — going to the dentist, taking a brief jog around the neighborhood, suffering a gut-wrenching session in the john thanks to some disgusting sealant hygienists are putting on people’s teeth these days — without having the pressure of producing a post hanging over my head.

Now, it’s Tuesday morning, and I’m sitting at work, getting tired of playing Scrabble and reading online stories like “Hillary Duff debuts new bangs on Twitter” and “Woman goes to court with monkey in bra.” (Sadly, no details on the monkey’s hairstyle). So rather than do any actual work, I’d like to try and explain further about my retirement decision.

One of the “undisclosed personal matters” I referenced yesterday has to do with a very ill member of my family. I got to thinking how counterproductive it must be to my karma to be constantly sniping snarkily at every subject under the sun. I’ve long prided myself on being a cynical curmudgeon, but that just seems like the wrong attitude to have when you’d give anything to see a close relative return to health. Doctors, friends and associates are much more willing to help and sympathize with a normal human being than with an anti-social a-hole.

My feelings began to crystallize when I was watching the NCAA basketball tournament over the weekend. I was griping to my son about not just the quantity of commercial interruptions, but also the lack of variety in the ads. With some of the games broadcast on small-time cable outlets like TNT and TruTV, there are only so many advertisers they’re able to round up. So the viewing audience is left to either watch for the twentieth time as the president of Sprint tells us how he looked up the word “unlimited” the other day, or blow their brains out.

However there was one commercial that, despite its incessant repetition, genuinely pulled at my heartstrings. It was the one of the dad offering safe-driving advice to his five-year-old daughter sitting behind the steering wheel of the family sedan. As he runs through the usual cautions, the fidgety little girl stops him cold with two words: “Daddy, okay.”  The interruption is so sincere, so true-to-life, and so touching, that I couldn’t help but tear up briefly at the thought of how fast our children grow up. In the next scene, the pre-schooler has evolved into a sexy hot teenage blonde beautiful young woman, and the voiceover notes how time passes so quickly where our kids are involved.

Then, to top it all off, Knut died. Knut was the zoo-born polar bear rejected by his mother at birth, slated for euthanasia, then saved by attendants who hand-raised the youngster while the world fell in love with the doe-eyed cub, forgetting that he’d grow up to be more than happy to sever your carotid with a single swipe of his paw. We all remember where we were the moment we heard that Knut had passed away. I was driving down a highway near my home, and had to pull over into the breakdown lane so I could break down.

Now, I’m trying to be a kinder, gentler Davis. And I’m trying to figure out how I can do that and at the same time write scathing, topical satire. As I work through this minefield, I anticipate I’ll be producing two or three new posts a week, published at no particular time of day, whenever the mood and the muse move me. If you’ve been a regular reader in the past, please continue to watch for me. And the occasional kind comment will be a thrill for someone in such a fragile, needy place right now.

So, like Brett Favre, I still want to play. I still think I can make an amusing contribution to someone’s day, I’m just not sure when and where it’s going to be. Brett is limited in how he can display his talents — scrambling away from adoring shoppers at the local Bi-Lo or throwing a quick down-and-in to a puzzled mailman surely give him some satisfaction. I hope to get the same feeling with my occasional posts.

And in a final homage to Brett, please enjoy the following photo of my lower torso. Sorry it’s draped in pants, but the New Davis doesn’t show his junk.

A Thursday peek at the mini-blog

February 24, 2011

Please enjoy the following highlights from my new mini-blog,


Teen singing sensation Justin Bieber struck back yesterday against critics of his new hairstyle, calling them “cockroaches and greasy rats” that he will “seek out and kill house by house in a river of blood.”

Bieber’s signature locks were lopped off Monday afternoon in preparation for a music video he’s planning to film with the country band Rascal Flatts. In a photo released later in the day, a spikey-haired Justin appears next to band member Jay DeMarcus. The 16-year-old Grammy winner sports a dazed look that has led some to suggest he may have been drugged, hypnotized, or held against his will.

“I am vowing to die here as a martyr, fighting to my last drop of blood, to defend the new ‘do,” Bieber tweeted to his fans. “You men and women who love Bieber … get out of your homes and fill the streets. Leave your homes and attack them (haircut opponents) in their lairs.”

Bieber suggested that many who preferred his old shaggy look were “serving the devil.” He charged that opponents were “drugging the children with hallucinogens, making them drunk and sending them to hell.”

Celebratory gunfire by Bieber supporters rang out in towns across the U.S. after the singer’s tweet, while in protester-held enclaves near major cities, people threw shoes at TV screens showing his image, venting their contempt.


I join with the people of Egypt to celebrate their great political victory. The removal of a long-entrenched tyrant who restricted his people’s freedom while looting their treasury is to be heartily commended. Let us hope it sets the precedent for outbreaks of freedom across the entire Middle East.

I also have a somewhat selfish reason for being glad to see the last of the man who ruled that ancient land for over 30 years. President Hosni Mubarak was last reported seen at a luxurious resort on the Red Sea, but it was thought this was just a prelude to him being exiled abroad. He can’t disappear from the world stage soon enough for my tastes.

That’s primarily because the rhythm of his name always reminded me of the 1978 disco hit “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow. Say them one after the other. Hosni Mubarak. Copacabana. See what I mean?

Here’s the song that’s been ricocheting around in my head for the last two weeks now:

His name was Hosni, Hosni Mubarak
He made the Egyptians feel heartsick
For he was Hosni, Hosni Mubarak
Graft and oppression were always in session with Mubarak

Now, with the vicious autocrat finally removed from power, perhaps I can think of some other Manilow song.

Oh, no! Not that one!

Well you came and you gave without taking
But I sent you away
Oh Kadhafi
Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today
Oh Kadhafi
I’m looking forward to the NBA All-Star game on TV tonight, but it’s been almost as much fun watching the lesser events surrounding the big weekend in Los Angeles.
Last night’s dunk contest featured a spectacular winning performance from Blake Griffin. Victories by James Jones in the three-point contest and by Stephen Curry in the skills competition weren’t quite as dramatic, yet still offered fans a chance to watch their heroes having a little fun.
I’m hoping that next year, we’ll see an expansion of these auxiliary events. I even have a few suggestions:
  • The 360-degree dunk is one of the most exciting moves in the sport. Taking it to the next level, a 720-degree move, seems physically impossible. But if you take the dunk out of the equation, I bet professional basketball players could rotate in mid-air along with the best ballerinas in the world. Let’s have a competition where they simply run to mid-court, jump, and twirl as much as possible before landing. The scoring would be based on the number of degrees completed. For extra entertainment value, make the players wear tutus.
  • Stage a game with a team made up entirely of child stars versus retired NBA veterans. Since Justin Bieber appointed himself so well in the celebrity game, there’s no reason to doubt that the likes of Dakota Fanning, Abigail Breslin, Jaden and Willow Smith and Angus T. Jones (the fat kid from “Two and a Half Men”) could make up a team competitive enough to take on Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, etc. To even up the competition a little, the young ones will be allowed to inflict blatant personal fouls on their much older, much taller opponents.
  • Pit the players whose last names begin with A through L against the players with names beginning with M through Z. Have the game officiated by employees from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Players names will be called when it is time for them to take a shot; otherwise, they need to wait patiently in their seats.
  • Have a game between the black all-stars and the white all-star. The white all-star will be able to choose four teammates from the audience.
  • Other possible ways to break up the teams: players under 6-2 versus players over 7 feet; players with tattoos versus players with headbands; and assist leaders who excel in passing against the “chuckers”. (Detail that’d need to be addressed in the latter format: the passing team might never score).
  • Stage a lay-up contest as a complement to the dunking contest. The ten tallest players would take turns making uncontested lay-ups, perhaps the simplest shot in basketball. As each player misses, he’d be eliminated until only the winner — who would be crowned sometime in late summer or early fall — is determined.
  • Set up two additional baskets at either side of the midcourt line so there’d be four goals total on the floor. Divide the all-stars into four teams by salary level. Use two basketballs instead of one, and enjoy the free-for-all that ensues.
  • Stage a game between players convicted of felons versus those convicted of misdemeanors. Overflow facilities could be set up out in the parking lot.
As spring-like temperatures spread through much of the country this weekend, watching The Weather Channel has become decidedly less fun.
A month ago at this time, TWC was my first choice for viewing whenever I sat down in front of the TV. Even if my own local weather wasn’t especially dramatic, I could watch the pitiful people who live farther north struggling with monstrous snow storms and assorted icing events. There’s little that’s more comfortable than snuggling into your heaviest blanket and watching others suffer through perhaps the worst winter in recent memory.
I’d like to see The Weather Channel take a cue from the folks at ESPN. That cable channel has branched out to a “family” of networks, offering ESPNU for college sports, ESPN-Classic which rebroadcasts especially memorable contests, and ESPN2 for people interested in games where the final score contained the number “2″. Why couldn’t The Weather Channel take on a similar expansion?
I would definitely watch a channel showing nothing but extreme weather, from snow and ice to tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and even volcanoes and asteroid strikes, if those latter two count as weather. Once every ten minutes, they’d have the “Local on the 8′s” insert, with forecasts for your area that include temperatures below zero, frozen locusts and thundersleet. You could even enjoy playing tricks on your friends and family, showing them the dire-but-fabricated forecasts and watching them turn as white as the melting snow.
Unfortunately, I’m not holding my breath for this premiere. Not if I expect it to come from people who don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.


How can we cover the weather if we’re not being pummeled by it?

Pittsburgh defeats Green Bay; hundreds feared dead

February 7, 2011

A rugged ground attack combined with a barrage of aerial firepower led Pittsburgh to defeat Green Bay in a classic match-up last night.

Not long after the Packers’ 31-25 defeat of the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, the invasion began. It’s not often in modern America that one city militarily attacks another, but yesterday’s onslaught showed what can happen when civic pride gets taken to an extreme, and fans of losing sports teams think of creative ways to vent their frustration.

Armed regiments from the Steel City’s Golden Triangle, South Side and Brookline neighborhoods conducted a pincer movement on the northeast Wisconsin city, blitzing to an easy triumph over outmanned forces. By early this morning, Green Bay Mayor James J. Schmitt had been captured by the Pitt army, and large areas of Brown, Kewaunee and Oconto counties lay in smoldering ruin.

“They were just too much for us to handle,” said Green Bay city councilman Arthur Hofstra, who barely escaped down U.S. 41 as his hometown fell to superior forces. “Their population is about 20 times ours. Our people fought bravely to hold off the invasion but in the end, all they could do was negotiate a ceasefire and surrender.”

Hofstra and two other councilmen set up a government-in-exile, operating out of the Holiday Inn Express in Appleton, Wisc., about 40 miles south of Green Bay. A small band of resistance fighters staged training exercises in the hotel conference room while their families enjoyed the free continental breakfast in the lobby early Monday morning. Some held out hope they’d soon be able to return to their homeland, while others were more resigned to a semi-permanent occupation of their former town.

“I’d like to think the United Nations might be able to at least send a peace-keeping force, to halt the brutality of their soldiers,” Hofstra said. “But their conquest was so total, I’m not sure we’ll be able to turn them back.”

The attack began late Sunday when a company of about 4,000 Pittsburghers approached the city from the south while another 3,000 invaders came pouring in through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to assault the city from the north. Blocks of pig iron were catapulted into the city from ships located just offshore in Lake Michigan. Wielding swords, machetes and axes made of heat-tempered steel, the fighters easily overpowered Green Bay citizens who attempted to defend themselves with plastic wrap commandeered from the area’s meat-packing plants.

Many in the Wisconsin city of about 100,000 donned their iconic cheeseheads in a desperate attempt to protect themselves, but the heavy metallic weaponry sliced through the cheese like a warm knife through butter. By early this morning, bodies littered the downtown area around Bay Park Square, with the odor of death only slightly mitigated by a pleasant cheddar-y smell.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl defended his city’s attack on a remote location hundreds of miles across the Great Lakes. He said preemptive action was necessary because of reports that Green Bay was developing weapons of mass destruction.

“We’ve built a very modern, very healthy city in recent years, but many of our people are lactose-intolerant,” Ravenstahl said. “We could not afford to stand by and watch while a foreign power built an arsenal of dairy products that could bring us to our knees.”

Ravenstahl also noted that Green Bay’s form of government, in which an unelected city manager appointed by the council has broad powers, did not give fair representation to its people.

“We have a democratically elected city government that helps protect our basic freedoms,” he said. “We sympathized with the people of Green Bay living under a virtual dictatorship, and were willing to send troops to help them achieve their freedom. City and county services must be consolidated, especially in areas such as finance, human resources and information technology.”

Ravenstahl said his city’s occupation of Green Bay would be as benign as possible, though he did promise a decisive response to pockets of insurgents still hiding out in the East Town Mall and in areas around Lambeau Field.

“Remnants of the old regime must be crushed, so we can move the city toward eventual free elections,” he said.

Ravenstahl pointed to previous campaigns waged by Pittsburgh in recent history as indications that an eventual withdrawal would take place once the enemy was fully pacified.

“We don’t want to make the same mistake we made in the seventies,” he said. “In 1976, we attacked and defeated Dallas, then brought our troops home a year later, only to have to return in 1979 to put down another uprising.”

He said he hopes to repeat the model established in 2006 versus Seattle and in 2009 versus Arizona, where a heavy military presence was slowly reduced while the two areas experimented with democratic values. Troops were finally removed from Seattle in early 2010, though Pittsburgh officials have discussed annexing Arizona as “New Southwest Pittsburgh” to provide lebensraum, or “living space,” for western Pennsylvanians looking to escape the region’s notoriously cold winters.

“We have settlements in the desert there that must be protected,” Ravenstahl said.

Red Cross officials on the scene dealing with the dead and wounded were able to offer a preliminary count of casualties by early Monday morning. They said 39 Pittsburghers were killed in the fighting and 177 Green Bay citizens lost their lives.

“Alright!” exclaimed Bradley Smith, who followed the fighting on TV throughout the day Sunday. “I had ‘9’ and ‘7’ in the office pool. I won $300!”

This Green Bay monument to the nation's first ShopKo store was toppled by liberating forces shortly after this picture was taken.