Thursday, October 08, 2015

Ce n'est pas un rendezvous

This Saturday, while TR was griping about how the rain and wind ruined his golf outing, I drove 100 miles in a rainstorm to attended an "Audi driving experience" event at Monticello Motor Club. I'm not sure how I was deemed worthy of an invitation, but I assume it had something to do with being a subscriber to Car and Driver for almost 30 years, owning a plurality of Audis, and the data obtained from various tracking cookies.

I was the probably the youngest attendee, but for two trophy wives in their early thirties who dutifully attended with their wizened husbands. There were about 40 people total, all white, all but three male, almost all in their late 40s to mid 50s. It was like a partners meeting at a law firm, except everyone wore jeans.

The first leg of the event was a drive on public roads in an A3 and an A6. This was reasonably enjoyable, in no small part thanks to the 50-something guy I rode with, Dave. He had just bought his daughter an A3, and he used to run a BMW dealership. Now he drives a vintage 911, auto crosses a souped up Mini, and has a Cayenne S as his daily wheels. Apparently he gets invited to lots of these things.

The second leg was an auto cross course. First we drove an A3, 228i, and a CLA 250. The 228i was surprisingly unathletic. The CLA was zippy but uncomfortable and the shifter was ridiculously fussy. The A3 was the best of the group. Then we drove an A6, 535i, and an E350. We ran out of time before I could drive the Bimmer, but the A6 beat the pants off of the Merc.

Dave gave me a few auto cross pointers at the start and he laid down some great times. But it turns out that I'm fast as hell (which all the ladies already know).

Parenthetically, I'd never been to one of these types of things before but I nailed the outfit perfectly. Everyone wore a short sleeve shirt under a zip up fleece under a waterproof soft shell, neither of which were made by North Face, and a cotton twill cap that did not have the logo of a sport team. One guy in his mid forties rocked a 918 Spyder hat, implying that he did one of these for Porsche's 918 launch. Dooshey, but I was envious. I had the best kicks though, natch.

The third and final leg was what made me drive 100 miles in the rain. We drove an Audi RS5 on the big track at the race club. The RS5 is an A5 on steroids, and I'm talking Victor Conte's finest A-Rod stuff, not just the cream or the clear. The highlight is a 4.2 liter naturally aspirated V-8 engine making 450 horsepower. If you don't know much about cars, that's a lot of horsepower, more than double the output of an A5. Here's the video of my run. I ran out of talent at 3:34 but managed to keep it on the track. Unfortunately, Dave was no Claude Lelouch so the cinematography pales in comparison to Claude's.

Then we drove an R8, Audi's halo product. It's a legit supercar. It has the same engine as an RS5, but it's a lighter car with the engine located behind the passengers and in front of the rear axle. This mid-engine layout puts all the weight in the middle of the car and results in superb handling. Base price starts at $115,900 and it climbs precipitously when you add options (like the $9100 automatic transmission, for example). The one we drove was probably optioned out to about $150,000. To say it's a preposterous car is an understatement. As you can see, it repeatedly made me say "Jesus Christ" and other expletives of that nature.

I had tremendous fun and accomplished numerous first: my first drive in a 400+ horsepower car, my first drive in a supercar, my first drive on a track. All in the rain! It took great restraint to obey speed limits on the way home, and now I'm frustratingly trying to justify getting a used RS5 while remaining a fiscally responsible parent. I keep telling myself that zson will probably get a magna-tile scholarship (he's a wizard with those things) so I don't need to save money for his college tuition. zdaughter isn't good at anything yet so saving for her tuition is the reason why I can't join a track.

If you ever have the chance to go to one of these track days you should do it, regardless of the manufacturer or your lack of interest in fast cars. You'll have a blast, although you might end up resenting your kids.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Gheorghe Handicaps the MLB Playoffs

The 2015 Major League Baseball postseason begins today in New York with the American League Wild Card Playoff between the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels Houston Astros. Our staff has crunched the numbers, and determined who we think will win the World Series.

Of course we haven't done that. There have been no numbers crunched, and we don't have the first clue about who will actually make it through the baseball postseason's random outcome generator. What we do know for a certainty, though, is which teams you should root for, and which you should hate with passion.

In order from most odious to the pluckiest everyman/underdog story, then:

The New York Yankees celebrated their return to the postseason for the first time since 2012 with a full-on champagne and beer shower party. How True Yankee of them. This team is led by Alex Rodriguez, something Bomber fans seem to have conveniently forgotten as the team trudged down the stretch hoping that the season would end before the wheels fell completely from their wobbling conveyance. The only redeeming thing about a deep Yankee playoff run would be the fact that it would expose the extent to which Derek Jeter's stinking carcass impacted their results for the past three years.

I guess I don't really dislike the St. Louis Cardinals, but I sure am tired of seeing them this time of year. Throw us a frickin' bone here.

If not for their sunny hometown and its generally laid-back vibe (and the fact that people on the East Coast give fewer than two shits about anything that happens out West), the Los Angeles Dodgers would garner every bit of disdain as the Yankees and the other profligate spenders in baseball's upside-down economy. The Dodgers, in fact, make the Yankees seem penurious, outspending every team in baseball, with a payroll more than $50m higher than the second-place New Yorkers' $219m. Like Tara Reid on a plastic surgery bender, L.A.'s spending reached preposterous levels, more than doubling that of all but seven other MLB franchises. An early exit to the fiscally clownish Mets would be deliciously ironic.

Nobody outside of Dallas knows much of anything about the Texas Rangers, and they care even less. It's not that we dislike them, it's that we don't care.

If the Toronto Blue Jays were the Oakland A's, they'd be really confused. They'd also get a lot more love from the baseball press. The Jays are going to win the World Series. They're so far ahead of everyone else in baseball in terms of run differential, that the second place team can't even see them. They combine a ripsnorting lineup, a lockdown number one starter, and a tidy bullpen. They have the American League's best ERA post-ASB by a wide margin, and the league's highest OPS and runs scored over the same span. But they're not American. Hard to like foreigners.

It's not hard to like these New York Mets - they're young, they just toppled a particularly arrogant Washington Nationals squad, their superstar is the very model of modern classy ballplayer (until his closet aspargus porn videos finally surface), and they're not the Yankees. But they're still from New York, which counts against them fairly substantially in the underdog category. And their ownership defines both clueless rich and financially incompetent, a daily double that would've doomed lesser teams to Phillie-like ignominy.

The Kansas City Royals would be much higher on this list, but for the fact that they made it to the World Series just last year, and the bloom is off the plucky, out-of-nowhere small market kids.

It's a shame that the Pittsburgh Pirates play in the same division as the Cardinals. And yet another reason to hate St. Louis. The Buccos have the second-best record in all of baseball and still have to suffer the vicissitudes of the play-in game (against the team with the third-best mark in the bigs). After consecutive losses in that most random of all games, Pittsburghers will be forgiven their apprehension, safe in the knowledge that everyone will be pulling for them...oh, man.

The Houston Astros are this year's Royals - they arrived a year or so before we expected to see them playing meaningful autumn baseball. They're young (see Carlos Correa, who might not even shave yet), goofy (Dallas Keuchel's beard, for the win), and tiny (Jose Altuve is my spirit animal). They've got the best uniforms in the playoffs, and if it wasn't for the fact that they come from Houston would be overwhelming favorites for the top spot on this list.

You might argue that the Chicago Cubs are the safe choice here, that rooting for the Northsiders to finally break their World Series schneid is cliche. You'd be right. But this Cubs team is also hella entertaining to watch, with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Starlin Castro raking and Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester leading the pitching staff. Joe Maddon's the most fun manager in baseball, and might be the most likable skipper in all of professional sports. Set aside for a moment the certainty that a deep Cubs run would mean endless loops of Will Ferrell as Harry Caray, and ask yourself who you'd root for if your team wasn't playing in the postseason.

If you've got a soul, the answer is the Cubbies.

Monday, October 05, 2015

And Now For Something Completely...What the Fuck?

We had a rare family movie outing this weekend, piling into the truckster to head to a local cinema to catch a screening of Everest. It's a fine film, based on the events chronicled by Jon Krakauer in 'Into Thin Air'. It's beautifully shot, moving and suspenseful, even though I knew the outcome. (Spoiler alert: they don't all make it.)

But this post isn't about a movie. 

The theater we visited was a modern multiplex, with draft beer and decent food on offer, and in-film waiter service. I can't go back to the old days, frankly, where you got your popcorn greasy and your soda large, and you liked it. 

In addition to the gustatory amenities, the theater took some risks with the pre-show entertainment. No trite trivia or celebrity puffery here. We were treated to a loop of 30s-era government films about mountaineering, black and white art films on various alpine settings, and visually beautiful if somewhat jarring adventure skiing bloopers.

And then there was this:

After a minute or so of progressively more amused incredulity, I realized that I knew this song. It's a cover. And the original is equally ridiculous in its own way:

Have a blessed week, boys and girls. And remember, life is life.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Test 17: Financial Literacy (and Idiocy)

Things return to normal on The Test this week with a quick and painless quiz on financial awareness. No Cunningham, but Stacey's buddy Scott takes her place and performs admirably.

I recorded and added some trippy background music to the section where we got off track; we came up with a shockingly accurate and rather disgusting model of human consciousness . . . but if you don't like the metaphor, at least you can dig the beat. Good luck, keep score, and see if you can do better than Scott and I.


What The Kids Are Watching

According to my nearly 14 year-old daughter, this is everything.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Happy Birthday, Big Man

October 3, 1951 was a special day for baseball. David Mark Winfield was born in Minnesota. Some mediocre major leaguer named Bobby Thompson also did something that day, but I forget what it was. Probably wasn't a big deal.

Happy 64th, big man. I still think you are being screwed over by the Yankees, who refuse to acknowledge you in Monument Park despite your 1,172 games played as a Yankee.

Friday, October 02, 2015

College Game Day Ya'll!

(Editor's Note: We're asserting executive privilege and moving Danimal's post up a day because another staff member already scheduled a post to run tomorrow. While we recognize that this may cause some temporal dislocation (nothing on the Bill & Ted level, but still), we also believe that you can handle a preview one day before a game rather than on game day itself. Also, damn, Danimal - that's a lot of words.)

I’d like to begin by thanking the Publishers of GTB for not requesting weekly college football  picks this year. I’d like to think it’s because they wanted to be sensitive to the time it required, but in reality it probably had more to do with the quality of the insight that accompanied the match-ups, which lacked on my side of the ledger. Moving forward, I think there could be a nice happy medium where we perhaps pick a game to go head-to-head on, or simply each pick one game every week or two. Or we can just keep things the way are with no commitments whatsoever. Yeah, let's do that instead.  

I couldn’t let an ND/Clemson College Game Day go by without a preview from this admittedly biased and hopeful bettor. Oh yippee....Danimal providing us a Notre Dame preview! My favorite team! I hear you and will make every effort to provide a little more color for your Saturday leisure, pronounced LEZH-er in the UK. Unfortunately, I will be traveling and in a Detroit Airport hotel bar of all places en route to the metropolis of Toledo, Ohio (home of.....Deshone Kizer) for a Sunday morning….yes, Sunday morning meeting. I should be arriving to Rock City just in time for kick-off so I do have that going for me. I hope to have as much fun as these lads.

So whaddowegot here folks? A couple of top ranked teams for our viewing pleasure. A quick digression here – I vote for a system in which the Top 20 are not voted on until 6 games into the season. Will that ever happen? No, it won’t. Are either of these teams going to end up in Top 10 or better yet, a playoff team? Nope. ND will finish with 2 and maybe 3 losses keeping them around that 10-15 mark assuming their losses are competitive and to the USC’s/Stanford’s/or Clemson’s of the world. They have sustained far too many injuries (6 starters out for the year) to get through the gauntlet. It's only likely that more will follow whether it be for a game or two or seven. Too much to carry there.

For Clemson – this weekend will tell us a lot, but even with a loss to the Irish the remainder of their schedule isn’t exactly loaded with landmines other than Florida State in November. With the Georgia Tech and South Carolina fails, I think you’ll agree. In any event, Clemson will likely step on their Tiger penis and lose one other to an unworthy opponent altogether blowing up any meaningful opportunities in the post season. Just cuz. That's what they do. And because we have time, let us give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's imagine they navigate on through with a win this Saturday and against the Seminoles later in the year. My money would be on whoever they play in a playoff. Dabo doesn't have the nay nays to get it done. Just one guy's opinion.

Sorry...that was my ADD kicking in. Back to the game. The last time Notre Dame traveled to upstate South Carolina, one Joe Montana was the quarterback. Perhaps you've heard of him. As an aside, whenever Joe Montana enters my frontal lobe I think back to my days as a young boy when my dad, a very old school guy, would take me to his buddy's bar down the road on an occasional Saturday so that he and his cronies could watch the Irish. Let me clarify that statement. They could have watched at home. They went to socialize and drink and get away from their battle axes (wives). The place was called "Flanagan's" and was owned by one of my dad's best friends, Tommy Flanagan. Go figure. Tom and his wife had 5 kids and we had 5 kids and we were all pretty much the same ages and were great friends. And so were the Conley's (5 kids) and the O'Connell's (8 kids) and the Clancy's (4 kids) and the Ryan's (3?! kids - heathens!) and the other Costello's not related (5 kids). There was one Italian family we let in - the Rinaldo's but that's only because Pete owned the beer distributor in town and his wife was/is a distant cousin to my mom. And it should be noted that Pete and Ryan despise Notre Dame. Can't stand 'em. Both 'Cuse fans (Ryan an alum). In case you were wondering.

Anyway, the offspring of the aforementioned tribes grew up together and went to St. Pat's together and were altar boys together (and no, Father McInerney wasn't into young boys - he was a solid dude) and smoked cigarettes together , and shared our first alcohol together and played CYO basketball together until I moved away in the 7th grade. We still keep in touch a few of us. So us kids would play in and outside of the restaurant. We'd play hide and seek in between quarters or at halftime while the fellas got "cocked" (no judging please - this is a judge-free zone) until my dad had his own bar built in our basement which at the time was light years ahead of anything you'd see in someone's house with a keg of PBR supplied by Pete of course, always on tap, big boy barstools, ligger, mixers, sink, proper lights, you name it. He could have sold tickets, and should have because none of his boys or our relatives would drive by our house without stopping by to "have one." But that's for another post. Hell, half of this is probably for another post but whatever. Let him go he's on a roll.

So back to Joe. After a big Irish win and a half keg of PBR or Utica Club on one particular Saturday in the 70's, the fellas thought they'd attempt to get someone on the phone in the ND locker room.  Attempt they did and succeed they did. My old man claimed to be someone he was not, a reporter or something. I don't honestly remember. And damned if he they didn't get Joe on the phone. Twice. The second time was actually Montana. The first time was Theisman, pronounced THEES-man at the time, a few years prior. And both times the kids, Joe & Joe, because they were just kids at the time, gave them the time of day and a little more. And the retelling of the story is pretty ho-hum, as if it were ya know, an every day kind of thing. "Certainly! Yes.We did. We called a guy in the athletic department after the game and asked to speak to Joe Montana and they put him on. Just like that." (and there was a call to the Vatican too in an effort to get the Pope on the phone....not successful with that one) Here's Joe. As a kid.

And Joe.

I imagine Joe here talking to his photographer telling him about the time after a big game a few nut jobs somehow got him on the phone INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM AFTER A GAME! It's possible right? The facial expression is telling me so. Kinda cool.

Once of consciousness. Picked a hell of a week to quit takin Ritalin.
So Joe Montana and his 5th ranked squad heads to Clemson, ranked 15th. The Irish pulled it out with a 21-17 win and later went on to win the whole kit & caboodle. Boom. I was Joe Montana. What'd you expect? But check this out....this is crazy insane insane: 36 players in that game went on to play in the NFL. Whaaa???!!!

What is to be expected this year? Well, ND does not fare well against Top 10 teams on the road, going 1-6 in the last 7 with most of those losses by a margin of a touchdown or less. But Clemson isn’t in the Top 10, but #12 or #11 depending on whose poll you admire the most. In reading about the Tigers, a consistent them is their defense. It's good, especially if you only look at the #’s. Through 3 games they have been downright stingy at 260 yards allowed per. Points per game you ask? 12.3. Pretty solid stuff right there. In 2014 they were the leaders in many-a-category including Total Defense so there is no denying they have a very strong group on that side of the ball. 

Buuuut for grins & giggles, let us take a look at  not just what they've done but who to, shall we? Dabo and his A.D. have made the decision to stay in the kiddy pool for their early season meetings. (note to self, be sure to clear out search history - "kiddy pool images" could raise an eyebrow)

Opponent #1: Wofford. Clemson beat ‘em badly 49-10. Then they stepped up to App State and put a stick in their eye - 41-10. And then they played their first D1 team, Louisville, and beat them by a field goal. Hey, whatever blows up your skirt, but if Clemson finally closes a season the way they’ve been expected to in the recent past then that decision might very well and I hope that it does, bite them in the arse. If you’re curious, Louisville is 0-3 with losses to Auburn by 7 and Houston by 3. I will give them this - the numbers are pretty good despite the lack of competition. And I know. I know. ND's competition to date hasn't turned out to be what was once thought. But that's not their fault - they had very good intentions. I think that Texas game was put on the schedule 4 or 5 years if not more. Who woulda thunk? 

Conversely, Kelly’s offense too stands out, averaging 530 yards per game. Their top 2 rushers clop (umm....does anyone here know what a clopper is? I sincerely hope not. I ran upon this on one of those comedic Twitter handles. Who knew? And note to self: see earlier note to self) off more than 8 yards per carry. They would be CJ Prosise(ly) and Josh Adams. CJ is the nation’s 4th leading rusher with 150 yards per game, 600 total. And did you know this is his first year ever as a running back? Well, maybe not ever. He probably ran the ball in Pop Warner but last year for ND he was a receiver. And the year before. And the year before that. Thankfully he was brought into the role last Spring, well in advance of the season ending injury to Tarean Folston in the first game of the year.

In the passing game, there is Will Fuller who provides a nice segue into Saturday’s key match-up, per ESPN anyway: Will vs cornerback Mackensie Alexander. Will, as most of you know is nice. He’s….real naace. He's the guy that put the stake in the heart of UVa a few weeks back. Hee hee. That was truly joyful. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, he leads the nation in receiving. This year he has 22 snatches with 454 yards (20 yards/catch), and 6 TD’s.  He’s “only” listed as a 4.5, 40 guy but if you’ve watched him you’d agree that he’s got another gear that allows him to blow by his defenders. And when he doesn’t or can’t create separation, he’s got great hands. But, like the yardage allowed and earned per game by these two squads, something will have to give cuz Alexander is considered among the best in the SEC and hence, 'Murica. One of the most highly sought after corners in ’13, he redshirted before starting every game last year while giving his opponents the biznass. He is a true lockdown guy in every sense of the word. Look for him to be a starter on Sundays in the not too distant future. Probably a 1st rounder. He's so good someone made this sign because he's so good.

The skills of Sir Mackensie are going to create opportunities for 2 other chaps – Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle. I think. And hope. Look for one of these two to get more of Deshone’s attention on Saturday. The prediction is that one of them have a big game, along with Prosise.

Other important match-ups:
Kelly vs Swinney. Kelly, six ways from Sunday.

Jaylon Smith Junior LB for ND vs the world which includes Chuck Norris. Jaylon Smith. He's just a badass. A definite first rounder. God I hope he stays in school but won't blame him if he goes.

Kiser vs Watson – Watson, unfortunately. Kiser can’t make the throws Malik does. You’ll see. Watson doesn’t make too many mistakes plus he has more experience. Did I mention he threw 2 INT’s against 14 TD's in 2014 as a Frosh?

Kicking Game: Clemson. ND’s new guy, true Freshman Justin Yoon has already missed 2 extra points and 2 field goals, one a chip shot. I don’t know what the hail that is all about but it’s got me a little jumpy. Props though on his post successful kick routine. I'm hoping you see a ton of those. that. it.

Cheer Squad of Clemson vs that of Notre Dame - I'm going to go with the latter.

So who wins? This is going to be a tight game that comes down to the last series. If the Irish finish the game on the positive side of the turnover battle AND perfect with the kicks, I’ll say they win.

Tigers by 2 and in a good one.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Second Date with Cunningham: Things Get Heavy (But Not Hot)

No fooling around in this sequel to our most popular episode-- though Stacey and I try our best. During part one, "Dating Cunningham," we learn about the topics you'll need to be versed in to make a good first impression on Cunningham. But things aren't so easy on the second date (pun intended). Stacey and I do our best, but you certainly can't study for this one, and the path to Cunningham's heart is a thorny one. Good luck with this one-- it's epic-- but I promise if you make it all the way through you will win a valuable prize: you will understand the sensibilities of a complex young woman. Plus, Stacey reads my mind and I make lots of jokes.