Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Well, Isn't That Cute?

I received the following e-mail today from my good buddy, Rudy Giuliani. Him and I go way back and he just wanted to make sure I was clued in on his speech last night. You know, just in case I missed it. Great guy, that Rudy. Always looking out for me. Anyway, let me share his letter with you, even though it's very personal:

Dear ****,

Last night, in Madison Square Garden, I took the stage at the Republican National Convention to speak to America about the threats we face in the world, the events we have been through together over the last three years, and the clear, steady leadership of President George W. Bush that has guided us through these difficult times.

Millions of Americans tuned their TVs to convention coverage last night and heard my words. And many more will hear the words of others who will come before our convention. They will hear our story.

Will you help us tell the story to those who don't tune in?


President Bush has been the steady hand we need in these times of uncertainty and danger. He understands the stakes. He makes decisions based on deeply held beliefs, not the political winds. He chooses to fight terror in places like Baghdad and Kabul, rather than New York and Kansas. It is the right way to fight this enemy and it is a fight we must win.

In order to keep the pressure on al-Qaeda, we must keep George W. Bush in the White House. In order to take the fight to our enemies, we must have the strength of conviction, and support for our Armed Forces. This is not a fight for those who talk tough, and then leave our troops unarmed. This is not a fight for those who talk about the need for better intelligence, but have a history of voting against it.

This is not a fight that favors sensitivity and nuance. This is a fight that requires strength, determination and resolve.

Will you help ensure this fight is won by contributing $1000, $500, $250, $100 or even $50 to the President's campaign?


I hope I can count on you to help me tell this story. As you watch the convention tonight, you will know that you have helped us reach millions that may not be watching. You have spread the message to those who may not watch, but need to know.

You will make the difference.


Rudy Giuliani

P.S. When I addressed the convention last night, millions watched, but millions more did not. Will you help ensure my words reach those who did not hear them firsthand? Please contribute $1,000, $500, $250, $100, or even $50 at www.GeorgeWBush.com/Rudy.

Geez, how many times did he use the word "fight"? I especially like the part at the end where he asks for my money to help fund his propaganda filth.

Hey, Giuliani, get lost.

Enough About Terror - We Get it Already

Rudy Giuliani is full of shit.

I know politicians lie. I'm stupid, but not that stupid. However, when the lies, no matter how small and inconsequential, are so casually construed and passed along as if to resemble campfire storytelling, my trained ambivalence turns to disgust. Such were my feelings as I listened to Rudy Giuliani speak at the Republican National Convention.

Giuliani stated that on 9/11, as he was watching the World Trade Towers crumble, he grabbed the arm of the New York City police commissioner (whose name I forget) and claims to have said, "Thank God George Bush is our president."

Um, yeah, right. I seriously doubt this happened, but wait, it gets better.

Giuliani claims to have then added, "And thank God Dick Cheney is our vice-president."

Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. This little conversation never happened. I guaran-friggin-tee it.

Now, in the big picture of plentiful lies told by politicians of all types, is this miniscule lie that terrible? No, not really. It did, however, sum up the relentless barrage of corny references to "9/11" and "terrorism" and "evil" we're going to hear this week. It's going to get ridiculous. Shit, by the end of the convention, 9/11 is going to come off like a feel good story after all the touching episodes of bravery, compassion and unity we'll be spoon fed like the children that Republicans treat us as.

It's a damn shame that an American nightmare like 9/11 will be milked and sucked and raped, that 9/11 will be propped up and used as a campaign slogan, used as sheer propaganda, just as it has been since, oh, 9/12. How long will this go on? How long will that dreadful day be twisted into Republican rhetoric designed to keep Americans living in fear - fear of a second helping, and fear of switching leaders in the middle of a so-called "war." Nevermind the fact that these same Republican leaders instigated another "war," an unecessary war in Iraq that rages out of control with no end in sight.

Giuliani was full of unbridled optimism as he said the era of global terrorism will end. "I can see it. I believe it," he said.

That's fine and dandy. The only problem, however, is that Giuliani should maybe think about reading a history book. Terrorism will never end. It never has. It never will. That's the story of mankind. There will always be an enemy. There will always be war. There will always be potential predators to worry about. There will always be tragedies to absorb and overcome. Giuliani and the rest of the Republicans should stop using a blanket term like the "war on terror" - a term that was conveniently given to them on 9/11 and a term they clutch ceaselessly - to offer false promises to the American people as if the day when we can all let out our collective breath will come and all our worries will dissolve.

It doesn't work like that.

Thing is, the Republicans will present this as a possibility, or at the very least, a goal we must trust them to lead us towards. They need 9/11. They need the threat of terror. It's all they have. It's their last and greatest hope. They're desperate. They're like drug addicts that keep coming back to that same dealer, again and again and again, because they know where to get their fix. They're strung out on the belief that that they're brave and tough and they tell so us over and over and over....

...because this is all they have. This is all they can offer.

What else can they possibly present as their basis for earning our trust and belief, not to mention our vote? It certainly isn't their (lack of) accomplishments in regards to the economy or jobs or health care or anything else they conveniently leave out of the picture they present to us.

This week, just watch how little they stray away from their central theme of terrorism. Giuliani's entire speech was based on it. He ventured nowhere else. Talk about a lack of creativity.

That's all Republicans have, but I have one tiny request for them:

Will you please, please, please shut the $%$# up about the war on terror already? Please. We get it already. SHUT THE #$*& UP! You've made your point. Let's move forward.

Look, we're not stupid. We understand that great efforts must be taken to prevent another 9/11. We understand that that, yes, they're are terrorists out there plotting, waiting. We understand this all as a real and present danger. We understand that the human race will always have its violent malcontents. We understand that there are people out there that can't stand America.

So do what you have to do. OK? Stop telling us about it. We get it. In fact, we honestly trust that you are doing all you can. We also trust that, no matter who is in office, terrorism will be a main priority. Stop trying to woo us, to win us over through contrived and small-minded allusions to "good versus evil." Try, instead, to tell us how you plan to improve the situation on the homefront, and how you plan to ammend all the $%@#-ups you've already inflicted upon us in the past four years in regards to jobs lost, the spiralling deficit, lack of progress on heath care, your crumbling of environmental laws, etc.

Can we all just assume that the powers-that-be which are supposed to be countering terrorism are busy doing just that? We don't need to hear about it. We really don't. We are a faithful people. Try telling us something - anything! - else for a change. Is there anything else? Do you have anything else to offer? Anything? Anything at all?

What else you got? Is this asking too much?

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Beijing 2008 - and Rampant Sex - Here I Come!

Well the Olympics are over. How sad.

Sure, they were obviously created by Donald Trump solely as a vehicle to advertise NBC's second season of 'The Apprentice,' but I tried not to let that get in the way of my viewing enjoyment. I'm actually going to miss waking at 4 A.M. to catch the live broadcast of rhythmic gymnastics. There was no way I was allowing the rhythmic gymnastics results to be spoiled by internet news or the unavoidable buzz on the street concerning the sport. I had to watch it live, baby!

I'm also glad to report that the Olympics have inspired me to jump start my sputtering athletic career. That's right, I've been moved. The flame has been rekindled. My very existence suddenly has meaning again, and I have the 2004 Olympic athletes and their permiscuous ways to thank for my new direction in life.

I am henceforth completely dedicated to competing in Beijing in four year's time and enjoying rampant sex with countless female athletes from all corners of the globe!

I'm sure we have all heard the stories of the Olympic village being stocked with an initial supply of 130,000 condoms and the rumors of rampant sex among athletes. Allegedy, the Olympic village is one big orgy.

Try as I might, I just can't get this image out of my head. I'm like Woody Harrelson in 'Indecent Proposal.' I can't let it go. These things are very important to me. It's a good thing I'm single, or the thought of Amanda Beard accepting her share of free condoms would be tearing my marriage apart.

Read this quote, which I did not make up (although it definitely sounds like something I would have):

"They love sex and they can't get enough of it. Some blokes get it on with a different girl every night - even two or three. Threesomes and foursomes are pretty common."

Wow! The greatest plans of mankind have been sparked by less.

There are more quotes where that one came from, and they're tormenting me to no end. I just can't shake the mental image of athletes bumping into each other at some party, or bar, or the arrivals terminal at the Athens airport and briefly checking each other out before one of them says, "Hmm? Yes, let's."

This is what I've always dreamed about. Always!

Thus, Beijing 2008 is now my main focus in life: two weeks of rampant sex in the Olympic village with athletes from distant lands such as Qatar, Luxembourg or Canada. Oh, sure, four years of intense dedication will be no picnic, but it's a great deal in exchange for two weeks of wild, unlimited, no-strings-attached screwing. Life is give and take, and I'm a giver. Since my career as a rock star hasn't gone as planned, I feel the Olympics may be my next best move. I've yet to decide on a sport, but, really, that's not of importance.

Here's a few possibilities, however:

1) Gymnastics. It appears that a sport monitored by judges might be the way to go. That would at least offer the possibilty of biases and/or complete incompetence on the part of the judges allowing me to slip unexpectedly into medal contention...and don't worry, fellow Americans, if I win a medal unfairly, I'm not giving back shit. They'll have to pry that medal out of my dead, condom-holding hands. True, actually winning a medal isn't my main focus here, but I think waltzing around the Olympic village with a medal around my neck would make me a prime target for eager groupies...that and me holding up a handful of condoms and announcing, "I am an American athlete and I would like to enjoy some rampant sex!"

I've been jumping down my bottom three steps in an attempt to perfect that flat-footed landing thing that's apparently important in gymnastics. I don't mean to brag, but I can really "stick it" now. And that thing they do where they raise their arms, smile like an NBA player on a road trip, and swivel in the direction of the judges? Whoo, boy! I'm more than ready in that department. I must be a natural or something. I figure I can build on this.

After the scoring debacle at this year's Olympics, I have the correct protest procedure memorized, and, believe me, if I don't medal I'll be protesting my ass off no matter how many points are deducted from my overall score should I not be able to jump high enough to reach the rings. I figure a messy protest will get me a lot of invaluable publicity, which should go along way in the Olympic village. You never know when a pair of Swedish high jumpers might see you and say, "Look, there is that American gymnast who is all over the news. Let us both have rampant sex with him, yah?"

Besides, after hearing Paul Hamm's munchkin-like voice, I bet I'll come off looking like the friggin' Marlboro Man.

2) Basketball. I couldn't help the feeling that this year's poor-shooting team could have used my help. Being a white guy of average height, minimal quickness, and the jumping ability of a laundry machine, the outside shot, naturally, is my specialty. It would be an honor to help restore our lost American pride in a game we invented. Hey, I am a patriot, not just a guy who would like to enjoy some rampant sex.

3) Beach volleyball. I was once cut from my high school volleyball team, so I think this more than qualifies me for making the jump from "real" volleyball to the beach, which is more my style anyway. I'm not too keen on having volleyballs violently spiked in the general direction of my face by big men who take volleyball seriously enough to play indoors, nor am I a big fan of diving on a hard court. Sand is more up my alley. And those dance teams that perform during breaks in the action? Sure, they're not official Olympic athletes, but I think I could sqeeze in some rampant sex with them too. Lastly, I already own a pair of wraparound shades.

4) Race walking. How hard can this sport be? I mean, it's walking! I've been doing that since I was a baby, and when I haven't been drinking I'm damn good at it. There can't be more than a handful of Olympic-caliber race walkers in America, and surely they're all wusses. My chances of qualifying should be pretty good, especially after I revolutionize the sport with roller blades. However, if I manage to make the Olympic team as a race walker, I don't plan on mentioning this fact in my pick-up lines. Admitting to being a race walker could possibly be the one thing to prevent me from enjoying rampant sex in the Olympic village.

Rest assured, whatever sport I choose, I will be well prepared to represent my fellow Americans honorably. As of this morning, I'm adhering to a strict regimen of A.) slowly adding onto the 80 pounds I've been bench pressing since sophomore year of high school, B) doing some research on beating drug tests, C) finally, once and for all, memorizing the words to the 'Star Spangled Banner,' and D) switching to light beer. I may even eliminate my beloved burritos from my diet, but I'll see how I'm progressing first.

I don't do things half-assed where rampant sex is concerned.

Of course, there is always the little obstacle of actually making the Olympic team. That could be tricky. In the unlikely event that this proves too difficult, I have a backup plan already brewing. Believe me, the association of words like "Misty May," "threesomes," and "free condoms" trigger my brain into overdrive. I've been up all night for weeks chain-smoking and plotting wildly. I feel like the lunatics who invented the atom bomb. Or whoever invented the halter top. How can you possibly stop to rest when you're so close to greatness? I haven't shaved, showered, or answered my phone in days. I briefly thought I heard two of my friends banging on my door and yelling, "Are you in there? Hello! Hello! Please answer! We're worried!" but I chalked it up to hallucinations caused by lack of sleep and the banging eventually stopped. Once I emerge from the all-important initial planning stages, I'll tell my friends about all the rampant sex I'll partake in and they'll fully understand. Maybe they'll be equally inspired and we'll start a rowing team or something. Occasionally, I do feel the desire for sleep, but I quickly TIVO some beach volleyball, take one glimpse of Misty May and Kerri Walsh practically dry-humping after winning their gold medal, and that immediately gets me back on track towards my ultimate goal of rampant sex. There is work of great importance to be done.

So, anyway, if I fail to make the team this is my backup plan, which is a work in progress: I'll still head to Beijing with a suitcase full of as much replica U.S.A Olympic attire and as many varied condoms as I can afford. Once in Beijing, I'll hang out as near to the Olympic village as possible and walk around in my U.S.A attire doing my best Uncle Sam-as-a-BALCO-client impression while wearing headphones and looking like I'm in deep concentration on my upcoming event. I may even do a little stretching and shit. You know, for added affect. It might be wise to enlist a friend who can pose as my coach and say things like "Yes, yes, the drug test is two days away. You're safe" or "The Malaysian judge has been taken care of." I'm definitely going for the complete serious-athlete-eager-to-enjoy-some-rampant-sex image. No shortcuts will be taken in this endeavor, no corners cut.

If anybody asks me what sport I'm competing in, which I'm sure I'll be asked once I politely introduce myself with "Hello! I'm an American athlete and I have two pockets full of condoms," I have two options:

1) Make up as sport. I'll say I'm on the dodgeball team or maybe the mens trampoline team. Sure, there is no mens trampoline competition, but who knew that womens trampoline was a sport. Am I right? As far as dodgeball goes, I firmly believe it should be a sport. So, hey, if I can inadvertantly get people to think about the possibility of dodgeball as an Olympic event, while at the same time enjoying some rampant sex, I feel this is a win-win situation. (Incidentally, I honestly believe I could make a U.S. dodgeball team as I was the shit back in junior high.)

2) Or I could rattle off the most obscure Olympic sport I can think of. I mean, who can name an athlete who competes in a sport like equestrian or archery? Nobody. That's who! I should be safe. Of course, if I unknowingly mention these sports in a pick-up line on, say, an attractive archer from Zimbabwe or Lithuania, I'll just turn around and run faster than a woman fleeing William Kennedy Smith. This is where my strict exercise and diet regimens will pay off even if my goal of being an actual athlete is derailed.

Then again, my best bet might be to concentrate solely on athletes from countries where English is least likely to be spoken, if even slightly. This, unfortunately, would eliminate athletes from large parts of Western Europe and New York, as well as that Australian basketball player who posed naked, but, with 130,000 condoms viewed as merely a starting figure, I think my chances should still be quite good. Besides, I'd prefer not to tell blatant lies if at all possible, and this honest plan of attack would leave me with the cleanest conscience should I choose to be respectful in my devious plans. Hey, I'm not a monster.

Just imagine a possible conversation:

Me: "Hello there, unbelievably fit female athlete with an unmistakably foreign look about you! I have many, many free condoms and would like to use as many as possible with many beautiful women whose names I won't be able to pronounce let alone remember from many countries I may or may not have heard of before."

Female athlete who obviously speaks very little or no english: "Sorry, no speak English good. I is Russian. Me - how you say? - swimmer."

Me: "You're a swimmer from Russia? Gee, that's great. So did you see all these free condoms they've given me?"

F.A.W.O.S.V.L.O.N.E.: "I'm sorry. No understand too good. I like know about America."

Me: "Honey, America is the best. Now, tell me, are you part of a relay team? Where are they? I'd like to meet them too. Look at all these free condoms I have."

F.A.W.O.S.V.L.O.N.E.: "What sport you?"

Me: "Uh, basketball. Yeah, yeah, basketball. I'm the point guard. Just look at all these free condoms I have! Let's have rampant sex."

OK, OK, I may be forced to resort to lies at the first sign of hesitation in her voice. Shit, I can't be wasting too much time on a conversation with somebody who doesn't speak English when I have my fair share of 130,000 condoms to put to good use.

Anyway, I feel unbelievably rejuvenated. Admittedly, I can be a bit of a slacker and have not been this motivated since trying to get kicked out of my all-boys high school. My family and friends will be overjoyed to see me, at long last, highlighting a definite goal and wholeheartedly dedicating myself to achieving it. Sure, it's going to be a long four years full of blood, sweat, tears, and painful needle injections, but it will all be worth it when I triumphantly and proudly enter that Olympic village overflowing with American pride and I head directly to the free condom machine with that spine-tingling official Olympics anthem playing loudly in my head. You know the one.

Still, it would probably be wise to pack a few condoms of my own in addition to the many free ones I'll be given.

You can never be too safe when it comes to all the rampant sex I'll be enjoying.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

What Bible Are Conservatives Reading?

I try to ignore Alan Keyes. I really do. Unfortunately, he's like having a loose tooth as a kid. You...just...can't...ignore...him. If only Keyes could be removed as easily as a loose tooth, because the, um, thoughts coming out of his mouth are bordering on satire.

First, read this quote, which Keyes made upon accepting the Republican nomination to run for Senate:

"I will promise you a battle like this nation has never seen. The battle is for us, but I have confidence because the victory is for God!"

Now read one of his latest quotes in reference to his vision of a society in which we can all march around with guns- er, scratch that - machine guns:

"I think instead of being afraid of defending ourselves, we would do well to follow a course of action that re-educated our people in the means of their self-defense. And it would, by the way, provide an armed citizenry that would make terrorists think twice and three times before they dared to threaten our people."

God and guns.

Uh, oh. Here we go. While these two words strike me as the makings of a really cool album name, they should otherwise be bigger polar opposites than Ricky Williams and drug tests.

Keyes, who unabashedly presents himself as a real holy roller-type, is spreading the word of - you guessed it! - guns. Guns, glorious, guns! The backbone of the Bible. Guns! The very essence of peace and understanding. Guns! Under the robes of all of Jesus' disciples. Guns!

What would Jesus do? Why he'd put a cap in yo' ass, of course.

Oh, but Keyes isn't just talking merely about smallish concealed weapons. No way. Give the guy some credit. He's more progressive than that. He's a bigger dreamer than that. No, he's talking about full-blown machine guns - heavy artillery! - the same sort of weaponry that armies, you know, annihilate each other with. Those types of guns. Keyes was very specific about this. Handguns? Please! Mere toys.

Now, maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure where exactly in the Bible Keyes and his conservative brethren get their fondness for guns from. I guess I should have paid better attention in my religion classes instead of reading the sports section. But I'll take a few guesses nonetheless.

Maybe it's the story where Jesus, fresh from the shooting range, stumbles upon Mary Magdalene being stoned to death, lifts his robe to reveal an uzi, offers his best Dirty Harry face, and cooly mutters, "Go ahead, toss your stones, muthafuckazz. I dare ya."

Maybe it's the story where Jesus storms into the market place, fires a few rounds into the air, and shouts, "I ain't playin', fools!"

Or maybe it's the story where Jesus rises from the dead and says, "I need to find myself a piece. To hell with this forgiveness shit. I want some Roman blood up in this hizzy!"

Yep, that crazy Bible sure is full of old fashioned shoot-em-ups. That Jesus was a violence freak, a real eye-for-an-eye kind of guy!

But seriously, that is what I don't get about extreme conservatives - the hypocrisy they exude in abundance but just don't see. They claim to be unequivocally religious, yet they're the ones fighting to make sure the steets are more readily filled with guns, which is in complete contradiction to Jesus' platform of peace. They're the ones who champion bigotry against gays, which, again, is in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus, who, strangely enough, preached acceptance of all mankind. It certainly seems as though extreme conservatives know the Bible inside and out, except for a few parts they conveniently skip over. I guess, as they say, you hear what you want to hear, and believe what you want to believe.

But back to the quotes at the beginning...

Is it just me or does the connection of words such as "battle" and "...victory for God" sound eerily familiar? Next, toss in Keyes' call for an "armed citizenry" and his rhetoric sounds alarmingly akin to the religious nutjobs who have been the cause of so much bloodshed in the Middle East for centuries - the same religious nutjobs who Keyes states are the very reason Americans should be heavily armed in the first place.

Ah, the irony.

God. Guns. Followers. Battles. Victories.


It makes you wonder if Keyes doesn't have some backwards ideas about women that even he is not so foolish as to express. And, come to think of it, I have not yet once seen his wife in public since he arrived in Chicago. Hmm. (Then again, I'm not exactly going out of my way to keep up with the daily debacle that is Keyes' political career.)

Look, increasing the number of guns floating around in society will not make anyone safer. Not your enemies, not your friends. I'm sorry to disappoint any conservatives, but this is a simple truth and is not debatable. In fact, anyone who believes otherwise is in serious need of a little common sense, and by "anyone" I mean Keyes specifically.

If I wasn't intent on maintaining some level of decorum, I would come right out and say that Keyes is an ignorant idiot. (But I won't.) Nor will I say he's a clueless, showboating buffoon. (Won't hear it from me.) And I won't call him a laughable jackass who has been an utter failure in every election race he ever poisoned with his extreme conservative filth. (Uh-uh, nope. Not going to do it.) And I won't stoop to ridicule him for possessing the misguided hubris that prevents him from realizing that a vast majority of people think that he's, well, an ignorant, idiotic, clueless, showboating buffoon who has been an utter failure in every election race he ever poisoned with his extreme conservative filth. (No, sirree. I'm better than all that.)

I will, however, say that Keyes' volatile mix of religion and weaponry is, in some bigger picture, not much different than the cold-blooded Islamic propaganda utilized by radical clerics who call for violence, revenge, and lives. It's different levels of the same bullshit. If radical and violent Islamic fundamentalism is the final chapter, Keyes' words and beliefs are the opening statement. It's all the same. Close-mindedness. Wackos. Haters.

Keyes, naturally, does not see the irony in this. Of course not. He's too busy preening from his political pulpit to "see" much of anything. Personally, I think he too thoroughly enjoys his make-believe world where he gets to be "Mr. Politician" to realize he's a political hack. Actually, I don't think he even cares anymore about what he's saying as long as he can hear the words flowing from his mouth, as he seems to fancy himself as some sort of elegent, poetic speaker of the people.

Eloquance is not wisdom. Charisma does not give birth to leadership.

Look, I'm not even worried about Keyes. As I write this, I'm surprised at the time I'm spending thinking about him. His looming defeat is only a question of by how much. In the end, Keyes is little more than a parody of right-wing conservative, nutjob politics come to life. He's hard to even take seriously. In a way, he's almost entertaining. Amusing. He's a joke.

But it's not Keyes I'm worried about. It's his ideas.

His ideas are sincere and being given an audience, and thus they need to be exposed for what they are - dangerous. Quite simply, Keyes' rhetoric of God and guns and followers and battles and victories is ill-conceived, brutish, and, yes, dangerous. A world envisioned by Keyes is a world destined to decay into chaos, a world brought to its knees by the very guns Keyes cherishes, a world utterly worse than the one Jesus envisions in Keyes' precious Bible.

It's a world we'd all be best to never see.

So in the words of Jesus, "You best be packin', bitch!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Damage Has Already Been Done

George Bush may as well order all the controversial ads debunking John Kerry's military legacy to be pulled. Why not?

The ads have already served their purpose. Americans have already seen or heard about them. Americans have already decided how they affect their opinion of Kerry. The damage has already been done.

The ads, however slimy and false, have worked wonderfully.

As far as all the fuss over John Kerry's war records goes, isn't the bottom line this: Kerry served in Vietnam, George Bush didn't. Period. Kerry risked his life in the jungles of Vietnam. Bush protected Alabama from the Viet Kong (and, apparently, rarely bothered to show up for even that.)

What else needs to be said?

Obviously, mudslinging and the blatant misportrayal of an opponent are as old as politics itself, but BushCo. is taking this slimy tactic to new depths when it forces American military men to divide amongst themselves and engage in childish wars of words that are more suited to junior high girls. So much for all that 'Band of Brothers' jazz. Ha! Nothing but hollow words when the assasination of a man's public persona is involved.

The pathetic part is, the men who claim to know so much about Kerry's actions in Vietnam, the liars and sycophants who have made unbelievably absurd claims such as Kerry shooting himself or throwing a grenade into a pile of rice to collect some stray shrapnel - this is beyond absurd! - are not the men who actually served with Kerry. Basically, they are men who happened to be somewhere in Vietnam at the same time. Now, if you haven't looked at a map lately, Vietnam is roughly the size of California. I appluad their bravery and service to America, but merely being in the same country hardly qualifies them to comment on what Kerry was actually doing. To be blunt, these men need to sit down and shut the #$%@ up. Now.

Nevertheless, they have come hard with an onslaught of pure lies, which have been largely disproven. Surprise, surprise.

Meanwhile, the men who did serve with Kerry, the men who sailed with him on the rivers of Vietnam, the men who spent their days and nights in a strange, dangerous country on the other side of the world with him, the men who dodged bullets with him, the men who survived with him, have nothing but good things to say.

Hmm. Who are you going to believe?

Naturally, Bush has not condemned the ads, these callously made up fictional portrayals. Imaginative stories. Lies. Deceits. Only recently did Bush even budge a little, and that was not to condemn the slanderous nature of the ads, but to criticize the independent groups funding them. Please. As if this all came as a surprise to him.

Although John McCain, who knows a little about seving one's counry, has pushed Bush to condemn the ads, Bush is apparently too busy looking for his spine. Why should he condemn them when he is getting all this free publicity as the election nears? Besides, if you think the fingerprints of Karl Rove and the rest of Bush's "think tank" aren't all over these libelous attacks, you're crazy. The fact that these people act shocked and unattached to this debacle is the most infuriating aspect. Hell, they created it. Believe me.

My biggest fear is that the American public will be influenced by these allegations, and recent polls suggest such it already has been.

Of course, that was the point.

Watch, as soon as Bush feels the ads have had a satisfactory run, and have suitably sunk into the American consciousness, then, and only then, will he condemn the actual content of the ads with a TV-ready, fake face or moral superiority. Hey, as far he's concerned, the ads have already had a nice run. The damage has already been done. And regardless of how far or near to the truth the ads may be, that is besides the point. The ads were only intended to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of gullible and overly-trusting Americans.

Mission accomplished.

How sad it is that Bush, a rich, silver-spooned daddy's boy who partied all through through Vietnam, has the audacity to not only question the reputation of a man who served, but to attempt to shoot bullet holes through that reputation with blatant lies.

Even sadder are the men, the former soldiers, the men of supposed honor, the liars, who actually spoke the fabrications with straight faces. I hope they're proud of themselves. I hope they get syphillis and die. And I'm a pacifcist!

It's sick. These people are sick.

Monday, August 23, 2004

We got Ogeleya, Er, Ogelaney, Er, HIM!

Oh, I got a feeling. Yeah, I got a feeling. Oh, I got a feeling the Bears are going to the Super Bowl.


I'm convinced of this and won't be persuaded otherwise. As if a 2-0 record in the pre-season wasn't sufficient proof of the Bears obvious upcoming dominance - of course it is! - they went out and traded for Adewale Ogunleye, who they needed almost as much as he needs a really cool, and simple, nickname.

Ogunleye is a headhunter. I like that. I fully expect to see the helmets of opposing quarterbacks being dislodged and rolling across the field in slow motion as the "NFL Films" camera zoom in for dramatic effect.

Marty Booker will be missed. For sure. There is little doubt as to his toughness and productivity. An unknown out of college, he quietly moved into the upper tier of NFL wide receivers despite catching passes from a virtual revolving door of mediocre to downright bad quarterbacks, as if the Bears ever have any other kind. Seven in five years, in fact. When Chris Chandler is the best quarterback you've run routes for in the NFL, you are a wide receiver in serious need of a fresh start. Too bad Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley aren't likely to provide that in Miami.

The fact is, however, Booker was injured most of last year and was in street clothes as the Bears went 5-3 in the second half of the season. While he was out, youngsters and unknowns - guys like Justin Gage, Bobby Wade, and Ahmad Merritt - stepped up and showed glimpses of what may come...and it wasn't bad. In limited time, Gage averaged nearly 20 yards a catch and Wade played well enough to now move into Booker's starting slot. Persistent malcontent David Terrell, meanwhile, will finally get a chance to be the No. 1 receiver, something he has whined and moaned about for years while producing squat on the field. If he plays half as well as he can pout about not playing through the media, he'll be fine and, dare I say, even happy. If it doesn't happen this year, however, he needs to be shipped out of town. And, trust me, he won't be missed. I really hope he doesn't think Bears fans are feeling deprived by his self-imposed media boycott. (Hey, David, we were already tuning out your consistent bitching. But thanks anyway. Appreciate the gesture.)

Booker was in danger of becoming a relic left over from the old regime, from the Dick Jauron era. While far from being over the hill, he's surely not part of the youth movement. The Bears young wide receiving core has shown enough promise to warrant the opportunity to fully blossom under a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new full-time quarterback.

Ogunleye is exactly what Lovie Smith needed to speed up his desire to field a quicker, faster, swarming, turnover-producing defense. In fact, he's just what the Bears needed. Period. Ogunleye's 15 sacks last year surpassed the total of the Bears entire defensive line. Combined. That's just sad, sadder than watching Paula Radcliffe collapse emotionally and physically in the Olympics' womans marathon. (Well, not really. That was bad.) The entire Bears defense, in fact, combined for a mere 18 sacks, which is unacceptable for a franchise that prides itself on defensive lunatics like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton injuring people and shit.

If I have one goal for the Bears this year, I'd like to see them knock out at least one opposing quarterback per game. I think this is realistic. These opposing QBs being carried away on stretchers would be preferable - or better yet, actual ambulances coming out of the stadium tunnel and driving onto the field - but if they can wobble off under their own power, I guess that would be O.K., too.

Ogunleye can definitely help make this happen.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

We're not as Great as We Think We Are

Is it odd of me to enjoy, however little, watching the U.S. mens basketball team struggle? Is it wrong? Am I unpatriotic? Am I the only one to feel this way? Or are there others like me lurking out there who choose not to admit it?

I have to say, the blowout loss to Puerto Rico didn't cause me to foam at the mouth or fall into convulsions as it did so many other American basketball fans. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. Ditto for the loss to Lithuania. It's strangely compelling drama, like watching a father lose to his son at one-on-one for the first time...and then getting angry about it and sulking. It's, um, funny. It makes me smile. What can I say?

It's not that I dislike the U.S. team. I root for every American in the Olympics, even in sports like trampoline. (Trampoline? What's next? The swing set competition?) Hey, as long as Kobe Bryant isn't on the roster, thus forcing me to cheer for somebody I'd rather not, I'm all for our guys. And it's not that I feel animosity towards rich, spoiled athletes and relish watching them humbled in front of the eyes of the world. OK, who am I kidding? That's not true. That is part of it. Sort of.

Mainly, I just like underdogs. I always root for them, unless I have money on the favorite, in which case: squash the underdog. And I like teams that play as such.

Naturally, American fans everywhere are up in arms about the state of our national team. They assume there must be some logical reason fot its struggles, and that reason surely has nothing to do with the possibilty that other countries can - get this! - actually play basketball. Thus, all the possible excuses have been tossed around. The players can't shoot. They don't care. They don't play defense. The selection committee did a poor job. The international rules are different.

Wah, wah, wah.

It must be reasons like this that the term "ugly Americans" came about. Quite simply, we cannot accept, or choose not to accept, the fact that the international community of basketball has grown up tremendously, and continues to do so. Believe it or not, there are several countries where basketball is popular, taken seriously, and - gulp! - played well. Given the opportunity, these countries will beat our unsuspecting butts, Carmelo Anthony aside, whose butt is glued to the bench where his true colors are blossoming.

Deal with it.

Sure, the present team does not represent the absolute cream of the NBA, as some of the league's preeminent talents chose not to play due to security concerns or more important obligations, such as lounging poolside or battling rape charges. But would a team featuring Bryant, Shaq, KG and T-Mac have struggled so mightily as well? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll probably find out in the future, as we now know that unless anything but our best is summoned we're in real danger of coming up short at "our" game.

And that's the point. The NBA's absolute biggest names and talents are now a necessity. This we have learned. The present team is full of stars - although some would be considered second-tier stars - and yet it's apparently not enough. My, how times have changed.

Look, the rest of the world contines to close in on us. In 1988 our best collegiates were defeated for the first time. (I wasn't around in 1972, but I hear we were robbed so I'm not including that loss.) That embarassment in Seoul at the hands of the dreaded Soviets was shocking and led to the original Dream Team making a mockery of international "competition.". Now, 16 years later, a team comprised of NBA stars was defeated in the Olympics for the first time. What's next? How long until the U.S. is considered just "another contender?" How long until an American loss is not automatically met with shock and disbelief? How long until the All-NBA first and second teams comprise the American squad - and loses? What excuses will be thought up then?

Eventually, the U.S., motivated by instances such as these very Olympics, will send a team of the absolute best we have to offer. And that team will be selected for its shooting ability. And that team will be selected for its defensive prowess. And that team will be selected for its knowledge of the international game.

And that team will lose.

It will happen. That day is coming. And when that days arrives it would be wise of American fans to accept the fact that the rest of the world can play basketball. This will make it easier to swallow, rather than wallowing in denial.

So, yeah, I'm sort of enjoying watching our guys struggle. It's gratifying to watch them learn the hard way that basketball is not about flashy dunks, tatoos, continuously clearing out for one-on-ones, "poster-izing" an opponent, or violently screaming and gesticulating after any and every good play as if they passing a kidney stone while being sodomized. I, for one, have grown tired of it all. Desperately seeking basketball played the "right" way, I was even reduced to rooting this past season for - I can barely bring myself to say it - the dreaded Pistons. Ugh! (I'm sorry, Chicago.) But the NBA, in my humble opinion, has "lost itself" more than any of the other major U.S. leagues, and, no, I don't mind its players being exposed as the pampered, undisciplined, soft-as-a-baby's-bottom curmudgeons that many - not all, but many - of them are. And I don't mind seeing the selection committee getting blasted for its shoddy work done. Maybe next time its goal will be fielding the best possible team, and not merely jumping at an opportunity to trot out its youngest stars in, essentially, one big commercial for the future of the NBA.

Lessons, hopefully, have been learned. Not a bad thing. From this American mess comes wisdom to be used in future.

Then again, I believe this flawed team team of ours will still win the gold medal. Hey, I'll guarantee it! Of course, I have nothing riding on that statement, unlike Anthony, whose reputation is falling faster than three-pointers by guys with unpronouncable last names.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

United States 1, Jamaica 1 (World Cup qualifying)

If ever a tie felt like a win, surely it was the U.S. national team's 1-1 draw with Jamaica on Wednesday night in rowdy Kingston.

Everything appeared to be going against the Nats. They were playing poorly. "The Office," the home stadium of the Reggae Boys, was packed, rocking, and on the verge of culminating a milestone victory with celebratory joints for everyone. And the Nats were down a goal. Late. A loss would not be fatal, but it would be a terrible beginning to a tricky World Cup qualifying campaign.

Enter Brian Ching. Literally. The first Hawaiian to ever don the U.S. jersey came in for Brian McBride in the 61st minute and netted the desperate equalizer in the 89th minute as the Nats narrowly averted disaster and sent the Jamaican fans home in utter disappointment.

Good teams, as they say, find ways to win (or tie) even when they don't play well. That was surely the case here. The Nats, quite frankly, performed far below their capabilities, were outplayed for much of the game by a Jamaican side that is far from considered powerful, and were lucky to be down by a single goal late in the game. Good teams, they also say, find ways to produce on the road, in hostile situations, and "The Office" is as raucous an environment to play in as you'll find in CONCACAF, although, to their credit, the Jamaican fans tend to refrain from pelting American players with batteries, bags of urine, or chants of "Osama," unlike some of their classless Central American counterparts. Yeah, I'm looking at you Mexico and Costa Rica. And, yeah, I know Mexico is not technically in Central America. Close enough.

Hey, the Americans' hard-earned point on the road is more than acceptable, to be sure. The short flight home was undoubtedly a pleasant one, and filled with relief.

However, there were definite causes for concern that were unmasked as well. Namely, the advancing years of the Nats. To be blunt, this is a rapidly aging team, a team that is walking a fine line between refined experience and troublesome old age.

Of the 18 players selected for the trip to Kingston, 11 were over the age of 30, with ten of them seeing action. By soccer terms, that is ancient. To make a comparison, France's Zinedine Zidane and Portrugal's Luis Figo, both in their early 30s, recently retired from their respective national teams - and they have been two of the greatest players in the world for the past decade, if not ever, certainly, at least, in the case of Zidane.

Forgive my negativity, but if the Nats continue to rely on the likes of thirty-somethings such as Greg Vanney and Eddie Lewis, neither of whom should ever step on the same field as a Zidane or Figo, the immediate future is worrisome.

Will the Nats' old legs have enough left to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany? Yeah, I expect them to, though it won't be easy, as it never is. The scary proposition, while trying not to look ahead, is how they will fare should they get there. Add two more years onto their continually graying beards, and the Nats could be a team in real trouble.

Look at France. The French nucleus (Zidane, Desailly, Lizarazu, etc.) powered what was by far the best team in the world at the turn of the millenium, winning the 1998 Word Cup and following that up with another title at EURO 2000. That same nucleus, however, proved to be the biggest disappointment of World Cup 2002, and looked just as weak at this summer's European Championships, needing typical Zidane heroics just to escape the group stage and then looking completely lifeless in a loss to Greece.

The French shortcomings at these major championships was greeted with wide-eyed surprise and disbelief. It shouldn't have been. Sure, they underachieved, but that's what happens when you rely on the same nucleus you did 8-10 years ago. The old guard was overly depended upon and the younger players failed to ease the blending of generations. It became an ugly blue mess.

Not to sound like an alarmist, but this is exactly where the Nats currently sit. Perilously. Let's just say that Bruce Arena has his work cut out for him. Arena is not on the hot seat, far from it, but he certainly faces an interesting stage in his career. The confidence he has earned from American fas is well deserved, but his biggest test awaits.

Can he carefully rebuild an aging team, while at the same time assuring qualification for WC 2006, and, hopefully, finding success once there?

That is the question.

While at the University of Virginia, Arena oversaw the most dominant program in the country. The Cavaliers, to use a cliche, were a team able to simply reload, not rebuild. All-Americans filled the shoes of All-Americans. Arena never had to worry much about where his next influx of dominant talent was coming from. It always arrived.

When Arena took over the Nats following the 1998 World Cup, the nucleus was already in place. Several young and talented players were already establishing themselves in the team, while others were waiting in the wings. Several of these players, perhaps alarmingly, are still the nucleus of today's side.

McBride. Lewis. Vanney. Frankie Hejduk. Cobi Jones. Eddie Pope. Claudio Reyna. Earnie Stewart. These players have, to varying degrees, formed the veteran nucleus Arena has built the Nats around for his entire six-year tenure. All of these players are over 30 today. By World Cup 2006, they will be mid-30s, which, in all likelihood, would be a recipe for disaster. In fact, I would bet on it if I had the audacity to put money down against them, which I never would.

There are numerous spots on the Nats - a dangerous amount of spots - that need to be transfused with the next generation in the next 22 months. The fact that this must happen while they navigate their way though the minefield of months and months of qualification makes the task that much more difficult, and will leave Arena with his hands full. He must walk the tightrope that is choosing between the players of the future and the old guard that has deservedly earned Arena's respect and loyalty.

Loyalty, however, can blind one to the necessity of change. And change is definitely needed. If not now, then soon. Very soon.

The Nats are not a team in dire straights. They are, however, a team at a crossroads.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Who's Right? The Cubs? Daley? Nobody

Ah, it's always nice to see Chicago's most powerful folk acting like such mature grown-ups. Yep, kudos to the Chicago Tribune/Chicago Cubs and Mayor Daley for choosing to take the high road and avoid the he said/she said routine in their recent disagreements. It could have been ugly. Phew.

Daley has questioned the Cubs' honesty concerning the maintenance of Wrigley Field. He wants to know if the money the Cubs say they spent making Wrigley safer was actually spent. So the Tribune in return, obviously concerned with the safety of Chicgoans as they stroll downtown, has requested records on the city's maintenance of the City Hall facade. Gee, everybody is so concerned about the well-being of others. How refreshing.

Yeah, right.

This comical rift might be interesting drama if not for the fact that both involved parties have deserved reputations for being less than reputable. It's difficult to root for either side. It's more difficult deciding who's in the right, because, really, they're both in the wrong. Either way, Chicagoans are the loser.

On the one hand, you have the Chicago Tribune/Chicago Cubs conglomerate, which I shall call simply CubCo. for the sake of my impending carpal tunnel syndrome. CubCo. has shown a disregard for class that would make Paris Hilton look positively pristine. No, it's never shown much concern for mastering the art of public relations, making the ever-faithful fanbase that much more perplexing. In fact, CubCo., over the years, has displayed an outright greediness that is quite shocking in both scope and sheer audacity in not disguising it. To note:

1) Premium Ticket Services. (If you don't know about this, and have recently eaten, or are not feeling 100%, avoid this section. The following is most definitely vomit-inducing.)

CubCo. buys its own tickets at the normal (and relatively cheap) price and then proceeds to sell them through a ticket broker (which it owns, by the way) at considerably higher prices. And it has no problem doing this. None whatsoever. Isn't this somehow - oh, I don't know - illegal? Isn't this money laundering or something? Scalping? Apparently not. It is, however, one way to blatantly and shamelessly screw over your fans. If only being a jerk was reason for arrest.

2) The rooftops.

CubCo. has hounded the rooftop owners for years, so anxious is it to get in on the action. God forbid somebody else should make a profit. Thing is, CubCo. never thought of selling tickets for the rooftops. The rooftops owners did. Good for them. So leave them alone. CubCo. could have thought of it, but it was too busy counting the cash it saved by fielding lousy teams. End of story.

Oh, but CubCo. has proven to be on the ball in the immaturity department by putting up tarps to obscure the view from the rooftops. How petty is that? How childish is that? Why don't they just put up a big banner outside center field that says, "Nah-na-na-na-na! You can't see the game. Psstth!" I've even heard they thought of using balloons to obscure the view. That would have been interesting. How long would it have taken before the first lawsuit was filed by somebody in the bleachers who had been speared by a flying pin or dart tossed from the rooftops? Not long, I bet.

The rooftops are one of the distinguishing characteristics of Wrigley Field, not to mention one of its greatest charms. Take away the rooftops and you're taking away a lot. CubCo., however, seems to be blinded to this truth by sheer greed. It vehemenently wants to expand the bleachers and possibly block the view from the rooftops permanently. This is just stupid. The outfield view is the most beautiful in baseball (although the Giants' new park is deserves at least a mention), yet CubCo. is anxious to cheapen it by squeezing in some extra seats. Pathetic.

Most recently, CubCo. has cited the payment of work done to Wrigley Field that was, allegedly, never done. Hmm. This may or may not be true, but judging by the falling concrete, it's easy to lean in one direction.

This would be a new low, even for CubCo. Organizing ticket scams that rip off your own fans and attempting to squash rooftop owners is one thing. Avoiding necessary stadium work in the name of money saved and putting public safety at risk is another. That is cold, calculated, and, quite simply, criminal. Or at least it should be. And it must be dealt with. Severely.

Of course, on the other end of the latest dispute is Mayor Daley, who isn't exactly a beacon of truth and honesty himself. Daley is a classic good 'ol boy, northern style.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like every other week there is some new controversy surrounding Daley and his cronies. To be honest, I only halfheartedly keep track of the relentless barrage of allegations. My brain doesn't like to process it all, not when news of it shares the newspaper page with education budget cuts. Still, it's hard to avoid a seemingly neverending parade of of stories concerning trucking scandals, nepotism, and the like. Yeah, I know this is Chicago, but must we really go to such great lengths to live up to our reputation of blatant governmental corruption?

Daley has accused CubCo. of requesting the City Hall records as mere retaliation for his criticism of Wrigley Field. Well, duh. Is that what Daley gets paid the big bucks for, to make precise political observations like that?

And, hey, if you don't think Daley initially took CubCo. to task over the falling concrete to 1) exact a measure of revenge for negative editorials in the Trib, and 2) divert attention from his ever-increasing dirty list of controversies, you're crazy. Tit for tat, my friends, tit for tat.

Daley and all his corrupt cronies pilfering much needed money from the city are surely up to something corrupt even as we speak. They just don't like being called out on it. How dare anyone bring attention to their slimy transgressions! I guess when your family has been in power for as long as the Daleys, you start to feel you are above being questioned, that each controversy will momentarily come to light only to quickly fade away without repercussions, maybe out of sheer habit in a city which, sadly, has grown used to such shady deeds.

Wrong, Mayor.

Look, two things need to happen here:

1) Wrigley Field must be fixed. Period. Whatever it takes, that must be done. And the rooftops must not be messed with. No matter what reconstruction or expansion takes place, the rooftops stay. This is not debatable.

2) Daley needs to realize that when you are in a position of power and you are corrupt - surprise, surprise - somebody might eventually be moved to question you. Like a newspaper, for instance. It will happen. If you can't handle that, then you should remove yourself from your position of power. Or stop being corrupt. Either way will work.

In the meantime, both sides should stop with the childish antics. It's embarrassing to Chicago. Outsiders are surely laughing.

As if the Bulls and Blackhawks weren't bad enough.

Surely the Chargers Were Joking

Apparently, Philip Rivers won't be in Chargers training camp any time soon - and with good reason. Simply put, the Chargers are the other half of the negotiations.

In a world of ridiculously overpaid athletes, it's not easy to side with players who holdout for more, especially rookies. The Rivers-Chargers rift, however, is an exception.

With amazing effectiveness, the Chargers are making the meddling Mannings look wise and justified, which is extremely difficult to do considering the onslaught of negativity Archie and the Boys faced following Eli's no-way-in-hell-am-I-playing-for-them stance concerning the Chargers prior to the draft.

Yep, the bumbling Bolts seem intent on challenging their neighbors to the North, the clueless Clippers, for title of 'Most Inept Franchise in Sports', and they're a definite contender.

It amazes me that somebody among the Chargers' brass was sitting at a meeting and came up with the idea to include incentives that would have rewarded Rivers for leading the Chargers to four Super Bowl wins in his first four years. It amazes me even further that one of his partneres in stupidity took it in and said, "Yeah, that'll work. Let's put that on the table."

If I'm Rivers, I'm insulted...as soon as I stop laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all.


Of the rumored contract incentives offered to Rivers, which would you find most appealing?

A) Season tickets to San Diego Clippers games.

B) A Dan Fouts autographed DVD of the famous Chargers-Dolphins double-overtime playoff game in 1981.

C) An unlimited supply of Flutie Flakes.

D) Game-worn Chuck Muncie goggles.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

One Last Time

I promise you this entry is not merely a cheap stunt to post a picture of the lovely Heather Mitts. Really. Well, OK, maybe it's part of the reason, but I can post pictures of Mitts any time I please, and, fear not, I fully plan to do so.

Actually, I just wanted to give props to the U.S. womens soccer team, particularly the core group of veterans, most of whom are planning on retiring from the international game following the Athens Olympics. Mia Hamm. Julie Foudy. Brandi Chastain. Julie Fawcett. Kristine Lilly. This is their swan song, not only as soccer stars, but as pioneers in the world of female athletics.

In many respects, these women are The Beattles of big-time womens sports. They burst onto the scene with ever-present smiles, clear affection for one another, and talent that took them to the top of the charts.

Their professionalism off the field and massive success on it catapalted womens sports to before unheard of heights. Sure, there has always been a Mary Lou Retton, Martina Navartilova, or Annika Sorenstam who comes along and dominates in a way that captures the imagination of even largely uninterested males, most of whom would rather watch Michigan-Ohio St from 1973 on ESPN Classic than be bothered by female athletes.

Womens team sports, however, have always been another matter entirely. Sports fans, male or female, are often willing to remember the name of individual female stars, but an entire team? It doesn't happen.

Enter the U.S. womens soccer team.

Their run through the '99 World Cup, which culminated with a shootout win over China in the Rose Bowl, became a huge national sensation. Maybe it was patriotic fervor. Maybe it was the slow summer months of the sports calendar. Maybe it was their cover girl looks. Maybe it was Brandi Chastain ripping off her jersey. Who knows?

The point is, nobody - and by 'nobody' I mean the national media, in particular - really cared much about womens sports unless it was a talented and charismatic individual.

The summer of 1999 changed all that.

Me and my brother, who lived in Los Angeles at that time, attended that final and the hoopla and pageantry were astounding, not to mention the near-capacity crowd in a stadium that seats roughly 100,000 people. We didn't have any plans on attending until that morning. Once we decided that it might be interesting, we figured we could scalp two tickets cheap, maybe $30 for the pair. We planned on walking up to the stadium just before kickoff, finding some guy anxious to get rid of his soon-to-be-worthless tickets, and waltzing on in. No big deal. Even if 70,000 fans showed up, which would be a lot for any soccer game in the U.S., let alone a womens game, that would leave roughly 30,000 seats to choose from.

Man, were we arong.

We ended up stuck in traffic for a soccer game and eventually paid to park on the front lawn of some guy who was clearly spending his sudden profits on beer, and lots of it, judging by the cans scattered everywhere. He was definitely a Pasadena hillbilly, if there is such a thing. In between hiccups, he mentioned being surprised at the amount of business he was doing for a soccer game, said he didn't care if they were showing public hangings in the Rose Bowl, and drunkenly pointed us in the direction of the stadium, which was roughly on, oh, the other side of California from where we parked. Still, there were plenty of people right there with us making the same long trek on foot.

Once near the Rose Bowl, we began looking for scalpers, normally my favorite people outside a stadium. There's nothing like saving a few bucks, while at the same time, engaging in illegal activities. We negotiated with the first guy we met, but he wanted $75 - for each ticket! What? He was clearly not well in the head. We laughed and walked on only to discover that there was an epidemic of loony scalpers. They were everywhere, and they seemed to being doing plenty of business. Eventually, the kickoff was nearing and tickets were becoming scarce. It reached the point where we feared there may be none left if we didn't bite the bullet. We ended up paying, I think, $90 for each ticket, shook off our heart palpitations, and entered the stadium cursing the significant cutback we'd have to make on ridiculously overpriced stadium beer.

Once inside the gates, the outer concourse was packed. People walked with flags, with painted faces, and with an anticipation of a soccer game that I had never been witness to in America. I couldn't help but recall watching on TV the U.S. mens team - the mens team - playing games in virtual high school stadiums as recently as the late '80s. It was refreshing.

As we made our way around the concourse looking for our section we encountered an annoying holdup. We were informed that we'd have to wait while the president himself, Bill Clinton, was escorted to his seat. Wow, Clinton was here? Clearly, he had his eye on chatting up a few of the players. Good for him, I thought.

Obviously overwhelmed by the mesmerizing knowledge that the president was literally within yards of us, my bro and I looked at each other with wide eyes, said, "Who friggin' cares?" and proceeded to enter the nearest section, which wasn't ours. We kept on walking right on down to the third row without a single guard checking our tickets. In fact, we didn't see any guards. We found a pair of seats directly behind the Chinese bench, plopped down, and surveyed a sea of people like I would have ever expected to see at a womens soccer game. Crazy.

I had the feeling that the reason we saw no guards was because the Rose Bowl was understaffed. Maybe they were not expecting so many people.

As you know, the rest is history. The U.S. women won and became instant icons. Chatting on late night shows. Gracing the cover of magazines. Cashing in on all sorts of endorsement deals. Racing through the dreams of young men everywhere.


Hamm has said that after they won the first-ever womens World Cup in China in 1991 they returned to the States and were greeted by one journalist. One.

Now they were superstars.

Since then, the core members of that team have carried themselves with complete grace. None have posed for Playboy (to the chagrin of men everywhere.) None have ever shown the slightest hint of a swollen ego. None have alienated the humble roots of their sport. None have forgotten the millions of young girls who immediately began emulating them and now make soccer arguably the biggest female sport in the U.S.

The've been the very definition of 'class acts'.

That's why it would be nice to see them go out on top. Granted, the years have taken their toll, as evidenced by their 3-0 to defeat at the hands of Germany in the semifinals of last fall's World Cup. Clearly, they are not the same team that captured America's heart five years ago. Germany has opened their Olympic campaign with an 8-0 win over China, which is shocking considering both countries are ranked in the top five in the world. The Germans look scary, and I'm not talking about their actual looks. (Fill in your own jokes here. I don't feel like being mean today.)

I wouldn't hold anything past the American women, however. Eleven Germans on a soccer pitch don't look nearly as daunting after you've conquered the apathy of your country.

Oh yeah, here's a photo of Mitts. I couldn't resist.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Carter, Cowboys and Coke

I wonder if Bill Parcells ever contemplated releasing Lawrence Taylor for his reportedly wild drug use. Heck, I wonder if he would have released LT if LT had snorted coke off his clipboard at midfield during the coin toss while handcuffed to a hooker.

Somehow I doubt it.

Yet a supposed lingering drug habit is the alleged reason behind Quincy "This is my team" Carter being released by, uh, his team, the Cowboys. Yeah, those Cowboys. The Cowboys of Michael Irvin's hotel room parties involving hookers and hard drugs and Nate Newton's "Van of Fun". The Cowboys whose locker room you half expect to be equipped with mirrored tables, helmets that double as really funny bongs, and continually burning incense. America's (Most Wanted) Team.

The NFLPA is considering filing a grievance on Carter's behalf because a player cannot be released due to a failed drug test. Why? I guess the league wants players to feel comfortable with their job security when they're wired at 3 A.M. on who know's what.

No word on whether tossing 21 INTs last season or having a career QB rating of 70.0 are sufficient reasons for a player to be released.

Look, it's not like Carter was exactly overshadowing the legacy of Troy Aikman. Take a bunch of mediocre performances, toss in a penchant for the powder, shake well, and you usually end up with walking papers. Or most '80's hair bands.

This is training camp, right?

An interesting twist to this story is that Carter may have taken drug tests administered privately by the Cowboys, which is illegal. He wasn't required to take them. Drug abusers everywhere can barely hide their disappointment in one of their own. The University of Georgia coaching staff must be shaking their heads and mumbling, "Did we teach him nothing?" Hey, I'm not defending Carter's drug use, but if I'm him, I'm firing my agent pronto. And then I'm checking into rehab. Or signing with the Raiders. Same thing.

While this turn of events will clearly cause Parcells and his staff headaches, the word is that Vinny "The Kid" Testaverde is a real up-and-comer. This could be just the chance he needed.


What was Quincy Carter's initial reaction upon learning he was released by the Cowboys?

A) "How's Asia this time of year?"

B) "Michael Vick is always in trouble and you all love him. Oh, that's Marcus Vick? Damn."

C) "I feel like I don't even know the Cowboys anymore."

D) "Retirement here I come."

Friday, August 06, 2004

Will the Real United Nations Please...

...Stand Up, Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up?

You know how everyone thinks it would be great to date somebody you're already friends with? Man, what a great concept.

You also probably know how it never seems to works. But, hey, it's still a great concept, right?

This is why I want to like the United Nations. I really do. It's a neat concept. Unfortunately, that's all it seems to be - a concept. Concepts are fine and dandy, and can often lead to very beautiful and very real entities, but until that happens they are little more than somebody's inner workings.

Vacationing on another planet is a neat concept, for instance, but I'm not holding my breath.

While proponents of one "world government" are often scoffed at, and maybe with plausible reason considering the complexities of such a vision, the U.N., as a concept, leans in that direction. On paper at least, it would seem to serve as a collected group of varying peoples coming together and dealing with issues that affect the entire planet. Right? Brilliant! Where do I sign up?

Unfortunately, the U.N. likes to posture and pose and appear important and powerful, while, more often than not, doing little. The atrocities of Sudan are the latest example.

I wrote in this blog in late June about the need to take drastic actions in Sudan, where the U.N.'s biggest concern seemed to be whether to classify the atrocities as genocide or mere ethnic cleansing. This distinction, of course, is very important, almost as important as sarcasm is to my sense of humor. At that time, Colin Powell and Kofi Annan decided to grace Sudan with their presence, appear concerned, snap some photos appearing concerned, and then got the heck out of there while hoping they appeared concerned. They shook their heads and spoke of the depravity of the situation and the dire need for an immediate and powerful respsonse. Great! Thing is, I could have told you that, and I've never stepped foot in Africa. Thanks alot, guys, big help. Keep up the good work.

Of course, very little has been done since, other than a lot of talk. Meanwhile, the Sudanese goverment peers straight into the eyes of the world and claims to be taking measures to deal with the worsening dilemma. But it's not. In fact, it supports the militias, the Janjaweed, that are rabidly raping, plundering, and murdering. When it is not turning a blind eye, it is directly offering the militias aid in the form of uniforms, ID cards, money, weapons, and, not least, moral support.

The thought of Sudanese government officials smirking and thinking themselves clever for dodging repurcussions for their evil villiany is more than enough to keep my angry juices flowing.

It's about time the U.N. stands up and proves to be more than a hall monitor when the Dean of Discipline is needed to teach these childish troublemakers the lessons they need to be taught. Sure, the U.N talks about sending aid, but then it complains about the rainy season making it difficult. Boo-hoo-hoo. When the rainy season is over it will have another handy excuse, like "It's too hot" or "The roads are in poor condition."

If the U.N. can't make things happen, then what is it good for?

Usually, the U.N. is good for standing back and allowing the U.S. to step to the fore. It's little wonder the U.N. is disliked in many circles, or if not necessarily disliked, then deemd essentially worthless and weak. It's good for hoping the U.S. will deal with all the little grim details of the world's uglier affairs.

The U.S. is busy in an Iraqi quagmire right now, thank you. Grantd, it is a quagmire we got ourselves into unecessarily behind the "leadership" of an administration that is destined to go down as one of the most despised, clueless and comically incompetent in American history, but that doesn't mean we can just walk away. We have business to attend to. We have business to finish. Our time and concerns are presently occupied.

Oh, it was convenient and easy for the U.N. to criticize the U.S.'s course of action in Iraq, and, yeah, I agreed wholeheartedly with its stance that patience and the possible buildup of a coalition that was more formidable would have been infinitely smarter than Bush/Cheney's ridiculous mistake of a war. That said, it is time for the U.N. to get off its high horse, to step off its pedastal of supposed moral superiority, and do something. Now. And I mean really do something, not just condemn the situation and then turn its back and hope it goes away.

It won't.

Is military action needed here? Well, my pacifict tendencies would surely tell me no. Unfortunately, my pacifist tendecies were gunned down in an alley a few years back. A bloody mess. Then they were raped and their wallets were stolen. So now I realize that all that peace-and-love jazz is definitely headed in the right direction, but, unfortunately, there is a big canyon blocking the way that, maybe, no bridge will ever cross. So I move on. Sideways.

All of these nations that opposed the war in Iraq, where are they now? All of these nations that opposed the war and then accepted all the credit that came with appearing sane, compassionate, and wise, where are they now? All of these nations that laugh at the U.S. as it stumbles and falters in Iraq, where are they now?

It surely isn't Sudan. And it isn't Iraq. No, the U.N. is currently running in circles trying to decide if it wants to help in Iraq, and presently electing not to because of "security concerns". Yep, the U.N. will only enter the Iraq fiasco "as circumstances permit," as the Security Council resolution is so anxious to point out. Until then no firm commitments will be made.

Fine. That's understandable. As much as I think the U.N. has a moral responsibility to help with Iraqi reconstruction, it reserved the right not to the moment it opposed Bush's looming attack.

That, however, does not mean it can watch the Sudan situation with detached apathy and offer meaningless lip service.

Guns and tanks and bombs aren't always the answer. In fact, they never should be. However, the men running rampant in Sudan must be dealt with, and dealing with the Sudanese government will accomplish nothing. Nothing. Sometimes only gunfire can answer gunfire. This is a sad fact of the human condition. Anyone who thinks it will ever be different is destined for an eternity of disappoinment.

So go ahead, U.N., tell the United States you were right. Tell us we screwed up. Go ahead and enjoy it if it makes you feel superior. Go ahead and sit on the sidelines and hope really hard that it all works out in the end.

In the meantime, stop being ineffective pansies and end the terror in Sudan.

Or at least make an effort. An honest effort.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

That is All

Something is Better Than Nothing

Roberto Alomar is back. I guess I should be excited. I'm trying...but it isn't easy.

Somehow, bringing back Carl Everett and Alomar after they signed elsewhere during the offseason is funny in a I'm-not-laughing sort of way.

Throw Away Keyes

I don't really know where I sit on the Illinois Republicans' apparent decision to decide upon Alan Keyes to run against Barack Obama for a U.S. Senate position.

On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoy politicians - any politicians! - looking comical and foolish. Good times. Always. And right now Illinois Republicans could give Dave Chapelle a run for his money on the laugh-o-meter. Their dog-after-its-own-tail scramble to replace the banished Jack Ryan has been priceless entertainment. They've reduced themselves to involuntarily court jesters, and I, for one, love it. The fact that whoever is eventually brave, and silly, enough to challenge the skyrocketing Obama is unquestionably doomed to defeat makes it that much more satisfying. Hey, I give Republicans credit for trying - never giving up is an admirable quality (and the White Sox should take note) - but their madcap efforts to salvage this wreck is like attempting to stop a flood with paper towels. It's over. It's all over.

On the other hand, I have a little problem with Keyes moseying on over from his homestate of Maryland and offering up his services. Talk about a Johnny-come-lately. I think he should get lost. Buzz off. Scram. Go jump in a lake.


Does Illinois lack one - one! - Republican who can step to the fore and offer, at the very least, honorable competition to Obama, no matter how slim the chance for victory? If so, that's just sad. To be honest, I don't have much faith in the Republican party, but this falls below even my low expectations.

I find it hard to believe that we need to import a talk show host/failed politician from Maryland to fill one - one! - position. The last Terp I remember coming to Chicago was the Bulls' Lonnie Baxter, and I don't rememeber him exactly setting the city on fire.

Mike Ditka, at least, is a household Chicago name. He's a Chicagoan, if not by birth, then by the Super Bowl XX ring on his finger, damnit. I'd have no problem with him running - well, other than the fact that he has no political experience and would persistently present the possibility of bodily harm to any dissenter on the Senate floor. Come to think of it, that could be fun.

But Keyes? Give me a break. If he's so intent on a Senate position, which he apparently was not until desperate Illinois Republicans came begging on all fours, then let him do it in his own state. For his own people. Isn't this the same man who dubbed Hillary Clinton a carpetbagger for her New York relocation? I thought so. If Keyes wants to be a hypocrite, that's his business, but let him do it elsewhere.

Then there is Keye's penchant for extreme conservatism. I believe "right-wing nutjob" is the correct term. He's at least in the ballpark, in the on-deck circle, ready to bat. Here is a guy who vehemenently opposes abortion and gay rights, while also asserting that there should be no separation between church and state.

Uh, oh. Cuckoo, cuckoo.

Although I personally disagree with most conservative stances, I have no problem with conservatives expressing them nor defending them. That said, Keyes, to me, sounds like a man who needs to jump right on into the 21st century. Come join us, Alan. It's fun up here. We even have public toilets with self-changing plastic on the seats. I kid you not!

So why would Republicans settle upon Keyes, a man who could prove even more politically divisive with his right-wing ramblings than Obama with his professed liberal ways?

Hmm. Because he's...um...I'm thinking...wait!...because he's black? Bingo! (Flashing lights, sirens, prizes galore.)

Oh, boy. Like I said, Illinois Republicans - at least the present lot - are utterly foolish, even if their logic is understood. Pure and simple. Their haphazard plots and schemes are easier to see through than a particularly racey Vanessa Kerry dress. I don't know which is worse - the fact that they are stooping to new lows, or the fact that they have no shame in doing so. I swear this entire episode has the makings of a big-screen comedy about a bunch a bumbling political neophytes. You can hardly make this stuff up. Ditka could play himself.

Look, these Republican goofballs are a black eye on politicians of all kind everywhere, which is saying a lot when you consider that being a goofball seems to be a priority to enter the political realm. They are the exact reason that so many people lack faith in politicians. They are the exact reason that politicians are the butt of so many jokes. Illinois Republicans cannot possibly expect the citizens of Illinois, most of whom are way too smart to fall for this fly-by-night Keyes scheme regardless of their political beliefs, to have any faith whatsoever in them when they fail miserably to get their own business in order. Please. I feel insulted. I really do. And I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Personally, I think Jack Ryan should be allowed to rise from the dead. The biggest irony in this ridiculous debacle is that Ryan, even post-scandal, would have given Obama a challenge that Republicans can no longer even dream of, regardless of who eventually emerges from the ooze of this trepidation, desperation and miscalculation. An untarnished Ryan would have been an underdog against Obama and the likely loser, but even post-scandal he could have offered at least minimal resistance. He's too young and good-looking not too.

Bring back Jack.

Why not? If it means occasional photos of Jeri Ryan floating around, I'm all for it.

Am I wrong here? I mean...

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Get Them Out of Here - Fast

Rumor has it that a trade that would send Jamal Crawford and Eddie Robinson to New York to pollute the Knicks locker room could happen at any possible moment. This is a good thing. The sooner the better. The malcontnet ways of Crawford and Robinson have already decimated the Bulls' chances for improvement for the past few years. Apparently, they have also had an affect on the attitude of the normally well-mannered Eddy Curry.

Hopefully, it's not too late.

Curry has been busy lately not only defending his supposed weight problem, but also lashing out at the media for "all these false reports that are definitely making (him) mad." The word on the street is that Curry is overweight. Plump. Robust. He's gone all Kirstie Alley.

And now he's mad. Definitely, he said. He's not messing around.

However, he appears to be "messing around" with his off-season program, as his weight has ballooned to anywhere between 301 and 320, depending on the source. The Bulls want Curry at 285. He was on his way there until abruptly stopping his workouts for a month and spending part of that time with relatives in Texas as well as on a cruise.

I don't tknow about you, but this is what comes to mind when I think of his time in Texas:

And I fear he followed that up by doing a lot of this on his cruise:

(By "doing" I meant sunbathing, relaxing, laying around - not them in the photo. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

At some point Curry has to get it. It has to click. Yeah, he's still only 22, but he has to understand that he's no longer a massive kid dominating high school games in small gyms. He and his agent have been all talk as far as this upcoming season goes, Curry's contract year. They have promised newfound motivation and a new image.

I hope that kicks in soon. Anytime before camp starts would be nice.

This is a Poll!

The mens Olympic team was thrashed yesterday by Italy, 95-78. This is not a good sign for a team that, while still stacked with NBA studs expected to easily win gold, is lacking the most of the NBA's biggest stars. No Shaq. No McGrady. No Kobe. Still, has it come to this? Does the American team need it's absolute best to be successful? And, if so, is that a bad thing? Personally, I think a more even field makes it all that more interesting.

I've long been a big fan of Allen Iverson and have always defended him against his many detractors, but one quote of his nearly left me speechless:

"I'm the captain of the team, and to be suspended just for being a couple minutes late doesn't sit well for me. I was surprised at the whole thing. I didn't know that if we came late to anything, we'd have to sit out a game. I'm supposed to be one of the leaders of the team, and this is not a good look."

Good god.

Anyway, should the U.S. fail in its bid to bring home the gold, what will the best excuse be:

A) "Hey, we spent our nights floating around under the stars on the Mediterranean on a luxury cruiser shared by the womens team. Let's see you maintain your focus with Sue Bird in her nightie just a few rooms over."

B) "Larry Brown? Ha! Maybe if we had a coach with some championship credentials."

C) "The coaching staff was brutal, boy, brutal. They wanted us to, like, show up to team meetings on time and stuff."

D) "What's up with playing Serbia and Montenegro? Playing two countries at the same time ain't easy, man. That just ain't right."

E) "This is international basketball. We needed some white dudes on the team. We were way out of our element."

F) "Travelling? What is this travelling the refs kept calling on us? Never heard of it."

G) "I missed my normal road groupies."

H) "One word: ouzo. Never again, man, never again."

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Who Cares?

The monumental trade everyone was wildly anticipating is done. All the talk of Shaq's move was mere prelude to this blockbuster.

Jason Terry and Antoine Walker are trading places. That's right. Stand back and let it soak in.

One shoot-first-think-later, no-defense-playing egomaniac for another. Right, we'll call it a draw, shall we?

I can't help but think that Walker deserves his banishment to the netherlands of the NBA. Walker had solid situations with winning teams in both Boston and Dallas and pouted both times. I believe it is in the NBA rulebook that such guys must eventually land in Atlanta, Washington, or Los Angeles. (Clippers style.) Oh wait, this is Walker's contract year. He'll be, ahem, motivated.

You know what I was thinking just the other day? The Mavs needed another scorer. You know, a another guy who gets the ball and lets all the lesser options clear out of the way. Yep, that's what the Mavs need, damnit.

Well, they got it.

Terry may have more talent than Steve Nash, the man he will replace with the Mavs, but a lot less heart, which will show on the defensive end for a team that desperately needs to improve on - you guessed it - defense. If the Mavs improve their win total this season color me shocked.

Don Nelson is happy. I don't know why. This is likely his last season.

Too Bad it's Not on TV...

...because Asian Cup 2004 is, apparently, quite exciting. With the more appealing African, European and South American championships already concluded this year, the Asian counterpart has received little pub. Maybe it deserves some.

Defending champ Japan and host China booked tickets to Saturday's final with thrilling wins over Bahrain and Iran, repectively. This was arguably the pre-tournament expected final and, hopefully, lives up to the billing.

The hosts needed penalty kicks to thwart off a pesky Iranian team that played much of the match shorthanded and earned a 1-1 tie after regulation and extra time. No word on whether the Iranians' disappointment will speed up their nucleur weapons program.

Bahrain, meanwhile, a tiny county of roughly 600,000 people, and barely visible on the map (check for yourself), did admirably to imitate Greece's shocking run to the European title last month. It would have been nice to follow their story, alas it was not to be. Having qualified for the Asian Cup for the first time, the tournament's big surprise were only thwarted when Japan's Yuji Nakazawa evened things 3-3 in the final minute of regulation. Keiji Tamada then produced the winner in extra time with his second goal of the game.

If anyone knows if the final is being televised anywhere please let me know. Any soccer is good soccer, even - am I really saying this? - Asian. Good god.

Monday, August 02, 2004

A Tale of Two Teams

It seems as though the White Sox and Cubs can never be on the upswing at the same time. There must be some cosmological reason for this. Maybe the universe will fall out of balance and descend into chaos. Who knows?

Take now, for instance (or any other time during the last, oh, 90 years or so.)

The Cubs are playing well, entrenched in the thick of the wild-card race, Nomar Garciaparra has been stolen from the Red Sox and Wrigley Field's crumbling concrete will be carefully caught by mounds of netting and, presumably, sold at $10 an inch. All is good. Wrigleyville is sunny and happy and, of course, highly inebriated.

Then there are the White Sox, the poor, poor White Sox. Oh, boy.

Could things have gotten so ugly any quicker for the unlucky South Siders? No Frank Thomas. No Magglio Ordonez. And after a recent seven-game losing streak, maybe no playoffs. Worst of all, the hated Twins are atop the AL Central standings. Man, I'm sick of the Twins. Sick of them! What an annoying bunch of well-behaved, hard-playing, maddeningly consistent overachievers those jokers up North are.

Hey, at least Cubs fans are enjoying themselves.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry robbed the Red Sox for Garciaparra, who was secured while, amazingly, Matt Clement stayed. Huh? Are you serious? Even Clement himself had a hard time believing this was so. Isn't Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, like, 13? Maybe he should stick to trading baseball cards instead of baseball players, because he was schooled. The manner in which he treated Garciaparra during the offseason was a disgrace. You do not - repeat, do not! - publicly insult a player like Garciaparra by failing to deal him and then expect no repercussions. Epstein waltzed into the GM position and made a mockery of one of Boston's biggest heroes, and now has lost him for - what? - Doug Mientkeiwicz. Ha! (I don't know if I spelled Doug's last name right, but rest assured, the Boston media will get it right when ripping him.) Epstein is in over his head. He's going to learn the hard way that having a bunch of cash to toss at free agents does not a good GM make.

But I digress.

How funny did Garciaparra look in a Cubs uniform? Mia Hamm was surely giggling with her Olympic soccer teammates ("Aaaahhhhh, doesn't he look cute, girls? Now let's kick ass!") I was laughing right up until he grounded into a double play. The bum! I'm kidding. Seriously, with Nomar - as I shall henceforth call him because, well, everybody calls him that - and, just as importantly, a healthy and hot Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs lineup suddenly looks as dangerous as an Arab in front of the World Bank. Corey Patterson and Nomar look stupendous at the top of the order. Absolutely stupendous! I've long thought Patterson was a natural leadoff hitter just waiting to happen, despite what Dusty Baker has contended, and refused to do. Well, now Patterson will bat leadoff - finally - and maybe Baker will return my phone calls next time. WTF, Dusty? And what's up with the restraining order? Relax.

Naturally, Greg Maddux came up short in his first bid for win No. 300. Of course. I mean, Cubs fans couldn't witness that classic milestone and Nomar's debut in the same day. Noooooo. That would have been overload. Cubdom can only handle so much good news at a time before it starts short-circuiting and spitting out curses and errors and pitchers' elbows gone awry. Think about it:

1) Nomar debuts.
2) Maddux wins 300.
3) Cubs earn comeback win.

All in the same day? Forget about it! Wrigleyville would have been torn down.

Meanwhile, the Sox have issues - Michael Jackson-like issues. The ship is sinking fast. Fans have already begun jumping overboard. Me? I'm going down with the ship, just as I always do. Don't worry. I have a place at the bottom of the ocean.

Thing is, I'm having a hard time getting angry at this Sox team. I can't even throw a shoe at th TV or punch a hole in the wall or kick my cat, who, I swear, is a secret Twins fan. Yeah, I've seen smiling a lot lately, the little punk. I have my eye on him, oh, I have my eye on him. (Don't worry, I don't really kick cats.)

No, I just feel sorry for the Sox. That's all. Playing without Thomas and Ordonez is...it's just not fair. I went to the last home game against the Twins and Willie Harris and Timo Perez were batting 1-2. (Gulp!) And Ben Friggin' Davis was rounding out the lineup. (Uh, oh.) Who is that lineup going to scare, the Greek Olympic team? Just shoot me now.

To top it off, the Sox lost four one-run games in a row last week. Four! Well, I hope the baseball gods are looking down and laughing. I hope they're enjoying their work. I hope they're proud of themselves for mercilessly ripping out the hearts of White Sox fans.

Hey, baseball gods, look a little closer. Listen. I have a message for you. Do you see me? Look closer. Yeah, that's me with the vengeful smile on my face and the big middle finger propped defiantly in your direction.

Up yours.

This is a Poll!

Now that Nomar Garciaparra has joined the Cubs, they will:

A) Win the World Series. NOMAH!!!!
B) Make the playoffs but fall short of a World Series Ring
C) Not even make the playoffs. They're cursed.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Once Bad, Now Just Sad

Just sad.

That's about the best way you can sum up the latest chapter in the strange saga of Mike Tyson. Once dubbed the baddest man on the planet, the story of Tyson is now just sad. Sure, he's been the punchline of many jokes over the years, bordered on being a laughingstock, and deservedly so you could argue, but there is nothing funny about what happened to boxing's most infamous ex-champ over the weekend. Nothing funny at all.

By losing to David Williams, a nobody from nowhere, and ending up in a hospital, the fall of Tyson is now complete. Technically, he may have hit rock bottom some time ago, somewhere between the shocking defeats and mental breakdowns, but it remained, oh, so hard to let go of the memory of the old Tyson, the young Tyson, the '80's Tyson, the indestructible Tyson, Iron Mike. Somehow you couldn't help the feeling that he would rekindle his former glory, find the magic and rage that once drove him to fame and fortune, and make one last push to the top of a heavyweight division that has been lacking in talent and personality for years. If you didn't necessarily believe it would happen, you at least hoped it would.

At least I did.

I couldn't tell you why. Maybe it was because, as a kid, I watched all of his fights on HBO before today's ever-present pay-per-views further pushed boxing towards the abyss of obscurity. Maybe it was because I relished those Saturday night's when a Tyson fight bred wonder and anticipation - if not the anticipation of an exciting fight, then at least the anticipation of seeing another would-be opponent crumble within minutes of the opening bell. Like clockwork. Maybe it was because watching that Tyson, the old Tyson, was like watching perfection, if perfection came in 200-some pounds of flesh and sweat and terror.

Maybe it was because Tyson in his prime was pure dominance, pure and simple. For a few years he was Joe Montana or Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky. He was the best and no argument otherwise could be made. None. As a younster, I loved that about him and watched him with the awe that becomes increasingly difficult to muster as you get older.

I still remember the Buster Douglass upset and the feeling that the impossible had just ocurred. Wait, I take that back. I didn't see the Douglass fight. I missed it. I actually found out the next morning while bundling newspapers to deliver my paper route on a frigid Sunday morning. As I dreaded entering the hard cold, wiped the sleep out of my eyes, and cursed the fact that I was out of bed, I angrily put the papers in plastic bags. A sports section inadvertantly slipped out and I saw it. I saw it, but I didn't believe it. There was Tyson on the ground, lifeless, and some unknown chump named Douglass standing above him. It may have been the first time the phrase "What the #$%@!" shot out of my mouth. The first of many. I can honestly say I haven't felt shock ripple through my body as I did that Sunday morning. I just sat there. Stunned. Silent.

Tyson had lost. The king had fallen. The world as I had known it had changed forever. Tyson didn't lose. He just didn't. It couldn't possibly happen.

But it did.

Now, all this time later, Tyson is far from anything resembling indestrucibilty. He's become a seemingly never-ending story of shock and sorrow, a figure of sympathy, a cationary tale. Despite the jail time for rape, the biting of Evander Holyfield's ear, the insane pre-match rants about opponents' children and the millions of dollars squandered, it's hard to dislike Tyson. Maybe that's just me. But, yeah, I have a hard time saying "What a jerk!" or "He deserves it!" I can't find any enjoyment in his failure or his continuing fall from grace. As a kid, I loved Tyson and continued rooting for him right up till the end, right up until Friday night, through all the drama and insanity, and it's hard to just slip into apathy. It's hard to root against someone who seems to always be picking himself up off the floor of life, beaten down by others and beaten down by himself, the count rapidly reaching ten..

I don't know where he will go from here, although I've heard many people guessing. Some say he'll continue fighting. Some say he'll end up in jail. Some say he'll wind up homeless. Some say he'll be dead soon. Some even say he'll reclaim the heavyweight crown. Optimists.

Me? I can't see him hanging up the gloves. Not yet. What else is he going to do? He has huge debts and, frankly, he doesn't know anything else. And, yeah, some shameless promoter out there will surely offer money, however low the amount, just to capitalize on the Tyson name, even if that means putting his health and well-being at risk. Hey, this is boxing. Leave your conscience at the door or get out now.

I fear this story will just get sadder.

Tyson made $ eight million from the Williams fight, although he'll only see about two mil of that after his bankruptcy issued are dealt with. He should take that two mil and move to an island someplace. He should get away from the circus that is his life. He should find some sanity. Two mil may not be much - not compared to how much he's made in his career, not compared to how much he's squandered, not compared to how much he owes - but two mil will go a long way in, say, Costa Rica. Whatever. I'm just throwing it out there.

Poor Tyson. Poor Mike Tyson, ex-champ. An orphan who grew up to conquer the world only to be scewed over by Hell-bound, uncaring jackasses like Don king. F-Don King. Where's he at now? Don't get me wrong. Tyson has done plenty to contribute to his own downfall. Plenty. He's no angel and I fear he may be legitimately unwell in the head. Yet, we are left to only wonder what could have been had he been surrounded by the right people early in his career, rather than hangers-on, leeches and virtual crooks. We are left to wonder what could have been if Tyson had sooner hooked up with his current trainer, Freddie Roach , a man who seems to genuinely care about Tyson the man, not just Tyson the bankrolling boxer.

We'll never know.

Weird thing is, Tyson may have always been too soft for the brutal world of boxing. That's right, too SOFT. I realize that may sound crazy. But, to be honest, I think beneath the chiseled physique, the tattoos, the temper and the reputation of terror, beneath all of that is a nice guy, a care-free guy, a guy who just wants to be happy, a guy who doesn't wish to bother anyone outside the mayhem of a boxing ring, a troubled but gentle soul.

Am I alone here?

As Tyson left the ring on Friday night - maybe for the last time, maybe not - he said to Roach, "I'm sorry. I'm disappointed."

How fitting. It more than summed up just one more unexpected loss to a journeyman on a July night in Louisville. It summed up an entire enigmatic career. It summed up what may possibly be the end of one of the craziest rides the world of sports has ever seen.

And for me, it summed up what that kid delivering papers back on that Sunday morning was thinking as he trudged through the streets on that gray, frigid morning shortly after learning that nobody in this unpredictable world is untouchable, not even Mike Tyson.

I'm sorry. I'm disappointed.