Thursday, October 29, 2009

Child, please

How does one interact with little children?

I'm at Starbucks today and a little girl waddled over to my table and just stared at me, wide-eyed while holding a small stuffed animal. She looked neither fearful or happy. I didn't know what to do so I settled on the following ...
"So, what do you think of the House version of the health care bill? Looks the Blue Dogs watered it down a bit. Still waiting for the CBO to score it. Hopefully, the Senate can get their bill to the floor and they can strengthen this thing conference. Meanwhile, Harry Reid really has to whip his caucus to make sure they vote for cloture, thus avoiding a messy Republican filibuster."

The kid didn't know what I was talking about. No one follows the real news anymore. They're concerned with Dora the Explorer or Jon Gosselin.

Then the kid's mother comes rushing over and yanks the child away from the crazy man.

Or maybe I just said, "Hey." And the little girl said nothing. And her mother rescued her.
I confess. I don't know how to talk to kids. I rarely deal with them and I can't do the "coochie-coo" thing. What am I supposed to do? I'm hesitant to just start interacting with a stranger's child. With my baggy pants, scruffy 5 o'clock shadow and Red Sox cap, I might arouse suspicion.
But I don't want to be a jerk, either. What if my lame reaction to this little girl turns her off men forever and she becomes a lesbian. A LESBIAN!?!? This wouldn't be the first time, but still.

Perhaps I should read up on this. How to deal with little children you don't know but who stare at you for an uncomfortably long amount of time. I've spent all night googling "cute little children" and I'm even talking to a few online. Just for tips.

I think I should walk around with candy, because kids love candy. I could offer some to all the little children I see so they'd like me. Maybe I'd even invite them into my car. I should also start hanging around elementary schools and playgrounds just to watch and observe.

That way, next time I will be prepared. Say good-bye to awkward silences, young boys and girls. I will be most charming stranger in an over-sized t-shirt and Seinfeld jeans you'll ever stare at.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Closing time

My biological sports clock is telling me something.

After eight months of watching baseball, reading about baseball and editing countless numbers of baseball stories and columns, I am ready for the season to end. More than ready.

It's not the bitter Red Sox fan in me saying this. But Thanksgiving is coming up. I just booked my trip back home for Christmas. The clocks are ready to fall back.

And yet, on October 28th, the World Series is starting.

My instinct tells me the season should be almost over. The World Series should be at Game 5 or 6. The season awards should be coming up and I can finally get a break from five-page baseball columns every single day. But no, the World Series hasn't even begun.

Major league baseball is not a well-oiled machine. We all know this. There should be a salary cap, but there won't. Games should start earlier, but they don't. Games should not go 3 1/2 hours on average, but they do. There should not be off-days in a playoff series when neither team travels, but there are. So who can be surprised that this World Series will go into November?

Back when I was living in the Northeast, I would always start expecting winter to end in mid-March. By then I was always ready not to freeze my ass off just on my walk to the car. By late August I was ready for school. Not excited, but ready. Now in Florida, I'm ready for the 1,000 degree days we get every summer to end by the time we hit late October. (Not much luck in that department this year.)

So the fact that the World Series is only starting today just does not make natural sense. In a few hours, I will head into work knowing I will probably be there for 12 hours without a break, hoping my legs don't calcify from the lack of movement while waiting for our last column to come in at 3 a.m.

I love baseball and I appreciate the fact that something so great is part of my job. But I'm more than ready for the season to end. It's October 28th for crying out loud.

Friday, October 23, 2009

SteveCentury: Ski-eeved

I'm a land creature. Airplanes aren't my thing. Neither are beaches for that matter. Ocean water is so salty and yucky!

I'm also bad enough as it is on my two feet so add anything else to the occasion, like a scooter or Rollerblades, and I'm in even bigger trouble.

The first time I tried to use a skateboard, well, you can guess. Right on my ass.

The first time I tried rollerblading in Rhode Island (I can't remember the name of the place. In Warwick somewhere. It was a hot spot for years. Any help from my Rhode Island buddies? Roller World maybe?) it was a ghastly experience. Nothing infuriated me more to see little kids gliding along with no problems while I summoned every ounce of strength and balance to prevent a hilariously embarrassing fall.

While in college I tried ice skating. You already know how that turned out. Not only was I terrible, I had a foot-long blade attached to my feet. I could have killed somebody.

This all leads to a ski trip I took - with the usual suspects, of course. I forget where we went. It was a mountain of some sort. And cold.

I had no idea how to ski. None. Zilch. Too cheap to pay for lessons, I decided to wing it. The beginners' slope was supposed to be easy. Little boys and girls, handicapped people, dead people all skied down the slope like Picabo Street. Some had help, but still.

For the life of me I could not stay on me feet. Criss-crossed, my legs gave out on me right away. I almost couldn't get started. When I did, I onlymanaged to go a few feet before falling again. Then another few feet, followed by another tumble.

Oh, I couldn't go straight either. Nor did I know how to stop. It got so bad I would just fall on purpose lest I slam into someone else or a tree. At one point, I had veered so far off the slope that I was under the ski lift ... unable to get up.

Jeff reminded me of this story during the Cape Cod League game we saw in July. I had burned that day from my memory until he resurrected it from the ashes. He told me he asked, "Where's Steve?" and from the bottom of the slope he looked and looked until he spotted me all the way to the side under the ski left pounding down on the snow in frustration.

I admit, it had to be funny to see. I was so tried from getting up so many times and trying so hard to keep my balance that I had a mini-temper tantrum. This probably occurred within the first 15 minutes.

So while my buddies skied the slopes without me, I soldiered on the kiddie slope. After an hour, I was able to ski down at least half the slope before falling down. Satisfied, I moved on to a real slope, taking the easiest route.

I almost collied into a tree. And I think I invaded some other routes mistakenly. I can't remember what I did for the whole day, besides fall down and get up. By mid-afternoon I was absolutely exhausted and EXTREMELY frustrated. Try failing at something continually for hours. You just lose it. Or at least I did.

I had bruises on my thighs and my muscles ached for days. While I appreciated the experience, I vowed never to touch skis or snowboards ever again. I just wish I remembered that day better, but I must have suppressed it. But the story of me flailing on the ground under the ski lift brought some of it back.

Now only if it would disappear again ...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Born to run it up

The NFL is America's game. It combines violence, beer, cheerleaders, penis-enlargement commercials, announcers who remind you that football players play football on the football field and Brett Favre.

(Brett Favre!)

Forget baseball and all the Bob Costas poetry that surrounds the game. Forget going to the ol' ballyard with Pops, dropping 90 bucks to park, paying the $10 oxygen fee to breath at the game, another $10 for a tablespoon of Miller UltraLight and watching the quiet game unfold slower than Roots until it ends at 1:25 in the morning. Forget trying to decide which outfielder is on steroids or what stupid error the Angels will make in the field (drop a pop up, over-run the bag, get picked off.) That stuff is for eggheads and gays.

Football is a man's sport.

Freakishly large men run into other freakishly large men at freakishly fast speeds and, like the crowds at the Roman Coliseum, we root for more and more. They're obviously on steroids but we don't care. Guys get paralyzed, concussed and maimed and we sigh for a moment until the next third down play comes up or the Flomax commercial comes on. No game is more commercialized and fused with good ol' crass American materialism and superiority than the NFL. It's the grandest spectacle on earth.

Rush Limbaugh approves of the sport, and he's the manliest man who's ever taken shots at a president's daughter.

So why, after this overblown preamble, are NFL fans some of the pansiest pansies who've ever stalked a message board or called a radio station?

On Sunday, the Patriots took a giant No. 2 on the Titans, like Beecher did to Schillinger in Oz. The carnage became so gruesome that the refs didn't call a clear safety on Vince Young in the fourth quarter, just to spare Tennessee further humiliation. You do this in Little League when you bench your 17-year-old star slugger.

In most sports, with most sane fans, the anger - if there is any anger - would be directed at the losing team for quitting, for stealing an entire game's paycheck. The fans of the winning team would be able to celebrate the win and even have bragging rights for a while.

Not so in the Namby-pamby Fan League. Not with the New England Satanists.

The Sears office erupted into sneers when the Pats piled on touchdown after touchdown. "How could they not just turn it over on purpose to be nice?" they ask. "I hope Tome Brady gets his leg torn off for daring to play in the second quarter," others growl. This is why the nation hates the Patriots. Sometimes they win by big amounts. They don't go 0-16 every year like they want them to. Apparently that is something to be ashamed of.

Maybe it's just irrational Patriot hatred. Actually, that's most of it. They're not quite the Yankees, but they're not well liked around the nation. So no matter what, people will bitch and bitch loudly. That's a given. But shouldn't self-respecting NFL fans know better than to cry like a Pop Warner dad when guys who are paid to play football get crushed?

When A-Rod hits a home run in the 8th inning of a 13-2 game, is he running up the score? When Kobe Bryant scores his 80th point, is he running up the score? When Dwight Eisenhower had the Germans on the run did he think to himself, "Gee, we're winning by a lot here. Let's pull back. Wouldn't want to tick off Skip Bayless?" When the Beatles were at their peak, did they think to themselves, "Wow, we're selling too many albums. Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo's three-piece band in Concordia, Kansas feels sad about this. Let's pull our record off the shelves to be nice?"

The 2007 Patriots dealt with this the entire season, the constant cry-baby antics of jilted, jealous NFL followers who would hand over a testicle to have Toom Brady as their QB or Bill Belichick as their coach but don't have the balls to admit it.

They see Florida crush Charleston Southern and see a great team crushing a weak one - American style. Survival of the fittest. The free market, football style. They see a politician win by millions of votes and see a landslide. (Unless it's a black guy who won. In that case blame Acorn.) They see Wal-Mart putting everyone else out of business and a tear forms in their eyes at the beauty of capitalism. They see the Patriots put on a fpotball clinic Vince Lombardi would love and suddenly dissolve into teething babies.

Hating the Patriots is well and good. I love it. It means they are winning. People don't hate the Clippers or the Browns or the Buccaneers because they rarely win. They hate the Pats because they win and Bill Belichick doesn't French kiss the opposing coach after each game. Fine. Hate away.

Just have some self respect, you whining Internet mice. You're red-blooded football fans. Baseball's for geezers. Basketball's for blacks. Hockey's for drunk Irish guys, Canadians and communists. NASCAR is for rednecks and golf is for dead people. Football is for the alpha-American male whose avatar is a woman's ass.

Recognize greatness when you see it. Is there anything more American than complete domination?

You don't cry when a new McDonald's goes up in China. Don't cry when Brady finds Moss for 50-yard touchdown. Take advantage of your freedom of speech and shut the hell up.

God Bless you and God Bless the United States of America!

(Brett Favre!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday, crappy Sunday

Working in sports can be great. However, some days are better than others. Working on a hectic Sunday while watching my two favorite teams lose kick-in-the-balls games within hours of each other and having no outlet for my frustration is what I call a nice way to get an ulcer.

OK ... that's a bit strong. Still, it was a rough day at the office. A rough day for Boston fans everywhere. We're so used to being at the top that the trip back down is odd, unfamiliar and all the more painful.

Let's recap ...

When the Red Sox surrendered to the Yankees in the Bronx late last month, an uneasy feeling grew in my stomach. They proceeded to back into the playoffs, with Josh Beckett and many others struggling at just the wrong time. So consider me not too surprised by the abrupt end to the season.

The way it happened ... is a different story. Papelbon's been shaky all season, something that his sterling statistics hid very well. And he was bound to give up a postseason run sooner or later. But he completely imploded Mark Wohlers-style, giving up two inherited runners in the eighth and three of his own in the next inning. Say goodbye to any dreams of another Boston playoff comeback.

I'm not crushed. The Angels were better and the Red Sox never seemed to have the extra gear championship teams have. They beat up on the dregs of the league like the Orioles and struggled against the elite. They have a lineup full of good hitters, but the power of the Manny-Papi combo is long gone. Is Kevin Youkilis a very good hitter? Of course. Is he the third or fourth hitter for a championship team? Probably not. The lineup failed to come through against good pitching all season and they stuck to their (unloaded) guns in October.

And when they finally came through in Game 3, the pitching faltered. The sign of a team that just doesn't have it - the inability of one facet of the team to pick up another.

Shortly after the final out, I thought about what the Red Sox can do to get better. The free agent market is weak. They might try to trade for Adrian Gonzalez but other than that - which would cost a fortune - the options are few. Here's hoping the Red Sox adjust their Caldor/Apex plans from last off-season. Signings like Brad Penny and John Smoltz were busts, proof that giving bad, old, decaying pitchers 5 million might not be the ticket to the World Series. Cultivating good, young positional players could also help. The Angels lose Mark Teixeira and replace him with Kendry Morales. Boston has had trouble finding power hitters in the farm system for years and that bit it in the ass this postseason.

Then we have the Patriots. After watching the Red Sox blow a game and lose their season, I watched Kyle Orton thoroughly outplay Tom Brady. Yeah, it makes me sick just to type that. He threw for 330 yards?? Two drive overs 90 yards? They ran the same simple patterns I ran against Jeff and Zach in one-on-one football in college. And, with the Pats' DBs giving each receiver 45-yard cushions, they completed pass after pass after pass.

I've long given up expecting the Patriots defense to make game-winning stops when they absolutely must. (See 2006 AFC title game, the last Super Bowl.) Without a drop last week, they might have lost to the Ravens. They just can't do it anymore. The persistent inability to pressure the passer is a big culprit. What I still hoped for was Tom Brady and the offense finding their gear. Sad to say, but Brady is still rusty and will be for the foreseeable future. He missed an easy touchdown to Randy Moss early and another to Wes Welker late. Those weren't the only misfires, just the biggest ones.

He'll be back to his old form before the season ends. Unlike the Red Sox, he still has a chance at redemption. So while the Pats of 2009 look a bit shaky, they're still going.

The Red Sox of 2009, may they rest in a peace. A good team but an utterly forgettable one. Just like Sunday, October 11th. I'm glad you're over and ecstatic that you'll never return.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Steve Sears - Mad Men style

Since the Red Sox have no intention of getting runs these playoffs - and since runs are important to winning baseball games - I grew kind of bored with the game Friday night. So I decided to Mad Men myself. It was fun. Here's my new laptop wallpaper. I think Joan likes what she sees from the new hot shot at Sterling Cooper. Watch out, Draper!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Steve's Peeves: Tooth aches

It's time for some exiting dental talk.

I've had three allografts since 2007 to repair my gums on the lower part of the mouth. That's all you need or want to know. I went to the dentist about twice in my life growing up so I'm catching up now with my dental plan.

They cut into my gums, add tissue and then stitch it up. It's a bloody procedure that causes some pain, discomfort and forces me to eat soft food for two weeks. So no pizza. No apples. No potato chips. No sandwiches. Nothing that needs serious chewing to digest.

Yes, it's quite an annoyance, but I can live with it. What I can't live with is the stitches. As I type, they are flailing about in my mouth like a drunk driver in Miami and it is driving me nuts.

The stitches are right at my bottom front teeth and the tip of my tongue. And for the past 48 hours I've been fighting these annoying stitches. I can't stop. I try my best to ignore it and focus on the task at hand, like reading an AP wire story on Shaq twittering about football or the whiny, cry baby Ravens bitching once again after a loss to the Patriots. But ... I ... can't ... stop. It's like that itch that won't go away, this tangle of stitches in my mouth.

For this reason, I'm going back to the periodontist tomorrow to have this problem solved once and for all. Either stitch it back up or tear them out. Those are the only options. For my sanity.

While we're on the subject, the periodontist wants me to see an orthodontist. Yeah, I have two crooked teeth and the periodontist thinks I need that fixed. When I was about 10 or 11, I heard the same thing but we did nothing about it.

But the thought of braces ... doesn't excite me.

Imagine me as the Joey Galloway of social creatures. I've dropped the ball on many occasions and I'm older than many of my peers. Now tie one of Galloway's arm's behind his back. Then tear one of his legs off. And throw him in a shark pit. That would be me with braces. Just slap and A/V shirt on me and kick me in the balls while you're at it. By the way, with braces I probably wouldn't need those either. So kick away.

I'm a man! I'm 27! I can't go around looking like Neil Goldman. I said as much to the periodontist and he told me there are other options besides metal mouth, though they're more expensive. Still, the fact that this might be necessary ticks me off. It's fifth grade all over again. Give me a Goosebumps book and the Technodrome for Christmas.
And some new front teeth.

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's The End Of The World As We Know It ... Again

Watching television last night, I saw a trailer for the movie 2012. I don't know much about it, but is there much to know? John Cusack is in a plane and the entire world is crumbling into oblivion. Highways collapse and cars plunge into an abyss. Skyscrapers are exploding, fireballs are lighting up the sky as Cusack and Co. scream for their lives surrounded by a CGI orgy.

Looks like the world is in some trouble ... again.

Of course we need another disaster movie. Americans love seeing cities, states and planets destroyed on giant projection screens. 2012 would follow in a long line of "world is over" schlock, following Armageddon, Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow, Knowing, Independence Day and on and on.

Something about that 2012 trailer really ticks me off and I'm not sure whether its on moral grounds or artistic grounds.

With climate change threatening the planet (yes, it's real), wildfires sprouting up year-round in California, hurricanes bashing the Atlantic seaboard and terrorist attacks leveling buildings, these movies that seem to celebrate catastrophic loss of life like it's a cool amusement park ride irk me. There are tsunamis and earthquakes killing thousands and a trailer showing the world ending (just with cooler special effects) that's supposed to make you say, "Cool!"

Granted, I watch and enjoy many violent forms of entertainment, but world-wide catastrophe packaged and sold like a Jonas Brothers lunchbox isn't as cool anymore.

Now, with the soapbox removed, there are creative reasons as well. Like this one: This movie has been done before! A million times! Just because computers can make explosions and a crumbling earth look more realistic than ever certainly does not grant tired moviemakers license to recreate the tired disaster movie once again.

I don't know anything about the movie, but I think I have a sense of what it will be like. John Cusack will be a regular old schmo who is estranged from his only child and living out his life in a dirty apartment with empty Chinese food cartons. Then, one day, the world starts to go straight to hell and Cusack is stranded with said child and is said child's only hope.

Luckily, he could be joined by an attractive woman who is improbably single as they race to beat the disappearing ground beneath them. They're so connected they scream in unison! Of course, this woman won't like Cusack right away. He takes some getting used to. He's a bit of a bad boy, but he has a warm caramel nougat center. Joining them will be your random oddball characters who will provide needed comedy.

"The world is ending! And just on the day I bought a new Honda Civic!" HAHA

I shouldn't be surprised. Every movie is a sequel of another movie or remake or it has superheros or toys come to life and stuff blows up. So why stop making disaster movies? It's a proven formula. Special effects extravaganza coupled with broadly drawn characters. Luckily, they survive. Unfortunately, about six billion others are dead. But at least they died in a cool way.

2012, I won't be seeing you in the theaters. Perhaps on a Monday night on HBO in 2011. Then maybe, if there's still a world to watch it in.

(PS If the year 2012 passes and the earth is still around, then I want all that Mayan bullshit thrown in the memory hole and every person who espoused it to punch themselves in the face. And you too, History Channel. If you're not whacking off to World War II for the 4 gazillionth time you're pushing 2012 every night at 8 p.m. with horrible re-enactments of events that have yet to occur. You have to punch yourself, too.)