Blog

The ALCS Is Already Awesome, and It Should Stay That Way

The Yankees and Astros, with their combined 210 regular season wins, have been on a collision course to square off in this American League Championship Series since Opening Day. It was one of the few correct predictions I made before the season began, and that doesn’t exactly make me a prophet. It makes me part of the majority who thought this would happen. Through two games, you can’t necessarily say that the details of how we got here have played out predictably. But a series deadlocked at one game apiece with the venue shifting to the Bronx for Games 3 through 5 is certainly befitting of this clash of baseball titans.

The Yanks caught some good fortune in the ALDS round, simply by virtue of Houston having to throw Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in Games 4 and 5 just to dispatch the pesky Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers did what they had to do in Game 1. They combined a virtuoso pitching performance from Masahiro Tanaka, some great defense, and 5 RBI’s from wunderkind Gleyber Torres in a game they won 7-0. There really wasn’t much to dissect afterwords. The Yanks played a damn near perfect game. The Astros didn’t have an answer on that night. And that was that.

Game 2 was predictably tight from start to finish. Justin Verlander was dominant, save for a lead-off walk to DJ LeMahieu that was promptly followed by a two-run laser beam homer off the bat of Aaron Judge. James Paxton only lasted 2 1/3 innings for New York in which he allowed six men to reach base. Aaron Boone wisely didn’t let Paxton give it away early, and instead turned to Chad Green. He retired six in a row, before being removed with one out in the 5th in favor of Adam Ottavino. But his first-pitch slider to George Springer was hit roughly 800 feet to tie the game. It stayed that way until Carlos Correa’s walk-off homer off J.A. Happ in the 11th to give the Astros a much-needed 3-2 victory.

So now that the series is tied and the venue shifts to the Bronx, a few observations about how this has all played out so far.

The Game 2 loss was on the offense, NOT Aaron Boone

I’ll admit, I wasn’t crazy about the move to take Green out of the game for Ottavino in that spot. But even after Springer’s moon shot, the game was still tied. The fact that the Yankees got Verlander out of the game with the score still even should have been considered an advantage. But as the Yanks were burning through the best of their bullpen to put up zeroes, the offense went dormant. Consider this. Brett Gardner hit a single off the glove of Jose Altuve in the 6th that was alertly barehanded by Correa, who fired home to nail LeMahieu at the plate for the final out of the inning. The Yankees only got one more hit the rest of the ballgame, and it would seem to be that any reasonable person would place the brunt of the blame for the loss right there.

There really is no dispute as to which team has the better pen in this series. It’s the Yankees. But at the plate, they came up empty against Houston relievers Will Harris, Roberto Osuna, Joe Smith, Ryan Pressly and Josh James. That’s not to say that all of the guys I just mentioned are what you would call scrubs, but if the Yankees managed to scratch out a run against any one of them, then Jonathan Loaisiga and J.A. Happ wouldn’t have had to play major roles in such big spots in the extra frames.

The decision to send LeMahieu home was the right call, it just didn’t work out

As it played out live, I was livid that third-base coach Phil Nevin allowed the third out of the inning to be made at home plate, depriving the Yankees of a bases-loaded opportunity. However, after watching the wide angle replay, I can’t say I would have done it any differently. As the ball bounced away from Altuve, it sure did look like it was going to get far enough away to allow the play at the plate to at least be a lot closer than it ended up being. But give credit to Correa, who made a perfect heads-up play to cut LeMahieu down at home.

Two things about this. One, Gary Sanchez has had a really tough time at the plate lately and was anything but a guarantee to produce in the next at bat against Verlander. And two, I’m a firm believer that aggressive baserunning has a tendency to work out in big spots in the playoffs. You always want to put pressure on the defense to execute to perfection when possible, and in this case, the Astros did. A tip of the cap to them for that. But I can’t fault Nevin for sending LeMahieu there.

The middle of the Yankees lineup HAS to be better

With no Giancarlo Stanton last night, the Yankees needed someone to produce in the middle of their batting order, and it just didn’t happen. Even though Gardner did collect a pair of hits out of the 5-hole, Edwin Encarnacion and Sanchez combined to go 0-for-9 with six strikeouts, and Gardner also struck out twice. Adding Game 1 into the equation, Sanchez and Encarncacion are collectively 1-for-17 in the series so far with 10 K’s, and I don’t think I’m overreacting to say that just isn’t gonna cut it. I’ve seen a lot of tweets today clamoring for Sanchez to be benched in favor of Austin Romine, but I just can’t get on board with that…at least not yet. Here’s hoping that a day off and three home games will be the elixir for what ails those bats.

FOX’s in-game Charmin sponsorship was sublime

Ok, this is really all I wanted to write about today, so now that I’ve gotten all the bullshit about baseball out of the way I can talk about this Charmin graphic FOX used on the broadcast last night. I don’t remember what inning it was. Frankly, I don’t even remember what the premise of the graphic was. Apparently it was a comparison of the two second basemen. All I remember for sure was that at one point, Joe Buck (somehow keeping a straight face) introduced a graphic brought to us by Charmin toilet paper that was called “Charmin #2’s,” and by the time I stopped laughing, several innings had gone by.

Someone needs to hang this up in the Smithsonian

To get a sponsorship like that approved and then presented on an ALCS telecast makes me, like, unreasonably happy. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good poop joke. What I really want now is to just drop the subtlety completely and have Charmin sponsor a scoring summary graphic called “Who Has the Runs?” Depends could have sponsored that crazy Sanchez at-bat in the 11th inning as the “Pants-Shitting Moment of the Game.” Now that the door for poop puns on baseball broadcasts has been cracked ajar, let’s just kick that motherfucker down and really let it all hang out. Make it happen, FOX.

Anyway, Game 3 is Tuesday in the Bronx and should be another tight pitching matchup between Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole. The term “pivotal” really gets played out in these situations, but this game is literally the definition of the word. All I know is this series figures to go at least six and nothing is certain from here on out. Are we having fun yet? Well, my blood pressure has never been higher, so…yes?

Hey Sports Fans, It Ain’t All That Serious

As someone who spent a decade working in sports talk, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of how the medium works. At its core, the structure is based on finding things to argue about, picking a side, and then telling everybody why the other side of the argument is dumb and/or wrong. Now that I think about it, that’s kind of how every realm of media works nowadays. But at least when we’re discussing say, politics, we’re usually talking about issues that have some kind of impact on our lives or society at large. The struggle that sports conversations have at times is that we tend to grab at straws for things to yell about. The result is that we often find ourselves getting all kinds of worked up about things that frankly just don’t matter. Like at all.

There were a couple of examples of this that popped up recently that I think call for some of us to check the temperature of our jets and cool them significantly. Let me start with the underpants-twisting that occurred as a product of what went down in the Red Sox-Rangers game in Arlington on Thursday.

Mike Minor was the starting pitcher for Texas, and he had a significant personal milestone within reach. Nine strikeouts on the day would give him 200 for the season, and that would be the first time in his eight-year career he would have reached that mark. Seeing as how the Rangers and Red Sox had both been eliminated from playoff contention, the outcome of the game didn’t matter for any other reason other than pride. So Texas manager Chris Woodward allowed Minor to keep pitching until he got that 200th K…except that would prove to be easier said than done.

That was in large part because the Red Sox decided that they were as determined to not allow Minor to reach that milestone as Minor was to make it happen. That was made obvious when in the 8th inning, with Minor sitting one strikeout away from reaching the plateau, three consecutive Boston hitters feebly hacked at the first pitch purely with the intention of putting the ball into play. It was at this point that all pretense of this being a battle between two teams trying to win a baseball game was dropped.

So out came Minor to pitch the ninth, despite having already thrown a now almost unheard of 120 pitches. And that’s when things really got absurd. After a Sandy Leon fly-out to start the inning, Chris Owings popped up a 1-1 pitch into foul territory about 30 feet down the first-base line. As first baseman Ronald Guzman converged on the ball, Minor shouted at him to let it drop, which Guzman alertly did. That ran the count to 1-2, following which Minor got an extremely generous strike three call on a pitch that was clearly high and tight. One can only assume that home plate umpire CB Bucknor had seen enough of these teams trying to out-petty each other. But hey, Minor had his 200th strikeout and everyone could go home happy, right?

But that’s not where the story ends, because of course it isn’t. First, the two managers involved in this farce both took swipes at the other in their postgame comments in an effort to paint the other as the REAL bad guy in this situation. Alex Cora lauded his Red Sox for “playing the game the right way,” which is a weird way of describing a team that literally stopped even attempting to put together good at-bats in a game they were losing in the late innings. Woodward accurately mentioned in his presser that the Red Sox “kind of set the tone” by deciding to “not try to win the game.”

Lo and behold there were members of the media who couldn’t let this affront on the game of baseball stand without putting in their two grumpy cents. The Boston Globe‘s Pete Abraham huff-tweeted about how Minor’s 200 K’s “should have a big asterisk” because of how “unprofessional” his pursuit of that milestone was. I was delighted to see Minor himself respond to that tweet like this:

Why do I love this response so much? Because he’s exactly right. NO ONE SHOULD CARE THAT MUCH ABOUT THIS. If you can’t just be happy for a guy who has endured lost seasons due to injury for reaching a significant individual milestone, honestly, why do you even watch sports? Do you need something to be angry about that bad? The 200K storyline was literally the only significance to that game even being played at all. I say good for Mike Minor.

Yet that episode pales in comparison to the energy I’ve seen people waste getting all crabbed up over champagne celebrations for teams that clinch wild card berths. It seems that in the eyes of many a sports fan, despite these teams working since February towards the goal of putting themselves in a position to make the playoffs, that accomplishment warrants nothing more than a firm handshake.

Pictured here: Something people are mad about somehow (đź“·: John Minchillio, AP)

Seriously, just type “wild card champagne” into the search box on Twitter and observe how many of us are all bent out of shape that baseball players have the nerve to experience joy for a feat that two-thirds of the league only hoped to accomplish. Who are you people? Imagine if I suggested that someone who finally gets that new job they’ve been working toward for months shouldn’t celebrate that achievement because hey, IT’S NOT LIKE YOU’RE THE CEO YET. Do we realize how absurd that sounds? I’ve really had just about enough of this never-ending soul-sucking effort on the part of fans and media alike to attempt to remove any trace of fun from sports. IT’S SPORTS! This is supposed to be fun and entertaining. Why do we insist on making every single thing so businesslike and boring. It never ceases to blow my mind.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the most vomit-inducing aspects of sports is when athletes have fun or showcase their personality only for some wet log to say “But, but what about the integrity of the game?” Fucking spare me with that shit. Sports leagues have been riddled with scandal since the goddamn Black Sox were throwing games in the 1910’s, and yet we treat the Brewers popping bubbly as if they’re some kind of scourge that makes us yearn for the good ol’ days when soulless robots celebrated championships with a quiet “Huzzah” mumbled under their breath.

Don’t get me wrong. The point I want you to take from this is not that there’s NEVER anything to get upset about when it comes to sports. There are plenty of things that I feel strongly about that I think are worthy of anger. For example, I think it’s outrageous that Colin Kaepernick has been shunned from the NFL simply for having the balls to say out loud that maybe something ought to be done about bad cops killing black people with impunity. I think Major League Baseball did a terrible job not allowing the Mets to wear hats that paid tribute to first responders on 9/11. The NHL can’t seem to go more than ten years at a time without a work stoppage under Gary Bettman’s watch. These are things to be justifiably upset about. But when we’re talking about a meaningless September baseball game getting sidetracked for one player’s quest for 200 strikeouts, or a team popping bottles after working their asses off for a playoff spot, count me among those that just don’t see what the problem is.

We’re all so on edge all the time nowadays, and one of the byproducts of that seems to be that we reach for things to be pissed about. I understand that any topic that can be spun into a two-sided debate is the kind of content that keeps people tuned in to sports talk shows and the like. But for Christ’s sake, let’s try to be a little bit more selective about the things we allow to grind our gears. I promise we’ll all be much better off for it in the long run.

What We Definitely, Probably, Maybe Know About the NFL So Far

Perhaps more than any other sport, the NFL season has a way of flying by in what feels like the blink of an eye. And faster than you can say Tua Tagovailoa, each NFL team’s regular season is one-eighth complete with Week 2 officially behind us. Week 3 gets underway tonight. It is a Jaguars game, so you’d be forgiven if you don’t really care unless you’re starting Gardner Minshew in your fantasy league for some reason. If so, my heart goes out to you. But with two whole weeks of football in the books, there’s no better time than now to make some hard and fast declarations as to which teams are good and which ones are terrible based on that two-game sample. This is just what we do in the world of sports punditry. What am I supposed to do? Wait until the end of October to pretend I have well-informed insight? Thanksgiving? CHRISTMAS??? No, I believe in seizing the present to spout off opinions that definitely need more time to develop before I can pretend I know what I’m talking about. So here I go acting like I know a lot based on watching a little.

These Teams Are Very Good and Should Be Feared

Have you heard about these New England Patriots? It turns out that when they play football games, they generally win them. The addition of Antonio Brown just adds an extra layer of villainy to their already detestable standing as perennial Super Bowl favorite. But rest assured, this team is very good and the majority of good citizens outside of the greater Massachusetts area already appropriately hate them for it. You don’t need me to tell you to do that. It’s as automatic as Garfield hating Mondays.

Although according to this coffee mug, he’s actually quite fond of the Pats, so…bad analogy?

The Kansas City Chiefs are quarterbacked by the most exciting player in the league in Patrick Mahomes and are off to a 2-0 start. This team is going to score a buttload of points and should probably be considered the most likely to rid us of our annual New England nightmare. However, because the universe is cold and cruel, I fully anticipate they will lose in heartbreaking fashion when the AFC Championship Game is inevitably played in Foxboro come January.

The Baltimore Ravens are one of my favorite stories so far, simply because they have a quarterback who lots of people thought should be a running back when he came out of college. Instead, Lamar Jackson has carved up defenses through the first two weeks. Granted, those defenses belonged to the Dolphins and Cardinals respectively, but 82 points in two weeks is nothing to just write off. As much talk as there was about the Browns overcoming years of being doo doo and having a decent shot of actually winning the AFC North this offseason, Baltimore appears as though they will be the tallest hurdle that Baker Mayfield and co. will have to leap over to get there.

I’m putting the Los Angeles Rams on this list for a few reasons. First, they were in the Super Bowl last year and I don’t have any reason to believe that was a fluke. But more importantly, they’re off to a 2-0 start without Jared Goff having played all that great. That description certainly applies more to his overwhelmingly blah performance in Week 1 against Carolina than his respectable showing this past week against New Orleans. But if and when he consistently performs up to his number-one-overall pick potential, the Rams will be very dangerous. Todd Gurley is a nightmare to tackle and Aaron Donald spearheads a defense that has shown itself to be one of the best in the league at creating turnovers. I expect them to be just fine in the only division in football that has three teams off to a perfect start.

These Teams Are Very Bad and Should Feel Bad About Themselves

The Miami Dolphins might be the worst football team ever assembled, and strangely that’s kind of the point. This is the NFL version of the team from Major League where the unstated goal is to find a collection of players who are bad enough to ensure that they will lose as often as possible. The results through two weeks couldn’t possibly be more laughable. These dead fish have been outscored by a combined 102-10 in their first two games. Unless Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard becomes sentient and learns how to fend off a pass rush, the likelihood of this team winning a game this year appears to be somewhere between not great and no chance in hell.

That beard tho…
đź“·: Washington Post

UPDATE: Fitzpatrick and his beard have reportedly been relegated to back up in favor of a clean-shaven Josh Rosen

My New York football Giants have been run incompetently for several years now, and their sixth 0-2 start in the last seven seasons is hardly a surprise. It’s nothing short of depressing to see what has become of the twilight of Eli Manning’s career. That potentially Hall of Fame career now appears to have officially struck midnight with Eli being benched in favor of sixth-overall pick Daniel Jones, who actually looks like what would happen if the Lego company tried to make an Eli Manning.

Collect the whole set!
đź“·: USA Today

I understand that the Giants’ problems extend far beyond the quarterback position and in fact don’t even start there, but the glory days of this franchise are so far back in the rear view mirror, they have completely faded from sight. Bartender, I need a new drink. I seem to have spilled my tears into this one and it’s gotten a little salty.

Alas, the Giants are not the only dumpster fire of a football team that calls Metlife Stadium home. The Jets are off to another one of their “same old Jets” starts to the year. They are also 0-2, and have managed to lose one quarterback to mononucleosis and another to a gross-looking ankle injury. Something called a Luke Falk is now their starter for likely at least the next two games and perhaps longer. The good news is those games will be against a couple of pushovers in the Patriots and Eagles. Oh wait, those teams are actually pretty goddamn good. Well at least the schedule should get favorable once Sam Darnold presumably returns in Week 5, right? Checks schedule, sees Cowboys Week 5 and Patriots (again) in Week 6. Well, Gang Green nation. There’s always next year.

Bless Tim Burke for this Sam Darnold graphic generator so I can bring you this important PSA

The Pittsburgh Steelers were not supposed to be a part of the bad list when the year began. But now that they are 0-2 and Ben Roethlisberger has been ruled out for the season, it’s hard to imagine things getting much better for them. The Donte Moncrief signing wasn’t necessarily supposed to be akin to the second coming of Jerry Rice, but he has been about as bad as could be so far. After catching 3 of his 10 targets for a whopping 7 yards in his Pittsburgh debut, he was targeted just once in Week 2, and that was a pass that bounced off of his hands and was promptly intercepted. At least they wouldn’t do anything foolish like trade a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick, except that’s exactly what they did on Monday. The question that remains is can Mason Rudolph turn this team’s fortunes around? Granted, he looked pretty good in almost leading them to a comeback against Seattle. But as I’ve already made clear, it’s my job to make grand declarations based on basically nothing, so my answer is no and he probably shouldn’t even try. But while we’re on the subject of having to fill in for injured quarterbacks…

Look At All These Injured Quarterbacks!

Roethlisberger is done for the year. So is Nick Foles. Drew Brees is out six weeks. Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz have no business still being alive after getting squashed by large football men this past week. I’ve already talked about Sam Darnold coming down with smoochies disease in addition to his backup Trevor Siemian having his ankle reduced to shrapnel.

I’m really sorry, Sam. In all sincerity I wish you a speedy recovery.

All this is before I even mention Cam Newton, who I can’t be convinced isn’t dealing with some kind of injury, whether it’s related to his surgically repaired shoulder or not. It’s only a matter of time before NFL quarterback is being featured on that World’s Most Dangerous Jobs show on History Channel or TLC or whatever the fuck network it’s on. One thing’s for sure. No matter how many QBs go down, NFL teams will surely try to resurrect Bart Starr before they give Colin Kaepernick a call. That’s because as has been firmly established by now, the only unforgivable sin in the NFL is kneeling for the national anthem. No really, it’s a wonderful sports league. Oh boy, it seems my eyes have rolled so far back in my head I can’t see anymore. Oh well.


So there you have it. Two weeks in the books and I think I know everything. Despite the fact I’ve covered less than half of the league in this piece, I think we all know what’s going to go down the rest of the way by now. Sure, there are a bunch of teams that are off to good starts that will probably come crashing down to earth in the weeks to come (looking at you, Buffalo), as well as some teams that have some kinks to work out before they make a push for a playoff spot (looking at you, should-be-winless Atlanta). Now let’s all look forward to Week 3, after which much of what I said here can and should be completely disregarded. LET’S PLAY SOME MORE FOOTBAW!

They’re Not This Dumb, They’re Bullshitting You

Wading into the waters of political discussion on the Internet is a lot like jumping into a shark tank. But there was an exchange on Twitter this past week that I think really highlights where we’re at nowadays, and I want to talk about it for a minute here.

Let me first state clearly that I am not what you would call a Chuck Schumer fan. I believe he has been mostly feckless in his current position as Senate minority leader. However, he sent out this tweet last week in which he starts by stating a fact supported by scientific data:

Now, whether or not you agree that climate change is the greatest threat facing our planet – it is – I don’t think it’s audacious to say that there is cause for concern when you consider that July was the 415th consecutive month that global temperatures were higher than 20th century averages.

Alternatively, you could be Texas senator John Cornyn, who quote tweeted Schumer and inserted his own commentary on the issue by proclaiming with all the gravitas of a wet fart: “It’s summer, Chuck.”

Let me count the ways that this is a dumb thing to say. For starters, the entire southern hemisphere of the planet could respond by simply saying, “It’s winter, John.” Second, even if it was summer everywhere – it isn’t – this is surely not the first time we’ve ever had summer. In fact, there have been…(counts on fingers)…like, a lot of them over the course of human history. We should be able to agree that it’s a bad sign that the five hottest years ever recorded were (in order) 2016, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2014. You might recognize those as the last five years in a row.

Needless to say, Cornyn was shredded for his quip in the replies. A reasonable person might have been willing to just take the L and move on. But not Cornyn. No, he decided to double down.

This is a classic cop out. Say something stupid and then tell everyone you were just kidding. Here’s the thing, though. Where’s the joke in what he said? I can’t find it. “You ever notice how summer is hot?” is not the kind of zinger that’s gonna land anyone a Netflix comedy special. But more to the point, what Cornyn is unwittingly admitting here is one of two things. He’s either really that dumb, or he’s purposefully obfuscating to make people think of climate change as something worth joking about instead of acting on. And I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.

It speaks to the larger strategy at play here from people who have a financial interest in keeping climate change solutions at bay. They’ve turned this into a political issue, which it really shouldn’t be. Ensuring the planet is inhabitable should be stakes in which every person has a vested interest, regardless of party lines. But somehow, it’s become an issue of belief, as if debating the merits of the science portending a global crisis is akin to talking about the existence of ghosts.

Climate change conversations should be data based. And the data says we’re fucked if we don’t take considerable steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But of course, reducing greenhouse gas emissions means placing regulations on industry, which is clearly a no go for those holding political power in the United States at the moment. Hence the withdrawal from the Paris accord. Hence the elimination of endagered species protection. Hence the rolling back of common sense environmental regulations. Hence the use of climate change as a punchline instead of a threat. And hence on and henceforth.

You see, it’s a game to these people. Large donors from influential corporations will continue to line their pockets to keep telling you that all of this is nothing to worry about. It’s a dangerous game in which the survival of future generations is on the line. But it’s not just on climate change that this strategy is applied. It seems no matter the issue, they’re going to at least attempt to do this dance to convince you that it’s really not all that important as long as corporations and wealthy special interest groups have carte blanche to do whatever they want.

When sensible gun legislation is introduced, they’ll tell you that it just won’t work, despite the fact that it has for every developed nation outside of the United States. They’ll say you can’t legislate crazy, even as they oppose or eliminate background check programs that would help to prevent guns from falling into the hands of the mentally ill. They’ll legislate women’s reproductive rights to protect the unborn fetus instead of the woman being forced to carry a baby to term even if that pregnancy is the product of rape or incest. Iowa congressman Steve King – whose track record permits him to be politely described as a racist reptile – went so far as to say the following:

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?”

Steve King, an asshole

In King’s case, this might actually be a genuine belief that he holds. I can’t stress enough how much of a prick he is. But more often than not, politicians of his ilk are beholden to their corporate masters and will use whatever coded language they need to use to make sure that their interests are prioritized over those of the people who vote them into office. That point could easily be directed at people on both sides of the aisle, but it’s my observation that Republicans do seem to be more brazen about it.

The point is, don’t let these bullshitters razzle dazzle their way past your sensibilities. They’re going to keep trying to tell you that you’re crazy for feeling the way you do by reframing warranted concern as you getting all bent out of shape over nothing. But you’re not crazy.

Just remember that the battle here is not with the people who vote for these cretins. Those in power love nothing better than when we get caught up sniping at each other when they’re the ones that should be held accountable. That’s why you’ll notice that none of my anger in this piece has been directed at voters. I’m doing my best not to judge anyone for using their vote in whichever way they see fit, even if I don’t see how it’s possible to turn a blind eye to so much of the cruelty on display in Washington these days. There’s so much to be pissed off about every day that it’s easy to become exhausted by it all. In many ways, that’s part of the strategy. So let’s try to keep it focused. And here’s to hoping we can vote these clowns out of office as soon as possible.

5 Weird Sports Terms We Never Thought to Question

Sports can be funny sometimes. Seemingly every night on the highlight show of your choosing, you might watch something that you’ve never seen before. Something so wacky it seems to defy all semblance of logic or reason. But perhaps nothing about sports is stranger than some of the terminology that gets used to describe particular recurring events. Here are five examples of weirdo sports terminology that we throw around as if they’re normal things to say, and everyone just goes along with it.

Baseball: Golden Sombrero

This refers to when a batter strikes out four times in the same game. I guess since doing just about anything three times in a game can be referred to as a “hat trick” – which really should be a hockey/soccer term exclusively – baseball people decided to double down on the hat reference and just make it bigger. Something I learned today: According to Baseball Reference, striking out five times in a game is known as a platinum sombrero. Sammy Sosa is the all-time leader in that category with four. But at least they didn’t go any further than that. I mean, no one would be silly enough to coin a term for the ultra rare six strikeout performance…Wait, check that. Apparently, that’s called a titanium sombrero. Well, one thing’s for sure – whether figuratively or literally – no one wants to wear that hat.

Hockey: Apple

This is a cutesy slang name for an assist. Why? Well after doing some thorough research into the term’s origins, it turns out there is a very deep and elaborate explanation for this. It’s because – and stay with me here – assist and apple both start with the same letter. No, seriously. That’s the reason. By that logic, I propose a motion to start referring to goals as grapefruits. As in, Connor McDavid had a really good game tonight. Two grapefruits and an apple on his stat line. Mmmm, nutritious!

Soccer/Basketball: Nutmeg

This refers to when an offensive player either dribbles or passes the ball directly between the legs of a defender. If you’re not sure where this term came from, but you’re thinking, “There’s no way that’s actually a testicle reference, is it?” …Well yes, it absolutely is. After looking into this further, I discovered this little tidbit on Wikipedia that provides an alternative explanation:

Another theory was postulated by Peter Seddon in his book, Football Talk – The Language And Folklore Of The World’s Greatest Game. The word, he suggests, arose because of a sharp practice used in nutmeg exports between North America and England. “Nutmegs were such a valuable commodity that unscrupulous exporters were to pull a fast one by mixing a helping of wooden replicas into the sacks being shipped to England,” writes Seddon. “Being nutmegged soon came to imply stupidity on the part of the duped victim and cleverness on the part of the trickster.” 

I suppose it is more fun to say someone got nutmegged than it is to say they were Trojan horsed. But let’s be serious. I’m not buying this importer/exporter explanation. I know a balls reference when I see one.

Football: Pooch Punt

This describes a short kick designed to prevent a long return, but you’d be forgiven if you think it sounds more like the kind of thing that would get your PETA membership revoked. When you consider there is also a football play known as a flea flicker, I’m starting to think that there’s some kind of odd connection between dogs and football.

But while we’re on the subject of football, you may have heard the term Monday morning quarterback used to describe someone who uses the power of hindsight to critique a football team’s decision making. Well, today I learned that there is a European equivalent used with soccer critics. That term is Thursday morning tippy tappy. I swear I’m not making that up. My life is appreciably better for knowing this. I hope you now feel the same way.

Baseball: A couple of ways we describe curveballs

I can understand why a baseball commentator would describe a curveball as a bender or a hook. Those are quite clearly desriptions of the movement the pitch makes as it approaches home plate. Even referring to it as a deuce makes sense, because the catcher will put down two fingers to signal for that pitch. But where on earth did we come up with the term yakker? That sounds more to me like that one friend of yours who just doesn’t know how to hold their liquor. They know who they are.

But hands down, my favourite curveball word is the term Uncle Charlie. I mean, WHAT? In trying to find the origin of this, I stumbled across a website which offers what can be generously described as a convoluted explanation:

Some historians of the game say the term is connected to CB Radio use in the 1970s.  Some CB radio users at the time referred to the Federal Communications Commission as “Uncle Charlie”.  They say the slight connection between“Curveball” (CB) and CB Radio somehow allowed the term “Uncle Charlie” to jump this very loose connection.

sportsfanfocus.com

A “very loose connection” indeed. I’d have an easier time accepting that the person who coined this term simultaneously had a hard time hitting the curve, and a grumpy uncle they never wanted to invite over for dinner. Uncle Charlie? I never want to see him. The pitch or the person.

Got any other ridiculous sports terms that require more of an explanation? Leave them in the comments below. You can also find me on Twitter (@MaxMadeATweet) or on Instagram (@maxmadeagram). Holler at me any time. I’ll see ya next week!

The Yankees Do Nothing, and Will Probably Win Nothing

The MLB Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the first-place New York Yankees have decided that what they have is enough to win a World Series this year. Well, at least what they’ve decided is that they weren’t willing to part with any top-tier prospects to bolster a pitching staff that has scuffled its way through the last few weeks since the All Star break.

In a vacuum, it’s hard to have an enormous problem with the decision not to thin out a promising prospect pool for the kinds of pitchers that were available at the deadline this year. Once it became clear that the thought of Noah Syndergaard in pinstripes was nothing more than a talk radio caller’s pipe dream, it honestly didn’t make a ton of sense to part with a player the likes of Clint Frazier or even Deivi Garcia to land someone like Robbie Ray. That’s true even if Frazier seems to have fallen out of favor with the front office and doesn’t appear to have a spot on this team in any capacity, at least for this particular season.

But it certainly isn’t a good look for Brian Cashman and Co. when you consider the Houston Astros managed to snag Zack Greinke from the Diamondbacks on the same day he pitched against the Yankees in the Bronx. The Astros’ rotation was already a cut above that of the Yanks, and now the argument could be made that Houston’s worst starter is at least as good as New York’s best.

I’m not at all what you would call a slave to statistics – especially a stat like ERA – but when you consider that there isn’t a single Yankees’ starter with an earned run average below 4.00, it’s impossible to argue that starting pitching wasn’t and isn’t a glaring need on this team. What the Yankees’ hierarchy is essentially telling its fan base is that they plan on winning playoff games by scoring a ton of runs. That isn’t necessarily an empty threat considering the depth of their lineup, but I think we’ve all seen enough postseason baseball to know that generally isn’t how things work.

Sure, there’s a possibility that Luis Severino could return in September and re-assert himself as the ace of the staff. Yes, Dellin Betances could come back and add another dynamic arm out of the bullpen so that the starters won’t be required to go six or seven innings deep come October. But count me among the Yankee fans who just doesn’t see how the Bombers can win a seven-game series against a team like Houston as things are currently constructed.

Make no mistake, this Yankee team is one of just a handful in the league that can be considered championship quality. But watching the pitching staff labor to get outs against the high-powered offenses of the Twins and Red Sox last week was enough to instill more than just a little bit of doubt that they are up to the task. Should they fail to win it all this year, the vitriol that much of the fan base will hurl at the front office will be expected, and frankly, deserved.

It goes back to the offseason when they decided they didn’t need someone like Patrick Corbin enough to pay top dollar for him over six years. Even as Dallas Kuechel remained unsigned through the first two months of the season, the Yanks allowed themselves to be outbid by Atlanta, even though he only ended up signing a one-year deal for $13M. To snooze their way through the trade deadline while Greinke, Marcus Stroman and Trevor Bauer all changed uniforms doesn’t really make much sense to me when you consider how quickly championship windows can close.

There are arguments to be made about whether or not those three guys in particular would be a good fit for New York, but barring a spectacular turnaround, it certainly doesn’t seem like the investments the Yankees did make in J.A. Happ and C.C. Sabathia were the answer. Domingo German has been a revelation, but the more his innings pile up, the less likely it is that he is a factor come playoff time. I still believe in Masahiro Tanaka as a reliable postseason stalwart, but his performance of late has left a lot to be desired. And as far as James Paxton goes, it’s hard to look at his first year in pinstripes as anything other than a disappointment at this point.

When you get right down to it, the Yankees had a need to address and they chose not to do it. That doesn’t mean they’re punting on the season or anything like that. After all, as I write this they hold an 8-game lead in the American League East and there is no reason at all to fear that they will let that slip. The concern obviously lies in what will happen when they find themselves having to find a way to get 27 outs against Houston, Boston or Minnesota without being outscored four games out of seven.

It’s hard to write a piece like this without sounding like a typical spoiled Yankee fan, but the fact remains that it has been a decade since this team won a ring. I know, I can already hear the fans of championship-starved franchises playing tiny violins for me, but I just think it would be a damn shame for the Yanks to waste another year with this marvelous lineup only to come up empty-handed.

This attitude of “Well, we can just sign Gerrit Cole in the offseason and everything will be fine!” just doesn’t cut it for me. For one, I want to win THIS year. And second, what indication has this team given you in the way they’ve conducted their business over the last several seasons that they would actually pull the trigger on a multi-year megadeal for a pitcher that will be turning 29 in September? If they end up talking themselves out of doing such a thing, I can’t say I’d find myself surprised.

Before I end this piece on such a critical note, I want to make sure I point out that Cashman does deserve a ton of credit for the diamonds in the rough he has found when it comes to position players. Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Cameron Maybin have all played excellent baseball since putting on the pinstripes. Mike Tauchman has been a pleasant surprise even if he’s played a more regular role than was designed for him at the start of the season.

But the reason why they say pitching and defense wins championships is because that has borne itself out to be true more often than not. It’s hard to make the case right now that the Yankees have enough pitching to pick them to win in October. It would be wonderful if I get proven wrong. Here’s hoping that August and September sees the Yankees’ staff piece it all together. But Andy Pettitte isn’t walking through that door.

An Ode to otis

I’ve been quiet on this blog lately. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here. That’s not really for any particular reason other than the fact that I’ve been a little bit lazy. But there is also another reason. The last few weeks in particular have been filled with anticipation in my apartment. That’s because my brother, Sam, who some of you may already know as maSHerman, has been campaigning his debut album, otis. And honestly, it’s the only thing I’ve really wanted to write about. But I knew that I had to wait until today to do that.

That’s because this past Friday, otis was finally released and is now available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music or any other music streaming service you might subscribe to. I could go on and on about how beautifully written and produced this record is, but instead, this piece is going to be more about what my experience has been watching it all come together.

otis is a relationship album in every sense of the term. It’s a true story that he lived through, and it transformed the way he views life, love, faith and fate. I’m not going to get into the intricate details of that story here because it’s not mine to tell. Sam has found another way to do that himself, and that will be shared with you some time this week. But suffice to say, otis is an album that has literally taken years to come together.

It was some time early last year that Sam shared with me a complete track list of instrumentals consisting of what otis was intended to be. He walked me through the concepts behind each song. Originally, otis was essentially going to be a recreation of this relationship. It was going to be very narrative-heavy and some of his production choices were purposefully jarring to represent individual moments, like the night they broke up for instance. The idea for the overall concept of the album was that he was going to take these two characters and trap them on an album together. One character was going to be this ideal and unrealistically perfect female. The other would be the role that he felt he played in this relationship: an obsessive, overbearing male.

Sam spent a lot of time and energy working towards creating that version of otis. He got as far as releasing two songs last year that were originally supposed to be album cuts. You might know them as Signals and Facetime. Those two songs are still availble to listen to on the streamers, and they provide a great insight into what otis came very close to sounding like. But as he continued to try and create this angsty, true-to-life recreation of the story, he began to feel as though he was missing the mark.

For one thing, it seemed from my perspective that trying to get in the headspace of transcribing the more difficult experiences he went through in and after this relationship was not doing him any favors in terms of his mental health. I mean, he was actively trying to relive traumatic memories, which is not something I would recommend to anyone. But I understood why he was doing it from an artistic perspective. More importantly though, he came to the realization that he was writing this album with the wrong approach.

Sam’s thought process as it relates to the story of this relationship had matured over time. He had found solace in music and in this wonderful community of artists that he surrounds himself with. He was in a better place, even if he wasn’t free from the attachment that he still felt to this person he was writing about. Frankly, he felt like the whole vibe of this album was wrong. In fact, he felt like an idiot for approaching it that way.

That’s when he wrote the song Stupid Stupid, another track which is currently available to stream. This marked the official turning point in the development of otis. It was right around this time that Sam took that original playlist of instrumentals – which I might add also had full lyric sheets attached to them – and scrapped the whole damn thing.

He had his new direction. He knew how he wanted to approach this album and was resolute in the idea that he was finally going to do this the right way. He just needed that first song to get the ball rolling. But I don’t think either of us would have guessed that it would have been something that happened in my life that would have accomplished that.

It was this past January. I was beaming with excitement because a girl I’m very close to was coming back to Vancouver to visit for the first time since she had left town to go travel across Europe. I hadn’t seen her since we had taken a trip to Paris together in September. But we were having communication issues. To make a long story short, I assumed that she would be staying with me that week. So when she told me the day she was to arrive that she was actually going to be staying at her friend’s place, I was dismayed and confused. There was clearly something she needed to tell me, but for whatever reason she couldn’t bring herself to let me know what was going on in her head.

I vented about this to Sam for about an hour. Needless to say, he related heavily to the concept. Eventually, I decided to go out and take a walk to clear my mind. I came back about 45 minutes later to find Sam in the living room with his guitar in hand. He told me he had just written a song and asked if he could play it for me. And that’s when I heard this hook for the first time:

Why can’t you just talk to me?
What are you scared of?
Is there something you’re hiding that you just can’t get rid of?
Where do you go?
You don’t have to leave me alone
You’re welcome in my heart and in my home
But you gotta talk to me

talk to me

He had a verse to go with it. Within minutes, he had his studio set up to record and started laying it down. And to my delight, he invited me to write a verse of my own. So I did. And that, ladies and germs, is how talk to me became the first song that was married to the otis track list. It would eventually be the first official single for the album, complete with music video and everything. It was after that song was written and recorded that things began to snowball creatively.

Over the course of the next few months, otis started coming together bit by bit. His music family, NYHLA Records, had a group writing session not long after which helped him add to his track list. That was the night that am i enough materialized after Sam got into a room with Micah Berlow, a magnificent guitarist for the band Ghulo, as well as uber-talented singer/songwriter and eventual NYHLA signee, Biawanna. The combination of Micah’s guitar with Biawanna’s beautifully written hook helped to make that track an obvious lock for the album, and it too would become a single.

When I call you, I try out a joke, say, “Hi, is this the girlfriend store?”
You say my tired voice might just be the cutest thing that you ever heard before
You say you love me and you wish I was beneath you
I said I kinda am, that’s why I don’t believe you
Am I ruinous?
Why am I like this?

am i enough

I was in the room for the writing process on most of the songs on this album, which is something I will always remember. Make no mistake, I believe my role in the development of this album is a relatively small one, but there are moments throughout this project that have my fingerprints on them, and that is such a cool thing for me to experience.

I particularly remember being present for the writing session for caught, which was a song designed to be a nod sonically to the days Sam and I would listen to tons of pop punk music. If you hear blink-182 type instrumentation and harmonies on that track, I assure you that’s no accident.

You know, it’s hard to give me stage fright since I sing and play guitar
But now that I got what I wanted I’m the dog that caught the car

caught

There were also days I would come home from work to find Sam putting the finishing touches on a new song. Listening to otis, part one for the first time was eye-opening. That song is literally the perfect intro track because it encapsualtes the thesis of the album in a delightfully creative way.

I hate these boys who sing about girls and make us feel bad for them
I hate these boys who sing about girls like “Oooh, she the one”
I hate these boys who sing about girls and say, “This woman is my world”
Cause they’re all trash and they’re all wrong, except for me

otis, part one

otis, part two might be the most enjoyable listen on the entire project. It’s a delightful country bumpkin love song that Sam wrote and recorded on Valentine’s Day. Before he had that song on the track list, I remember him joking about how he had somehow neglected to write an actual love song on this album about love. Well this track checked that box and then some.

You’re my favorite album of all time
I can’t believe you were mine
I hope you know that my love runs deeper than my experience with signs
I could listen to you talk about slugs and mushrooms every day
I think your art’s as cool as your taste and your brilliant mind
Also, you’re fine

otis, part two

I think the song that really put this whole thing over the top for me was the night that I came home and was treated to the song limerent for the first time. Don’t get me wrong. I had been thoroughly pleased by everything he had created until that point, and I already knew that this album was going to be a hit. But limerent is just so goddamn impressive. It moved me to my core. The guitar riff is one of my favorites on the entire album, and Sam also provides arguably his best vocal performance of the record on that track.

O my love, get out of my sight
No matter where you’re always there to flash before my eyes
I try to make your bed somewhere outside my head
And let you go, but we both know you’ll find a way back in

limerent

The hardest slot on the project for him to fill was easily Track 9. At one point the song that filled that space was a whole ass rap song called music is tight. When Sam decided that wasn’t appropriate, he wrote a song called ttyl, which was designed to be upbeat and served the purpose of tying a nice, happy bow around this whole story. It was a good song, but the problem was that it didn’t feel like an authentic representation of what he felt.

It wasn’t until Joan Carver – one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets – played a beautiful guitar melody that Sam knew he had the direction for what Track 9 should sound like. And out of that instrumental, camellia was born. It’s a song that more accurately represents his feelings, and it may be my favourite song on the project. In my mind, it’s a perfect song.

There’s a beauty in the gray I feel
That’s why I live where it rains all year
No, I’ll release you in the summer
And appreciate the colour
I’ll release you in the summer

camellia

There’s really only one song left that I feel like I need to talk about here, and I purposely saved it for last. It’s also the last song on the album, although technically, it was the first one to be written. Last month on this blog, I wrote a detailed piece about my dad and the devastating circumstances surrounding the last year of his life. About a year ago, I was having some freaky experiences that caused me to allow myself to believe it was possible that my dad was trying to communicate with me from the beyond somehow. So I wrote a song about it.

I took that song to Sam, and he liked it enough that he wanted to help me refine it. So he and I sat down and retooled the lyric sheet. He put an acoustic guitar instrumental behind my vocals, and bam, we had a song called legacy. We would later rewrite the song again to remove all negative language from it, and I am so proud of the finished product. It was Sam’s idea to rebrand the song as legacy, by max and that is an enormous honour. I’m so happy this song is out in the world. It may not be a part of the relationship story behind otis, but it fits the theme of closure.

If you haven’t listened to otis yet, you really need to. It is a masterpiece. I may have a biased opinion, but I promise you I’m not lying. The songwriting is what carries the project from start to finish, and if there’s one thing that you can automatically rely on with any maSHerman project, the production value is outstanding. I am so fucking proud of my brother for the hard work and care that he put into this record. He’s only getting started, folks. So why not get aboard the maSHerman train now? You’re gonna be in for a wild ride. The future starts now.

Listen to otis:
http://smarturl.it/otis