Saturday, January 31, 2015

Heat Miser for President

It's 22 degrees outside, and the wind's gusting up to 40 miles per hour. We discussed my growing aversion to the cold here before (but I can't find the post to link to it, so perhaps we should also discuss my increasingly unreliable memory), but this winter seems to be testing me more than any before it. I started the year in Minneapolis in single digit (and below-zero) temps. It hasn't been all that much better back home in the 'South'. And don't get me started on seasonal affective disorder. That shit might be real, if my current mood is any indicator.

It gets better, though. Sunday, I fly to Orlando for a week of work. Sure, nearly all of it will be spent indoors at a conference, but I'll be able to walk outside in shirtsleeves, bask in the warmth of the sun, and dream of light-filled days to come.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Discount Doubletake

If you're like me (easily distracted and not terribly observant), you watched the new version of the Aaron Rodgers State Farm commercials and said, 'Huh, Rodgers does a pretty decent Sheffield accent'. If you're like most people, you likely wondered how State Farm found a dude that looked that much like the Packers' signal-caller.

Look no further.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Here's what I think about Tom Brady's balls.

When I first heard that Tom Brady's balls were under-inflated I chuckled, much like Brady did himself when questioned about the issue. But somehow this fiasco took on a life of its own once Brady's preference for tender balls (as opposed to Aaron Rodgers' love of turgid balls) was twisted to make this hot air (or lack thereof) a "legitimate" story. Some jackals said the Colts should play in the Super Bowl instead of the Pats, others said Brady should be banned from the game. Still others want a new AFC championship game to be played between the Colts and the Ravens.

The rationale for this hooey generally holds that "A Rule Is A Rule and If You Break A Rule You Should Be Punished" and "We Must Protect The Integrity Of The Game." I have a pretty Gheorghe view of this matter--I do not take it, or myself, particularly seriously.

The whole A Rule Is A Rule line of thinking is just plain silly. There are Rules and then there are rules. "Thou shalt not kill" is a Rule. "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain" is merely a rule, and a goddamn rule at that. People who espouse this rationale are hypocrites unless they always cross at the corner and only when the "WALK" sign lights up; they didn't drink or smoke or look at porn underage; they never take a sip of their coffee on the Metro; they've never peed in a bush or between two parked cars on Harrison Avenue at 2 am on their way home from the delis; they never littered; they never let their car inspection expire; and the never lied to their girlfriend when she asked if she looked fat in a particularly unflattering outfit. They certainly never smoked pot or drove a car after drinking a few beers or got free cable when the previous tenants moved out and didn't turn it off.

I think the best analogy is speeding. Everyone speeds every day. No one thinks you should get a speeding ticket for driving 29 in a 25. No cop would give you a ticket under those circumstances and no judge would enforce it. I didn't pick those numbers at random--those extra 4 MPH represent a 16% increase over a 25 MPH speed limit. That's the same percentage difference at issue with Brady's balls--2 psi is 16% of the 12.5 psi limit. Honestly, if you heard that Tom Brady drove his car 29 MPH in a 25 MPH zone, would you say that he should get a ticket? That he should lose his license? That he should go to jail?

Of course not. Because that 4 MPH differential is meaningless. Who's to say how fast anyone is actually going? A speedometer has some accuracy limitations, as does a radar gun. Even if the radar gun is perfectly calibrated and balls-on-accurate, should the driver be penalized if his speedometer is a little bit off?

Similarly, 2 psi of air pressure is meaningless in this context. How accurate is an air pressure gauge? I'm sure NASA has really good ones, but how fancy are the ones used to measure footballs? Why would anyone make a really fancy football air pressure gauge in the first place?

From a more legitimately empirical perspective, ESPN analyzed balls of different pressure and found no real difference, in my view, beyond the fact that the ball of lesser pressure can me indented 1 mm further.

As you've heard ad nauseum, the Patriots blew the Colts away in the second half using firmer balls, so those 2 psi truly made no difference.

I've done something that no one else who wrote about this nonsense likely did--I went and actually read the NFL rulebook. Rule 2 is titled "The Ball." Section 1, "Ball Dimensions," says in part:

The ball shall be made up of an inflated (12 1/2 to 13 1/2 pounds) urethane bladder enclosed in a pebble grained, leather case (natural tan color) without corrugations of any kind. It shall have the form of a prolate spheroid and the size and weight shall be: long axis, 11 to 11 1/4 inches; long circumference, 28 to 28 1/2 inches; short circumference, 21 to 21 1/4 inches; weight, 14 to 15 ounces.

What if the Patriots got a batch of balls with leaky bladders? Can that happen to a football (I know it happens to frat guys)? I don't know but it wouldn't surprise me if Wilson makes some duds once in a while.

More surprising: the circumference across the laces can vary by 1/4 inch?!? Doesn't that seem like a big deal? Do the refs measure all of those dimensions in addition to the air pressure? If a ball is too long does the ref say "You got long balls Larry"?

Section 2, "Ball Supply," says in part:

In the event a home team ball does not conform to specifications, or its supply is exhausted, the Referee shall secure a proper ball from the visitors and, failing that, use the best available ball. Any such circumstances must be reported to the Commissioner.

Wait, "failing that, use the best available ball"?!? So if all of the available balls are under-inflated then the ref would just use the "best available" under-inflated ball? Then the rules clearly contemplate using non-conforming balls in certain circumstances! How big a deal could this be? Sure, you have to report this to the Commissioner, but no penalty is specified. Seems like a minor speeding infraction to me.

While going through the NFL rulebook I found some other rules that are also like doing 29 in a 25. For example, Rule 1 Section 1 says in part:

The playing field will be rimmed by a solid white border a minimum of 6 feet wide along the end lines and sidelines .... In addition, within each bench area, a yellow line 6 feet behind the solid white border will delineate a special area for coaches, behind which all players, except one player charting the game, must remain.

Yeah, this is enforced.

Speaking of that Mike Tomlin photo, Rule 13 "Non-Player Conduct" Article 4 says:

The only persons permitted within the solid six-foot white border (1-1) while play is in progress on the field are game officials.

Tomlin was fined by the league in that instance, but I don't think the refs penalized the team during the game. Probably because coaches are in the six-foot white border all the time.


NFL News: Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins Sideline Brawl [Watch]

Rule 13 Article 2 is really interesting. It says:

Either or both team attendants and their helpers may enter the field to attend their team during a team timeout by either team. No other non-player may come on the field without the Referee’s permission, unless he is an incoming substitute (5-2-2).

During any team timeout, all playing rules continue in force. Representatives of either team are prohibited from entering the field unless they are incoming substitutes, or team attendants or trainers entering to provide for the welfare of a player, and any game-type activities are prohibited on the Field of Play.

That second paragraph is in red in the rulebook. God knows why. Coaches enter the field just about every time they throw a challenge flag.

Which NFL Coach Has The Funniest Challenge-Flag-Throwing Motion?

Rule 13 says it's a 15 yard penalty if you violate Article 2 but I've never seen it enforced and I think sports talk radio would explode if a ref ever tried. Kind of like if cops started giving tickets for doing 29 in a 25.

I could go on with the rules but you get my drift.

The "Protect The Integrity Of The Game" prong of uproar is farcical. rob already took down the NFL's integrity about two years ago (relying on efforts from Senator Tom Brady nonetheless!). But here are a few more Integrity Of The Game points to ponder.

Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting a prostitute the night before the Super Bowl. He played in the game. Because prostitution is part of the Integrity Of The Game.

Walter Thurmond was suspended last year on November 24 for four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He came back just in time for the playoffs; the rest probably helped him get ready for the post-season and he played in the Super Bowl. Because substance abuse is part of the Integrity Of The Game.

Ray Lewis used something called deer antler spray leading up to the Super Bowl. Apparently it was not on the NFL's list of approved supplements. He played in the game. Because using unapproved substances is part of the Integrity Of The Game. As is obstructing justice in a murder investigation, but that was before a different Ravens Super Bowl.

Leonard Little killed a woman while driving drunk on October 19, 1998. Three and a half months later he recorded four tackles in the Super Bowl. Because killing people is part of the Integrity Of The Game.

I'm starting to veer away from Gheorghe's mission statement so I'll stop with those examples. My point is that somehow or other, the Patriots played with some slightly under-inflated balls for half of the AFC Championship Game. We know that these balls conferred no competitive advantage because they played the second half with firmer balls and cruised to victory, a perfect test/control experiment. No one can currently say why these balls were soft. It could be due to leaky bladders or a crappy gauge or a rogue ball attendant or maybe even Tom Brady is lying and he let the air out clandestinely. It simply doesn't matter. To the extent there is any violation of the league's rules here, it's akin to doing 29 in a 25. People have done much worse but still played in the Super Bowl.

So let's leave Brady's balls alone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The 12 Days of Gheorghemas: Day 12

On the twelfth day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me...


Twelve Appreciations
Eleven Months of Awesome
Ten Reasons Being
Late Gifts Still Worth Giving
Eight Chapters on Music in a Post 
Seven Books For Reading (Seriously) 
Six Beers Worth Drinking 
A fiiiiifth Golden Ring..... (please?) 
Four Years of Marcus
Three Scummers Picking
Two albums to look forward to 

A fat guy in a jersey 

It's that time of year again.  Yes, that special part of the calendar when you come to G:TB and ask, "It's still Gheorghemas??"

I'm drawing the curtains on another fine Gmas season, this time before Chinese New Year.  Cue the fireworks and dim sum.

As always, I intend to pair a dozen of the many things for which I am grateful with my favorite songs released in 2014.  Mainly I'm lucky to still be alive, employed, and with children at age 44, but as I was compiling this year's list of aspects of my life that make me particularly appreciative, I noticed something. They were the same things as I write every year. Friends, family, music, beach trips, Dale's Pale Ale, etc.  Kind of boring, even for me.

So here it is: I'm really very thankful for you clowns.  All of yous.  Don't let it go to your heads.

I listened to enough good new music this year that my end-of-year compilation stretched to two discs, the Upside faster stuff and the Downside mellow stuff.  Available upon request and via Spotify playlists below, but here's how I map them to my friends in the microblogosphere known as Gheorghe.  Come with me now and hear some of it.

Kongos, "Come With Me Now"

Cracker, "March of the Billionaires"

Dreamers, "Wolves"

Marls is a good egg.  He's a generous sort with whom I have had some fairly indulgent fun lately (Springsteen Row 1, Mets 15th row, Hamptons rollicking, New Orleans debauching).  Makes me feel like the billionaire I won't ever be, and I appreciate it.  Also, every 5th word out of Marls' Long Island mouth is the F-word, and the Dreamers song is blatantly NSFW.

Modest Mouse, "Lampshades on Fire"

At the 2004 DC Santa Stumble, Jerry called me a music snob.  I protested and asked for evidence to support his claim. Without hesitation, he replied, "Okay, I bet you liked Modest Mouse way before they got popular."  I laughed really hard.  But dammit, their 1996 song "Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset" is six minutes of slow-moving indie melody not to be missed. Jerry, thanks for always calling me on my bullshit in a way that makes me laugh.

By the way, "Lampshades on Fire" was released in December and may be my favorite of the year.

Drive-By Truckers, "Made Up English Oceans"
The Black Keys, "Fever"

Z, thanks for keeping me up to date on the bands I like and the shoes I don't.  Better reviews of music than in any publication people pay for, and a willingness to open your doors and couch and Tonka trucks and mustard for a great show.  Many thanks.

alt-J, "Left Hand Free"
Painted Palms, "Spinning Signs"

The title of one of these and the band name of the other seem vaguely to be onanistic references.  For some reason, that makes me think of TR -- especially the mustachioed version.  TR, thanks for eagerly lampooning yourself for a good GTB laugh.  It underscores the premise of why we congregate here.

The New Basement Tapes, "Kansas City"
Tove Lo, "Habits (Stay High)"

Here's why I like Mark: usually you have two friends, one who has the storytelling skill, penchant for poignancy, and depth to share personal stories like the one about his dad playing soccer at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, another who breaks bad here and there and can serve as an audience so Clarence can relate bawdy tales of pale ales and large rails off medium bosoms.  Mark has broad enough shoulders to be both of those guys when he wants.  Quality.

Mike Doughty, "Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating in the Future"
Ray LaMontagne, "Supernova"

I am usually appreciative for the diverse array of Greasetruck music Dave, Mr. Truck, and the Almighty Yojo release. 2014 was a lean year for that.  But in his stead, I submit the Mike Doughty tune as the best banjo rock song since "The Bear" in 2009, and the Ray LaMontagne song as the best song to use that word since "Anna Kournikova Supernova" in the early aughts.  I thank Dave for serving as the foil of mine like no other for over 25 years.  May the Idiots record something in 2015.  Or release a dance remix.

Hozier, "Take Me to Church"
Stereo Explosion, "Now or Forever"

Rootsy met me out in a Roanoke bar this year and had his drinkin' shoes firmly afoot. The night was blurry, but one thing is clear: I gotta get me back to the Star City for more fun with my little little little little brother -- and return to his recording studio which resembles a church music room.  2015, the year Clarence and I record a Duets album.  I need to do it now or forever hold my piece. Stay tuned. Cheers, Rootsy.

Future Islands, "Seasons (BADBADNOTGOOD Remix)"

While this version of the song sounds très Zman, the chorus is all Dennis, as we await his return from an anarcho-syndicalist commune.

Sharon Van Etten, "Taking Chances"
Milky Chance, "Stolen Dance"

Though several dabble, Danimal seems to be the resident bookmaker at G:TB. Perhaps his old pal Jean Pierre factors into that. But thank you, Danny Boy, for showing me how someone very much in the know can get consistently burned by the outcome of games so I don't add this vice to an already long list.  (He's also the resident bartender.  Those recommendations I dive into willingly.)

Mr. KQ
St. Paul and the Broken Bones, "Call Me"

"Core principles" is a term coined a decade or so ago by a wise person among our circle of friends to describe the notion that if you happen upon one of our gang's hometowns, you call them up and go have a beer.  While newer to our group, Señor KQ seems to have mastered core principles since well before we were even born.  And although his favorite activities include crouching, touching, and engaging, we will still take his calls and drink his booze every time out.

Death from Above 1979, "Trainwreck 1979"

Greg's about the youngest among us. If he was born in 1979, this song title is perfect.  Either way, it's good rock.  And Greg is, too.

Cheap Girls, "Knock Me Over"

I don't know anybody in my town who's a boxing fan.  If the sport is ever mentioned, everyone bemoans its deep decline and irrelevance in the modern sporting world.  I'm able to contribute some counter-evidence in the argument thanks to Mayhugh (and Mark) as the champion of a not dead yet sport.

Catfish and the Bottlemen, "Kathleen"
Interpol, "All the Rage Back Home"

The Squeaker keeps me up to speed on new music.  Catfish and the Bottlemen is a little known Welsh alt-rock band, just the type of thing Squeaky would unearth for me.  And if he'd sent it my way, Squeaker would be sure to note that the song is all the rage back where they're from.  Keep 'em coming, little buddy.

Gheorghe's Ladies
Ingrid Michaelson, "Girls Chase Boys"
Jenny Lewis, "Just One of the Guys"
Meg Myers, "Desire"
Alvvays, "Archie, Marry Me"

Ladies love cool James.  Whitney loves cool ladies.  We have more than a few of them in our midst, which we would have figured impossible when we were in college.  They lend credibility and context to our boys' locker room, even as we (really I) bug Shlara with dick jokes and dipshittery.  God bless you, fair ladies, and here's to the lot of you.  The hole really is greater than the sum of your lady parts.

Sun Kil Moon, "Ben's My Friend"

Ben "Boots" Brubeck is his friend.  And we all remember the Boots blogpost.

First Aid Kit, "Silver Lining"
Lykke Li, "No Rest for the Wicked"
Beck, "Blue Moon"

Not one but two Swedish indie pop acts make the 2014 list.  Pretty rare.  As were Teej blog appearances in 2014.  He checks in only once in a blue moon, but (a) he's earned a reprieve after shouldering the load (ngs) for the early era of Gheorghe, and (b) we appreciate him getting schooled now so he can get a cushy job that will allow him to blog at will.

Old 97's, "Longer Than You've Been Alive"
Counting Crows, "Scarecrow"
J. Mascis, "Every Morning"

Plenty to thank Rob for, as has been the case since 1988.  Performing more heavy lifting 'round these parts than any of us -- truly one of the best bloggers ever, pound for pound.  His core principles are in the 95th percentile, and he keeps Clarence humble while absorbing every last stupid, trite short joke. Not bad for a wee one.  Just as deep down "Cheers" was really about Norm Peterson, as evidenced by the theme song and the fact that he was the only character to appear in every episode, this place is mostly about Rob. With some Teej, Dave, and other goofy characters thrown in for comedic effect.  And we like it that way.  Every morning I check to see if Rob's posted, and more often than not he has answered the bell.  Cheers, my friend.

Sleater-Kinney, "Bury Our Friends"

I am grateful for having Clarence on the blog, if only because he says the things I really shouldn't.  Here's hoping he sticks around and we don't have to bury this friend like we have had to bury too many already, including one whose Gheorghie self-proclamations were appended by multiple exclamation points. 

Strand of Oaks, "Goshen '97"
Cold War Kids, "All This Could Be Yours"
Aer, "Says She Loves Me"
Ex-Cops, "Black Soap"
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, "My Club"

Gheorghe Muresan
Aloe Blacc, "The Man"

Of course.  And we are doing this in 2015.  (The second item on the menu.)

Say goodbye to Gheorghemas.  Say goodbye, my baby.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday, Funky Sunday

I've been to some excellent weddings in my time. There was a terrific celebration in the Lake Tahoe area that brought dozens of us to the Sierras for a week. The Teej and Baconbaking pulled off a ceremony that was perhaps the most perfect reflection of a couple's unique personality I've ever witnessed. Dave got thrown in a river in his tux. Clarence and his lady yachtrocked the ORF, Three Sheets to the Wind still the best live wedding band I've ever seen. But there's competition.

Just this week, I learned about the band that a friend of mine had play his nuptials. He's a Harvard undergrad, Wharton MBA, Georgetown School of Foreign Policy, and McKinsey alum and now the CEO of a mobile app company. He is, along with Dave, one of the two smartest people I've ever met. (Though his brand of hyper-intelligence is for more practical than Dave's.) He's from Boston, worked on John Kerry's presidential campaign, and completed a Birkebeiner. He is, as his resume suggests, (and I say this fondly) among the whitest people in the world, at least by outward appearances. Which, as we know, can be deceiving. By rights, he should have had Three Sheets play his wedding, unironically.

Instead, he and his bride rocked out to the Pimps of Joytime:

In a happy coincidence, the Pimps are coming to my little town in just three short weeks. See you there.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Let's Play Two

R.I.P., Mr. Cub. Maybe the original Gheorghie. Here's a great passage from a Joe Posnanski blog post about Ernie Banks:

“Maybe it’s sacrilege but I believe Banks was a con artist,” John Roseboro said. “No one smiles all the time, naturally, unless they’re putting you on and putting you on. Every day of our lives isn’t a good one.”

Only it was for Ernie Banks. Every day was a good day. His mother had wanted him to be a minister. His father wanted him to be a baseball player. In a way, he was both. The ballpark was his pulpit. The crowds were his congregation. Ernie Banks was the first black player to sign with the Chicago Cubs, and like all pioneers he dealt with the pressures and fury that raged all around him. He dealt with it all in his way, not with speeches or sermons or shouts of anger but by being Ernie Banks, by hitting long home runs and playing terrific shortstop and never missing a game and expressing his joy for baseball and life as boldly as anyone who ever played this wonderful game."