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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
I was asked a deep question this past week that was clearly supposed to be difficult to answer. The question was simple: If you could only have one thing in this life, what would it be? Don’t ask me what prompted this person to ask me this question. I have no earthly idea. But after a brief pause to let the premise of the question wash over me, I realized I already knew what my answer was. It’s something I’ve thought about many times before, even if it wasn’t necessarily in that exact context. All I really want…is to create a legacy.
The thing that was particularly apropos about the timing of when this question was posed to me is that it came within 24 hours of a significant anniversary of one of those days in my life that will stick with me forever. May 28, 2014 was the day my father died. And when we’re talking about the concept of a legacy, there is no question that my dad undeniably left one. It is as complicated and imperfect as a legacy could be, but it’s one that impacts me now and will continue to impact me for the rest of my life.
That may sound as though I carry it like a weight on my shoulders, and if I’m being honest, in some ways I do. Lord knows that the events surrounding the last year of his life have brought untold amounts of pain to me and my family. But the totality of the impact he made on the person I’ve become is impossible to ignore, and it’s something I will always be grateful for.
My dad was as close to a rock star as a person could be without being an actual rock star. He rose through the ranks of FM radio until he made it onto WNEW in New York City. In his heyday, he was the host of the Dave Herman Rock & Roll Morning Show, and he was so good at what he did. What I remain most impressed by is how he was able to be on the forefront of so many ideas that moved the industry forward. He created an on-air persona for himself that seemed larger than life. I’m talking about a guy who was rubbing elbows with everyone from The Beatles to Bruce Springsteen to Paul Simon. In fact, if you listen to the live album 11.17.70, the voice that introduces Elton freakin’ John to the audience is my father. That’s pretty damn cool if I do say so myself.
But I wasn’t even born yet during the prime of his career. Even towards the end of his run on the air, I was just a child. I didn’t comprehend at the time the magnitude of what he was doing for a living. I couldn’t. To me, he was always just Dad. All of the perks that came with being this radio star’s son just seemed normal to me. It was all I knew.
My dad was always there for me. When I made the varsity baseball team in high school, he was a fixture at all of my games. He’s the guy who made me a Yankee fan, which also served as my initial introduction into the world of sports, even if he wasn’t the kind of fanatic that I turned out to be. If you know my previous work at all, you know how important the impact that combining a love of sports with a passion for broadcasting has made on my life. Would I have ever entered into the world of sports radio if it weren’t for him? The answer to that question is an easy no.
But of course, it was much more than that. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received when it comes to life, love and everything else came out of his mouth. I’ll never forget how he would constantly remind me to do my best to only focus on the things that I have control over, and to worry less about the things that I can’t. That’s the kind of advice that may seem obvious, but to have it framed in those terms was so important to my development as a goal-oriented human being. It’s something that I remind myself of on a weekly basis.
What I’m getting at with all of this is that when it came to simply being a father, Dave knocked it out of the park. At least he did with me. What bothers me is that he didn’t do it for all of his kids. I don’t want to speak to the experience of my siblings, simply because I don’t want to pretend I know their stories better than they do. But I can say for sure that my younger brother did not get the same parent that I did. I was already seven years old by the time Sam was born, and there’s a sense that after raising three other kids over the range of most of his adult life, he just wasn’t ready or willing to do it again at that point.
But without question, if we’re narrowing down the conversation about my dad to only include the context of the job he did raising me, there’s not much negative I could possibly say. Man, if only it were that simple…
Now is the part where things get a lot more difficult for me to talk about. But I’m gonna try. My parents began the process of getting divorced when I was in my early teens. I say process, because it dragged on for years. That time was a dark period marred by legal proceedings, lawyers, custody hearings and therapy sessions that sent my family’s life into calamity. And with all of the good will my father had built with me over the course of my childhood, he would use that to play me like a pawn in the chess match he waged against my mom.
The gaslighting job he did on my mother was executed with such precision, it makes me nauseuous to think about knowing what I know now. He would create situations to make her seem as though she was crazy, and it was so effective, there was a time I actually believed she was. If he was the puppeteer, I was his unwitting marionette.
From my perspective at the time, it seemed like my mom was constantly manic for no reason. What I didn’t realize was that the things that were setting her off coincided with all of these audacious legal maneuvers my dad was attempting behind the scenes. But I didn’t have any grasp of what was going on in that arena. So when I would arrogantly defend my dad, she would understandably lash out at me. When it was happening, my thought process was, “There goes Mom, acting crazy again.” But now I get it. There’s no need for me to get into specifics, but some of the things he did through the courts were absolutely preposterous. And yet somehow, he managed to get everything he wanted.
The result of all of this was that my mom finally realized she needed to get as far away from this place as possible. It was in 2002 that she moved to Vancouver, and that left me and my brother in New Jersey with our dad maintaining full custody. My relationship with my mother was strained so badly that we didn’t even talk for long stretches of time. She and I would reconcile in the following years, and I couldn’t be happier to say that at this point in my life, my relationship with her has never been better. I love her with every piece of my soul, and I’m so blessed to have her influence back in my life. But the thing that devastates me is the realization that for a large chunk of my growth from teenager to young adult, she wasn’t there. There’s no telling how much of a difference her presence would have made in my life during those years, but there’s no doubt she would have made a huge one. Instead, I had to learn how to grow up without my mom. And she had to live with the sting of having her children ripped away from her. Frankly, the blame for that rests squarely on my father’s shoulders.
The family separation would only continue in the following years. In 2005, my dad had designs on living out the rest of his retirement in the Virgin Islands. So despite all of the talk about how crazy my mom was, he wasn’t going to let that ruse mess up his plans on building his dream home in the Caribbean. With me already out of the nest and off at college, and with him having no desire to be a single parent to my now 11-year-old brother, he shipped Sam off to live with my mom in Vancouver. That was a devastating blow to me. My brother and I have always been attached at the hip. In the moment, I kicked and screamed in opposition to the idea that he would be moving to the opposite end of the continent. Of course, that move would be instrumental in my brother blossoming into the brilliant young man he has become. So it’s hard for me to be upset about it now. Also, he and I now share an apartment and are as close as we’ve ever been before. That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
I fondly remember the trips I made to St. Croix to visit my dad. With him living there, it was an easy excuse to take a Caribbean vacation every year, and his house was a beautiful place with an incredible view overlooking the water.
We had such great times enjoying the beaches and joining him at a local watering hole called Off The Wall for Bingo night, an event that he would host every month as only he could. Right until the end, my dad was an entertainer, even when his audience was 30 drunk people just trying to win a beer koozie. I can’t stress enough how funny this man was. Sometimes it was unintentional, and we would be laughing at his expense. But the guy always oozed personality.
But I can’t say that I ever felt like this was the right place for him to be. I mean, here was this 70-year-old dude from the Bronx trying to adjust to “island time” and spending his days mostly in isolation. There was always something off about it. It just didn’t really fit. And clearly, something changed in him during his time there.
It’s not like there was ever an interaction I had with him where I was like, “Whoa, what’s going on with dad?” It was more just this sense that he didn’t belong there. My dad was a people person, and he didn’t really have a lot of people around him while he was there. Sure, he got along great with his neighbors, and the Bingo nights gave him an opportunity to schmooze with the locals. It just didn’t seem like it was really his kind of scene.
Even in the time that I spent there, he would spend an inordinate amount of time every day on his computer. There was nothing particularly alarming about that at the time, but let me ask you: If you were living in a tropical paradise, would you be logging hours upon hours online with a plethora of incredible outdoor activities to choose from a short drive away? I don’t know. It just felt like it was defeating the purpose of why someone would choose to live in a place like St. Croix.
And then it happened. It was in October of 2013 that my life changed forever…
I had just taken my seat aboard a train headed back to New Jersey after a lovely visit with my friends in Philadelphia. My brother’s birthday was the following day, and since he was attending NYU at the time, I was excited to get back so I could spend some quality time with him. But as I sat down, I answered my ringing cell phone to find my sister, Jenny, on the other end. I immediately could tell based on her tone that something was horribly wrong. When I asked her what was up, she ominously responded, “Did you hear about Dad?”
Naturally, I thought for sure she was about to tell me that he had passed away somehow. After all, he was not a young man and he had undergone open-heart surgery less than a decade prior. Instead, I learned that my dad had been arrested that day. By Homeland Security. In a sting operation. For sex crimes.
I was numb. I rode that train for an hour and a half in dead silence. I can’t for the life of me remember what was going through my head. I don’t know if anything was. I completely disassociated from my surroundings. Could it possibly be true? Was this some kind of sick joke?
I finally got home and laid my head down on my pillow. And then every single repercussion of what this news meant hit me all at once. I would say I cried myself to sleep, but I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I was heartbroken for my family. I was heartbroken for me. But then came the aftershocks. I realized this was going to be in the newspapers. I knew I was supposed to go into work at my New York City radio job the next day. Obviously, my bosses excused me from work and told me to take as much time as I needed before coming back. But the headlines reached me nonetheless.
It may sound strange for me to say, but in my mind, my father died twice. The day he was arrested was the day the man who raised me somehow ceased to exist. I only spoke to him over the phone one more time. He called me from jail on my birthday the following April, and even though he poured his heart out to me, I wasn’t really interested in hearing what he had to say at the time. I was still too angry, even if I was holding out hope that he was innocent as he claimed to be. I couldn’t bring myself to visit him in prison, despite the fact that he had been extradited to Newark – which in a unique twist of fate just so happened to be the same city I was living in at the time.
The last and only time I saw him after his arrest was the night before he died. Jenny had called me that day to tell me that he was having medical complications and that this would likely be my last chance. Seeing him laying in that hospital bed was incredibly uncomfortable, but I’m so happy I was there. His face lit up when he saw me. For a man who was literally on death’s door, he squeezed me so tightly in an embrace that I was ready for him to jump out of the bed and pull the IV out of his arm.
Even though he was pretty heavily medicated, he couldn’t have been more coherent when he started telling me how proud he was of me. Just as I had always been his biggest fan, he made it clear that he too was mine. He told me how he was able to get a radio in his cell and that he would listen to me every night I was on the air. He joked that one day I should take over for John Sterling as the play-by-play voice of the Yankees.
It was in that moment that a lot of the bitterness I felt started to melt away. I didn’t want to be angry. I just wanted to love my dad and be there for him just as he had been there for me so many times before. So that’s what I did.
For a while, he couldn’t seem to grasp the gravity of what was happening, that he was nearing the end. My sisters and I tried our best to communicate with him what the situation was. Finally, I did my best to cut through the noise and give it to him straight. I told him that either the doctors could plug him into a machine, and they could keep him alive…or…
And he stopped me right there with an emphatic, “NO.” So all that was left for me to say through my tears was, “Then it’s time to say goodbye.”
For all of the things that tear me up inside about this story, the thing I’m most grateful for is that the last words I said to my father were, “I love you.” Because I do. I always have, and I always will.
My dad was my hero. And even though he did some unforgivable things that crossed into the realm of sociopathy, it would be foolish of me to ignore all of the good in my life that he is directly responsible for. He’s the reason I’m a broadcaster. He’s the reason I’m a sports fan. But most importantly, in so many ways, he’s the reason I’m me.
When I’m gone, I want to be remembered for my legacy, not just the mistakes I’ve made. And even though some mistakes are far worse than others, my dad’s legacy remains in tact. That’s because even if his reputation is in tatters, the legacy of broadcasting will live on through me. The legacy of music will live on through my brother. The legacy of being revolutionary in our field will live on through both of us. You might not know that yet, but you’re damn sure going to before long.
So as we approach Father’s Day, I’d like to raise a glass to Dave Herman. A ground-breaker. A brilliant mind. A star. And yes, a deeply flawed human being. There’s so much about the events of his life I’ll never understand. But the best job he ever did was as my father. He did so much right. I refuse to only remember him for his wrongs, even if I can’t ever forget them. I love you, Dad. Rest in peace. Shine on you crazy diamond.
The Boston Bruins are just sitting back right now, feet up on the coffee table, waiting in the wings for the winner of the Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final to be determined. The Carolina Hurricanes were the most fun story the Stanley Cup Playoffs had going, and the Bruins just smothered them in the East Final like a deflating bouncy house at a children’s birthday party. They swept the Canes, who had swept the Islanders, who had swept the Penguins. So I guess on the plus side, haha Pittsburgh. But what that leaves us with is a Boston team that is going into the Cup Final as rested as could be, and awaiting an opponent that will be some combination of tired, shorthanded, or just worse (at least on paper) than the B’s.
So what it comes down to is this: The Boston Bruins are going to win the Stanley Cup. Right now, I can’t be convinced otherwise. And that bums me right the fuck out.
Before I continue, I feel it necessary to point out that when it comes to spoiled sports fans, I am one of the worst. In my lifetime, my New York Yankees have won five World Series. My New York Giants have four Super Bowl rings (although I’m really only old enough to have appreciated two of them). Even my rarely talked-about hockey team – the New Jersey Devils – have hoisted three Stanley Cups. What I’m saying is that if you hate me for that, you’re allowed. I couldn’t possibly blame you.
The chokehold that the city of Boston has applied to the sports world in the first two decades of this century is nothing short of enraging. That’s doubly true for me as a New Yorker. The curse of the Bambino has been dead for almost 15 years now, somehow. And oh what I would give to go back and live in those days when the Red Sox were a team that was just good enough to get themselves into an LCS match-up against the Yanks, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed in the most heartbreaking of ways. If that sounds sinister to you, well, it kinda is. But that’s just part of what it means to hate a rival team. Sports are one of the few realms in life where experiencing schadenfraude isn’t something that should be accompanied with instant shame. It’s part of the fan experience.
Since the Patriots beat the Rams in 2002’s Super Bowl XXXVI, that football team has won five more rings. The Red Sox have won four World Series. The Celtics have an NBA title to their credit. The Bruins have won one Stanley Cup, and seem poised to add another. Should that happen, it will be 13 championships in 18 years for one city. But perhaps worst of all, the last three will have come in the span of nine months. Bless the Bucks for knocking the Celtics out of this year’s NBA Playoffs so we at least don’t have to worry about the potential of a clean sweep.
All of this serves to underline the point that Boston has become the modern-day Titletown, and there is no close second. That this has occurred while the New York sports scene has largely devolved into a three-ring circus only adds fuel to my personal dread that would coincide with four more Bruins wins this spring. And the sad truth is, I’m not counting on either St. Louis or San Jose to save us.
Of course, a major part of my disdain for this team is merely because of the location where they play their home games. It’s true that there are some genuinely likable characters on the Bruins’ roster. Zdeno Chara is easy to root for. Tuukka Rask is a great story, and is undeniably one of those guys that seems to shine when the spotlight burns the brightest. There’s a lot to be said for that. In a vacuum, would I love to see David Backes finally win a championship after 13 years of being a very good player who was never on the best team? Sure. And of course I have a soft spot in my heart for former Devil, Marcus Johansson, who has really had a stellar showing this postseason. But as long as they all wear that B on the front of their jerseys, I can’t help but hope they go down in flames.
Honestly, any good will I can build up towards this Boston team as a whole is undone entirely by the way I feel about Brad Marchand. Taking nothing away from his skill, of which he obviously has plenty, the goonery that he puts on display on a regular basis leaves me no choice but to want to see him get his comeuppance. That doesn’t mean I want to see him get injured. I never wish that upon anyone, even if he has a penchant for inflcting injury on others. I just hope that he gets put on his ass every time he hits the ice. More frequently though, he’ll make a dazzling play in the offensive zone that makes me shake my fist at the sky. To Marchand’s credit, it’s rare that you see a guy with the ability to throw a seasoned veteran like Justin Williams so far off of his game that he seemed to forget that he was playing hockey. There is certainly a spot on any team’s roster for a guy with the ability to do that, but Marchand is way too extra for me to actually get to a place in my mind where I can celebrate him.
I’m getting slightly off topic here though. So let me end on this note. It certainly looks like we’re headed towards a Boston-St. Louis Stanley Cup Final. And you can bet your ass I’ll be rooting like crazy for the Blues. But I just can’t see them winning four out of seven against these goddamn Bruins.
Boston sports dominance doesn’t appear like it’s going to go away any time soon. The Red Sox are getting their act together after a putrid start to this baseball season. The Patriots are still the Patriots until proven otherwise. The Celtics will continue to be good, even if they’re not elite. And there’s no sign of the Bruins falling out of the category of perennial Cup contender in the near future. All of it together just leaves me with an everlasting sour taste in my mouth. I mean seriously. Enough already, Boston. We get it.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You can have Christmas. For me, April through June are truly my favorite months, at least on the sports calendar. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing, as each first-round series will have finished three games by the end of play tonight. There have been some truly stunning developments early on. The best team in the sport has been pushed to the brink of elimination in the blink of an eye. Home ice advantage has been relatively meaningless, as the home and road splits are pretty much even so far (11-9 in favor of the home squads). And of course, we’ve seen the typical bad blood brewing between combatants on opposing sides. You get the sense that many of these teams genuinely dislike one another. It’s fucking beautiful.
Experiencing the Stanley Cup Playoffs through a Canadian lens for the last two years has really illuminated how special hockey’s postseason is in my mind. It’s a shame that the sport is treated as a punchline in some parts of the US. But honestly, if you’re ignoring the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I don’t know what else to say other than that is very much your loss.
Look, I’m not going to be the guy who screams “WATCH MY FAVORITE SPORT!” at people who aren’t interested, because frankly, it’s a lame and ultimately pointless thing to do. But if you are a casual fan or a newcomer to NHL hockey, you just might watch these games and learn something that, to me, is undeniable fact. And that fact is that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in all of sports.
Don’t believe me? Wanna tell me that it’s more difficult to win a Super Bowl? A World Series? An NCAA championship? An NBA title? Not a chance. First, the NHL playoffs are a two-month ordeal, as in the length of the NCAA tournament and MLB playoffs COMBINED. It is a near guarantee that between the two teams that play for the Stanley Cup this year, at least half of the competitors on each side will be playing through significant pain. I’m not talking about the headache that caused you to call out of work last week. Which, by the way, no judgment there. Lord knows I’ve used some pretty lame excuses to get out of work in the past. But what I am talking about is the kind of pain sustained by occurrences like taking a PUCK to your FACE.
Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks knows all about what that feels like. He was credited with a goal in Game 1 of the Sharks’ series against the Vegas Golden Knights after a wicked wrister off the stick of teammate Brent Burns ricocheted off of his damn jaw and into the net. The impact of that shot didn’t even knock him off his feet, though it did knock out some of his chompers. He calmly skated off the ice, got the necessary repairs and was back in time for the second period. Absurd.
During the playoffs, players will finish every check and even the biggest stars will give up their bodies to block shots flying toward the net at triple-digit speeds. Naturally, you’re bound to collect a few bumps and bruises along the way. Playing through pain is certainly not a concept unheard of in other realms of sport, but it seemingly happens every year in every series during the Stanley Cup playoffs. These guys are all required to pay a physical price every time they set foot on the ice.
But maybe you’re not convinced. I’ve heard the argument that the NCAA Tournament is more difficult to win because of the 68-team field and the single-elimination aspect that it brings to the table. That same aspect could also fool you into thinking it’s tougher to win a Super Bowl. That’s a fine argument, but look at the flip side. It takes just six postseason wins to earn a National Championship – seven if you’re one of the teams in the First Four. You need no more than four playoff wins in the NFL to take home the Lombardi Trophy. But it takes four rounds and sixteen victories to win the Cup. There is no other major sport that requires a team to win more games to take home the grand prize. I can already hear my hoop heads out there saying, “But! But!.” Yes, the NBA champion will also have won sixteen games by the time that postseason is finished, but that brings me to my next point.
On the subject of parity, the NHL has it in spades. The NBA playoff field has been infamously top-heavy since forever. The higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament (i.e., the teams more likely to win) also have an easier road to the later rounds because they often have easier matchups, certainly for the first few games. As an illustration of that point, 16-seeds have won exactly one game in tournament history. In the NFL, the top two seeds in each conference don’t even have to play in the first round. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on the heels of a historically prolific regular season, are currently getting their asses handed to them in the first round by the last team to make it into the dance from the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s not like this is a one-off happening either. Teams that finished the regular season with the NHL’s best record have only won it all four times since the turn of the century. Only one other such team has even made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
Much of what makes the Cup such a difficult prize to win is obviously the fact that hockey is a full contact sport, and that physicality only escalates as the stakes get higher. The lack of physical play helps to eliminate baseball and basketball from this conversation. With no disrespect to the grind that getting through the NBA playoff schedule necessitates, it seems that nowadays if you sneeze too hard in someone’s direction, the referees will blow the whistle and send the offended player to the free throw line.
Being that football is widely regarded as the only sport more physical than hockey, perhaps you’d like to argue that the Super Bowl is more difficult to win. There’s no doubt that attrition goes hand in hand with football perhaps more than any other sport. But remember, football players only play on either the offensive OR defensive side of the ball, whereas hockey players are responsible for taking care of both ends of the ice. And both jobs require getting your hands dirty, so to speak.
Teams competing in the NFL playoffs also only have to compete once a week, with those teams fortunate enough to get to the Super Bowl being rewarded with an additional week off before the big game. NHL playoff games are played every other night for two months. There is no time to rest, and no time to heal. No time to dwell on your last loss, and hardly any time to look forward to your next game. Momentum plays a bigger role in the Stanley Cup playoffs than in any other sport’s postseason.
The Stanley Cup is so treasured that many youngin’s aspiring to become hockey stars are taught not to so much as lay a finger on the Cup. The legend goes that the honor of touching the Holy Grail is reserved for those that are good enough to win it. To this day, that remains my personal favorite sports superstition. If there is any trophy on the planet that deserves such reverence, it is the Stanley Cup. Simply put, it is the most difficult prize to win in sports. The next two months of hockey figure to go a long way towards proving that point. Inject it straight into my veins. I can’t get enough.
After a bitter and cold offseason featuring one of the most frigid free agency periods in memory, we have almost arrived at the proper Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. I always get giddy this time of year, for one, because it means my birthday is right around the corner. But truly, the start of the baseball calendar has always felt like the beginning of the new year to me more than January 1st ever did.
Even though it’s one of the laziest things a writer can do to put words onto a screen, it is undeniably a fun exercise to try to predict what will happen before the season starts. If nothing else, it gives you something to look back on in October and make fun of me for when 75 percent of these predictions inevitably go to shit. With that in mind, let’s get it…
AL EAST CHAMPION: New York Yankees
Let’s get my homer stuff out of the way nice and early. Yes, I am a die-hard Yankee fan. And yes, this is a prediction that is partly being made because it’s what I want to see happen. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a logical argument to be made to back this up.
Obviously, the Red Sox are the defending champions not just of the AL East, but all of baseball. And as Ric Flair put it best, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” That’s never been more true than in MLB’s current divisional scheduling format when the teams play each other head-to-head 19 times a year.
The Yanks are dealing with some pretty major injury concerns to begin the season, particularly with their pitching. Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and C.C. Sabathia will all be on the mend instead of on the mound to start the year.
But an offense that set an MLB record for home runs a year ago actually has a lot of room to improve. The improvement would rely upon getting a bounce-back year from Gary Sanchez, a healthier one from Aaron Judge, and a less schizophrenic one from Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankee bullpen is still the best in the game, whereas the Sox’ pen minus Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly is almost certainly going to cost them a few games this season.
AL CENTRAL CHAMPION: Cleveland Indians
I’m going with the chalk pick, as tempting as it is to pick the Twins to unseat Cleveland here. This really all comes down to starting pitching for me. The starting five of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber is one of a few rotations that can lay claim to the title of best in the bigs.
The question is going to be whether this team can score enough runs to support them. With Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Brantley, Yonder Alonso and Yan Gomes all gone from the lineup, it puts a lot on Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis to do the heavy lifting.
The bullpen is a bit suspect too without Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, but the Central has been, and still is one of the weaker divisions in the sport. Like I said, the Twins are a tempting pick, but I’m gonna take the team with the better pitching to finish the 162-game grind with a slightly better record. But I would not be surprised if this was one of the tighter races down the stretch.
AL WEST CHAMPION: Houston Astros
This one feels like the most “well, duh” pick of the division champs. The Oakland A’s are coming off a 97-win year and will likely be a tough team to play once again this season. But the Astros are just too damn good. It’s hard to find a definitive weak spot on this squad. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer all have room to improve from their 2018 numbers, and I’d be willing to bet that all three will.
Sure, they lost three extremely capable starters in Dallas Kuechel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers. But Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are still very much there. Collin McHugh, Wade Miley and Brad Peacock may not be the kind of names that make opposing lineups shudder, but Houston’s coaching staff has done a remarkable job in recent years of getting the best out of seemingly every arm they have. All that said, this team is my pick to finish the year with the best record in the sport.
AL WILD CARDS: Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins
Whichever team between the Yankees and Red Sox doesn’t win the AL East is a slam dunk pick to take one of the wild cards in the American League in my mind. As for the other WC spot, I’m predicting it will go to a team that (as I mentioned) I toyed with choosing to be a division winner in the Twins.
This is a team that captured a wild card spot two seasons ago, and has made some key additions to their offense this offseason. Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez are all guys that will provide Minnesota with the kind of bats that make them capable of putting up runs in bunches. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson give them a solid 1-2 punch at the top of their starting rotation.
The Twins are bound to get a strong push from the A’s and perhaps even the Tampa Bay Rays for this playoff spot, but give me Minnesota as the team that will likely get the bricks blown off of them in a Wild Card Game match-up against the Sawx.
NL EAST CHAMPION: Washington Nationals
I’ve made a point of not looking at any other prediction pieces before doing my own, and I wonder how many pundits have written off the Nats after not only losing Bryce Harper, but losing him to another team in what currently stands as the most wide-open division in baseball. But despite being branded with the reputation of playoff chokers, Washington often finds a way to at least get there, last season notwithstanding.
Make no mistake, this team still has a lineup that packs a punch, and a lot of those punches will come from guys who are going to be mainstays for years to come. Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Anthony Rendon are top of mind in that category. And oh yeah, their pitching rotation is money with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and the newly acquired Patrick Corbin leading the way.
The Braves, Phillies, and even the Mets could all finish within shouting distance of the top spot, but I still like the Nationals to take the prize.
NL CENTRAL CHAMPION: Chicago Cubs
This is a spot where I feel like I may be relying more on my gut than my logic. The Brewers might actually be a more “complete” team than the Cubs on paper, and the Brew Crew hold the distinction of defending champs in this division. But you’ll remember that came down to a Game 163 last season, so to say it was a close race is very much an understatement. The Cardinals will also pose a threat to Chicago, as they have absolutely made strides in improving their club.
This seems like a cop-out explanation, but to me it just feels like the Cubbies are bound to get back to the top spot in the Central this year. Joe Maddon may be my favorite manager in the sport, and the roster he’s working with feels like a nearly ideal blend of youth and experience. Their starting infield in particular is as good as most teams in the game. And I have to make at least one pick here that is based almost solely on gut feeling. Having said all of that, look for Milwaukee to pop up again a little further down in this column.
NL WEST CHAMPION: Colorado Rockies
This is pretty clearly going to be a two-horse race, as the Rockies and Dodgers are really the only teams in the NL West that are worth a damn. LA may have won the previous six division titles, but I believe Colorado is finally going to put a stop to that streak this season.
This was the other division that needed a 163rd game to decide a winner last year. And while there is no denying the two-time defending NL Champs are still a quality team with loads of depth, the Rockies are returning a very similar looking roster to last season’s while Los Angeles actually changed a lot this winter.
Gone from the Dodgers’ roster are Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Yasmani Grandal, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood. That’s a lot to lose. Yes, they did add A.J. Pollock, and a consistently healthy Corey Seager would go a long way toward keeping this team on top. But the Rockies are essentially the same group that took LA down to the wire last season, except with the addition of Daniel Murphy. If Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Jon Gray can pitch to their potential all year, I think Colorado has enough to finish in first.
NL WILD CARDS: Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers
This would set up a rematch of last year’s NLCS in the Wild Card Game. It would be a damn shame to have to lose one of these teams in a one-game playoff scenario, but I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And truth be told, it’s in this scenario that I think the Dodgers’ bid at making it to three straight World Series will come to an end.
The one thing the Brewers are lacking is a definitive ace of the pitching staff, and that is something the Dodgers undoubtedly have in Clayton Kershaw. So maybe you can chalk this up as a prediction of heart over head. That Milwaukee lineup is just so damn good, though. The guy who would likely relish this opportunity the most would be Yasmani Grandal, who left Los Angeles to sign with the Beer Makers this offseason. Imagine if he were to play a big role in sending the Dodgers packing come October. We can dream, can’t we?
ALCS Prediction: Astros defeat Yankees
Ugh. It pains my pinstriped heart to say this, but the Astros are simply the better and more complete team, plus they have had the Yankees’ number in recent history. This is the series I want though. A chance to exorcise the demons of the 2017 ALCS in which the underdog Yanks nearly knocked off the eventual World Champion Stros is surely an appetizing situation. I just don’t think the Yankees really want that smoke. Houston is too good.
NLCS Prediction: Brewers defeat Rockies
This presumes the Cubs finish with the National League’s best record, which is far from a lock, but play along with me. The Brewers beat the Dodgers in the Wild Card Game. The NLDS would then see the Rockies beat the Nationals (because the Nats don’t win playoff series, just as a general rule) and the Brewers upset the Cubs. Brewers-Rockies would be a fascinating NLCS, and honestly, predicting a wild card team to make the World Series just makes for a fun little wrinkle in this here prediction column.
World Series Prediction: Astros defeat Brewers
Of all the truly plausible World Series scenarios, this is certainly one that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred would desire the least. Houston and Milwaukee aren’t exactly what you would define as large media markets. But if the Yankees can’t be there, sign me up for seven games of this series.
I’m not so sure it would happen that way, because frankly I think the Astros are simply better than the Brewers in almost every conceivable category. But there ya have it. My official World Series pick. So when the Brewers now inevitably miss the playoffs altogether or something dumb like that, you can point back at this and laugh at me.
Predictions aren’t exactly the most profound thing in the world of sports punditry, but they sure are fun to make. By all means, please sound off in the comments and let me know how wrong and stupid I am. And most importantly, HAPPY BASEBALL SEASON TO ALL!
It’s been said that the good old hockey game is the best game you can name. I happen to share that opinion. This NHL season has contributed plenty to that argument. While there is a clear-cut favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year, there are still plenty of teams with a puncher’s chance of hoisting the trophy come June. There are also a slew of teams who already have their minds focused on the draft this summer where they hope to improve their chances of not sucking quite so bad next year. With the start of the playoffs roughly three weeks away, today I’ll be highlighting some of the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2018-2019 NHL season so far.
GOOD: The Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are taking on the Arizona Coyotes tonight in a game that, if Tampa wins, would clinch the Presidents’ Trophy. If it does indeed happen tonight, they would lock up the league’s best record in their 73rd game. I’ve been digging to try and find a team that has clinched that distinction in fewer games (shortened seasons not included) and I have not been able to find one that’s done it sooner. I’m certainly no professional statistician, but all of this is to say that this Tampa team is really, REALLY good.
It feels like a championship is theirs to lose this season. It’s almost unfair that a team loaded with offensive talent the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point also has a defense corps that stacks up against most teams in the league. And if that weren’t enough, they may have the best goalie in the league as well in Andrei Vasilevskiy. There’s no team in the NHL this year that I would pick to beat the Bolts. But anything can happen in a seven-game series. That’s why they play the games, as they say. But if they don’t win it all this year, we can start making comparisons to all of those San Jose Sharks teams that were immensely talented, but never winners.
BAD: Connor McDavid deserves better than the Oilers
It’s no secret that the Edmonton Oilers have a generational talent on their hands. Connor McDavid recently eclipsed the 100-point mark for the third straight season. The only other active player to have accomplished that feat in three consecutive years was that Ovechkin guy. And McDavid is the first player to put up 100 points three times before age 23 since another dude you may have heard of named Crosby. In those seasons the Oilers have won exactly one playoff series, and that came in the only year out of the three that they even reached the postseason at all.
If you’re looking for a silver lining in Edmonton, good luck finding one. This year, they signed Mikko Koskinen, a 30-year-old goalie who is average at best to a three-year, $13.5 million deal after seeing him play all of 25 games for the team. The corpse of Milan Lucic is signed until 2023 and comes with a cap hit of $6 million per season. They finally cut loose GM Peter Chiarelli, but have yet to replace him. There’s talk that former Red Wings GM Ken Holland could be that guy. And hoo boy, if that’s what they end up doing, McDavid might just end up being the kind of player that you see frequently on the highlight reel, but never in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And if that is how it plays out, that would be a real bummer for everyone who calls themselves a hockey fan, let alone an Oilers fan.
UGLY: The Bottom Dwellers
There are a number of teams at the bottom of the standings that have had what you could generously call ugly seasons this year. The Anaheim Ducks, believe it or not, were as high up as second place in the Pacific Division in mid-December before crashing like a meteor. Despite getting their act together to some degree, only the disastrous LA Kings have a worse record in the Western Conference as I write this.
My New Jersey Devils were a surprise playoff team last season anchored by MVP Taylor Hall. This year, it seems no player has been safe from the injury bug, least of all Hall himself. He has only been healthy enough to play 33 games for the Devs, and hasn’t played at all since a few days before Christmas. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in February. The Devils lineup in recent weeks has more closely resembled an AHL squad, and the results have been predictable. They still play hard under the guidance of head coach John Hynes, who I still believe in whole-heartedly. But there’s only so much they can do with the hand that they’re currently playing.
The biggest slice of the ugly cake has to go to the Ottawa Senators. They currently sit rock bottom in the NHL standings, which is reason enough for Sens fans to recoil. But we’re talking about a season-long crapfest that really began in earnest with Ubergate. It may be true that the video from inside that car never should have been made public, but the image of Ottawa players openly mocking their own team set the tone for what would end up being nothing short of a dismantling of the Sens’ roster by the time the trade deadline came and went. After losing Erik Karlsson to San Jose in the offseason, the departures of Matt Duchene and Mark Stone were the coup de grace for a team that, let’s not forget, was an overtime goal away from the Stanley Cup Final just two years ago. If that’s not ugly, I don’t know what is.
Some Final Random Thoughts
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been all-in this season after several acquisitions to bolster their roster, highlighted by the offseason addition of John Tavares. There’s no question the Leafs will be a formidable playoff opponent this season, despite their questionable play as of late. But let’s face it, they are going to get the Boston Bruins in the first round. And unless they can exorcise the demons of their recent history against the B’s, it is distinctly possible that this Toronto squad could find themselves on the golf course a lot sooner than anyone would have predicted last October.
Elias Pettersson is a space alien. The 20-year-old Canucks rookie will likely score 30 goals this season, and many of them have been works of art. Seven of his goals this year have been game-winners. He scored in a shootout last week against the Devils with a move that Doc Emrick likely would have described as Forsberg-ian. It only seems fitting that a franchise that has spent the better part of the last two decades with the Sedin twins as their feature attraction has found another Swedish wunderkind to lead them into the future.
There is a decent chance that we might finally see another Canadian team win the Stanley Cup for the first time since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. I know I’ve already mentioned that the Lightning are the predominant favorites to take the grand prize this season. But if it’s not them, I’d be willing to roll the dice on either the Winnipeg Jets or the Calgary Flames. Those two teams are the two division leaders in the West, and both have all the pieces in place to make a deep run. In fact, if Jets-Flames ends up being the Western Conference Final, you can bet your ass every game in that series will be appointment television up here in moose country.
There are still three weeks left and some very tight races left to be decided. Division champions will be crowned. Wild card spots will be clinched. The final playoff spots may not be decided until Game 82. The Arizona Coyotes might even take one of those spots! It’s all building to the greatest postseason competition in sports: The Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can disagree with that assertion. But respectfully, you’d be wrong.
I’ve been sitting here for about an hour, trying to think of how I can possibly follow up my post from last week. It felt amazingly therapeutic to put that part of my story out into the world, and the response I received from so many of you was incredibly heartwarming.
But what now? Should I go back to giving you my HOT TAKES on the sports news? That’s what I’m good for, right? After all, if you knew me at all before I started this blog, you probably knew me as the “sports guy” on the radio. But the truth is, the further I remove myself from that era of my life, the less I identify myself that way. I HAVE LAYERS, YOU JERKS!
Sports are certainly still a huge passion of mine, and I’m not saying that I won’t go back to the well next week and write something about the fast-approaching start of baseball season or the NHL playoff push or how Bryce Harper’s hair underlines the importance of using both shampoo and conditioner. But this week, I want to let you in on some of the other things that make me tick, and clue you in to some more of the content that you can come to expect from me.
Here’s one that will no doubt catch you off guard. Ready? I think music is pretty cool…
I’ll give you a minute to collect yourself from that gasp you just let out. MUSIC?!? Who likes that stuff?? I know. We all do. But my connection to the music world is slightly different from the average joe. Allow me to let you in on how my music taste took shape.
As I’ve mentioned before, my dad was an FM DJ in New York way back in the day when people actually listened to music on the radio. It was through him that I was first introduced to the world of what we now call classic rock. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the one of the first albums I ever fell in love with. There were a few other deeper cuts, too. I absolutely adored the Traveling Wilbury’s first self-titled album and subsequently Jeff Lynne’s solo project, Armchair Theatre.
My adolescence introduced me to the world of rap and hip hop. I was such an Eminem mark that not long after the release of The Marshall Mathers LP, I bleached my hair Slim Shady blonde. And let me tell you, nothing makes me cringe harder than looking back at old photos of myself sporting that look. I’d post one of those pics here, but I can’t find any of them. Hopefully that’s because they’ve all been thrown into a furnace.
High school and college brought me into the world of pop punk. Bands like Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182 and Panic! at the Disco have remained heavy in my rotation of music that I still listen to today.
The best album I’ve ever heard? That came in 2009 when The Decemberists released a project that is less a collection of songs than it is a three-act play. If you have never listened to The Hazards of Love, do yourself a favor. Listen to that shit. Better yet, read the story as you listen to it. It is a beautifully tragic tale that transports you to another world from another time, and remains one of the few albums that consistently makes me cry every time I listen to it alone.
There are very few genres of music that I dismiss out of hand. I may not have the trained ear of a legitimate music critic, but I can promise that there are going to be songs and albums that inspire me to write about them. And I intend to use this space to do that when the mood strikes.
While we’re on the subject of music, I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little something about my younger brother, Sam. He and I often marvel at how we epitomize the dichotomy of what our dad used to do for a living. A guy who became well-known for working in music radio spawned one kid that would spend a decade in the radio business, and another who has a bright future in the music business.
Sam has been a crazy music head since forever. Now, he is the vice president of a record label here in Vancouver known as NYHLA Records. He’s teamed with president and founder, Angus Maude, and co-VP Taylor Friginette to create a platform for local talent to shine. And lemme tell ya, these artists don’t just shine. They fucking glow. I plan on dedicating an entire post to this group of talent at some point, because they’re just bloody brilliant, and I want to get a scoop on their story before everyone and their mama knows about them. But I digress.
Sam, who goes by maSHerman (pronounced mash-er-man, not Ma Sherman, which sounds more like a character from Little House on the Prairie), has been working for a long time on his debut album. The project, named otis, is set to be released at some point this year. But what debut album cycle would be complete without a debut single? Well, that single is coming very soon. And Sam has a very interesting feature on that track. Any guesses? …No, it’s not T Pain …Nope, it’s not Cher either. I just figured those would be your first two guesses.
Actually, the debut single, entitled Talk to Me, features a relative unknown who goes by the moniker, “my brother max”. Hey, wait a minute, that’s me! Yes, folks. I wrote and sing the second verse on this song. And I simply cannot wait for you all to hear it. Also, before you ask. No, it is not me just singing the scores and headlines from the sports news. I know that’s what you’re used to. I hope it’s not what you want, though. Because if it is, good lord, what kind of music have you been listening to? Anyway, the point is you’re gonna have to get used to the idea that sports is not my be-all end-all.
As another example, I’ve developed a burgeoning interest in politics. There’s no mystery as to why that’s the case. I think the most recent presidential election caused a lot of us to be more plugged in to whatever the fuck is going on in the United States. There’s no doubt that the current occupant of the White House swallows up a lot of the news coverage, and to an extent, rightfully so. The dude gives us something new to scream about seemingly every day. But what interests me more is the impact that this era in politics is having on society at large.
This period in our history has been devastatingly revealing in the ways it has exposed the underbelly of what it means to live in America. But I like to consider myself a glass half-full guy. Sure, that’s super easy for a straight, white male like myself to say. But you know how they say that the first step to recovery is acknowledging there is a problem? To me, that feels like where we are right now.
Deep-rooted, institutional problems like racism, misogyny and homophobia cannot possibly be undone overnight. But these issues have been thrust into our collective conscience so forcefully through the litany of horrible stories we’ve read about over the last couple of years. You’d have to be a complete fool to not acknowledge that everything is not alright. I believe that our awareness of all of this crap is what is going to slowly lead to more activism and more progress. Also, this emerging generation of young people is so incredibly inspiring. I just know the future is in good hands. The over-arching point is, if you log onto this blog and see I’ve written a post consisting of social commentary or that covers a topic that is either vaguely or overtly political, don’t be shocked.
The shackles are off, y’all. I make the rules now. There’s no one above me to tell me that I shouldn’t or can’t write about a particular subject. And honestly, that is one of things that I love the most about what I’m doing here. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a decent chance you’re going to come across a post of mine that either doesn’t interest you or that you vehemently disagree with. Both of those things are ok. I just ask that even if that is the case, that you still come back the next week and check in on me again.
There is still going to be plenty of sports commentary in this space. It’s a subject that I know better than most, and also is generally a place where you can spout off opinions without offending anybody. If you’re a fan of my blog, please tell your friends! Just do me a favor. Don’t call me “sports guy.” I’m fixing to prove that I’m so much more.
I kicked around a couple of different ideas on what to write about this week. I could have put some words together on a number of different sports happenings, but honestly, fuck all that shit. Instead, I’ve decided to write about a subject that I can safely say I know better than anyone in the world. That subject is…well…me.
This week marks the two-year anniversary of one of the most important events of my life so far. The first week of March in 2017 was when I left the only home I had ever known. I bounced around quite a bit growing up, but the New York/New Jersey area was the only region I had ever lived for the first 30 years of my life. So when I decided I was packing up all of my shit and moving not just out of the area, but also out of the country, it was easily one of the craziest, scariest and most daunting decisions I had ever made for myself. But goddamn, am I happy I did it.
In this post, I want to explain what went into that decision, and why looking back on it now, I’ve never been more confident that it will go down as one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.
Now, I don’t have any interest in going ALL the way back to the very beginning of this story, because it spans well over a decade and goes through the minutiae of my adolescence. Even though some aspects of it make for compelling storytelling, I’m writing a blog post here, not an autobiography.
All you need to know on that front is that my parents went through an ugly divorce. The horrors of that experience led my mom – who is a saint and deserves to have her story told in a better setting than this silly blog – to move to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She would be joined a few years later by my younger brother when my dad decided he wanted to fuck off to the Virgin Islands to live out retirement. This was in 2005.
I stayed in New York because I had a dream to chase. My passions were always pretty clearly defined, even when I was a kid. My dad was a big shot in the NYC radio scene, and I have always been a fanatical sports fan. Put the two together, and I knew what I wanted to be. I was going to work in sports radio, and I was going to be great at it.
In my senior year of college, I had the good fortune of being able to intern at WFAN. For those who don’t know, the FAN was, is, and probably always will be the premiere sports talk station not just in New York, but really the country. It’s essentially where the sports talk format was born and has been home to the brightest stars in the broadcasting game since its inception.
Immediately following my internship, the FAN offered me a part-time job. That gig would beget several other work opportunities at the station, eventually leading to my first on-air position as an update anchor. By that time I had been working there for five years.
The satisfaction of knowing that my hard work was paying off with an opportunity to sit in front of a microphone in any capacity was overwhelming. I remember leaving the office that day and being so overcome with emotion, I cried right there on the busy streets of lower Manhattan. I didn’t even care how many people were staring at me. I was doing the damn thing, y’all. It was the surest sign yet that I was on the right path. This crazy dream I had of being a star broadcaster? It was actually happening. And I was elated.
Over the course of the next couple of years, I felt myself getting better and better at what I was doing. Even though sports updates on the FAN are relegated to just a couple of minutes, three times an hour, I found a way to deliver the scores and headlines in a way that was uniquely me. I guess what I’m saying is, I got really fucking good at that job. It’s not like I was doing anything revolutionary, but I could not have possibly felt more in my element.
But this was never my end game. Just as anyone who has done the same job for years on end would, I eventually got to a place where I wanted to take the next step in my development. And by the time 2015 rolled around, I was ready to leap. I began putting together demo tapes in hopes that I could earn an opportunity to host a show.
It took a while. The first two or three tapes I sent in were, to be blunt, absolute tire fires. Like, they were really, grotesquely bad. But I kept doing it. With every rep, I got a little better, and a little better. Finally, I sent one in that was passable enough that my boss was willing to give me a shot. It was to be on Christmas morning, 2015. My time slot would be from 3-6 AM. Or as I like to call it, zombie primetime. But holy shit. This was huge. More elation. More tears of joy. The arrow on my career trajectory was going up again.
When the day arrived, I was a nervous wreck. But I prepared my ass off for that show. I had a format. I had a plan. And after getting through my opening monologue and taking a handful of calls, I settled in and began to sense that familiar feeling I had felt all those years doing the updates. This is what I was always meant to do. I am GOOD at this.
There was just one problem. When you work in a corporate structure, it really doesn’t matter at all what YOU think of the job you’re doing. There are gatekeepers that decide who is worthy of being elevated, and who is not. And while the purpose of telling you this story is not to cast aspersions on the powers that be, the fact of the matter is that my performance hosting that show did not move the needle a single iota in the minds of the people in charge. Their feedback was constructive, but extremely tame in praise. You might be wondering how many follow-up opportunities I got to host again and hone my craft. The answer is…zero.
I’m not self-righteous enough to say that I don’t bear a large part of the blame for why that was the case. I didn’t do nearly a good enough job of advocating for myself, and the fact is, if I had been more in their face on a regular basis, I think I would have at least earned more chances to prove myself. But I wasn’t and I didn’t. The result was 2016 being a year that relentlessly beat my ass into submission.
That year started with my girlfriend of six years deciding she finally had enough of me putting my career first. Just weeks after the highest moment of my professional life, my personal life was beginning to crumble. My schedule of working late nights and overnights was taking a toll on both my mental and physical health. Socially, I curled up into a ball. I rarely left my apartment that I was now living in alone. Sometimes, days would pass without me even seeing the sun. I was still very much dealing with the fallout of the death of my father two years earlier – which is a whole other story in and of itself, perhaps for another time.
The weeks turned into months, and nothing was happening for me. That was largely because I wasn’t making anything happen for myself. But still, I felt betrayed and unappreciated in many ways, despite that being a completely useless thing to feel. In hindsight, it was also misguided. Nevertheless, the year pressed on and the shit storm in my brain only intensified.
2016 still had one more kick in the nuts to deliver to me, and that came in the form of the election of President Donald Trump. I promise I’m not going to go off on a political tangent here, and I understand that there are many of you reading this who were probably thrilled by this development. But for me, that nightmarish election process producing the worst possible outcome led to me taking inventory of my entire life.
I didn’t want to be where I was anymore, in any context. My personal life had worn me down. My professional life was completely stagnant and becoming more and more difficult to cope with and maintain. My home country felt like it was devolving into a caricature of all of its worst elements rolled into one. I felt like I was battling all of my demons every day. It was time for a change…and a big one.
And that’s when it hit me. I needed my mom. I needed my brother. I needed a change of scenery. So I made the call. I ugly cried over the phone to my mom and told her I wanted to move to Vancouver. I knew that door was always open to me, and part of me feels like a dope for not taking it sooner. But better late than never.
It was March 1, 2017 that I loaded up a van full of my belongings and started driving west. That road trip was a life-changing experience. I saw parts of the U.S. that I probably never would have seen otherwise. I remember driving through the corn fields of Iowa and looking at the farm houses. I’d gaze upon the glowing lights inside and think to myself, I wonder what their life is like.
During that week I was on the road, I had vulnerable, honest and difficult conversations with myself. Even though solitude was one of the things I was undoubtedly running from, being alone with my thoughts over the course of that trip was one of the most blissful experiences I had during the entire journey. Finally, I reached the city limits of Vancouver. It was at that very moment that I was overcome with the most comforting feeling I could have possibly felt at that time boiled down into two words: I’m home.
In the two years since, I’ve taken a lot of time to reflect. Too much time, really. The fact is, time spent looking to the past is time not spent preparing for the future. But let me tell you guys this: ya boy is back and ready to take over the world again.
What I’ve realized is that I hold the power. I’ve spent too much time playing by the rules of others and conditioning myself to believe that the only way to do something meaningful is to climb the corporate ladder. Now? I think that is absolute nonsense. It’s simply not true. I don’t need to attach myself to your business to glow myself up. My business is ME.
That’s not to say that I think I’ve automatically got it made. I understand the process is going to be hard. It’s going to be slow. It’s going to take a fuck-ton of work. It wont always be perfect. But I’m ready. I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life. I’ve got plans again. I’ve never felt more driven in my life than I do right now. And despite having to constantly fight back the feeling that I’m running out of time, I’ve come to the realization that I’m right on schedule.
Keep your eyes on me, folks. I’m up to something. The revolution may not be televised. But I’ve got front row seats with all of your names on them.
The modern-day news cycle is goddamn exhausting in just about every way imaginable. Everyone hates everything and sometimes there seems to be no end in sight to the onslaught of stories that make you want to plant your face firmly into a pillow and let out your most primal scream.
In its best moments, sports can provide sweet reprieve from the cesspool of misery that we’ve come to expect from the average newscast. There really is only so much we can take from the constant reports on death, destruction, political corruption – and worst of all – traffic and weather together.
But when the shittier aspects of society get packaged together and tangled up in the sports news, it’s no less disheartening. Here are three sports stories from the past week that made me say, “What the fuck?”
IF THE BRAVES ARE DISTANCING THEMSELVES FROM THE TOMAHAWK CHOP, THIS IS A WEIRD WAY OF DOING IT
Publicly, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said that the Atlanta Braves are doing their part to dissuade fans from participating in the Tomahawk Chop at their games. For the uninitiated, this is where a stadium full of baseball fans makes a chopping motion meant to simulate a tomahawk while bellowing out the most blatant caricature of a Native American chant you could possibly conceive.
So if the Braves are indeed relegating the Chop to the garbage can of history, someone needs to explain what the damn hell the shirt pictured above is doing in their official team store. I mean, what is that other than what can only be described as an instructional diagram?
I remain hopeful that we will eventually do away with the chop, along with Chief Wahoo of Cleveland Indians notoriety, as well as the explicitly racist name of the Washington football team. But I also understand a concept voiced most eloquently by the late, great George Carlin: “Progress is slow. Smallpox is fast.”
UPDATE: This note from Craig Calcaterra at NBC Sports clarifies that the Braves have not and are not making an attempt to distance themselves from the Chop.
Channel 11 in Atlanta, citing “sources with intimate knowledge of this situation” reports that Manfred misspoke when he praised the Braves for getting rid of the Chop. He meant to praise that Braves for getting rid of the mascot Chief Noc-a-Homa, which the Braves ceased featuring in 1986. No I am not making this up.
EVERYTHING ABOUT THE ROBERT KRAFT PROSTITUTION STORY HAS BEEN FUCKED…NO PUN INTENDED
Look, I’m the furthest thing from a Bob Kraft fan. If you read my first post on this site, you know I’m certainly no fan of his New England Patriots either. Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution. Now, I could go off on a whole thing about the unnecessary, unwarranted stigma surrounding sex workers. But let me focus up a bit here.
It seems to me that because Kraft is the most famous figure named in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa story, many of us are either treating him as a punchline, or somehow the most nefarious figure involved. And let’s be clear, that is NOT the case.
The arrests associated with this case are the product of a six-month police investigation that revealed that human traffickers were luring vulnerable girls to the States under the guise of giving them work as a masseuse. Needless to say, that’s not all that the job entailed, and these girls were intimidated and shamed into keeping quiet about what they were being forced to do. That is supremely fucked up.
Honestly, I think it’s ok if you’ve gotten a giggle out of one of the most powerful men in the NFL being caught up in a prostitution story. But holy shit. If Kraft’s role in this story is the only thing you’ve taken out of all of this, you are majorly missing the forest for the trees.
Also, the fact that the spa itself instantly became a hot spot for selfies is such an indictment of what we’ve become as a society…it kinda just bums me out a little.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE, A COLLEGE BASEBALL GAME WAS DELAYED BY A BIRD FIGHT
I contemplated continuing with the theme of stories that make me upset. But why do that when I can leave you with a WTF moment from this past week that will make you smile instead?
It comes to us from a college baseball game between Jacksonville University and Jacksonville State. As chronicled by Deadspin, the game was delayed in the 8th inning because an osprey dropped a fish into the outfield after being startled by an aggressive bald eagle, who clearly had designs on stealing that fish for his own dinner.
As pictured above, the eagle circled around ready to swoop in to pick up the discarded meal, but one of the players on the field beat him to it…you know, because there was still a baseball game left to finish. In my mind, the eagle then pursued that player and lifted him up into the sky to be devoured along with the fish. But sadly, I can’t confirm and seriously doubt that’s what actually happened.
This concludes my recap of some of the “WTF?” sports stories of the last seven days. Maybe I’ll make this a regular feature? Also, please sound off in the comments if there’s a story that has you all what-the-fuck that I missed.
While I’m here, thanks for everyone who’s reading! My numbers have been steadily going up every week I do this, so let me take a minute to appreciate you for giving a shit! I love you all. See you next week!