Monday, September 22, 2014

Requiem for an Enemy

I come here not to bury Derek Jeter, but to praise him.

In these, the final weeks of the Yankee legend's career, it's fashionable to mock him for being a shadow of his former self (his .230/.270/.293 post all-star break slash lines are a particularly cruel reminder that time always wins, and those are boosted by four consecutive 2-hit games through yesterday). I confess that I've jumped on the bandwagon myself, with help from the skipper of the Tampa Bay Rays.


I can't speak for others, but my insignificant jab was aimed at the Cult of Derek Jeter rather than the man himself. For as much as I've long rolled my eyes at the former, the latter is indisputably the Red Sox opponent I most feared and respected over the course of his career.

Derek Jeter is inarguably an all-time great, even as the confluence of his good fortune to play in New York when he did, the quality of his teammates, and his uber-professional approach led to the creation of a narrative to which no player's actual achievements could truly measure up. But even so, his measurables, at least at the plate, really do argue for his inclusion on list of the legends. He's first all-time among shortstops in hits, second in runs, and in the top ten in OPS, OPS+, HR, RBI, 2B, and - despite the often-accurate criticisms of the Fire Joe Morgan crowd - WAR (which combines offense and defense). I know that counting stats have their flaws, but there's something to be said for sustaining a level of play long enough to compile as many as has Jeter. He's not the greatest shortstop ever, but he's in the discussion.

(As an aside, I really miss Fire Joe Morgan. That link is a really cool remembrance by the site's main writers.)

You really can't find a more fitting representation of the difference between Derek Jeter and the Cult of Derek Jeter than this really well done homage from Gatorade and the attendant fawning over the ad. 



The ad is terrific, for sure, as is Jeter. But when people, even respectable journalists like Rob Neyer, say shit like this:


Well, that's the kind of stuff that makes a fella want to start hating all over again. Here to praise, though. Here to praise.

One of the strengths of that ad is how well it depicts Yankee fans' feelings about Jeter. But Yankee fans are supposed to get verklempt in the presence of the Captain; they've been programmed to do so by his sustained reallygoodness and a willing media for 20 years now. The measure of Jeter's impact  might be more accurately captured by his standing with fans of his biggest rivals.

When Jeter came to bat against the Red Sox, even as I knew he wasn't as dangerous as, say, Gary Sheffield with his menacing bat waggle, or Robinson Cano or Alex Rodriguez, even then, I was always afraid. Here comes another hands-inside rifle to right to score a runner from second. And, dammit, there it came.

In 2004, when the Sox trailed the Yankees, 3-1, in the ALCS, their hopes were dashed when Jeter drilled an opposite-field double to clear the bases in the top of the 6th of Game 5. I'd begun writing their obituary, because that's how it was supposed to end, with Derek Fucking Jeter beating them.

And when that incredible, impossible, still-goosebump-inducing series came to an end, when the Sox thumped the Yankees, 10-3, in Game 7, it wasn't the images of the stricken, befuddled Yankee fans that let me know it was really, truly over (though they were the best, weren't they?). No, it was the anger and then the resignation on Jeter's face as he raged against the dying of the Curse.

So, as Jeter finishes more Willie Mays stumbling around the outfield than John Elway on top of the world, he still deserves the accolades he's receiving. I respect him as much as any player I've ever rooted against. He is, as much as it pains me, one of sport's great winners, even though his calm-eyed Captain Intangibles creation myth is just so much happy horseshit.

In the final analysis, I'm happy to see him go, because he can't beat my team any more.

Re2pect.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Week 4 Picks!

Top of the morning to ya ladies! As everyone knows, Mark is with his Pop this weekend taking part in much more important things than spending time on weekly football picks. So, it might be just me going solo this weekend. Or...on behalf of the GTB brain trust, the invitation is extended to anyone interested in a guest appearance today. I'd give Mark until 11:00 should he decide to slip something in here if you are feeling frisky.

Please note - I swear on the holy bible I made my FSU/Clemson decision Wed or Thurs. If I must, I'll pick another game should the Executive Committee deem necessary.

Oklahoma -8 at WVU
7:30 p.m.

Who else is jumping on the Trickett Train this weekend? Clint, pronounced CLEE-int, is now beginning to get some print, much deserved. CT is amassing big boy yardage with a completion percentage to boot – 1200 & 75%! Hello!!!! And his 4 top receivers each average 10 yards or more per catch. Well, technically one is only at 9.8, but still. Morgantown is going to be OUT. OF. CONTROL this weekend. Oklahoma has their own weapons and a nice QB in Trevor Knight. He just seems to be a little inconsistent. When he’s on, he’s on. I see them eking out a win but needing to score last to do it. Orrrrr….they don’t convert that last possession and WVU wins! Could see a record breaking couch-burn up there in West by God. Either way, I can’t wait for this one.
TAKE ME HOOOOOME
COUNTRY ROAAAAD
TO THE PLAAAACE
I BELOOOONG!!!!
West Virginia
Clemson +16.5 at Florida State
8:00 p.m.

Jameis Jameis Jameis. What the fuck? Does he only possess common sense when he’s on the football field? Apparently. On the football field, thus far anyway, he’s been pretty pedestrian as has been their defense. Citadel scored 12 points on them losing “only” by 25. They rushed for 250 yards, 322 in total. That’s not a bunch, but we’re talking about the CITADEL. They converted 11 out of 17 3rd down attempts! FSU probably, and somewhat understandably had a difficult time getting fired up for that game. But I say it is pathetic. This line was 22+ pre-poor decision by JW. After his suspension was announced, it dropped by almost a touchdown. Almost. I’m predicting FSU loses the turnover battle (rookie QB related) which will be the difference in covering this spread.
Clemson


Oregon -23 at Washington State
10:30 p.m.

I’m short on time and patience here. Must take Oregon. Back up the truck people!



Mark's got much better things to do that hang out with jackasses like us, and by all accounts he's had a pretty cool weekend already. Since he's a man of the people, he sent us his picks to sate our gambling jones.


Indiana @ Mizzou -13


(Note: I can't believe this line. It's like they want us to have free money. If I were a gambling man, I'd load up the kids' college funds and drop them on the Tigers. Which doesn't bode well for Mark's pick, now that I think about it. - Rob)


The Hoosiers (1-1) are coming off a loss to Bowling Green, while Mizzou has quietly opened their season with three straight wins, albeit against mediocre opponents. Nonetheless, a two touchdown line for any SEC team other than Vandy against a lower-rung Big 10 team is simply a gift.


Tulane @ Duke -17



There's a cool story in this week's Sports Illustrated about Rohan Marley, the former Miami linebacker and son of Bob. His son Nico is a 5'9", 200-lb sophomore linebacker for the Green Wave. Rohan runs a thriving coffee company in Jamaica, eponymously named Marley Coffee. Their motto: 'Stir It Up'. It's based in the Blue Mountains. Duke is the Blue Devils. So there's that.

Oregon - 23.5 @ Wazzu


Looks like both our prognosticators like the Ducks. Mike Leach's boys are gonna surprise someone, but neither Mark nor I think it'll be Oregon.


Bonus Gambling!


Since I have the mic, I give you your William & Mary Tribe -10 over the Lafayette Leopards. (Note: I think they're the Leopards. Too busy/lazy to look it up. If they're not, they should be.) Lock of the week, though - it's time for Jimmye's vaunted offense to show up. Or at least for the new look Tribe defense to continue to stand tall. Speaking of the latter, nice piece by FOGTB Dave Fairbank on W&M's junior corner DeAndre Houston-Carson in the Daily Press this week.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Athlete. Role Model.

Like many of us at G:TB, I was blessed with great parents. Both of my parents were highly involved in my life on academic, social and athletic levels. Both of my parents had a tremendous influence on the child I was and the man I would eventually become. As is often the case with parents, the things they loved became the things I loved. We shared them and by doing so shared our lives with each other.

One of the things I've always shared with my Dad for as long as I can remember is a love of sports. He grew up in St. Louis as a die hard Cardinal fan and, like me, played every sport available to him growing up. Eventually he'd go on to play four sports (Soccer, Baseball, Football, Track) at St. Louis University High School. While there he excelled in soccer. For a number of reasons St. Louis was one of the few cities in America where soccer was popular in the mid 20th century and St. Louis University reaped the benefits of this popularity, winning National Championships in 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1972 and 1973. Not surprisingly, St. Louis University High School had a standout program as well. My father's soccer skills early in his life led to a scholarship to SLU High and after that a scholarship to Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Rockhurst is a small Jesuit school in Kansas City, MO. My Dad was a part of their first ever recruiting class. The class that (they hoped) would help build their program. The coaching staff at Rockhurst wisely decided to build the program by stocking it with a number of players from the St. Louis area. The result was a lightning quick ride up the NAIA ranks and a Final Four berth during the program's first year of existence in 1964. Fifty years later, for their contributions to the University and it's soccer program, my Dad and his teammates are being inducted into the Rockhurst University Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend.


I'll be flying to Kansas City with my Dad today to be a part of the weekend's festivities which include a soccer game on Friday night and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday night. On top of that I'll get to see the campus of Rockhurst for the first time, meet my Dad's old teammates, drink some beers with he and his old teammates at the same bar they used to drink at in the 60s and listen to dozens of (presumably) greatly embellished stories. I'm sure I'll learn more about my Dad in two days than I did in my first twenty years.

I'm also sure I'll have never felt so lucky to have had him as my Dad for the past 36 years.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Flight of the Conquests


The last 1.5 years for me have been plagued with injuries - back, calf, back, back, and now foot. The first 4 kept me from doing much of anything other than PT and swimming. The latter has me gimpy and feeling some discomfort. It started off as minor Plantar, but has evolved into something else where the top and bottom of my left foot hurt when walking, but when running after a mile or so the pain subsides until post-run. I've got a half IM in Augusta in 11 days and come hell or high water I am doing it after having been on the sidelines for too long. You are aware that the Newton brand of running shoes is one I have been a big endorser of and will continue to be. My last 4 pairs have either been the Gravity's or a close cousin. (Yes, Zoot's too but those are for races, and traveling)

 

Newton's are great if you have a pretty good foot strike, that is a mid or forefoot strike rather than the heel. Also, if you have a high arch and/or wide foot like me (you know what they say), the Newton is terrific because it has a spacious toe box. I love me some spacious boxes. And yes, they are expensive at $175, but they last forevah and especially if you have fair to good technique - I define "forevah" as a minimum of 700 miles. Our little pal Rob who weighs what, 80 lbs? could probably wear these until retirement.

So over the last few weeks my foot pain and discomfort has worsened to the point where I felt the need for a change if I wanted to finish out the plan and participate in this race. You may be thinking that an unwise decision to run through the injury and you may well be correct, but I doubt it. It's not to that point. Yet.

Anyway, in the circles we run in here, no pun intended, there are a good number of peeps that just run. And run. And run. Taking part in wacky ultramarathons like Badlands and other events requiring mad miles. Many of them have begun sporting the up and coming, buzzworthy, part clown-shoe, HOKA's. I tried some on a few months ago for grins and giggles, and more giggles. This was pre-foot aggravation and with loads of miles left on my Gravity's, so I was really just sniffin. Fast forward a few weeks with time in-between hearing about how these running freaks love them, plus the foot prob, I decided to try again with different intent. After trying on 3-4 different models while sampling on the treadmill in the store, there was no doubt what felt the best. But I couldn't get over the look. I said, "I can't wear these....look at 'em!" You really shouldn't buy running shoes based on aesthetics, especially if you're logging miles. So I said "fuck it," and walked out with the beasts shown below....

  

They look pretty heavy, and a bit ridiculous, yes. But they are only ridiculous. Coming in at under 12 oz they are surprisingly light. And the cushioning, the bounce - in the words of George Thorogood, "she was so nice....lord she was lovey-dovey." They have other models obviously, the Clifton (under 8 oz) being one of their most popular. If you pay attention you will begin seeing lots of these out on the road. And if you are not paying attention, you will see lots of these out on the road.

I bought them on a Friday with a 14-miler to do over that weekend. My original intent was to break it up with 7 miles in the HOKA's and in 7 in the Newton's. But I didn't need to. They were fine the entire slog. That does not mean everyone could expect as much, but it is telling for sure. My foot pain post-run and the day after was significantly reduced. My loyalty being won over, not entirely but enough to always own say one pair out of two or three in use, I bring them to you, the GTB Nation, comprised of roughly three people that might read this with any interest.

Happy Trails.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lagarfljotsormurinn!

The headlines out of Iceland this week are largely focused on the impending eruption of the island's Barbardunga volcano, so you'd be forgiven if you missed the far more exciting announcement made by a local government commission in Lagarfljot.

The commission, convened in 2012, announced earlier this week that a video captured by local farmer Hjortur E. Kjerulf is authentic, thus largely confirming the existence of Lagarfljotsormurinn, a legendary Icelandic sea monster. In the video, seen below, a large serpentine object moves across the surface of the water, before leaping clear of the lake's surface to snag a cow from the shore and swallow it whole. That last part is alleged - some of the video is a bit grainy.



According to local legend, Lagarfljotsormurinn is generally described as 90 meters long, with numerous humps. The creature is alleged to have been seen both in the water and coiled up on land.

Finnish researcher Miisa McKeown was extremely skeptical of the commission's initial findings until the existence of a second video (seen below) offered what appears to be incontrovertible evidence of the sea monster's existence.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Action Bronson Brings Something for Everyone

The latest episode of Action Bronson's "Fuck That's Delicious" series has something for everyone. To wit, it has:

- At least 340 pounds of very stoned Action Bronson
- Unflattering impersonations of Guy Fieri
- A 1967 Pontiac Firebird convertible
- Homemade Albanian baklava made in the home of a real Albanian aunt
- A baklava and bacon milkshake made with the aforementioned homemade Albanian baklava and Benton's Tennessee bacon by a cute hipster milkshake proprietress
- Ritz Cracker cookies
- Fat kid jokes
- Subtle sexual "hit it" jokes
- Blatant fat-kid-eating-baklava-and-bacon-milkshake game on the aforementioned cute hipster milkshake proprietress
- Kew Gardens, original home of zfather and FOGTB JP
- Dick jokes
- A glass rubber ducky bong
- Tattoos
- An obscenely obese, insanely high guy getting a tattoo
- Discussion of bad dap
- Korean chicken and dumplings
- White Castle
- White Castle topped with Korean chicken and dumplings
- Poop jokes
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jokes

If you can't find something you like in this episode then you're watching it wrong. I just hope Bronsaline lives long enough to complete the next episode from ... wait for it ... New Orleans. IGOR!!

Here's the latest NSFW episode.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Andrew W.K., Humility, and Prayer

I confess that I didn't expect to read Andrew W.K. on the subject of prayer this weekend. And what's more, I certainly wasn't anticipating one of the best secular meditations on the topic from the erstwhile (and contemporaneously) hard partier. Inspiration comes from the unlikeliest sources, it seems.

In response to a question from a prayer-skeptical reader of his weekly Village Voice advice column (described thusly: Every Wednesday, New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or — no surprise here — a party.), Andrew offered a thoughtful response grounded in accepting unknowns and embracing our own vulnerability.

There are so many powerful messages in the column, but W.K.'s notion of comfort with the impossibility of universal knowledge and foundational importance of acceptance of uncertainty really resonated with me. "To know that you don't know is the definition of a spiritual awakening", he writes.

It's not our intent to get all Jack Handey on the world today, and I, for one, am looking forward to tomorrow's Ghoogles post. But we could all do worse than thinking about Andrew W.K.'s words. Because they really are wisdom.
"Being humble is very hard for many people because it makes them feel unimportant and helpless. To embrace our own smallness is not to say we're dumb or that we don't matter, but to realize how amazing it is that we exist at all in the midst of so much more. To be fully alive, we must realize how much else there is besides ourselves. We must accept how much we don't know — and how much we still have to learn — about ourselves and the whole world. Kneeling down and fully comprehending the incomprehensible is the physical act of displaying our respect for everything that isn't "us.""